The Christmas Truce of 1914 - '..what might have happened if the truce had spread and this had caused the war to end earlier..' (no replies)        
'.."What If," points out that he thinks … and of course this is speculation, counterfactual history ... that if we had had no Russian Revolution, we wouldn’t have gotten to that point where communism took over, no Lenin, no Stalin, there would be no Treaty of Versailles, mistreated Germany, therefore Hitler would not have had his cause to rise and no Hitler and Nazism and World War II..'

'Deist: One thing that’s so remarkable about the Christmas Truce is this whole question of what might have happened if the truce had spread and this had caused the war to end earlier or be somehow limited. Weintraub addresses this in his book. We may not have had the rise of communism, the Russian Revolution and Stalin and Lenin, we certainly would not have had Versailles. As a result, we might not have had Hitler or Nazism or maybe even FDR. I mean, it’s remarkable to think about, isn’t it?

Denson: That’s right and that’s counterfactual history at its best. Weintraub, in his last chapter, entitled "What If," points out that he thinks … and of course this is speculation, counterfactual history ... that if we had had no Russian Revolution, we wouldn’t have gotten to that point where communism took over, no Lenin, no Stalin, there would be no Treaty of Versailles, mistreated Germany, therefore Hitler would not have had his cause to rise and no Hitler and Nazism and World War II, as I have argued in the past, World War II was simply a continuation of World War I with a truce, and World War I was to see if you could remake the world to benefit the English, the British, and the Russian Czar. World War II was to see if you could keep it that way, what they’d done in World War I. So, it would have changed the whole history, in my opinion, of the twentieth century. And, we are still in the Middle East, suffering the results of the treaties that ended World War I. I mean, the treaties that created Iraq, tried to give Syria to the French, and Israel was created in the middle of an Arab world and it’s still a problem that was created by the World War I treaties. So, all of that, the whole twentieth century, I think, would have been completely different, if it could have ended, say when the troops stopped at Christmas of 1914. It’s amazing to think about that.


..H. Kingsley Wood, a cabinet minister, got up and made a speech and he said, he had been in the trenches, he said in the front trenches in Christmas 1914 and he said, I took part in what was well known at the time as a truce. We went over in front of the trenches and shook hands with many of our German enemies and a great number of people and I think we did something that was degrading or wrong and refused to stop, he said, the fact is, we did it. And I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves, there never would have been another shot fired. For a fortnight, the troops went on and we were on the most friendly terms and it was only the fact that we were being controlled by others that made it necessary for us to start trying to shoot one another again.

And he blamed the resumption of war on “the grip of the political system which was bad, and I and others who were there at the time, determined there and then, never to rest until we had seen whether we could change it.” And then it concludes. There are people that thrive on war, the military industrial complex and one of the results of the World War I revisionism showed that the people that do the armaments and make money off that, help cause war. There are people, bankers, that have an interest. JP Morgan had a big interest in America getting into World War I and he financed the British Army..'

- The Christmas Truce and the Future of War, December 24, 2016


(Haptopraxeology) - '..We have lost three centuries as a result of ignoring our scholars!'

Christmas Truce of 1914

In The Electric Universe a Future of Peace and Love

'..the mismanagement and corruption of bankers and politicians..

Economics in One Lesson

          '..Russia .. cyberpower proved the perfect weapon .. political sabotage..' (no replies)        
' “We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”


Mr. Putin, a student of martial arts, had turned two institutions at the core of American democracy — political campaigns and independent media — to his own ends..


..The Russians clearly had a more sophisticated understanding of American politics, and they were masters of “kompromat,” their term for compromising information.


..the hackings of the State Department, the White House and the Pentagon..


What seems clear is that Russian hacking, given its success, is not going to stop. Two weeks ago, the German intelligence chief, Bruno Kahl, warned that Russia might target elections in Germany next year. “The perpetrators have an interest to delegitimize the democratic process as such,” Mr. Kahl said. Now, he added, “Europe is in the focus of these attempts of disturbance, and Germany to a particularly great extent.” '

'..the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.


..President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia moved beyond mere espionage to deliberately try to subvert American democracy and pick the winner of the presidential election.


..A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.


The United States had two decades of warning that Russia’s intelligence agencies were trying to break into America’s most sensitive computer networks. But the Russians have always managed to stay a step ahead.

Their first major attack was detected on Oct. 7, 1996, when a computer operator at the Colorado School of Mines discovered some nighttime computer activity he could not explain. The school had a major contract with the Navy, and the operator warned his contacts there. But as happened two decades later at the D.N.C., at first “everyone was unable to connect the dots,” said Thomas Rid, a scholar at King’s College in London who has studied the attack.

Investigators gave it a name — Moonlight Maze — and spent two years, often working day and night, tracing how it hopped from the Navy to the Department of Energy to the Air Force and NASA. In the end, they concluded that the total number of files stolen, if printed and stacked, would be taller than the Washington Monument.

Whole weapons designs were flowing out the door, and it was a first taste of what was to come: an escalating campaign of cyberattacks around the world.


The Russians were also quicker to turn their attacks to political purposes. A 2007 cyberattack on Estonia, a former Soviet republic that had joined NATO, sent a message that Russia could paralyze the country without invading it. The next year cyberattacks were used during Russia’s war with Georgia.


Mr. Obama was briefed regularly on all this, but he made a decision that many in the White House now regret: He did not name Russians publicly, or issue sanctions. There was always a reason: fear of escalating a cyberwar, and concern that the United States needed Russia’s cooperation in negotiations over Syria.

“We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”


Last year, the attacks became more aggressive. Russia hacked a major French television station, frying critical hardware. Around Christmas, it attacked part of the power grid in Ukraine, dropping a portion of the country into darkness, killing backup generators and taking control of generators. In retrospect, it was a warning shot.


..CrowdStrike’s nicknames for the two Russian hacking groups that the firm found at work inside the D.N.C. network. Cozy Bear — the group also known as the Dukes or A.P.T. 29, for “advanced persistent threat” — may or may not be associated with the F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., but it is widely believed to be a Russian government operation. It made its first appearance in 2014, said Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike’s co-founder and chief technology officer.


Only in March 2016 did Fancy Bear show up — first penetrating the computers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and then jumping to the D.N.C., investigators believe. Fancy Bear, sometimes called A.P.T. 28 and believed to be directed by the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency, is an older outfit, tracked by Western investigators for nearly a decade. It was Fancy Bear that got hold of Mr. Podesta’s email.


It was bad enough that Russian hackers had been spying inside the committee’s network for months. Now the public release of documents had turned a conventional espionage operation into something far more menacing: political sabotage, an unpredictable, uncontrollable menace for Democratic campaigns.


Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and editor, has resisted the conclusion that his site became a pass-through for Russian hackers working for Mr. Putin’s government or that he was deliberately trying to undermine Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. But the evidence on both counts appears compelling.


Mr. Putin, a student of martial arts, had turned two institutions at the core of American democracy — political campaigns and independent media — to his own ends. The media’s appetite for the hacked material, and its focus on the gossipy content instead of the Russian source, disturbed some of those whose personal emails were being reposted across the web.


In late 2014, hackers working for Kim Jong-un, the North’s young and unpredictable leader, had carried out a well-planned attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment intended to stop the Christmastime release of a comedy about a C.I.A. plot to kill Mr. Kim.

In that case, embarrassing emails had also been released. But the real damage was done to Sony’s own systems: More than 70 percent of its computers melted down when a particularly virulent form of malware was released. Within weeks, intelligence agencies traced the attack back to the North and its leadership. Mr. Obama called North Korea out in public, and issued some not-very-effective sanctions. The Chinese even cooperated, briefly cutting off the North’s internet connections.

As the first Situation Room meetings on the Russian hacking began in July, “it was clear that Russia was going to be a much more complicated case,” said one participant. The Russians clearly had a more sophisticated understanding of American politics, and they were masters of “kompromat,” their term for compromising information.


..code was put out in the open by the Russians as a warning: Retaliate for the D.N.C., and there are a lot more secrets, from the hackings of the State Department, the White House and the Pentagon, that might be spilled as well. One senior official compared it to the scene in “The Godfather” where the head of a favorite horse is left in a bed, as a warning.


As the year draws to a close, it now seems possible that there will be multiple investigations of the Russian hacking — the intelligence review Mr. Obama has ordered completed by Jan. 20, the day he leaves office, and one or more congressional inquiries. They will wrestle with, among other things, Mr. Putin’s motive.


Did he seek to mar the brand of American democracy, to forestall anti-Russian activism for both Russians and their neighbors? Or to weaken the next American president, since presumably Mr. Putin had no reason to doubt American forecasts that Mrs. Clinton would win easily? Or was it, as the C.I.A. concluded last month, a deliberate attempt to elect Mr. Trump?

In fact, the Russian hack-and-dox scheme accomplished all three goals.

What seems clear is that Russian hacking, given its success, is not going to stop. Two weeks ago, the German intelligence chief, Bruno Kahl, warned that Russia might target elections in Germany next year. “The perpetrators have an interest to delegitimize the democratic process as such,” Mr. Kahl said. Now, he added, “Europe is in the focus of these attempts of disturbance, and Germany to a particularly great extent.” '

- Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane, The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S., December 13, 2016

Context '[Russia] may become a threat to the world. That is the worst thing that could happen to Russia.' - Yegor Gaidar

'..Russian strategy of hybrid influence and destabilization .. German Council on Foreign Relations.'

'German intelligence says Russia is trying to destabilize German society..' - '..war that Moscow is waging against the West..'

'[Putin is doing] anything that can and will expand Russian influence to U.S.S.R.-era levels of power.'

'..Zero tolerance for Russian intrusions .. Estonia .. policy of publicly naming or prosecuting spies..'

'..the Soviet Union was cut off from Western financial markets and was effectively under permanent sanctions..'

Kun kitaaban mufiidan bila ‘unwaanan, wa laa takun ‘unwaanan bila kitaaban. Jadilah kitab yang bermanfaat walaupun tanpa judul. Namun, jangan menjadi judul tanpa kitab.
Pepatah dalam bahasa Arab itu menyiratkan makna yang dalam, terutama menyangkut kondisi bangsa saat ini yang sarat konflik perebutan kekuasaan dan pengabaian amanah oleh pemimpin-pemimpin yang tidak menebar manfaat dengan jabatan dan otoritas yang dimilikinya. Bangsa ini telah kehilangan ruuhul jundiyah, yakni jiwa ksatria. Jundiyah adalah karakter keprajuritan yang di dalamnya terkandung jiwa ksatria sebagaimana diwariskan pejuang dan ulama bangsa ini saat perjuangan kemerdekaan.
Semangat perjuangan (hamasah jundiyah) adalah semangat untuk berperan dan bukan semangat untuk mengejar jabatan, posisi, dan gelar-gelar duniawi lainnya (hamasah manshabiyah). Saat ini, jiwa ksatria itu makin menghilang. Sebaliknya, muncul jiwa-jiwa kerdil dan pengecut yang menginginkan otoritas, kekuasaan, dan jabatan, tetapi tidak mau bertanggung jawab, apalagi berkurban. Yang terjadi adalah perebutan jabatan, baik di partai politik, ormas, maupun pemerintahan. Orang berlomba-lomba mengikuti persaingan untuk mendapatkan jabatan, bahkan dengan menghalalkan segala cara. Akibatnya, di negeri ini banyak orang memiliki “judul”, baik judul akademis, judul keagamaan, judul kemiliteran, maupun judul birokratis, yang tanpa makna. Ada judulnya, tetapi tanpa substansi, tanpa isi, dan tanpa roh.
Padahal, ada kisah-kisah indah dan heroik berbagai bangsa di dunia. Misalnya, dalam Sirah Shahabah, disebutkan bahwa Said bin Zaid pernah menolak amanah menjadi gubernur di Himsh (Syria). Hal ini membuat Umar bin Khattab RA mencengkeram leher gamisnya seraya menghardiknya, “Celaka kau, Said! Kau berikan beban yang berat di pundakku dan kau menolak membantuku.” Baru kemudian, dengan berat hati, Said bin Zaid mau menjadi gubernur.
Ada lagi kisah lain, yaitu Umar bin Khattab memberhentikan Khalid bin Walid pada saat memimpin perang. Hal ini dilakukan untuk menghentikan pengultusan kepada sosok panglima yang selalu berhasil memenangkan pertempuran ini. Khalid menerimanya dengan ikhlas. Dengan singkat, ia berujar, “Aku berperang karena Allah dan bukan karena Umar atau jabatanku sebagai panglima.” Ia pun tetap berperang sebagai seorang prajurit biasa. Khalid dicopot “judul”-nya sebagai panglima perang. Namun, ia tetap membuat “kitab” dan membantu menorehkan kemenangan.
Ibrah yang bisa dipetik dari kisah-kisah tersebut adalah janganlah menjadi judul tanpa kitab; memiliki pangkat, tetapi tidak menuai manfaat. Maka, ruuhul jundiyah atau jiwa ksatria yang penuh pengorbanan harus dihadirkan kembali di tengah bangsa ini sehingga tidak timbul hubbul manaashib, yaitu cinta kepada kepangkatan, jabatan-jabatan, bahkan munafasah ‘alal manashib, berlomba-lomba untuk meraih jabatan-jabatan. Semoga.
          Special Report : Analysis of Russia’s Airstrikes In Syria        
Originally posted on Defencyclopedia:
In this special news report by Defencyclopedia, we bring you the second part of our analysis on Russia’s involvement in Syria. It covers the aircraft and weapons that their air force is currently using as a part of a large-scale bombing campaign. INTRODUCTION The involvement of the Russian armed forces in…
          Special Report : Analysis of Russia’s Airstrikes In Syria        
Source: Special Report : Analysis of Russia’s Airstrikes In Syria
          I Found the One Place Where the Terrorists are Losing, and it's on FX's 'Tyrant'        

It’s been kind of a rough couple millennia for Christians in the Middle East. Whether faced with persecution from Jews, Romans, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis, or ISIS, the common denominator has always been Christians remaining strong and showing unbelievable courage, but pretty much living in a world where everyone and everything tries to kill them.

          Girl charged with plotting UK terror attack with ISIS fighter        

London: A 17-year-old girl in the UK has been charged with terrorism offences after allegedly communicating with an Islamic State terror group fighter in Syria to plan a terror attack in the country.

Scotland Yard said she has been charged with an intent to commit acts of terrorism by "communicating with an ISIS fighter in Syria and arranging to receive weapons in order to conduct an attack in the UK;receiving instructions on how to train and use weapons; and?reaching out to another to receive assistance in completing plan contrary to Section 5(1)(a) and (3) Terrorism Act 2006".

The teenager, who cannot be named because of her age, is accused of communicating with an ISIS fighter and arranging to receive weapons to be used in the planned attack.

"This follows an investigation by officers from the Met's Counter Terrorism Command," a Metropolitan Police statement said.

The girl was previously charged with terror offences in April and is due to appear at the Old Bailey tomorrow in relation to that charge.

News Source: 
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          Burn After Reading        

Who’s Who
What’s What

In the World of CIA Fronts, Partners, Proprietaries & Contractors


The Almost Classified Guide to CIA Front Companies, Proprietaries & Contractors
ISBN: 978-1-365-11196-9

Cool Justice Editor's Note: Following are excerpts from author Madsen's introduction and the body of the work. Additional suggested reading: News story about Madsen's book via the Washington, D.C. based Justice Integrity Project [link at the bottom of this post].


From the Introduction

One of the most pervasive uses of companies as intelligence partners was under the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD. During the Cold War, the CIA, often with the approval of corporate executives, infiltrated their agents to work as journalists in newspapers, radio and television networks, wire services, and magazines. The following pages in this book are rife with examples of this penetration of the Fourth Estate – all too many in the opinion of this journalist. The CIA admitted to at least 400 journalists on the agency’s payroll at the height of MOCKINGBIRD. The CIA traditionally understates its capabilities, especially when its covert activities become publicly known. Moreover, the end of the Cold War did not stop the practice of the CIA in infiltrating the media and slant news reports to its wishes.


An insightful look behind the veils of secrecy into the CIA’s use of fronts, proprietaries, and partners calls into question the purpose of the CIA. Created by President Harry S Truman to serve as a central collector and repository of intelligence, the CIA became much more than that. A few weeks after the United States witnessed the assassination of President Kennedy in the middle of downtown Dallas, Truman penned an op-ed piece that appeared in several newspapers around the country. In it, Truman shared his regret for having created the CIA in 1947:

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency—CIA . . . For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

"I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue.”


The 21st century’s CIA’s partners are more likely to be found among high-tech companies marketing the latest and greatest mobile applications and data mining programs than among banks, law offices, and advertising agencies. However, in the post-World War II era, the CIA’s top and middle echelons were normally found operating through cover as typewriter-pecking journalists, traveling Madison Avenue admen, corporate lawyers, and chain-smoking oilmen. In the 1970s and 80s, CIA contractors and partners began showing up in the high-tech field, with database, local area networking, and on-line information retrieval systems attracting the most interest by Langley.


As this book went to press, the smart phone game application Pokémon Go fad was sweeping the planet. Unbeknownst to many of the on-line game’s avid fan’s was the connection of the game’s developers to the CIA’s venture capital firm IN-Q-TEL. All users saw their geo-location and other smart phone data being swept up by a CIA partner firm.


Amazon, Inc. [CIA contractor]. Company provides cloud computing services for the CIA. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

American Historical Society. [CIA partner]. Many society officials were OSS/CIA officers.

American Press Institute. [CIA front]. Operating out of Columbia University, the institute’s director in the 1950s was a CIA officer.

AmeriCares. [CIA partner]. A non-profit organization that is often the “first in” at refugee situations. Founded by tycoon J. Peter Grace, a board chairman of the CIA front, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) and a trustee of another CIA front, the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, AmeriCares was involved in funding the Nicaraguan contras. The group has also provided the CIA with recruiting opportunities at mass refugee sites, particularly in Latin America and Asia.

Bechtel Corporation. [CIA contractor]. Bechtel is a large construction company that has included former CIA director Richard Helms, CIA pseudonym “Fletcher M. Knight,” among its executive ranks. Bechtel was active in providing corporate cover for the OSS in the Middle East during World War II. Bechtel has been a consummate service company for various CIA operations, including support for the CIA-inspired coup against the Syrian government in 1949, the Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadeq in 1953, and President Sukarno of Indonesia in 1965. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Bechtel provided cover for CIA agents in Libya under both the regime of King Idris and his successor, Muammar Qaddafi. Sometimes called a “secret arm” of the CIA, Bechtel’s executives included those who would join President Reagan’s Cabinet, including Secretary of State George Schultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Before World War II, Steve Bechtel formed a military-industrial complex partnership with John McCone. McCone later became the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and later, director of the CIA. The CIA has used Bechtel to provide cover for non-official cover CIA operatives abroad.

Blackstone Investment Group. [CIA front]. With offices in Washington, DC and Moscow, arranged for the purchase of KGB documents following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among the documents sought by the front company were any related to illegal CIA activities during the Cold War, including the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar and Restaurant. [CIA front]. Opened in 1967 in King’s Cross in Sydney, Australia. Served as a rendezvous point for CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and organized crime figures. Its proprietor was Bernie Houghton, a CIA operative with links to Nugan Hand Bank, CIA weapons smuggler Edwin Wilson, and CIA clandestine services officers Theodore Shackley, Rafael Quintero, and Thomas Clines.

Center for Democracy. [CIA front]. Administered under the aegis of Boston University, the center maintained offices in Boston, Washington, DC, Guatemala City, and Strasbourg, France. Involved in CIA operations in eastern Europe, Central America, and Africa.

Colt Patent Firearms Company. [CIA partner]. Based in Hartford, Connecticut, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad.

Daddario & Burns. [CIA partner]. Headed by former OSS officer Emilio Daddario, a Democratic Representative from Connecticut, the Hartford-based law firm provided services to the CIA.

DC Comics. [CIA partner]. Worked with the International Military Information Group (IMIG), a joint CIA/Pentagon unit at the State Department, to disseminate propaganda comic books, featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, in Serbo-Croatian and Albanian, to youth in the Balkans during the military conflicts in that region.

Disney Corporation. [CIA partner]. CIA agents who were adept at creating front companies and shell corporations in Florida, worked closely with Disney in preparation for the construction of Disney World near Orlando, Florida. OSS veteran “Wild Bill” Donovan and CIA shell company expert Paul Helliwell helped create two fake Florida cities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, as well as a number of shell corporations, to keep secret the plans for Disney World. This kept land prices low because real estate speculators were unaware of the prospective value of the land in a desolate area of central Florida.

Emory School of Medicine. [CIA partner]. Located in Atlanta, Georgia. Involved in the CIA’s MK-ULTRA behavioral modification project.

Enron Corporation [CIA partner]. Houston-based firm that was used by the CIA to provide commercial cover for its agents around the world. There were at least 20 CIA employees on Enron’s payroll. Andre Le Gallo, a former official of the CIA’s Operations Directorate, went to work as a corporate intelligence officer for Enron.

Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). [CIA front]. Officially established by American Trotskyists, the group was penetrated by CIA operatives. The FPCC New Orleans office was a CIA front that provided cover for the anti-Fidel Castro activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw, and David Ferrie, among others. The New Orleans FPCC office was located at 544 Camp Street and shared the same building entrance with Guy Banister Associates, Inc., a private detective agency, the address for which was 531 Lafayette Street and around the corner from 544 Camp Street.

In December 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the FPCC ceased all U.S. operations.

General Electric Company. [CIA partner]. Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad.

General Foods Corporation. [CIA partner]. Advertising account at CIA’s Robert Mullen Company handled by an active CIA employee.

Google, Inc. [CIA partner]. Developed as a result of a research grant by the CIA and Pentagon to Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science. The CIA referred to the research as the “google project.”

Greenberg Traurig. [CIA partner]. Washington, DC “connected” law firm.

Guy Banister Associates, Inc. [CIA partner]. New Orleans private detective agency headed by former FBI agent Guy Banister. The detective agency coordinated the activities of various anti-Castro Cuban groups in New Orleans, including Banister’s own Anti-Communist League of the Caribbean, as well as the Cuban Revolutionary Council, the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front, Friends of Democratic Cuba, and the Crusade to Free Cuba Committee.

Banister and Associates shared office space with the CIA’s New Orleans front, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, headed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Hale and Dorr. [CIA partner]. Boston-based law firm that provided cover for CIA’s Independence and Brown Foundations.

Halliburton. [CIA contractor]. Based in Houston, it is the world’s largest oil service company. Recipient of a number of CIA sole-source contracts for services worldwide.

Harper and Row, Inc. [CIA partner]. Manuscripts submitted to the New York publisher that dealt with intelligence matters, particularly CIA operations, were turned over to the CIA for censoring edits before publication.

Hewlett Packard Corporation. [CIA partner]. Sold computers to Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s missile program with the knowledge and approval of the CIA.

Hill & Knowlton. [CIA partner]. Public relations firm that teamed with the CIA on a number of operations. Hill & Knowlton’s numerous offices abroad provided cover for CIA agents. One known Hill & Knowlton office that was a CIA front operation was in Kuala Lumpur.

Kerr-McGee. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating overseas.

Kissinger Associates, Inc. [CIA partner]. New York-based international consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft is a co-owner. The firm provided support to the CIA-linked American Ditchley Foundation and the Bilderberg Group. Much of the 1982 seed money for Kissinger Associates was provided by Goldman Sachs.

Knight Foundation. [CIA partner]. Also known as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Based in Miami, the foundation provides funding for various CIA-connected media operations in the United States and around the world.

Kroll Inc. [CIA partner]. Founded in 1972 by Jules Kroll, who had links to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. Based in Manhattan. French domestic law enforcement believed Kroll’s Paris office was a CIA front. Kroll handled the security for the World Trade Center after the 1993 terrorist bombing and continued to be responsible for security up to, during, and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Kroll employed former FBI assistant director for counter-terrorism John O’Neill, who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Lincoln Savings and Loan. [CIA partner]. Based in Irvine, California and headed by notorious swindler Charles Keating, Jr., involved in laundering funds for the Iran-contra scandal.

Lone Star Cement Corporation. [CIA partner]. Based in Stamford, Connecticut and linked to the Bush family, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad. Involved in the Iran-contra scandal.

Mary Carter Paint Company. [CIA front]. A money-laundering operation for the CIA. Involved in casinos in the Bahamas.

Monsanto. [CIA partner]. The firm contracted with former CIA official Cofer Black’s Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), a subsidiary of the CIA-connected Blackwater USA, later Xe Services, to monitor animal rights groups, anti-genetically modified (GM) food activists, and other groups opposed to Monsanto’s agri-business operations worldwide.

National Enquirer. [CIA partner]. The tabloid’s founder, Generoso (Gene) Pope, Jr., worked for the CIA’s psychological warfare unit and the agency’s Italy branch in 1950. In 1952, Pope acquired The New York Enquirer broadsheet and transformed it into a tabloid, renaming it The National Enquirer. This transformation bore the imprimatur of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influence program.

Newsweek. [CIA partner]. Magazine reporters and stringers fed information to the CIA. Newsweek’s stringers in southeastern Europe and the Far East were CIA agents. When Newsweek was bought by The Washington Post Company in 1961, cooperation between the magazine and the CIA increased. It was a participant in the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influence program. Much of the staff of Newsweek was absorbed into a new online publication, The Daily Beast, which continues to disseminate CIA-influenced articles. See Washington Post.

Nieman Foundation. [CIA partner]. Located at Harvard University, the foundation awarded Nieman Fellowships, some on behalf of the CIA, for foreign journalists to study at Harvard. The journalists were subjected to CIA recruitment efforts prior to their returning to their home countries.

Pamela Martin & Associates. [CIA partner], Escort firm run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called “DC Madam.” During her 2008 trial for mail fraud, Palfrey attempted to invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act in order to discuss her relationship with the CIA. The U.S. Court refused Palfrey’s request and she was convicted and later said to have committed suicide before her sentencing hearing in Washington, DC. One of her clients was Randall Tobias, the head of the CIA-connected USAID. Another was Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter.

Paris Review. [CIA front]. Literary magazine edited by George Plimpton. Published works by Jack Kerouac and Samuel Beckett. The magazine’s co-founder, Peter Matthiessen, relied on his affiliation with the magazine as his CIA cover.

Quaker Oats Company. [CIA partner]. Worked with the CIA and Atomic Energy Commission to place trace amounts of radiation in breakfast cereal served to boys at the Fernald School for the mentally retarded in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Radio Corporation of America. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad, particularly in Iran, Philippines, Japan, and West Germany. Provided technical assistance to CIA-financed clandestine and propaganda radio stations worldwide, including Radio Free Europe. RCA founder David Sarnoff was a major supporter of CIA operations, including propaganda dissemination around the world. RCA chairman and chief executive officer Thornton F. Bradshaw was active in the operations of the CIA-linked American Ditchley Foundation.

Reily Coffee Company. [CIA partner]. Also known as William B. Reily Coffee Company and based in New Orleans, this company employed Lee Harvey Oswald and a number of other U.S. government employees, many of whom were suspected CIA officers.

Robert M. Mullen Company. [CIA proprietary]. A Washington, DC public relations firm, it was used as a front for CIA activities. E. Howard Hunt, the CIA agent, worked for Robert Mullen when he was arrested in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington in 1972. The Senate Watergate Committee reported that “the Mullen and Company has maintained a relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency since its incorporation in 1959. It provided covers for agents in Europe (Stockholm), Latin America (Mexico City), and the Far East (Singapore) at the time of the Watergate break-in.”

Rockefeller Foundation. [CIA partner]. Used by the CIA to direct scholarships and grants to the Third World and Eastern Europe. Rockefeller Foundation money was funneled to the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), created in 1948. The chairman of ACUE was OSS chief William J. Donovan and the vice chairman was Allen Dulles. One of ACUE’s board members was Walter Bedell Smith, the first CIA director.

Summa Corporation. [CIA partner]. Owned by Howard Hughes, Summa is believed to have skimmed gambling profits from the Sands, Desert Inn, Frontier, Silver Slipper, Castaways, and Landmark casinos in Las Vegas and Harold’s Club in Reno for the CIA and the Mafia. Provided financial cover for the CIA’s Glomar Explorer project.

Teneo Intelligence. [CIA partner]. Branch of Teneo Holdings, which is headquartered in New York. Teneo Holdings’s intelligence branch includes former CIA officials. Teneo is closely linked to former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Teneo Intelligence has offices in New York, London, Rome, Brussels, Dubai, Bogota, New Delhi, and Tokyo.

Texas Commerce Bank (TCB). [CIA partner]. Houston-based bank founded by the family of James Baker III. Texas Commerce Bank was used to provide commercial cover for CIA agents. After serving as vice president for Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas from 1977 to 1979, Jeb Bush joined his father’s presidential campaign in 1980. Serving with Bush on the campaign was Robert Gambino, the CIA deputy director of security who gave Bush his orientation brief at Langley in 1977.

Kenneth Lay, the chairman of Enron, which had its own links to the CIA, served on the board of Texas Commerce Bank. Texas Commerce Bank was acquired by Chemical Bank in 1987.

The bank provided major loans to Howard Hughes’s Summa Corporation. See Summa Corporation.

United Fruit Company [CIA partner]. Involved in 1954 CIA overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala. Published the Latin America Report, a publication that was a CIA front used for clandestine activities. The CIA transferred weapons to United Fruit employees in Guatemala who were involved in undermining the Arbenz government. The joint CIA-United Fruit plan was code named OPERATION FORTUNE. Company provided an airfield in Guatemala for the CIA’s training of Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

U.S. Rubber Company. [CIA partner]. Headquartered in Naugatuck, Connecticut and later called Uniroyal, provided corporate cover to CIA officers operating abroad. Included those operating under the cover of the Dominion Rubber Company of Canada, a subsidiary of U.S. Rubber Company.

U.S. Youth Council (USYC). [CIA front]. Founded in 1945 and based in New York. Some 90 percent of its funds came from the CIA. USYC received funding from the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs (FYSA), a CIA front. The USYC was composed of American Youth Hostels, Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, American Unitarian Youth, National Catholic Welfare Conference, National Students Assembly, YMCA and YWCA.

Wackenhut. [CIA contractor]. Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based security firm, stood accused of providing the CIA with specialized services around the world, including Chile, Greece, and El Salvador. Its Venezuelan branch, Wackenhut Venezolana, C.A., was accused in 2002 of involvement in the CIA’s coup against President Hugo Chavez. William Casey served as Wackenhut’s outside counsel before becoming CIA director in 1981.

Wackenhut eventually merged into the global security firm G4S.

Washington Post. [CIA partner]. The Washington Post was part of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD, the agency’s media influence project. Post publisher Phil Graham was a close friend and associate of MOCKINGBIRD chief Frank Wisner, Sr. and CIA director Allen Dulles. Wisner assisted Graham in acquiring The Washington Times-Herald and WTOP radio, creating a sizable CIA-influenced media operation in the nation’s capital.

W. R. Grace. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover to CIA officers operating abroad, particularly in Latin America. Provided donations to CIA front foundations.

  • News story about Madsen's book via The Justice Integrity Project

  •           Za'atar         
    Summer Za'atar on the border with Lebanon
    There is a little confusion around the name "Za'atar" and what exactly does it refer to: A condiment? A spice mix? An herb? And if so - which herb exactly - Hyssop? Thyme? Oregano? Marjoram?

    The truth is that za'atar is an Arabic word used interchangeably for a number of wild herbs that grow wild in the Mediterranean region, and all contain thymol and carvacrol. Hence their similar sharp and warm aroma, bitter taste and spicy, almost hot "bite". They also share similar medicinal properties, most of them used in folk medicine for most digestive ailments and respiratory complaints. The mixture known to us as "Za'atar" is in fact a misnomer. Za'atar is originally the name of the plant now classified as Origanum syriacum, but in Arabic it is loosely applied to several other related wild and not so wild herbs.


    The name for the condiment is in fact "doukka" (pronounced often as "Do-ak" with a very throaty "K" that almost sounds like an "A" so in reality the word sounds more like "Do-ah"). In Arabic this means "to grind". Each region in the Arab world has its own "Doukka", which is either sprinkled on food, or more commonly covered in olive oil to which the traditional regional bread is dipped. For example - Egypt has a complex nut-based doukka with toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, to which toasted or untoasted spices such as cumin, coriander seeds, green peppercorns and sweet fennel have been added.

    In the Levant "doukka" happens to be made primarily of a mixture of thymol-containing herbs, with "The" Za'atar (Origanum syriacum) being the star of the show. Lesser amounts of other herbs, will be added - the most important of which are "Za'atar Farsi" (winter savory), Israeli Thyme (Corydothymus capitatus), Zuta זוטה לבנה ( Micromeria fruiticosa barbata), a delicate wild white mint known in English as White-Leaved Savory (which does not even belong to the savory genus, but to micromeria because of its tiny leaves). Common oregano (Origanum vulgare) makes a good addition, albeit cannot substitute for the real Za'atar or Syrian oregano if you actually know the real deal. Likewise, marjoram and thyme can also make a good addition but not be at the centre. Even though their profiles are similar - there are some nuances that will be lost if using only the garden variety oreganos and thymes and none of the wild stuff.

    Many other things can be added to the mix, the most important being sumac berries (Rhus coriaria) for their wonderful salty-sour flavour, and toasted sesame seeds for their pop-in-the-mouth nuttiness. But you'll also find spices sometimes, including more obscure ones such as butum (بطم) - toasted terebinth fruits (Pistachia palestina), which are really like tiny pistachios with the outer red peel intact. I've got a few of those drying right now, because I've never seen them in any market before and I'm very curious how they taste as a spice.

    The following are several authentic Za'atar recipes I've collected - and of course you are welcome to browse google's universe of shared recipes, but be cautious of a few things if you want to make an authentic za'atar:
    1) Use actual Origanum syriacum even if a generic "oregano" is called for
    2) Do not by any stretch of the imagination use "fresh" leaves. They must be dried first. And only then will you grind them up with the rest of the ingredients. This is a dried herb and spice mix. Not a fresh herb concoction.
    3) Usage of salt, although found in many recipes, seems very superfluous to me, unless you are not using sumac berries. These have a unique taste - equally salty and tangy. The whole point of using them is so you do not need to use salt. Likewise, using citric acid is a way to fake the sumac effect. Which I'm not quit sure why would anyone do that aside from laziness. Sumac berries are difficult to grind manually (or even in a coffee grinder) - but you can find ground sumac easily in many spice shops and markets.

    When shopping for pre-made spice mixes, or any ground spices for that matter, the main culprit is adulteration and using old raw material that are "dressed up" as authentic. It's hard to teach someone who've never tasted or smelled za'atar what to look for, but some things are a telling sign. For example: if you don't see the dark maroon red and still taste salt or tanginess, it is probably from salt and citrus acid, and not from the (missing) red sumac berries. Secondly, another visual sign - za'atar leaves are rather grey in colour when dried, so any other colour you see (olive green) is either food colouring or a combination of other types of "za'atar" herbs (i.e.: thyme, za'atar farsi, etc.). Best sign is by taste - if it taste like dust (and looks like dust) it's either too old or just a fake.

    I suggest you start with the most basic three ingredients, and then play with the proportions and adding other herbs and/or spices. You can even start with equal amount of za'atar leaves, sumac and sesame and adjust to taste.

    Safta Ada's Za'atar Recipe 
    This is my mom's handmade recipe that she would make from wild harvested za'atar (before it was illegal to pick any) and would even send it to Vancouver so I can enjoy a taste of home.
    1 cup dried za'atar leaves, coarsely crushed between your palms, or pounded with mortar and pestle to a finer powder
    4 Tbs ground sumac berries (I suggest you purchase them pre-ground, otherwise their seeds can break your teeth!)
    2 Tbs toasted brown sesame seeds, whole

    May Bsisu wrote an excellent book, The Arab Table, which I highly recommend, and it includes a unique Palestinian style of za'atar that includes caraway:
    10oz oregano (I assume she means za'atar)
    5oz thyme
    3 Tbs sumac, ground
    1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
    2-1/2 Tbs coarse salt
    1/2 tsp allspice, ground
    1/4 tsp caraway seeds, ground 

    Easy Lebanese Recipes provides a "Traditional Rich Recipe" for za'atar that I'm compelled to try, with dried za'atar, roasted sesame, sumac, marjoram, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, aniseed and salt.

    Mamma's Lebanese Kitchen recipe contains thyme, marjoram, sumac, sesame, cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon and salt.

    How to consume za'atar?
    Use your za'atar mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread, on top of labneh (strained yoghurt cheese) or as a substitute for butter under any other soft or hard cheese, avocado, etc.
    It's also a nice addition to salads, and for baking fish or poultry. I also like to add it to chickpeas that I fry whole in olive oil, after they've been cooked and drained.

    Fresh za'atar leaves come in late winter and can be enjoyed all through spring, and can be fried in olive oil much like tender sage leaves and become this wonderful crispy topping for fresh bread, pasta, roasted vegetables, etc. Also, they can be used as they are in salads (May Bsisu has a recipe for fresh oregano salad in that book as well), with lots of onion and tomatoe. The Druze use it to season the dough or the fillings for various savoury pastries, such as sambusak (a flatbread that is folded in half to conceal a thin layer of highly seasoned stuffing, and baked in the tabun) and fatayer (little dough pockets filled with cheese), and the dried whole leaves can be used much like oregano in meat and pasta sauces, in soups, stews, breads, etc.

    Now, let's explore the Za'atar "group" of plants:

    Hyssop (Wild Oregano)

    Ezov (the Hebrew word for the Biblical Hyssop - not the European Hyssopus officials which is also a medicinal plant, and produces a rather toxic essential oil), which is now classified as an oregano, Origanum syriacum (formerly Majorana syriaca). Like many of the other aromatic plants from the Lamiaceae family, za'atar has a winter and spring foliage and a summer foliage, which is smaller in order to preserve water and survive the long arid season. I suspect the essential oils also aid with the survival of these plants in such harsh conditions - because whenever they are grown in regions where the water is more abundant (British Columbia, for example) - their flavour is largely lacking. What you see above is the luscious winter "look", which features soft and larger leaves, and their colour is much greener, and therefore more similar to the common oregano (Origanum vulgare).


    Za'atar Farsi (meaning Persian Za'atar), or as it is called in Hebrew צתרה ורודה - Tzatra Vruda (Pink Tzatra) which really is winter or mountain savory (Satureja montana). Its long needle-like leaves have a sharp, spicy taste. When we were growing up my mom would spice the egg for French Toast with them and make them literally savoury.

    Thymbra spicata צתרנית משובלת
    Mediterranean Thyme (Thymbra spicata), in Hebrew צתרנית משובלת Tzatranit Meshubelet is also called in Arabic "Za'atar farsi", and has a very similar leaf shape (only a bit longer, narrower and softer) and almost identical odour and aroma profile. It has flowers that look a bit more like chaffs of wheat (not unlike those of Lavandula dentata, and is even more rare to find than Satureja montana.

    Coridothymus capitatus
    Israeli Thyme (Corydothymus capitatis / Thymus capitatus / Thymbra capitata) or in Hebrew Koranit Mekurkefet קורנית מקורקפת is also known by many other names - Israeli oreganum (oil), Cretan thyme, Corido thyme, Headed savory, Thyme of the Ancient, Conehead thyme and most commonly - Spanish Oregano (even though it is not classified as "origanum"). This oil is what is often sold as "oregano oil", by the way. This is now a rare plant that in our area grows only along the rocky seashores of the North Coast leading to Lebanon. The leaves are tiny and sharp, like a miniature version of the Pink Tzatra, but they grow more dense and close together to form clusters around the tip of the branches. The branches are woody-looking almost like bonsai trees that crawl all over the rocks - and the flowers tiny and purplish-pink. The aroma is clean and maybe a little more simple than that of za'atar, but also the taste is much more sharp and phenolic.

               Top of the Land        
    Wild Rose (Rosa canina) on the peak of Mt. Hermon
    After picking a bunch of cherries to complete our breakfast we drove to the peak of Mount Hermon (Jabal A-Sheikh) - elevation 2,224m, which is accessible with chair lifts. It was a relatively hot day but still much more pleasant than the rest of the country - somewhere around 26c or so, with a very harsh sun yet a nice dry cool breeze ever so often.

    Cherry Picking
    The vegetation is somewhat sparse but very special and with many varieties growing on this mountain. Some plants can be found in other northern places (for example: the now protected Wild artichoke (Gundelia tournefortii) - עכובית הגלגל, which grew in most parts of the country before), but others are endemic to this mountain alone, because of its exceptional conditions and placement. It is covered in snow all winter, and once it melts resembles a cool desert land, covered with white rocks and with no trees in sight. Dog roses (Rosa canina) are native to Israel, but are quite a rare sight otherwise. To find a bush in full bloom at the peak of Mt. Hermon was elating. Of course, it has a heavenly fragrance.

    Peak of Mt. Hermon

    Up on the peak, there is a sense that many of the plants here has some mysterious medicinal value, for some very specific and possibly rare conditions. I am imagining a time when climbing the mountain on foot would be a great ordeal (well, it still is - but most people use the road and then the gondola!). People would only go up the mountain for an important mission set forth by a divine guidance, a royal order, or a great and pressing need to save someone's life from a rare illness...
    פריגה חלקת פרי
    This poppy (Glaucium oxylobum פרגה קרחת/פריגה חלקת פרי), for example, is unique to Mt. Hermon and can't be found anywhere else in the country (but it can be found in high elevations - upwards of 1,100m - in the mountains of Turkey and Iran). I love its bright dual colours and contrasting "eyes". It blooms for a very long season - six months to be exact, from April when the snow melts, till the total dryness of September. There is a great variety between flowers, but they all share this startling, sudden contrasting colour change, and unusual display of three colours.
    Salvia microstegia מרווה בוצינית + Alyssum baumgartnerianum אליסון חרמוני
    Salvia microstegia (the hairy big leaves with white flowers), the thistle-looking plant is Cousinia hermonis (קוסיניה חרמונית), the yellow flowers are of Alyssum baumgartnerianum Bornm. (אליסון חרמוני), AKA madwort. It is not the only yellow flower found on Mt Hermon  - so don't confuse it with Lebanese St. John's Wort (Hypericum libanoticum) in Hebrew - פרע לבנוני, or with the two types of Achilea that grow there - Achillea biebersteinii (אכילאה קטנת-פרחים) and the endemic Achillea falcata (אכילאה גפורה).

    There might also be a type of catnip (נפית קילקית?) Nepata - of some kind that I'm yet to completely ID), or a horehound in the pic. Which also reminds me of the unusual Lebanese horehound (Marrubium libanoticum Boiss) - in Hebrew מרוביון הלבנון/מרמר הלבנון, which is also a highly medicinal plant.
    Israel|Syria border - view from peak of Mt. Hermon
    Israel & Syria - view from above. Where the green ends Syria begins... It's sad but true, due to over-forestation and roaming in Syria, and on the other hand much planting of trees all across Israel.

    Lastly, here is me and Miss T standing against this dramatic backdrop.

    Israel|Syria Border - Peak of Mt. Hermon

              Druze Tea        

    Herbal arrangement for tea brewing
    For those unfamiliar with the Druze culture, it is unique to the Levant (Lebanon, Syria and Israel). This minority group originated about a thousand years ago in the Ismaillia sect of early Islam, and was largely prosecuted after splitting off from it. Therefore, mate

    they usually dwell on mountains and have long tradition of bravery since they've always needed to fend for themselves in a rather hostile environment. In Israel, the Druze communities are all located in the north - from Mount Carmel in the largest Druze town Daliat el Carmel and all the way up north to the Western Galilee, the Golan Heights especially around Mount Hermon.

    Near my village alone there are four Druze villages - Jath, Yanuh, Yirka and Julis. We've held strong friendly relationships with our Druze neighbours. Growing up, two elders from the village Yanuh will travel on foot or by donkey and come help us build our village - they taught our parents how to built terraces from the many rocks around here so that we can grow crops along the hillsides, how to cultivate wild olives and do the grafting so the trees grow strong and bear good fruit, and we went every summer to the miller and grind our wheat (when we still grew our own), and every autumn to line up with all the other olive growers and press our olives into fine olive oil and buy handmade olive soap that was made on the spot from the pommace left from the pressing process. As the nearby village Yirka developed into a small town bustling with businesses - we go there also to do most of our shopping and other business (that's where I usually go to the ship my online orders, by the way), and continue to build business and work relations with our neighbours. My house (both the old and the new part) was built almost entirely by a Birka-Born team of construction experts who became my closest new friends since moving here, and their wives come to practice Pilates with me.

    Growing up here, I remember my mom being especially enthusiastic about learning from the Druze women about the bounty of edible and medicinal wild plants around here. From them she also learned to drink olive oil in the morning on empty stomach, and how to make a special scorpion antidote (from the scorpion that stung you, fried in olive oil). I never tried either, and probably never will. But I do love to learn from them about the nearly magical properties of the plants that grow everywhere around here. It's as if there is an entire pharmacy out in the open, here in the wild. 

    Besides, there is much to be learned from the Druze traditional way of living, which is very family centred and values hospitality and taking the time to sit and enjoy a cup of anything - tea, coffee, and more and more coffee. The latter is served everywhere you go - from the hardware store to the mobile phone shop. And of course you can't enter a home without being invited for at least a cup of coffee, and if it's dinnertime - to break bread with the whole family.

    Ka'kat Isfar
    As is widespread in all of Israel - among both the Arab and Jewish population - the Druze adore za'atar, sage and the many wild harvested and then dried herbs from around here. They are  popular as digestifs or medicinal brews for various ailments or as preventative measures: wild sage, white mint, savory, wild oregano, and more are either infused on their own or added, dried or fresh, to black tea.  The love for za'atar is so profound that it is even added to some sweet pastries, such as this traditional ka'akat isfar ("yellow cake") - a mildly sweet yeasted flatbread that is coloured with turmeric and additionally spiced with sesame and nigella seeds, hints of za'atar (this umbrella name could be wild oregano, savoury or thyme - more on that in another post), and hints of mysterious spices that I'm yet to identify (I detected nutmeg and perhaps even some cardamom or allspice but I can't be sure of the latter two). It has become a favourite of mine, but is never found in a pastry shop. Some families would sell their traditional homemade ka'kat isfar when they make it, and the recipes vary. The first one I tried was only spiced with turmeric. This particular version that I'm very fond of was made by a random person I met on one of my traveling tea parties, and I doubt I will be able to taste ever again. The only recipe I found that seems close is written in Arabic and I'm far from being proficient enough to follow a recipe in that language.

    Many of my Vancouver perfume studio guests have been indirectly introduced to Druze culture through the special tea I would brew each winter (we fondly called it "witch brew") of dried hulnejan (a particular type of dried galangal root) and ginger roots, which is simmered forever in a large pot, simultaneously cleansing the air, warming the chest and keeping colds at bay. It is often served with pecan nuts sprinkled on top, and a lot of sugar, which is how most Druze like their teas. I personally prefer it unsweetened, and like to add cinnamon bark which has its own natural sweetness. Sometimes I would add honey but not often.

    But Hulnejan is not the only interesting thing about the Druze tea culture. As it turns out, in the 19th Century, many Druze - especially from Syria - left for Argentina, and they brought back with them mate, and a special fondness for this unique South American concoction. They drink it socially, sharing the same bombilla (the silver straw), traditionally sucked from the tea which is brewed in a dried decorative gourd.

