Saturday, September 26, 2009

You decide

Here's the video of Larry King interviewing Ahmedinijad on the treatment of post-election protesters in Iran:

Here's the New York Times article on rape and torture of protesters (please click through to read the entire chilling and disquieting article):

Iranian Protester Flees Country After Telling of Rape and Torture in Prison

“I was ready to be tortured to death,” he said, his voice trembling. “But not ever to go through what happened to me there.”

Mr. Karroubi and another opposition leader and presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, have vigorously condemned the vicious tactics the security authorities used against the demonstrators, 72 of whom they say were killed. Yet, of all the allegations of brutality and abuse that were lodged, none have presented such a threat to the government as those involving rape and sodomy, which are culturally and religiously unacceptable in Iran.

Human rights groups say that Mr. Sharifi’s account conforms closely with those of other abuse victims. Omid Memarian, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said he had confirmed the credibility of Mr. Sharifi’s story with people close to Mr. Karroubi.

Top U.S. Commander Says Taliban Winning Communication Initiative

Tragically, organizations responsible to maintain the successes and momentum of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) dropped the ball, leaving the world more dangerous, and less equipped to manage current geopolitical challenges.

McChrystal's longing for authoritative religious figures to mediate the ideal of reconciliation was a design and achievement of the IRFWP 2o years ago. The US military has little access, understanding, or credibility in this community that is indispensable to the larger work of dissolving the unique challenges in Afghanistand and Pakistan.

Holbrooke has repeatedly complained that the Taliban has communicated more effectively than the United States. In June, he told a House subcommittee there was a need to refine the coalition's message and use new ways to reach Afghans, suggesting cell phones, radio and other means, the Post reported.

McChrystal said one way to accomplish this is to "disrupt and degrade" the insurgent networks. He suggests getting authoritative figures, such as religious leaders, to deliver messages "so they are credible," the Post reported.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A good argument for the obvious

Rachel Brown in her CSM opinion piece offers some good examples and explanations for that which should be profoundly obvious. Women bear so much of the brunt of war and conflict, surely they must represent an invaluable resource for negotiations and deliberations in pursuit of reconciliation.

Middle East peace effort's missing key: female negotiators.

Women bear the brunt of conflict, so their input for peace is essential.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and representatives of the Middle East Quartet debate whether evictions of Palestinian families are a barrier or catalyst to a two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian women alike confront the realities of the conflict on the ground.

These women work toward a sustainable peace as committee members, as demonstrators, and as mothers raising and educating their children despite occupation. But their representation in formal negotiations is inadequate.

Because Israeli and Palestinian women are disproportionately affected by occupation and the threat of violence, their input into the national security debate – and international negotiations for peace – is essential.

A brighter side of the deeper parts of human nature

A Paradise Built in Hell

When disaster strikes, ordinary human beings very often do extraordinary things.

Disasters are terrible, awful things. No one could dispute that. But what do those extraordinary events tell us about ordinary humans? One view is that disasters crack society’s fragile social norms, releasing destructive primitive instincts in the form of hysteria, panic, crimes, and other acts of ruthless self-interest.

Another view says that disasters actually release what is best and, ultimately, most authentic about people, spawning amazing acts of compassion, generosity, courage, and self-sacrifice.
In A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit argues strongly on behalf of this latter view. And because it is overwhelming true in most cases, she says, it suggests new ways of thinking about how governments should approach disaster relief.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Ahmadinejad Problem- New thinking is needed

Is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a bad guy?

By all accounts the answer seems to be a clear yes, especially if we are to believe reports of the demonic way he treated his own people in the wake of Iran's recent, so-called elections.

It's one thing to be branded a villain in the context of international relations, but the litmus test of a leaders' status that seems to carry universal opprobrium is tyranny, brutalizing the helpless under your reign.

This morning's headlines see world leaders with their hands thrown up over
Ahmadinejad's obstinate refusal to cooperate with regard to his nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad: Iran won't halt nuclear work

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday Iran will neither halt uranium enrichment nor negotiate over its nuclear rights but is ready to sit and talk with world powers over "global challenges."

Ahmadinejad also said Iran will present a package of proposals for talks to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany but rejected any deadline for such talks.

President Barack Obama and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities. If not, Iran could face harsher punitive sanctions.

Who are these wonderful conversation partners (five plus one) waiting in the wings to discuss the problems of arms with the evil President Ahmadinejad?

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — plus Germany offered Iran a modified package of economic incentives June last year in return for suspending its uranium enrichment activities or face harsher sanctions.

Why is Germany not on the security council of the UN? Because the UN was formed largely in response to Hitler's efforts to take over the world.

