Sunday Reads: GOP Pigs and Spots in Space…

$(KGrHqEOKnIE44R2dbwLBOWl4kko9w~~_35Good Morning!

It is the first Sunday in December, the year has gone by so damn fast. There has been all sorts of juicy items in the news, and I’ve got plenty of articles to share with you this morning.

Let us start of with several links on foreign policy, Hillary Clinton has been extremely busy in her final leg as Secretary of State.

The recent UN decision to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state has sparked another confrontational response from Israel. After the UN vote was announced an Israeli official made a statement that included the government backed settlement and construction of 3,000 new West Bank units.

The Daily Beast/Newsweek has a post up, Explaining Israel’s Reaction to the U.N.’s pro-Palestinian Vote

Israel’s leaders stayed surprisingly calm last week. In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s vote on upgrading the Palestinians’ U.N. membership, a few senior Israeli officials drafted a position paper focusing on how the government should respond. The U.N. move, the writers warned, threatened to “severely damage” Israel’s credibility and undermine the Jewish state’s position in future peace negotiations. But more than that, they added, the initiative could open the door to war-crimes prosecutions against Israelis at the International Criminal Court. The five-page paper, dated Nov. 12 and obtained by Newsweek, advised that if the vote went ahead, Israel should “exact a heavy price” from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—a price to include dismantling his Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. “A softer approach would amount to waving a white flag and admitting that the Israeli leadership is unable to rise to the challenge,” the writers concluded.

The upgrade, which the General Assembly approved last week by a huge majority, is a bitter pill for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It includes not only a boost in the Palestinians’ status from (U.N. jargon alert!) “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state,” but also a recognition of their right to all of the West Bank and Gaza, including territory that Israelis have settled since 1967. Even some dovish Israelis have problems with the resolution’s sweep. And yet Israel’s response—a dismissive statement from the prime minister and the floating of plans to build thousands of new housing units in the West Bank—fell well short of the threats to topple Abbas. “This is a meaningless resolution that won’t change anything on the ground,” Netanyahu said in a handout just before the vote.

Clinton has made it clear that she was not pleased with Israel’s decision to expand settlements further into the West Bank. New Israeli Settlements Set Back Peace, Clinton Says

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Israeli plans for new settlements near East Jerusalem do not help efforts to bring about a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis.

Clinton told Israeli officials in Washington that plans for new settlements abutting East Jerusalem “set back the cause of a negotiated peace.”

“We all need to work together to find a path forward in negotiations that can finally deliver on a two-state solution. That must remain our goal,” Clinton said.

Clinton continued her remarks,

“President Abbas took a step in the wrong direction this week,” Clinton said. “We opposed his resolution. But we also need to see that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank still offers the most compelling alternative to rockets and permanent resistance.”

She says Palestinian Authority leaders deserve credit for real achievements on the ground — making their streets safe, overhauling governing institutions and cooperating with Israel to help enhance Israeli security.

“At a time when religious extremists claim to offer rewards in the hereafter, Israel needs to help those committed to peace deliver for their people in the here and now,” Clinton said.

When Israeli and Palestinian leaders are ready to return to direct negotiations, Secretary Clinton says President Barack Obama will be a full partner.

She says the United States stand ready to help Israel make more permanent its cease-fire with Hamas forces in Gaza. But that requires the continued cooperation of the new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

“We look to Egypt to intensify its efforts to crack down on weapons smuggling from Libya and Sudan into Gaza,” Clinton said. “I am convinced that if more rockets are allowed to enter Gaza through the tunnels, that will certainly pave the way for more fighting again soon.”

After Clinton made this statement she was joined in agreement by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague: Clinton and Hague attack Israel decision to build new settlements both,

…have launched attacks on an Israeli decision to build fresh settlements on occupied territory in the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu‘s decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes is widely seen as a response to the United Nations vote earlier this week that recognised a Palestinian bid to be a “non-member observer state”.