    Mate, Druze-style

    In this photo, I am holding a dainty cup of mate that was offered to me on the streets of Majdal Shams, a remote Druze village come ski tourist town on Mount Hermon (Jabal Sheikh), formerly part of Syria. 

    On Saturday morning, we were having a hard time finding a place to eat breakfast. The breakfast place recommended to us the night before was still closed at 8:30am - it turns out it was them who had the wedding the night before with the parade that blocked the streets) - and so we were directed by a local lady to a corner shop that sells coffee, cigarettes, local cherries and freshly whipped before your eyes malyukh (Druze flat bread that is baked on top of a saj - an iron dome much like an upside down wok) on top of open fire. The bread is baked only on one side, than folded and smeared with generous amounts of labneh (soft cheese made from strained yoghurt), za'atar mixture, and homemade hot sauce that I swear was spiked with cinnamon.  We were also offered black tea "on the house" which turned to be fragrant with "Ootra" - Arabic for the popular Pelargonium graveness. The lady was impressed with my Arabic (very basic, but still better than nothing) and even more so that I recognized what she put in the tea and know the Arabic name for it.

    I chatted her up as I was munching on the malyukh and sipping the tea, and learned that while Majdal Shams is not as big as Yirka - it is a lot more "modern" to her words. There is a high percentage of post-secondary education, most of which was acquired in Syria, where up until the civil war was offered for free to all Syrian citizens. As a background - you should know that up until 1967, the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon, including the four Druze villages  there - Majdal Shams, Mas'ade, Ein Kiniya and Buq'ata - were under Syrian rule, and their culture is quite different than what you'll find in the Galilee. One thinks of the border between Israel and Syria (sworn enemies since the establishment of the state of Israeli in 1948) as hermetically sealed, but in fact there was a dynamic flow of the Druze population between the countries - especially for weddings and for family reunions, but also for studying abroad. This lady's brother lived in Syria for many years - he went there to study medicine, got married and lived there until the war started, and then requested to return, and came back to Israel via Jordan with his wife and their children.

    We finished our delicious breakfast, thanked the lady and crossed the street to where our car was parked, right in front of a bakery (the only other place that was already open by 9am). In front of it, two ladies sat on a bench and a couple of upside-down plastic grocery boxes, boiling water on a portable gas stove and sipping non other than mate from a dainty little jug. I was so astonished I could not hold my gasp of delight. In return, they offered me to sit down and join them, rinsing the bombilla with boiled water from the kettle and pouring fresh water over and over the mate to bring out the flavour time and again. I was so thrilled that even though we're only two hours drive from home, and are already experiencing new culture that is so different yet invites us to share a cup of tea together.
    I had a couple of jugs of mate with them and thanked the big spirit that's in this world that encouraged me to finally set up on my tea journey. 

              Tea with Pan        
    Danger - Mines! Golan Heights

    When arriving in the arid, volcanic and mine-dotted land of the Golan Heights, it is hard to imagine that within it hides some of the most luxurious water resources of the country.

    Golan - Banias

    The strip of lush green in the midst of dead, dry grasses is in fact the creekside forest of the Banias creek. It is named after the Greek goat-god, Pan (Arabic does not have the letter "P" so it was replaced over the years with a "B" and stayed that way) , and the city of Panias that dwelled around its springs at the foothill of Mount Hermon (all the snow that melts penetrates the earth and comes out of these springs, and some others, into three creeks - Haztbani, Banias and Dan, which later joint forces to become the Joradn river). And inside that greenery hide sites such as this lovely waterfall:

    Pan's Waterfall
    We took two separate hikes, one to the Banias Fall (seen above) and another to the Banias Springs and the Temple of Pan. In contrast to the heat and dryness above the creek's canyon, it is hard to imagine a more befitting place for worshipping the green god Pan. You truly can feel the presence of the life force running through the creek, and even eighteen years in water-rich BC does not taint the wonder at such sight. The vegetation is spectacular, and includes side by side fig trees and Syrian maples, carobs, oaks and even ferns that grow alongside the pebbled creek and on the waterfall's rocks. There is a hanging trail there for part of the hike as well. And one more interesting point is a colony of rock hyrax that not only saw from up-close, but also smelled their dungy droppings - a mixture of civet, castoreum and maybe even a little bit of funky smell of goat droppings... you can see one of these creatures (a youngster) hiding among the carob tree's nooks and crannies, in the photo below. It looks a little bit like a squirrel because it is so blurry - but it does not have the typical long tail. Or any tail at all, for that matter.

    Carob Hyrax Colony

    Temple of Pan
    Our second hike began at the springs of the Panias and the sacred area of the Temple of Pan which in fact are the ruins of three ancient Greek temples that were the core of the city of Panias): One for Pan, which is in the cave you can see in the photo of the springs, to which goats were sent as sacrifice, to ask Pan to bless the livestocks with fertility and health. Goats that disappeared in the river were considered to be received; those who left traces of blood were signs for trouble and prayers that were not accepted. Next to it was a temple for Zeus. And on the very far right - the temple and gravesite for the dancing holy goats. I am assuming these are the ones that were received as sacrifice. There are many other sites and remains along the Banias creek, namely a Druze prophet's graveyard at the top of the cave for Pan (Nabi Khader, which is their name for the prophet Eliyahu AKA Elijah), Agripas' palace, an old flour mill (operated by the creek), a synagogue, and more. The caves below formerly had statues of Pan and other gods and goddesses.

    Temple of Pan

    I was overjoyed by the wonderful smell of fig leaves, so green, fresh and slightly milky. The true scent characteristics of any watery area in Israel. And also there were maple trees, some reaching giant proportions, with many impressive hollows and hiding places. Fig leaves and cool creek's pebbles are a classic scent combination, made entirely by nature... I wish I could bottle that!

    Traveling Tea Party at Pan's Creek
    As we walked towards the old mill and Agripas' palace, we found a cool, shady spot to brew a cup of tea. And speaking of classic combinations: I brewed lemon verbena tea, and poured the concoction into my gourd to make a truly South American mate. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora) also originates in Argentina. We enjoyed it with some halva and ka'akat isfar which I will tell you more about at a later post. My only regret is not having more cups and not inviting the American tourists that sat next to us to catch their breath. Something to think about for party.
              My Little Herb Garden         
    Treasures from the mountain

    The last two weeks I've delved right into exploring the medicinal wild plants that grow around here. For a short time I had a herbalist to show and share with me some of this wealth of plant wisdom. Now that this guide is gone, I'm lead only by the pleasantly infectious inspiration. There is an overwhelming abundance that is going to provide me with a lifetime of learning (according to Floral Palestina, this land is blessed with close to 2,700 species of wild plants!). I've been hiking in the surrounding areas and conservatively collecting branches for slips and re-planting in my little herbal garden. This of course will is part of the Perfumer's Botanical Garden I'm establishing around the studio.

    I'm showing you the early beginning, although they look quite unimpressive on camera. In person they have the charm of new beginnings as well as virgin strip of land and stony terrain and distant view of the Mediterranean; I am also delighted by the gentle healing energy that emanates from the plants for those who connect to these types of being. And for those who find it more difficult to connect to plants that way - the scents that each provide speak for themselves. Even a little stroke on each plant will give off the scent and you can mix and match to create your own "finger perfume".

    Morning in the medicinal herb garden

    From the wild, I've adopted some amazing plants - both old and new to me, that grow on the mountain behind my house. So all in all, my botanical collection is rapidly growing - even beyond the original wishlist I've created. And I'm rather happy with it.

    From my slip foraging, I managed to keep alive a couple of types of germanders - Cretan germander (Teucrium creticum), which looks a lot like rosemary but smells completely different - more like olive leaf, actually, and likewise has an intensely bitter taste; and cat-thyme germander (Teucrium capitatum), which has a sweet, almost resinous fragrant silvery foliage. The latter is highly medicinal and rivals only the local wild sage (Salvia fruticosa), more of the Savory of Crete (Satureja thymbra) and a similar plant, with an almost identical flavour and fragrance that has flowers with a structure similar to Lavandula dentata, which is called Spiked Savoury (Thymbra spicata). It would be difficult to find information online in English on many of these plants because they are unique to Israel.  I've also adopted some cistus plants, although they are not the Cistus ladaniferus I am seeking but two other local species that are not as resinous, yet somewhat fragrant depending on the season. And I am crossing my fingers that two seedlings of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) that my herbalist guide carefully uprooted from the wadi (dry creek) floor, will also survive and make it to the miniature forest I want to create behind the perfume studio. And most immortally - I am hoping that the two little twigs of Israeli Thyme (Coridothymus capitatus) that we found on the rocky North beach will grow up some roots and flourish. They are quite rare site here inland, and in fact a protected species. They have a striking look when they get mature and an intense yet slightly floral aroma that I love. It truly deserves a post of its own, with photos and all. Along with Origanum syriacum (also grown in my garden), the other varieties of thyme and savoury I mentioned before, some sumac and sesame seeds it forms the spice mixture called "Za'atar" that some of you may be familiar with from Lebanese grocery stores and Middle Eastern restaurants.

    Thymbra spicata צתרנית משובלת

    Naturally growing wild in my garden is also white horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a highly medicinal plant that grows in astounding abundance, several mastic bushes and probably more plants that I did not know were medicinal but will find out later. There are also still two plants that I found on the mountain to make slips that I haven't identified yet, so the search is not over. Lastly, I scattered seeds of blood helicrysum, a local wild plant (Helichrysum sanguinum) which I also hope will come out next winter. By that time I hope I will forget about it altogether so it will just be a pleasant surprise...

    Dam HaMakabim (Helicrysum sanguinum) coming into seed

    Lastly, to be fair and square, I promised to tell you which plants I put in from the nursery (the ones my brother brought me), so that you know if you guessed it right. They were several types of lavender (mountain Savory of Crete (Satureja thymbra), several types of lavender (Lavandula pinnate, L. dentate, L. angustifolia), one artemisia and - to my utmost excitement - two immortelles (Helicrysum italicum), often called "curry plant".

    Morning in the medicinal herb garden

    Also you should know, that among those who participated in this context, we got two worthy winners who will receive a sample kit of all my herbaceous fragrances,  are Ruby Clover and Melissa Menard. The kit includes ArbitRary for the basil, Ayalitta for the sage, Immortelle l'Amour for the immortelle of course, l'Herbe Rouge for the lemongrass, hay and lavender and Lovender - which is quite obvious. I've also included a sniff-peak of Inbar, my new, wild-oregano infused amber concoction which is not even for sale quite yet :-)

    Putting together the kits made me also realize how little attention I've been giving the herbaceous notes.

              ISIS declares Islamic state across Syria and Iraq; human rights group reports rebels being crucified        
    From CNN:  Emboldened by a weakened Iraqi government that is struggling to stop their murderous advance, the extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria declared over the weekend that they have set up a caliphate spanning large areas of the two countries. In a newly released audio message and written statement, purportedly from […]
              Missing nuns surface in video, deny being kidnapped        
    From Reuters:  A group of nuns who went missing in Syria after Islamist fighters captured a Christian village this week have appeared in a video, saying they are in good health and denying that they had been kidnapped. The nuns were taken after militants seized the ancient quarter of Maaloula, a Christian village north of […]
              Syrian rebels kidnap nuns        
    From the Associated Press:  The mother superior of a Syrian convent says 12 nuns have been abducted by opposition fighters and taken to a rebel-held town. Febronia Nabhan, Mother Superior at Saidnaya Convent, said Tuesday that the nuns and three other women were taken the day before from another convent in the predominantly Christian village […]
              â€œSyria is walking the Way of the Cross”        
    Heartbreaking:   Bombs, kidnapping and financial extortion are among the problems facing Syria’s Christians, the leader of the country’s Catholics told a meeting in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Speaking to more than 300 benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios III – the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church – said: “Syria […]
              â€œAlmighty eternal God, hear the cries of the people of Syria…”        
    A Prayer for the People of Syria Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion, the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope. Hear the cries of the people of Syria; bring healing to those suffering from the violence, and comfort to those mourning the dead. Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors […]
              Pope on Syria: “Dialogue and negotiation is the only option”        
    From CNS:  Dialogue and negotiations are “the only option for putting an end to the conflict and violence” in Syria, said Pope Francis and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. As Western leaders expressed strong convictions that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack against its own citizens and vowed to take action, Pope Francis […]
              â€œEnough, Enough, Enough…”: Powerful Video on the Plight of Christians in Syria        
    This is something to see, from Aid to the Church in Need.  As described on YouTube: The promising future that the so-called Arab Spring foretold has become rather a nightmare in Syria: an escalating conflict that has forced thousands of Syrians to leave their country. Christian families in particular face a hardship reality in the […]
              The Trappist nuns of Syria: “Christian hope…is stronger than all the horrors”        
    Eight years ago, a small group of Trappist nuns founded a monastery in Syria, in the countryside along the border with Lebanon. The atmosphere, while heavily guarded, remains tense.  Why do they stay when every day puts their lives at risk? An Italian news service recently interviewed the sisters.  Read the conversation here. Last fall, […]
              Church says it has no information on kidnapped bishops, after group claims they have been freed        
      Details:  Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox archdiocese said Wednesday it had no news on two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria, a day after a Christian association said the two men had been released. “We have no new information,” Ghassan Ward, a priest at the archdiocese, told AFP. “We can say that (as far as we know) they […]
              Two Syrian bishops kidnapped        
    Aleppo, Syria Details:  Sources in Syria report that the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi, and the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim, were seized by “a terrorist group” as they were “carrying out humanitarian work.” Reuters reports that “a Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the two men […]
              Families of jailed Turkish journalists shaken but determined        

    Istanbul: Their imprisonment has torn families apart while the newspaper they work for is left without some of its brightest stars.

    But the relatives and colleagues of jailed journalists from the Turkish opposition daily Cumhuriyet vow to continue to fight for their freedom and ideals.

    "For nine months we have been living a nightmare, to be honest," said Nazire Gursel, wife of veteran commentator Kadri Gursel who has been in jail since October.

    The hardest part, she said, was replying to questions from their 10-year-old son, Erdem.

    "People tell my child, `Your father is a hero, he has done a lot for Turkey`," Nazire Gursel recounted.

    "So, on the one hand he is proud, but on the other hand, he asks, `But why is my father in prison if he is a hero? Who is his enemy?`"

    Since Monday, 17 journalists, executives and other staff of Cumhuriyet, a daily fiercely critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been on trial accused of supporting "terrorist" organisations.

    Secular Cumhuriyet ("Republic") daily, one of Turkey`s oldest newspapers, has built a strong reputation for publishing scoops embarrassing for those in power.

    The newspaper rejects the "absurd" accusations and claims the trial is aimed at damaging one of the country`s last independent media outlets.

    The experience has united journalists` relatives and their free colleagues who come to court together, and who sometimes go in groups to Silivri prison on the outskirts of Istanbul with a minibus chartered by the newspaper.

    Nazire Gursel goes to Silivri every Friday. "I had never been to Silivri before my husband`s incarceration. When I arrived there for the first time, I told myself `it looks like a Nazi camp`, she told AFP.

    "It is a really scary place."The trial gave family members the chance to see their loved ones outside of prison, where visits are confined to an hour and take place behind bulletproof glass.

    "We at least have the chance to see or hear them without a window between us, to hear their voice directly without using a telephone," said Yonca Sik, the wife of Ahmet Sik, one of Turkey`s most famous investigative journalists who is also jailed.

    According to her, conditions in prison have hardened since her husband`s last incarceration- in 2011, he was imprisoned after writing notably one of the few full-scale investigations into the group of Fethullah Gulen.

    Gulen is a US-based cleric who Ankara accuses of ordering last year`s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    "They are in isolation, that is especially the hardest," she told AFP in front of the Istanbul courthouse where the staff is on trial. Among them, 11 are in pre-trial detention.

    "They take them away from the people they love, their work and it`s clearly an injustice, persecution," one of Cumhuriyet`s lawyers Efkan Bolac said.

    "It`s torture for the accused."Beyond the impact on families, the incarcerations have hurt Cumhuriyet: the paper`s chairman, Akin Atalay, and its editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu are currently in prison.

    "For nine months, Cumhuriyet has faced troubles. Nearly all of its senior executives have been imprisoned as well as many writers," the daily`s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul said.

    Gul himself was sentenced last year for five years for "revealing state secrets" after a front page story claiming to show the government sending arms to rebels in Syria in May 2015. He is appealing the sentence.

    "We are paying a heavy price but we continue to publish the newspaper," Gul said, adding: "Cumhuriyet has not changed its editorial line."

    Nazire Gursel says she does not regret the work that her husband did which caused him to be behind bars. "I`m immensely proud of him."

    The judge is likely to decide on Friday whether or not to release the accused for the rest of the trial.

    "Turkey is no longer a state of law, but there are still people who are fighting for democracy, for justice," said Yonca Sik, pointing to the demonstrators gathered in front of the court. 

    "And that, of course, gives me hope."

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              2016: 122 journalists killed globally, 5 in India        

    New Delhi: As many as 122 journalists and media professionals were killed in 2016 globally, 93 of them in targeted killings and others in natural disasters and accidents, while India witnessed death of five scribes and was eighth on a list topped by Iraq, according to a new report.

    The targeted killings, including murders, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents, span 23 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East and Arab World regions, said International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its annual report released Friday.

    The IFJ said the number (93 targeted killings) was down from 112 targeted killings in 2015 while Iraq still had the largest number of media killings with 15, ahead of Afghanistan (13) and Mexico (11).

    These were followed by Yemen (8), Guatemala (6), Syria (6), India and Pakistan (5 in both), according to the statistics published by the largest global federation of journalists' trade unions.

    In addition to the 93 targeted killings, 20 Brazilian sports journalists perished in a plane crash over the city of Medellin in Colombia, a country where for the first time in many years no killing was recorded this year, against three in 2015. Nine Russian journalists were killed in a military plane crash.

    Although the 2016 figures for targeted killings of media professionals are down from the previous year's, the IFJ has cautioned against complacency citing reports of rising threats, intimidation and self-censorship as evidence that attacks on freedom of expression remain at critical levels.

    In India, Tarun Mishra, Bureau Chief of Jan Sandesh Times, died on 14 February; Indradev Yadav, Journalist with Taaza TV, on 16 May; Rajdeo Ranjan, Bureau Chief of Dainik Hindustan on 13 May; Kishore Dave, Bureau Chief of Jai Hind on 22 August and Dharmendra Singh, Correspondent of Dainik Bhaskar on 12 November, the report noted.

    In 2015, India had reported targeted killings of six media professionals, including those from news channel Aaj Tak and Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran, the report states.

    Noting that India along with Yemen, Pakistan and Syria form a group which saw little or no change in the numbers of killings from 2015, IFJ President Philippe Leruth said, "Any decrease in violence against journalists and media staff is always welcome but these statistics and the continued deliberate targeting of media workers in many incidents causing loss of life give little room for comfort nor ground for hope to see the end of the current media safety crisis." 

    The IFJ, which claims to represent more than 6,00,000 journalists in 140 countries, has recorded at least 2,297 killings of media professionals in targeted assassinations, cross-fire incidents and bomb attacks till 2015.

    2016: 122 journalists killed globally, 5 in India
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              Resolution 2328 to deploy United Nations observers in Aleppo        
    The Security Council, Recalling all its relevant resolutions, especially 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015) and 2286 (2016); Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic; Alarmed by the continued deterioration of the devastating humanitarian situation in Aleppo and by the fact that urgent [...]
              Inherent Resolve Strikes Target ISIS in Syria, Iraq        
    Inherent Resolve Strikes Target ISIS in Syria, Iraq From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release ...

    This is an article summary only. Click on the article's title to enjoy the complete article
              Military Strikes Continue Against ISIS Terrorists in Syria, Iraq        
    Military Strikes Continue Against ISIS Terrorists in Syria, Iraq From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release ...

    This is an article summary only. Click on the article's title to enjoy the complete article
              Comment on Guestbook by Freja Amanda Langevang        
    I stayed in the Guesthouse for about 1 month from March - April. This was my second stay in the Guesthouse, and again, I give both CYC and the Guesthouse my very best recommendations. This time I had the honor of living together with a Syrian, a British and three Italians. Since my last stay, there's been installed Solar, which means that there is now electricity 24/7 in the Guesthouse :) As always, I was welcomed by the staff and the residents of Shatila, and it was an amazing month of great experiences. When living in Shatila, I recommend that you do all of your shopping in the camp. When buying groceries, falafel or new shoes, one always end up with a new friend and amazing, real-life stories from the residents of Shatila <3 Freja, Denmark.
              Thought for food.        
    Like eating brains? I know you do. Why not add some new dishes to your collection of recipes that use the "fifth quarter?" Despite some negative cultural stereotypes, the practice of eating brains is common in cultures all over the world: Kat-a-Kat is a traditional Pakistani dish containing brains Maghaz Masala is an Arabic course Here is a recipe for Toscano calf brains In France they are known as Cerveaux Chef Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo serves a popular lamb's brains ravioli Sesos in Mexico Some great recipes for Spanish Tortilla Sacromonte Fried brain sandwiches can be found in St. Louis and the Ohio River Valley Australian Slippery Bob This recipe for carpetbag steak would be great with some brains subbed for the oysters Here is an ancient Roman recipe for calf's brains custard German brain soup and brains au gratin Croquettes Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian recipe for brain omelets Vegan Mock Brains You may be wondering if eating brains is entirely safe. Besides being high in cholesterol, the brain is the main area where prions known to cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathy congregate in the body. In cows it's called Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), Scrapie in sheep, and Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and other wild game. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Kuru are two forms of spongiform encephalopathy in humans. Kuru was intensely studied among the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea from the 1950's to the 70's and it was determined that the high instances of it in the tribe were due to their ritual endocannibalistic funeral practices. It has been posited recently that a resistance to prionic diseases may have been selected for in our ancestors, suggesting that cannibalism was not uncommon. Also of interest to cephalovores may be the effects of aerosolizing pork brains and inhaling them, as were recently demonstrated in a pork plant in Austin, MN.
              The travesty that is Australia's asylum seeker offshore detention policy -"If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here."         

    It seems the truth will out.

    After the United States completes its vetting of asylum seekers held in overseas detention by the Australian Government it is not obliged to take even one of those individuals U.S. immigration officials have examined.

    In May 2017 the Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed 268 people had completed their second-stage security interview with US officials: 220 in Nauru and 48 on Manus Island.

    U.S. immigration officials halted screening interviews and departed Nauru on 14 July 2017, two weeks short of their scheduled timetable and a day after Washington said the US had reached its annual refugee intake cap.

    However, under the original agreement once that vetting is completed Australia becomes obliged to resettle between 20 and 50 people under a U.S. "Protection Transfer Arrangement" in Costa Rica set up to resettle refugees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

    Prime Minister Turnbull verbally changed that undertaking to an open-ended number of people the Trump Administration might be “very keen on getting out of the United States”.

    There is no indication that the U.S. Government intends to complete its vetting of those detained on Nauru and Manus islands.

    The Washington Post, 3 August 2017:

    The Washington Post has obtained transcripts of two conversations President Trump had with foreign leaders: one with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and another with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
    The transcripts were prepared by the White House but have not been released. The Post is publishing reproductions rather than original documents in order to protect sources. The reproductions below also include minor spelling and grammatical mistakes that appeared in the documents………………

    JANUARY 28, 2017 FROM 5:05 TO 5:29 P.M. EST.

    Good evening.

    Mr. Prime Minister, how are you?

    I am doing very well.

    And I guess our friend Greg Norman, he is doing very well?

    He is a great mutual friend yes.

    Well you say hello to him. He is a very good friend. By the way thank you very much for taking the call. I really appreciate it. It is really nice.

    Thank you very much. Everything is going very well. I want to congratulate you and Mike Pence on being sworn in now. I have spoken to you both now as you know. I know we are both looking to make our relationship which is very strong and intimate, stronger than ever – which I believe we can do.


    I believe you and I have similar backgrounds, unusual for politicians, more businessman but I look forward to working together.

    That is exactly right. We do have similar backgrounds and it seems to be working in this climate – it is a crazy climate. Let me tell you this, it is an evil time but it is a complex time because we do not have uniforms standing in front of us. Instead, we have people in disguise. It is brutal. This ISIS thing â€“ it is something we are going to devote a lot of energy to it. I think we are going to be very successful.

    Absolutely. We have, as you know, taken a very strong line on national security and border protection here and when I was speaking with Jared Kushner just the other day and one of your immigration advisors in the White House we reflected on how our policies have helped to inform your approach. We are very much of the same mind. It is very interesting to know how you prioritize the minorities in your Executive Order. This is exactly what we have done with the program to bring in 12,000 Syrian refugees, 90% of which will be Christians. It will be quite deliberate and the position I have taken – I have been very open about it – is that it is a tragic fact of life that when the situation in the Middle East settles down – the people that are going to be most unlikely to have a continuing home are those Christian minorities. We have seen that in Iraq and so from our point of view, as a final destination for refugees, that is why we prioritize. It is not a sectarian thing. It is recognition of the practical political realities. We have a similar perspective in that respect.

    Do you know four years ago Malcom, I was with a man who does this for a living. He was telling me, before the migration, that if you were a Christian from Syria, you had no chance of coming to the United States. Zero. They were the ones being persecuted. When I say persecuted, I mean their heads were being chopped off. If you were a Muslim we have nothing against Muslims, but if you were a Muslim you were not persecuted at least to the extent – but if you were a Muslim from Syria that was the number one place to get into the United States from. That was the easiest thing. But if you were a Christian from Syria you have no chance of getting into the United States. I just thought it was an incredible statistic. Totally true – and you have seen the same thing. It is incredible.

    Well, yes. Mr. President, can I return to the issue of the resettlement agreement that we had with the Obama administration with respect to some people on Nauru and Manus Island. I have written to you about this and Mike Pence and General Flynn spoke with Julie Bishop and my National Security Advisor yesterday. This is a very big issue for us, particularly domestically, and I do understand you are inclined to a different point of view than the Vice President.

    Well, actually I just called for a total ban on Syria and from many different countries from where there is terror, and extreme vetting for everyone else – and somebody told me yesterday that close to 2,000 people are coming who are really probably troublesome. And I am saying, boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground. You know Malcom, anybody that has a problem – you remember the Mariel boat lift, where Castro let everyone out of prison and Jimmy Carter accepted them with open arms. These were brutal people. Nobody said Castro was stupid, but now what are we talking about is 2,000 people that are actually imprisoned and that would actually come into the United States. I heard about this – I have to say I love Australia; I love the people of Australia. I have so many friends from Australia, but I said – geez that is a big ask, especially in light of the fact that we are so heavily in favor, not in favor, but we have no choice but to stop things. We have to stop. We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardino’s, we have had the World Trade Center come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2,000. It sends such a bad signal. You have no idea. It is such a bad thing.

    Can you hear me out Mr. President?

    Yeah, go ahead.

    Yes, the agreement, which the Vice President just called the Foreign Minister about less than 24 hours ago and said your Administration would be continuing, does not require you to take 2,000 people. It does not require you to take any. It requires, in return, for us to do a number of things for the United States – this is a big deal, I think we should respect deals.

    Who made the deal? Obama?

    Yes, but let me describe what it is. I think it is quite consistent. I think you can comply with it. It is absolutely consistent with your Executive Order so please just hear me out. The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1,250 to 2,000. Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process. So that is the first thing. Secondly, the people — none of these people are from the conflict zone. They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.

    Why haven’t you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?

    Okay, I will explain why. It is not because they are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble [sic] Prize winning genius, we will not let you in. Because the problem with the people —

    That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.

    This is our experience.

    Because you do not want to destroy your country. Look at what has happened in Germany. Look at what is happening in these countries. These people are crazy to let this happen. I spoke to Merkel today, and believe me, she wishes she did not do it. Germany is a mess because of what happened.

    I agree with you, letting one million Syrians walk into their country. It was one of the big factors in the Brexit vote, frankly.

    Well, there could be two million people coming in Germany. Two million people. Can you believe it? It will never be the same.

    stood up at the UN in September and set up what our immigration policy was. I said that you cannot maintain popular support for immigration policy, multiculturalism, unless you can control your borders. The bottom line is that we got here. I am asking you as a very good friend. This is a big deal. It is really, really important to us that we maintain it. It does not oblige you to take one person that you do not want. As I have said, your homeland officials have visited and they have already interviewed these people. You can decide. It is at your discretion. So you have the wording in the Executive Order that enables the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State to admit people on a case by case basis in order to conform with an existing agreement. I do believe that you will never find a better friend to the United States than Australia. I say this to you sincerely that it is in the mutual interest of the United States to say, “yes, we can conform with that deal – we are not obliged to take anybody we do not want, we will go through extreme vetting” and that way you are seen to show the respect that a trusted ally wants and deserves. We will then hold up our end of the bargain by taking in our country 31 [inaudible] that you need to move on from.

    Malcom [sic], why is this so important? I do not understand. This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.

    With great respect, that is not right – It is not 2,000.

    Well, it is close. I have also heard like 5,000 as well.

    The given number in the agreement is 1,250 and it is entirely a matter of your vetting. I think that what you could say is that the Australian government is consistent with the principles set out in the Executive Order.

    No, I do not want say that. I will just have to say that unfortunately I will have to live with what was said by Obama. I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.

    I would not be so sure about that. They are basically —

    Well, maybe you should let them out of prison. I am doing this because Obama made a bad deal. I am not doing this because it fits into my Executive Order. I am taking 2,000 people from Australia who are in prison and the day before I signed an Executive Order saying that we are not taking anybody in. We are not taking anybody in, those days are over.

    But can I say to you, there is nothing more important in business or politics than a deal is a deal. Look, you and I have a lot of mutual friends.
    Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this. You have brokered many a stupid deal in business and I respect you, but I guarantee that you broke many a stupid deal. This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.

    Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man who stands by the commitments of the United States. It shows that you are a committed —

    Okay, this shows me to be a dope. I am not like this but, if I have to do it, I will do it but I do not like this at all. I will be honest with you. Not even a little bit. I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it. The only reason I will take them is because I have to honor a deal signed by my predecessor and it was a rotten deal. I say that it was a stupid deal like all the other deals that this country signed. You have to see what I am doing. I am unlocking deals that were made by people, these people were incompetent. I am not going to say that it fits within the realm of my Executive Order. We are going to allow 2,000 prisoners to come into our country and it is within the realm of my Executive Order? If that is the case my Executive Order does not mean anything Malcom [sic]. I look like a dope. The only way that I can do this is to say that my predecessor made a deal and I have no option then to honor the deal. I hate having to do it, but I am still going to vet them very closely. Suppose I vet them closely and I do not take any?

    That is the point I have been trying to make.

    How does that help you?

    Well, we assume that we will act in good faith.

    Does anybody know who these people are? Who are they? Where do they come from? Are they going to become the Boston bomber in five years? Or two years? Who are these people?

    Let me explain. We know exactly who they are. They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here.

    Malcom [sic], but they are arrived on a boat?

    Correct, we have stopped the boats.

    Give them to the United States. We are like a dumping ground for the rest of the world. I have been here for a period of time, I just want this to stop. I look so foolish doing this. It [sic] know it is good for you but it is bad for me. It is horrible for me. This is what I am trying to stop. I do not want to have more San Bernardino’s or World Trade Centers. I could name 30 others, but I do not have enough time.

    These guys are not in that league. They are economic refugees.

    Okay, good. Can Australia give me a guarantee that if we have any problems – you know that is what they said about the Boston bombers. They said they were wonderful young men.

    They were Russians. They were not from any of these countries.

    They were from wherever they were.

    Please, if we can agree to stick to the deal, you have complete discretion in terms of a security assessment. The numbers are not 2,000 but 1,250 to start. Basically, we are taking people from the previous administration that they were very keen on getting out of the United States. We will take more. We will take anyone that you want us to take. The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat. So we would rather take a not very attractive guy that help you out then to take a Noble [sic] Peace Prize winner that comes by boat. That is the point.

    What is the thing with boats? Why do you discriminate against boats? No, I know, they come from certain regions. I get it.

    No, let me explain why. The problem with the boats it that you are basically outsourcing your immigration program to people smugglers and also you get thousands of people drowning at sea. So what we say is, we will decide which people get to come to Australia who are refugees, economic migrants, businessmen, whatever. We decide. That is our decision. We are a generous multicultural immigration nation like the United States but the government decides, the people’s representatives decides. So that is the point. I am a highly transactional businessman like you and I know the deal has to work for both sides. Now Obama thought this deal worked for him and he drove a hard bargain with us – that it was agreed with Obama more than a year ago in the Oval Office, long before the election. The principles of the deal were agreed to.

    I do not know what he got out of it. We never get anything out of it – START Treaty, the Iran deal. I do not know where they find these people to make these stupid deals. I am going to get killed on this thing.

    You will not.

    Yes, I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer.

    You can certainly say that it was not a deal that you would have done, but you are going to stick with it.

    I have no choice to say that about it. Malcom [sic], I am going to say that I have no choice but to honor my predecessor’s deal. I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcom [sic]I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

    Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?

    [inaudible] this is crazy.

    Thank you for your commitment. It is very important to us.

    It is important to you and it is embarrassing to me. It is an embarrassment to me, but at least I got you off the hook. So you put me back on the hook.

    You can count on me. I will be there again and again.

    I hope so. Okay, thank you Malcolm.

    Okay, thank you.

    * My yellow highlighting.

              Calling for local solutions to peace in Syria        

    March 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the war in Syria. After years of devastating conflict, the economy has been destroyed, countless lives have been taken and the population is exhausted. There is no easy answer as to how to begin to combat the difficult situation that Syrians find themselves in now – or in the near future. But the power of local organisations to determine and build that future is strong and must be given more attention, as a recent panel discussion hosted by the Overseas Development Institute highlighted.

    The post Calling for local solutions to peace in Syria appeared first on Peace Direct.

              Super Hornet daje brawurowy popis nad lotniskowcem USA (WIDEO)        
    To właśnie taka maszyna zestrzeliła niedawno nad Syrią Su-22 produkcji rosyjskiej. Efektowne akrobacje lotnicze i manewry wykonywane w pełnym pędzie tuż nad oceanem widziane zarówno z kamer zewnętrznych, jak i z kabiny pilota wielozadaniowego myśliwca F/A-18 Super Hornet będącego na uzbrojeniu USS Navy. Tym razem widzimy Horneta startującego i lądującego na pokładzie lotniskowca USS “Enterprise”, ...
              Ask Me Anything: The GayMA You've All Been Waiting For        

    Welp. It's Apocalypse Eve here at The Money Shot. G$ bumped Mrs. Ward...and Lacey I guess, out of the hot seat in a move that will never be forgiven. I bet Mrs. Ward would have had some boiling hot takes. But I felt the right thing to do was grant the slave master of this site his wish; An AMA done by your favorite blogger's favorite blogger. Enjoy.

     Ace: I prefer the ol Facebook chat for the AMA's. I'm gonna send u the ones that got submitted so far first. Then send u the real gay ones after I'm drunk at beerfest. I would like you to ask G$ how many times on average he jerks off each week?
    G$: What I do in the privacy of my own office bathroom stall is my business. More than zero...way less than hourly

     Ace: How emasculated are you on a daily basis with a daughter, wife, and a beagle that gets picked on by other neighborhood toughs?
    G$: Jesus Christ...this is obvz from Ide because only a childless shit-dick would think that baby gender actually matters. I'm not of 17th century British nobility so having an heir matters little. So to answer the stupid ass question, I feel fully masculine.

     Ace: You eat steak medium well like a spade. Iceman prefers fanta. So, who is the bigger asshole when they walk into a Denny's; you or Iceman? (I was fucking dying when I first saw this question, well done)
    G$: Iceman lives in Florida so we might have to go to Shoney's. I've eaten at Denny's once in the last 20+ years and it was 6 hours after visiting Prime. I ordered a burger that was 90% grease and I didn't eat it. But I also did not send it back because I was afraid what would come out next. Ice treats servers like filth so definitely he would be the bigger ass while I constantly apologize.

     Ace: AMA for G$: Be real. How many times have you used that flesh light?
    G$: You have to admit that it was a baller move to win the DFL and make Dut buy me a sex toy trophy. I don't have the exact number in my head but it isn't more than five times. It is more for show these days. But yeah, you shouldn't ever ask to touch it.

     Ace: If you could bro out w/ any athlete, who would it be and why?
    G$: Gronk. Easy. You are guaranteed getting laid by multiple skanks and will get shithouse drunk. I kept it in my race because I have no clue how I would handle going clubbing with black guys.

    Ace: What songs would be included in a "faves of G$" playlist?
    G$: I'm starting to get into Band of Horses as The Funeral is such an ELITE song. My iTunes account is packed with Big Tymers, Eminem, Pearl Jam, Tony Bataska songs for some reason but they do get better with each listen, and I'm down with Vance Joy. For my money, and I know that Iceman will agree, Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog is the greatest song of all time.

    Ace: Favorite and least favorite commenter?
    G$: Favorite is Prime simply because it was this site that reconnected us after 20 years. It's cool when the Internet works in a positive way. Least favorite are those that quit. May their shit names never be spoken again.
    Ace: That's a fucking copout response. Who is ur least favorite commenter
    G$: Fine. Least is Cakes who just disappeared without even giving a sad excuse.

    Ace: What was the ultimate deciding factor in shutting it down?
    G$: You have no idea how much the garbage fucking trash NFL season hurt my soul. This was BAD. When you add in ohio Buckeyes winning as well, that did not help. Basically, I lost my passion for the craft (not Aaron Craft though because he is a faggot)

    G$: By the way, original Coors is a rock solid cheap beer.
    Ace: The banquet beer is white trash toilet water.

    Ace: What's the best beer you've ever had?
    G$: I am no snob on this but I've always loved a big ass stein of Spaten.

    Ace: Are you sending me coordinates to a cock party?
    G$: I don't think I am.
    Ace: This was sent from you:

     G$: I was unaware of this...I like our relationship where it is.

    Ace: What's better, life without kids or with it better?
    G$: That's a good question. You're definitely more busy with one in tow. Sometimes I miss my lazy ass weekends and nights out with the bros but I love having a kid. I don't expect the childless to understand this sentiment.

    Ace: 2nd question from Drew: If you had to have sexual relations with one commenter or else your beautiful spawn would be shipped to Syria, who would it be?
    G$: I want to go with a guy who has been there before and would be discreet. So spread dem cheeks, Dut!

    Ace: Marry, Fuck, Kill: RG3, Big Ben, Travis Prentice
    G$: Kill Ben that's easy. Marry Prentice. And I've been saying it a lot this year anyway but fuck RG3.

    Ace: Your top 5 porn stars ever.
    G$: 1. Jenna Jameson and the rest in no particular order are Gianna Michaels, Brooklyn Chase, Briana Banks, and pre-BBW Carmella Bing edges out Amy Reid and Tera Patrick
    Ace: *Googles Brooklyn Chase* She's well equipped.

    Ace: If you could pick one job for the rest of your life, what would it be? And it has to be a job...not lotto stud.
    G$: Lotto stud seems pretty sweet but I've always liked the looks of Ron Swanson's gig on Parks & Rec.  I think that he is the Parks Director.  You hire good people and do nothing yourself.  Plus, working for a city's Parks Department is enjoyable.  I know from experience, dude. Also: rock star would be badass

    Ace: Pick 1: Cavs title, Redskins title or Miami winning BCS Bowl. The one you pick happens, but the others are guaranteed not to happen for another 25 years.
    G$: You mean that if I don't pick the Redhawks to win a BCS Bowl then they won't for 25 years?  How horrible!  I want Dan Snyder to die ringless so I'm picking the Cavs just so I can hold it over all those losers up there that they are winners because of me
    Ace: If it were Redhawks win a Natty you would pick that....right?
    G$: Yes I would pick a national title obvz

    Ace: Another user submitted question: Where is Cakes?
    G$: That's what I want to know. I ain't gonna beg but we deserve an explanation

    Ace: Hall Pass: You can bang one chick with She$'s blessing and no guilt. Who is it?
    G$: Dolph Lundgren but if he's too busy with Iceman, put me down for Anne Hathaway.
    Ace: That's the worst choice ever.

    Ace: Why did you start the blog?
    Ace: Don't make me go all whiny Bobby Costas on you.
    G$: Well, I need something for the finale, god dammit

    Ace: How did you come up with The Money Shot as the name? What was the second choice for blog name?
    G$: The name was part of a poll I conducted in the early days.  TMS won while The Mustache Ride finished second.  To be honest, I was pulling for the latter.  Maybe 10 people voted so it was way more successful than a non-presidential general election.

    Ace: What's your favorite Stube story?
    G$: Stube memory - Every once in a while back in the not-married days, I would work the door.  Burke used to bartend on Sundays so if it was a three day weekend, I would check IDs for him.  Checking IDs is pretty boring so I used to fuck with people and accuse them of having fakes to see what they would do.  One douche did not care for this move (it was a pretty obvious "I'm just fucking with you vibe") and told me to go fuck myself.  So I frisbee flung his ID out into the middle of the parking lot and told him to never come back.  It felt great.
    Ace: That's fantastic.
    G$: By the way, the Stube Door gig came with 40 bucks at the end of the night and all the beer/shots that I could drink.  It was a GREAT job but probably not what Kempton wanted his door guy to do.  Fuck him and the Seahawks.

    Ace: What was the apex of The Money Shot? Like was there a time period where page views were really up and you thought you or TMS could go big time?
    G$: Apex...I used to put together a lot of list posts before Buzzfeed killed lists forever that would get linked at a lot of the big boy sites.  But the problem with the internet is that now days everything that you think of, someone has already done better.  Five years ago, that wasn't necessarily the case.  I think that my Sweatiest Coaches in College Hoops is the all-time traffic leader with something like 40K hits in one day...The part about where I envisioned the site to go is going to be a part of Wednesday.

    Ace: What 3 posts would you say were your finest work? Or are you covering that tomorrow too.
    G$: My God, you are asking me to pick three favorites out of 9+ years?  This truly is a hard-hitting GayMA!  The hardest one that I ever wrote was the day after my dog got hit by a car.  That one was tough.  Back when commenters getting married was fast and furious, I always enjoyed the pre-wedding day advice posts.  And I think that my favorite post here was when I ran Denard through Gruden's FFCA segment.  Also: The BRAHs 4 Life.

    Ace: A late commenter question: Ask him what he plans to do to fill the void of ego inflation from internet trolls?
    G$: That's a thing that I am concerned about.  I am the Slumlord of Baltic Avenue here.  Once the slum closes tomorrow, then what?  I pretty much only have one goal left anyway and that is to get TBone fired from The Fan.

    Ace: How about what was your favorite post of mine and Ice? Or at least the one that sticks out above the rest of Icemans cock jokes?
    G$: Will you ever live down May The Forcier Be With You?  I think not.  It was not your best effort but no one will ever forget it.  I always enjoyed Iceman and I's mock drafts and, without him going to the Friday's on Airport Hwy every night, we would have never met the Harbaugh Boys as who they really are.
    Ace: I need to go back and read that post. Tater really fucked me there. Also, I actually own a shirt that says "May the Forcier be With You".

    Ace: Top 3 Big Tymers songs?
    G$: 1. #1 Stunna 2. Rocky 3. Big Ballin...not a big fan of Still Fly for some reason.

    Ace: Why does everybody hate Dut?
    G$: He's a weasel that openly brags about groomed stubble

    Ace: As I'm in the middle of cooking a feast right now, What is the best meal you could make?
    G$: I work well with pork and I'm good with seasoning.  Put me down for a grilled Cajun chop with bacon and cheese rotini as a side.  I make that shit from scratch.  Roux brah!
    Ace: Impressive.

    Ace: What do you really think happened to Cakes? My theory is he went into mourning after Ice left for Florida and couldn't take having Internet TAEKS with him and not being able to touch his face.
    G$: Probably something simple like he's too dumb and felt inadequate around such brilliant takesmiths

    Ace: Are you afraid of Mrs Ward? I am.
    G$: Nah she married a turd sandwich.

    Ace: Why aren't you protecting your dog?
    G$: I wish I knew. Someone remind me in the comments to bring closure to that story. I come off like a stud.
    Ace: I have my doubts.

    Ace: Any sage advice for me as I am 5 months away from fatherhood?
    G$: Honestly, it's easier than you think. I am NOT saying that it's easy but I built it up in head as worse than a lifetime hourly convo with Jeff but it's not. Keep a level head. Shit is going to happen. Also, do not seek to watch your kid come out. You don't want that.
    Ace: I decided long ago that I would not move below the waist when it was time. No man needs to see that.

    Ace: Would you ever move back to Naptown?
    G$: I highly doubt it. I've long grown out of my fondness of small town America. And I don't need the in laws showing up unannounced.

    Ace: Who do you predict will show up for Ribfest?
    G$: The usuals will be there. Dut won't. I'm calling two Sauls and Lacey to bring one of not both of his bro in laws

    Ace: Do you ever get tired of being called a ginger/lacking a soul?
    G$: Someone get this n-word an urban dictionary.  One of the many kids he left behind might have one.
    Ace: I'll take that as a yes.

    Ace: What's your favorite app on your phone, other than PROBOARDS.
    G$: My least favorite is espn. Twitter is the best. I was so wrong about it.

    Ace: What is the first thing you do when you get home from work?
    G$: I work out.  Get it over with before my ladies get home and I need to focus on being a mediocre husband and father

    Ace: What sports team do you hate the most, other than the Redskins?
    G$: Dallas Cowboys

    Ace: How many times can you wear dress pants before washing them? Not being able to wear sweatpants to work is really throwing me off.
    G$: Twice on the pants. Jeans can go weeks
    Ace: That's fucking absurd. I'm wearing dress pants at least 6 times before they get washed, or drycleaned, right IDE?

    Ace: How many people have touched your b-hole?
    G$: *Crickets*

    Ace: I think we've hit on just about everything. Anything else you would like to add?
    G$: Nah. I'm good.
    Ace: It was my pleasure allowing you to pleasure me in this interview
    G$: Word.

    And there you have it folks. The last ever AMA...or is it?

              Media and Civil Society in Syria’s Evolving Conflict        
    The conflict in Syria is being presented to the international community through a complex mix of state, opposition, international and local media sources. Individuals and NGOs in Syria have also effectively used social media to show the world the horrors of the conflict. As the crisis has evolved, so too have the ways in which […]
              Iran to launch Syrian mobile operator        
    Syrian government plans to grant a mobile licence to Iran to expand economic ties between the two countries
              And the Oscar goes to...        

    Alla vigilia lo avevano dato in rimonta su "Brokeback mountain": "Crash" di Paul Haggis ha vinto la statuetta di miglior film strappandola alla pellicola di Ang Lee, premiato come miglior regista. Miglior attore protagonista Philip Seymour Hoffman per "Capote". Miglior attrice Reese Whiterspoon per "Quando l'amore brucia l'anima". Nulla di fatto per Cristina Comencini candidata nella sezione miglior film straniero con "La bestia nel cuore".

