Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Syria’s Christians Side with Assad or Else.

Source: Der Spiegel: Syrian Orthodox Priests in Damascus

A tip of the hat to Rick G. Der Spiegel had a report Syria's Christians Side with Assad Out of Fear on the double bind that Syria’s 2.5 million Christians find themselves. That dilemma is the product of the virtual civil war between the minority Alawites, under the Baathist regime of Bashar Assad, versus the opposition Syrian national Council and Free Syrian Army largely composed of the majority Sunni with Muslim Brotherhood representation. That dilemma could result in possible genocide for Syria’s minority Christian, or at the very least flight to their respective diasporas in the West. That likelihood  was the concern expressed by Dr. John Eibner in his letter to President Obama-see our post.

Note the draconian diktat handed down to Syria’s Christian leaders by Assad in the Der Spiegel article:

Many of Syria's 2.5 million Christians are supporting President Bashar Assad amidst ongoing protests in the country. They prefer a brutal dictator who guarantees the rights of religious minorities to the uncertain future that Assad's departure would bring. The president is exploiting their fears of Islamists for his own ends.

The rebellion against him was just a few days old when Syrian dictator Bashar Assad summoned his country's Christian leaders to the presidential palace in northwestern Damascus. Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius came. He is 78 years old and critically ill, but still a powerful figure. Bishops and archbishops representing Catholics, Armenians, Aramaeans and Assyrians were also present. In total, there were a dozen religious leaders, representing around 2.5 million Syrian Christians.

The message they received from their head of state was short and simple: Either support me, or your churches will burn.

It seemed Assad, himself a member of the Alawis, a branch of Shia Islam, didn't want to assume that Syria's Christians would continue to remain aloof from politics. Sensing that not only his authority but perhaps his very survival was at stake, he resorted to the same means his father, Hafez Assad, once used to maintain power: pressure and violence.

                [. . .]

"President Assad is a very cultured man," says Gregorios Elias Tabé, 70, the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Damascus. He calls all the media liars and the demonstrators nothing but terrorists. Every Sunday, he preaches at St. Paul's Chapel on the southeastern edge of Damascus' old town, which takes its name from the Apostle Paul, said to have escaped from the city here 2,000 years ago. Syria's Christian congregations are among the oldest in the world, and the archbishop would like them to continue to exist for many years to come -- which gives him a reason to take Assad's side.

"We're a nation of 23 million," Tabé says, "and no law can ever satisfy everyone. That's true in every country -- there are always 10 percent who are sacrificed." It's a state of affairs he can accept, as long as Christians aren't the segment of the population being sacrificed.

From the archbishop's perspective, it's possible to live well in Syria. The president guarantees religious minorities' rights, Christians are allowed to practice their faith freely and churches are protected. Assad generally hands out important government and army posts to members of his own group, the Alawis, but Christians also hold a number of senior positions in important institutions such as the presidential guard and intelligence services. The head of the country's central bank is a Christian, as is the new defense minister. Many Christians belong to the ranks of the privileged within the system, and few have yet dared to take the step of joining the opposition, not when they are held so closely in the president's embrace.

Assad not only allows Christians influence, he also fans their greatest fears: Islamists, Sharia law and the prospect of burning churches. The bishops would probably prefer a brutal dictator who lets them pray in peace than the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, who would demand a share of power in a Syria without Assad.

But there are also Christians in the Syrian opposition movement. Note this:

There are also young Christians such as Mohammed, as he asks to be called, who are organizing the resistance in Bab Sharqi, a district in the Damascus old town where Archbishop Gregorios' church also stands. Mohammed formed an organizing committee together with seven other friends. The activists are all between the ages of 20 and 29, mostly students. They meet at secret locations and communicate by email and satellite telephone.