The US, with Israel, strongly opposed that move, while Britain abstained in the vote. But now both countries have criticised the Israeli settlement decision, saying it hurts the chances of a two-state solution and the search for peace in the troubled region.

Hague’s comments were the following.

Hague said he was “extremely concerned” at the plans, which have been reported in the Israeli press as including a four-square-mile area just east of Jerusalem that is seen as vital to keeping open a viable land corridor between the city and any future Palestinian state.

Hague asked Israel to reverse the decision and said the prospect of a successful two solution was receding. “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” he said in comments Saturday. “If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve.”

Hague added: “They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians.”

Sticking with Foreign Policy, I thought this was an interesting piece written by Stephen M. Walt. Never underestimate the power of confusion

If you read this blog, you’ve probably heard about the various “isms” in the field of international relations. There’s realism, of course, but also liberalism, idealism, and social constructivism. And don’t forget Marxism, even though hardly anybody claims to believe it anymore. These “isms” are essentially families of theory that share certain common assumptions. For example, realists see power and fear as the main drivers of world affairs, while liberals place more weight on human acquisitiveness and the power of institutions.

But there’s another major force in world affairs, and sometimes I think it deserves an “ism” all its own. With tongue in cheek and apologies to a famous Chinese sage, I’ll call it “Confusionism.” For Confusians, ignorance and stupidity are the real key to understanding state behavior, not fear, greed, ideals, class interests, or any of those other things that people think drive world affairs. When Confusians seek to explain why states act as they do, they start by assuming that leaders do not understand the problems they face, have only a vague sense of where they want to go, and no idea at all about how to get there. Instead of starting with the rational actor assumption beloved by economists, realists, and most liberals, Confusians hone in on all the reasons why humans typically get things wrong.

Hmmm, “isms” (aren’t those the things right-wing southern secessionist dislike?)

Confusionism is the opposite of the assorted conspiracy theories that you often read about. Some people believe that the world is run by a shadowy network of elites (e.g., the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg, Council on Foreign Relations, etc.). Other people think everything is ultimately the product of some secret Zionist conspiracy, or the machinations of oil companies and the military-industrial complex. Islamophobes are convinced there is some sort of well-oiled Muslim plot to infiltrate Europe and America, impose Sharia law, and stick all our young women in harems. If you read enough Robert Ludlum, watch The Matrix too often, or spend enough time patrolling the nether regions of the blogosphere, you might find yourself thinking along similar lines. If that happens, get help.

Okay, that is the first three paragraphs, just go read the whole thing will ya?

There is one thing I am grateful for these last four years, and that is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I will miss her tremendously when she retires at the start of Obama’s second term, and personally, I would feel more comfortable with John Kerry as SoS…but that is another story. Anyway, Clinton’s replacement will reveal new US foreign policy direction

With the imminent retirement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, much speculation has arisen in Washington concerning her replacement. No matter whom the president chooses to nominate for the post, the political process of confirmation by the US Senate is sure to reveal much about the mindset of Republicans and Democrats entering Obama’s second term, and will certainly indicate the direction of US foreign policy in coming years.

Following President Barack Obama’s reelection, it was widely believed that US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice would be the president’s nominee to succeed Clinton.

With impeccable academic credentials, and experience as an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton White House, Rice is more than qualified. Rice is known for her direct and idealistic style of negotiation, and her less conciliatory, more confrontational style would likely take the practice of US foreign policy in a different direction than that charted by Clinton’s more pragmatic approach.

A greater and more direct US role in Middle Eastern affairs, and more emphasis on the role of foreign governments in human rights abuses and issues of social justice would likely mark the tenure of Rice.

Supposedly, there are rumors that Hillary is not thrilled with the prospect of Susan Rice replacing her at the Department of State. According to  Michael Sneed: Hillary Clinton no fan of Susan Rice, prefers Kerry for State

The big question: Who would Secretary of State Hillary Clinton like to get her job?