    "Brokeback Montain" e "Crash" ottengono tre statuette ciascuno, colonna sonora e migliore sceneggiatura non originale, al primo e montaggio e sceneggiatura originale al secondo. Un anno fa Hollywood scelse un altro film controverso, il capolavoro del conservatore Clint Eastwood "Million Dollar Baby" che racconta una storia di eutanasia. 
    George Clooney, che era candidato in tre categorie diverse, torna a casa con una sola statuetta, per il suo agente della Cia in disgrazia in "Syriana": migliore attore non protagonista. All'asciutto invece il film che ha scritto e diretto "Good Night, and Good Luck". Il premio come migliore attrice non protagonista è andato a Rachel Weisz per "The Constant Gardener". 
    Non ce l'ha fatta Cristina Comencini, che era entrata nella "top five" dei migliori film stranieri dopo essere stata selezionata dall'Anica come rappresentante dell'Italia agli Oscar. Il vincitore della serata è il sudafricano "Tsotsi" di Gavin Hood, che racconta i sei giorni di violenza del leader di una gang di Johannesburg. Non è stato premiato neppure "Paradise Now", una produzione internazionale del regista palestinese (ma con passaporto israeliano) Hany Abu Assad.

    Nessuna fortuna per gli altri due italiani in concorso, il compositore Dario Marianelli che ha firmato la colonna sonora di "Orgoglio e Pregiudizio" e Gabriella Pescucci che ha disegnato i costumi di "Charlie e la fabbrica del cioccolato" di Tim Burton. 

    L'Oscar alla carriera, già annunciato da tempo, è stato consegnato al regista Robert Altman che ha fatto il possibile per ricordare ai colleghi della Academy di essere ancora in piena attività, a teatro e al cinema. Ha sottolineato di avere subito un trapianto di cuore, lasciando con il fiato sospeso il Kodak Theatre: "Nel mio
    petto batte il cuore di una ragazza di trent'anni - ha detto, misurando la suspense - questo significa che mi restano ancora almeno quarant'anni dietro la telecamera". Il regista ha da poco compiuto ottantuno anni.
    Il colossal dell'anno, "King Kong" di Peter Jackson, si deve accontentare di una manciata di premi "tecnici" mentre quello di Steven Spielberg "La guerra dei mondi" resta a secco. La stessa sorte è toccata a "Munich", l'altro film di Spielberg in corsa nella notte degli Oscar.
    Il film d'animazione dell'anno è "Wallace & Gromit, La maledizione del coniglio mannaro" di Rick Park. Gli eroi di plastilina non sono nuovi agli onori del Kodak Theatre: avevano già vinto in due occasioni nella categoria cortometraggi animati. La statuetta per il migliore documentario dell'anno è stata assegnata invece a "March of the Penguins", un avvincente racconto sulla vita e la riproduzione dei pinguini dell'Antartico, narrato da Morgan Freeman.
    Maestro delle cerimonie è stato Jon Stewart, il conduttore del tg satirico "Daily News" sul network "Comedy Central". Stewart ha cercato di animare una kermesse da anni in crisi di ascolti con le sue battute pungenti e sketch che hanno avuto come protagonisti numerosi attori. Il risultato potrebbe essere piaciuto ai giovani, il suo pubblico di riferimento e una fascia di telespettatori che da anni dedica poca attenzione agli Oscar.

    (da TGCom)

              OSCAR 2006...DOMENICA I RISULTATI        

    Ecco a voi l'elenco completo di tutte le nominations agli Oscar 2006, divisi per categoria.




    Philip Seymour Hoffman - CAPOTE
    Terrence Howard - HUSTLE & FLOW
    David Strathairn - GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK 

    George Clooney - SYRIANA
    Paul Giamatti - CINDERELLA MAN
    William Hurt - A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

    Felicity Huffman - TRANSAMERICA
    Keira Knightley - ORGOGLIO & PREGIUDIZIO
    Charlize Theron - NORTH COUNTRY

    Amy Adams - JUNEBUG
    Catherine Keener - CAPOTE
    Frances McDormand - NORTH COUNTRY











    "In the Deep" - CRASH - CONTATTO FISICO
    "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" - HUSTLE & FLOW
    "Travelin' Thru" - TRANSAMERICA







              Golden Globe 2006        

    Ecco tutti i corsa agli Oscar è cominciata...

    Miglior film drammatico: Brokeback Mountain
    Miglior film musical: Walk the Line
    Migliore attrice drammatica: Felicity Huffman per il ruolo in Transamerica
    Miglior attore drammatico: Philip Seymour Hoffman per Capote
    Migliore attrice musical o comedy: Reese Witherspoon per Walk the Line
    Migliore attore musical o comedy: Joaquin Phoenix, per Walk the Line
    Migliore attrice non protagonista : Rachel Weisz per The Constant Gardener
    Miglior attore non protagonista: George Clooney per Syriana
    Miglior regista: Ang Lee, per Brokeback Mountain
    Miglior sceneggiatore: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, per Brokeback Mountain
    Miglior film stranieri: Paradise Now, film palestinese.
    Miglior colonna sonora: John Williams per Memoirs of a Geisha
    Migliore canzone: "A Love That Will Never Grow Old da Brokeback Mountain
    Migliore attrice drammatica: Geena Davis per Commander in Chief
    Migliore attore drammatico: Hugh Laurie per House
    Migliore serie musical o comedy: Desperate Housewives
    Migliore attrice musical o comedy: Mary-Louise Parker per Weeds
    Migliore attore musical o comedy: Steve Carell per The Office
    Migliore miniserie: Empire Falls
    Migliore attrice miniserie: S. Epatha Merkerson, Lackawanna Blues
    Migliore attore miniserie: Jonathan Rhys Meyers per Elvis

              When Elmo And Big Bird Talk To Refugees        
    Elmo and Big Bird have lots of experience teaching children everything from the ABCs to autism. Soon, they could be bringing smiles — and education — to millions of refugee children forced from their homes in Syria, Iraq and other war-torn countries. But first, Sesame Workshop is doing its homework. In partnership with the International Rescue Committee, Sesame producers and early-childhood experts are soliciting guidance and feedback from relief organizations, trauma experts, academics and others who have worked with refugees. They'll also be making research visits to refugee camps in Jordan. According to the IRC, of the 65 million people displaced from their homes worldwide, more than half are children. "And certainly I think it's fair to say there are no more vulnerable people in the world than these refugee families and kids," Jeff Dunn, the CEO of Sesame Workshop, told a small crowd at the nonprofit company's New York headquarters recently. Sesame's goal is to develop new content
              Se l'Italia fosse la Siria        
    Cosa succederebbe in Italia se ci fosse un conflitto paragonabile a quello della guerra civile siriana?

    Ecco una infografica importante che traspone le cifre della guerra nel nostro paese e fa capire a colpo d'occhio cosa sta passando il popolo siriano.

    infografica del conflitto siriano portato in Italia
    Se l'Italia fosse la Siria
    Questa infografica è stata creata da Shannon Gormley e Drew Gough nel sito If We Were Syrian.MA c'è di più...
    Read more »

              Reconciliation and Peace in the Middle East        

    Let us ask ourselves forthrightly, which is the driver of human progress—total victory or reconciliation?

    Imagine if current flashpoints in world politics - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Shia-Sunni divide, or the Syrian civil war, for instance - were to end in the total defeat of one side? The loss to human civilization would be so catastrophic that the mere thought of such a scenario should make even the most irrational actors think beyond narrowly-defined self-interests.

    The post Reconciliation and Peace in the Middle East appeared first on United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

              Comment on Banners Design for Mobile Unlock Base by MichaelImmed        
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              The Virus - An Ultra Lite Novel        

    The Virus
    (An Ultra Lite Novel by Howdy)

    This Monday started like most any day but would end anything but
    typical. The Weather Channel forecasted mild atmospheric conditions
    (even for November) but unfolding events would soon challenge and
    startle mankind as never before.

    In an elaborate government building somewhere in Rome, a multitude
    of dedicated world renowned computer and technology experts studied
    The Virus that had already secretly infected 98% of the planet's
    computers in its first stage. Up to this point, none outside this edifice
    had ascertained the existence of the silent menace.

    In Jerusalem, heavy crowds were milling around The Dome of the Rock,
    the third holiest site to Muslims worldwide. On the other side of the
    Wall, a larger than expected crowd of Jewish worshipers prayed even
    as portions of the wall continued to collapse.

    In New York City, the Stock Market opened slightly higher while
    down in Washington - Pentagon officials poured their second cup
    of Maxwell House Decaf. Further south, the last edition of The
    Atlanta Journal was being prepared while further west, parents
    turned toward their offices after depositing their children at school.

    Work halted temporarily in the government building as the new
    dynamic and charismatic leader's entourage entered. He spoke
    over the JBL sound system. "Good associates, The Virus is
    scheduled to be released as planned in two stages. Stage one as
    you know affects all the world's primary computers while the
    second will decrease the excess occupiers that have so strained
    our fragile environment. Both will begin to take effect within the
    hour thanks to your hard work." He will later become Time Magazine's
    "Man of the Year".

    Unexpected to those in Rome, The Wall in Jerusalem collapses and
    thousands of Muslims lose their lives along with hundreds of Jewish
    worshipers. The Dome of the Rock along with all nearby buildings of the
    Islamic Faith disappear into rubble. Within moments a very great riot
    commences with each side blaming the other. Syria (with Iraq's lost
    WMD) & Iran ready their hidden nuclear arsenal.

    With a new surprising show of unity in Beijing, Hanoi, Jakarta, Tokyo,
    Pyongyang, New Delhi along with other Far East capitals, 200 million
    multi-asian troops are placed on alert. Moscow prepares its revived
    army for an eventual march south....very far south.

    Stage one hits Wall Street, the Pentagon, Main Street and homes
    across America as well as the entire Western World. Business stops
    as all funds - the complete wealth of the Industrialized World - is
    transferred by computer virus via the web to Rome. All modern military
    weapons are now under the new leader's absolute command as well as
    the world's media (Rule of Rome once again).

    As the second stage of The Virus is released, millions will become sick
    and die with a highly infectious disease stronger that the SARS & Ebola
    viruses combined. Fortunately for some, certain large groups of people
    have been quietly immunized earlier. Millions of Christians disappear at
    5 PM EST (Midnight in Jerusalem) virtually unnoticed because of the
    pandemonium. The controlled media is not allowed to print this story.

    The President is declared lost because Air Force One is down over the
    Atlantic according to managed reports but did his aircraft ever leave
    Andrews Air Force Base? Is this a cover up from Rome to perhaps hide
    his evanescence also? Other prominent members of the President's
    Party are missing but from the other side? Exiguous.

    This disappearance will go virtually unnoticed because of the manipulated
    media and its potentate who controls also the world's assets & armaments -
    the ultimate coup d' tat - all without a shot being fired. He will woo the planet,
    restore peace to the Middle East for a short time with false promises of pro-
    tection as well as rebuild a new Jewish Temple on the destroyed site. The
    Islamic world will cheer because their faith has expected this great new leader.
    With an appearance before nearly all mankind live on all media (TV, radio, &
    even computers on-line), men, women, and children are mesmerized. Stay tuned...

    After The Return of The King:
    They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall
    not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they
    learn war anymore.

              Central Falls Mayor Diossa Calls for More Syrian Refugees        
    Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, a Democrat, has joined mayors from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and 14 other cities in saying they are ready and willing to accept even more refugees than the Obama administration has proposed. In a letter to the president, the mayors said, ``We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities.’’ ``Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States the United States will accept for resettlement,’’ the letter stated. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake all signed the letter. ``We have taken in refugees, and will help make room for thousands more,’’ stated the letter. ``This is because the U.S. has developed a robust screening and background check that assures us that
              Sacred Music From Syria        
    Erik Hillestad is the founder of a Norwegian record label called Kirkelig Kulturverksted, or KKV. He just wound up a two-year project in which traveled to the Middle East and made recordings of sacred music of both the Christian and Muslim faiths. The result is a CD entitled “Syrian Prayers: Sacred Music from Bilad Al […]
              Weekend Reading: Mosul's Troubles, the Legacy of the Algerian Civil War, and Syria's War Economy        
    Nawzat Shamdeen

              Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War        
    Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War
    author: Francesca Borri
    name: Sara
    average rating: 4.42
    book published: 2014
    rating: 0
    read at:
    date added: 2017/05/30
    shelves: to-read

              A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution        
    A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution
    author: Samar Yazbek
    name: Sara
    average rating: 3.91
    book published: 2012
    rating: 4
    read at: 2017/05/28
    date added: 2017/05/28
    shelves: ridiculously-good-non-fiction

              A Muslim's Top 10 Wishes for 2016        

    This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post on January 3, 2015. You can find the original article by clicking here or on the title. 

    A Muslim's Top 10 Wishes for 2016

    Have you ever made a wish that's come true -- because you made the wish? Until now, making a wish, whether at the sight of a shooting star or when blowing out the candle(s) on your birthday cake or when breaking a wishbone, has not yet been scientifically proven to actually work, as far as I know. Yet, in the spirit of hope, I am making 10 wishes at the beginning of the New Year. And as is always the case, as a Muslim, I speak on behalf of 1.5 billion people. So here goes...
    1. People no longer confuse me with ISIS.
    My name isn't ISIS. It's not even Islamic State. In fact, the words Islamic or State are not actually in my extended name. Nevertheless, time and time again, I keep getting requests to respond to the group's actions. I swear, ISIS or ISIL or IS -- none of them are in my family tree; they're not some distant cousins of mine. In 2016, I just want people to stop confusing me with ISIS. I really don't know what ISIS is thinking and why they do what they do. It's not like the State Department is asked for comment because of the State-to-State connection. As a postscript, can ISIS stop using the word Islamic? 
    2. Muslims stop killing Muslims for being Muslim.
    Somewhere, along the way over the last couple of decades, Muslims started killing other Muslims for being Muslim in the wrong way, or at least took it to a whole new level. There's a whole ideology out there built around takfir or essentially "declaring Muslims as kufar or unbelievers" for failing an evermore peculiar litmus test. Imagine if death squads emerged killing Black people for not being Black enough. Originating in some of the philosophical exhortations by scholar Ibn Taymiyyah 700 years ago, the criteria by which you are deemed "takfir-ed" and permissible to be killed has reached insane if not idiosyncratic levels. It would be funny if the situation weren't so deadly. Even barbers were caught in the crosshairs and were being assassinated in Baghdad in the 2000s. 
    3. Death and destruction in the Muslim world have a timeout. 
    From Yemen to IraqLibya to Somalia, and from Afghanistan to far beyond, civil strife is rife in too many parts of what is defined as the Muslim world. Autocrats, militants, extremists and terrorists, don't care who they kill: men, women, children -- everyone is fair game. I wish this would stop. Into this toxic mix, the last thing needed is more killing coming into these countries from the outside; the 2003 invasion of Iraq proved that. I wonder if Russia will hear that message? 
    4. We all get comfortable with the "other."
    What a difference it was in 2015 between Trudeau and Trump in the North American political cycle. The world needs more Trudeaus and less Trumps (Donalds that is). The fear of the "other" is starting to define Western politics and it is not just about Trump. The rise of right-wing political parties in Europe from Hungary to Denmark is a poignant reminder of the breadth of this phenomenon. Yet, outside the West this fear of the other also permeates and often dominates. In Turkey, we are seeing a renewed vilification of the Kurdish population. Further afield in Burma, the Rohingyaare cast as outsiders. In Malaysia, Christians are prohibited from using the Arabic word for God. And, in nearby Brunei, Christmas was simply cancelled. In some of the war zones in the Middle East, Christians are on the verge of disappearing. The world would be a lot better off if we weren't so afraid of the bogeyman of the other.
    5. The Muslim world deals with its taboos. 
    Speaking of an aversion to the non-orthodox, there's a whole set of taboos that many Muslim countries and societies need to start dealing with. A lot of them relate to sex. Sometimes the Muslim world acts like it has one big case of the cooties. There have been attempts by some to break through these restrictions. Wedad Lootah in the UAE comes to mind. Shereen El Feki's Sex and the Citadel is another. This is not an issue to take lightly, especially in societies where 60-70 percent of youth are under the age of 30. Bombarded by sexualized imagery from modern and digital media, these youth then live, essentially, in an austere second world that is their reality. More importantly and tragically, rape and sexual assault are simply not talked about; child abuse is an even worse curse hidden under the rug. Finally, at some point Muslim countries - and the clerical establishment -- will need to come to terms with the fact that gay Muslims exist
    6. Somewhere, over the rainbow, democracy and Islam go steady. 
    Let's be honest, a lot of people have tried to set up democracy with Islam for a relationship. Sometimes it has been a surprise blind date (e.g. Iraq in 2003). Other times, it was a relationship that grew from blind passion (e.g. the Arab world in 2011). Often, the sparks of love eventually turn into animus and things quickly go south. In the Arab world, Tunisia is carrying - with some fragility -- the banner of democracy. Many Muslim-majority countries that used to be counted as democracies now suffer from authoritarian syndromes (e.g. TurkeyMalaysia, and Bangladesh). In other cases, democracy in its infancy quickly devolved into score settling or majoritarian mafias (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt). Perhaps Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country is our hope that can breathe life into this wish. 
    7. Averroes comes back in style. 
    Averroes -- or Ibn Rushd -- was a man's man. He schooled his way into Raphael's The School of Athens. The polymath kept alive ancient Greek philosophy, paving the way for much of Europe's modern intellectual movements. Back in the day, in Andalusia, he was a big deal (Biden-style). And, why not? He vociferously argued for the co-existence of secular and religious thought in a posthumous debate with the Abbasid scholar Al Ghazali. Ultimately, Ibn Rushd lost the debate to the detriment of the Muslim world, but his arguments culminated with the work, The Incoherence of Incoherence, which I think would be a great riposte to all ISIS ideologues and their friends. If Ibn Taymiyyah came back, then let's bring Averroes back too. 
    8. Flying while Muslim is no longer a thing. 
    They say that flying while Muslim is the new driving while Black. I guess if you're a Black Muslim, this really sucks, especially if you drive to the airport for your flight. So my wish maybe can be two-pronged: getting rid of both 'driving while Black' as well as 'flying while Muslim.' What is flying while Muslim? Well, it often starts with a casual stare or two from across the way. A timid approach then ensues: "Excuse me sir." This is normally followed by a more forceful: "Please follow me." It can then get quite aggressive, with clothes falling by the wayside. It normally ends with your belongings in disarray, your belt on backwards, and you fast-walking without turning back in the hope that no one thinks twice about you boarding your flight. Oh, and don't watch the news while on the plane. I hate flying while Muslim. 
    9. Trump presides over a Muslim beauty contest. 
    Was 2015 the year of Trump? You have to hand it to Trump; he sure knows how to grab the spotlight. Unfortunately, he's used that spotlight to spew increasingly populist venom targeted at Muslims (and others). Maybe, we need to better appeal to Trump's core interest: beauty pageants. There are a few lists circulating online for potential Muslim contestants (for Men: click here | for Women: click here). Yet, I think we should make this a mipsters pageant and turn this whole thing on its head. 
    10. Peace comes to Syria. 
    This Muslim (me) -- speaking on behalf of 1.5 billion people around the world -- has 10 wishes for 2016 but if only one of them came true it should be this one. No country has been more ravaged in recent memory than Syria. Hundreds of thousands have been killed as gangsters, terrorists, and dictators fight for supremacy. The surrounding region, instead of trying to promote a solution, has sent in weapons, fighters, and incitement. The world, instead of trying to mediate, has sought to settle old scores. All the while, the people in Syria live in lifeless limbo amidst daily death and destruction. If I had only one wish it would be that the violence in Syria would come to an end. 
    This wish list is non-exhaustive. I think I may have missed a few...

              Application for Middle East Correspondent        

    On December 16, the Los Angeles Times posted an opening for a new Middle East Correspondent.
    The Los Angeles Times is looking for a seasoned reporter to cover the Middle East.

    This correspondent will anchor our coverage of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as monitoring the turbulent progress of “democracy” in Egypt, North Africa and the Gulf. But more than that, we are looking for an accomplished writer who is capable of plunging into these ancient and dazzling cultures, capturing their mesmerizing variety, deep intellectual history, turbulent social upheaval and — from ISIS insurgents to entrenched dictators — their capability for brutish violence.

    The successful candidate will be the one who avoids the office and wanders the back roads; who will leave the others to tally the daily mayhem and bring us stories we will not have the power to forget.

    Fluency in Arabic is strongly preferred. Home base is negotiable. Please apply to Kim Murphy, assistant managing editor for foreign and national news.
    After a week of contemplation I finally decided to apply. Here's my Cover Letter. Please wish me luck!

    Dear Kim,

    I consider myself seasoned - well at least lightly seasoned- especially at the time of the holiday season, and so I thought why not: maybe I should apply to be the Middle East Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. What can I tell you - I have always loved living in the Middle East ever since my first visit to Damascus in 2003. I have travelled from Baghdad to Agrabah and everywhere in between over the last decade or so. Along the way I too have learned to put things like "democracy" in quotes. Sometimes I put it in double quotation marks because "democracy" that is imported can become an even more interesting version of ""democracy."" But that is neither here nor there. I too agree with you that the only thing really worth covering in this region - besides the contested debate over Hommus in my humble opinion - are the "ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria" and the "turbulent progress of democracy in Egypt, North Africa, and the Gulf." What better way to ensure that the readers of the Los Angeles Times have an in-depth understanding of the region than to ensure they only hear about those specific issues? However, I know you are looking for "more than that" from the new correspondent. An accomplished writer? Sure let's check that box. Capable of plunging into ancient and dazzling cultures? I have been known to take the plunge but only rarely dazzle. By the way normally when someone refers to ancient and dazzling, I don't really think of the Middle East but maybe Jack Nicholson. Nevertheless I feel you about this place. I too love its "mesmerizing variety" and "deep intellectual history", topics that are almost superfluously covered in the pages of the LA Times.

    Allow me at this point to pivot to what I think is my defining characteristic - and a key characteristic for anyone who writes about these Middle Eastern "dazzling cultures": my ability to understand "their capability for brutish violence." I know you are looking for a focus on ISIS insurgents and entrenched dictators but what about Jafar the sinister wicked Vizier? Or how about further afield, Scar and his brutish attack on Simba and Mufasa? Or Shere Khan - does anyone really understand why he went after Baloo? What caused him to choose violent extremism? I'm sorry, I digress. Getting back to the point: I am your man, your successful candidate. Just as the doctor ordered, I always avoid the office. I don't really wander the back roads - do you? What do you do there? Finally I wholeheartedly support your call: who needs to tally the mayhem when we can indulge on stories to give us the power to forget.

    Should you find my candidacy deserving, please be in touch with me and I will fly my carpet right over for an interview.



              Malala Yousafzai and the Missing Brown Savior Complex        
    On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman accosted a bus carrying 15 year-old Malala Yousafzai and her schoolmates, and coldly shot them at close range. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan not only claimed responsibility for the blatant assassination attempt of the teenage education activist, but as it emerged that Malala would survive the attack, the movement also reiterated its desire to kill her. Miraculously through the efforts of friends and family, the local community in Swat Valley where she is from and where she was shot, and the Pakistani army that airlifted her to Peshawar, Malala Yousafzai survived (as did the other victims). Given the seriousness of her condition, it was imperative she was treated by the best doctors, and a generous gesture by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi allowed her to be flown by air ambulance to England for major surgery. Fast forward just one year later, Malala has recovered and is even more emphatic in her message against the Taliban, promoting the empowerment of young women like her across Pakistan, and all around the world. And expectedly, the global media, including The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, have been celebrating her courage (perhaps caught in the moment of it all).

    Great story, right? And what could be wrong about the alleged 'overexposure' of a young girl expressing words of peace and fighting for girls' education against a religious patriarchy? Apparently a lot. In fact, in Pakistan and in her hometown, her global coronation is treated with derision: "Malala is spoiling Pakistan's name around the world." Others have more sinister accusations of a CIA conspiracy involving both Malala and the gunman, claiming the entire affair is a Western plot. Yet, in recent days, an article written by a blogger in July on Huffington Post has been making the rounds on social media, entitled, "Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex." It argues, "Please, spare us the self-righteous and self-congratulatory message that is nothing more than propaganda that tells us that the West drops bombs to save girls like Malala."

    The truth is there is no white savior coming for Pakistan or for any Muslim country, the vast majority of which are characterised by pernicious politics, inequitable economics, and irrational intolerance. Lecturing the chattering classes about geopolitical realties and distributing treatises on Western imperialism won't change anything. Fundamentally it will only be the indigenous leadership - helped or not helped by outsiders - that will drive change. Yet, when leaders do emerge, it seems that the local media (and now social media) are pre-occupied with tearing them down rather than building them up. People instead squander their energy on misguided diatribes, as the case of Malala has unfortunately shown. The real reason that the 'white savior complex' even is relevant is that we fail to champion the very 'brown saviors' in our midst.

    Malala Yousafzai was thrust into the spotlight after her initial attack, which was so jarring that all Pakistani leaders came out in strong condemnation. Then Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari - himself a questionable character to say the least - labelling the attack as one against "all civilized people." Prior to the attack, Malala had rose to prominence as an activist, encouraged by her father, for girls education and against the policies and values of the Taliban, which was why she was targeted in the first place. Without picking up a gun, her message was considered a threat to their movement, which is amazing in it of itself. Yet, it was on July 12 earlier this year, speaking on her birthday to the United Nations that Malala brought tears to the eyes of millions of people around the world. Having remarkably recovered from her wounds (and having undergone partial facial reconstruction), and still facing death threats, Malala stood steadfast in front of a global audience, and spoke with fortitude and confidence: "The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."

    It was such a powerful moment, that almost every international news outlet carried the speech of this young woman live across the world. And for the first time in a long time, the Pakistani and Muslim in the spotlight was not an extremist but someone standing up to extremism. The plaudits continued to come, especially in the last few weeks, as Malala released a book about her experience and was awarded the prestigious Sakharov Prize from the European Union. In fact, she was the rumored favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize, which in the end was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in a surprise but perhaps deserving win. Of course, the Western media in particular have a penchant for over-hyping (if not over-milking) and over-sensationalizing such stories of heroism. And it will be very difficult for Malala to not only live up to such hype but also to prevent the perception that she is over-shadowing other deserving heroes. Yet, is that not the story of all figures of change who inspire us? Was Nelson Mandela really the only Black leader in South Africa's prisons? Was Martin Luther King Jr. the only individual marching in the South? Was Aung San Suu Kyi the only fighter for freedom in Burma?

    It does seem increasingly, however, that Malala is a leader denied a strong constituency back home. It is easy to dismiss the allegations that she is a CIA agent - although the photo-op with the Obama's won't help - as well as the gloating of Taliban supporters after she was not awarded the Nobel Prize. Yet it is harder to dismiss the cacophony of criticism in Pakistan, in Swat Valley, and on the social media pages of Pakistanis, and for that matter, Muslims from around the world. As one government official said: "Everyone knows about Malala, but they do not want to affiliate with her." The primary complaints include the following:
    • This is another example of the West trying to portray themselves as a savior of the East. 
    • Malala is a secular heroine not a Muslim heroine. 
    • While her case is tragic there are other victims who deserve prominence. 
    • The crimes of the West through drones and in Iraq and Afghanistan, far outweigh the crimes of the Taliban. 
    • This is an effort of the West to try to avoid its own complicity in the situation in Pakistan that led to Malala's shooting. 
    As with most disinformation campaigns, this one is based on kernels of truth. For starters, the world does neglect the stories of deserving others. One such example would be of the tour-de-force Pakistani social worker  Parveen Rehman who was shot dead in Karachi earlier this year. Additionally, it has been the Western media that has largely driven the popular support for Malala globally; that, however, has to be attributed to the dismal failure of the Pakistani media to not do so instead (in my humble opinion). Finally, and the most valid critique is that the story of Malala should not negate the very pivotal role the United States and the West has played and continues to play in creating the current perilous conditions in Pakistan and in contributing to the deaths of innocents there, and in other countries. 

    Firstly, U.S. policy has been heavily involved in the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan, which it tacitly supported alongside Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's intelligence service in the mid-1990s. Moreover, the United States and Saudi Arabia (and some other Western and Muslim powers) cooperated to support radical jihadism (even printing textbooks to that effect for Afghanistan) and Islamism as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and communism. In fact, Israel also supported the radical group Hamas as a counterweight to the secular Fatah movement of then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Yes, the world was and is screwed up, and the powers of the world have much complicity in that. 

    Secondly, and more importantly, the military operations carried out by the U.S. in particular in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq have led to thousands of deaths of innocent people in recent years. These actions have largely gone unpunished and the victims have been forgotten. Certainly it is not just the Taliban that are killing and the world cannot dispense justice selectively. 

    Does saying all of that make Malala Yousafzai any less of a hero (or heroine)? Is her courage dimmed by the crimes of others? Is her movement for the empowerment of young girls in Pakistan any less important? Of course not. Criticisms of the West will bring no one closer to emancipation. And it cannot mask the very pure fact that today's purveyors of disaster and death in the world also include Muslims.

    Who bombed the church in Peshawar slaughtering 85 worshippers? Who attacked Westgate Mall in Nairobi killing dozens of innocents? Who murders dozens of men, women and children in Iraq every week? When a Muslim rises up - a so-called brown savior - to fight such crimes and the movements behind them, we should put him or her on our shoulders and not try to chase that person into the darkness. There is no shame in admitting Brown and Muslim guilt in the world's crimes, and it does not negate the wider reality and context around the violence that does occur. In fact, our fear of partial guilt in particular should not misguidedly cause us to throw out the very sparse examples of (counter-) leadership in Muslim countries that emerge and strike fear in the heart of radical extremists. 

    It has become far too easy on all sides to blame the other rather than introspect inward. Above all, instead of blaming the West for its 'white savior complex' maybe it's time to develop our own brown savior complex to save ourselves from ourselves. 

              Waiting for Obama: The Arab World and Intervention         

    This article originally appeared in Syria Deeply, and can be found here

    On Aug. 2, 1990, a Saddam Hussein-led Iraq launched a bombing campaign and invasion of Kuwait. Part of the decision was the thought that the U.S., facing its own economic issues at home and a perceived passivity towards disputes in the Arab world, would not react with force. 

    Almost five months later, Operation Desert Storm, led by a broad international coalition under the direction of then President George Bush (who had secured a resolution from the U.N. Security Council), began with aerial attacks and ended with the capitulation of Saddam’s forces after just five weeks.
    Two things became clear: that the U.S. would take decisive action to enforce peace and security in the region when a “red line” was crossed; and secondly, that it would be methodical in building a strong coalition.
    The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been waiting for a similar moment from President Barack Obama on the Syrian conflict.  After months of endless prodding, with only a series of half-steps coming from the U.S., the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus (allegedly carried out by the Assad regime) finally seemed to have pushed Obama to take robust action on Syria.
    But initial urgency by the U.S. to act has since subsided, or so it appears. With the passing of each day, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are left increasingly in the lurch, waiting for Obama, wondering if the U.S. has reversed its approach to the region that was heralded by the Gulf War over two decades ago.
    In 1991, when military action was mobilized against Iraq, it was done so under the auspices of a U.N. resolution. And while the Arab world was divided on the intervention, the six GCC countries, along with Egypt and Syria, were part of the armed coalition that was formed. Twenty years later, the situation is markedly different as the Arab world contemplates involvement in military strikes against Syria.
    Outside of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, enthusiasm to participate in a military coalition is weak at best. While Jordan will have to be involved due to its reliance on both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. for economic support, Syria’s other Arab neighbors, Lebanon and Iraq, have voiced staunch opposition to external intervention.
    In an unambiguous statement, Egypt, under its new military leadership, also voiced its objections to “aggression in Syria.” Even the United Arab Emirates may not get involved without broad international legitimacy; unlike in Libya in 2011, this would constitute a military strike by Arab countries allied with the U.S. without any other legal or symbolic cover.
    Obama’s initial enthusiasm for military action, juxtaposed with his subsequent hesitation, has furthered the Arab world’s reluctance to participate. Staunch Western allies like the United Kingdom have indicated a lack of desire to be involved, and it is still in doubt whether action would be approved by NATO or the U.N. In the current atmosphere, a broad coalition involving multiple regional actors is unlikely, especially from a military standpoint. Most of the “diplomacy” to build a coalition has so far been limited to public speeches by high-level U.S. officials, rather than effective diplomatic engagement in the region. It indicates to the Arab world that the U.S. is not serious about a response, and is itself perhaps buying time.
    In Sunday’s Arab League meeting in Cairo, rhetoric was high. But it was clear that beyond Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the appetite for intervention had dissipated. Following two years of bluster, including countless meetings of the Friends of Syria, the moment for a decision finally came, and the U.S. blinked. The hawkish stance of the Arab League and even the GCC must, to Assad, have looked hollow. In the end, the statement by the Arab League called for “deterrent measures” by the U.N., without calling for military or unilateral action.
    While we may yet see strikes on Syria or the symbolic contribution of military hardware (like fighter jets) by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the process has already overshadowed whatever the result may be. In many ways, whatever happens now in response will be far too little and far too late. All the while, the conflict in Syria will continue without any end in sight.

              The only road to peace in Syria        
    This article originally appeared on and can be found at the link below.

    As has frequently been the case in the last two-and-a-half years, I found myself this past weekend caught in an intense conversation about the ongoing civil war in Syria. This time it was with a supporter of the al-Assad government. He was relentless, insisting that there was no choice but victory, at any cost, especially since the government has been facing foreign fighters from "83 countries." 

    It's a common refrain I've heard in different variations from all sides of the conflict -- there is no choice but victory. As the world debates the efficacy of a military strike against the al-Assad government in response to its use of chemical weapons on civilians, the fighting on the ground shows no signs of abating. It is clear that the Syrian people are caught between a zero-sum political game being played by the regime and rebels, and their respective backers.

    Despite lofty rhetoric from a number of countries, diplomatic efforts towards a political solution should have been more vigorous.

    Calling for an immediate cease-fire on all sides is the only path towards peace. But will the United States and other key players go down that road?

    Please visit CNN for the full article. 

              10 Questions on the Conflict in Syria        
    A potential military strike by Western powers on Syria now appears to be a fait accompli and is being touted as long overdue. Given the spiralling humanitarian disaster that has overtaken the country during the last two years of conflict, continued inaction appears to be an untenable reality. The death toll is now well over 100,000 (although the proportion of civilians to combatants is unclear). There are 2 million refugees, half of whom are children, and over 4 million more internally displaced persons (IDPs), amounting to a quarter of the country's overall population. Yet, it was the apparent chemical weapons attack in the suburbs around Damascus known as Ghouta last week that has served as the impetus for international military intervention into the conflict. Amidst the rhetoric and war rehearsals, clarity on what is really happening seems to be cast aside in the media, in favor of faux-spontaneous leaks, retired generals, and trumpeters of past wars. Here are ten questions to try to set the record straight.

    1. Were chemical weapons used in Syria?

    When the initial attack unfolded last Wednesday, August 21 in the suburbs in Damascus known as Ghouta (near the town/suburb of Jobar), news quickly spread to local, regional and international media. Claims were made of hundreds of deaths, with some activists claiming the death toll was 1,300. Moreover, the Government of Syria immediately denied responsibility and has continued to do so. However, the attack did unfold amidst a series of army strikes on Jobar, which is a rebel-held area, and has been for quite some time. The Government conversely claimed to find chemical weapons supplies in tunnels in the same area, and it is alleged that some Hezbollah fighters were also exposed to chemical toxins.

    A week on, it appears incontrovertible that chemical weapons were used, not just from YouTube videos but also from visits by independent journalists, and of course by a report by Médecins Sans Frontières that has documented at least 355 deaths from local hospitals. It is likely that the chemical agent used was a neurotoxin or nerve gas, most likely sarin gas. What is still not clear, is how they were delivered (i.e. in what form and carried on what type of weapon) and from where.

    It should also be kept in mind that this was not the first attack that has been alleged. There have been numerous claims by rebels, and counter-claims by the government on the use of chemical weapons in the conflict. Here's a map of those events. In fact, this is precisely why the team of UN inspectors had arrived in the country, the day before this latest incident (and massacre) took place. In fact, what is interesting is that their investigation of other sites has now been put on the back-burner due to the latest developments.

    2. Do we know who actually used the chemical weapons? 

    The United States, United Kingdom, and France have all stated they are certain that the Government of Syria has undertaken the attack last week. On the U.S. side, at the forefront of the rhetoric has been Vice President Biden - who has said there is 'no doubt' - and Secretary of State John Kerry, who made an evocative plea for action several days ago. Of course, the next speech is the most important, and it would be one made by President Barack Obama. In light of this certainty, it would be difficult to question the attribution of blame. A leak from the US government also claims to have intercepted a murky call between commanders in the Syrian army that supposedly is evidence of culpability on the Syrian side.

    There is tremendous reason to doubt U.S. claims. Firstly, it should not be forgotten that then Secretary of State Colin Powell presented ironclad evidence to the United Nations Security Council of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that Saddam Hussein possessed, a finding that was later proven to be utterly false, but which was the basis of a war that continues until today. Secondly, the U.S. claimed that there was incontrovertible proof that the Government of Syria was responsible for earlier chemical attacks this year, but that finding has been contested, and some experts apportioned blame to the rebels fighting the government. And finally, in this case, no evidence has been presented, as of yet to make such a determination, at least not conclusively.

    Does that mean the Assad and his regime are not responsible? No. It is very likely given the ongoing military operations in the same area that the Syrian government launched such an attack. Yet, more evidence needs to be presented to make a definitive conclusion. The other scenarios that could be possible are:

    - Extremists groups like Jubhat al-Nusra, who have previously seized advanced weaponry and possibly chemical weapons from Syrian army bases and positions, were attempting to use them on Syrian soldiers (or conversely to cast blame on the Syrian army);

    - The Government of Syria inadvertently hit a stockpile of sarin gas releasing the toxins (although unclear if this would lead to the effects that we've seen); or

    - Rogue elements within the chain of command used chemical weapons intentionally or inadvertently.

    Russia, Iran and China have of course cast doubt on western claims but that is to be expected.

    3. What would be the basis or justification for US intervention?

    The U.S. intervention would likely be on the basis of Obama's previously stated red line on Syria, which would be the mass use/movement of chemical weapons. It is not in fact about humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect framework, developed in the 1990s to prevent genocide and mass civilian deaths. If it was, then the humanitarian case for intervention has been present for some time, and other massacres by the Syrian regime, such as in Houla in 2012, would have provided sufficient pretext. Obviously, the U.S. and other Western powers, and regional countries, have their own interests at play that are much more geopolitical in nature, but the justification or casus belli being offered is around the issue of chemical weapons, and chemical weapons alone.

    4. Will anybody else be involved in the military strikes besides the US and will this affect whether they are 'legal'?

    Given Russian and Chinese opposition, and a likely veto of any resolution by the United Nations Security Council supporting such a military strike on Syria - especially in light of the intervention in Libya, which Russia regretted supporting - a 'coalition of the willing' will need to be developed. This coalition would be broader than the Iraq War in 2003, and would be similar to the coalition carrying out the strikes against Serb positions vis-a-vis Kosovo in 1999. While the U.S., U.K. and France will likely lead an effort, Turkey would also be critical as a staging ground (as it borders Syria from the North), and thus there will be an attempt to launch such an attack under the auspices of NATO. Despite its reluctance, Jordan, given its reliance on the U.S. and Saudi Arabia politically and economically, will have no choice but to support . The two other neighbours of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are squarely against any military strike. And of course, the other neighbor - Israel - would sit this one out but would provide intelligence to the U.S. and other parties on Syrian positions, given that it has already undertaken a number of air strikes on Syria in the past two years.

    Further afield, it is likely the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) will support military intervention, with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates possibly sending fighter jets to participate in a strike to give it regional cover and credibility. Finally, while many groups within the Arab and Muslim world, and the 'left' of the West, will oppose military intervention, many others will support it, because of the spiralling humanitarian situation in Syria.

    Technically speaking if the military intervention is not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, and there is no imminent threat that the U.S. and other parties can point to towards its own territory or its assets, it would be illegal under international law. However, that has not stopped NATO or other countries (i.e. Russia in Georgia) form undertaking military action in the past. And before the Iraq War, some scholars claimed that while such an attack would be illegal it would be legitimate, and demonstrated retroactively to be legal. Given the state of world affairs, 'legality' is likely not a determining factor for a strike on Syria.

    5. Are we seeing a repeat of Iraq in 2003? 

    No. The situation today with Syria is different than it was in 2003 in Iraq, for many reasons, despite some passing similarities. In Iraq, the U.S. claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction while in Syria, we already know Bashar al-Assad possesses chemical weapons, and the question is whether he used them (small aside, it was released this week that thirty years ago, the U.S. obstructed a UN investigation when it knew Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons). In Iraq, the U.S. alleged that Saddam Hussein had links with Al Qaeda (and related groups), while in Syria, Bashar al Assad is widely acknowledged to be fighting Al Qaeda (and related groups) in addition to the 'Free Syrian Army' (and in addition to crushing peaceful demonstrators). In Iraq, there was no active state of conflict that was leading to a spiralling humanitarian catastrophe (and the potential use of WMDs), while in Syria there is not just a violent conflict, but also WMDs have been used by somebody (even if the culprit is not yet clear).

    What should be noted, however, is that both Iraq in 2003 and Syria in 2013, are in complex environments, and any removal of government or sustained military intervention would have dramatic unforeseen consequences. It seems like the media debate in the U.S. is also similarly anaemic (but slightly better) this time around.

    6. What is the real motivation for the United States and other powers?

    As with all things in this world when it comes to international relations, the primary interest is not humanitarian but geopolitical. This is not absolute, however, and it could be argued that Turkey has been insisting on humanitarian intervention from an early stage. However, the regimes (not peoples) in the Gulf, most notably Saudi Arabia, are exclusively concerned with dislodging Syria from the Iranian orbit, and severing connections between Syria and Hezbollah. Humanitarian concerns are a by-product. And for the United States, something similar is at play. As noted above, if this was about humanitarian concerns, action would have been taken long before 100,000 deaths had occurred.

    For the U.S. it has been looking for regime change in Syria for a while. However, these strikes if they occur, will be about sending a message and asserting America's position in the Middle East, given the red line that Obama drew. Ultimately, it may tip the scales in the rebels favour or improve the U.S.'s negotiating position vis-a-vis Iran. The chemical weapons attack in a morbid way, opened a door of opportunity for Western powers (with GCC support) to do something limited without a full-scale intervention.

    7. Will military intervention solve the Syrian conflict?

    No. Military intervention no matter how small or how big will not solve the Syrian conflict. In fact, it could very much exacerbate the situation on the ground even further (if that can be imagined). What is being reported currently is that the U.S. and allies will undertake a series of 'surgical strikes', a euphemism for a large-scale assault on key military and strategic installations, such as army positions, air bases, radar installations, communications infrastructure, supply routes, and, where appropriate, power stations (among other targets). More than anything this will be intended to send a message to the regime and weaken its capabilities. Yet, it would not be a fatal blow. And it would not necessarily tip the scales in favor of the rebels. It may in fact mobilize certain parties to support the regime, if there are civilian casualties from the intervention.

    The solution to the Syrian situation has to be political, if it is going to lead to stability or peace. Yet, if the military intervention escalated and led to the removal of the Syrian regime, that would still not be the end of the conflict. After the Soviets were booted out of Afghanistan, the country devolved into a civil war for five years until the rise of the Taliban in 1996. Somalia has only recently stabilised (somewhat), more than 20 years after the assassination of its leader, President Siad Barre. And neighboring Lebanon, took 15 years of conflict (1975-1990) to reach an end, which was brought about by ironically Syrian military intervention (which committed its own crimes), that produced a - audible gasp - political settlement.

    8. What could potentially go wrong?

    Everything. The potential for disaster following military intervention in any country is great (see Black Hawk Down, Iraq, Afghanistan and the list goes on). Yet, in Syria it could be apocalyptic. Here is a list of what that could entail:

    - Chemical weapons are used by Syria against its neighbors such as Jordan and Turkey, or U.S. military positions in those countries;
    - U.S. planes/helicopters are shot down leading to an escalation of U.S. involvement requiring boots on the ground;
    - Syria sends a volley of missiles into Tel Aviv and other places in Israel, leading to a regional war;
    - Proxy forces of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, launch a sustained campaign against Israel/U.S. interests, including attacks embassies within Lebanon/Palestine/Israel but also in other countries, in the short and medium-term;
    - Al Qaeda forces in the region, while opposing the Assad regime, oppose U.S. intervention especially if there are masses of civilian casualties, and use it as a pretext for attacks in places such as Yemen;
    - Russia objects to the U.S. strike, and mobilizes warships to the Mediterranean, leading to a standoff with Europe and the U.S.;
    - Negotiations with Iran, still in embryonic stages are suspended irrevocably;
    - Six party talks with North Korea are suspended by Russia, China, and North Korea irrevocably;
    - The Syrian regime goes all out in its conflict and begins to bomb with even more abandon civilian areas controlled by rebels, leading to thousands of casualties, and counter-massacres by enraged rebel fighters;
    - The Syrian regime is removed by force from power by the intervention, leading to a power vacuum sinking the country further into civil war for over a decade of even more violent strife and a possible Al Qaeda style government;
    - Tensions rise in the Middle East, especially in places of sectarian division (i.e. Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, and Iraq) leading to civil strife and attacks on governments, and counter-attacks on populations; and
    - World War 3.

    9. What could potentially go right?

    It may seem that what is written above is slightly alarmist and that's true. Many things can go wrong (most of which, to be honest, are hard to predict as they will be unforeseen consequences or as Donald Rumsfeld, ironically calls them, unknown unknowns). However, the U.S.-led strikes could be quite effective. Firstly, if they are limited in scope, they can be completed in one day, reducing the risk for a military entanglement and civilian casualties. Secondly, if they are from the air, there is limited risk for casualties on the side of the intervening forces. Thirdly, an attack that is forceful and hits Syrian military positions, will send a message to Assad that there is a limit to what he can do, which thus far has not been the case, and may entice him to reach a political settlement. Fourthly, it is unlikely that the Syrian regime would retaliate, for a short strike on positions, against Israel, knowing that they cannot afford to fight a war on so many fronts (and thus far they have yet to retaliate to any Israel air strike). Finally, the systematic destruction of Assad's air capabilities could be instrumental in limiting civilian casualties by the regime in the future.

    All of this is one possibility of what could occur.

    10. Let's cut to the chase - should I support or not support military intervention?

    There is no clearcut answer. Ultimately, military intervention should not be supported as a solution to the Syrian conflict. It is not, and whether we like it or not, a political solution/settlement is the only way the current situation moves towards peace and stability. The U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban. The Vietnamese negotiated with the U.S. The Lebanese negotiated with each other. The Dayton Accords to end the Bosnian War were signed with Slobodan Milosevic. It may not be easy, it may be unlikely, and it will not work perfectly, but political discussions involving all parties is the only way to find a real solution.

    That being said, if a case is made with overwhelming evidence by independent parties (not U.S. conjecture) that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime, then military intervention on a limited scale, and for a period of 1-2 days only, should be undertaken, ideally with UN support - and if not with broad support of half of the members, i.e. 90, of the UN General Assembly to demonstrate legitimacy - against military targets only, which will both send a message about the use of these weapons and damage the capabilities of Assad.

    What is clear is that whatever happens, there are no clear answers with regards to the conflict in Syria.

              Hypernationalism, Islamism, and Fascism all En Vogue        
    This article appeared in Al-Monitor, where you can find the full version. 

    Since the military overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s government in early July, the rhetoric by critics of the Muslim Brotherhood has been vitriolic and relentless. The campaign has sought to delegitimize the Islamist movement, and in fact, negate its Egyptian identity. Morsi himself has been charged with espionage and serving foreign interests. The general prosecutor has accused Muslim Brotherhood supporters of hiring Syrian and Palestinian mercenaries. Partisans of the army-led government, including some familiar “democracy” activists, have repeatedly called for additional crackdowns on Islamists. More often than not, Muslim Brotherhood members are portrayed in juxtaposition to ordinary Egyptians, rather than among the people, and as a “cancer” that must be removed at all costs.