At the moment, the group's protests are still modest, says Mohammed. For example, perhaps three dozen people recently gathered in front of the Church of Mary, just 300 meters (1,000 feet) from St. Paul's Chapel, where Archbishop Gregorios preaches on his favorite subject, Christian morality. Hesitantly, a chant against Assad rose up from the crowd. Within a few minutes, dozens of government thugs, dressed in plainclothes and armed with clubs, stormed the demonstration and drove the group into the old town's maze of narrow alleys, where they scattered.

Within Damascus, there are only perhaps a few hundred Christians taking an active role like Mohammed. So far, their support has come primarily from fellow Christians living in exile, who have formed opposition groups in the US and Great Britain. They are also planning to set one up in Germany soon.

Working in tandem with the Syrian National Council, the most important opposition group, these activists are looking to increase pressure on the West. Their first choice would be an intervention modeled after NATO's involvement in Libya. They don't see any chance of success without military support, and can't Libya. They don't see any chance of success without military support, and can't understand why Washington, Paris, London and Berlin are so opposed to the idea.

Asked about a possible intervention, Archbishop Gregorios laughs long and loud. As a Christian, he says, he doesn't believe in the power of weapons, only in peace and democracy.

Apparently, he believes in President Assad as well.

Posted on 11/30/2011 9:41 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
German Intelligence Agency Destroyed Files Of Its SS Members
From SpiegelOnline:

Obscuring the Past

Intelligence Agency Destroyed Files on Former SS Members

By Klaus Wiegrefe

Photo Gallery: The BND's Murky Past

Historians conducting an internal study of ties between employees of the German foreign intelligence agency and the Third Reich have made a shocking discovery. In 2007, the BND destroyed personnel files of employees who had once been members of the SS and the Gestapo.

Preparations have already been made for Ernst Uhrlau's retirement party next Wednesday when he steps down from his post as the head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, on his 65th birthday. The office of the chancellor has selected a posh location in Berlin for his farewell party and Angela Merkel herself is expected to attend. Uhrlau, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), will be turning over his post to Gerhard Schindler, a member of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party.

At events like this, the successes of the person retiring are usually celebrated. In Uhrlau's case, topping the list are his efforts to review the problematic history of the BND's creation after World War II. It has long been known that around 10 percent of the employees at the BND and its predecessor organization once served under SS chief Heinrich Himmler in Nazi Germany. In 2011, Uhrlau appointed an independent commission of historians to research the agency's Nazi roots.

Now, only one week before Uhrlau's retirement, the commission has uncovered what is a true historical scandal. The researchers have found that the BND destroyed the personnel files of around 250 BND officials in 2007. The agency has confirmed that this happened.

The commission claims that the destroyed documents include papers on people who were "in significant intelligence positions in the SS, the SD (the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party) or the Gestapo." They added that some of the individuals had even been investigated after 1945 for possible war crimes. Historian Klaus-Dietmar Henke, spokesman for the commission, told SPIEGEL ONLINE he was "somewhat stunned" by the occurrence.

Did Agency Employees Seek to Sabotage Investigation?

The incident inevitably raises suspicions that agency employees have deliberately tried to obstruct Uhrlau's efforts to investigate the organization's history. The historical commission had not yet been appointed at the time of the documents' destruction, but Uhrlau had already announced that he planned to look into his agency's Nazi past.

It is no secret that some people within the BND are unhappy about Uhrlau's project. Some employees are fundamentally opposed to the agency shedding light on its own past. Others are worried about the reputations of their own families -- for many years, the BND deliberately recruited new staff from among the relatives of existing BND employees.

Within the BND, a working group headed by Bodo Hechelhammer is responsible for cooperation with the historical commission. The group is currently trying to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the documents. Hechelhammer told SPIEGEL ONLINE that he regretted the loss of the documents.

There have already been several curious incidents involving the BND archives in the past. SPIEGEL recently requested access to BND documents relating to the former SS Captain Alois Brunner, who was once a close associate of Adolf Eichmann, the chief logistics organizer of the Holocaust. The agency informed SPIEGEL that the 581-page files on Brunner had been disposed of in the 1990s. That incident also appears to have been carried out behind the backs of the BND leadership.