It ain’t embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is dealing with the way she handled the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Sneed is told if Hillary had to choose between Rice and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who is head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, she would prefer Kerry.

“Hillary is not close to Rice, who is tough — but is not the friendliest person,” said a top White House source. “And Hillary’s brief comment recently that Rice had done ‘a great job’ was considered underwhelming and tepid,” the source added.

Yes, that bit of gossip is followed by a story on Kate Middleton, but it does go along the lines of how I think many of us perceive the situation…that Kerry would be a better fit after Clinton.

Okay, enough on Foreign Affairs and Policy, before we go on to other stories…take a quick look at this from Tommy Christopher: Persistent Romnesia: Former Mitt Romney Chief Strategist Says ‘Nobody Liked Romney Except Voters’

If the recent fiscal cliff/Susan Rice piñata party news doldrums have got you down, take a break with what has to be the first published example of a resignation letter from every future job. Former Romney campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens has penned the most deluded piece of writing since Norma Desmond filled out an order for new headshots. In a hilarious op-ed for The Washington Post, Stevens explains, among other things, that “Nobody liked Romney except voters.”

I know that BB wrote a great post on the “delusions” of the GOP and Romney’s camp, but anything that can make a reference to Sunset Blvd is too good to ignore.

And when it comes to the GOP, not only are they delusional…they are cruel. How One GOP Plutocrat Helped Make 20,000 Kids Homeless

Homelessness in New York has skyrocketed, thanks in part to years of conservative policy predicated on right-wing ideology.

There are   20,000 kids  sleeping in homeless shelters in New York City, according to the city’s latest estimate, a number that does not include homeless kids who are  not sleeping in shelters because their families have been turned away. Up to 65 percent of families who apply for  shelter don’t get in , and their options can be grim.

“Some end up sleeping in subway trains,” Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, tells AlterNet. “Some go to hospital emergency rooms or laundromats. Women are going back to their batterers or staying in unsafe apartments.”

Families that make it into shelters are taking longer to leave and move into stable, permanent housing. Asked by reporters why families were staying  30% longer than even last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “… it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”

“Is it great?”  He elaborated a day  later in response to outcry over his comments. “No. It’s not the Plaza Hotel … but that’s not what shelter is supposed to be and that’s not what the public can afford or the public wants.”

The above alternet story has many pages, it is important that you read them all. I have one more story related to the homeless. Winter problem: More homeless are living in cars

Phil Bell sleeps under three sleeping bags and two blankets in the back seat of his 1998 Buick. He parks outside truck stops and stores that are open 24 hours and rarely turns on his engine.

“You can’t leave the car running because it calls attention to you and burns too much gas,” he explains. “Being in the car is better than being outside or in a tent, but it gets really cold.”

Bell, 39, has been homeless since September. He was laid off by a Detroit auto parts maker and couldn’t pay his rent. He loaded his possessions into his car and took off. He made it this far and is looking for work here.

“I’m lucky,” Bell says. “At least I’ve got the car. Most people out here on the streets don’t have anything.”

I know these are long reads…if you can’t read them all in one shot, book mark them for later.

Now let’s get on with the easy Sunday reads, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

SDB Later Evening News Reads for 082611: Huntsman, Irene and Sanatorium Science

Wow, what a day, most of our readers in the Northeast are getting ready for some rain, wind and storm surge…

I remember someone asked about the flooding, and if having a new moon was going to be a problem…I think it was Branjor. Well, it looks like it could…Hurricane Irene 2011: Flooding could be made worse by arrival of a new moon | Mail Online

The intensity of Hurricane Irene and the extent of the flooding on the East Coast could be made worse by a new moon and high temperature of water in the Atlantic, scientists warn.

During new and full moons, the sun, Earth, and the moon are arranged in a straight line, with the sun and moon intensifying each other’s gravitational pull on Earth.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, director of the Weather Underground website, said the result is more severe tidal fluctuations.