    As the Arab world continues to politically devolve following the revolutions of 2011, it seems that a new fascism is becoming en vogue. In many ways, a response to the rise of religious supremacy over the past three decades, the ideology is predicated on a foundation of hypernationalism whereby the state is paramount, and any intellectual contestation is met with rhetorical — if not legal — excommunication. As the dust settles, a shrinking political class of moderate Islamists and liberals are increasingly caught between these dueling ideologies and their proponents.

    This religious supremacy, or Islamism, has its roots in the modern Middle East in a seminal work by Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood leader imprisoned and executed in Egypt in the 1960s. In "Signposts along the Road" (or Milestones), Qutb intellectually grounds the rejection of fellow Muslims in a process of delegitimization, or takfir. This ideology went into overdrive with the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and the subsequent jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, both of which laid the groundwork for Islamism as a modern political movement.

    The continuum of Islamism has always been expansive, so it is sometimes hard to differentiate what constitutes the extremist elements of the political community as opposed to more moderate forces. In post–Saddam Hussein Iraq, the philosophy of takfir descended to a new level with the dehumanization of other Muslim groups, with authorization to kill those deemed takfiris. Yet, Morsi, allegedly a mainstream Islamist, sat applauding the same rhetoric targeting Shiites by preachers in relation to the Syrian conflict, illustrating how difficult it can be to draw distinctions.

    With the rise of Islamism, most regimes in the region — lacking a real contesting ideology in response — felt compelled to peddle hollow exhortations of bygone regionalism, or pan-Arabism. Direct attacks on Islamism would have run the risk of alienating their Muslim populations. In this space and amid the tumult of the last two years during which Islamists have grown increasingly unpopular after ascending from the opposition to seats of power, religious supremacy has finally met its match — hypernationalism. In effect, takfir is now being opposed with takhwin, the delegitimization of opponents of the state as traitors of the national cause....

    Read the full version here:

              The Middle East’s New Divide: Muslim Versus Muslim         

    This article appears on, where you can find the full version. 

    On June 8, a devastating clash between residents and militia members erupted at the headquarters of the Libya Shield Brigade in Benghazi, Libya, leaving dozens dead and scores more injured. Meanwhile, the next day on the Sunday talk show circuit in the United States, amid continued partisan discussion of the September 2012 consulate attack in Benghazi, there was scant mention of the major clash from the day before. The disconnect exemplified the chasm between the new battle lines on the ground across the Middle East and the political discourse a world away.

    For much of the last decade, most have digested the narrative of a Muslim-West divide. It was so pervasive that newly elected US President Barack Obama, portrayed as a symbolic messiah bridging two worlds, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize before even completing a year of his term. Twelve years after the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks, much of the discussion about the "Muslim world" has internalized this language, and why not? The conflict between the Palestinians and US-supported Israel remains unresolved, US drone strikes continue unabated in Pakistan and Yemen and terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing are still occurring in deadly fashion.

    These days, however, one is more likely to see the burning of a Syrian government flag than an American flag amid the world’s deadliest ongoing conflict, for which the United States is criticized primarily for not intervening. One is more likely to see Iraqis killed in a terrorist attack than Americans. In fact, in recent years approximately 90% of terrorism-related fatalities have been Muslim. One is more likely to see the demonization of a Shiite than a Jew by an extremist Muslim ideologue. The battle lines have shifted from Islam versus the West to Muslim versus Muslim, and it is time for politicians and pundits in the United States and the Middle East alike to catch up.

    Read more:

              Ramadan Dreams        
    This week marks the start of Ramadan. I would say today, but as is the case for many things, Muslims cannot even agree on what day marks the beginning of the holy month. Is it Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? Sometimes, even in the same country, clerics from different sects or schools of 'jurisprudence' disagree on the sighting of the crescent moon (which signifies that Ramadan has arrived). In Lebanon, Shiites started the fast on Tuesday, and Sunnis on Wednesday, at least the last time I checked. If only the Shiite-Sunni conflict was relegated to a debate over the start of Ramadan. Alas, while diversity is something to be treasured, that is not always true in what is the proverbial Muslim world. The Qur'an tells us about what we can gain from diversity:
    O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. 
    Somehow throughout history, perhaps the year after Prophet Muhammad died (circa 633 AD, or 1), Muslims lost sight of this. Today, you're more likely to hear about diversity as a threat rather than an asset. In fact, it seems to go hand-in-hand with regards to whether a Muslim country can be peaceful or democratic or successful: Well, I would say Country X would have a smooth transition, but they have a very diverse population with different ethnicities and groups. It's almost like Muslims can't survive with their own layered identities in the modern-age, longing instead for some Orwellian dictator to give them all a uniform to gloss over any differences that they may have. Of course, enough of those beautiful strongmen have come along for us to know that is not a great path either (um, certain exceptions aside of course).

    And so in 2013, we enter into Ramadan, all 1.5 billion Muslims, or 1.2 billion, or 1.8 billion of us, depending on who's counting (or better yet who's making up statistics off the top of their head and then getting cited by the media, thereby cementing that figure as real), with a 'Muslim world' in complete conflagration - i.e. business as usual. Now all these millions of Muslims, some nominal, some not so nominal, live in different places with different challenges faced. Some in the West. Some in the East. Some in Muslim majority countries. Some as minorities in secular or other countries. And so it goes. Yet, look around, and we see challenges. There's the conflict in Syria, with a death count now over 100,000 and a displaced population representing a quarter of the country. There's the spiralling situation in Egypt, with an uncertain future ahead. And you can never count Pakistan out, with essentially a bombing a day.

    You start to go through Muslim countries, and there's a lot that leaves a lot to be desired. It's almost too long of a list. It kind of makes you want to sing an Islamicized version of Les Misérables "I Dreamed a Dream", I guess with a Fatima instead of Fantine. Given the state of Islam, you might actually get in trouble for singing in public. I know that the 29 or so days of Ramadan will not bring peace, emancipation, and progress to the lands where so many Muslims live. Likely the strife, struggle, and scarcity that defines so many people's lives will not change. In fact in places like Syria, violence could actually intensify this month (some militant groups have actually announced an 'Operation Ramadan').

    Thus, the realities of Ramadan may overwhelm us. Yet, if Ramadan is anything, it is a time for reflection and thinking of what can be, rather than what is. And in that spirit, I thought it would be good to end with a vision, a so-called Ramadan Dreams, of the realm of a possible future, of the Muslim world (i.e. Umma), where:
    • There are far more Sushis than Sunnis & Shiites; 
    • Being an 'Islamist' means being an expert in Islam rather than a judge/jury/executioner; 
    • The takbeer is used in excitement of a goal scored on the soccer field rather than a direct hit on the battlefield; 
    • Having a beard is a fashion statement not a religious statement; 
    • When we hear about a scandal about a royal Prince, it's because he had a nipple slip and not a multi-billion dollar arms deal go to his bank account; 
    • There are more ninjas than women in face-covering black robes; 
    • There will be actual Jews around to respond to somebody who says "don't be such a Jew"; 
    • When someone says "that's the bomb" he's not actually pointing at a bomb; 
    • You can debate the existence of God with two sides of the debate present; and
    • People can be proud to be Muslim...and not Muslim. 
    Now before anybody gets their kefiyyeh in a twist, there are many Muslims who live in countries where things are not so bad, and countless others in Muslim countries, who believe in a pluralistic and open society. Yet, there is a long ways to go before we escape so many of the ills that have come to define Muslim lands and societies. Ramadan 2013 will not bring the change many of us would like to see, but here's hoping that, that change will come sooner rather than later, and help shape a Muslim world that embraces its pluralism, recognises its intellectual tradition, and empowers its people. Ramadan Kareem

              In Egypt, is the only way forward out of the question?        
    It was clear that this would be no ordinary Friday (on July 5), given all the recent events the past week in Egypt. The holy Muslim day has served, for all sides, as a critical time to mobilize demonstrations. Yesterday was no different. Masses of supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, gathered outside the Rabaa al-Adawiyah Mosque in Nasr City, an area in Cairo just several kilometres from the famed Tahrir Square. Their chants grew louder throughout the day, with a series of speeches by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, culminating in the fiery (oral) missive by the Supreme Guide of the movement, Mohammed Badie. It was a day of "rejection," called for by supporters of Morsi, and the rejection was vociferous and real. That rejection and its swell of supporters, later in the evening, marched down the October 6 Bridge towards Tahrir Square. Already earlier in the day, unarmed demonstrators from the pro-Morsi camp had been shot dead (as seen in this graphic video here) when coming too close to military positions. By nightfall, the two camps - the pro-Tamarod (or rebellion) groups in Tahrir & the pro-Morsi demonstrators - were in full-fledged street battles, not just in Cairo but in Alexandria and other cities as well, leaving 30 people dead.

    If there's a lesson (for post-revolutionary contexts) to be taken from the past week  it is that 'impatience' is not a virtue. The military takeover of the Egyptian government - albeit fuelled by a legitimate and popular uprising - did not resolve anything but it definitely made things worse. Instead of hitting the reset button, Friday's clashes have shown that Pandora's Box is now wide open. In the midst of growing uncertainty, there would appear to be only one way forward and that is the immediate return to democratic legitimacy, whether through the re-running of a presidential election or a referendum on Mohammad Morsi. Everything else is a red herring, including discussion on whether what transpired in the last few days was a military coup.

    There is no question that the movement to oust President Morsi was a popular uprising. Driven by deep frustration from political overreach (by Morsi) starting in November 2012 and exacerbated by worsening living conditions, millions of people joined the Tamarod movement, culminating in the Tahrir protests that coincided with Morsi's one year mark in office (more on this is available in a previous post). Yet, two things should have been clear: 1) Removing an elected President, no matter how unpopular, is not easy; and 2) There was a popular base that still supported President Morsi. On Friday, the latter disenfranchised group, perhaps the same that saw "their" democratically elected parliament invalidated back in September 2012 by the courts, now saw "their" democratically elected President overthrown. Add to that, the Constitution that was passed with 64% support of the vote was essentially also declared null and void by the armed forces, to be re-drafted or amended by a select committee.

    To believe that an 85 year old movement - the Muslim Brotherhood - flanked by its supporters and with the winds of at least electoral legitimacy in their sails, would take these developments lying down, would have been naive. And if the face of this change for all intents and purposes was the very armed forces that have essentially dominated Egypt since 1952, than certainly it would raise the spectre of forceful if not violent resistance. Thus, what has unfolded so far in Egypt on Friday is completely expected and moreover, is a reaction that will only deepen and grow. Furthermore, there is an absence of a 'neutral' authority, as the military appears to have chosen one side in this clash of camps, especially as it is arresting leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in the interim.

    And so we arrive at the inevitable question: How bad can it really get? Despite the fact that the Brotherhood was ruling 'non-inclusively' and without an effective plan for the government, there is no basis to argue that what has replaced it is anymore inclusive (in fact likely the opposite) and has any clearer plan or set of policies for the country. The country is divided and there is no broader political or democratic legitimacy for the military transition, beyond the assumption that it represented the popular will; but can the latter be proved? We hear numbers such as 33 million bandied about but not only are these figures not based on any tangible scientific analysis (see Wired for how to measure people in Tahrir Square) but they are assuredly less 'legitimate' than an actual vote.

    With both sides claiming popular support and the cringe-inducing word (thanks to Morsi's speech), 'legitimacy, the clashes that began Friday will not end and if anything, they will escalate (or become something even more dangerous if driven underground). There are 93 million people in Egypt, and each confrontation will lead to more deaths, more 'martyrs', and more outraged friends, supporters, and families. Each week that passes will only deepen the divide and the division, ultimately rooting out the basis for any coexistence in the near-term. Civil disobedience, will turn into civil strife, and civil strife could turn into, yes, civil war (a distant but real possibility). There are multiple videos emerging of salafi-jihadi style groups seeking to exploit this moment, and resort to outright violence against the governing authorities. While naysayers may be right that Egypt will not turn into Syria tomorrow, each day that passes without resolution, the disintegration of the state becomes an evermore possible scenario. And if that happens, the consequences will be unimaginable.

    There then appears to be only one way forward and that is the immediate (or urgent) return to a democratic process. While there are some who have cheerleaded the military takeover and the appointment of Adly Mansour, not only does this not have broad-based (mind universal) support within Egypt, but the continuation of this process in its current form, will only destabilize the country further. Given that the unquestioned return of Mohammed Morsi to the presidency would also only inflame tensions within the previous opposition, the only way forward is to hold a referendum with the following question:

    1) Do you support Mohammed Morsi finishing his full-term as President of Egypt?

    It is a direct question on the mood in Egypt, and the answer given, while not quelling all unrest, would provide the legitimacy to any transitional period that would follow (that is if the people answered no). With this referendum in tow, the country could move towards new presidential elections under a carefully managed process or continue with Morsi's presidency, with guarantees that he would govern much more inclusively (if the answer is yes). Yet, who will press for this type of solution, both internally and externally? On an international level, thus far, the U.S. has appeared "aloof", the Europeans "ineffective," and the Arab states mostly partisan. And while the African Union, which has dealt with such situations previously and has come out strongly on the current situation, likely has less influence in Egypt. Thus the reality should dawn on all Egyptians and all political forces within the country that there will be no basis for compromise or true salvation, if it does not emanate from within Egypt itself.

    There will be many analyses made in the coming days around definitions and comparisons. Yet, fundamentally, Egypt is not Iran in 1980 or Algeria in 1991 or Turkey in 1997. It is Egypt in 2013, as hollow as that sounds - but that is the truth through which everything flows. And any resolution that emerges, must come from within the forces of Egypt in 2013. With Nelson Mandela, appearing to be on his deathbed (and our prayers with him), it is worth heeding, in closing, some of his words of wisdom, in this crisis:

    "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

              The (Counter?)Revolution in #Egypt will be Televised (and Tweeted)        
    Around midnight in Cairo the night of Tuesday, July 2, millions of people in Egypt awaited the President of the Republic, Mohammad Morsi, to respond to the 48-hour ultimatum delivered by the country's military on Monday: resolve your differences with the protestors or we will do it for you. With the deadline fast approaching, and due to hit at 4:30pm local time the next day, Morsi rejected the challenge by the military in a tweet. Then, he came on television and delivered what was the most important speech in not just his life but in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood movement he represents. And it was a spectacular failure. While not as long-winded as the two-and-a-half hour speech he had given just days earlier - akin to a State of the Union - it was just as hollow. His near constant use of the word 'legitimacy' began to elicit uncontrollable laugher in many corners (with the usage count of the word at around 75 in the speech). With millions of Egyptians on the streets across the country - some in support of him but many if not most in opposition - and the military's ultimatum in the background, Morsi had seemingly put the final nail in his own coffin.

    Just 30 months after the ousting of the dictator for the past 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, street protests in Egypt culminated on Wednesday night in a coup d'etat, effectively overturning the 14 democratic elections since February 11, 2011 (the total voting cycles for the parliament, presidency and constitution). Indeed, it was broader than a coup d'etat, as the Tamarod (rebellion) movement that brought millions of people to the streets was a grassroots uprising that gathered millions of signatures from ordinary Egyptians, and more significantly, managed to coalesce a previously disparate and dispirited opposition. Additionally, deposed President Mohammad Morsi had governed incompetently and non-inclusively, which seemingly left the invitation open to change. Yet, what transpired this week, especially in the final sequence of events, could be the initial salvo of a counter-revolution 2.0, potentially endangering the process of democratization in Egypt for years to come.

    While things seemingly have not changed that much in Egypt, and in many ways have gotten worse, a lot has transpired. Following the departure of Mubarak and his gang from the scene, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took charge of managing the country's affairs. It took nearly a year to hold parliamentary elections. When it did happen, in late 2011-early 2012 the Brotherhood's party (the Freedom & Justice Party or FJP) took 38% of the vote, followed closely by the more conservative Salafist party, Al Nour, which took 28%. Given that this body would determine the fate of the new constitution (and the assembly to draft it), the fact that it was dominated by 'Islamists' already meant the new era of Egypt was handed a poisoned chalice in the eyes of many. Six months later, in June 2012, the Presidential elections saw a run-off between a former Prime Minister but tainted 'remnant' of the old Mubarak regime, Ahmed Shafiq, and Mohammed Morsi (representing the Muslim Brotherhood). Morsi won, and with the backing of protests in the famed Tahrir Square, also managed to wrest plenty of executive authority from SCAF. Within two months, Morsi also seemed to assert civilian control over the military, with a shuffling of key positions in the defense establishment.

    Then on November 22, 2012, with full executive powers, and the parliament in limbo (due to pending court cases), Morsi assumed essentially legislative powers and declared himself immune from judicial oversight until a new constitution was formed. In essence that gave birth to the current movement (well at least the National Salvation Front that formed 2 days later and was a hodge-podge of opposition groups, including figures such as Mohamed El Baradei) which culminated in Morsi's removal from office this week. Morsi and the FJP then ham-fisted a constitution through a referendum, which garnered the support of 64% of the voting public. However, the process was not led by consensus and Morsi appeared to be increasingly marginalizing the judiciary, which many viewed as being too linked to the old regime, especially given that many senior judges were appointed by Hosni Mubarak (the judges had their own democracy movement in 2006 so not a unified group by any means). Yet for many in the opposition, the judiciary was still a check against Morsi and the Brotherhood's power. And there were also complaints about the ikhwanization of the state; given what transpired this week, this appeared not to have been the case.

    Nevertheless, the concentration of power by the Brotherhood and its non-inclusive method of governance as described above, could have overcome minor challenges from the opposition, if Morsi had enacted policies that improved the lives of everyday people. His approval rating had begun to drop dramatically, falling to 28% of the public just weeks before his overthrow. This was mainly due to the inability of the government to turnaround the economy, with 25% of Egyptians below the poverty line, unemployment on the rise, and the country's fiscal health on the decline. Meanwhile, his approach to foreign policy of aligning with the US, engaging with Iran, partnering with Qatar, and leading the charge on Syria, did little to assuage a frustrated public waiting for change at home in their daily lives that had yet to materialize. And sectarian clashes that mainly killed Shiites and Christians tarnished the impartial role the President was assumed to play, given that he was close to figures that were prone to incitement.

    In the backdrop of all of this, the Tamarod movement, which started just several months ago (in April), began to tap into the widespread anger and frustration. Gone was the gloss of a technocratic 'Islamist' party - a la the AKP in Turkey, who incidentally are having their own issues - replaced instead by the reality of the FJP in Egypt. And gone also was the mystique of a survivalist Brotherhood that was the David against the Goliath of the last half century; the Brotherhood was now the Goliath, and seemingly squandering the power that it had accumulated. The Tamarod activists claimed to have gathered 22 million signatures, in a country of 93 million people, which seems patently ridiculous for many demographic/logistical reasons (in the course of just two months). Nevertheless, their demands were clear, and principally centered on early Presidential elections (Morsi had served one of a four-year term). They were supported by umbrella opposition groups such as the National Salvation Front, April 6 Movement, and others, and with their deadline of June 30 for Morsi to respond coming fast, thousands and then millions began to fill Egypt's squares (some as noted in support of Morsi).

    By Wednesday, just prior to the removal of Morsi from power, several implications of what was transpiring were already clear. Firstly, the Tamarod movement, and subsequent mobilization demonstrated that there could be an organized opposition to Islamists in the 'new' Arab world, and that this secular alternative could mobilize numbers. This could have far-reaching consequences in other countries such as Tunisia, where Islamists like the Nahda Party hold sway, as well as eventually (in the longer-term) in autocratic countries where often the only strong opposition movements are bogeyman Islamists movements. Secondly, Morsi's reign had as noted above, dulled - as power does to any party - the shine of the Brotherhood. It has been noted, for example that the clashes that led to the separation of the West Bank & Gaza Strip, and undermined the Hamas victory in Palestinian elections, only emboldened Hamas instead of forcing the movement into the pubic accountability spotlight.

    Of course, in the euphoria of what the opposition was about to gain, the darkness just around the corner might have seemed far away. With millions on the street, and the military indicating a willingness to force itself on the scene as the arbitrator, Morsi offered a new constitutional process, a unity government of technocrats, and an accelerated schedule of new parliamentary elections but it was too little too late it seemed for the street, especially with the military now backing the activists' play. And so instead of a negotiated agreement with President Morsi, or a legal process through the courts, or any other process through civilian authorities, it was the military that removed Morsi from power. The crowds in Tahrir Square cheered but the supporters of the deposed President, in Nasr City (also in Cairo), jeered. In a carefully choreographed display, the civil secular state - with an associated roadmap essentially a reset of the revolutionary period - was re-established by three initial speeches: first by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, head of the armed forces (appointed by Morsi), second by the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, and third by the Coptic Pope. Short statements followed from a range of opposition figures, including a representative of Tamarod and El Baradei and the conservative Nour Party.

    If you are an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, this was indeed a victory. And given the direction that Egypt was going, if you are an Egyptian, you can only hope that this could lead to a more positive future. Whatever the case, however, the military re-takeover appears to also be a re-launch of the counter-revolution. The autocratic powers that be in the region were effusive and immediate in their praise of the military and the coup. More worryingly, was the systematic campaign of arrests that already started to unfold late into the night of Muslim Brotherhood activists, leaders, affiliated journalists, and yes even Mohammad Morsi. The military is looking not just to referee the playing field but to define the playing field and the players allowed on it. That's not democracy. It may be that in the modern Arab world the demographics are such that the debate is about choosing between liberalism and democracy, but isn't that the false choice of the last 40-50 years offered by autocratic rulers in the Arab world? And there is nothing 'rosy' about liberal autocracy versus religious autocracy in this region. In fact, if anything, liberal/secular authoritarianism has been the bane of decay in modern Arab history: the Baath parties in Iraq and Syria, Ben Ali's Tunis, Mubarak's Egypt, and the list goes on.

    Yet, unless the Egyptian military is kept in check, it will likely go down the path it knows best and one that it has followed since 1952, which is to systematically crush dissent and marginalise and exclude the Muslim Brotherhood. All indications today point to a proclivity to re-instate this exclusion, which could lead to an Algeria scenario of the 1990s, albeit in a different form, of course. Paradoxically, as this new Pandora's Box is opened, the only hope to keep the military in check is the very street and youth who demanded its removal from the scene, and then demanded it to come back to its role as guarantor of the state. Hopefully the tamarod or rebellion, will keep that spirit, now that they have been given a share of the power.

              The Muslim Brotherhood in Denial (not just a river in Egypt)        
    There's a lot to say about what's going on in Egypt, and a lot of great analysis out there. So I will simply re-post here a status I had on Facebook which I think sums up on the high-level the situation:

    Today in #Egypt there are uncountable millions on the streets demonstrating in rebellion (#tamarod) against a President that the people democratically elected. And the military under their reconstituted form (i.e. SCAF) have backed their play and essentially called for a 'roadmap' towards an orderly transition. This is just 30 months after #Tahrir Square came to the world's attention when the then dictator for 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step-down from power. So it is a little confusing. Adding to the confusion..The party in power is the Freedom and Justice Party, or Muslim Brotherhood. The people in Tahrir? Most of them Muslims, many devout, and still opposed to their so-called Brothers. Somewhat allies of the youth-driven, secular (not same as atheist) political opposition are the Salafists (Al Nour Party) or more conservative Muslims, who find themselves also calling for the President to step down. What should we make of all this? Some people may take this to mean that this is a strike against the role of Islam in government in the Arab world. Perhaps, but likely we won't see the same movement - yet - in Tunisia or Yemen and we now have a long ways to go in whatever Syria ends up (thanks to Assad & his enablers from all sides). Essentially, this ended up being a transaction between people and those in power. The Brotherhood in Egypt didn't fail because it started to ban alcohol or force women to wear Niqabs; no they failed because they failed to govern effectively. They failed to protect women in the streets from sexual assault. They failed to protect logically Egypt's interests with foreign countries like Ethiopia. They failed to stabilize an economy with any plan whatsoever. They failed to realize that appointing a member of a foreign terrorist organization that killed tourists in the 1990s to the position of Governor in a province that depends on tourism was a bad idea. The Brotherhood failed in Egypt not because they were Muslim - for their opponents are also Muslim - but because they failed to improve the lives of the very people that elected them. But here's the rub...and it's three-fold. First, removing them from power through the military's might could set back the country for decades to come. Only a negotiated democratic roadmap should be accepted. Second, the end of President Morsi's tenure, does not and should not mean the end of the Brotherhood. They are still Egyptian, will still be Egyptian, and will still have the support of many people. They are part of the political fabric of the country. And finally, the fact that the Brotherhood fails does not mean that the patchwork National Salvation Front - i.e. the Opposition - will succeed. Thus far their alliance is based on opposition to something rather than a coherent ideology. Moreover, their ideas for economic development and governance are no more clear, practical, or informed than the Brotherhood's. And so we end up with one takeaway, and this is applicable to all 'transition' countries. There will always be backsliding and regression in post-revolution environments. The key is to self-correct and aim to go two steps forward and one step backwards, rather than the other way around. Good luck to all our friends in #Egypt. They'll need it.

              Another Coup for the Outgoing Emir of Qatar        
    In July 2010, the (now outgoing) Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, traveled to South Lebanon to bask in the gratitude for his country's largesse in supporting reconstruction following the Israeli bombardment just four years earlier. The $300 million (and beyond) committed by the Gulf state was very much appreciated by the Shiite armed movement Hezbollah, who ensured billboards in the South and on Airport Road in Beirut were decorated with notes of thanks to the Emir. It was a conspicuous visit because Qatar had stood out amongst the GCC in taking a strong if not controversial stand. Hand-in-hand with Hezbollah, the Emir, was not apparently one of the "half-men" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pointed to in the Gulf during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war. In fact, the Emir and Assad were quite close, if not close friends, and were frequently in touch.

    In 2013, Qatar finds itself at the forefront on a number of regional issues, most notably the conflict in Syria, which had pitted the Emir in direct opposition to his old friend Bashar Al Assad. In fact, on the sectarian front, hosting firebrand spiritual figure, Yusuf al-Qaradawi who recently called for a Sunni-led jihad, and allying almost openly with Muslim Brotherhood movements in the region (which brought criticism from people as far afield as Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef), has increasingly prompted the question: Has the politically adept Qatar lost its touch?

    Once again, however, the Emir of Qatar (who I'll refer to by his initials HBK) shocked the region with another unprecedented move - this time the transfer of power to his 33-year old son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (the 'new Emir'). In doing so, HBK put Qatar back on the political front-foot and raised the pressure on regional allies. And in typical style, he added another deft touch in his address to the nation with a quote (and the only quote outside from scripture) from Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph in Islam and the first Imam of the Shi'a Muslims: 'Teach your children other than that what you were taught; as they are created for a time other than yours."

    It was nearly 18 years to the day, on June 27, 1995 [although official Qatari sites list his 'start-date' as June 26] that the outgoing Emir, HBK, came to power in a bloodless coup with the aid of his current outgoing Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamid bin Jassim al-Thani (HBJ) and other figures. He dislodged his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, at the time, under largely benign circumstances but also as Qatar was starting to truly increase its economic base. When HBK took the reigns, the country was bit-player on the regional scene, with a GDP of $8bn. Today, the country is a regional powerhouse, punching far above its weight with a GDP in upwards of $170bn. The transformation, after HBK's rise, began in a number of areas:
    • In 1995 (August), the Emir alongside his wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, launched what has become one of the largest foundations, Qatar Foundation, dedicated to 'knowledge' and social development in the country and wider region;
    • In 1996, the State of Qatar launched Al Jazeera, initially only in Arabic, which shocked the region by becoming literally the only widespread outlet of independent voices (from the 'regimes') in the region; 
    • And in 1997, Qatar Airways was relaunched and became a symbolic flagship for the country, although it is not clear whether the carrier will ever truly be profitable.
    Economically, with growing revenues from natural gas over the last decade and a half, the departing Prime Minister, HBJ, effectively became the CEO of the country. In addition, to governing national investments through the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund, HBJ also built up constituent vehicles like Qatari Diar, which looked to deploy billions of dollars in capital throughout the region, including in places that would traditionally be 'off-the-grid' like Libya, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.

    Yet, while the transformation of Qatar happened on several levels - and Sheikha Moza led a number of key initiatives that have separately built up the profile of the country - the Prime Minister & Emir particularly forged a formidable political duo, implementing a plan for political leadership which led to alternating reactions of admiration and consternation in the region. HBK & HBJ became in recent years, the guiding and influencing force on a number of key regional files. It was a strategy of multi-faceted engagement and relevance, often replete with paradoxes, that even until now has confounded observers and analysts, who were always late to the party in understanding and engaging with Qatar.

    For example, while condemning Al Jazeera Arabic for links to Al Qaeda, the U.S. government in September 2002 began moving its Central Command (CENTCOM) Headquarters in part to Doha. Qatar maintained an Israeli trade office since the late 1990s (closing intermittently during the Intifada and in 2009 during the Gaza War), while also building up relations with Hamas throughout the 2000s. The country maintained strong links within the GCC, and also with Sunni allies such as leader of the Future Party Saad Hariri, but in 2008 it was their ties with Hezbollah that allowed them to forge the Doha Agreement, averting what could have been a dark period of civil strife in Lebanon. There was no end to the political engagement: peace talks on Darfur, engagement with the Taliban, mediation between Chad and Sudan, and the list goes on.

    On the political level, while the period prior to the Arab awakening was characterized by engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders, in early 2011, it seemed that Qatar was starting to play a much more partisan role. Previous allies such as Syria's Assad, and Libya's Gaddhafi fell by the wayside very quickly, with Qatar in fact leading efforts in the fight to topple both dictators. And in other 'revolutionary' environments such as Egypt and Tunisia, where the ruling parties are Islamist, Qatar has become the political football for its perceived support for Islamist movements. Critics ask why figures like Qaradawi (mentioned above) are based in Qatar? Why was the state mosque in Doha named after the founder of Wahhabism, the particularly conservative brand of Islam, in 2011? And why has a station like Al Jazeera portrayed only one side of the story, often with an 'Islamic' bent, the last two years especially?

    Yet, the criticism has only grown commensurate with the prominence of Qatar in the region. On one hand, the policies of Qatar were simply part of its strategy of engagement in the region, to demonstrate leadership but also fundamentally relevance - important for a small country that previously lived in the shadow of Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Arab uprisings and subsequent rise of Islamist movements in the region was a tremendous opportunity for Qatar to provide indispensable leadership. Yet, leadership and unique prominence, has consequences, and it is likely that the inflection point of a transfer of power, provides a moment for reflection, especially as the region comes to terms with its new (and oft-changing) dynamics. What was immensely popular in late 2011 no longer is definitively so. For example, in Egypt, President Morsi's approval rating has notably dropped from 70% to 40%.

    Thus, the transfer of power to a new ruler, in Sheikh Tamim, means that Qatar can assess its strategic position and alignment. Perhaps, the country could benefit from a broader engagement given rising divisions in the region, and once again capture the role of lead mediator? Domestically, Sheikh Tamim will play close attention to catalyzing the role of his generation in the country's leadership. After all, Qatar had yet to enact the legislative or Shura Council that HBK promised when he rose to power, and enshrined in the Constitution ratified 9 years ago. The first step will be the announcement of a new cabinet that will replace what is increasingly seen as a gentrified political elite with new or younger faces. It is also expected that there may be a rise in salaries of Qataris employed in the public sector, at a smaller scale, however, to a similar announcement in 2011. Most important, however, will be a new dialogue and series of consultations that the new Emir will have with Qatari citizens, whose expectations have risen with new-found wealth and prosperity. In particular, with 70% of Qataris under the age of 30, engaging youth will be a priority. Do they feel included in the governance of the country and its institutions? Are there sufficient opportunities for employment and growth? And do public services meet their expectations?

    As Sheikh Tamim assesses the domestic situation, he does have a strong ally in his mother, Sheikha Moza, and the institutions she leads that address youth, health and education. And he will rely on  experienced hands like Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani to evaluate macro-projects like the Qatar World Cup preparations and the development of the national railways. Yet, both on the national and international fronts, the new Emir is not without experience or preparation. While observers were caught off-guard, it is thought HBK had planned for this day far ahead of time. The ascension of the Crown Prince to the leadership, began in earnest over the past two years. In fact, when significant announcements like the salary increase from 2011 were made, it was from Sheikh Tamim's office. He was also front and center, for example, when the move was made to shift Hamas headquarters out of Syria. And the then Crown Prince had been taking an increasing "foreign affairs role" amidst the Arab uprisings.

    While the policies that Qatar will follow will likely be unchanged in the short-term, we will have to wait and see what path the new Emir forges in the long-term. Yet, his father has assured that he enters on the political front-foot. Even in his departure, the outgoing Emir left as he came in - with a coup. Upending traditions in the region, he ensured that he would leave the scene at the ripe (for the GCC) age of 61, leaving power to his son who is only 33. This is next to countries such as Saudi Arabia, where the King is 91 (if not older) and where power has never been transferred to the 'next generation', passed instead from brother-to-brother among the descendents of King Abdelaziz (since his death in 1953). Or take Bahrain, where the Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman, has helmed the government for over four decades without interruption.

    Certainly, the move by HBK has not ushered in a democracy in Qatar; it is still an authoritarian state. And the ascension of Sheikh Tamim does not automatically assuage any of the concerns (real or perceived) ranging from migrant rights to nepotism to regional interference. Nevertheless, in its own way, Qatar has provided the region with a new revolutionary moment. Now we wait to see how the day-after, always the hard part, plays out.

               For President Obama on Day One: A New “New Beginning”         
    On Day One: A New “New Beginning”
    There was never a question that President Barack Obama represented a symbolic break with the past – someone who could redefine relations with the Muslim world. However to add substance to the symbolism of change, early on in his first term, President Obama went to Cairo to make a speech entitled, “A New Beginning.” Yet, as he begins a second term it is clear that this new beginning needs to be reinvigorated in both style and substance. That initial speech, while poignant then, today rings hollow. If indeed President Obama and the administration are to achieve a definitive step change in relations with Muslim communities, there must be a renewed effort for honest dialogue, robust development initiatives, and tangible shifts in policy.

    At the onset of the Iraq War in 2003, President George W. Bush had abysmal numbers in many Muslim-majority countries. While 59 percent of Nigerians, 56 percent of Jordanians, and 46 percent of Pakistanis held confidence in Osama bin Laden’s leadership, Bush was polling in the single digits in the same countries. By 2008, in countries like Jordan and Turkey, nearly 90 percent of people had “little or no confidence” in President Bush.

    So when a young Kenyan-American Senator with Muslim roots, Barack Obama, emerged on the political scene, he was a welcome sight in even unsavory and sharply antagonistic corners of the Muslim world. In the midst of the political campaign even Hamas seemingly endorsed him saying, “Actually, we like Mr. Obama.” Winning over Hamas never was (nor should it have been) a litmus test, but when President Barack Obama was elected, there was near universal euphoria across Muslim communities.

    Early on, Obama and others in the Administration acknowledged the challenge in meeting these expectations. Even before he was inaugurated, the Administration was already planning to mark this ‘new beginning.’ Going into the heart of Cairo to engage university students in an honest speech about a real change in relations between the U.S. and Muslims was indeed something to be commended. Subsequent to the speech, the White House created a position on the National Security Council for Global Engagement, and the State Department launched a number of partnership initiatives. In the fall of 2009, D.C. played host to the Presidential Summit of Entrepreneurship that brought together 250 delegates from over 50 (mostly Muslim) countries.

    Then the situation started to become more difficult. There are no easy answers in the complex geopolitical relations in the wider Middle East and beyond. When the Green Movement in Iran demanded democratic change, the Obama administration had to contemplate whether it was for engagement with ‘regimes’ or engagement with ‘peoples.’ One of the President’s early visits was to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah prior to his Cairo speech, during which he said in reference to fundamental liberties, “They are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.” But during his visit with the King, there was deafening silence on this point. The advent of the Arab Spring made these dilemmas even sharper. Support democracy in Tunisia and Egypt at the last minute. Push democracy by force in Libya. Half-heartedly support it in Yemen. Remain frozen on Syria. Tacitly oppose it everywhere else.

    While Obama has grappled with difficult decisions, as any President would, he also shirked following up on critical points he made during his speech in Cairo. For example, he declared, “I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.” Guantanamo Bay remains open, almost glaringly so. And while, torture has allegedly stopped being an officially sanctioned practice, summary executions and civilian casualties by drone strikes have dramatically increased in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa. The latter have led directly to animus towards Obama from within many Muslim countries.

    Then there was the line in the speech about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements…The settlements must stop.” Of course, they did not. In fact, in February 2011 the U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution that called on Israel to simply “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory.” Out of 15 countries on the Security Council, the U.S. was the lone dissent (and of course the fatal one). This is not to mention that the U.S. also stood against 95 percent of the world’s population in voting against recognizing Palestinian statehood at the United Nations General Assembly in November.

    There were other elements of the ‘New Beginning’ that were promised, particularly around education and entrepreneurship. It is true that the U.S. has now (co-)organized three global entrepreneurship summits, in D.C., Istanbul, and Dubai, the latter being held in 2012. Yet, it is also clear that beyond the pomp of a summit, the once-robust programmatic initiatives that have come out have been weaker. Leadership changes within internal initiatives, as well as those with partners, have meant stalled if not stagnant programming. The idea of connecting entrepreneurs between the Muslim world and the West is a mutually beneficial and powerful concept, but it has not translated into the impact it should have by now. In the last summit in Dubai, it was as if the institutional memory from three years ago was lost, and everything was starting again.

    All this being said, there still exists the perception that relations have improved between the U.S. and Muslim communities. However, since 2009 and Obama’s inauguration, positive views have been on a steady decline in Muslim countries, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project. In 2009, 33 percent of respondents held confidence in Obama; that number slipped to 24 percent in 2012. In 2009, 25 percent of respondents held a favorable view of the U.S.; that figure dropped to 15 percent in 2012. Finally, approval of Obama’s ‘international policies’ fell from 34 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2012. Without a substantive shift, these numbers will continue to decline, further cementing the reality that there never was a new beginning.

    Can things be turned around, given the current state of affairs? It would be misleadingly Pollyannaish to think that President Obama could snap his fingers and magically change opinion towards him from Muslim countries. Moreover, there are certain political realities that will remain. The U.S. will continue to be an ally of Israel. The U.S. will continue to fight terrorism. And the U.S. will not be able to fund new Marshall plans in the Middle East for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, there is a lot that can and should be done.

    At the outset, President Obama needs to re-launch a dialogue with the Muslim world. At the beginning of his first term he went to Cairo to give a speech. Perhaps he should go to Cairo in 2013 to have a conversation. In fact, since becoming president, Obama has visited only the country of his upbringing, Indonesia, apart from the initial trips to Saudi Arabia and Egypt (in addition to cloak-and-dagger visits to Afghanistan), within the Muslim world. Instead of distant speeches and dispatched drones, the Administration would be served by a President who is more engaged with his audience, through visits as well as frank and honest dialogue during those trips.

    Although the U.S. will not reverse decades of support for Israel, it need not ally with the most extreme policies of the Israeli government. Continuing to be the lone voice at the United Nations and international community defending illegal Israeli practices is a sharp blow to many efforts of the Obama administration. There is no third-term, and the President should stop pandering to contrived political interests in Washington D.C. There are enough Jewish supporters, lobby groups, and intelligentsia, who would support a more moderate and principled set of policies towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Israel is, of course, not the only foreign policy issue that should be of concern. The U.S., while acting in its national interest, should remain consistent in its language and support for key principles of human rights. It is when it becomes caught in naked hypocrisy that support for the Administration falls, whether in Bahrain in 2011 or Egypt in 2012, and a range of countries, perhaps, in 2013.
    Finally, initiatives that can make an impact on tackling the economic despair for young people, like the 100 million youth who will enter the labor market over the next decade in the Arab world, need to be prioritized. There needs to be sufficient attention and support for the global entrepreneurship program that can truly support the emerging and exciting entrepreneurial energy in places like Amman and Ramallah, Karachi and Kuala Lumpur. The U.S. has the best soft-power in this area, from the start-up scene in Silicon Valley to MIT Labs, yet it is hardly deployed, even though the White House calls entrepreneurship, “a critical pillar of U.S. global engagement.”

    There is a tremendous opportunity in President Obama’s second term to catalytically shift relations with Muslim communities and turn potential adversaries into allies. If the status quo, however, is maintained in policy and practice, this opportunity will be lost.

    This article originally appeared in the print edition of the Diplomatic Courier, in the January/February 2013 issue. It can be accessed online at: 

              Assessing Syria: Seeking a Way Forward         
    Today there was a pivotal meeting of the so-called 'Friends of Syria' group held in Marrakech, Morocco. At the meeting and just ahead of it, a number of countries recognized the Syrian National Coalition (the abbreviated name of the opposition group by consensus formed in Doha several weeks back) as the 'legitimate representatives of Syria.' Yet, this recognition and perhaps an approved tranche of funding, will certainly not be enough to end the despair and difficult situation in Syria right now. There are no easy solutions. I am reposting below a piece from a month-and-a-half ago that I wrote on a simple basis for a way forward.

    This article was originally published on Syria Deeply, on October 29, 2012. 

    In Syria today, there are no easy solutions. In fact, there may be no solutions at all, something that even UN Special EnvoyLakhdar Brahimi affirmed. Moreover, unless the objective is to destroy the castle in order to unseat the king, reinforcing the status quo of active conflict will only make Syria’s situation harder to solve.
    The war scenes have been horrific over the last several months in Syria, particularly in Aleppo. The army has continued its systematic ground and air campaign, indiscriminately firing into vaguely-defined rebel areas in almost every major city.According to the United Nations, this has included: â€œmurder, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, violations of children’s rights, pillaging, and destruction of civilian objects – including hospitals and schools.”
    Aleppo’s historic Souq, purportedly the largest in the entire Middle East, went up in flames in late September.  In early October, a blast by the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra group ripped through the heart of the city’s main square, brutally killing dozens of civilians and injuring countless more.  Violence from all sides continued with varying intensity through the Eid al-Adha holiday.
    The Center for New American Security projects five potential scenarios in Syria. Unfortunately, some of these are either unlikely (i.e. #2 managed transition) or ominous (i.e. #5 disintegration of the country). The fourth scenario envisions that Bashar Assad remains in power after a protracted civil war, something that seems completely untenable for regional forces and many Syrians to accept, despite Iran, Russia and perhaps China in support. The first scenario, the sudden death of Assad, is neither a solution nor something to bank on. Even if Assad is killed, his regime is well entrenched in Syria. Scenario number three, which consists of the overthrow of the regime by the armed opposition, appears to be where the U.S., the GCC, and Europe have invested most of their energies, somewhat nervously.
    It has become increasingly clear, however, that this latter scenario is dangerous, will not work, and is only leading to a greater conflagration of violence and deaths. UN Envoy Brahimi, who has extensive experience in conflict mitigation from Iraq to Afghanistan, has even told the Saudi King that the crisis “would not be resolved through military means.” Conversely, any scenario that keeps Assad in power and the regime status quo intact is a hollow solution that won’t satisfy the armed opposition, as the breakdown of Kofi Annan’s plan demonstrated (a plan that did not explicitly call for a regime transition). Yet foreign military intervention to dislodge the regime still appears unlikely and counter-productive.
    That leaves us with a quixotic proposal that also seems like the only plausible option: the simultaneous call for a universal ceasefire and an immediate process of transition of the regime. Many rebel groups, particularly hardline Salafist jihadist fighters, would hardly be receptive to any ceasefire. Yet, other groups, such as the Farouq Batallion, could welcome a ceasefire if it was accompanied by real change in Syria’s leadership. Such a ceasefire could also be guaranteed by a no-fly-zone. This would give Russia and China comfort that the no-fly-zone is part of a universal cessation of violence, and not one simply imposed on the Syrian government.
    Meanwhile, on the regime side, its supporters have already been meeting with opposition groups, demonstrating declining confidence in Assad. Russia has received several opposition delegations, and there are reports that Iran has met with the Muslim Brotherhood, although Tehran denies the meeting. Even in regime strongholds, such as Assad’s hometown ofQardaha, there have been growing skirmishes between groups as the situation has grown fractious.
    The dual call for a simultaneous, robust ceasefire and a process of regime transition seems simple and obvious. And while there are many layers of complexity, and a complicated path to align stakeholders to make it happen, it is this dual call that is the only basis for a real solution to Syria. The alternative, a systematic escalation in violence, is no solution at all.

              A world of Islams        

    This article originally appeared in the Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine.

    A world of Islams

    By Taufiq Rahim ’04
    Published in the December 12, 2012, issue

    I remember waking up in my dorm room on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to the shouts of my hall-mate and friend beckoning me to come next door. It was the beginning of our sophomore year, and I was a leader of the Muslim Students Associa­tion (MSA) at Princeton. Watching television in 1937 Hall, we were gripped and confounded by the horrific scenes that unfolded in the ensuing hours, which are forever etched in my ­memory —  as I am sure they are for countless others.

    It was the start of what has been termed the post-9/11 decade, during which much of the world’s narrative was shaped by an “us versus them” mentality. Especially in the first few years, Muslims in the West endured an uncomfortable feeling that the surrounding society considered them suspect.
    I fielded calls shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks from local newspapers, the reporters asking if things were OK for Muslims on campus. Though there were incidents, the general situation at Princeton was safe. I sometimes received hate mail. One group of students was assaulted one weekend in Boston and returned with the bruises to show for it. And, I, like so many others, was given the so-called special treatment and faced lengthy interrogations at JFK or Newark whenever flying to and from school.

    I came to Princeton as a student like everyone else, but at some point I had to transform into an ambassador of understanding. The funny thing is, at the same time I was explaining Islam to promote understanding, I was questioning the state of Islam in the world around me. It is a duality that has stayed with me in the years since.

    This year, on the anniversary of the attacks, a deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, shocked the world once again. It also shocked the residents of Benghazi. This past January, I spent time with youth activists and entrepreneurs in that city. What I witnessed was a courageous and driven group of young Libyans determined to forge a better future. Alongside tens of thousands of their compatriots, many of these youth marched in mid-September to the central al-Kish Square in memory of the slain U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, calling as well on militias to disarm.

    Their march was emblematic of the duality I experience. No doubt, there is still a need to combat what is more a “clash of ignorances” (not a clash of civilizations) across the divide between the Muslim world and the West. This was the impetus that drove two colleagues and me to found the nonprofit initiative Project Encounter, which promotes engagement and dialogue. We bring groups of young people from North America and Europe to the Middle East, to allow them to form their own narrative about the region. I feel that only through improved understanding and greater familiarity can we find constructive ways forward.

    Nevertheless, through my work and travels in countries from Afghanistan to Syria, Palestine to Pakistan, and places in between, I find there is a need for just as much soul-searching within Muslim communities themselves.

    When a cheaply made YouTube film can lead to violent demonstrations in more than a dozen countries, you cannot help but ask questions. When a young Christian girl can be jailed swiftly on the demands of an unhinged cleric alleging “blasphemy” in Pakistan, you cannot help but raise an objection. When a college is raided and 25 students are killed in Nigeria by a group whose name (Boko Haram) means “West­ern education is sinful,” you cannot help but be dismayed.
    For many countries in the Muslim world, the next few years will not be easy. The political and economic challenges facing them are immense — and that’s an understatement. A few are in active states of internal conflict, if not internecine warfare. Others are under the grip of debilitating authoritarian regimes. So many are still afflicted by economic deprivation.