The historical commission is now demanding that the BND consult it before any more "potentially valuable historical records" are destroyed. The historians are also insisting that the 2007 incident be thoroughly investigated. Commission spokesman Henke says the agency's reaction will be "a test of how seriously the BND is really taking the investigation into its past."


And you can see pictures of good old Reinhard Gehlen here, the Nazi who gave his all for Adolf Hitler and, after the war, was believed by  Allen Dulles and others at the C.I.A. to be a valuable member of Team West, but Gehlen's network turned out to be worse than worthless, for in many cases those former Nazis turned out to be double agents, working for the Soviets. The price, you see, was right.

Posted on 11/30/2011 9:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
An Election Year Means Pakistan Will Begin To Be Treated As It Deserves

From The New York Times:

November 30, 2011

Obama Refrains From a Formal ‘I’m Sorry’ to Pakistan

WASHINGTON — The White House has decided that President Obama will not offer formal condolences — at least for now — to Pakistan for the deaths of two dozen soldiers in NATO airstrikes last week, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage America’s relationship with Pakistan, administration officials said.

On Monday, Cameron Munter, the United States ambassador to Pakistan, told a group of White House officials that a formal video statement from Mr. Obama was needed to help prevent the rapidly deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Washington from cratering, administration officials said. The ambassador, speaking by videoconference from Islamabad, said that anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the United States needed to move to defuse it as quickly as possible, the officials recounted.

Defense Department officials balked. While they did not deny some American culpability in the episode, they said expressions of remorse offered by senior department officials and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were enough, at least until the completion of a United States military investigation establishing what went wrong.

Some administration aides also worried that if Mr. Obama were to overrule the military and apologize to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign, according to several officials who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

On Wednesday, White House officials said Mr. Obama was unlikely to say anything further on the matter in the coming days.

“The U.S. government has offered its deepest condolences for the loss of life, from the White House and from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, referring to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, “and we are conducting an investigation into the incident. We cannot offer additional comment on the circumstances of the incident until we have the results.”

The American and Pakistani accounts of the NATO strikes vary widely. A former senior American official briefed on the exchange said Wednesday that the airstrikes came in the last 15 to 20 minutes of a running three-hour skirmish, presumably with Taliban fighters on one or both sides of the border. That is at odds with the Pakistani account that its troops were in a two-hour firefight with the Americans.

Pakistan, rejecting the American account, has blocked all NATO logistical supplies that cross the border into Afghanistan, given the Central Intelligence Agency 15 days to vacate the Shamsi air base from which it has run drone strikes into Pakistani tribal areas and announced that it will boycott an international conference on Afghanistan’s security and development next week in Bonn, Germany.

With everything at stake in the relationship with Pakistan, which the United States sees as vital as it plans to exit from Afghanistan, some former Obama administration officials said the president should make public remarks on the border episode, including a formal apology.

“Without some effective measures of defusing this issue, Pakistan will cooperate less rather than more with us, and we won’t be able to achieve our goals in Afghanistan,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department official who specialized in Pakistan. [What do you mean, Vali Nasr, apologist for Shi'a Islam,  by "our goals"?]

But David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and the author of “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power,” said Pakistani officials need to understand that in the next year, the Obama administration will be less willing to make nice.

“I do think that it’s important for them to recognize that political dynamics in the United States will lead to a hardening of U.S. positions, and the president will have less and less flexibility to accept the kind of behavior that he has in the past,” Mr. Rothkopf said. “The prognosis for U.S.-Pakistani relations is bleak.”

America’s strained relationship with Pakistan has been buffeted by crises this year, from the killing of two Pakistanis by a C.I.A. contractor to the commando raid deep inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

The headaches of the relationship have meant that Pakistan has few friends inside the administration. As one former senior United States official who has been briefed on the administration’s recent deliberations put it, “Right now there are no Pakistan friendlies” at the White House.