That means low tides are lower than usual and high tides are higher.

Due to these so-called spring tides, any town that sees the hurricane pass by during one of the two daily high tides is especially in danger of heavy flooding due to storm surges.

The storm is causing big problems in the big city, New York City that is.  NYC orders evacuations; Mass transit to shut down – CBS News

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered mandatory evacuations for residents in low-lying coastal areas ahead of Hurricane Irene.

Bloomberg said at a briefing Friday that emergency shelters will be opened at 4 p.m.

The low-lying areas are scattered across the city and are home to about 270,000 residents. They include parts of Battery Park City, Coney Island and the Rockaways.

Officials also ordered an unprecedented shutdown of the city’s mass transit system for Saturday in advance of the hurricane.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has never before halted its entire system in advance of a storm, though the system was seriously hobbled by an August 2007 rainstorm. The last planned shutdown of the entire transit system was during a 2005 strike.

They are expecting flooding in lower Manhattan, which is going to affect the subways.

Voice of America is reporting that an Islamist Militant Group Boko Haram Claims Attack in Nigeria | World | Learning English

A deadly car bombing at the United Nations building in Abuja has brought more attention to an Islamic group. The attack happened Friday morning in the Nigerian capital. Later, a man claiming to represent Boko Haram spoke by telephone with a VOA reporter. He said the group carried out the attack and warned that “this is just the beginning.”

The spokesman said the bombing was in reaction to the Nigerian military’s increased presence in the northeastern state of Borno. Boko Haram is active there. The government sent more troops after an increase in suspected Boko Haram shootings and bombings.

In the Hausa language, the group’s name means “western education is a sin.” Boko Haram wants Islamic law or sharia to be established more widely across Africa’s most populous nation. Western security officials say Boko Haram may have ties to the north African group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

There is an interview at the link with a VOA journalist who works at the UN building in Nigeria. She describes the scene in detail.

This next link is just the kind of thing to put me in a sanatorium, sanitarium…well, y’all get the idea.  First Read – Santorum: GOP not ‘anti-science’

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum railed against former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s statement that the Republican Party risks becoming the “anti-science” party.

Speaking to a group of about 90 people at the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, SC, a popular stop for presidential candidates, Santorum did not mention Gov. Huntsman by name but brought up his fellow candidate’s assertions, made on TV and via Twitter, that the Republican Party would have a “huge problem” if it became hostile to evolution and climate change.

“We are going through this debate right now by somebody who’s in the Republican field talking about people who believe in certain scientific theories, whether it’s global warming or evolution. And somehow or another if you believe that we are creatures of a loving God, that that is somehow anti-science,” Santorum said.  “It’s not anti-science. It’s an affirmation of what we view in the world. Which is, we see God.”

Somebody, quick…get me a padded cell.

And what about Huntsman, well there is this over at MoJo:

Jon Huntsman: The Democrat’s Republican | Mother Jones

Huntsman’s finance team also boats five people who have donated to Democrats. Of course, as RCP points out, donating to candidates of both parties is nothing new. But in a state with as unbroken a conservative streak as South Carolina’s, Huntsman’s reliance on a donor with such unadulterated haterade for Haley seems a trifle…unwise. Perhaps Huntsman’s staffers think that Haley’s sliding approval ratings mean she’s no longer the potent political kingmaking force she was once thought to be.


Still, given the fact that Huntsman has pegged his presidential fortunes to the South Carolina primary—and foregoing the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary—you have to ask just how far his pro-life, pro-business, anti-tax record can carry him. Especially with quotes like this one, from Dem strategist Tyler Jones, floating around: “This is why liberals in South Carolina love Jon Huntsman…He hates Republicans just as much as we do.”