But now Germany's OK. Let's take look at these lovely five plus one defined so nobly by their stature at the the UN from a different angle?

Oh, by the way, Post-Mussolini's Italy wasn't too popular during the founding of the United Nations either.

Those old arms numbers were shattered by a spike of 33% growth of US arms sales in the last year as reported in yesterday's NYTimes.


Ahmadinejad may be bad, but (sadly) he's not stupid (a phrase that could apply to countless politicians).

Is a nuclear armed Iran bad? Should it be prevented?

Of course, and by all means.

Can it be stopped by a process void of a genuine moral center. Sadly not.

This and a great many current global problems must be met in a system grounded in the radical change that will be put forth in upcoming articles on this site.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Muslims Who Saved The Jews

This article highlighted below is the transcript of an interview with Norman Gershman.

Host Liane Hansen speaks with photographer Norman Gershman about his book Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II, which is also the subject of a documentary called God's House. Greshman spent five years collecting stories of Albanian Muslims who harbored Jewish refugees during World War II.

During the Nazi occupation of Albania and Kosovo during the second World War, Jews facing persecution and death had a small group of seemingly unlikely allies - Muslims. Sixty-five people managed to save some 2,000 Jews, and have been honored by the Jewish Holocaust Memorial as righteous among nations.

Photographer Norman Gershman spent five years taking photos of them and collecting their stories. They've been published in a new book, "Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II." Mr. Gershman joins us from Aspen Public Radio in Colorado. Welcome.

Concept of heritage opens positive interfaith horizons

This collection of excerpted passages below comes from the full NYTimes piece that explains the restoration of Jewish sites in Egypt.

The opening passage shows the reflexive hate for Jews in the region, but the article goes on to explain the history of Jews in the country, and the devotion to preserve this contribution in the name of Egypt's heritage.

Egypt's Public Embrace of a Jewish Past

Khalid Badr, 40, is pretty typical in that regard, living in a neighborhood of winding, rutted roads in Old Cairo, selling snacks from a kiosk while listening to the Koran on the radio. Asked his feelings about Jews, he replied matter-of-factly. "We hate them for everything they have done to us," Mr. Badr said, as casually as if he had been asked the time.

Later in the article Slackman tells of the Hawass's many projects for the restoration of Jewsih sites in Cairo and elsehwere

"If you don't restore the Jewish synagogues, you lose a part of your history," said Zahi Hawass,

Egypt has slowly, quietly been working to restore its synagogues for several years.

It is a historic one, actually, named after Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, a physician and philosopher who is considered among the most important rabbinic scholars in Jewish history. He was born in Córdoba, Spain, in 1135, moved to Alexandria and eventually to Cairo.

There are fewer than 100, some say fewer than 80, Jews left in Egypt today, making the preservation projects all the more important, Rabbi Baker said.

US 10 times its nearest competitor

The reputation of the US as militaristic and unworthy of any claim to moral leadership in the world is strengthened by this data detailed in this NYTimes article.

The US towering above all countries in arms sales including with major contracts in the Middle East, as well as with developing countries comes no longer in the easy target of the Bush administration, but now well into the first year of the Obama administration.

clipped from

Despite Slump, U.S. Role as Top Arms Supplier Grows

WASHINGTON — Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study.

The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.

Italy was a distant second, with $3.7 billion in worldwide weapons sales in 2008, while Russia was third with $3.5 billion in arms sales last year — down considerably from the $10.8 billion in weapons deals signed by Moscow in 2007.

The United States was the leader not only in arms sales worldwide, but also in sales to nations in the developing world, signing $29.6 billion in weapons agreements with these nations, or 70.1 percent of all such deals.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Arabs moving into Israeli settlements

Holy city twist: Upwardly mobile Arabs moving into neighborhoods built for Jews

This July 30, 2009 photo shows Israelis sitting in a coffee shop as Arab women walk past in the French hill neighborhood of northern Jerusalem. A small but growing number of Arabs is moving into Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Most come for the better services and reasonable rents,

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Yousef Majlaton moved into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev for such comforts as proper running water and regular garbage pickup.

The hillside sprawl of townhouses and apartment blocks was built for Jews, and Majlaton is a Palestinian.

Pisgat Zeev is part of Israel's effort to fortify its presence in Jerusalem's eastern half which it captured in the 1967 war.

It wasn't so much the politics of this contested city that drew Majlaton to Pisgat Zeev, however; it was the prospect of escaping the potholed roads and scant municipal services he endured for 19 years while renting in an Arab neighborhood.

"You see that air conditioner?" he said, pointing to the large wall unit cooling his living room. "In the Arab areas, the electricity is too weak to run one that big."