But the administration desperately needs Pakistan’s cooperation in the American plan to withdraw militarily from Afghanistan by 2014. Several senior American officials have said Pakistani help is essential to persuade the Taliban to negotiate for peace.

Twice recently, the administration has solicited help from Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to deliver messages to Islamabad to help defuse crises in the relationship.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kerry was guarded in his comments about the border episode. “We all appreciate how deeply this tragedy has affected the Pakistani people, and we have conveyed our heartfelt condolences through multiple channels,” Mr. Kerry said in an e-mail. “Ultimately, the only way to move the ball forward is to focus on areas where our interests align and where we can really make progress. Our two countries need each other.” [no, John Kerry is wrong -- the Americans don't need to woo and win Pakistan, don't need Pakistan at all, would be better served by abandoning that country to its own self-made wretchedness, in which the Muslim world will see that a country that chooses to spend billions to produce nuclear weapons can still sink into a swamp].
Posted on 11/30/2011 9:17 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Headless Aftermath Of That Earlier Accident In The Iranian Desert

From The New York Times:

Nov. 29, 2011

Images Show Devastation at Iran Base After Blast

The large, deadly explosion at an Iran military base in Iran on Nov. 12, which Iranian authorities have called an accident that set back research work there by a few days, appears to have been far more devastating than their description suggested, according to an analysis of newly released commercial satellite images of the blast site.

The images reveal vast destruction and chaotic disarray across a sprawling complex composed of more than a dozen buildings and large structures.

The Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, made the satellite images public Monday, along with an analysis of the damage. “It was pretty amazing to see that the entire facility was destroyed,” Paul Brannan, the report’s author, said Tuesday in an interview. “There were only a few buildings left standing.”

It was impossible to determine from the images whether the explosion had been a simple accident or an act of sabotage.

The force of the explosion was so great that it shook windows in many surrounding towns, according to Iranian news sites and witnesses quoted at the time. But no photographs of the blast damage were released by the Iranian government, which has become increasingly sensitive about its military capabilities as tensions escalate with the West over its missile and nuclear programs.

The base, set in an isolated patch of Iranian desert ringed by a security cordon, is about 30 miles west of Tehran and three miles west of the town of Bidganeh.

The explosion is already known to have killed 17 members of the armed forces, including a founder of the country’s missile program, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, presided over a vast state funeral for General Moghaddam and 16 other members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps two days after the explosion. The showy memorial service underscored General Moghaddam’s importance.

Hassan Firouzabadi, the Iranian military chief of staff, said on Nov. 16 that the blast occurred while researchers were working on weapons capable of delivering Israel a “strong punch in the mouth.” He also said their research would result in only a “short-term delay of a few days.” But it was hard to reconcile his appraisal with the obliteration seen in the satellite image.

The spy-satellite business, once a secretive monopoly of advanced nations, went commercial starting more than a decade ago. Today, a new generation of civilian satellites can peer down from orbit to see objects on the ground as small as two or three feet wide — enough to distinguish between a car and a truck.

Last week, on Nov. 22, a commercial satellite operated by DigitalGlobe snapped an image of the stricken base. It showed that most of its buildings had been destroyed or extensively damaged.

In its analysis, the Institute for Science and International Security noted that some of the destruction may have resulted from subsequent demolition of buildings and the removal of debris that may have occurred. But it also discounted that possibility.

“There do not appear to be many pieces of heavy equipment such as cranes or dump trucks on the site, and a considerable amount of debris is still present,” the report noted. “About the same number of trucks are visible in the image after the blast as in an image from approximately two months prior to the blast. Thus, most of the damage seen in the Nov. 22, 2011, image likely resulted from the explosion.”

In the interview, Mr. Brannan said that the institute’s sources indicated that the blast occurred while rocket engineers were performing a volatile procedure with a missile engine.

His report called the work integral to “a major milestone in the development of a new missile.”