    There are, of course, counterexamples. In places like Malaysia and Dubai, there are new economic models of development. The Arab uprisings have started to push back against political authoritarianism. Yet the forces of religious orthodoxy seem to be not only constant, but growing. Popular clerics who appear on Pakistani television are busy calling minority groups, such as Ahmadis, non-Muslims — with deadly consequences. I remember seeing the bloodstains in an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore in 2010, shortly after an attack by religious militants. More than 90 people had died in attacks at two mosques. Within a year, the governor of the Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, had been assassinated for opposing draconian blasphemy laws, as was the federal minister of religious minorities. What was the basis or justification for those attacks?

    Sooner or later, everybody comes into the sights of the bully pulpit: marginalized groups such as Ahmadis, other religious groups and Muslim minorities, and then so-called “moderates.” Sufi shrines that existed for centuries have been attacked and destroyed by extremist groups in recent months in Libya and Mali. When I was working for an NGO in the Gujarat province in India, many of my meetings were held in Hindu temples, sometimes during religious ceremonies. What would the view of the hardline Muslim orthodoxy be of me?

    Traveling through the wider region, you quickly realize that while the bullies are strong and loud, they are surrounded by people who would like to see a pluralistic and prosperous society. These are people like the young activists I met in Libya. They are the Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs who have formed an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women in the workforce (Glowork). They include my Syrian friends who are helping to ensure that those fleeing conflict have a place of refuge, no matter their sect or creed. They are like my former colleagues, who have spent their entire careers in Pakistani villages working on local development.

    I’m hopeful that these progressive forces within many Muslim communities and Muslim-majority countries can coalesce to form a stronger and wider constituency for change. Such a movement would be the most effective bridge between the Muslim world and the West, as well. 

              Movie review: ‘City of Ghosts’ profiles heroes of resistance         
    Everyone has their breaking point. For the good people of Raqqa, it was the arrest and torture of 15 children by the soulless regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. That was in 2012 in the midst of the Arab Spring, when the repressed of the Middle East believed freedom would finally be theirs. But instead of liberty, as Matthew Heineman’s wrenching documentary “City of Ghosts” reminds, the people of “the simple, isolated city of Raqqa” received only [...]
              A Look At Trump's Day At The G-20        
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: Hard to remember the last time a meeting between two world leaders drew quite so much attention as the one set for today in Hamburg, Germany, when Donald Trump sits down with Vladimir Putin. Now, we don't know what these two men plan to say to each other, but we maybe got a hint yesterday of the U.S. position. President Trump was giving a speech in Warsaw, Poland, and among other things, he said this. (SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH) PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself. KELLY: NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president. He is on the line from Hamburg. Scott, President Trump often says he doesn't like to tip his hand, he doesn't like to telegraph what he's going to do.
              White House Releases Unexpected Statement About Syria        
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit DAVID GREENE, HOST: Late last night, the White House released an unexpected statement about Syria. The administration said it believes that the Assad regime might be preparing to wage another chemical weapons attack. The statement went on to say if such an attack is carried out, Assad and his military would pay a heavy price. Let's begin our coverage in Washington with NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. And, Scott, this late-night, public warning about what a country might do - this is weird, right? SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It was certainly unusual, David. The statement came from Press Secretary Sean Spicer a little bit before 10 p.m. And you're right. He said the United States had observed possible preparations similar to what they saw back in early April, when the Assad regime carried out what appeared to be a deadly sarin gas attack against its own people. Of course, at that time, the Trump administration responded by firing dozens of
              Crime Doesn’t Pay (as much as it used to) – FBI Cracks Down on Trade of Looted Syrian and Iraqi Cultural Artifacts        
    In support of the international crackdown on the black market trade of looted cultural artifacts, the FBI recently announced that art dealers may be prosecuted for engaging in the trade of stolen Iraqi and Syrian antiquities. Terrorist organizations such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (“ISIL”) have pillaged these countries of their cultural...… Continue Reading
              I found Saddam’s WMD bunkers        
    So says Dave Gaubatz in the Spectator.

    I've always believed that WMDs were spirited out of Iraq. It is the most logical explanation for why so many governments and intelligent reports and political leaders believed it to be the case.

    Gaubatz tells a disturbing tale of incompetence and scheming that resulted in Syria holding the bag.

    Jonah Goldberg suggests "a healthy dose of scepticism" and I agree. But then scepticism would be in order for 90% of the things we hear these days.

    One reason I dismiss conspiracy theories is that they require a government that can pull such events off with competence. This one would be a result of incompetence, something I find very believable.
              World: Humanitarian Coordinator Information Products, 31 July 2017        
    Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    Country: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen

              Italy: Italy: Unaccompanied And Separated Children (UASC) Dashboard, July 2017        
    Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
    Country: Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Syrian Arab Republic, World

    Between 1 January and 31 July 2017, 12,656 unaccompanied and separated children arrived in Italy by sea, representing 13% of all sea arrivals in this period. This proportion is comparable to the first seven months of 2016, when 15% of those arriving by sea were UASC. UASC numbers have slightly decreased compared to last year, when 13,705 UASC arrived in the first seven months of the year.

              Italy: Italy Sea Arrivals Dashboard (January - July 2017)        
    Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
    Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Iraq, Italy, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, World


    Between 1 January and 31 July 2017, 95,213 persons arrived in Italy by sea. This is a 2% increase compared to sea arrivals in the same period last year (93,774).

    Trends in sea arrivals should be assessed over time, as fluctuations on a monthly basis may be linked to various factors, including weather and sea conditions or the situation in the countries of departure and origin. Geopolitical developments and the capacity of smugglers to organize departures may also affect sea arrivals.

              Somalia: Refugees and Asylum-seekers Statistical Report with UNHCR - 31 July 2017        
    Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
    Country: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen

              World: Dorcas: Annual Report 2016        
    Source: Dorcas Aid International
    Country: Ethiopia, Greece, Kenya, Lebanon, Moldova, Romania, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, World

    - A new story: We worked on a new story for Dorcas in 2016, with various departments and stakeholders giving their input.
    - Strategic plan: We prepared for our new strategic plan (2017-2021) through a focused process of completing a SWOT analysis. The key element of the new strategic plan is to expand inclusive community development in all of our projects. In addition, we are seeking to build a Dorcas “community” in The Netherlands. During an intensive process, which included a SWOT analysis, we prepared ourselves for a new strategic plan for the period 2017 to 2021. Our plan is to develop our work further in inclusive community development. Furthermore, we are building a Dorcas community in the Netherlands.
    - Influencing Policy: In 2016 we had a number of productive meetings with members of the Dutch House of Representatives. To support that we showed the film Face Down that concerns the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and which we made at the start of 2016.
    - Visits to Field Project: Two groups visited Dorcas projects in 2016, one to Moldova with 23 sponsors visiting their grannies and children and the other group to Romania.
    - New Dorcas shops: The Dorcas shops in the Netherlands are doing well. Four new Dorcas shops were opened in 2016. A total of 2,000 volunteers share the work to operate these shops.
    - Dorcas Academy: In 2016 we prepared for establishing the Dorcas Academy, through which we will invest in our staff’s knowledge and skill level. Preparations were made in 2016 for setting up the Dorcas Academy, through which we will be investing in the knowledge and skills of our co-workers.

              Ushul Fiqih II        
    Ushul Fiqih II
    makalah pendidikan
    Kedudukan dan kemandirian akal dalam penetapan hukum islam
    Menurut Prof. Muhammad Abu Zahrah, bahwa akal tidak punya wewenang mensyariatkan hukum dan menjatuhkan pembebanan-pembebanan hukum (at-takhlifat), tidak lah berati bahwa akal tidak ada fungsinya. Bahkan akal sangat berfungsi, hanya saja batas kemampuan fungsionalnya sesuai dengan yang diberikan oleh Allah SWT(94). Dan perlu diingat bahwasumber-sumber hukum (mazhab as-shahaby, al-Ihtihsan, al- Maslahah waz-Dzara’I. dll) kesemuanya merujuk kepada satu sumber hukum yaitu nash-nash al-Qur’an dan Sunnah[ Abu zahrah, ushul fiqh Abu Zahrah, 94].
    Menurut Prof. Abdul Wahab Khallaf, apabila ada peristiwa yang tidak ada nash dalam hukumnya sama sekali, maka peristiwa itu merupakan obyek yang luas untuk melakukan ijtihad[ Dr. K.H Noer Iskandar Al-Barsany, Kaidah-kaidah Hukum Islam ( Ilmu Ushulul Fiqh, karya Abdul Wahab Khallaf), Jakarta : Raja Grafindo Persada, 2002. hlm 350 ](350). Lapantgan ijtihad itu ada dua hal : sesuatu yang tidak ada nashnya sama sekali, dan sesuatu yang ada nasnya yang tidak pasti. Disini peranan akal untuk mengetahui hukum dari peristiwa yang tidak ada nashnya sam sekali dan sesuatu yang ada nashnya yang tidak pasti.
    Menurut Dr. Saifudin Zuhri, disamping wahyu akal juga memainkan peran penting dalam penetapan ( perkembangan hukum Islam ) jadi sungguhpun sumber utama dari hukum Islam adalah Al-Qur’an dan sumber kedua adalah Sunnah, dalam menentukan hukum Islam banyak dipakai akal. Bahkan sebagai telaah dilihat sumber ketiga adalah ijtihad[ Dr. Saifudin Zuhri, Ushul Fiqh Akal Sebagai Sumber Hukum Islam, Yogyakarta ; Pustaka Pelajar, 2009. hlm 76]. 76
    Menurut Najmuddin At-Tufi, visi akal lebih obyektif dalam memposisikan kriteria maslahah ketimbang antagonisme nash antara yang satu dengan yang lainnya. Ini berarti posisi antara akal dan wahyu sejajar atau bahkan diatas nash dalam batasan tertentu. Akal dapat digunakan dalam hal-hal yang tidak ada nash nya sama sekali, atau hal-hal yang tidakada nashnya tetapi dapat dikaitkan hukumnya dengan lafald yang ada dalam nash. Bahkan akal dapat digunakan dalam hal-hal yang sudah diatur dalam nash tetapi penunjukannya terhadap hukum tidak secara pasti[ Ibid, hlm 154]. 154
    Al-Qur’an dan Hadits merupakan sumber pokok penetapan hukum Islam, kedua hal ini tidak dapat ditinggalkan untuk menentukan hukum syar’i. apabila kedua hal ini di tinggalkan maka termasuk menentukan atau membuat hukum sendiri tanpa ada dalil yang jelas. Namun dari kedua hal ini kemudian dikembangkan pokok penetapan hukum syar’i guna menangulangi permasalahan-permasalahan yang notabenenya tidak ada dalam kedua sumber pokok ini, yaitu melalui jalan Ijtihad (Maslahah Mursalah, Qiyas, dll). Atau dengan kata lain penggunaan akal sangat berperan sangat penting untuk menentukan hukum yang semakin lama semakin membelit dan tidak ada nash yang mengaturnya.
    Akan tetapi, ketika menggunakan jalan ijtihad jangan melupakan sumber pokok penetapan hukum yaitu Al-Qur’an dan Hadits. Meskipun kadang mengunggulkan akal dari pada sumber pokok dalam ranah-ranah tertentu dan tidak boleh bertentangan dengan syar’i yang telah ada. Penggunaan Akal dalam menetapkan hukum tidak berkenan bila menggunakan emosi dalam penetapannya, apalagi mengacuhkan nash-nash dan mementingkan akal dalam segala bidang. Hal ini tidak diperbolehkan.
    Syari’ah adalah ketentuan-ketentuan hukum yang membatasi perbuatan perkataan dan kepercayaan (keimanan)orang-orang mukallaf (orang yang dibebani hukum)[ Ibid, hlm 18] kajiannya meliputi kepercayaan akhlak dan perbuatan-perbuatan mukallaf.
    Fiqih adalah
    العلم بالأحكام الشرعية العملية مع أدلتها
    pengetahuan (mengetahui hukum-hukum syara’ tentang perbuatan beserta dalil-dalilnya. Yang dimaksud Asy-Syar’iyyah adalah hukum-hukum itu diperoleh dari syara’ baik dengan cara mudah ( karena jelas dalam al-Qur’an dan al-Hadits maupun melaui jalan ijtihad) disini pembatasan amaliyyah dimaksudkan bahwa hukum-hukum itu mengenai perbuatan bukan mengenai masalah kepercayaan yang dibahas pada ilmu lain[ Ibid,hlm 9-10]
    Qaidah Luqawiyyah adalah qaidah- qaidah yang dipakai oleh ulama’-ulama’ ushul berdasarkan makna, ungkapan-ungkapan yang telah diterapkan oleh para ahli bahasa Arab setelah diadakan penelitian yang bersumber dari kesusastraan Arab[ Depag, Ushul Fiqh, hlm 2]. Kajian qaidah ini adalah untuk mengenai lafald dan makna dalam menentukan suatu perkara.
    Qaidah syariyyah adalah qaidah-qaidah yang telah menjadi dasar hukum dari suatu kaum dan jalan hidup yang telah dipakai oleh nabi, sehingga menjadi panutan bagi umat Islam. Kajian dari qaidah ini adalah mengkaji ketentuan-ketentuan yang telah ditetapkan oleh Sang pemilik syar’i.
    Ushul Fiqih adalah qaidah-qaidah hukum yang bersifat qauliyyah yang dipetik dari dalil-dalil yang kulli dan maksud syara’ dalam meletakkan mukhallat dibawah bebanan takhlifi dan memahamkan rahasia-rahasia tasyri’ dan hikmahnya[ Prof Asmuni Abdurrahman, Qaidah Fiqh, bulan bintang, hlm 2]. Kajiannya adalah menelaah dan memahami dalil yang kemudian hasil dari telaah itu adalah sebuah hukum.
    Qaidah Fiqh adalah qaidah-qaidah hukum yang biasa dan bersesuaian dengan bagian-bagiannya[ Ibid, hlm 10-11 ]. Kajiannya qaidah ini adalah qaidah menjelaskan hukum-hukum syara’ yang berkenaan dengan perbuatan mukallaf. Berlaku sebagian besar (aghlab) juziyyah, sebagai usaha dan menghimpun ketentuan hukum yang sama untuk memudahkan pemahaman fiqh, bersifat wujud setelah ketentuan furu’, bersifat ukuran.
    Qaidah Ushul Fiqih adalah qaidah-qaidah yang berkaitan dengan masalah-masalah atau jenis hukum ushul fiqh yang terdapat dalil-dalil yang kulli dan maksud syara’ dalam penentuan hukum syar’i. kajiannya adalah qaidah-qaidah hukum dalam menentukan produk-produk syar’I, membahas dalil hukum, berlaku bagi seluruh juziyyah, sebagai sarana istimbath hukum, bersifat prediksi dan kebahasaan.
    Pengertian maslahah sebagai tujuan hukum Islam adalah Abu Zahrah dalam kitabnya Ushul Fiqh menyebutkan :
    والمصلحة المرسلة والإستصلاح هي المصالح الملائمة لمقاصدالشارع الإسلامى ولا يشهد لها أصل بالا عتبار أو الالغاء
    Maslahah atau Istihlah yaitu segala kemaslahatan yang sejalan dengan tujuan-tujuan syar’i (dalam menentukan hukum)dan kepadanya tidak ada dalil khusus yang menunjukkan tentang diakui dan tidaknya[ Saifudi Zuhri, Op Cit, hlm 82]. Contohnya maslahah yang dengan maslahah itu, sahabat mensyari’atkan pengadaan penjara, atau mencetak mata uang atau menetapkan hak milik tanah pertanian sebagai hasil kemenangan warga sahabat itu sendiri dan ditentukan pajak penghasilan[ Noer Iskandar, Op Cit. hlm 123]. dll
    Sedangkan maslahah sebagai metode istimbath hukum adalah selanjutnya Abdullah bin Abdul Husein dalam kitabnya merumuskan maslahah mursalah sebagai :
    مالم يشهد لها الشرع باعتبارها ولا بإلغاء بدليل معين وكانت فى الأمور التى يدرك العقل معناها.
    Maslahah mursalah yaitu kemaslahatan yang tidak jelas diakui atau ditolak oleh syara’ dengan suatu dalil tertentu dan ia termasuk persoalan yang dapat diterima oleh akal tentang fungsinya[ Saifudin Zuhri, Op Cit. hlm 83]. Contohnya dalam mengusut kasus pencurian Imam Malik memperbolehkan memukul seseorang yang dicurigai telah melakukan tindak pidana dengan maksud agar ia mengakui perbuatannya.
    Dari kedua definisi ini kalu diperhatikan secara seksama mempunyai arti dan maksud yang sama, yang berbeda disini adalah batasan dari pengertian pertama lebih inklusif dan ekslusif. Yakni maslahah bukan maslahah yang dilatarbelakangi pendapat yang dilandasi oleh emosi diri, akan tetapi merupakan maslahah yang sejalan dengan dengan maksudu-maksud syara’
    Qiyas sebagai analogi berarti menyamakan hukum sesuatu yang tidak ada nash hukumnya dengan sesuatu hukum yang lain yang ada nash hukumnya atas dasar persamaan illat atau sebab. Contohnya, haramnya khamar, yaitu minuman keras yang dibuat dari anggur, atas illat memabukkan. Minuman keras lain yang dibuat umpamanya dari kurma atau dari gandum, karena juga memabukkan hukumnya haram[ Ibid, 75].
    sedangkan Qiyas sebagai Istimbath hukum berarti menerangkan hukum sesuatu yang tidak ada nashnya dalam al-Qur’an dan Hadits dengan cara membandingkannya dengan sesuatu yang ditetapkan hukumnya[ Abu Zahrah, Op Cit, hlm 336]. Contohnya, sebagian sahabat membaiat Abun Bakar menjadi khalifah sebab Rasulullah pernah memilihnya sebagai Imam sholat. Mereka membandingkan masalah kepemimpinan umat dengan imam sholat. Lebih lanjut mengatakan : kalau Rasulullah saja telah memmilih Abu Bakar untuk masalah agama mengapa kita tidak memilihnya untuk urusan dunia?[ Ibid,hlm 345].
    kedua pengertian diatas mempunyai kesamaan dalam maksud yang dituju oleh keduanya. Namun, pengertian yang nomor dua bersumber pada ijma’ disamping dasar-dasar lain yang digunakan. Dalam hal ini tidak terikat atau terpaku pada satu anggapan bahwa hukum-hukum al-Asl itu pasti ber’illat serta perbolehkannya illat[ ].
              Gran parterre di star per il “Live for Syria” a Vulci        

    Post Originale: Gran parterre di star per il “Live for Syria” a Vulci

    Molto di più di un concerto quello che si è svolto nella giornata al Parco Archeologico di Vulci per il “Live for Syria“, una manifestazione organizzata per raccogliere fondi per i bambini della Siria colpita dalla guerra. Il concerto-evento benefico ha potuto contare sulla risposta di tantissimi artisti che hanno composto un grandissimo cast sia dal punto [&hellip

              Second Baruch - A Critical Edition of the Syriac Text (v.6)        
    Second Baruch - A Critical Edition of the Syriac Text (v.6)With Greek and Latin Fragments, English Translation, Introduction, and

    By Daniel M. Gurtner

    £65.00   17 Dec 2009   Hardback   Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.

    "2 Baruch" is a Jewish pseudepigraphon from the late first or early second century CE. This ancient work addresses the important matter of theodicy in light of the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 CE. This title includes an introduction that orients readers to interpretative and textual issues of the book.

              Studies in the Peshitta of Kings        
    Studies in the Peshitta of KingsThe Transmission and Revision of the Text, Relations with Other Texts, and

    By Donald M. Walter

    £83.00   01 Dec 2009   Hardback   Gorgias Press

    Examines the manuscript variants of the Peshitta (the standard Syriac translation) of Kings, focusing on the manuscript 9a1. This title reworks material from Walter's dissertation on 2 Kings. It treats the question of the Hebrew text used and the rendering of names, and relations with the LXX and Targum.

              Waking Up To The Existential Threats Of Climate Change ... by gimleteye        
    It took our Miami Herald a long time -- and several publishers -- to come around to putting climate change on the front page and the editorial section, but the Herald finally did. An editorial in this morning's paper, apropos of recent tropical deluge, called the public response to climate change "a long slog". Maybe not so long.

    A recent Pew Trust poll found that public concern around the world for climate change was second only to the threat of ISIS. What the report, "Globally, people point to ISIS and climate change as leading security threats", also makes clear is that public views in the United States continue to be slogged by the Fox News effect.

    Fox is the FAKE NEWS channel favored by President Trump that routinely bashes environmental and especially climate change concerns, suppressing science and misleading the public with conspiracy theories.

    Paradoxically, the themes of the "long slog ahead", conspiracy theories and existential threats of climate change merged in a fascinating, recent podcast by NPR Fresh Air, "Inside The Global Seed Vault, Where The History And Future Of Agriculture Is Stored".

    The seed vault, conceived and implemented by Fresh Air guest Carrie Fowler, is built into the side of a Norwegian mountain, seven hundred miles south of the North Pole. It is intended to protect the world's biodiversity from doomsday scenarios like climate change.

    Fowler, bemused by Alt-right megaphones who imagine a corporate conspiracy at work, is far more concerned about the impacts of climate change on agriculture. He points to supermarket shelves filled with food and basic staples of our diet that require a low carbon atmosphere to thrive.

    If you can't listen to the whole podcast, I urge you to scroll in and listen at minute 33.

    ... in my family, we really regarded farmers as public servants and people to be esteemed. And so I was always favorably inclined, if you will, towards farmers. And to make the story a bit shorter, I was working on a book many years ago about agriculture and came across the writings of a man named Jack Harlan, who I discovered was probably the most eminent scientist in the field.

    And he was talking in very dramatic terms about what it would mean if we lost this genetic diversity in agriculture. And he said that we were facing cataclysmic starvation on a scale we can not imagine. And what he was referring to was that, you know, evolution is always ongoing in the fields. And pests and diseases are constantly mutating and mounting better attacks against our food crops. And the reason that you and I don't have to worry about that too much and the reason that our grocery stores are pretty well stocked is that plant breeders have kept up with these diseases and pests by taking genes, by taking traits from older varieties and crossbreeding it with modern varieties and creating better, newer, more resistant varieties that can cope with environmental stresses and pests and diseases.

    But if we lose those traits, if we don't have sense enough to conserve them - and conserving them is very simple and it's very cheap - but if we don't have the sense enough to do that nationally and globally, then we may very well put ourselves in a situation where the trait that we need to give resistance to a particular crop just isn't there anymore. And we have had a number of close calls. And we're having some now even. Again, it's not something that makes the front page of the newspaper, but it's something to be concerned about.

    ... So when we look at the future and we realize that the hottest years of the past, where we had, by the way, big crop production problems, will in the future be the coldest years. Then we can begin to understand that we're going to really face a lot of trouble. It's projected that by mid-century, half of the cropland of more than than half of the countries in Africa will be in a climate regime that has never before been experienced by agriculture. So we're headed towards climates that are pre-wheat, pre-rice, pre-corn, even pre-agriculture. And I think that, you know, what that's going to do is it's going to put together new assemblages of species where species are already on the move.

    So we're going to be growing crops surrounded by new pests and diseases in New climate conditions with different soil microorganisms, different rainfall patterns. And this is going to, I think, create a lot of uncertainty and surprises and heightened risk in agricultural systems and an increased vulnerability among people who are already food insecure. And the take-home message is that our crops don't come pre-adapted to new conditions. They are domesticated crops. Think about that word, domesticated. They've entered the domicile. Their evolution is in our hands.

    Here is a point for the Herald editorial board and for others to consider: that we may be dealing with the impact of sea level rise in the future, requiring massive expenditure of tax dollars, at the same time as food insecurity -- as a result of climate change -- creates instant emergencies and civil disorder. As Fowler, and many other observers have noted, climate change has already played a major factor in the wars in Syria, other drought-impacted regions of the Mideast and Africa. Civil disorder driven by climate change is already in our domicile.

    We are all living on borrowed time, but as climate change reality emerges, we begin to see the amount we borrowed could break the collective bank.

    With global warming, civilization is skating on the edge of bankruptcy. It doesn't seem so, today. Our supermarkets aisles are flush with food and choices, but anxieties are not misplaced: it is the reason climate change has risen to the top of global worries ... just not yet in the wealthiest nation on earth, the United States, where voters continue to be mislead by FAKE NEWS Fox and carefully planned strategies of the world's most powerful polluters, their "think tanks" and false idols.

    Time for voters to wake up? Yes. Let's hope the awakening starts in Florida. That would be rough justice.

              The Odes of Solomon        
    The Odes of SolomonBy Lattke, Michael

    £55.99   01 Jun 2009   Hardback   Fortress Press

    Known until the 18th century from fragmentary quotations and references in patristic literature, more recent discoveries of Greek, Coptic, and Syriac manuscripts have drawn fresh interest and attention to the Odes of Solomon, a collection of Christian poetry from the second century rich in imagery and exhibiting an exotic spirituality. Renowned expert on the Odes, Michael Lattke, provides a meticulous translation and discussion of the textual transmission of the Odes, along with judicious commentary on the place of the Odes in the development of Gnosticism, Logos theory, and Christian worship.

              Disappeared Palestinian-Syrian software developer reportedly executed        

    Syrian government gave Bassel Khartabil’s family no word on his fate for nearly two years, despite global campaign for his freedom.

              BANG BANG: Dave McDougall        
    [BANG BANG is our week-long look back at 20!!, or "Twenty-bang-bang," or 2011, with contributions from all over aiming to cover all sorts of enthusiasms from film to music to words and beyond.]

    Selected 2011 discoveries, briefly noted and across various media by Dave McDougall.


    Homeland —— the characters on this show run deep; their history and demons are as much a driver as the twists of plot. Which certainly helps Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis and Morena Baccarin act their asses off. Allegiances don't shift as much as they are gradually revealed; even though the audience isn't only in the headspace of Danes' rebellious CIA agent, everything is filtered through the line between the watchers and the suspects, and the further into each world we're given access, the more complicated the line between terrorist and hero. This isn't a war of ideas as much as a war between wounded people who've sided with ideas, and those wounds are what drive both the terrorists and those trying to stop them. This week's showstopping season finale toyed with heavy political and personal dénouement and teased an even greater moral complexity to come. If there's a better show on television right now, I'd like to see it. 

    The Color Wheel (Alex Ross Perry, 2011) —— A masterpiece, a perfect screwball comedy, and a vicious, misanthropic, prickly little thing. What Ignatiy said, and then some.

    And two other filmic masterpieces-to-be-named-later that also tackle communication (and shared histories) between men and women, on which I'll have more to say in the Mubi year-end roundup.


    Governments toppled, not by social media but by people going to the streets to battle for their due. But the dynamics of open source protest and new media communication flows were a big part of why this was the year that kicked off an #ArabSpring, an indignado movement, a global coalition of #Occupy protests. It's not just coordination of protests but the ability for knowledge flows to reveal the silent political preferences of a people, and to rally supporters to the cause. None of these movements were created by the emergence of social media -- all grew out of previous organization by activists on the ground, over years and decade -- but it's hard to deny that these movements could only coalesce through communication, and that new forms of one-to-many communication smooth the friction of reaching out to wide audiences. 


    As the 2008 financial crisis has shifted to become a crisis of solvency and liquidity in the Eurozone, the economic intelligence of the left-ish political blogotwittersphere rises almost as fast as events shift; but the key insight is that, unlike the people-powered movements and revolutions mentioned above, the fate of all of our economic lives still hangs in the balance of deals to be cut in back rooms by power brokers. Which, as those same movements will attest, is the opposite of democracy. If the revolutions of Egypt or Libya or Tunisia (or Syria or Bahrain or Yemen, if you're looking for revolutions-in-the-making) were best revealed by the participants themselves in 140 characters (or 140 character updates, compiled), then the stories of our economic dilemmas have been best told by those savvy enough to get to the bottom of capital flows and reveal these inner workings via blogs, articles, and interviews, whose links were embedded in 140-character updates themselves. Information, in all its forms -- pictures, videos, charts, analysis, stories from the front lines -- move and flicker and flow just the ways frames do in the cinema. For me, these were a few of the sources that made the leap to essential in 2011, from the MENA uprisings to the Econopocalyse and the social movements pushing back:


    Among all the books and blogs and analysis, an epic cornerstone of how to even begin to think of how we got here — David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years. 

    David McDougall is a writer, filmmaker, and media strategist based in London and Los Angeles. He's got blogs and films and words in various places, some of them on the internet. He twitters here.

              By: Laura        
    So what happened to Zakah when it comes to Saudi Arabia rich people and Syrian refugees? I also wonder if they read this blog and try to help the people here who asked for help. Oh wait a minute nope they are too busy burning money and cohorting with sinners.
              Marketing to Extremists: Waging War in Cyberspace        

    04/08/2017 Andrew Byers Social Media

    This article was originally published by the Small Wars Journal on 9 July 2017.

    Online, the Islamic State is a technologically savvy, sophisticated, and nimble organization that learns from its mistakes and from the actions of the Western intelligence services and NGOs that have sought to counter it. It is no secret that past and current efforts to reach potential terrorists before they can become radicalized and committed to a path of jihad and terrorism have proved inadequate. To use the language of online marketers, countering ISIS’s online activities will require quality content disseminated on a massive scale, with careful product placement. Placing counter-messaging products into platforms and forums that extremists frequent will increase the chances of potential terrorist recruits coming into contact with narratives outside of ISIS’ control.

    ISIS’s cyber efforts have paid off; the FBI told Congress in July 2016 that “the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.”[i] The number of foreigners who have been inspired by the Islamic State’s online propaganda to travel to Syria and Iraq (or elsewhere) and participate in the fighting is unclear, but most estimates place the tally at more than 20,000. Others have been set on the path of radicalization by ISIS’s online propaganda and have become “lone wolf” attackers in the United States or in Europe.[ii] Demographically speaking, the people who ISIS is most interested in targeting for recruitment came of age in the twenty-first century as “digital natives”; they have lived their entire lives surrounded by ubiquitous online communications and have embraced it in technologically sophisticated ways.[iii] ISIS knows how to appeal to these potential jihadis. Reaching them with counter-messages will require a sophisticated and multi-faceted approach.

    America’s public and private sectors must commit the resources needed to carry out this counter-messaging, though we must understand that such an information war cannot be won in a short period of time, but rather, must be carried out resolutely and patiently, even in the absence of quantitative metrics of success. For example, how will we assess our effectiveness, when one measure of success is how many potential jihadis did not decide to carry out lone wolf attacks or travel to Syria? This is an entirely new and different kind of fight from any we have been engaged previously. Even without quantitative measures of effectiveness fully fleshed out, we can use scale, quality content, and product placement to improve current efforts to shape–and hopefully win–the online propaganda wars to come.

    Understanding Our Options

    In terms of quality counter-messaging content, the State Department–the lead U.S. agency in this fight—has already acknowledged its past failures in content production. Notably, it has acknowledged that it may not be the voice best-suited to convince Middle Eastern or Muslim recruits to turn away from the path of terrorism. The State Department’s Global Engagement Center has pivoted away from producing content, and instead now supports the efforts of localized “proxies,” thereby supporting other voices that understand the context, culture, and push/pull factors that resonate within Muslim communities.[iv] It is not only government entities involved in this struggle; various NGOs also participate in counter-jihad content creation, drawing upon former extremists, notable academics, and a multitude of languages.[v]

    The West’s efforts to date have mostly created a series of reactive, ineffective counter-narratives that potential jihadis dismiss. We advocate for precision messaging; for example, past efforts by State Department entities have mined public social media data to identify individuals who may be susceptible to extremism and then pay for YouTube ads that counter extremist messaging. But we don’t need to mine public data to put counter messaging into the world of potential recruits. The United States must become aggressive and proactive in its anti-Islamic State online activities: it must immediately move to hijack the group’s own narratives and create alternatives.

    When it comes to scale, the current efforts by the United States and its allies are merely a drop in the ocean of ISIS’s material. If ISIS posts nearly 100,000 messages each day, as the British House of Commons Defence Committee stated in 2015,[vi] then countering their content will take a significant amount of internet traffic or else we risk being drowned out. This component cannot be ignored or understated. Current counter-messaging efforts are not achieving enough volume to warrant a response by would-be extremists, let alone to spark an actual conversation or debate among extremists. If we have quality content and we know where to put it to reach potential recruits, we still cannot reach enough people without massively increasing the current volume of counter-messaging efforts.

    When it comes to proper product placement for the counter-messaging, the best way to decide where and how to reach recruits is by watching ISIS itself. ISIS has had to transition from various platforms throughout its years of recruitment, including Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram. ISIS’s supporters take an active role in finding new platforms, spreading propaganda, and shepherding others along to new sites and procedures. It is not uncommon for followers to post specific instructions on where to post or how to manipulate different platforms’ terms of service to remain undetected or prevent accounts from being shut down. As they communicate best practices to each other, they create a trail for analysts to follow and instructions for counter-messaging units in order to put counter content where recruits will see it, even if this sometimes results in informational “misfires.”

    The opportunities afforded by focusing our efforts on these approaches are manifold. If we are able to effectively erode the Islamic State’s ability to use propaganda to inspire self-directed attacks in the West, it would be forced to expend its resources and personnel on directed attacks in the West if it wishes to continue such operations. Sending Islamic State operatives into the West to carry out attacks there is a much more difficult and costly proposition, and one that is vulnerable to the West’s traditional strengths in intelligence and counterterrorism.

    A Starting Point

    We have compiled a list of some of ISIS’s known recruitment practices, along with specific recommendations for ways that counter-messaging organizations could take advantage of them. This list is not meant to be comprehensive or static, but rather to serve as a starting point that could be executed immediately and without excessive cost or effort.

    Keeping Followers as Twitter/Telegram Accounts are Shut Down: As Twitter has improved its process of shutting down Islamic State accounts, its supporters have devised strategies to maintain their network of followers from one account to their next. The most popular method is to simply add a number to their Twitter username and then to increase that number each time they are shut down and begin a new account. Thus, for example, followers of @Muslimah6 could find her on her new account @Muslimah7 after Twitter shut down her account. This method of maintaining followers has been adapted for Telegram as well. The Islamic State’s unofficial news channel “Khilafah News” is left public, meaning that new users can always find it. But this also allows Telegram to shut it down at any time. The administrators of Khilafah News add a number to the end of their channel’s invitation link and increase this number every time the previous channel is shut down by Telegram. It is important to remember that Islamic State recruiters want to be found in order to effectively recruit new members. This nomenclature pattern allows them to do just that. But more importantly, it creates an opportunity for those creating alternative narratives to put their content on a Telegram channel or a Twitter account that they know Islamic State supporters will follow. New iterations of the Khilafah News channel could be created, knowing that once Telegram shuts down the last Khilafah News channel Islamic State supporters would follow the new fake channel, believing it to be authentic Islamic State channels and increasing the likelihood that a recruit would be exposed to counter-messaging.

    The Islamic State’s Hashtags: Since it began disseminating propaganda on social media, the Islamic State has embraced the power of hashtags. In 2014 it famously hijacked World Cup hashtags in English and Arabic in order to spread its propaganda and shock social media users who may not have been previously exposed to such messages. The group has also advertised hashtags for supporters to use when tagging and finding new propaganda. Just as the Islamic State hijacks popular hashtags, counter-messaging teams can utilize the group’s own hashtags when posting content on social media. This will put alternative narratives in the same social media conversation as the Islamic State’s propaganda and will increase the chances that a recruit would receive facts about the group. The U.S. government has begun to take tentative steps in this direction, but such efforts could be vastly expanded.

    Promotion and Marketing: The Islamic State disseminates small propaganda pieces daily, but its larger propaganda pieces take more time. In order to build hype, the Islamic State typically advertises with multi-lingual “trailers” for large upcoming pieces. Dissemination of the pieces generally occur days later, but there is no set schedule. Upon dissemination, the group posts its videos on YouTube, social media, and various self-publishing sites. Teams that produce content to counter the Islamic State must have videos ready for dissemination at all times. Then as new Islamic State’s trailers begin to appear on social media, the counter-content can be disseminated first under the same name as the propaganda that the Islamic State is advertising and it must be placed on all of the sites that the group uses. Recruits will be checking frequently for the release and the Islamic State will actually be advertising and promoting pieces that could pull recruits away. This would effectively drown out the Islamic State’s content while increasing the likelihood that recruits see alternative narratives.

    Take Advantage of Platform Restrictions and Features:Not all of the Islamic State’s content is violent and grotesque; it produces some content that does not show any violent images or videos whatsoever. This allows the content to be played on news programs and for it be posted on YouTube. Knowing that the Islamic State works to keep its content available on major publishing sites, counter-narrative agencies must do the same. If a recruit searches for the name of a popular propaganda video on YouTube or an equivalent site, counter-content should appear with the same name. Video creators can even pay to promote their content so that it tops a search list. A greater understanding for how various platforms choose the order of their search results would help counter content receive just as many hits, if not more, than Islamic State propaganda.

    Maintaining YouTube Channels: The Islamic State has a carefully structured propaganda structure. It has central marketing agencies that run video content, radio broadcasts, and written publications. These “federal” programs are represented within each wilayat, or province, as well. Each wilayat produces its own multilingual videos and publications that are often featured in publications from the central agencies. Islamic State supporters have advanced this model even further. There are several known propaganda groups that support the Islamic State but are not run by official Islamic State employees. Supporters make their own content and publish it on YouTube, Twitter, Telegram, and various other social and self-publishing sites. Like the Islamic State’s agencies, they have their own calligraphic logos and follow predictable but evolving patterns. “Al-Haqq” is one such Islamic State-affiliated group that runs its own Telegram channels and YouTube accounts. It would be simple to create a YouTube account called “Al-Haqq,” utilizing the group’s logo and publishing content that appears to be Islamic State videos. In reality, these videos could contain counter-messaging content with the same names as known extremist productions.

    In adopting these methods, even potential jihadis who are adept at hiding their identities or degree of radicalization would come into contact with alternative narratives that may cause them to question the narratives ISIS feeds to its supporters.  It is important for analysts who study ISIS’s dissemination of propaganda to remain in constant contact with those working to counter ISIS’s messaging, helping the latter to evolve along with ISIS and other extremist groups. While we are currently scrambling to combat ISIS’s propaganda campaigns in the cyber domain, learning to develop the necessary approaches now will allow us to excel in future cyber wars with other extremist groups. Without a new strategy for winning the information war, the West will always be reactive and on the defensive as it struggles to compete with the Islamic State for the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world. Most importantly, if we can create an adaptive and empowered cyber effort now, we will be better equipped for the terrorist groups that will learn from and advance the work that the Islamic State is doing now. Future jihadi organizations that come after the Islamic State can be expected to be even savvier users of social media and similar communications venues. Unless the West learns to use social media with the same level of sophistication, it will continue to lose the information war and fall further behind.

    End Notes

    [i] Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director for the FBI’s National Security Branch, testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, United States Senate, July 6, 2016,

    [ii] Daniel Byman, “How to Hunt a Lone Wolf: Countering Terrorists Who Act on Their Own,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 96, No. 2 (March/April 2017): 96-105.

    [iii] Marc Prensky,” Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” On the Horizon vol. 9, no. 5 (October 2001): 1-6.

    [iv] Joby Warrick, “How a U.S. team uses Facebook, guerrilla marketing to peel off potential ISIS recruits,” Washington Post, February 6, 2017,

    [v] Representative NGOs include the Counter Extremism Project, Families Against Terrorism and Extremism, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. For examples of their work, see “Counter Extremism Project Unveils Technology to Combat Online Extremism,” Counter Extremism Project, June 17, 2016,; “Watch & Share,” FATE,; Jonathan Russell, “Helping Families to Safeguard from Extremism,” FATE,; “One to One Online Interventions: A Pilot CVE Methodology,” Institute for Strategic Dialogue, April 2016,

    [vi] UK Parliament, “The Situation in Iraq and Syria and the Response to al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq al-Sham (DAESH),” February 5, 2015,

    About the Authors

    Andrew Byers is a visiting assistant professor of history at Duke University who has served as an intelligence and counterterrorism analyst and is a co-founder of the Counter Extremism Network.

    Tara Mooney is a counter-violent-extremism analyst and co-founder of Talon Intelligence. She is also a co-founder of the Counter Extremism Network

              EU contributes 2.3 million euros to fight against chemical weapons in Syria        

    Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director-General Ahmet Üzümcühe recently announced that the European Union (EU) has donated 2.3 million euros to the organization's work in Syria.

    The EU has been working against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction due to the United Nations Security Council resolution. As a result of the resolution, the Joint Investigative Mechanism was developed to find individuals and groups who organize or carry toxic chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. 

    Overall funding is for a 4.6-million-euro special missions program for the republic, split between the the OPCW Fact Finding Mission and the Joint Investigative Mechanism. The funds, donated to the Mechanism's Voluntary Trust Fund, will be used to pay for materials and technical problems, appreciated by the head of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, Virginia Gamba.

    This decision is part of the EU's commitment to fighting chemical weaponry in Syria, alongside member states.

              FIDE Newsletter July 2017        

    official logo

    FIDE Grand Prix Series was held in Geneva, Switzerland from 5th to 16th of July 2017

    Teimour Radjabov emerged clear winner of the FIDE World Chess Grand Prix in Geneva after sharing the point with his nearest follower Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final round. Radjabov earned 20.000 EUR and 170 Grand Prix points for the clear first place. Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk took 13.500 EUR and 105 GP points each.

    Radjabov gp2017

    In the overall Grand Prix standings Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is leading with 340 points, while Grischuk is second with 316,4. They have completed three events each and will cautiously await the results from the final 4th leg.


    Radjabov jumped through to the third place with 241,4 points. Ding Liren on 240 and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on 211,4 can also hope to earn one of the two qualifying spots for the Candidates Tournament.

    Official website

    Photo gallery

    European Senior Team Chess Championship 2017 took place in Novi Sad, Serbia from 24th of June till 4th of July 2017.

    The Serbian team became European champion in the "50+" section European Championships for seniors. The title was brought by the grandmasters Miloš Pavlović, Goran M. Todorović, Siniša Dražić and Nenad Ristić and international master Zoran Arsović.

    European Senior Team Chess Championship

    Second place get to the team of Italy, which had three grandmasters in their team composition, and the third place went to team of Sweden. Particularly interesting is the fact that for the Swedish team successfully played the Swedish ambassador in Serbia, His Excellency Jan Lundin.

    In the 65+ section the team of Russia, for which are playing the legendary grandmasters Sveshnikov, Vasyukov and Balashov made amazing result of all eight victories, and took the first place. The Danish team was the second, and Belgium, after they lost match in the last round against Russia, took third place.

    Official website

    Panamerican Youth Championship 2017 took place in Costa Rica from 30 June 2017 till 7th of July 2017.

    Panamerican Youth Championship 2017

    Total medal counts at PanAm Youth Championships:

    USA 4 Gold, 5 Silver, 6 Bronze = 15 medals
    Peru 2 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze = 7 medals
    Canada 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze = 5 medals
    Venezuela 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze = 3 medals
    Colombia 1 Gold, 1 Bronze = 2 medals
    Argentina 1 Gold
    Chile 1 Gold
    Mexico 1 Silver
    Bolivia 1 Bronze

    Lopez Rayo Santiago COL
    Mishra Abhimanyu USA
    Prestia Sebastian USA

    U8 girls
    Vidyarthi Omya USA
    Maravi Ceron Ayme PER
    Qu Greta CAN

    Li Eric USA
    Atanasov Anthony CAN
    Gao Marvin USA

    U10 Girls
    Contreras Fiorella PER
    Wong Allyson USA
    Wang Ellen USA

    Chasin Nico Werner USA
    Galaviz Medina Sion Radam MEX
    Flores Quillas Diego Saul Rod PER

    U12 Girls
    Perez Hernandez Vicmary C. VEN
    Yellamraju Ambica USA
    Matute Escobar Roxanny VEN

    Liu Aristo S USA
    Nakada Akira W USA
    Titichoca Daza Daniel BOL

    U14 Girls
    He Emma CAN
    Zeng Sheena USA
    Ehsani Yassamin L USA

    Varacalli Francisco ARG
    Ramirez Gonzalez Mauricio VEN
    Liang Albert USA

    U16 Girls
    Gomez Barrera Javiera Belen CHI
    Mostacero Velarde Isabella PER
    Caballero Quijano Mitzy Mishe PER

    Song Michael CAN
    Cori Quispe Kevin Joel PER
    Quinonez Garcia Santiago COL

    U18 Girls
    Cosme Contreras Trilce PER
    Wang Constance CAN
    Cervantes Landeiro Thalia USA

    Panamerican Youth Championship 2017 2

    Official website


    North American Youth Championship 2017 was held in Morristown, NJ, USA from 12th to 16th of July 2017.

    North American Youth Championship 2017 2

    A record-breaking 357 players from the United States, Canada and Mexico descended on the historic American Revolution town of Morristown, NJ, to compete in the North American Youth Chess Championships from July 12th to 16th. Sponsored by the Chess Tech, Continental Chess Association’s Darcy Lima, the International Chess School’s Michael Khodarkovsky and in Association with New Jersey Chess Federation and United States Chess Federation, the tournament had 12 sections with girls and open sections from under 8 to under 18. International Arbiters Steve Doyle, Eduard Duchovny and Ken Ballou have a staff of New Jersey State Chess Federation officers and staff: Hal Sprechman, Jim Mullanaphy, Jabari McGreen and Noreen Davisson. IA Steve Doyle, a legend on the chess scene, former President of USCF and Vice President of FIDE conducted the Tournament together with Tournament Directors GM Darcy Lima and Michael Khodarkovsky.

    Final Standings 

    Asian Zonal 3.1 took place in Tehran, Iran from 29th of June till 8th of July 2017

    20 players (18 from Iran, 1 from Syria, 1 from Iraq) took part in the women`s section. Mobina Alinasab, a youth player from North of Iran, won the golden medal; Sarasadat Khademalsharieh and Mitra Hejazipour were second and third.

    Asian Zonal 3.1

    30 players (28 from Iran, 1 from Syria, 1 from Iraq) took part in the Open section. GM Amirreza Pourramezanali achieved Gold Medal. IM Aryan Gholami and GM Pouya Idani took silver and bronze medals.

    Sponsor of Federation and this championship is MCI (Mobile Telecommunication Company).

    Official website

    African Individual Chess Championships 2017, African Rapid and Blitz Championships took place in Oran, Algeria from 1st till 13th of July 2017

    45 players (and 18 players) among which the best African players, including a member of the top 100 the Egyptian GM Bassem Amin (Elo 2684) and Ahmed Adly, ex-junior world champion Elo on 2598. All the participants representing 8 countries (Algeria, Egypt, Zambia, Angola, Tunisia, Republic Centers African, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast) greeted the perfect organization and the good conditions of play in the international hotel "Assala" situated in the city center.

    African Individual Chess Championships 2017

    GM Amin Bassem from Egypt won the African Individual Championship. Daniel Cawdery from South Africa shared the first place but came second on the tie-break. Adly Ahmed from Egypt finished on the third place. 3 Egyptian players occupied the stage in women's section: WGM Mona Khaled won the championship, while Wafa Shrook and Wafa Shahenda took silver and bronze medals.