I don’t know if one could say that Huntsman hates Republicans…that is a bit much in my opinion. However, he did score some liberal points with that tweet of his, supporting evolution and climate change. If only he would support woman’s rights…


Anyway, all you northeastern Sky Dancing readers…please take care of yourselves and let us know you are okay once Irene passes. We will be thinking about you…

Sunday Morning Reads: A sister doing it for herself…

Daily Painting, Coffee Please, contemporary figure painting by artist Carolee Clark

Good morning, Minx here with your Sunday Roundup. I must admit I have been a bit news weary lately. So yesterday I cooked Ropa Vieja, which took all day long…and today I am off taking a ride down the Tail of the Dragon, so while you read this post I will be hauling ass down some steep mountain roads and enjoying myself immensely. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

First I want to bring this to you:2 missing workers found dead at troubled Fukushima nuke plant: TEPCO | Kyodo News

Two employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co. who had been missing since the March 11 quake and tsunami have been found dead at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the utility said Sunday, adding that they died of bleeding from multiple wounds.

Radioactive water is still leaking from that cracked reactor:  Water still leaking from Japanese reactor – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Japanese officials grappling to end the nuclear crisis at the earthquake and tsunami-damaged Fukushima plant are focusing on a crack in a concrete pit that is leaking highly radioactive water into the ocean from a crippled reactor.

Power plant workers attempted to fill the shaft with fresh concrete on Saturday, but that did not change the amount of water coming out of the crack, spokesmen for Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO) told a news conference.

They will try to block the leak again on Sunday by injecting polymeric material into the trench and use additional concrete to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the sea.

A Tokyo Electric expert will visit the site on Sunday and decide what polymer to use before the work begins.

The water has been leaking into the sea from a 20-centimetre crack detected at a pit in the reactor where power cables are stored, the government’s nuclear safety agency said. / Asia-Pacific – Tepco fails to block Fukushima crack

Tokyo Electric Power is struggling to block a crack discovered in a pit that is leaking highly radioactive water into the ocean at its Fukushima Daiichi plant, and said it had discovered the bodies of its two missing employees at the stricken plant.

Staff discovered the 20 centimetre-wide crack in a shaft storing supply cables close to reactor No 2. Tepco is making preparations to inject a type of polymer into the pit in its latest effort to block the leaking water, after Saturday’s attempts to plug the crack with concrete failed.

It is the first time that the company has discovered a source of radiation leakage, amid signs it was continuously seeping into the sea. High levels of radiation inside and outside the building were detected at the reactor No 2 in the past week.

The leaking shaft contains water with a radiation dose of over 1,000 millisieverts per hour, Tepco said. Exposure to 1,000 millisieverts in one dose can cause acute radiation sickness, while cumulative exposure to the same amount is believed can eventually to cause a fatal cancer in 5 per cent of cases.

It is not clear that success in blocking this crack will put a stop to the radiation and Tepco said it continues to search for further sources of leakage at the plant.

For the latest news: NHK WORLD English

And for those of you with a better understanding of this nuke stuff: NHK「かぶん」ブログ:NHK | Data of the Fukushima Daiichi It gives updated measurements of recorded radiation from the air and sea around the Fukushima Plant.

On to MENA…

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

You may have seen this article, it came out yesterday evening: Libyan rebels ‘receive foreign training’ – Africa – Al Jazeera English

US and Egyptian special forces have reportedly been offering covert armed training to rebel fighters in the battle for Libya, Al Jazeera has been told.

An unnamed rebel source related how he had undergone training in military techniques at a “secret facility” in eastern Libya.

He told our correspondent Laurence Lee, reporting from the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi, that he was sent to fire Katyusha rockets but was given a simple, unguided version of the rocket instead.

“He told us that on Thursday night a new shipment of Katyusha rockets had been sent into eastern Libya from Egypt. He didn’t say they were sourced from Egypt, but that was their route through,” our correspondent said.

“He said these were state-of-the-art, heat-seeking rockets and that they needed to be trained on how to use them, which was one of the things the American and Egyptian special forces were there to do.”