Posted on 11/30/2011 9:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
More On That Recent Accident In Isfahan

From The Times of London:

A second Iranian nuclear facility has exploded, as diplomatic tensions rise between the West and Tehran

Iran Nuclear

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visits the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility south of the capital, Tehran, Iran. Source: AP

AN IRANIAN nuclear facility has been hit by a huge explosion, the second such blast in a month, prompting speculation that Tehran's military and atomic sites are under attack.

Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was "no doubt" that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was "no accident".

The explosion at Iran's third-largest city came as satellite images emerged of the damage caused by one at a military base outside Tehran two weeks ago that killed about 30 members of the Revolutionary Guard, including General Hassan Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian missile defence program.

Iran claimed that the Tehran explosion occurred during testing on a new weapons system designed to strike at Israel. But several Israeli officials have confirmed that the blast was intentional and part of an effort to target Iran's nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, Isfahan residents reported a blast that shook tower blocks in the city at about 2.40pm and seeing a cloud of smoke rising over the nuclear facility on the edge of the city.

"This caused damage to the facilities in Isfahan, particularly to the elements we believe were involved in storage of raw materials," said one military intelligence source.

He would not confirm or deny Israel's involvement in the blast, instead saying that there were "many different parties looking to sabotage, stop or coerce Iran into stopping its nuclear weapons program".

Iran went into frantic denial yesterday as news of the explosion at Isfahan emerged. Alireza Zaker-Isfahani, the city's governor, claimed that the blast had been caused by a military exercise in the area but state-owned agencies in Tehran soon removed this story and issued a government denial that any explosion had taken place at all.

On Monday, Dan Meridor. the Israeli Intelligence Minister, said: "There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat."

Major-General Giora Eiland, Israel's former director of national security, told Israel's army radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. "There aren't many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it's the hand of God," he said.

A former Israeli intelligence official cited at least two other explosions that have "successfully neutralised" Iranian bases associated with the Shahab-3, the medium-range missile that could be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead. "This is something everyone in the West wanted to see happen," he added.

Iran has repeatedly denied the existence of a nuclear weapons program, and strongly condemned the International Atomic Energy Agency's report last month that accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Posted on 11/30/2011 8:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Genocide Threatens Religious Minorities in Middle East Says Dr. John Eibner of CSI-USA

     Dr. John Eibner of CSI-USA

Dr. John Eibner, head of Christian Solidarity International (CSI)-USA issued a warning today about Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East of an Arab Spring turning wintry threatening possible genocide against threatened religious minorities.  Christians, Jews, Baha'i, Yezidis, Sabeans, and Ahmadias, numbering collectively over 12 million, are among the endangered minorities.

To underline CSI’s concern, Mary Abdelmassih of the AINA news service reported the attack by thousands of Muslim Salafists on elGhorayza, a predominately Coptic Christian community of 80,000 in Egypt. The attacks resulted in 2 deaths, 70 injuries, extensive property damage to homes and businesses and looting.  Further, there are foreboding reports of Muslims Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party winning upwards of 47% of seats in the first round of Egyptian Parliamentary elections, trouncing alleged secularist reform groups, who claimed less than 23%, leaving the balance perhaps in the hands of the fundamentalist Islamic  Salafist Nour party. 

As noted in our NER interview with Dr. Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group on Jihad Slavery in the Sudan, Dr. Eibner of CSI-USA lead the humanitarian effort to free Christian and animist slaves from Islamist overlords in the Sudan.   His leadership in advocating the independence of the Republic of South Sudan was finally realized in July, 2011 following a near unanimous referendum  under the terms of the US- brokered Comprehensive Peace Act of 2005.

Eibner in a letter to President Obama urged action to prevent a catastrophic genocide in the wake of the Arab Spring CSI simultaneously launched a petition to the President, asking him to respond to the upsurge of violence against religious minorities in the Middle East in his upcoming State of the Union Address.

Writing today to President Obama, Dr. John Eibner, CEO of CSI-USA, stated:

"Conditions for genocide against non-Muslim communities exist in varying degrees throughout the region stretching from Pakistan to Morocco. The crisis of survival for non-Muslim communities is especially acute in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, the Palestinian territories, Iran and Pakistan."