    Amin Bassem

    Rapid Championships: Amin Bassem (Egypt) won another golden medal, Adly Ahmed (Egypt) came second and Hesham Abdelrahman (Egypt) was third.

    Amin Bassem 2

    Wafa Shahenda (Egypt) was the best one in blitz, Esperance Caxita (Angola) and Amina Mezioud (Algeria) came third.

    Blitz championships:
    Adly Ahmed (Egypt) won blitz championship, Mohamed Haddouche (Algeria) was second and Phiri Richmond from Zambia was third.
    Wafa Shrook (Egypt) was the strongest in blitz. Amina Mezioud (Algeria) took the silver medal, while Mona Khaled (Egypt) came third.

    Commonwealth Chess Championship 2017 took place in New Delhi, India from 2nd till 10th of July 2017.

    Commonwealth Chess Championship 2017 2

    Grandmaster and former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta (india) came up with an inspired performance in the final round to crush Aleksander Wohl of Australia and annexed the gold medal in the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2017. GM Vaibhav Suri (India) won the silver while the bronze medal went to GM Tejas Bakre (India). WGM Swati Ghate (India) became the Women Champion.

    Commonwealth Chess Championship 2017 3

    Players from 15 countries including some from South Africa and Kenya have registered for the nine-day long events. The championship had over 550 registered players in various categories spanning from under-8 till open. There were 16 Grandmasters and 13 International Masters in the fray apart from five more Woman Grandmasters.

    Official website

    Asian Schools Chess Championship 2017 and Asian Schools Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships were held in Panjin Lianoing, China from 20th till 30th of July 2017.

    Chinese Chess Association under the auspices of the Asian Chess Federation and World Chess Federation, organized the event in high-standard playing hall and hotel, earning unanimous acclaims from more than 700 participants from 23 countries and regions in Asia.

    Asian Schools Chess Championship 2017 3

    China won 10 gold medals, Uzbekistan won 8 gold medals and Philippines won 7 gold medals.

    Yuruultei Batbaatar MGL
    Nurgaliyev Sauat KAZ
    Kiaan Agrawal IND

    U7 Girls
    Tselmuun Dorjsuren MGL
    Ruzimatova Afruzabonu UZB
    Zhumagali Raian KAZ

    Xie Kaifan CHN
    Chen Muye CHN
    Huang Yishi CHN

    U9 Girls
    Chen Yining CHN
    Dela Cruz Daren PHI
    Azzaya Amarbat MGL

    Wei Yaqing CHN
    Rakhmatullaev Almas UZB
    Zhou Xiangru CHN

    U11 Girls
    Omonova Umida UZB
    Kriti Mayur Patel IND
    Withanarachchi W A Vinoli One SRI

    Peng Shunkai CHN
    Wang Zideng CHN
    Arfan Aditya Bagus INA

    U13 Girls
    Cai Boheng CHN
    Khegay Yuliya UZB
    Liuviann Cecilia Natalie INA

    Nanayakkara J A K Saranath SRI
    Lin Yi CHN
    Tan Jun Ying MAS

    U15 Girls
    Rasyid Nur Aini INA
    Mordido Kylen Joy PHI
    Saparova Sitora UZB

    Pangilinan Stephen Rome PHI
    Sagita Catur Adi INA
    Min Po-Yen TRE

    U17 Girls
    Doroy Allaney Jia G PHI
    Edithso Samantha INA
    Men JiaYi CHN

    All results

              CSU Hosts Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives, March 18 & 19        

    Staged reading produced by Lit Cleveland is part of 2017 Humanities Fest

    Crossing BordersWhen Literary Cleveland put out a call for immigration stories by Northeast Ohio writers, the group was flooded with responses, highlighting both the tremendous contributions of immigrants to the region and the importance of this voice to our cultural heritage.

    Now many of these powerful stories – written by immigrants from Syria, Iran, Colombia, Poland, China, Azerbaijan and elsewhere– will be heard in front of a live audience as part of a staged reading produced with Cleveland State University during the upcoming Cleveland Humanities Festival.

    Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives will be performed Saturday, March 18th and Sunday, March 19th at 7 pm in the Cleveland State University Student Center Ballroom at 2121 Euclid Ave, Third Floor. The events are cosponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and Cleveland State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

    The staged reading of short essays, fiction and poems is directed by Marc Moritz, who has assembled a cast of professional actors to perform the pieces. The stories in the show are provocative, moving, heart-wrenching and funny. The authors address the emotional journey of crossing borders, both literal and metaphorical, and what it means to be both an immigrant and an American.  

    In “The Buttonhook Men,” Jill Sell writes about her Czech ancestors’ uncertain passage through Ellis Island, which could easily have been rejected. “Food and Family,” a piece by Hathaway Brown student Crystal Zhao, tells the story of a second-generation Chinese immigrant bonding with her mother over stories of childhood rebellion. The poem “Genesis” by Daniel Gray-Kontar addresses the journey of African-Americans from the south to northern cities like Cleveland during the Great Migration.

    In the raw “Struggling to Survive,” Syrian immigrant Bayan Aljbawi writes about leaving her troubled homeland for the U.S., an experience she describes as “escaping from one suffering to another: new culture, new country and different language.”

    “My husband, my baby and I were lucky,” she concludes. “The only question left is this: What about too many others who did not get a chance to do the same?”

    And in “American Promise,” award-winning novelist and Case Western University professor Thrity Umrigar – who immigrated here from India over 30 years ago – confronts the current political climate and asks if the U.S. “will be a country that is as small and narrow as its fears” or “as large and glorious as its dreams, as splendid as the hopes of millions of its citizens, immigrant and native born…?”

    The event is free and open to the public but registration is strongly encouraged. For more information, visit


              Syria - to bomb or not to bomb        
    An Open letter to UK Members of Parliament and all in positions of power.

    With a UK Parliament vote on bombing Daesh in Syria (a noteworthy distinction to "bombing Syria") looming I thought I'd offer my perspective...
    So, to bomb or not? It's easier to bomb... So much easier, than looking at the real problems.
    Much less embarrassing to slaughter innocents in the name of righteousness than to start a program of education...
    It's wrong to teach your child to seek friends only from your own religion.
    It's wrong to teach your child being gay is evil.
    It's wrong to teach your child that they belong to a group of people who are more special than any other human group.
    It's wrong to keep or trade slaves.
    It's wrong to shun unbelievers.
    It's wrong to impose your standards of faith on another but abhorrent to inflict it on your child.
    It's wrong to expect any child of the UK to be brought up as if they were living in a different country(by way of imposing old country's culture)
    It's wrong for every other mandatory medieval value and viewpoint imposed on the faithful by the same fantasy fiction from which Daesh directly draws its medieval death-cult narrative to be imposed on a child.
    It's impossible to ignore the central cause of Daesh; The Qur'an's message of paradise for those who slay they who cause mischief in the land will always be a source of jihadis; while Islam exists unedited it will always generate those who desire its promised paradise. Let's be honest, the strict medieval sharia imposed by Saudi Arabia and the medieval Daesh are exactly the same sharia. And, by way of the same measure of honesty, it's impossible to convince an atheist that if she would just blow up innocent humans and herself up while saying "magic words" paradise awaits her.

    Close faith schools; they are the absolute antithesis of integration. It is an unbelievable kowtowing to religious privilege that even one exists. This is not "Islamaphobia"; I would advocate similar ethical neutering of the equally vile and supremacist tomes, the Torah and New Testament. The most peaceful answer is to make religious practise an adult only activity. In very few generations the problem would be gone.

    Unfortunately, as what people pretend happens after they die is so much more important than saving innocent lives, it will be so much easier for everyone who feels compelled to pretend in the supernatural, to unload TNT and watch the body count rise. Yeah, much less embarrassing. And, while the ways and mindset of pretending has everyone's balls in a sling, the mountains of flesh and lakes of blood sacrificed to this childish folly will roll on unending, staining our future with myriad blood feuds just as it has stained our past.

    However, education will do nothing to eradicate the threat of those who have had their minds set against us and, while our liberal democracies exist, those educated by the frighteningly many theocratic sympathisers of Qur'anic inspiration to hate all that we are will be coming.
    Take the fight to them by all means, limit collateral damage wherever you may, but equal resources must be allocated into countering the medieval supremacist narrative couched in peaceful garb that is the true legacy of all the Abrahamic religious doctrines. If you're gonna have a revenge tantrum and bomb the shit out of someone's uncle and auntie's neighbourhood, it's probably best to first educate their nephew and niece here, who may hold sympathy with the target's ideological foundation, or you will just be building an army within.

    This is one of the Too Many Questions
    Please leave a comment - Anything will do
    The best communications are often,

              Museums and refugees        
    German museums have put forward an initiative that goes beyond the aspect of mere utility. Indeed, museum visits are organized, on an ongoing basis, for refugees who have just arrived, after a terrible exodus, from the Middle East, to see treasures from these newcomers’ countries of origin. Hence, visits for Syrian and Iraqi are organized by the Pergamon Museum in Berlin to see a collection of extraordinary pieces brought back from Asia Minor by German archaeologists at the end of the 19th century: monumental buildings,...

    Lire la suite de Museums and refugees
              On Cloth Scraps, Syrian Names Are Immortalized in Rust and Blood        
    Strips of material that a former prisoner smuggled from Syria are now being lent to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for an exhibition in Washington.
              Feature: Braving Cancer Amid the Chaos of Syria        
    As the conflict grinds on, parents of sick children face a wrenching choice: to risk traveling for treatment, or to risk forgoing it.
              War-Crimes Prosecutor, Frustrated at U.N. Inaction, Quits Panel on Syria        
    The panel said the resignation of Carla del Ponte, who said she hoped her departure would nudge the world body to act, would not stop its work of compiling evidence of atrocities in the conflict.
              Syrian Christians Afraid        
              Watersysteem uit tijd Assyriërs ontdekt        
    Archeologen hebben bij Rosh Ha-Ayin, in het midden van Israël, een groot watersysteem gevonden onder de resten van een boerderij uit de tijd van de Bijbel. Dat heeft de Israëlische Oudheidkundige Dienst donderdag bekendgemaakt. De boerderijen werden vermoedelijk gebouwd na de verwoesting van het Koninkrijk van Israël (het Tienstammenrijk) in 720 voor Chr.  De Assyriërs heersten […]
              Don't Let Your Enemies Count Their Chickens Before Their Hatched!        

    I love this story – 1 Kings 20:1-30 – Benhadad the king of Syria sent a message to the king of Israel and said this, “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.” In other words, “Hand it all over – game over – I’m calling the shots.” Ahab the king of Israel calls in the elders and asks their advice. Finally King Ahab makes this retort to Benhadad, “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.” There are a lot of dynamics going on in this chapter but I want to just focus on King Ahab’s reply to Benhadad: “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.” What is he actually saying? King Ahab is saying “just because someone makes threats (i.e. straps on his armor) – this isn’t synonymous with winning the victory (i.e. taking his armor off).” Wow!

    Now for the practical application – how is your enemy threatening you? Is it a person, institution, thought, emotional issue, physiological issue, or spiritual issue? What are these things/people telling you? Is a co-worker or employer telling you that you’ll never succeed at climbing the corporate ladder? Have teachers, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, or other authority figures expressed doubt in your personal abilities? Have emotional and/or physical scars from past or present abuse hindered you from feeling like a “normal human being?” Have these scars lied to you and told you that you’ll never be the person that you wanted or dreamed of because of these ghosts of your past? This list can continue on indefinitely – hopefully by this time you can connect the dots yourself to the people or things that are threatening you – and furthermore, declaring a victory against you that doesn’t have to be guaranteed.

    It’s not a surprise that the “devil” is referred to biblically as the “accuser of the brethren.” Constantly trying to devalue us within our own minds and lives – this is the psychological warfare the devil revels in – and how many times do we listen attentively! A person once expressed their frustration with how every time they tried getting their life “straightened out” all hell would break loose. I told them I was extremely encouraged by this! Since when, does an enemy fight against something (or someone) who is not a threat! Only dead fish go with the flow – but for those trying to get somewhere, the adversity of the current will bombard them every step of the way.

    To summarize, don’t allow these “threats” from various people, thoughts, experiences, traumas, etc. tell you that you’ve been conquered – when the fact is that victory is still in your hands. King Ahab went on to be victorious against the onslaught of Benhadad. Why? Because Ahab refused to listen to the intimidation and threats of an enemy and rather trusted in God’s word. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Fight on!

    Kevin Mills

              Forced Into Marriage, Syrian Teen Engulfed by Abuse and Trauma        
    As her family was fleeing Syria, one mother thought an arranged marriage for her 11-year-old daughter was a chance at safety. Instead, it opened the door to devastation, according to a doctor who met them at her clinic and tells what she observed.
              Donald Trump Told The Russians Israel Was Able To Hack ISIS Computers        

    Donald Trump leaked a classified Intel about ISIS to the Russians when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyakvisited visited the White House. According to New York times, Donald Trump told the Russians some classified information that was obtained by Israel after it hacked into a ISIS cell of bombmakers based in Syria.


    According to a U.S official, the Intel that was gathered allowed the U.S to learn that ISIS was working on explosives that could fool airport security by passing as a laptop battery. The information prompted a ban of laptops from all Muslim countries coming to the United States and Britain.

    The information was classified, and was shared by Israel to the United States, and was not supposed to be shared around, but Donald Trump leaked this information when the Russian diplomats came to the White House, which could then be leaked to Iran.

    There has been close working relationship between the U.S and Israeli intelligence agencies, allowing for sharing of information, including the disclosure of sources and methods. The cooperation had yielded great result including the disruption of Iran nuclear program.

    The American officials under former President Obama warned the Israeli intelligence to be careful of the information they shared with Donald Trump.


              â€˜Not One Step Back!’: TQILA-IRPGF Communique (Rojava / Syria)        
    The current social revolution in Rojava (Western Kurdistan – Syria) is one of the greatest beacons of militant self-organized and autonomous revolutionary praxis of the 21st Century. Within a brutal civil war in Syria that has cost upwards of half … Continue reading
              Syrian Town of Arbin Picks Up the Pieces After Deadly Airstrike During Truce        
    "This act is in violation of international norms and laws, a breach of the ceasefire agreement."
              The Afternoon Sound Alternative 03-16-2017 with Jim Jobson        

    Nina Simone- Revolution - Anthology
    Oddisee- Thats Love - The Good Fight
    Femi Kuti- Truth Don Die - Shoki Shoki
    - voicebreak -
    Charles Mingus RZA- II BS - Impulsive Revolutionary Jazz Reworked
    Dubblestandart- Im A Warrior feat Saria Idana - Woman In Dub
    Various Artists- Matt Cook James Joyce - United States Of Poetry
    Psyco- Mr President - Single
    Odyssey- Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love - The Complete Motown Singles Vol 12B 1972
    Cat Power- Peace And Love - Sun
    - voicebreak -
    Kiwi Twist- Viva La Revolution - Groove On Earth Selected By DJ Nartak
    Flowering Inferno Quantic- Make Dub Not War Making Dub - Death Of The Revolution 7 Single
    Stevie Wonder- Soul Train The Vibe Conductors Afrobeat Blues For Don - Vibe Conductor Vol 1
    Tri Sestry- Mercedes Benz Give Peace A Chance - 15 Let Jsem Na Kovarne Na Plech
    Various Artists- King Kong Cast Sad Times - Amandla
    - voicebreak -
    Beirut- My Familys Role In The World Revolution - Lon Gisland EP
    Mala- Revolution - Mala In Cuba
    Dub Gabriel- Battle Of The Righteous - Anarchy Alchemy
    The Pretenders- Message Of Love - Pretenders II
    Homeboy Sandman- Speak Truth feat Kurious Breeze Brewin Aesop Rock - Kindness For Weakness
    Sonoro Machaca- I Wont Do What You Tell Me - Senora Mamacha EP
    - voicebreak -
    Jota Karloza- Om flute Edit - Om We Are Made Of Love Part 1
    Indigo Moon- Brothers And Sisters Of The Revolution - Lucid Earth EP
    Rev Sekou The Holy Ghost- The Revolution Has Come - The Revolution Has Come
    Galliano- Rise And Fall DJ Krush Remix - 12
    Various Artists- DJ VadimSarah Jones Your Revolution - Zen CD A Retrospective
    - voicebreak -
    Orlando Julius- Love Thy Neighbour - Jaiyede Afro with The Heliocentrics
    Khruangbin- People Everywhere Still Alive Remixes - People Everywhere still Alive Remixes
    FIREHOSE- Brave Captain - Ragin FullOn
    Jos James- Warrior - Blackmagic
    - voicebreak -
    Infantry Rockers- Rebel Waltz - Shatter The Hotel A Dub Inspired Tribute To Joe Strummer
    Antibalas Afrostreet- Ja Joosh feat Rich Medina - Rich Medina Presents Jump n Funk Vol 1 incl Mix
    Dub Traffik Control- Rebel - Bstrd Boots 4 Special Edition
    - voicebreak -
    Syriana- Love In A Time Of Chaos - The Road To Damascus
    Broken Puppets- Devils Of Digital - Slick City Shit 15 Years Switchstance
    The Revolutionary Eseibio The Automatic- Impeach The President - Freedomuvspeech
    - voicebreak -
    Celt Islam- Revolution Inside Us Celt Islam Meets Masala - Sufi Dub
    Captain Planet- On Yer Feet - Speakin Nuyorican Ep
    Fr33dom People Rise Ashen- Choose Love - 15 Years Of Balanced Records
    - voicebreak -
    Speakerphonic- Soul Freedom - Manifest Tone
    Joe King- Speak On Up - Eccentric Soul The Prix Label
    - voicebreak -
    Various Artists- Anga Diaz A Love Supreme - World Circuit Presents

    playlist URL:
              The Afternoon Sound Alternative 11-16-2016 with Yukari        

    Thomas De Hartmann- Prayer And Despair - The Music Of Gurdjieffde Hartmann
    Thomas De Hartmann- Night Procession - The Music Of Gurdjieff De Hartmann
    Melanie Monsur- Assyrian Women Mourners - Bridge To The Unseen
    Olof Arnalds- Vinur Winn - Innundir Skinni
    Trent Reznor Atticus Ross Gustavo Santaolalla- Before The Flood - Before The Flood Music From The Motion Picture
    West Papua Poeple- Bird Of Paradise - Sound Of The Morning Star
    Mogwai- Like Herod - Special Moves
    John Trudell- Cleasing Song - Tribal Songs
    - voicebreak -
    Mew- Comforting Sounds - Frengers
    Delerium- Zero - Mythologie
    Derek Minor- Live - Reflection
    Dub Gabriel- Spirit Made Flesh feat Karen Gibson Roc - Anarchy Alchemy
    Leonard Cohen- Anthem - The Essential Leonard Cohen
    - voicebreak -
    The Veils- Total Depravity - Total Depravity
    Frank Zappa- Cosmik Debris - The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life Live
    Air Traffic Controller- Warrior - Black Box
    Mtisse- Nomahs Land - Nomahs Land
    Clairaudience- Walker Street - Clairaudience
    - voicebreak -
    All India Radio- Four Three - Once A Day
    Lowell- The Bells - We Loved Her Dearly
    Lady Of The Sunshine- Big Jet Plane - Smoking Gun
    The Accidentals- Bulletproof Glass - Bittersweet
    Plastic Tree- Downpour Rushing Sound - Nega And Posi
    Source- Untitled - Return To Nothing
    Buckethead- BCI Mix - Bci Mix

    playlist URL:
              micdotcom: Here’s how the residents of Manbij, Syria celebrated...        


    Here’s how the residents of Manbij, Syria celebrated after the city was freed from ISIS

    On Friday, US-backed forces succeeded in driving Islamic State militants from the town of Manbij, Syria. Residents immediately took to the streets to celebrate their newfound freedom, burning long black robes and shearing off the unruly beards they had been forced to wear during the occupation. Removing the radical group from the city was a lengthy process.

              6 stories the media isn’t writing about the election        
    View image | Bombs, bread or blind-eyes? Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen… there’s a long list of countries where international military intervention is likely to continue during the 2015 Parliament, even without factoring in the likely impact of events, dear boy, events in adding yet more countries to the list. So how are the […]
              18.11.17 20:00 Uhr - Nürnberg - A.E.R.A. - Quartett        
    Tickets erhältlich unter:

    A Syrian-Bavarian Connection
    Die beiden syrischen Musiker Ehab Abo Fakhir und Abathar Kmash kamen im Januar 2016 nach München und haben es in kürzester Zeit geschafft, die hiesige Musikszene zu beleben. Initialzündung war die Begegnung mit dem experientierfreudigen Multiinstrumentalisten Ardhi Engl im TamS-Theater. Zusammen mit dem Schlagzeuger und Percussionist Rudolf Roth, der sich ebenfalls schon seit vielen Jahren mit der Verbindung von arabischer und westlicher Musik beschäftigt hat, gründeten sie das A.E.R.A.-Quartett. Gemeinsam gelingt Ihnen ein ganz eigener spielerischer Brückenschlag: die Verwebung europäischer Klassik und sogar bayrischer Volksmusik mit arabischen Elementen, dazu Originale aus dem vorderasiatischen oder sephardischen Raum, verfremdet und angeregt durch die experimentellen Instrumente und Ideen Ardhi Engls oder das " Special-Drumset" Rudolf Roths - das alles lässt eine authentische, spannende und zugleich berührende Musik jenseits jeglicher Klischees entstehen.
    Abathar Kmash - Oud
    Ehab Abo Fakir - Viola
    Rudolf Roth – Percussion, Drums
    Ardhi Engl - traditionelle und experimentelle Instrumente

    Türkisches Büfett ab 18 Uhr (9 €/ Person)
              IQ, exaggeration, and overrepresentation        
    Sargon‏ @Sargon_of_Akkad
    Has the alt right come to terms with the fact the Jews are just better than they are?

    Greg Matusow @gregmatusow
    sounds like something a jew would say

    Sargon‏ @Sargon_of_Akkad
    Sounds like something a race realist who depends on IQ scores to say, you mean.

    Supreme Dark Lord‏ @voxday
    Your metric is incorrect, Sargon. First, there are 48 high-IQ Han, 11 high-IQ Europeans, and 5 high-IQ Japanese for every high-IQ Jew.

    Sargon‏ @Sargon_of_Akkad
    Of course, but that's only because of population size.

    Supreme Dark Lord‏ @voxday
    Obviously. But you cannot claim they are not overrepresented in X because intelligent when there are 64 more intelligent non-Jews per Jew.

    Supreme Dark Lord‏ @voxday
    Second, average Jewish IQ is only 98, not 115.
    Israel IQ = 95
    Arab IQ (22.7%) = 84
    Jewish IQ (77.3%) = 98
    Now, it occurred to me that while I knew the oft-heard claim of a 115 average IQ for Jews was a misleading substitution of a subset for the set, and I had also observed that the claim was almost certainly an exaggeration in light of the average Israeli IQ of 95, I'd never actually run the numbers. The first thing was to update the population percentages according to the latest Israeli demographics, which currently has the Jewish population at 75 percent and the non-Jewish population at 25 percent.

    This resulted in an average Israeli Jewish population IQ of 98.7 percent, slightly higher than my original calculation. Now, the Ashkenazi are 47.5 percent of the Israeli Jewish population, which means that if their average IQ is 115, the majority of the Jewish population of Israel has an average IQ of only 83.7, which is TWO standard deviations lower, and is also lower than the average IQs of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, as well as Nigeria, Uganda, and the Israeli-Arab population.

    Does that strike you as likely? No, me neither.

    There is one Israeli study that found the difference between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi Jews in Israel to be 14 points. This would indicate an average Ashkenazi IQ of 106 and a non-Ashkenazi IQ of 92. This is considerably more credible, especially since it also happens to align with a number of studies on Ashkenazi IQ. Given that 74 percent of the global Jewish population is Ashkenazim, that means that the average Jewish IQ is 102.4.

    So, average Jewish IQ is not particularly high, but is slightly higher than the European average, and considerably higher than the current US average, which I calculate to be around 95 and falling. Which, of course, is why high average intelligence is an inadequate explanation for the historical Jewish success in 20th-century America, as their level of comparative success is declining even as the IQ delta grows.
              The Afternoon Sound Alternative 06-13-2014 with 99 & Barry        

    Dave Pike Set- Mathar - Noisy Silence Gentle Noise
    Dengue Fever- Hold My Hips - In The Ley Lines
    Francis Bebey- La Condition Masculine - African Electronic Music 19751982
    - Cleopatra - Studio One Ska Fever
    Pelican Daughters- Subcutaneous Scrimshaw - Fishbones Wishbones
    Jonathan Coulton- When Im 25 Or 64 - Thing A Week One
    - Theme From The Monkees - Spy Magazine Presents Vol 3
    - voicebreak -
    Galactic- Wild Man - YaKaMay
    Fantasma- Ghost Town feat Manu Schaller On Theramin - Fantasma City
    Brunk- Puppeteer - A Simple Guide
    Oshiri Penpenz- Opium - The White Album
    Sublime Frequencies- Radio Excerpt Thailand - Leaf Music Drunks Distant Drums
    Elisabeth Waldo And Her Concert Orthestra- Ritual Of The Human Sacrifice - Rites Of The Pagan Mystic Realm Of The Ancient Americas
    Geese- Tundra Bean - Ep
    Desi Arnaz And His Orchestra- Tabu - Babalu
    Ennio Morricone- Ricreazione Divertita - Crime And Dissonance
    - voicebreak -
    TuneYards- Time Of Dark - Nikki Nack
    Mr Scruff- Render Me feat Denis Jones - Friendly Bacteria
    DJ Spooky- Duality - The Secret Song
    Raya Brass Band- Cell Phone Song Sajzerski oek - Dancing On Roses Dancing On Cinders
    Ibibio Sound Machine- The Tortoise - Ibibio Sound Machine
    Various Artists- Arai Arai Kor Disco - Thai Funk Zudrangma Vol1
    - voicebreak -
    Medeski Martin Wood Nels Cline- Los Blank - Woodstock Sessions Vol 2
    John Cage Langham Research Centre- Imaginary Landscape No 5 - Cage Early Electronic Tape Music
    Matmos- Lipostudio And So On - A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure
    Juicy Panic- Im An Elephant - Otarie
    - voicebreak -
    Miles Davis- Maiysha - Agharta
    Syriana- The Road To Damascus - Real World
    Delia Debyshire- Falling - Inventions For Radio Dreams

    playlist URL:
              Why Are Civilian Deaths in Iraq and Syria from U.S. Airstrikes Up 60% Under Trump?        
    Today, I have an

              Kepentingan Iran menyusup ke Indonesia melalui Syiah        

    Seandainya saja ajaran Shiah tidak muncul, maka sampai kapanpun tidak akan ada peperangan antara Shiah vs Sunni di Indonesia. Menurut apa yang saya amati, sepertinya ada suatu golongan di Indonesia yang ingin memperkeruh suasana, salah satu caranya yaitu menyebarkan ajaran Syiah di Indonesia dan pengikutnya dinaikkan jumlahnya. Pertumbuhan Syiah di Indonesia sepertinya tidak lepas dari peran Iran, yang telah memberi ribuan beasiswa untuk para santri dan ulama melakukan study Islam Shiah. Pertumbuhan Syiah yang demikian cepat ini semakin subur karena fatwa yang masih melegalisasi Islam aliran Shiah oleh MUI untuk hadir dalam kehidupan Islam di Indonesia.
    Seperti dalam tulisan saya sebelum ini, perlu kiranya saya sampaikan bahwa Amerika, Yahudi dan apalagi kaum Nasaro sebenarnya tidak ada sangkut pautnya dengan perpecahan dalam tubuh Islam.
    Walau secara kasat mata aliran Syiah di Indonesia belum terlalu menonjol, tetapi harus diwaspadai bahwa aliran Syiah kini sepertinya sudah masuk menyusup jauh ketingkat level atas pemerintahan dan juga MUI. Hal ini dapat dilihat dengan belum dikeluarkannya fatwa yang mengharamkan aliran Syiah di Indonesia. Ini berbeda dengan aliran Ahmadiah yang fatwa haramnya telah dikeluarkan. Tanpa campur tangan MUI, saya khawatir bahwa Shiah akan berkembang pesat di Indonesia yang akan mengambil alih fungsi MUI sebagai kepanjangan tangan kepentingan Syiah dan pemerintah Iran yang akhirnya akan mendominasi Islam di Indonesia.
    Hingga saat ini MUI masih diisi oleh ulama-ulama yang beraliran Sunni tetapi mereka sebenarnya tidak anti-Shiah. Sepertinya ada unsur kepentingan dibalik sikap MUI yang masih bertahan untuk tidak mengeluarkan fatwa haram aliran Syiah. Kalau menurut pengamatan saya, mungkin ini ada hubungannya dengan kucuran dana dari Iran terhadap banyak lembaga-lembaga Islam di Indonesia. Atau bisa jadi karena MUI masih terpengaruh akan tekanan lembaga HAM International atau bisa jadi juga campur tangan pemerintah Amerika atas nama HAM. Itulah sebabnya mungkin, para imam Sunni di Arab Saudia menuduh Shiah itu antek Amerika, dan sebaliknya tuduhan yang sama pun dilemparkan Shiah kepada Sunni.
    Keduanya, shiah dan sunni tetap merupakan musuh bebuyutan. Tapi karena shiah itu minoritas, maka mereka berusaha merebut umat dulu. Cara-cara shiah berbeda strateginya dengan cara Sunni. Sebagai minoritas, Shiah mengajak semua Islam untuk bersatu tanpa membeda-bedakankan aliran. Sebaliknya, Sunni yang mayoritas berusaha memagari umatnya agar jangan menyeberang ke Shiah, oleh karena itu cara-cara ekstreemlah yang digunakan. Para imam Suni di Arab dan Mesir membuat propaganda-propaganda yang memburuk-burukkan citra aliran Syiah. Syiah mereka cap sebagai aliran sesat dan memperingatkan para umatnya agar jangan terjebak oleh rayuan Shiah. Dimana-mana umat Sunni melakukan teror-teror berdarah terhadap shiah, upacara-upacara keagamaan Syiah diganggu dan dibuat menjadi tidak nyaman.
    Indonesia memiliki umat Islam terbesar jumlahnya didunia dan meskipun tampak sebagai aliran Sunni tapi sebenarnya Islamnya sendiri masih abu-abu, tidak jelas. Oleh karena itu, Indonesia merupakan target utama Iran untuk menyebarkan alirannya di Indonesia dengan berbagai kerja sama dan beasiswa. Sepertinya hal ini memang berhasil, dikarenakan masyarakat muslim di Indonesia masih gampang dipengaruhi oleh harta dan segala sesuatu yang sifatnya gratisan. Mengapa Iran menganggap bahwa Islam di Indonesia masih abu-abu adalah karena kaum muslim di Indonesia itu sebenarnya tidak mengerti ajaran Islam yang sebenarnya, Islam di Indonesia sudah tercampur baur dengan budaya Indonesia – jadi sudah tidak murni lagi.
    Dengan langkah kebijakan agen rahasia Iran, diharapkan bahwa dalam beberapa tahun kedepan diyakini aliran Shiah akan mendominasi dunia Islam. Secara perlahan, seluruh negara-negara Arab sepertinya sudah disusupi aliran Shiah yang siap mengambil alih pemerintahan di masing-masing negara. Hal ini seperti menjadi kekhawatiran pemerintah Arab Saudi, sehingga mereka baru-baru ini telah memutuskan untuk melakukan pembelian besar-besaran 200 pesawat tempur F15 dengan nilai lebih dari US$30 milyard. Hal ini merupakan antisipasi terhadap pengaruh Syiah-Iran yang akan menghabiskan Islam aliran Suni dari muka bumi. Kekhawatiran ini juga karena diisukan bahwa Iran juga memiliki bomb atom.
    Salah satu yang paling mengesankan adalah perkembangan Islam Shiah di Mesir. Mulanya dibentuk organisasi Ikhwanul Muslimin oleh imam-imam Sunni, kemudian dengan issu mempersatukan Islam seluruh dunia ternyata imam-imam Sunni pendiri Ikhwanul Muslimin beralih menjadi Islam Shiah. Sekarang penganut Sunni dalam organisasi Ikhwanul Muslimin cuma 20% karena secara de-facto 80% anggota organisasi ini dikuasai oleh ulama-ulama yang punya pandangan aliran Islam Shiah (walau mereka mengaku sebagai aliran Islam Suni). Puncaknya, adalah pada pemilu kemaren di Mesir, 60% jumlah suara dikuasai oleh Ikhwanul Muslimin. Shiah sudah mengembangkan sayapnya dari Syria, Jordania, Libanon dengan Hesbollah-nya, hingga Palestina dengan Hamas-nya.
    Kalo menganggap akidah Shiah dan Sunni bisa diseragamkan sudah jelas mustahil karena kedua aliran ini sudah muncul sebagai musuh sejak nabi Muhammad masih hidup dimana pengikut Sunni mendukung Aishah sebagai isteri tersayang nabi Muhammad, sebaliknya Shiah adalah umat pendukung nabi Muhammad dan keluarganya.
    Semoga Islam bisa berdamai sehingga tidak terjadi perpecahan. Cara satu-satunya adalah supaya setiap pemeluk diajarkan untuk saling menghargai perbedaan, memandang perbedaan sebagai bunga-bunga kehidupan.

              U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, Versus Drone Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia        
    Yesterday, U.S.

              Slavery uniquely American? Hardly        
    Too many people believe that slavery is a “peculiar institution.” That’s what Kenneth Stampp called slavery in his book, “Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South.” But slavery is by no means peculiar, odd or unusual. It was common among ancient peoples such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Armenians and many others. [...]
              Syrian Asylum Seekers Arrested for Filming and Molesting Underage Girls        

    Four Syrian asylum seekers were arrested by police in the German town of Löbau after they filmed and molested underage girls at a swimming pool. Police arrested the group of Syrian asylum seekers at the Herrenmannsbad outdoor swimming pool on Friday. Two of the men, aged 31 and 27, are said to have filmed several underage girls [...]

    The post Syrian Asylum Seekers Arrested for Filming and Molesting Underage Girls appeared first on Knights Templar International.

              Food-starved Syrians are switching meat for mushrooms        
    Mushrooms are not a common crop in Syria. With government blockades creating food shortages, however, Syrians in embattled rebel strongholds like Douma are increasingly turning to mushrooms as a substitute for meat. As years of drawn-out sieges place meat and other staples of Syrian cuisine beyond reach, The Adala Foundation, a local nonprofit, began brainstorming alternatives. "We turned to cultivating mushrooms because they're a food that has high nutritional value, similar to meat, and...
              Future Aleppo and The Battle for Home        

    A Syrian boy hand-built a model of what his hometown might look like after the country’s civil war, and now “Future Aleppo” is on display in Los Angeles.

    Read More

    The post Future Aleppo and The Battle for Home appeared first on Design & Architecture.

              Ethics: Syrian Refugee Family Moves Into Your Neighborhood        

    Advertise here with Beacon Ads

    What would you do Wednesday! There is a lot of division over whether or not the United States should receive Syrian refugees who have been driven from their homes by ISIS – radical Islam. While there is some balance in the discussion, much of debate seems a black and white, yes or no response. Like it or not, some of the refugees are being settled here in America. What if a refugee family moved into your neighborhood? You have just finished reading news reports that there is a vetting process in place that attempts to ensure the refugees are not radicals ...keep reading »

    The post Ethics: Syrian Refugee Family Moves Into Your Neighborhood appeared first on Here I Blog.

              Pastor Robert Jeffress On the Paris Attacks and Radical Islam        

    Advertise here with Beacon Ads

    Dr. Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Dallas, shares his view of how Christians should respond to the Paris terrorist attacks. He addresses the government’s role in protecting its citizens and how radical Islam (ISIS) should be bombed. In this short clip, it is not clear that Jeffress shares his thoughts on every aspect of the Paris attacks including its effect on the refugee crisis. Christians, per Romans 13, expect the government to seek justice on radicals like ISIS et al. Yet, caught in the middle are thousands of Syrian refugees who have been driven from their homes. These refugees ...keep reading »

    The post Pastor Robert Jeffress On the Paris Attacks and Radical Islam appeared first on Here I Blog.

              Syrian refugee regional plan remains 91% underfunded: UN        

    Geneva: Two UN organisations on Tuesday warned of low funding for their ongoing support operations for Syrian refugees.

    A statement released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Geneva said of a $4.63 billion pledge made in January, only $433 million or nine per cent funding has so far been achieved, Efe news reported.

    "The situation is getting desperate," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement. "we are already seeing children who aren`t able to go to school, families who cannot access adequate shelter or provide for their basic needs."

    The statement coincided with a gathering of world players in Brussels for the Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.

    As the Syrian conflict entered its seventh year, there were over five million Syrian refugees living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, in addition to those who have made the dangerous journey to Europe and farther.

    The statement said that overall, some 13.5 million people were in need of assistance, including 6.3 million within Syria itself.

    The UN statement said that "without additional funding, all areas of assistance will be curtailed this year. Food and cash assistance will be reduced or cut by mid-year, challenging stability and security in the region."

    The note also warned that with most Syrian refugees falling below national poverty lines, families would face the impossible choice of taking their children out of school, adding to the half a million children already missing out on education.

    The international conference slated for Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels is co-presided by the European Union, the UN, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the UK.

    News Source: 
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              Turkey Protest March        
    Huge crowds have joined a 450 kilometre anti-government march from Ankara to Istanbul. It has been organised by the opposition CHP party and was prompted by the imprisonment of one of their MPs. Also in the programme: A ceasefire in south-western Syria, and Russia's Bolshoi theatre cancels a ballet about Rudolf Nureyev. (Photo: Turkish protest march, July 8, Credit: Getty Images)
              Russian Helicopter Shot Down in Syria        
    A Russian military helicopter has been shot down over Syria, killing all five people on board; Turkey's security forces have captured a group of fugitive soldiers suspected of involvement in last month's failed coup attempt; the president of Taiwan has formally apologised to the indigenous population for centuries of abuse. (Photo: Men inspect the wreckage of a Russian helicopter. Credit: Reuters)
              Israel world's second most lethal country for journalists in 2014, watchdog says        

    Syria topped Reporters Without Borders’ grim league table for 2014, followed by “Palestine.”

              Graham: Assad's Actions Show 'F You' To U.S.        
    Missed Meet the Press? Catch highlights from our interviews on all sides of the debate about Trump's missile strike in Syria. #ComPRESSed
              McCain Pre-Strike: Conflict in Syria a Chance for Trump to Emerge as World Leader        
    In case you missed it...the top headlines from MTP Daily leading up to the White House's move to conduct airstrikes in Syria.
              Rabbi Wolpe        

    In his most recent book, Why Faith Matters (1), Rabbi David J. Wolpe makes the case for religion and rebuts recent critiques of religion by a quartet of prominent atheists called the New Atheists. (2) This is a book that deserves a large audience among religious and seculars because it is accessible, well-argued, and thought-provoking.

    One of Rabbi Wolpe's main objectives is to defend religion from the charge that religion is the main cause of violence in the world. He argues that violence is due not to religion but to human nature. (p. 43, p. 52) All of us, whether religious or secular, he says, are prone to hostility. (p. 69) The Rabbi concedes that the Crusades, the Inquisition, and 9/11 demonstrate that religion "is capable of great evil" (p. 53), but he insists that seculars who believe that there will be peace without religion are naïve. (p. 71) He notes that most ancient tribal societies were at war continuously (p. 50) and that the great empires in history, from the Persian to the Assyrian to the Greek to the Roman, give us a "chronicle of cruelty." (p. 51) Further, he charges, secular movements have brought explosions of violence, not peace and love. On this score he cites the excesses of the French Revolution and the millions of deaths at the hands of Mao in China, Stalin in Russia, and Pol Pot in Cambodia. (pp. 65-67)(3) Here he is right on target. On the other hand, Rabbi Wolpe is silent on a critical issue: if humans are aggressive by nature, and God is the architect of human nature, doesn't God deserve a measure of blame for violence?

    One part of Rabbi Wolpe's case for religion disappoints me - his use of Bertrand Russell as the poster child of secularism. Russell made important contributions to moral theory, logic, mathematics, and literature, but as the Rabbi properly points out, his private life was a "mess," with four marriages, "proudly proclaimed infidelities," and abandonment of his children. (p. 6) Russell prompted young David Wolpe to abandon his faith for ten years. Later, when the Rabbi discovered that his hero was irresponsible, he concluded that a life without religion is lonely, selfish, and hedonistic. (61) This is a classic case of hasty generalization. Russell is as representative of secularism as pedophile clerics are representative of religion. Has Rabbi Wolpe never heard of seculars such as world class cyclist Lance Armstrong, baseball Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams, media mogul Ted Turner, golfer Annika Sorenstam, investor Warren Buffett, actor Angelina Jolie, TV personality Andy Rooney, composer Irving Berlin, inventor Thomas Edison, computer entrepreneur Bill Gates, and countless others, whose talent, service, and generosity have enriched lives near and far?

    Rabbi Wolpe's book also includes a series of insightful criticisms of what he views as the overblown attempt by the New Atheists to explain all human behavior through evolutionary theory. For instance, he argues that if, as Richard Dawkins holds, the key to human behavior is the drive to reproduce our genes, why do wealthier families who can afford many children have so few, and why do so many women opt for abortion when adoption is available? (p. 30)

    Whether you are religious or not, you'll find much of value in David Wolpe's Why Faith Matters.


    1. See David J. Wolpe, Why Faith Matters, HarperOne, 2008, with a Foreword by Rick Warren. References to this book herein are by page number. Wolpe is not alone in replying to the new atheists. Among other replies is John F. Haught, God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens.
    2. He specifically identifies Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. See Sam Harris, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation; Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion; and Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.
    3. He also mentions Hitler's Germany as an atheist regime (p. 67) but that is debatable.

    © 2009 Tom Shipka

              In Vermont Town, Refugee Resettlement Debate Costs Mayor His Job        
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Resettling refugees has proven to be a divisive subject across the country, including in Rutland, Vt. It's a city of 16,000 which this year became home to a handful of Syrian refugees. And as Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck reports, the refugee question may have just cost the mayor his job. NINA KECK, BYLINE: Last April, Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras surprised many when he announced that he wanted Rutland to become Vermont's newest refugee resettlement community. It was the right thing to do, said Louras, who believed welcoming Syrian families would provide much needed youth and diversity to Rutland. But many locals weren't convinced. Believing the mayor negotiated the plan in secret without voter input, many pledged to oust Louras in the next election. That election came yesterday, and challenger David Allaire's message of trust and transparency resonated. A longtime member of the city's Board of Aldermen, he turned anger
              Vermont Mayor Seeks Syrian Refugees To Help Boost Small Town's Economy        
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Now to Vermont, and a town where the mayor is seeking Syrian refugees. Just last week, the first two of possibly 25 refugee families arrived in Rutland. It's a blue collar town of about 16,000 people. Refugee advocates worry that the Trump administration could suspend refugee programs at any time, just as Trump promised to do during his campaign. Some in Rutland would favor that, while others say the town needs the infusion of diversity. Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck reports. NINA KECK, BYLINE: The first two families arrived quietly at night - four adults, five kids, all exhausted - we're told. The media was not invited, and reporters were asked to be sensitive to the family's privacy. Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras, who's been a champion of resettlement, helped both families move in. CHRISTOPHER LOURAS: As our new neighbors - fleeing for their lives, coming to a new home a half a world away to rebuild those lives - they
              Ù…دافعان حرم در مقابل ویرانه های سوریه        

    در نمایشگاه بین المللی کتاب تهران در سال ۱۳۹۵ بازدیدکنندگان می توانستند در غرفه ی عکس «شهدای مدافعان حرم» با پوشیدن لباس و تجهیزات نظامی در مقابل تصویری از ویرانه های شهری در سوریه عکس یادگاری بگیرند. خبرگزاری جمهوری اسلامی که ناشر این تصاویر است این عکس ها را «مجازی و معنوی» توصیف می کند.

    The post مدافعان حرم در مقابل ویرانه های سوریه appeared first on ShahreFarang.



    Date: 2016-11-17

    And it's not for humanitarian reasons. This video needs to be circulated far and wide, so please do what you can to make that happen, and subscribe to SyrianGirlpartisan; links are below. Thank you.

    The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
              Debunking the Western Media’s Coverage of the War on Syria        

    Debunking the Western Media’s Coverage of the War on Syria

    By: Daniel Espinosa Winder
    Date: 2016-10-16

    The most prestigious newspaper in Peru is no more than another mouthpiece for power. But this shouldn´t surprise anyone familiar with mainstream media and its propagandistic role in our society.

    Sadly, most people remain unaware of this reality and still approach this kind of media for understanding on the appalling problems of contemporary life. For them there are real news: you will find no such understanding in El Comercio.

    We will consider the Syrian conflict because it’s an ongoing issue with massive coverage to analyze. The fact that mainstream media (MSM) in Peru, as elsewhere, import its articles from Big Media and their agencies around the world does not, of course, release them of the responsibility to verify everything they publish and therefore endorse.

    Let´s imagine ourselves taking half an hour of our busy lives to seek information in MSM regarding Syria, in order to learn what’s been happening there for the last five years. What could be better than an article titled: “Seven questions to understand what is happening in Syria”? (, 09/24/16).

    Read more »
              Air Strikes against Syria: Who are the War Criminals? Who is Supporting Al Qaeda? Russia or America?        

    Air Strikes against Syria: Who are the War Criminals? Who is Supporting Al Qaeda? Russia or America?

    By: Prof. Michel Chossudovsky
    Date: 2016-10-07

    America is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda under a humanitarian mandate. The unspoken agenda is to undermine the Liberation of Aleppo. 

    The pretext and justification for these actions are based on America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the “moderates” in Aleppo from Syrian and Russian attacks and bombing raids.

    On October 3, the US State Department announced the suspension of bilateral relations with Russia pertaining to Syria (see document below), in response to which, France’s foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault was called upon to intermediate at the diplomatic level. 

    Pointing his finger at Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Jean Marc Ayrault casually accused Moscow of crimes against humanity, “La France est indignée”  (France is  indignant).  

    In turn, the Western media (including segments of the “Left” alternative media) went into overdrive, accusing Russia of killing innocent civilians, demonizing president Putin;, and more significantly ignoring the devastating impacts of  Obama’s (2014-2016) fake “counterterrorism campaign” implying extensive and routine bombings of both Syria and Iraq over a period of more than two years. 

    Initiated in Summer 2014, Operation Inherent Resolve’s real objective is to “protect the terrorists”. 

    Read more »
              Comment on A Balloon in Syria by enochsvision        
    This image is 19 by 22 inches in size. I took two snapshots yesterday of simple flowers that grow on vines in my backyard and also used a old photograph of one of my children --from when he was very little, and considerably altered to blend with the textures and colors I was trying to express. In one sense, I've never really finished any image. War is futile and senseless. There is only One message that can make a difference.
              Comment on A Balloon in Syria by Diane Mathias        
    Ah Cary, A balloon within a ballon, a "feign within a feign" (Herbert). Your work is poignant and poised to speak truth. Thank you
              The Meteorite Shower over Lebanon – a Russian Missile Launch?        
    New information is surfacing regarding yesterday’s meteor shower over Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Israel/Palestine and Armenia. It seems as if the whole thing was not mother nature’s doing. Instead, it was mother Russia flexing its military muscles. This video shot in Syria shows the “meteorite” as following a spiral trajectory, which is not possible for a […]
              Boko Haram        
    Despite the headlines about Syria and ISIS, the number one terrorist group is Boko Haram in Nigeria.