The intriguing development has raised several uncomfortable questions, about Egypt’s private involvement and what the arms embargo exactly means, said our correspondent.

“There is also the question of whether or not the outside world should arm the rebels, when in fact they [rebels] are already being armed covertly.”

Our correspondent added that since the rebels appear to be receiving covert support in terms of weaponry and training, it is not surprising that they are not inclined to criticise NATO openly.

This is a new article from CNN: Sources: Gadhafi forces strike Misrata clinic; shelling heard in city –

The deadly battles in Libya forged ahead Sunday as pro-government forces shelled a medical clinic in the city of Misrata, killing one person and wounding 15 others, a hospital source said.

The source, a doctor who was not identified for security reasons, told CNN two people were injured by an initial mortar blast. The rest of the injured were wounded by a second mortar blast when they went to the scene of the first attack to help victims.

One of the injured is a 14-year-old child who suffered a fractured skull and is in a coma, the doctor said Sunday.

The clinic that was attacked had evacuated patients because of recent attacks, said another doctor at a Misrata hospital that received the patients. But it was being guarded by opposition “fighters and young people” who were injured.

About the recent killings in Afghanistan: UN: Afghan attacks will not deter our mission – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

The deadly attack on a United Nations compound in northern Afghanistan will not affect the world body’s presence or work in the country, the organisation’s top diplomat said.

The attack “should not deter the UN presence, activities in this country in this delicate and particularly crucial period,” Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan said on Saturday.

De Mistura flew to Mazar-i-Sharif to handle the aftermath of the attack, when protesters enraged by the burning of a Quran by a radical fundamentalist Christian in the US overran the mission and murdered seven foreign staff.

He told a small group of journalists in the Afghan capital on Saturday that international staff would be temporarily deployed to Kabul until office was rebuilt.

You may have missed this bit of news, since I have family in South Ossetia I keep track of the ongoing conflict. BBC News – UN court rejects Georgia case against Russia over war

In a 10-6 vote on Friday the ICJ judges upheld Russia’s argument that the court did not have jurisdiction to examine the Georgian complaint, because the two sides had not tried to resolve the dispute through negotiations.

Georgia said Russia had violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Georgia map

The judges ruled that Georgia and Russia “did not engage in negotiations with respect to the latter’s compliance with its substantive obligations under CERD”.


In 2008 Western countries condemned Russia for penetrating deep into Georgia, beyond the conflict zones.

Russia later pulled its forces back to the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In September 2009 an EU-sponsored report said both sides had violated international law. It found that Georgia had attacked the Russian-backed South Ossetian rebels, triggering the war, after months of provocation.

This next link is from the San Francisco Chronicle: Republicans just won’t give Obama a break

If the Obama administration had failed to intervene to prevent a massacre of the rebels in Libya, Republicans would right now be condemning him for weakness and moral cowardice.

And if the president were a Republican and had organized the international coalition that stopped Moammar Khadafy’s forces in their tracks, Republicans would right now be cheering his boldness.

Instead, Republicans in Congress are sniping at President Obama’s Libya adventure at every turn.

Certainly, all presidents suffer criticism from the opposition party. George W. Bush was pummeled with hard shots from Democrats for pretty much every aspect of his policy in Iraq – but not by every Democrat and not from the very beginning. Plenty of D’s, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, voted for the resolution that sent the troops rolling toward Baghdad. They were not enthusiastic about doing so, but they held to an old-fashioned idea that, in times of international conflict, the commander in chief deserves measured support, even from his political adversaries.

Hey and speaking of Bush, this next link is about GW and Laura Bush, I will just quote what Bush said in his interview… specifically the second part of this quote, because it was good to hear him say it. Read the rest of the article, it is by Kathleen Parker, and I know there are various opinions about her…Women aren’t pet rocks – The Washington Post

“I believed then and believe now we have an obligation to help this young democracy in Afghanistan survive — and thrive. And one of the best and most effective ways to do so is to empower women.” George W. Bush

Parker goes on to say:

Such a simple concept, empowering women. Except that in a country where men feel free to throw acid in the faces of little girls trying to attend school, it is not so simple. In a nation where child marriage and “honor killings” are still accepted custom, it is not so easy.