Eibner also reminded President Obama of genocide warnings issued this year by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and former Lebanese President Amine Gemayal.

He furthermore recalled the President's May 19 speech on events in the Middle East, in which he committed to establish universal human rights, including religious freedom, as "a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal."

CSI urged President Obama to present in his State of the Union Address a Middle East policy that includes:

1.   An appeal to the UN Secretary General for the issuance of a Genocide Warning and implementation of preventative measures on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1366 (2001),

2.   The commitment of at least 15% of US funding pledged for the support of democratic transition in the region to be devoted to combating Islamic supremacism, and

3.   A pledge to withhold U.S. funding for institutions that promote religious discrimination.

Eibner concluded his letter to the President stating: "Millions of lives and the future of a religiously pluralistic civilization in the Middle East are at stake."

CSI is an international, Christian human rights organization, campaigning for religious liberty and human dignity, and assisting victims of religious persecution, victimized children and victims of catastrophe.

Posted on 11/30/2011 6:24 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
I Want to Celebrate Winter

by David Asia (December 2011)

I want to celebrate winter,

Celebrate the cold

Laying like iron

On the land,

To wrap myself in colored layers

Of cotton, fleece, and wool,   more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 4:14 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Jolly Joker of Jerusalem
by Thomas Ország-Land (December 2011)

First things first when
the holy books burst
and lime pits are planned
in this thirsty, troubled
land of passion
and beauty and flavour,
and the mind is mined
for the Cruising craze
and the neighbours pray more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 4:11 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Two Poems

by Martin Burke (December 2011)



Verse is what it is and is what you are

The world a proposition you cannot avoid  more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 4:05 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Who Do You Like the Best of Us?

by Mary Jackson (December 2011)

It is a measure of Islam’s intrusiveness that, in the midst of some very English and very enjoyable pursuit, I am pulled up short by the thought of how un-Islamic it is. Where two or three are gathered in the name of pleasure or profit, the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, is not among them. Mohammed, PBUH, was present by his absence at the Royal Wedding; he, PBUH, has stood me up at the theatre and failed to direct my reading; and on my summer visit to Norfolk, he, PBUH, refused to come to the PBUH – sorry, pub.  more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 4:02 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Academic Whoring Ater Arab Money Hardly Ends With LSE

Why not investigate Saudi money, and Saudi oversight, of the Islamic centers at the universities of Exeter and Durham?

Why not investigate exactly how -- what was the funding, when was it offered, by whom, to whom, for exactly what? -- Tariq Ramadan obtained his well-upholstered chair at Oxford?

Why not find out who -- what Saudis -- now finance John Esposito's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, the one he started with money from a rich Lebanese contractor, presumably Christian, but that now is propped up by Saudi money?

Why not investigate the sources of funds for the late James Akins, sometime American ambassador to Saudi Arabia? Former diplomat Eugene Bird? And Mrs. Bird, with her little Jerusalem project? Why not find out  about all the former British diplomats who have for decades been promoting the Gulf Arabs, and the Arabs, and the Muslims, and of course dispensed freely with their wisdom that Israel's rights, Israel's claims, must be ignored, for it is the Arabs and their oil money that matters - - because, you see, it matters so much to them.

Just between you and me, it's much bigger than LSE.

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Better Stick To Colonel Sloman's Essex Rifles -- Don't Even Think Of LSE

From Global News:

LONDON - An independent inquiry condemned the London School of Economics on Wednesday for its dealings with Libya under Moammar Gadhafi, concluding that the university should have exercised more caution before becoming involved with the regime.

The independent inquiry was tasked with establishing "the full facts" of the school's links to Libya and one of Gadhafi's sons, Seif al-Islam, and whether errors had been made in LSE's ties to the North African nation's increasingly violent regime.

"Before a global company embarks upon a relationship with a foreign partner, a due diligence assessment should be conducted. No similar exercise took place in this case," said Harry Woolf, a prominent judge and the inquiry's chair.