    StrategyPage has a long detailed post on that war, and on the multinational African forces that are fighting them. Things are improved partly because the new president is fighting some of the terrible corruption.

    and then we have this:

    :The UN revealed that there are now over 2.2 million refugees from Boko Haram violence. In addition several hundred thousand people in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon have also been displaced by Boko Haram violence. 

    hmm...haven't heard much about these refugees, but I suspect if you look closer, a lot of those "Syrian" refugees will turn out to be fleeing Nigeria or Saharan terrorist groups. And of course these Saharan groups make money by smuggling drugs and refugees from Europe.
              Gratitude - TEDX Conference   
    Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.

    As a visual artist, Louie has created some of the most iconic and memorable film moments of our time. He is an innovator in the world of time-lapse, nature, aerial and "slice-of-life" photography - the only cinematographer in the world who has literally been shooting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week continuously for more than 30 years.

    Louie was recognized as one of the top 70 Cinematographers for the On Film Kodak Salute Series. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

    Louie is credited by many with pioneering the contemporary stock footage industry by founding Energy Film Library, a global company with a network of 12 foreign offices, which was acquired by Getty Images in 1997. Motion picture clients of his cinematic artistry include Sex in the City, The Bourne Ultimatum, Die Hard 4, Syriana, Crash, Men in Black and classics such as American Beauty, Koyaanisqatsi and E.T. among others.

    Louie went on to found BlackLight Films, a creative production company specializing in producing original theatrical feature, large format films, HD and TV programming.

    In 2004, BlackLight Films completed production of the theatrical feature film, America's Heart &Soul, distributed theatrically by Walt Disney Pictures. In 2006, BlackLight Films completed a series of HD shorts, Louie Films, for the launch of Buena Vista Home Entertainment's Blu-Ray DVD releases. In 2007, the company produced a 1-hour special, Chasing the Light, which aired nationally on PBS.

    Past projects include the 35mm film Seasons of the Vine for Disney's California Adventure Theme Park and a 26-half hour series, America!, for The Hallmark Channel.

    Louie has won two Clio Awards for Best Environmental Broadcast Spot, an Emmy nomination for Best Cinematography for the Discovery Channel Special, Oceans of Air, and the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award for Walt Disney Pictures' feature film release America's Heart & Soul.

    Louie completed production on a feature length nature documentary, Wings of Life, to be theatrically released worldwide, under Walt Disney Pictures' new production banner, Disneynature. The film was released in France (March 2011) under the title Pollen and won the Roscar Award for Best Cinematography at the 2011 Wild Talk Africa Film Festival.

    Louie spoke at the TED 2011 conference in Long Beach, CA and has been a regular presenter at the annual Bioneers Conference in San Francisco. Currently, Louie is in production with National Geographic to produce Hidden Worlds, a 3D Imax film.

    event video by:

              What Exxon Knew About Climate Change        

    By Bill McKibben [Photo: Mikael Miettien.] Wednesday morning, journalists at InsideClimate News, a Website that has won the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on oil spills, published the first installment of a multi-part expose that will be appearing over the next month. The documents they have compiled and the interviews they have conducted with retired […]

    The post What Exxon Knew About Climate Change appeared first on Cyrano's Journal Today.


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              The Refugee Crisis: Separating the Conspiracies from The Conspiracy™        

    By Eric Draitser [Photo: Syrian refugees in Hungary September 4, 2015 (wikimedia).] As the refugee crisis in Europe has come to dominate western media headlines, it has predictably given rise to a complex web of theories, analyses, and politically and ideologically charged omissions and distortions. The corporate propagandists of ‘acceptable journalism’ have presented the issue […]

    The post The Refugee Crisis: Separating the Conspiracies from The Conspiracy™ appeared first on Cyrano's Journal Today.


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              Confidential Charter School Memo Blasted as ‘Outline for a Hostile Takeover’        

    By Deirdre Fulton [Photo: A sign at Sunday’s protest outside the new Broad Museum in Los Angeles. (Photo: Joel Rubin/Twitter)] A California billionaire is enlisting other wealthy backers in a $490 million scheme to place half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District into charter schools over the next eight years—a plan […]

    The post Confidential Charter School Memo Blasted as ‘Outline for a Hostile Takeover’ appeared first on Cyrano's Journal Today.


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              Hey, World, American Weapons Are Available for (Nearly) Everyone While Triggering a New American- Inspired Middle Eastern Arms Race.        

    By Murray Polner [Photo: courtesy] So who won the ‘war’ about the Iran Agreement? Millions were spent for a stream of ads on TV and radio and in major newspapers in the ‘war’ over Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. But one day while clicking through TV’s vacuous channels I picked up a local reporter […]

    The post Hey, World, American Weapons Are Available for (Nearly) Everyone While Triggering a New American- Inspired Middle Eastern Arms Race. appeared first on Cyrano's Journal Today.


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              The Syrian Test of Trump-Putin Accord         

              Paul Craig Roberts "Putin Is All That Stands In The Way Of Israel Destroying Syria & Iran."        

              What next for Eastern Europe?        
    While President Trump tweets, the United States and Russia drift towards war over Syria, and the new Thirty Years War between Shi'ite and Sunni continues on many fronts, another critical drama is playing out in the Eastern half of the European continent.  I find it particularly interesting because it is a replay of the drama I described about 40 years ago in my first book, Economic Diplomacy and the Origins of the Second World War, which is linked at left and available as an e-book.

    For the first few centuries of the modern era the peoples of Eastern Europe lived under large empires.  The Ottoman Empire had reached Europe in the 15th century and eventually included what is now Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Rumania, some of the nations of the former Yugoslavia, and Hungary.  The Tsar of Russia ruled what are now the Baltic States and, by the 19th century, Poland.  The Holy Roman Empire--which in 1806 became the Austrian Empire, and in 1867 the Austro-Hungarian Empire--included parts of Poland and the present-day Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia.  All these peoples, to varying degrees, developed nationalist movements during the 19th century.

    The enormous strain of the First World War proved too much not only for the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, but also for the German Empire.  The Allies--France, Britain, Italy and eventually the US as well--sponsored the claims of some of the national movements in their territory.  In January 1918, in his Fourteen Points, Woodrow Wilson endorsed an independent Poland and autonomy (not independence) for the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.  When those nations collapsed ten months later, various national movements proclaimed new states.

    As the brilliant but eccentric English historian A. J. P. Taylor noted in 1961, the post-1919 settlement in Eastern Europe reflected the astonishing fact that both Germany and Russia had been defeated. Only that allowed for the re-creation of an independent Poland, the new states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia,a larger Rumania, independent Poland and Finland, and the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.  It seemed in 1918-9 that things might go even further and that Ukraine might become independent as well, but the Bolsheviks managed to secure control over it in the Russian civil war.  These states were economically and politically weak.  Nearly all of them initially formed some kind of democratic government, encouraged down that path by the western powers.

    In the short run, several of the new states--Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania--were threatened by Hungary, which had lost huge territories at the peace conference, while in the long run Czechoslovakia and Poland had to worry about a resurgent Germany. France, eager to cement its status as the leading power in Europe, offered all those states some kind of alliance.  Clearly the French would have trouble defending them once the Germans or Russians regained their military strength, but the French were counting on keeping the Germans weak.  The alliances faced no serious threats until after the rise of Hitler.

    By then all these countries had undergone profound political changes.  While all of them had begun as democracies, only Czechoslovakia, Finland and the Baltic States were still electing their governments by the early 1930s--the rest had come under some form of authoritarian rule.  The agricultural states among them, as I showed in my book, came under German influence after 1935 because the Germans, desperate for food, offered them a market for their produce.  In 1938 Hitler managed to destroy Czechoslovakia when the French abandoned their alliance.  In 1939-40, Hitler and Stalin concluded the Nazi-Soviet Pact. They partitioned Poland and the Soviets incorporated the Baltic States.  Hungary and Rumania became allies of Hitler while Yugoslavia was occupied by the Italians and the Nazis.  In 1945,  the whole region (except Finland) came under Soviet occupation and the USSR installed Communist governments.

    The collapse of the USSR in 1991--77 years after the start of the First World War--started this process over again.  Once again, as in 1919, the entire region was liberated from foreign rule.  This time the proliferation of new states has gone much further, with Czechoslovakia and former Yugoslavia giving way to no less than 8 new states, and not only the Baltic States, but also Ukraine and Belarus, becoming independent.  Once again the new states established various forms of democracy.  And once again, powerful nations from outside the region offered them alliances. NATO, led by the US, offered membership to virtually every new state in the region, including the Baltic states--after initially promising the new Russian government not to do so.  The EU also offered many of them membership, choosing to ignore the enormous economic and cultural differences that still divide Europe somewhere around the frontiers of Germany and Poland.

    Germany is no longer an imperialist nation, although it leads the EU and played a key role in its enlargement.  Russia once again went through a chaotic period but by 2000 it was recovering its strength under Vladimir Putin.  He is clearly determined to reassert Russian influence--if not more--over many of the states of the former USSR.  Belarus lost any real independence very quickly, and Putin is actively contesting the West in a bid for influence in Ukraine, and using the Russian military at the border to do so. He also very obviously has designs on the Baltic states, which are extremely vulnerable militarily.  And while Putin cannot offer these states markets the way the Germans did 80 years ago, he can provide them with energy.

    And once again, democracy has proven fragile in Eastern Europe.  Rightist parties now lead the governments of Hungary, Poland, and some of the other states of the region. The governments of the Czech Republic and Slovakia are weak and subject to corruption and outside influence.  These nations face a choice between  western-style democracy--which is having enormous problems in the west--and Russian-style authoritarianism.  It is not at all clear which path they shall take.

    Only a gigantic war settled the question of Eastern Europe's future 80 years ago.  Such a war does not seem in prospect now, but limited wars, such as a lightning Russian occupation of one or more Baltic states, cannot be ruled out.  Russian and NATO aircraft are constantly confronting one another in the region.  The Russians also seem to be using cyberwar against Ukraine, and they may use it elsewhere. To reach a new equilibrium diplomatically would require a level of statesmanship which is not apparent on the world scene.  Nearly thirty years ago, when the Soviet empire collapsed, I commented frequently that this time, Eastern Europe had taken a new shape without a new world war.  Now it seems that the process may involve a larger conflict--albeit of a possibly different kind.
              Did General McMaster Pass his own Test?        

    When General  H.R. McMaster replaced General Ray Flynn as National Security Adviser just a few weeks into the Trump Administration, commentators made much of the book he had written as a doctoral candidate 20 years ago, Dereliction of Duty, and what it boded for his tenure.  Published in 1998, that book argued that the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the mid-1960s had failed to give Lyndon Johnson their honest opinion of what was needed to win the Vietnam War, and that that had led to catastrophe.  As it happens, I was finishing my own book on the origins of the Vietnam War, American Tragedy, at that very moment, and I did not see what McMaster had in the same sources.  The problem, I thought, was not that the Generals didn’t tell President Johnson what they thought, it was that neither the military nor the civilians had a realistic idea of how to win the war.  No one, however, could argue with the principle that he was advocating: that it was essential for military leaders to give their civilian superiors honest and sound military advice.

    Unfortunately, it is not clear that General McMaster, Secretary of Defense (and retired general) James Mattis, and Joint Chiefs’ Chairman General Joseph Dunford—by law the President’s principal military adviser—managed to pass that test during the crisis over chemical weapons in Syria.  Ironically, their retaliatory strike and the ways in which they have defended it are extremely reminiscent of one of the most unfortunate episodes of the Vietnam era, the first major air strike on North Vietnam in the wake of the Tonkin Gulf incident in early August 1964.

    On August 2, 1964, American destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf were attacked by North Vietnamese p. t. boats, who it turned out were acting without authorization from higher authority.  Officially the destroyers were making a routine patrol; in actual fact they were coordinating with a South Vietnamese paramilitary strike against the North, partly to test North Vietnamese radar.  Such attacks had been taking place since early that year, and the Joint Chiefs had anticipated that they might lead to North Vietnamese retaliation and full-scale American involvement in the Vietnam War. Johnson was now preparing for his re-election campaign against hawkish Barry Goldwater, who had already been nominated, and his National Security team had already been waiting for some time for a pretext to introduce a Congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force in Southeast Asia.  In the days after the attack Johnson authorized another South Vietnamese operation against the North and another patrol for August 4, and on the morning of that day, he discussed possible retaliation against the North with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

    The patrol on the evening of August 4, it was later established, did not encounter any North Vietnamese opposition, but at least one destroyer initially reported sonar contacts suggesting that it had.  McNamara and Johnson swung into action without waiting to make sure what had happened, sending an air strike against the base from which the August 2 PT boats had come.  Johnson asked for his resolution authorizing war, and received nearly unanimous support from the House and Senate.  The US took a giant step towards the war that Johnson and McNamara had already anticipated after the election.  In the first week of March 1965 it began in earnest.

    We must now face the possibility that the Syrian crisis, like the Tonkin Gulf strike, is based upon misinformation.  Professor Ted Postol of MIT, a hard boiled skeptic for whom I have great respect, has gone on record that the photographic evidence we have does not support the idea that the gas was dropped from a plane. It does not seem at this point at least that the Administration’s leaders see the strike as a step towards a larger war.  But what is most striking is the very similar way that the two strikes have been justified: as “signals” designed to intimidate and deter the enemy from undertaking further hostile acts.  

    The idea of using military force to signal one’s intentions, and thereby to affect the behavior of adversaries without resorting to full-scale war, was elaborated by an economist, Thomas Schelling, in his book Arms and Influence, which appeared less than two years after the Tonkin Gulf incidents.  This was the era of the Cold War, when American strategists were searching for alternative strategies to an all-out nuclear exchange, and Schelling claimed to have found one. Both the Cuban missile crisis and that retaliatory attack after the Tonkin Gulf incidents, he argued, were “signals” that had persuaded, and might persuade, adversaries not to challenge American power.  He praised the quarantine of Cuba in 1962 and the 1964 bombing as “proportional” moves that would allow an adversary to rethink his strategy without risking all-out war.  That was music to the ears of American policymakers—but unfortunately, we now know, it did not reflect the facts of those cases.

    The reason that Nikita Khrushchev decided to remove his missiles from Cuba, we now know, was that he could not stop the American invasion of Cuba that would have begun within just a few days if he did not—nor could he risk nuclear war against an overwhelmingly superior United States.  We have also learned that the effect of the Tonkin Gulf strike on the North Vietnamese was disastrous.  Until it occurred, Ho Chi Minh—the most diplomatic of all the Communist leaders of the twentieth century—had hoped to work out a deal with Washington that would have avoided war.  But Ho and his government knew what the American people did not—that the second attack for which we had retaliated had not taken place—and he decided, correctly, that the Americans were determined upon war, and that he would therefore give it to him.  The strike did not in the least deter Ho: it encouraged him.  With the help of Chinese and Russian allies, he eventually prevailed.

    It now turns out that the Trump Administration’s decision to warn the Russian government about our impending strike turned it into a completely symbolic act.  The Russians in turn warned the Syrians, who evacuated the airfield, from which they have now resumed conventional attacks.  The Russians have also reaffirmed their solidarity with the Assad regime and stopped the exchange of information with the US government about military moves.  Although Assad may avoid further chemical attacks, the incident will do nothing to change the basic course of the conflict in Syria.  It will only put more pressure on the Administration to take further action as Assad continues to consolidate his power against the rebels.  And indeed, high officials are already talking as if Assad must be removed--something they lack the means to make happen.

    In 2017 as in 1964, the foreign policy establishment has applauded the Administration’s use of force to show American resolve.  This in my opinion is the kind of illusory gain that military leaders should warn civilians against.  President Obama refused to take similar action against Syria because he did not believe American military power could affect the situation for the better.  With Russia firmly behind Syria, that situation remains unchanged.  Symbolic attacks only foster the illusion of American power—the illusion that led us to the greatest foreign policy tragedy of the twentieth century in Vietnam.

              How Quickly Can America Exit Iraq?        
    Yes, the combat mission is over. Yes, U.S. forces don't necessarily have to do anything should intra-Iraqi violence spiral upwards again. But that doesn't mean that the U.S. can go home.

    Hence, the question: If Iraq is the new Lebanon, will the United States play Syria?
              Did somebody say OSCAR?        

    In the same way that when winter comes round you say "Oh the nights are fair drawing in" as if it is some sort of surprise even though it occurs every year at exactly the same time, so do we find ourselves in the midst of the hype and intrigue of the Oscar season. Even though it feels just like yesterday that Jamie Foxx and Hilary Swanky-dress were waltzing off down Hollywood Boulevard clutching their gold statuettes, today saw the anxiously awaited announcement of the nominations for The 78th Annual Academy Awards.

    There were few surprises in the list, as you would expect from an institution with a record of risk-taking right up there with nuclear power stations and Westlife. The real shock for me was the omission of the frankly brilliant Ralph Feinnes for his lead role in The Constant Gardner, The Academy instead opting for the token black nomination for Terence Howard in the hardly awe-inspiring Hustle And Flow. Surely this is insulting the intelligence of black people as well as white, yellow and green folk?

    In any case, the usual suspects are there, with the Spielberg Award Panel in hearty voice for Munich with 5 nominations whilst the worthy Brokeback Mountain picked up a massive 8 nods. An interesting choice is George Clooney's much feted, but yet to be seen on these shores, Goodnight And Good Luck in five categories, including Best Film, with the erstwhile Dr Ross getting recognition with a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Syriana. Also greatly welcome is the hugely under-rated Phillip Seymour-Hoffman (otherwise known as the token chubby guy in countless movies) as a nominee for Best Actor for the upcoming Capote, which also picks up 5 nominations.

    My prediction for that one, however, has to be the simply wonderful Joaquin Phoenix in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line. Best Picture is a tough one but I reckon Brokeback Mountain will scale that particular peak. Best Director? Try Ang Lee for size. It's been a pretty fallow year for Best Actresses so pick one of five for that one whilst I'd love to see either Paul Giamatti or Jake Gyllenhaal nab the Supporting gong.

    But what do you think? The full list of nominations (minus the fiddling with knobs ones, but that could include Brokeback Mountain I suppose) are listed in the comments section for your delectation and debate.

    Happy Oscar season to you all!

              Two Italians, A Muslim Girl & a Pizza Place: In Honour of Syria & San Bernardino        
              Bastille Day 2017: "Operational together"        
    Bastille Day Parade
    13 July 2017

    Bastille Day 2017: "Operational together"

    "Operational together" is this year’s chosen theme for the Bastille Day festivities on 14 July. With the terror threat still looming, cooperation between the Armed Forces and domestic security forces is paramount. The parade is an opportunity to celebrate the commitment of these men and women who, together, keep French citizens safe on a daily basis. The Franco-American friendship and Operation Chammal will take centre-stage, alongside the technological prowess of the French Armed Forces.

    A hundred years have passed since the United States entered World War I

    2017 is the centenary year of America’s entry into World War I, bringing its support to France. The American President will be attending this centenary and tribute will be paid to the U.S. Armed Forces as a sign of this cooperation and the history of Franco-American friendship.
    To open the military parade, the French Air Force aerobatic demonstration team, Patrouille de France, will be followed by the U.S. Air Force air demonstration squadron, Thunderbirds. On the ground, the marching parade will begin with an American joint detachment of 200 servicemen and women, some of whom will be wearing the authentic "Sammies" uniform from World War I.
    The United States and France, partners and allies, are taking action on a number of fronts, including to combat terrorism through the Global Coalition against Daesh in the Levant.

    Operation Chammal centre-stage

    The efforts of French troops serving in the Levant as part of Operation Chammal are also being recognised this year. 114 servicemen and women from three branches of the Armed Forces will be taking part in the parade, illustrating the complementary nature of the means and troops committed in the fight against Daesh.
    Operation Chammal
    Chammal is the name of France’s contribution to the international operation Inherent Resolve. More than 1,200 soldiers are deployed in Iraq and Syria as part of this operation. They are involved in aviation or artillery support missions to assist the ground troops engaged in countering the terrorist group Daesh, as well as training missions for the benefit of the Iraqi security forces.

    1917-2017: a whole century’s worth of technological innovation

    In the limelight during this year’s opening festivities are technological innovations and the necessary efforts given over to planning for the future. The groundbreaking changes that have occurred over the period from 1917 to 2017 will be on show, not least the vehicles and weapons available to the French forces, as will the accomplishments in terms of planning for the future.
    1917 marks the first time French tanks were used in battle. Since then, the Saint-Chamond tank has been replaced with the powerful and mobile Leclerc tank, the only one in the world to be able to fire while travelling at a speed of 50km/h. Technological innovation has been making a key contribution to France’s strategic autonomy throughout the past century: it represents the excellence and foresight of the French Armed Forces.

    The parade will close with a rendition of Nissa la Bella, the city of Nice’s anthem written on 14 July 1903 by Menica Rondelly, performed in memory of the victims of the Nice attack on 14 July 2016.

    The Franco-American Museum at Château de Blérancourt reopens

    After being closed for more than 10 years for renovation, following the discovery of archaeological remains, Château de Blérancour... [Read more]
    23 June 2017

              Trained By U.S., Syrian Fighters Stumble As They Hit The Battlefield        
    A small group of U.S.-trained Syrian fighters entered northern Syria late last month and waited for their mission. They were on a base, with American supplies that included heavy machine guns, communications technology and laser pointers for directing airstrikes.

    These fighters are, in effect, the elite members of a much bigger rebel group called Division 30.

              With Syria's Army Losing Ground, A Boost From Hezbollah         
    The dirt roads on the border between Syria and Lebanon wind across a mountain range dotted with little wildflowers.

    It's windswept and deserted except for a few hilltop outposts with clumps of gray tents, machine-gun nests and flags that fly the green and gold colors of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

    These posts are new.

              Is Bashar Assad Just Losing Some Ground ... Or His Grip On Power?         
    The past few weeks have brought almost daily news of rebel victories in their 4-year-old battle against Syria's President Bashar Assad.

    There was the capture of the crucial Nassib border crossing with Jordan — a key trade route and source of government taxes.

              Syrian Rebels Want To Fight Assad, But Now They'll Face ISIS        
    In the U.S. view, the most serious threat coming from Syria is the self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS. That's why the Pentagon is sending forces to train what it terms moderate Syrian rebel fighters.

    But here's the catch. Moderate rebel commanders say it will be hard to explain this mission to their troops, who took up arms with the aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad, not ISIS.

    The U.S. plan calls for the Americans and their allies to train and equip about 5,000 Syrian moderates. U.S.

              Suspected Israeli Strike Kills Iranian General Advising Syrian Troops        
    Iran says a general in the country's elite Revolutionary Guard was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday that also killed several ranking members of Hezbollah.

    Though these aren't the first Iranians or Hezbollah fighters to be killed in Syria, this incident stands out because these men were on the Syrian Golan Heights, within 10 miles of Israel's northeastern border.

    Iran's official news agency quoted a website for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stating that Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed while in Syria advising Syrian troops.

              With A Son Missing, Family Questions Jordan's Mission Against ISIS        
    In Jordan, the talk these days centers on the fate of the Jordanian pilot who was captured by the self-styled Islamic State after his plane crashed in Syria on Christmas Eve.

    Little is known about the condition of Moath al-Kasasbeh since the extremists tweeted pictures of him, bloody and bewildered, after the crash.

    He was participating in the U.S.-led coalition's bombing raids against the self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS.

              After Making Waves In 2014, ISIS' Power Appears To Ebb        
    In the heat of summer in 2014, Baghdad was spooked. A third of Iraq was under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. The extremist group thrived in the chaos of the Syrian civil war, then surged over the border into Iraq and took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit. People worried the capital might be next.

    Six months on, that's changed.

              There And Back Again For U.S. Military In Iraq        
    Three years after the U.S. military officially withdrew from Iraq, 2,000 U.S. troops are back. They're restoring the old buildings they'd left behind and renewing contacts with Iraqi officers they knew before.

    They're also taking incoming rocket fire at their bases.

    This week began an ambitious training program to put 5,000 Iraqi soldiers through boot camp every six weeks.

    Operation Inherent Resolve was designed by the U.S. to build a coalition of states to strike back against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria. The operation has seen a return of U.S.

              For Syria's President, The Year Ends Better Than It Began        
    At the beginning of 2014, Syrian President Bashar Assad had agreed to send his ministers to take part in negotiations in Switzerland, and his future as Syria's ruler was not looking very bright.

    He was accused of killing tens of thousands of his own people in a civil war that was nearly three years old. The opposition was demanding Assad's ouster. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland and called loudly for a political transition in Syria. He was clear about who would not be involved.

    "Bashar Assad will not be part of that transition government.

              Homs, Syria: Assad Allies Charge Mossad, CIA, Blackwater Link        
    International Business Times  March 8, 2012 The press agency of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement charged Wednesday that the CIA, Israel’s Mossad and private security firms have been exposed supporting Syrian rebels in Homs. Al-Manar, a channel linked to the Shi’ite militia Hezbollah — a close ally of the Assad regime in Syria — asserted that 700 […]
              Hackers Pledging Allegiance To ISIS Take Over Newsweek’s Twitter Account, Threaten Obama Family        
    It appears that Newsweek’s Twitter account has been hacked by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sympathizers known as the Cyber Caliphate.

    • Ever since settlers’ arson last Friday of a West Bank mosque, fears that the Palestinian cause could now take on a more religious tinge and that the conflict could suddenly turn more violent have abounded. [NYT]
    • Having demanded most of it all at once, Western negotiators scoffed at Iran’s proposal to trade little bits of its uranium over a longer period of time. [WSJ]
    • The latest version of health-care reform to hit the U.S. Senate floor hit a major setback last night when Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) decided he would not support it. [Politico]
    • Syrian President Bashir Assad’s little brother died “after a long struggle with a severe illness,” according to reports from the country. [Haaretz]
    • President Shimon Peres will represent Israel at the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen; last week, Netanyahu cancelled his trip, fingering the cost to the taxpayers for his extensive security detail. [JTA]

    Continue reading "" at...

              today's leftovers        

              City of Ghosts Reveals the Syrian Citizen Journalists Fighting ISIS        
    Although we hear news of turmoil in the Middle East and of the jihadist militants known as ISIS every day, the details can easily get lost in a blur of unfamiliar geography and confusing factionalism. Matthew Heineman's powerful new film City of Ghosts helps to contextualize the crisis by focusing on one concentrated area of the overall political tension, a small group of Syrian refugees who have created an underground news network to report on events in their occupied city.…
              Apa kata beliau!!! ISU MESIR         

    Rampasan kuasa tentera Mesir menggulingkan Presiden Morsi memerlukan analisis lebih mendalam, termasuk sejarah panjang pemerintahan diktator negara itu dan latar belakang mengenai liku-liku perit yang dilalui Ikhwanul Muslimin selama hampir 60 tahun.

    Prof Dato' Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman (gambar), Dekan Fakulti Sastera dan Sains Sosial, Universiti Malaya dirasakan tokoh akademik dan pengamat politik Timur Tengah yang paling layak memberikan pandangan terhadap krisis di Mesir. Wakil Harakah, Ahmad Lutfi Othman dan Arif Atan menemubual Dr Redzuan di kediamannya, Sungai Ramal, Kajang, pertengahan Julai lalu.

    Soalan :
    Presiden pertama Mesir yang dipilih rakyat dalam satu pilihan raya yang diakui adil dan bebas telah digulingkan hanya selepas setahun berkuasa. Ada pihak melihat dalang di sebaliknya adalah pihak Barat, terutamanya Amerika Syarikat. Sebagai tokoh akademik yang lama mengikuti politik Mesir, termasuk gerakan Ikhwanul Muslimin, tentu Prof lebih arif tentang apa sebenarnya yang berlaku?

    Jawapan :
    Barat sebenarnya sudah lama merancang untuk bertindak dan menindas gerakan Ikhwanul Muslimin yang ditubuhkan pada 1928. Kejayaan Ikhwanul Muslimin mengambil alih kuasa selepas ditindas lebih enam puluh tahun menimbulkan kegusaran, termasuklah juga rejim monarki di negara Arab yang turut merasakan kedudukan mereka akan tergugat jika gerakan Islam ini berjaya mengemukakan alternatif kepada pelbagai kemelut yang dihadapi oleh umat Arab.

    Untuk memahami apa yang berlaku di Mesir, kita harus meneliti sejarah yang pernah berlaku sebelum ini. Sejarah penindasan ke atas Ikhwanul Muslimin pada 1948-1954 seolah-olah berulang dengan menggunakan skrip sama. Contohnya, pada 13 Julai lalu, berita menyiarkan bahawa Morsi akan disiasat kerana dikatakan terlibat dalam kegiatan yang memcetuskan keganasan. Pendukung Ikhwanul Muslimin yang dibunuh dan dianinya, tetapi mereka pula yang dituduh.

    Nasib yang sama pernah menimpa Ustaz Abdul Qadir Audah, pemimpin Ikhwanul Muslimin yang tersohor yang dijatuhi hukuman gantung sampai mati pada tahun 1954 kerana dituduh mencetuskan keganasan dan terlibat dalam komplot cubaan bunuh ke atas Gamal Abd al-Nasser. Bersama-sama beliau yang turut menjalani hukuman gantung, termasuklah Abd al-Fattah Ismail, Muhammad Al-Faghali, Yusof Talaat, Ibrahim al-Tayyeb dan lain-lain.

    Pada 1966 Sayyid Qutb dijatuhi hukuman gantung. Bukti yang digunakan dan digembar-gemburkan ialah Ikhwanul Muslimin terlibat dalam kegiatan bersenjata dan pelbagai jenis senjata ditemui di pejabat gerakan tersebut. Ini juga perkara yang dihebohkan oleh tentera Mesir dengan mengatakan bahawa senjata ditemui di ibu pejabat Ikhwanul Muslimin di Moqattam dan penemuan tersebut adalah bagi mengesahkan gerakan ini menaja keganasan dan wajar ditindas.

    Tuduhan yang dikenakan ke atas Ikhwanul Muslimin juga hampir sama seperti enam dekad lalu. Bagi mendapat sokongan rakyat tindakan General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi sama seperti Gamal Abd al-Nasser pada 1954, iaitu mengembleng rakyat menyatakan sokongan kepada beliau melalui Hubbat al-Ahrar (Liberation Rally).

    Atas nama sokong kepada regimnya rakyat berhimpun bagi menyatakan sokongan kepada Nasser dan mengutuk Ikhwanul Muslimin. Ini yang dilakukan oleh tentera pada hari ini dengan menaja demonstrasi rakyat bagi menyokong regim dan menolak Ikhwanul Muslimin yang dikatakan antinasional.

    Sama seperti kira-kira 60 tahun lalu, tentera tidak ada belas kasihan dan bertindak sewenang-wenang ke atas pendukung Ikhwanul Muslimin termasuk melakukan penindasan kejam. Ternyata penindasan tanpa belas kasihan ini memberi impak yang amat besar kepada Ikhwanul Muslimin.

    Tahun 1948-1954 merupakan tahun penuh cabaran kepada Ikhwanul Muslimin. Pada Februari 1949, pengasas dan pemimpinnya, Hasan al-Banna mati ditembak. Sejak itu Ikhwanul Muslimin terus ditindas dan seterusnya diharamkan pada 1954 hinggalah selepas Husni Mubarak diturunkan dari jawatan presiden berikutan berlakunya Kebangkitan Arab pada 2011. Ini bermakna Ikhwanul Muslimin telah diharamkan selama 67 tahun dan ribuan anggotanya pernah dipenjarakan dan puluhan yang lain mati di tali gantung.

    Dari segi sejarah, tentera menindas Ikhwanul Muslimin selama hampir enam dekad. Tentera memandang Ikhwanul Muslimin dengan penuh curiga. Dengan menggunakan kekuatan senjata dan kuasa yang dimiliki tentera tidak pernah menunjukkan belas kasihan kepada Ikhwanul Muslimin. Melihat rekod lalu tiada perkara yang boleh menghalang mereka untuk terus berusaha menindas Ikhwanul Muslimin.

    Soalan :
    Maknanya, apa yang berlaku hari ini mengulangi penindasan kejam terhadap Ikhwanul Muslimin 60 tahun lalu. Apakah mungkin ia mengakibatkan Ikhwan sukar untuk bangkit semula?

    Jawapan :
    Tentera cuba mengulangi pendekatan yang pernah mereka lakukan lebih 60 tahun lalu. Namun begitu, suasana sudah berubah. General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi tidak sehebat Nasser dan kemajuan dalam teknologi maklumat menjadikan penipuan dan propaganda yang mengelirukan rakyat tidak boleh dibuat sewenang-wenangnya.

    Natijah kepada konflik Ikhwanul Muslimin dan tentera banyak bergantung sejauh mana gerakan Islam ini mampu bertahan. Rekod yang dimiliki Ikhwanul Muslimin menunjukkan gerakan tersebut mempunyai daya tahan yang luar biasa.

    Walaupun enam dekad ditindas dengan para pemimpin utamanya ramai mati dibunuh dan penindasan dilakukan secara berterusan, namun Ikhwanul Muslimin masih bersisa dan mampu bangkit. Inilah yang berlaku pada 2011, walaupun ditindas rejim Mubarak, namun mampu muncul sebagai organisasi yang paling tersusun dan memberikan alternatif kepada rakyat.

    Walaupun tentera dan kumpulan anti-Ikhwanul akan menggunakan pelbagai cara untuk menghapuskan pengaruhnya, tetapi suasana 2013 tidak sama seperti 1954. Hari ini Ikhwanul Muslimin mampu membawa jutaan penyokongnya di jalan raya dari seluruh 27 Muhafazah (wilayah) di Mesir.

    Namun begitu, situasinya masih sama, iaitu bagi kumpulan anti-Ikhwan yang terdiri daripada penyokong sosialis, nasionalis, liberalis, sekularis dan kelompok tariqat tertentu mereka sanggup mengetepikan perbezaan dan permusuhan sesama mereka semata-mata bagi menentang gerakan Islam ini.

    Soalan :
    Mengimbau sejarah lalu, Ikhwanul Muslimin yang dizalimi seperti tidak mendapat simpati atau sokongan daripada masyarakat antarabangsa termasuk kalangan kumpulan Islam sendiri. Mengapa terjadi begitu?

    Jawapan :
    Ketika Gamal Abd al-Nasser menjadi Presiden Mesir beliau berjaya menggerakkan jentera propagandanya sehingga menggelap dan menggerhanakan peranan Ikhwanul Muslimin. Pengaruh beliau cukup hebat hingga pelajar Malaysia yang belajar di Universiti al-Azhar, Mesir pada waktu itupun tidak tahu tentang peranan dan sumbangan Ikhwanul dalam memperjuangkan Islam yang syumul.

    Nasser yang tampil dengan imej Islam digambarkan sebagai tokoh pemimpin Islam dan tidak hairanlah apabila beliau mati, terdapat madrasah dan kelompok umat Islam di Malaysia menganjurkan solat ghaib sebagai tanpa kasih kepada "pemimpin Islam yang banyak berjasa".

    Sentimen anti-Israel yang dilaungkan Nasser menjadikan beliau dikagumi sehingga umat Islam di Malaysia, termasuk mereka yang pernah belajar di Mesir tidak menyedari kezaliman dan penindasannya ke atas Ikhwanul Muslimin. Ini termasuklah apabila Sayyid Qutb dihukum gantung pada 1966, protes hanya disuarakan sekelompok kecil pelajar Malaysia yang belajar di Barat.

    Menariknya, kebangkitan Islam di Malaysia pada awal 1970-an bukan digerakkan lulusan Mesir, sebaliknya oleh mereka yang terpengaruh dengan perjuangan dan pemikiran Ikhwanul Muslimin dalam kalangan pelajar dari universiti tempatan dan mereka yang belajar di Barat.

    Pengaruh Ikhwanul Muslimin yang disebarkan melalui buku-buku tokoh-tokoh Ikhwanul yang tersohor seperti Hasan al-Banna, Abd al-Kader Audah, Sayyid Qutb dan lain-lain. Buku-buku ini pula bukan dalam bahasa Arab tetapi dalam bahasa Inggeris seperti buku Maalim Fit Tariq oleh Sayyid Qutb yang lebih dahulu dibaca dengan judul Milestones.

    Soalan :
    Merujuk kebangkitan rakyat Mesir tiga tahun lalu untuk menumbangkan regim Hosni Mubarak, ada pendapat mengatakan pada peringkat awal Ikhwanul seperti menjauhkan diri dan tidak terlibat. Boleh prof jelaskan keadaan sebenarnya?

    Jawapan :
    Perkara ini sering dijadikan ungkitan penggerak gerakan 25 Januari yang memaksa Husni Mubarak meletakkan jawatan. Mereka mengatakan Ikhwanul Muslimin menanguk di air keruh dengan mengambil kesempatan daripada kebangkitan.

    Memang ada kebenarannya kerana ketika rakyat mula turun ke jalan raya, pada peringkat awalnya Ikhwanul Muslimin mengambil pendekatan tunggu dan lihat. Pada awal Februari 2011 barulah Ikhwanul Muslimin turut mengerahkan pengikutnya ikut serta dalam protes yang dilakukan.

    Pendekatan Ikhwanul Muslimin yang terpaksa mengambil pendekatan berhati-hati mudah difahami kerana gerakan ini sudah terlalu lama berusaha mengerakkan kebangkitan tetapi gagal mendapat sambutan meluas. Sebaliknya, kebangkitan yang mereka anjurkan berakhir dengan tragedi apabila ada ahlinya yang dihukum berat, dipenjarakan dan harta disita.

    Hal yang sama pernah berlaku pada 1952 apabila berlaku kebangkitan rakyat menentang Raja Farouk dan British, Ikhwanul Muslimin tidak berada berada di barisan hadapan dan tidak terlibat secara langsung. Apabila Gamal Abd al-Nasser melancarkan revolusi dan berjaya menggulingkan Raja Farouk, Ikhwanul Muslimin dianggap tidak berperanan memainkan peranan sebenar.

    Dengan pelbagai pengalaman itu, sebagai usaha mempelbagaikan pendekatan Ikhwanul Muslimin pernah terlibat secara langsung dalam pilihan raya Mesir. Ikhwanul Muslimin sudah terlibat dengan pilihan raya sejak 1984 lagi, walaupun bukan sebagai sebuah parti yang bertanding menggunakan nama gerakan tersebut. Ia pernah bergabung dengan parti Buruh, Parti Wafd dan bertanding secara bebas.

    Kejayaan terbesar Ikhwanul ialah apabila berjaya meraih hampir 25 peratus undi dalam pilihan raya Mesir tahun 2007. Namun begitu, kejayaan besar ini bukan memberikan manfaat kepada Ikhwanul Muslimin, sebaliknya gerakan Islam ini semakin ditindas. Penindasan yang berterusan ini mendorong lahirnya dua kelompok kepimpinan dalam Ikhwanul Muslimin.

    Kumpulan konservatif merasakan Ikhwanul Muslimin perlu kembali fungsinya yang asal iaitu menumpukan kepada dakwah dan tarbiyyah dan tidak terlibat dalam politik bagi memastikan survival gerakan yang tidak putus-putus ditindas. Kumpulan reformis pula mencadangkan Ikhwanul Muslimin perlu melakukan trasformasi dan mengikut contoh AKP di Turki bagi membolehkan perubahan dilakukan di Mesir.

    Dalam muktamar Ikhwanul Muslimin pada 2010, kumpulan konservatif yang diketuai Badaei berjaya menguasai kelompok kepimpinan gerakan Islam itu dengan mengetepikan kumpulan reformis yang diketuai Essam al-Erian.

    Soalan :
    Bagaimana pula dengan pembabitan Ikhwanul dalam proses pemilihan ahli-ahli Parlimen dan jawatan Presiden Mesir?

    Jawapan :
    Sebagai kumpulan yang dianggap paling tersusun, Ikhwanul Muslimin ternyata lebih bersedia menghadapi pilihan raya dan berjaya memperoleh kemenangan dalam pilihan raya tahun 2012. Setelah berjaya mendapat kemenangan yang amat memberansangkan dalam pilihan raya parlimen, Ikhwanul Muslimin memutuskan untuk bertanding merebut jawatan presiden.
    Pada peringkat awal Ikhwanul Muslimin secara tegas menyatakan mereka tidak berminat dengan jawatan itu. Apabila seorang pemimpin kanan Ikhwanul Muslimin, iaitu Moneim Abd al-Futuh menyatakan beliau berhasrat bertanding jawatan presiden, beliau dipecat kerana mengingkari keputusan syura.

    Apabila Ikhwanul Muslimin memutuskan untuk merebut jawatan presiden, calon mereka ialah Khayrat Shater. Namun begitu, kelayakan beliau untuk bertanding dibatalkan kerana pernah ditahan di bawah pemerintahan Husni Mubarak. Sebagai gantian Muhammad Morsi dipilih sebagai calon. Hal yang sama juga berlaku kepada calon Parti Nour, iaitu, Hazem Abu Ismail yang tidak layak bertanding.

    Akhirnya Morsi yang bertanding menentang mantan Perdana Menteri Mesir di zaman Mubarak, iaitu Ahmad Syafiq. Morsi menang dengan 51 peratus undi, walaupun peratus yang keluar mengundi sekitar 32 peratus sahaja. Morsi merupakan Presiden Mesir yang dilantik secara demokratik.

    Soalan :
    Soalnya, walaupun bertanding menentang Syafiq, yang dikira mewarisi Husni Mubarak, tetapi Morsi hanya mendapat sekitar 52 peratus, tidakkah itu boleh dianggap sokongan yang berbelah-bagi?

    Jawapan :
    Walaupun Morsi hanya mendapat 52 peratus undi, namun sebagai pilihan raya yang diiktiraf adil, telus dan bebas, beliau dikira mendapat sokongan majoriti. Jumlah yang keluar mengundi sebanyak 32 peratus juga tidak boleh dijadikan alasan bahawa beliau tidak mendapat legitimasi kerana Husni Mubarak menang pilihan raya dan dilantik sebagai presiden dengan kadar keluar mengundi sekitar 10 peratus sahaja.

    Disebabkan rakyat tidak yakin dengan pilihan raya, kerana sudah pasti Husni Mubarak akan menang besar menyebabkan rakyat tidak ambil kisah untuk keluar mengundi. Lagipun di Mesir pilihan raya mengambil masa yang panjang. Pilihan raya Mesir yang melibatkan 27 wilayah mengambil masa selama tiga bulan untuk selesai. Pengundian pula dibahagikan kepada tiga peringkat dengan setiap peringkat melibatkan sembilan wilayah.

    Pilihan raya Mesir selepas kejatuhan Mubarak dianggap telus, adil dan bebas kerana dipantau hakim. Parti-parti yang bertanding menggunakan pelbagai pendekatan untuk memenangi hati pengundi. Sebagai pertubuhan yang mempunyai jentera di seluruh negara Ikhwanul Muslimin berjaya menggerakkan penyokongnya untuk ke peti undi dan menyokong partinya.

    Selain Parti Nour, hanya Parti al-Karamah yang dipimpin Hamden Sabahi yang mampu memberi saingan. Beliau seorang yang berfahaman sosialis dan pengikut Nasser yang setia. Beliau menggunakan bas dua tingkat sebagai pendekatan kempen untuk membolehnya menjelajah ke seluruh negara. Pendekatannya ternyata berkesan apabila berjaya menduduki tempat ketiga dalam pemilihan jawatan presiden. Hamden Sabbahi merupakan salah seorang pemimpin Tamarrod yang bersekongkol dengan tentera dan kumpulam sekular dalam menjatuhkan kerajaan pimpinan Morsi.

    Soalan :
    Sejarah Ikhwan menunjukkan ia turut berpecah membabitkan kepemimpinan tertinggi setiap kali berlaku peristiwa besar dalam politik Mesir. Apakah kali ini juga berlaku hal sama?

    Jawapan :
    Ikhwan gagal menyatukan perpecahan apabila ada pemimpin pertubuhan itu bertindak keluar kerana perbezaan dari segi pendekatan. Dakwaan cubaan Morsi untuk "mengIkhwanulkan" Mesir pula tidak lebih propaganda yang sengaja ditiupkan. Morsi cuba untuk buat yang terbaik tetapi malangnya dia mewarisi suatu sistem yang sesiapa pun tidak boleh pegang. Tumbangnya Morsi minggu lepas, Qatar dan Arab Saudi beri USD12 bilion masuk ke Mesir sebagai bantuan 'soft loan'. Raja Abdullah ucap tahniah kepada tentera.

    Soalan :
    Morsi juga mendapat kritikan keras daripada sebahagian aktivis Ikhwan?

    Terdapat dalam kalangan golongan Islamis yang menuduh Morsi terlalu berlembut dan bersikap liberal kerana tidak tegas laksanakan undang-undang syariah. Pihak sekular pula menolak Morsi kerana dikatakan cuba mengikwankan Mesir. Pemerintahan Morsi depan serangan pelbagai penjuru dan keadaan ini dipersulitkan lagi dengan keadaan ekonomi yang semakin parah sehingga menimbulkan kesulitan kepada rakyat.

    Soalan :
    Politik Mesir tidak dapat dipisahkan daripada pengaruh dan pembabitan proaktif pihak tentera...

    Jawapan :
    Tentera Mesir bukan sahaja terlibat dalam menjaga keselamatan. Mereka juga terlibat dalam pentadbiran dan menguasai ekonomi. Apabila tentera tidak menyokong Mubarak beliau terpaksa meletak jawatan. Morsi juga dijatuhkan oleh tentera. Ini bermakna selepas ini sesiapa sahaja boleh tumbangkan oleh tentera. Tentera Mesir merupakan golongan elit dan kenaikan Mursi dilihat berisiko menggugat dominasi mereka.

    Permusuhan Ikhwanul Muslimin dan tentera telah berakar umbi berdekad-dekad lamanya. Dengan sebab itu apabila apabila Amerika Syarikat menyeru kepada pendemokrasian di Mesir, jawapan Husni Mubarak ialah, “Kalau saya (Mubarak) jatuh, Ikhwanul akan berkuasa”. Bila Ikhwanul Muslimin berkuasa Amerika Syarikat amat khuatir dengan perkembangan ini.

    Selain berdepan Mubarak dan AS, Ikhwanul Muslimin juga bertembung dengan kumpulan lain. Mereka termasuklah kumpulan Salafi yang dibiayai Arab Saudi yang berfahaman Wahabi. Ketika zaman Mubarak, beliau menggalakkan kumpulan Tarikaq yang tidak menyokong gerakan Islam. Ini merupakan pendekatan halus bagi melemahkan Ikhwanul Muslimin. Walaupun golongan sekular juga berpecah kepada pelbagai kumpulan tetapi mereka bersatu menentang Ikhwanul Muslimin.

    Soalan :
    Boleh Prof jelaskan kedudukan dan pengaruh pertubuhan dan parti-parti politik Islam di Mesir?

    Jawapan :
    Ketika mula berlakunya kebangkitan rakyat Mesir kumpulan Nour mengeluarkan fatwa haram hukumnya menentang Mubarak. Namun begitu, apabila Mubarak jatuh kumpulan ini menyokong kebangkitan rakyat. Dalam konteks politik Mesir, kumpulan Nour merupakan kumpulan Islam yang kedua berpengaruh selepas Ikhwanul Muslimin.

    Morsi dilihat terlalu berbaik sangka dengan pihak tentera, yang akhirnya menikam balik dirinya.

