September 2008

Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni, 2006

Tzipi Livni is Israel’s Barack Obama

By Neri Livneh, Haaretz Correspondent, September 18, 2008

If, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono said, “Woman is the N—-r of the World,” then Tzipi Livni is Israel’s Barack Obama.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, Livni did not exploit the fact that she was a woman in order to get elected. She is also not married to one of the most beloved individuals in the world.

Instead, Livni won the Kadima primary despite being a woman, and despite being married to a private man who prefers to steer clear from the limelight. (Israeli comics – all of them men, of course – are now busy thinking up new puns on the old “Mr. Tzipi Livni and Mrs. President.”)

And all this while Livni is zealously trying to protect the privacy of her family, and is probably the last person anyone would turn to for a Rosh Hashanah cake recipe. (more…)

Smoke is seen billowing outside the U.S. embassy in Sanaa September 17, 2008. A car bomb set off a series of explosions outside the heavily fortified embassy in Yemen on Wednesday and a Yemeni security source said at least 16 people, including six attackers, were killed. Collapse
(Yemen News Agency, via Reuters)

U.S. Embassy in Yemen Attacked

By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post Foreign Service, Wednesday, September 17, 2008

SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 17 — Attackers exploded a vehicle bomb outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen on Wednesday in what appeared to be a well-coordinated assault that triggered more explosions and heavy gunfire around the compound.

Yemen’s official Saba news agency said 16 people died in the incident, including six Yemeni soldiers, four civilians and six attackers. One of the civilians was an Indian woman at the embassy on business.

There were no immediate reports of American casualties. The embassy is located in the center of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, but the building is set far back from an outer security wall.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. (more…)

Engine “Abdul Hamid” on the Mecca Railroad; Source: National Geographic Magazine XX(2):158, 1909

[A few years before World War I, when the Ottoman empire was still an empire, the Sultan Abdul Hamid sponsored a railway link between Damascus and Mecca for the pilgrim route. Although the Hijaz Railway is little known today, it has already merited a Wikipedia article. The following is from a report published a century ago on the opening of the railway. Webshaykh.]

The gauge of the line is the somewhat curious one of 1.05 meter (3 feet 5 1/4 inches), which was necessary, when the line was first commenced, to correspond with the gauge of the Beirut-Damascus line, over which the rolling stock had to be brought. The branch to the Mediterranean, at Haifa, was constructed subsequently. The rolling stock has been obtained principally from Belgium, with the exception of the engines, which are made by a German firm. The rails were supplied by the American Steel Trust, but a French firm domiciled in Russia, and by the firm of Cockerill, in Belgium.

The engineers in charge of sections were also of various nationalities — French, Poles, Hungarians, etc. — while the guiding spirit in the construction has been Meissner Pasha, a very able German engineer. (more…)

Making America Stupid
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times, September 14, 2008

Imagine for a minute that attending the Republican convention in St. Paul, sitting in a skybox overlooking the convention floor, were observers from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And imagine for a minute what these observers would have been doing when Rudy Giuliani led the delegates in a chant of “drill, baby, drill!”

I’ll tell you what they would have been doing: the Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan observers would have been up out of their seats, exchanging high-fives and joining in the chant louder than anyone in the hall — “Yes! Yes! Drill, America, drill!” — because an America that is focused first and foremost on drilling for oil is an America more focused on feeding its oil habit than kicking it.

Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”

Potent, powerful, and provocative. That’s what Nordstrom department stores have to say about Obsession, Calvin Klein’s cologne for men. These qualities are shared, no doubt, by another Obsession, a DVD currently being distributed by the Clarion Fund (, a nonprofit shell organization devoted to propagandizing against Islam. Subtitled “Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” copies of Obsession have been distributed as “paid advertising” in dozens of American newspapers, including the Charlotte Observer and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Desperate for cash, traditional print media are not very fussy about their advertisers these days. Ann Caulkins, the publisher of the Charlotte Observer, told the paper’s religion reporter that the DVD met the newspaper’s criteria for ads: “We’re all for freedom of expression, freedom of speech. This is in no way reflecting our opinions, but it is something we allow,” she said, adding that the newspaper would not allow material that is racist, profane, or “offers graphic images of body parts,” which at least distinguishes the paper from anything in the CSI television franchise. (more…)

The victims include seven children and two women.

Reported in Al-Jazeera, Thursday, September 11, 2008

Babel, a central Iraqi province, is on alert after Iraqi authorities declared it a disaster zone marking the country’s latest cholera outbreak.

At least five people died on Thursday while 90 new cases had been reported, local and national health officials said.

Babel’s provincial council, said: “The laboratory reports from Babel health department indicate there are 200 cases of suspected cholera, vomiting and diarrhea in the province”.

At least 20 people, including seven children and two women, have died from cholera in the past three days, a local official said. (more…)

Sally Lopez of Lemoyne, PA displays a copy of the DVD that came in the mail.

by Erik Ose, The Latest Outrage, September 12, 2008

This week, 28 million copies of a right-wing, terror propaganda DVD are being mailed and bundled in newspaper deliveries to voters in swing states. The 60-minute DVDs, titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” are landing on doorsteps in a campaign coinciding with the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Funding is coming from a New York-based group called the Clarion Fund, a shadowy outfit whose financial backers are The program was originally shown on Fox News in the days leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and right-wing activist David Horowitz toured the country screening the film on college campuses during 2007. Mainstream religious groups have called Obsession biased and divisive. It cuts between scenes of Nazi rallies and footage of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers. (more…)

GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin was interviewed on ABC, noting that she can handle foreign policy with Russia because from her state of Alaska she can actually see Russia. Perhaps not from her major’s office in Wasilla or capitol office in Juneau (which is off the map shown above to the bottom right)…

In the past month or so this blog has shifted emphasis from the large swathe of posts covering some aspect of the study of Islam or the Middle East to the current presidential election in the United States. In large part this is because the political game overrides the “united” part with a partisan division into red and blue states. The candidates have specific stands, as well as generic punch lines for the public, on a range of these issues. Certainly the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which daily claim American military lives and many more civilians, are a major part of the electoral mix. Before the conventions it was John McCain, the proud war-first-not-country-first candidate vs. Barak Obama, who had the judgment to say going into Iraq was a big mistake.

But McCain surprised everyone (including party pooper — and I mean that literally — Joe Lieberman, no doubt) by choosing a VP candidate with zero foreign policy experience, who had never left the country (outside of tourist visits to Canada and Mexico) until a ceremonial trip to visit the Alaska National Guard troops (which she has no authority over when outside Alaska) in Kuwait, and who thinks being next to Russia across the Bering Strait makes her a specialist on post-Cold-War policy making. What I want to know is how strong the binoculars are from Juneau, where you can sure see Canada on a clear day, or Anchorage. It may not matter if the hottest governor in the nation is prepared to get even hotter and go to the gates of hell to look Putin (apparently she does not know how to pronounce Dmitry Medvedev’s name) in the face with that pitbull smile of hers. Of course, after all, as she stated, from her state of Alaska she can actually see Russia. If seeing is believing, Palin is the poster child for Republican optical illusions. (more…)

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