At issue in the inquiry was the university's decision to foster a relationship with Libya — a "cornerstone" of which was Seif al-Islam's admittance to the school — and whether LSE was right to accept a large donation from a Gadhafi-backed charity.

Long seen as the most respectable of Gadhafi's children, Seif al-Islam cultivated an image of a budding reformer, winning praise for talk of democracy and development — and the university seemed all too eager to have ties blossom.

But as protests began sweeping the Arab world, questions emerged about whether the younger Gadhafi's thesis had been ghostwritten — and whether he had done the work at all. He gave a rambling televised speech promising "rivers of blood" if demonstrators refused to accept government offers of reform.

The barrage of negative media attention over the university's former student prompted LSE's director, Howard Davies, to resign.

While Woolf praised Davies' "great experience and ability," he said ultimately "responsibility for what went wrong must rest with the director."

The Woolf report identified "a disconcerting number of failures" at the school, from management to the lack of an ethics code. It took fault with LSE's relations with the Gadhafis, and concluded that Seif al-Islam duped his advisers into thinking he had done his academic work on his own.

Though Seif al-Islam earned his doctorate from LSE in 2008, his academic career was "dogged by disquiet over the amount of outside assistance he was given," Woolf noted.

Woolf said he was told Seif needed extra help because "he wasn't a particularly good philosopher" and hated the required, pure Philosophy courses, but "it should have been appreciated that there was a risk that Seif would, to protect himself from the loss of face in not obtaining his Ph.D., be tempted to use his resources to obtain help with his work."

Despite numerous red flags, Woolf said a detailed investigation was only launched into Seif al-Islam's academic career after media latched on to the story in 2011.

The report said numerous examples of "questionable" help then came to light, including Seif's use of a dictation aide who communicated with professors on his behalf and emailed him thesis drafts.

Woolf said that an examination of Seif's LSE emails show he concealed the amount of assistance he was receiving. In one example, the dictation aide wrote that he "would like to work on" Seif al-Islam's thesis for "another couple of weeks."

"It is clear now that Seif duped the supervisors who worked so hard to assist him with his Ph.D.," Woolf said. "The level of assistance Seif was receiving would have benefited from an earlier examination in greater depth and a more vigorous response."

Woolf added that the fact that Seif al-Islam signed the agreement for a 1.5 million pound ($2.4 million) gift from the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation on the same day of the ceremony where he was formally awarded his doctorate "can only foster suspicions — already widespread in the Middle East and in related circles in London — that he, in effect, purchased his degree."

Woolf chastised LSE for not questioning the source of the charitable donation, deemed controversial from the start.

He said the board of directors never identified the true source of the money and should have questioned if or why the gift was being funded by private companies to curry favour with Seif.

"The foundation was undoubtedly Seif's alter ego," Woolf said. "If an institution makes the decision to engage with a particular regime, that does not negate the need to verify the source of a gift and the legality and ethics of its origins."

Coupled with already existing rumours about the authenticity of Seif al-Islam's work and buzz that admissions rules had been bent for the dictator's son, accepting the donation was damning evidence of the school's naivete about "the ease with which institutional reputations are damaged."

Noting that Seif al-Islam was "far from an ordinary student," Woolf said he benefited from a culture of "idealism" in which certain university departments allowed the admission of students who might "do some good for the world" but fall short of the typical admissions criteria.

Among Woolf's 15 recommendations for LSE was the creation of an ethics committee. Woolf suggested such a committee could have identified "the dangers and risks of the scale of the connection that was developing" with Libya.

LSE said it will implement all of Woolf's recommendations.