    Morsi tidak mempunyai banyak pilihan. Dalam pentadbiran Morsi mengambil pendekatan terbuka, termasuklah melantik dalam kalangan orang Kristian dan bukan ahli Ikhwanul Muslimin dalam pentadbirannya. Morsi cuba melakukan pelbagai perubahan dalam tempoh 100 hari pemerintahannya, tetapi amat sukar untuk sesiapa sahaja yang memerintah Mesir melakukan perubahan secara drastik.

    Morsi mewarisi sistem ekonomi yang lemah dan sistem sosial yang tidak mantap. Ikhwanul Muslimin cuba bersikap baik dengan tentera seperti pada tahun 1952, tetapi tentera tidak pernah bersangka baik dengan Ikhwanul.

    Soalan :
    Prof juga banyak mengkaji dan mengikuti dari dekat lanskap politik di Turki. Mungkin ada persamaan di antara kedua-dua negara ini dan apakah pengalaman berharga yang dilalui Erdogan dan partinya yang mungkin boleh dikongsi dengan realiti di Mesir?

    Jawapan :
    Cubaan untuk mempraktikkan politik Islam di Mesir nampaknya lebih sukar berbanding Turki yang tebal dengan amalan sekularisme. Walaupun demikian di Turki terdapat dua parti sekular iaitu Republikan dan Demokrat.

    Walaupun kedua-dua parti berfahaman sekular, namun tidak ada titik pertemuan di antara kedua-duanya, dan malahan lebih bersedia untuk bekerjasama dengan parti Islam daripada berpakat sesama mereka. Akhirnya parti Islam itu berjaya memerintah seperti yang berlaku pada 1996 apabila Parti Refah berjaya membentuk kerajaan walaupun dengan sokongan 21 peratus undi sahaja.

    Soalan :
    Ada pihak bimbang Mesir mungkin mengulangi tragedi berdarah di Syria yang tidak berpenghujung...

    Jawapan :
    Tidak dapat dinafikan terdapat kebimbangan ini. Namun begitu, situasi di Syria agak berbeza kerana di Mesir masyarakatnya tidak terbahagi kepada puak. Kekhuatiran yang lebih besar ialah Mesir akan kembali kepada zaman 1970-an dan 1980-an apabila kumpulan Islam mengambil pendekatan bersenjata sehingga menyebabkan berlakunya pertumpahan darah yang tiada penghujung.

    Bagi pendukung gerakan Islam termasuk Ikhwanul Muslimin kemungkinan untuk terjerumus kepada pendekatan ini tidak boleh ditolak apabila mereka ditindas tanpa belas kasihan. Bagi Ikhwanul Muslimin pengalaman sejarah mengajar mereka untuk berjuang hingga ke titisan darah terakhir. Dalam kemelut yang berlaku sama ada mereka menang atau pasti ditindas secara berterusan sebagaimana yang pernah berlaku sebelum ini.

    Pengalaman di Algeria juga merupakan iktibar yang amat menjadi keprihatinan kepada aktivis Ikhwanul Muslimin apabila demokrasi yang diwujudkan di negara tersebut menghalang FIS daripada terlibat dalam politik dan bertanding dalam pilihan raya. Pendekatan tentera dan kumpulan sekular hari ini menjurus ke arah tersebut yang berusaha menyisih Ikhwanul Muslimin daripada berperanan dalam proses politik di Mesir.

    Realiti hari ini menunjukkan Ikhwanul Muslimin berdepan cabaran hebat untuk menentukan survival masa depannya. Penentuan masa depannya amat bergantung kepada sejauh mana ia dapat terus bertahan dan konsisten dalam perjuangan serta dengan strategi yang lebih baik daripada pihak lain yang menjadi musuh politiknya.

    Ikhwanul Muslimin bukan sahaja berdepan musuh politik dalam negeri, tetapi juga daripada AS dan Israel yang mempunyai kepentingan dan tidak mahu melihat gerakan Islam ini berpengaruh. Walaupun AS menjuarai demokrasi, tetapi negara kuasa besar itu bersifat hipokrit dalam isu pergolakan politik di Mesir yang menyebabkan Morsi dilucutkan jawatan. AS dan negara barat tidak bersuara lantang apabila tentera “merampas kuasa” di Mesir, tetapi memprotes apabila berlakunya rampasan kuasa di Fiji, Maldive dan lain-lain.

    Anehnya, rampasan kuasa di Mesir bukannya dikutuk, tetapi sebaliknya dijanjikan dengan bantuan kewangan. Arab Saudi dan beberapa negara Teluk yang merupakan sekutu kuat AS dan amat khuatir dengan perluasan pengaruh Ikhwanul Muslimin menjanjikan bantuan sebanyak USD 12 billion kepada Mesir sebaik-baik sahaja Morsi dilucutkan jawatan oleh tentera.

    Perkembangan di Mesir memperlihatkan manifestasi sikap “double standard” Barat terhadap Islam. Walaupun Morsi dilantik secara demokrasi, tetapi cara beliau diturunkan tidak bersifat demokratik.

    Jika demonstrasi jalanan dijadikan tanda aras bagi mengukur populariti bukannya melalui sokongan peti undi, demokrasi di Mesir bukan maju ke hadapan. Sebaliknya, Mesir masih terus berada pada zaman gelap seperti rejim-rejim lalu dan hasrat generasi muda negara itu untuk mewujudkan masyarat yang mampu bersaing dengan negara lain akan terus tinggal impian semata-mata.

              Ramadhan di Bumi Asing ~        

    Subhanallah..tanpa disedari, begitu cepat masa berlalu. Hampir setahun aku berada jauh di rantau orang.  Bulan Ramadhan yang seakan-akan  baru sahaja tiba semalam, rupa-rupanya cuma tinggal kurang dari seminggu untuk diakhiri. Oleh itu, ingin aku coretkan serba-sedikit pengalamanku menyambut Ramadhan di sini sebagai perkongsian bersama rakan-rakan di tanah air tercinta. 

    Pada awal kedatanganku ke negara matahari terbit ini, timbul sedikit  kerisauan tentang bagaimana agaknya keaadaanku ketika bulan puasa yang dijangka tiba pada musim panas. Hal ini disebabkan oleh perubahan musim dan cuaca yang tidak menentu di sini. Perbezaan jarak waktu siang dan malam yang sentiasa berubah-ubah juga menggusarkan aku. 

    Jika pada musim sejuk, waktu malam yang lebih panjang dari waktu siang menjadikan hari-hari begitu cepat berlalu. Jika berpuasa pada waktu tersebut, tentu waktu berpuasa menjadi sangat singkat kerana dimulai pada jam lebih kurang pukul 6 pagi dan berakhir kira-kira pukul 4 petang. Namun begitu, pada musim panas seperti ini, matahari sudah mula terbit pada lebih kurang pukul 2.30 pagi dan terbenam pada waktu maghrib yang tiba kira-kira jam 7.00 malam.

    Ada beberapa sebab yang menjadikan aku risau pada ketika itu. Salah satunya adalah melalui pengalamanku sebelum bulan Ramadhan iaitu setelah beberapa kali hampir pitam di dalam keretapi dek kerana diserang pening kepala dan sakit perut akibat lambat sampai di asrama untuk makan malam. Jarak perjalanan yang jauh daripada asrama hingga universiti tempatku belajar yang memakan masa kira-kita 30 minit menaiki keretapi ditambah pula 15 minit berjalan kaki perlu aku hadapi hampir setiap hari. 

    Tambahan pula, waktu rehat yang hanya sekali pada jam 12.00 tengah hari diikuti kelas yang berturut-turut dari waktu pagi dan berakhir lebih kurang jam 6.00 petang menyukarkanku untuk mencari makanan bagi mengalas perut. Disebabkan hal tersebut, aku sering bertanya kepada diri sendiri, mampukah aku bertahan ketika bulan puasa nanti. Aku hanya berserah pada Allah. Dia lebih mengetahui apa yang terbaik bagi aku.

    Alhamdulillah, kini, setelah hampir sebulan berpuasa, tidak ada sebarang masalah yang timbul. Walaupun aku perlu bersahur seawal jam satu atau dua pagi, semua itu lansung tidak menjadi masalah walaupun aku hanya boleh tidur kira-kira pada jam 3.00 pagi setelah bersahur dan menunaikan solat subuh. Hal ini kerana aku risau tidak dapat bangun untuk bersahur dan terlepas waktu subuh jika aku tidur lebih awal. Tambahan pula, ketiadaan ibu yang sentiasa mengejutkan aku untuk bersahur seperti selalu menjadikan aku perlu belajar untuk berdikari di sini.

    “Allah tidak membebani seseorang melainkan sesuai dengan kesanggupannya....”
                                                                           [Surah Al-Baqarah (2): ayat 286]

    Seperti firman Allah di atas, hari-hari yang berlalu juga menjadi begitu lancar dan seakan-akan tidak terasa perjalanannya. Setiap kelas dan aktiviti yang dianjurkan juga Alhamdulillah dapat  kuhadiri  tanpa rasa letih dan lemah walaupun ketika berpuasa. Rakan-rakan yang bukan beragama Islam disini juga sangat memahami keadaanku dan seorang lagi rakanku yang beragama Islam disini. Mereka sentiasa mengelakkan diri dari makan di hadapan kami dan kadangkala sanggup tunggu untuk makan bersama-sama ketika waktu berbuka puasa. Selain itu, ada juga diantara mereka yang sangat berminat untuk mencuba berpuasa bersama kami bagi merasai pengalaman berpuasa seperti orang Islam. Semoga mereka terpilih sebagai orang yang diberikan hidayah oleh Allah s.w.t..amin...

    Namun begitu, cuma satu perkara yang membuatkanku sedih ketika menjalani ibadah puasa dan beraya di sini, iaitu tiada keluarga di sisi dan suasana yang tidak sama ketika di Malaysia. Di sini, boleh dikatakan hampir setiap hari aku hanya makan makanan segera ketika bersahur dan berbuka puasa. Tiada ayam percik, laksa, nasi ulam dan sebagainya. Pada ketika inilah, aku dapat belajar erti bersyukur dan menghargai setiap makanan yang ada kerana tidak semua makanan yang boleh dimakan disini. Saudara-saudara muslim di Palestin, Syria dan negara lain sudah tentu mengalami nasib yang lebih teruk jika dibandingkan denganku disebabkan kesukaran mendapatkan makanan, bukan?..

    Aku juga sedar betapa beruntungnya berada di negara Islam seperti Malaysia. Tiada kesukaran untuk beribadah, keselamatan terjamin dan yang paling penting suasana sekeliling yang terdiri daripada majoriti masyarakat yang mengamalkan Islam dalam kehidupan harian. Walaupun hanya setahun menjadi perantau dan cuma sekali berpeluang berpuasa di negara orang, pengalaman ini cukup untuk menyedarkan aku akan betapa pentingnya kita memartabatkan Islam dan menjalankan perintah Allah walau di mana sahaja kita berada. Selaku khalifah di atas muka bumi ini, kita tidak boleh lari dari tugas menyebarkan Islam walaupun dengan hanya menunjukkan akhlak dan ajaran Islam yang sebaiknya.

    ·         Teringat kata-kata yang dipetik dalam salah satu usrah bersama senior KBM,
    “Janji Allah itu pasti. Islam pasti akan tertegak dengan megah di atas bumi ini suatu hari nanti. Tetapi alangkah bertuahnya jika kita terpilih menjadi salah seorang yang tergolong dalam kalangan pejuang yang menyumbang untuk kejayaan tersebut.” ..InsyaAllah..amin..

    Terima kasih kerana membaca..Selamat Menyambut Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Maaf Zahir & Batin.

              The Violet Organization is Rebuilding Syria’s Most Affected Provinces and They’re Doing it Wonderfully        

    Syria’s Violets Out of the darkness of the Syrian conflict has emerged another light. The Violet Organisation is an NGO that is operating in some of the most affected provinces of Syria, working to restore a sense of normality, and compassion. Their first office was established in Idlib city, within the northerly Idlib province of […] More

    The post The Violet Organization is Rebuilding Syria’s Most Affected Provinces and They’re Doing it Wonderfully appeared first on Mvslim.

              UNCA Film Screening of Sebastian Junger & Nick Quested documentary “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS”        
    (from left: Sherwin Bryce-Pease (UNCA President), Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested)   On Monday, May 15th, the United Nations Correspondents Association hosted an exclusive film screening with filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested on their recent documentary entitled “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS”. The film will be released theatrically […]
              UNCA Press Conference with Human Rights Watch on New Chemical Attacks in Syria        
    (From left: Akshaya Kumar, Ken Roth, Lama Fakih) The United Nations Correspondents Association held a press conference with Human Rights Watch on Monday, May 1st to present its latest findings on chemical attacks in Syria, including on the recent attack in Khan Sheikhoun. Speakers were: Ken Roth, Executive Director at Human Rights Watch Lama Fakih, […]
              UNCA Report Launch with Save the Children on the Psychological Effects of Syria’s 6-year war on Children – Monday, March 6th, 2017        
    (From left: Michelle Nichols (UNCA Executive Member), Sonia Kush (Syria Relief), Carolyn Miles (President & CEO, Save the Children), Rolla H., (Save the Children, Syria)) The United Nations Correspondents Association held a press conference with Save the Children to launch a new report titled “Invisible Wounds: The impact of the six years of war on […]
              UNCA Press Conference with Human Rights Watch on Chemical Attacks in Syria        
    The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) hosted a press conference on Monday, February 13th in the UNCA meeting room with Human Rights Watch to present their new research on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Panelist from HRW included: (photo above from left) Akshaya Kumar, Deputy UN Director, Human Rights Watch Louis Charbonneau, UN […]
              Blogoscars S03- Τα αντιμπλογκόσκαρς        

    Όπως ξεκινάμε κάθε χρονιά: "Warning:Τhis is a diary of hate! Σκόπευα στην τελευταία μου ανάρτηση για τα blogoscars να δώσω μιά μικρή δικαιολόγηση για όσους ηθοποιούς, σκηνοθέτες, ταινίες άφησα απ'έξω. Επειδή,όμως, η όλη διαδικασία βασίζεται στο fun & fan factor, σκέφτηκα πως θα ήταν καλύτερα να..."κράξω" με μιά λίστα.Χωρίς,λοιπόν,να θέλω να προσβάλλω τις επιλογές των υπολοίπων στις δικές τους λίστες και χωρίς, απαραίτητα, να σημαίνει οτί οι ίδιοι καλλιτέχνες του χρόνου δε θα είναι διακριθέντες, σας παρουσιάζω τα αντι-blogoscars μου..."

    Χωρίς αξιολογική σειρά:


    Eντάξει, δεν είναι ακριβώς το οτί έχω αμφιβολία πως ο μέσος Έλληνας μπορεί να είναι εξίσου ηλίθιος με τον μέσο Αμερικάνο, αλλά όχι και #tsimpouki ρε σκηνοθέτα. Το παράκανες...

    Amy Adams

    Ξεκίνησε ώς ένας υπέροχος μίμος της Nicole Kidman και συνέχισε ώς το πιό ξινό, κλαμμένο νι-μού που έχουμε δεί στη μεγάλη οθόνη. Η προσωποποίηση του κοριτσιού που θα σου κόψει το γήπεδο και τις ταινίες, γιατί της είπε η μάνα της οτί σου τρώει ώρες από τη δουλειά. Το είδωλο της γυναίκας που θα σκίσει το προφυλακτικό για να την γκαστρώσεις. Το κορίτσι που μετά από ώρες φλέρτ, θα σου ρίξει χυλόπιτα. Ναί, μου θυμίζει πρώην μου. Καριόλα...

    The Imposter

    Docu-drama ή mockumentary, λίγο με απασχόλησε. Όταν συνειδητοποιείς πόσο ηλίθιο είναι το όλο premise και κυρίως όταν βλέπεις οτί στο κελί ενός παθολογικού ψεύτη υπάρχει το προσωπικό του τηλέφωνο (!) σου έρχεται να βάλεις την καραμπίνα στο στόμα...


    Aπορώ ποιός κερατάς του έδωσε την ευκαιρία για κινηματογραφική καριέρα. (Quentin εσύ;) Προστίθεται στη μακρά λίστα ανθρώπων όπως ο Mos Def, ο Ποπάυ, ο Bob Dylan και ο Γιάννης Αγγελάκας, που δεν έχεις την παραμικρή ιδέα για τί πράγμα μιλάνε...

    2 Days In New York

    Θέλει μία μαεστρία θαρρώ το να μην μπορείς να εκμεταλλευτείς την πιό κινηματογραφική πόλη του πλανήτη. Aποτυχημένη Woody Αllen Wannabe εδώ η Delpy, μας στοίχειωσε και με την πιό random και weird Vincent Galo Appearence ever...

    The Bourne Legacy

    Μετά από ένα breathtaking πρώτο εικοσάλεπτο, όπου λές "ναι ρε, αυτό είναι", σύντομα παίρνει την κάτω βόλτα. Πρέπει να έχεις κάνει, τουλάχιστον, διδακτορική διατριβή επάνω στο θέμα Bourne για να μπορέσεις να ακολουθήσεις την ταινία, ενώ η ενοχή, πιθανώς ,του σκηνοθέτη για το οτί έπρεπε να γυρίσει καθαρόαιμη περιπέτεια, τον οδήγησε στο δρόμο του πολιτικού θρίλερ.Μη φανταστείς, όμως, επιπέδου Σιντευ Πόλακ,π ιό πολύ προς το λεκτικής αφασίας "Syriana" κινήθηκε. Kακογυρισμένες σκηνές δράσης (ειδικά η σκηνή με τη μηχανή ήταν εφιαλτική), καμία χημεία, ή μάλλον βεβιασμένη, μεταξύ Ρενέρ - Βάις, ανεκμετάλλευτη η δυναμική των πρώτων λεπτών που βγάζει ο Ρενέρ. Ξέκάθαρα, η χειρότερη της τετραλογίας...

     Sigourney Weaver

     Î†Î½ μισώ κάτι στην τέχνη και τη ζωή, δεν είναι άλλο από την ακατάσχετη μοιρολατρία και συμπαντική νομοτέλεια τύπου "άν δε σώσουμε την τσίρ-λίντερ, θα ψοφολογήσουμε όλοι από διάρροια". Σταυροφόρος της μίρλας για φέτος η Sigourney, που εκτός όλων (Cabin.., Red Lights) των άλλων, έκανε και την απόλυτη αρπαχτάρα στην ταινία με ΤΗ ΧΕΙΡΟΤΕΡΗ ΔΙΕΥΘΥΝΣΗ ΦΩΤΟΓΡΑΦΙΑΣ ΟΛΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΕΠΟΧΩΝ (Cold Light Of Day)

      David Cronenberg

    Γέλασαν και τα τακάκια της λιμουζίνας! Μα σενάριο μέσα σε 6 μέρες βρε David; Για να μην κανιβαλίσω το glitter αγόρι, τo αντιblogoscar το λούζεται ολόκληρο ο Cronenberg, γιατί τέτοιο βερμπαλισμό είχα να δώ από την εποχή που διάβαζα Παπανούτσο για την έκθεση των Πανελληνίων...

     Taylor Kitsch

    Σύνδρομο Άνθιμου Ανανιάδη,αφού ξεκάθαρα προσπαθεί να κάνει πιό μπάσα τη φωνή του για να το παίξει γκόμενος,Και στις τρείς ταινίες που πρωταγωνίστησε φέτος, ήταν ότι χειρότερο...

     Young Adult

    Υποθέτω χρειάζεται μία κάποια μαεστρία για να γράψεις ένα σενάριο οπού, τελικά, κανείς από τους χαρακτήρες σου δεν είναι συμπαθής. Και όχι, δεν είμαι 12 για να απαιτώ η ταινία να έχει κλασσικό μηνυματάκι-κονσέρβα ή φινάλε-κάθαρσης και αυτοβελτίωσης, αλλά ένα "Carnal Knowledge" για γυναίκες, δε νομίζω οτί το χρειαζόταν κανείς.Toυλάχιστον, "σκόραρε" ο Patton...

    Nicholas Cage

    Με πόνο ψυχής, φθάνω στο συμπέρασμα οτί ο μόνος λόγος που αξίζει, πλέον, να δεί κανείς ταινία του Cage, είναι για να ξεπατικώσει καμία ιδέα για αποκριάτικες περούκες..

     Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

    Χωρίς λόγια,αλλά με μικρότερο βαθμό...

     The Intouchables

    Κακόγουστη dramedy, που τάχα μου εξερευνεί, μεταξύ άλλων, την πολιτική του Σαρκοζί και τις ταξικές διαφορές Γαλλικού Βορρά-Νότου (γελάει ο κόσμος). Βαθιά εμπορευματοποιημένο σινεμά, slapstick αστειάκια, ξυσουδιάρικο χιουμοράκι."Ξύνει" μονάχα τη ρηχή επιφάνεια.Για το γεγονός οτί ο βοηθός/νοσοκόμος της πραγματικής ιστορίας ήταν Άραβας, ας μη μιλήσω κάν...

     Chloë Grace Moretz

    Το ενδομήτριο σου έγινε αναπαραγωγικό ,το εμπεδώσαμε. Τα χείλια σου, τί θέλεις και τα σουφρώνεις σαν να πηγαίνεις να ζευγαρώσεις με άλλους σαργούς;;


    Πόσο ταλέντο πήγε χαμένο, τελικά,σε αυτήν την ταινία; Ξεπερνώντας την αγωνιώδη προσπάθεια να θυμήσει δράμα του Todd Field, θα επιμείνω στην τρισάθλια ερμηνεία της Paquin. Και εντάξει, ας αφήσω το "Τί δουλειά έχει η μεγαλοκοπέλα στο γυμνάσιο;" (και ναί, γνωρίζω οτί η ταινία έχει γυριστεί χρόνια πρίν, αλλά αυτό δεν το κάνει, δυστυχώς, λιγότερο awkward ). Αυτές οι παύσεις και τα ουρλιαχτά της, ήταν βγαλμένα από τη μεγαλύτερη ονείρωξη της Τζέσυς Παπουτσή και απ'το χειρότερο οveracting σειράς Φώσκολου...

     The Raid - Redemption

    Νέο Tarantino και μνημείο βίας with an attitude μας υποσχέθηκαν και τελικά είδαμε ένα καλοστημένο , κατά τα άλλα ,παιχνίδι shoot 'em up , που ο σκηνοθέτης είχε την ευγενή καλοσύνη να τερματίσει για πάρτη μας, πίστα-πίστα. Και για να παραφράσω και το σεβάσμιο γέροντα Roger Ebert, "Ποιός στον πούτσο είναι redeemed στο τέλος της ταινίας;"

    The Amazing Spiderman

    Eντάξει, εκτιμώ και εγώ ,όσο ο καθένας, και τις μπουτάρες και τις μινάρες και τις μποτάρες της Emma, το μόνο που έλειπε ,όμως , για να παίζει η ταινία σε λούπα στο "Mega Σαββατοκύριακο" ήταν ο Pacey Witter και η Jen Lidney.

     John Cusack

    Πραγματική απογοήτευση ο John. Στην προσπάθεια του να απεμπλακεί από τις ανόφελες συγκρίσεις που πολύ λογικά θα γίνονταν με το χαρακτήρα του Sherlock Holmes ή του Frederick Abberline (εξού και οι συχνοί "αφορισμοί" κοινού και κριτικών περί Ντάουνιγκ Τζ. και Ντέπ), νομίζω στο τέλος το παράτησε και αποφάσισε απλώς να μην κάνει τίποτε. Πολλές στιγμές "τσιρίδας", δεν ταιριάζουν στον ηθοποιό.Άς μην μιλήσω κάν για το "Τhe Paperboy"...

    και για να μην το πολυκουράζουμε:

    Όλες οι υποψήφιες στην Οσκαρική δεκάδα (με εξαίρεση το Amour και το Αrgo)

    Aπό τα μηχανήματα CGI που αυτοκτόνησαν στο "Life Of Pi",την καινούργια ταινία του Spike Jonze "Beasts Of The Southern Wild", μέχρι τη βαρετή κουστωδία ηθοποιών από σειρές του ΗΒΟ στο "Lincoln" ή το τηλεταινιακό happy ending στο "Silver Linings Playbook", η συγκεκριμένη 8άδα υπήρξε περισσότερο από ποτέ, προ'ι'όν κινηματογραφικής Σιών..

    Special Mention σε 3 ταινίες που, σαφέστατα, δεν αξίζουν να βρίσκονται στα αντι-blogoscars, σε καμία περίπτωση, όμως, δεν δικαιολόγησαν τον ντόρο που δημιουργήθηκε γύρω από αυτές:

    1) Looper

    Άν εξαιρέσεις το σατανόπαιδο, η όλη ταινία είχε μία αίσθηση του "Ι've seen this again". Παντελώς ανώδυνη άσκηση κινηματογραφικού ύφους και τίποτε παραπάνω...

    2) L' Enfant D'En Haut

    Τί ζημιά κάνουν, ακόμη και σήμερα, τα "400 Χτυπήματα" και οι αφοί.Νταρντέν σε όλους τους wannabes; Σαφώς και η καλύτερη ανήλικη ερμηνεία της χρονιάς, ίσως καταλήξει και στη σχετική λίστα, αλλά όχι κάτι παραπάνω από εύκολο μελόδραμα.

    3) Skyfall

    Καταπληκτική περιπέτεια, ξεκάθαρα, όχι, όμως, και ο καλύτερος Bond της ιστορίας, πρός Θεού. Ούτε κάν ο καλύτερος Bond του D.Craig δεν ήταν (Casino Royale εύκολα για μένα). Έστω κι αν είμαι, κάπως, συναισθηματικά δεμένος με την ταινία, αφού είχα την τύχη να δώ από κοντά - έστω και ένα glimpse από τα γυρίσματα της - στην Τούρκικη αγορά, είναι ,τουλάχιστον, άδικο να βλέπω να κράζουμε τον "Ιππότη" του Νolan και να αποθεώνουμε τον Bond του Μendes, αφού ήταν το ίδιο και το αυτό...

              Syrian Mufti Hopes Pope Visits for Pauline Year [2008-07-31]        

    From Jenna Orkin

    Browder's Testimony to Congress

    There's a 95% chance the world will warm beyond a crucial tipping point — here's what that means

    Farenheit 104 (40 degrees C). This is a number everyone should know.

    A Brexit exodus may cost London 40,000 investment banking jobs

    British Gas is putting up electricity prices by 12.5% for 3.1 million people

    Homicide rates in America's major cities are on track to break records in 2017

    Trump Saw A Disturbing Video, Then He Shut Down The CIA's Covert Syria Program

    South Korea Is Preparing A "Surgical Strike" Against The North: Report

    Deputy state attorney general arrested for child porn
    Gordon Liddy's son

    Video Shows ICE Agents Telling Mexican Teen to Drink Liquid Meth, Killing Him


    Earth's Oxygen Levels Are Declining And Scientists Don't Know Why

    Say cheese! New Singapore air terminal automates departures with face recognition


    From Jenna Orkin

    Satellite Snafu Masked True Sea Level Rise for Decades

    Scotland Powering Country on Wind

    California lawmakers passed a landmark climate change bill — and environmental groups aren't happy about it

    Greece Brain Drain: 33% Of Unemployed Looking For Jobs Abroad Vs 11% In 2015

    Here's Why The US Just Took 'Rebranded' Al-Nusra Front Off Terror Watch-Lists

    Purchases Of US Real Estate By Foreigners Hit All-Time High In 2016

    Wal-Mart Replaces More Than 4,000 Employees With Machines

    Pentagon Furious After Turkey Leaks U.S. Base Locations In Syria: "Hard Not To See This As A F-You"

    The Feds Just Expanded Civil Asset Forfeiture 'Laws' Nationwide

    Nationwide Outage Hits Bank of America: Customers Unable To Access Accounts


    From Jenna Orkin

              Muddling through a conflict - again        
    I find issues of foreign intervention very difficult to call.

    On the one hand, there are clearly appalling things being done in Syria, and I feel sympathy for the desire to "do something" (although I fear the politician's syllogism). On the other hand, I completely see the argument that asks what - exactly - does this have to do with us, or (to put it another way) who appointed us as the judge, jury, and (quite possibly) executioner?  There is also a very practical question arising from the sheer number of nasty things of various types happening all over the world which we are wilfully ignoring.  Egypt and North Korea spring to mind without any real difficulty, I am sure there are others.

    What confuses me, though, is why we have this debate again and again, and always in the heat of the moment.  It's a little late to ask for this, I realise, but what we should surely be doing is to have a parliamentary debate while things are quiet, and discuss the philosophical issues around foreign interventions, and set a stance which the UK will then hold to.  That stance could then be the official policy of the UK Government, and when a situation like the Syrian one arises, we could focus on the issues of proof (did Syria actually use chemical weapons?) rather than the philosophical ones.

    The policy could be something like:

     "Internal conflicts will, by and large, not be our concern because there are too many of them. So, we will not intervene unless:
    • there is a UN decision to intervene
    • there is proven use of any weapons or tactics on a specific list that we will publish 
    • that the conflict affects UK interests in relation to [specific list, say food, essential imports (i.e. oil), British citizens abroad, UK security, etc] 
    • that the conflict affects the physical borders of any of our [listed] allies and that ally asks for our help or is unable to ask for our help but clearly needs it 
    But that if the conflict meets one or more of these criteria then we will intervene as quickly and as forcefully as we are able." 

    But that's just my rough first draft, off the top of my head. I'm not especially advocating that particular set of words, the point is more that if we had  a published statement of when we would intervene, rather than always making it up as we go along, then there could be an open debate on the issues of principle, we could act quickly when something does happen, and - who knows - if it became widespread then nasty regimes might think twice about using chemical weapons or the like.
              Catholic Syrian Bank Recruitment 2017 | Various Post        

    Catholic Syrian Bank Recruitment 2017 | Various Post Details of Vacancies: – The Catholic Syrian Bank has released a notification for the recruitment of Regional Sales Head – CASA, Area Sales Head – CASA, Sales Executive, Regional Operations Manager, Regional Credit Manager, Product Manager, Regional Sales Manager, Area Sales Manager, Regional Collection Manager, IT Systems […]

    The post Catholic Syrian Bank Recruitment 2017 | Various Post appeared first on Jobsplateform - Govt. recruitment Exams Results Updates.

              Good Friday 2013        
    Good Friday 2013: when is Good Friday 2013, Good Friday 2013 calendar dates

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    "Eles planejam plantar produtos químicos em Damasco e acusar o governo sírio pelo ataque".

    O presidente russo, Vladimir Putin, afirmou que o recente ataque químico na província de Idlib na Síria foi uma operação de falsa bandeira e que mais "provocações" estão sendo preparadas.

    "Temos relatórios de várias fontes de que falsas bandeiras como esta - e não posso chamá-las de outra forma - estão sendo preparadas em outras partes da Síria, incluindo os subúrbios do sul de Damasco." disse Putin durante uma conferência de imprensa conjunta com o presidente italiano Sergio Mattarella em Moscou.

    "Eles planejam plantar alguns produtos químicos lá, e acusar o governo sírio pelo ataque", disse Putin a representantes da mídia, acrescentando que ele tem "fontes confiáveis".
    Putin passou a comparar a situação na Síria com as armas de destruição em massa de Saddam Hussein, indicando que ele pode acreditar que os EUA estão por trás da falsa bandeira, ou pelo menos ativamente empurrando essa propaganda, enquanto os rebeldes anti-governo na Síria efetuam o ataque.

    "O Presidente Mattarella e eu discutimos, e eu disse a ele que isso me lembra fortemente os acontecimentos de 2003, quando os representantes dos EUA demonstraram na sessão do Conselho de Segurança da ONU as supostas armas químicas encontradas no Iraque", disse Putin.

    "A campanha militar foi posteriormente lançada no Iraque e terminou com a devastação do país, o crescimento da ameaça terrorista, e o aparecimento do Estado Islâmico (ISIS) no palco mundial", acrescentou Putin.

    "Todos os incidentes que fazem lembrar os ataques químicos que ocorreram em Idlib devem ser investigados minuciosamente", concluiu Putin, também esclarecendo que ele não tem uma reunião programada com Rex Tillerson, que está a caminho da Rússia.

    Além disso, a equipe geral russa disse que as forças sírias não possuem armas químicas e que outros ataques à Síria serão considerados inaceitáveis.

    Radio Free Europe: Putin Claims Chemical 'Provocation' Is Planned In Syria


    From Arab Spring to Organic Gardening

    Last year it was the Arab Spring. This year, that phenomenon continues in the Syrian government slaughtering its own civilians. Closer to home, Harper and Co. are spending $25 billion of our money on fighter jets, $9 billion on prisons, and they're cutting the budgets of human right organization, environmental departments, and the CBC. Welcome to the Spring of skewered priorities.

    Our little patch of the Earth, on the other hand, is ignoring all these disturbing facts and bursts forth with another set of wonderful Spring bulbs! Our crocuses, with their white, purple, and yellow petals, and yellow and orange stamens are more magnificent than the most expensive ball gown, while the hyacinths emit such a lovely smell that in another century it would cause women to swoon. Lemon- colored daffodils stand guard over the shorter flowers, while the tulips are itching to bud and bloom.

    While Sara's garden is starting to fill in with bulbs and sprouting perennials, indoors we are incubating lots of flower and vegetable seeds and seedlings. We purchased some new grow-light units from Lee Valley and they work using a very primitive hydroponic method. Capillary action is the key, as the absorbent pad hangs into the rainwater (collected just for that purpose) and ensures that the coco coir seedling pots are well watered from below.

    Weekly, I mix up some Iguana Juice Grow and Voodoo Juice in four liters of water and fertilize the more advanced seedlings. They seem to thrive on the stuff, and their white roots are sticking out from the bottoms of the bio-degradable pots. Sara insists on only using 100% organic fertilizers, so thank goodness for the Advanced Nutrients organic line!

    I'll document the progress of our flowers, fruits, and vegetables as the months progress. Mother Nature is teaching us once again, that no matter how disturbing the flow of human history, the Earth follows a seasonal pattern and it's been around a lot longer than us humans. Let her teach us to be peaceful, loving, and respectful of her bounty.


    Back to the Garden!

    Time to stop and smell the roses--literally. Time to slow-down. Hockey is a fast and furious and let's face it, violent game, and violence begat violence. It's a biblical truth and we cannot get away from it. Rather, let's look at how we raise our children. Are we teaching them enough of the difference between right and wrong?

    The young people in the photographs of the riot on Facebook have somehow missed those parental lessons. Some of them seemed to relish the violence, posing in front of burning police cars and one guy even urinated at the riot squad. Sure, the rioters were fuelled by a lot of alcohol consumed, but a lack of ethics also played a role in the events.

    It was only a hockey game folks. Someone's FB status said it well--if you're going to riot, at least do it for a worthy cause. Syria, Iran, Libya--the people in those places have some justification for being angry. The Stanley Cup is only an ornament.

              Yahudi Tali Barut Dajjal        
    Tujuan utama Yahudi mahu mengambil Tanah Palestin adalah untuk membina kembali rumah Ibadat mereka iaitu Haikal Sulaiman atau Solomon Temple yang didakwa pada asalnya berada di bawah runtuhan Masjidil Aqsa. Selepas itu, Yahudi mahu membina Israel Raya dan ingin meluaskan jajahannya ke Syria, Iraq, Jordon, Mesir dan terus ke Arab Saudi.

    Gambaran Yahudi Tentang Haikal Sulaiman( Solomon Temple)

    Terdapat beberapa perkara yang dapat dirungkai mengenai puak Yahudi ini. Bagaimana Yahudi dapa meresap masuk ke Amerika? Pada asalnya hanya 22 orang Yahudi sahaja yang datang ke Amerika pada September 1654. Daripada 22 orang itu, 16 lelaki dan 6 lagi perempuan. Tempat pertama mereka menjejak kan kaki mereka adalah di New York( ketika itu New Amsterdam). Waktu itu Amerika di bawah jajahan Belanda. Setelah datang ke New York, mereka melakukan kerja-kerja menipu dan berbagai kesalahan yang merosakkan masyarakat. Sehingga kerajaan Belanda memerintahkan ketika itu menghalau mereka keluar dari Amerika. Tetapi hasrat menghalau mereka itu terus tergendala kerana Yahudi telah menyogok modal yang besar kepada Syarikat Hindia Barat Belanda yang memerintah ketika itu.

    Di sebabkan itu, Yahudi telah berjanji untuk menghancurkan agama lain kerana mereka menganggap mereka adalah bangsa yang terpilih dan bangsa lain tidak layak untuk berdamping dengan mereka. Di sebabkan itu Illuminati berjanji mereka akan menghancurkan manusia yang beragama bertuhankan satu. Di sebabkan itu mereka sekarang sudah pun bersungguh-sungguh untuk menghancurkan Masjidil Aqsa demi membina monumen yang dianggap suci oleh mereka ini. Saya ingin menghuraikan tetapi oleh kerana saya sudah terbaca mengenai perkara ini, maka biarlah blogger lain yang cuba huraikannya. Cukup sekadar saya memberikan maklumat tambahan untuk post kali ini. Apa yang saya tahu, keghairahan mereka untuk membina Haikal Sulaiman ini hampir berjaya kerana MAsjidil Aqsa sudal dicabuli mereka hingga ada kajian yang saya baca mengenai keadaan Masjidil Aqsa, iaitu 1/10 sahaja keadaan yang baik, 9/10 lagi adalah kerosakkan yang telah mereka lakukan terhadap Masjidil Aqsa.

    Apa-apa pun, marilah sama-sama kita berdoa agar Allah sentiasa melindungi kita dari bahaya DAjjal ini..Semoga kita mendapat rahmat dan petunjuk darinya...

    Gambar di atas adalah Zion Gate. Pintu ini adalah pintu terakhir pertahanan orang Islam ketika Yahudi cuba menawan Jerusalem. Kesan-kesan seperti lubang-lubang yang banyak terdapat di pintu ini adalah bekas tembakan peluru tentera dajjal dalam peperangan tahun 1967 yang menyaksikan Israel mengalahkan lima negara iaitu Palestin, Syria, Lubnan, Mesir dan Jordan. Tidakkah anda berasa pelik, negara Israel yang kecik mampu mengalahkan Lima Negara Islam.....itu semua kerana pertolongan Dajjal....

              Ad Dajjal: Dari Kisah Tamim Ad Dari        

    Banyak perihal-perihal tentang asal-usul Dajjal yang direkodkan dalam hadis-hadis. Banyak yang menceritakan tentang asal-usulnya, perihal dirinya dan apa yang bakal dibawanya di akhir zaman nanti. Ianya seperti yang saya ceritakan di posting yang terdahulu. Pernahkan anda mendengar perihal tentang pulau yang dikaji oleh para sarjana barat tentang Pulau yang hilang, yang diberi nama Atlantis? saya rasa anda semua tahu mengenai pulau ini. Apa yang saya tahu mengenai pulau ini, adalah salah satu perkara pokok yang dapat saya justifikasi ialah pulau ini ada kaitan dengan apa yang diceritakan oleh Tamim Ad Dari, salah seorang insan yang beragama Kristian, yang akhirnya memeluk Islam. Beliau adalah manusia yang hidup di zaman Rasulullah dan beliau yang menceritakan perihal DAjjal ini kepada Rasulullah.

    Apabila beliau menceritakan perihal Dajjal ini kepada Rasulullah, reaksi Rasulullah hanyalah dengan mengiyakan sahaja apa yang diceritakan Tamim Ad Dari kepada Baginda. Ini adalah kerana apa yg disampaikan beliau adalah benar dan menepati apa yang diceritakan Rasullullah sebelum ini kepada semua umat pada waktu itu.

    Tamim telah menceritakan semua perihal mengenai Dajjal ini kepada Rasulullah. Tamim memulakan ceritanya dengan memberitahu beliau telah berlayar di dalam sebuah kapal dengan seramai 30 orang Bani Lakham dan Bani Judham, dan kapal yang dinaiki mereka telah terumbang ambing di lambung oleh ombak selama sebulan. Ombak yang memukul itu telah membawa mereka berdekatan dengan sebuah Pulau pada masa matahari terbenam. Mereka duduk di dalam sebuah sampan yang mereka kayuh dan telah berlabuh di pulau itu. Di pulau yang mereka berhenti berlabuh itu, dengan izin Allah terdapat seekor haiwan yang dikatakan menghuni pulau itu dengan bulu di badannya yang penuh, panjang lagi tebal sehingga Tamim dan mereka-mereka yang menaiki kapal bersamanya tidak dapat mengenali makhluk tersebut dari belakang. Maka berlakulah satu dialog di antara Tamim dan rakan-rakan lain dengan haiwan itu:

    " Celaka kamu, siapakah kamu?" Mereka bertanya.

    " Daku adalah Al-Jassasah". Haiwan itu berkata.

    Mereka bertanya: " Apakah Al- Jassasah?"

    Jassasah berkata, " Wahai manusia, pergilah kamu kepada orang ini yang berada di dalam biara oleh kerana ia sangat ingin untuk mengetahui tentang kamu,"

    Tamim pun bergegas dengan mereka yang lain untuk pergi ke biara yang dikatakan oleh Jassasah tadi. Mereka mendapati di biara itu terdapat seorang yang berbadan tegap dan sasa dengan kedua tangannya diikat ke lehernya dan belenggu-belenggu besi mencengkam buku lalinya.

    Tamim berkata: " Celakalah kamu, siapakah kamu?"

    Ia berkata: " Kamu akan mengetahui akan diriku tetapi beritahulah aku siapakah kamu.

    Tamim berkata: " Kami adalah penduduk dari Tanah Arab dan kami menaiki kapal yang dipukul ombak selama sebulan dan akhirnya kami di bawa ke sini. Kami menaiki perahu dan berlabuh ke sini dan diberitahu oleh Jassasah bahawa ada seseorang yang ingin bertemu kami di sini."

    Ia berkata: " Beritahulah daku, akan pohon-pohon kurma di Baisan."

    Mereka berkata(diwakili Tamim): " Apa yang ingin kamu ketahui mengenainya?"

    Ia berkata: " Adakah ia berbuah atau tidak."

    " Ya!, jawab mereka.

    Ia bertanya lagi: " Bagaimana tentang tasik Tabariyyah? adakah terdapat air dalamnya?

    Mereka berkata: " Terdapat air yang banyak di dalamnya.

    Ia berkata: " Daku berfikir ia akan kering tidak lama lagi. Bagaimana tentang mata air Zughfar? adakah terdapat air di dalamnya dan adakah ia mengairi(tanah) ?"

    Mereka berkata: " Ya. memang terdapat banyak air yang banyak di dalamnya dan para penduduk ( Madinah) mengairi tanah dengan bantuannya."

    Ia berkata lagi: " Beritahulah daku, akan Rasul yang Ummi, apakah yang telah ia lakukan?"

    Mereka berkata: " Beliau telahpun meninggalkan Mekah dan telah tinggal di Yathrib."

    Ia berkata: " Adakah orang Arab memeranginya dan bagaimana beliau melayan mereka?"

    Mereka memberitahu: " Beliau telah mengalahkan mereka di kawasan sekitarnya dan mereka telah berserah diri kepadanya.

    Ia berkata: " Jika begitu perkara yang terjadi, adalah lebih baik mereka semua menunjukkan ketaatan kepadanya. Daku akan memberitahu kamu tentang diriku. Daku adalah Dajjal dan akan dibenarkan untuk lepas tidak lama lagi. Maka daku akan pergi dan berjalan di daratan, dan daku tidak akan meninggalkan sebuah bandar pun di mana daku tidak akan tinggal selama 40 hari melainkan Mekah dan Madinah. Kedua-dua tempat ini adalah kawasan terlarang bagiku dan daku tidak akan memasuki salah satunya kerana satu malaikat dengan sebilah pedang di tangannya akan menghadapiku dan menghadang daku dan terdapat para malaikat untuk menjaga setiap jalan menujunya."

    Inilah yang diceritakan kepada Rasulullah oleh Tamim Ad Dari. Rasulullah bersabda: " Daku menyukai cerita Tamim Ad Dari kerana ia menepati kisah yang daku berikan kepada kamu berkenaanya( DAjjal) di Madinah dan Mekah. Awas!, DAjjal berada di lautan Syria( Mediteranean) atau Lautan Yaman( Laut Arab). Tidak, sebaliknya ia berada di timur, ia berada di timur, di timur." Dan selepas itu baginda menunding jarinya ke arah timur.

    Di sebabkan itu, perasankah saudara semua berkenaan apa yang dikaji oleh para sarjana barat mengenai pulau yang dikatakan ATLANTIS? inilah yang cuba disampaikan mereka sebenarnya.. Mereka amat berbangga dengan DAjjal Al- Massih, sebab itu mereka mengkaji ATLANTIS ini yang sehinggakan ada sesetengah pendapat mengatakan bahawa pulau itu sebenarnya tidak wujud. Ini adalah Kuasa Allah s.w.t. Sesungguhnya Allah lebih mengetahui setiap isi perkara yang ada di dunia yang fana ini. Namun harus kita ketahui bahawa TAmin Ad Dari telah sampai di sana, namun tidak ada riwayat yang mengatakan pulau yang disinggah itu bernama ATLANTIS...Inilah yang dikaji mereka. NAmun hakikat kebenarannya adalah Rasulullah mengiyakan apa yang disampaikan oleh Tamim kepada Baginda.

    Peta yang dikatakan lokasi Pulau Atlantis tersebut
    Namun mereka masih belum menjumpai Pulau yang dikatakan seperti yang disebut oleh Tamim Ad Dari. Apa yang pasti, kebenarannya, hanya Allah lebih mengetahui.
    Seperti apa yang dikatakan Dajjal di antara dialog beliau dengan Tamim, yang pasti beliau sudah bebas bergerak di dunia ini. Ya Allah...lindungilah kami dari fitnah Dajjal ini Ya Allah.
    Semoga apa yang saya kongsikan dengan anda ini memberi maklumat tambahan. Semoga anda semua mendapat iktibar dari apa yang saya kongsikan ini. Insyallah..

              Ad Dajjal: Si Pendusta        

    Salam pertemuan. Saya harap anda semua yang berada di mana sahaja sihat sejahtera. Harapan saya agar anda semua sihat, bagi yang sudah berkeluarga, moga anda semua sihat di samping keluarga anda yang tersayang. Kali ini, izinkan saya untuk turut sama berkongsi sesuatu yang berguna untuk tatapan kita semua. Saya ingin berkongsi dengan anda kisah yang saya baca dan ingin kongsi bersama anda, iaitu berkenaan Ad Dajjal, Dajjal Al-Masih. Seperti yang kita ketahui, banyak sudah yang boleh kita perolehi di dalam internet ini sumber-sumber yang menceritakan berkenaan Dajjal ini. Di sini saya ingin turut sama berkongsi dengan saudara sekalian. Bagi yang sudah mengetahui siri The Arrivals, Alhamdulilah, moga anda mendapat manfaat yang berguna dan mengambil iktibar daripada siri berkenaan. Bagi yang belum menyaksikan lagi siri tersebut, eloklah kiranya anda melihatnya. The Arrivals mempunyai 52 siri(kalau tidak silap percaturan saya) yang menceritakan komplot Yahudi yang didalangi Iluminati dan juga Freemasons dalam menjahanamkan manusia yang beragama bertuhankan satu. Untuk itu, anda boleh lihat video di bawah, iaitu pengenalan The Arrivals berkenaan Dajjal Al-Masih.