No one underestimates the challenges of helping women become equal participants in a civil society only recently concocted. But allowing progress to recede shouldn’t be an option. Recent negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban, in which women’s rights could be diluted, should have all of us worried.

It is too bad, meanwhile, that we are restricted in these discussions by terminology that rings of cliche. “Women’s rights” sounds too much like debates about abortion and subsidized day care. What we’re really talking about is basic human rights. The freedom to work, to make decisions about one’s own life, to seek an education and to be safe to walk on the streets without a male escort. To be fully human, in other words.

So continuing along those lines, I want to bring you a few links to some videos and an article dealing with the treatment of Islamic women. They are about women from three different countries. The two women in the videos below are subjected to accusations and interrogation. The videos are a little long, but please watch them.

From Judith Apter Klinghoffer, this video of the Pakastani actress, Veena Malik telling off an Islamic Cleric that was accusing her of “immoral behavior.” Go Girl Go! History News Network Watch this sister go off on the cleric! I will embed the video for you…

Here is another video, but this one is different. Detained female journalist interrogated on Libyan television | Amnesty International (I cannot embed this one…) So please take a look at:

One of the many subjected to enforced disappearances in Libya during the uprising that started on February 17 2011, Rana el-Aqbani reappeared on Libyan television being questioned why she supported the revolution.

Rana has not been seen or heard of since this video aired. Her sister is concerned for Rana, as well as,  Rana’s father and brother who live with her in Libya. All three have disappeared. Like Iman, they vanish…one has to wonder what has happened to them.

And one more link regarding women, this time in Afghanistan: Afghan government plans crackdown on revealing wedding dresses | World news | The Guardian

There is an awful lot of flesh on display at Qasre Aros in central Kabul. Arms and shoulders are free to the elements, while necklines plunge daringly low on garish ballgowns made of every shade of synthetic material imaginable and encrusted with fake jewels.

Though the skin may be the orangey plastic of the dozens of mannequins lining the walls, the dresses are worn every night by real Afghan brides.

But the days when brides-to-be would flock to the shops of central Kabul’s Shar-e-Now Park may be numbered. Conservative elements of Hamid Karzai’s government are pushing for far-reaching restrictions on weddings the likes of which have not been seen since the Taliban regime.

Under a new law proposed by the country’s justice ministry and soon to be considered by Karzai’s cabinet, “garments contrary to Islamic sharia” will be banned. Those dealing in “outfits that are semi-naked, naked, transparent, or tight in a way that reveals part of the woman’s body” will be fined and, if they persist, closed down.


But according to drafts of the law seen by the Guardian, the government is also aiming to introduce various public morality provisions in yet another sign of the casual erosion of the small freedoms women have won since 2001.

And in an echo of the Taliban regime, which used to police weddings to ensure they complied with hardline rulings including a ban on music, the government also intends to set up “committees” to monitor weddings.

The groups, which will include representatives of the religious affairs ministry, will be expected to patrol private ceremonies held in the garish, multistorey wedding halls on the edge of Kabul that light up the night sky with their elaborate neon facades.

Among their duties will be ensuring male and female guests do not mix in the same rooms – already a standard practice in most Afghan weddings – and that the bride is modestly attired.

People are losing their lives simply for speaking and expressing themselves. The things we take for granted, like dress, the ability to interact with others in a social setting, and most importantly, freedom to express our political thoughts and our individual ideals are what women in these oppressive countries want. I never thought I would say this, but Bush is right…at least about what he said regarding the success of a young democracy, the women of that young democracy must be empowered. Sort of sounds like something Hillary would say. Only she says it so much better:

“We are here to advance the cause of women and to advance the cause of democracy and to make it absolutely clear that the two are inseparable. There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives.”

“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

“The challenge is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.”

“What we have to do… is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities.”

“We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential.”

“It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women’s rights – and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely – and the right to be heard.”

-Hillary Clinton

(from ‘Women’s Rights Are Human Rights’ Speech Beijing, China: 5 September 1995)

Just one more note, the Washington Post article discusses the “historic U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council established in 2002 by Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.” The fact that Karzai’s government is behind the crackdown on wedding dresses and celebrations does not bode well for me obviously.  “Historic U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council” seems like nothing more than window dressing…a sham and nothing Laura Bush can say will make me feel otherwise.  Are women once again being used as propaganda to justify our being in Afghanistan? I will let you decide on that one…

From Minx’s Missing Link File: Walmart – it’s alive! | Barbara Ehrenreich | Comment is free | The Guardian

What is Walmart – in a strictly taxonomic sense, that is? Based on size alone, it would be easy to confuse it with a nation: in 2002, its annual revenue was equal to or exceeded that of all but 22 nation-states. Or, if all its employees – 1.4 million in the US alone – were to gather in one place, you might think you were looking at a major city. But there is also the possibility that Walmart and other planet-spanning enterprises are not mere aggregations of people at all. They may be independent life forms – a species of super-organisms.

This seems to be the conclusion of the 2010 Citizens United decision, in which the US supreme court, in a frenzy of anthropomorphism, ruled that corporations are actually persons and therefore entitled to freedom of speech and the right to make unlimited campaign contributions. You may object that the notion of personhood had already been degraded beyond recognition by its extension, in the minds of pro-life thinkers, to individual cells such as zygotes. But the court must have reasoned that it would be discriminatory to let size enter into it: if a microscopic cell can be a person, then why not a brontosaurus, a tsunami or a multinational?


So if Walmart is indeed a person, it is a person without a central nervous system, or at least without central control of its various body parts. There exist such persons, I admit, but surely, when the supreme court declared that corporations were persons, it did not mean to say “persons with advanced neuromuscular degenerative diseases”.

Okay, I laughed when I read about how degraded the definition of “personhood” has become in the US…Ehrenreich goes on the talk about the Walmart Culture, and how everything is controlled by Bentonville. I know this is true, even the air conditioning systems and food coolers for every store are controlled from Arkansas. So if the freezer section stops working, someone from Headquarters will call the store to let them know.  I have seen some articles written that question the Store Managers and Regional Managers promotion, or lack of promotion, of women in the company. Nothing is done without orders from the Ozarks. So I am very interested in how the SCOTUS will rule on this appeal.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week: I found this very interesting and thought you might like it. Good book, great film | Books | The Guardian

When he was asked to be guest director for a festival dedicated to films based on books, Jonathan Coe set out to disprove the adage that great literature makes terrible movies

film still from The Dead


Brought to life … Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann in The Dead. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

In the course of their famous book-length interview, François Truffaut once asked Alfred Hitchcock about his approach to literary adaptation, and Hitch’s response was as magisterial, worldly and mischievous as one would expect: “What I do is to read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema. Today I would be unable to tell you the story of Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds. I read it only once, and very quickly at that.”

Hitchcock’s comment was the first thing that occurred to me when, towards the end of last year, I was approached with an interesting proposition. “From Page to Screen” is the name of a small film festival which takes place in Bridport, Dorset. It’s now in its third year and, as its title suggests, is dedicated exclusively to films which are adapted from literary sources. This year, for the first time, the organisers decided that they wanted to invite a guest director to oversee the programme.

I accepted the offer at once, and then almost immediately wondered what I’d let myself in for: because the truth is that 99 times out of 100, I’m with Hitchcock on this one.

So what are you reading today, post some comments below…and that goes for those who are lurking, I’d love to hear from you!