Posted on 11/30/2011 4:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Conservative Idea of Architecture: Conservation and Restoration

by David Hamilton (December 2011)

Progressives assume that I am opposed to change. I am not: I suggest change should grow out of what has developed through time not spring out of the blue, as it were, like incongruous eruptions ruining the ambience of whole areas. “You can not turn the clock back”, they moralise. What have clocks got to do with it? That harks back a couple of centuries to when God was seen as the watchmaker who had wound a clockwork universe up and left it to run. more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:56 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Niqab and the Kneecap

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (December 2011)

The woman in the niqab, burka, yashmak or whatever you want to call a veil that covers the face is a very common sight around east London. I am not the only one who has written at this site on the way being unable to see the face cuts such women off from the social interaction normal in English society. more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:51 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Shakespeare’s Snobs

by David P. Gontar (December 2011)

I.  The Issue

As the idea of snobbery often arises in contentions over Shakespeare, it may be well to pause to take stock of precisely what it is. The entry in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is helpful and illuminating.  more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:46 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
BAE, In Up To Its Neck In Louche Activities, Should Lose U.S. Contracts

Here is BAE, firing a Medal of Honor winner, because he objected to the sale of advanced scopes to meretricious Pakistan. Here is BAE, that has been involved in bribery scandals with the Saudis (and no doubt with other rich Arabs up and down the left littoral of the Persian Gulf), a scandal that the British government refused to investigate because it had been threatened by the Saudis who wanted the investigation to stop.

What does BAE produce that American defense contractors do not?

Why must BAE be given business?

And will those running for office raise the issue of what the State Department and the Pentagon muckamucks have done, are doing, in Iraq and now, especially, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that endangers the lives of American soldiers but apparently is based on the idiotic idea that Muslim military men have to have some of their unreasonable demands met lest they....lest they what? Cease to be our allies?

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:42 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Reviewage: The Culture of Online Opinions

by G. Kim Blank (December 2011)

“pfft, she actually made the students teach the class, she's not a human, she's a bat who lives in her office.” So writes an anonymous university student reviewing her Humanities professor. “Good movie. It was emotional and entertaining. Some aspects didn't make much sense, however. It also bore great actors.” This is Mitchell M. writing (albeit illiterately) about a relatively recent blockbuster movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:40 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
After Medal Of Honor Winner Dakota Meyer ObjectsTo BAE, His Employer, Selling Advanced Scopes To Pakistan, He Is Fired

Decorated U.S. Marine Who Questioned Selling Weapons to Pakistan Sues BAE Systems

The lawsuit alleges that BAE Systems retaliated against him after he sent an email to his supervisor objecting to the sale of high-tech sniper scopes to Pakistan.

Nov. 30, 2011
A U.S. Marine who received America's most prestigious military medal is suing British defense giant BAE Systems, charging that the firm retaliated against him after he objected to the alleged sale of high-tech sniper scopes to Pakistan. Sergeant Dakota Meyer, who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in a televised ceremony two months ago, filed a defamation suit this week in a Texas court against BAE. Meyer claims that he lost out on a prospective job after a former boss labeled him a mentally unstable employee with a drinking problem, company officials said Tuesday. Meyer is only the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was credited with saving the lives of 36 troops by braving heavy fire and providing cover for his comrades in eastern Afghanistan. BAE rejected Meyer's allegations but went out of its way to acknowledge his valor on the battlefield. "As an organization whose core focus is to support and protect our nation's troops, we are incredibly grateful to Dakota Meyer for his valiant service and bravery above and beyond the call of duty," spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told AFP in an email. "Although we strongly disagree with his claims, which we intend to vigorously defend through the appropriate legal process, we wish him success and good fortune in all his endeavors." The lawsuit, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, reportedly alleges that Meyer became concerned in April after learning that BAE had sought to sell weapons systems to Pakistan. He then sent an email to his boss, Bobby McCreight, voicing his dismay. "We are simply taking the best gear, the best technology on the market to date and giving to guys that are known to stab us in the back," Meyer reportedly wrote in the email. BAE did not confirm that the company had plans to sell scopes to Pakistan and said it is up to the State Department to decide which weapons are exported. Meyer's concerns about arming Pakistani soldiers reflect widespread distrust of Pakistan among U.S. troops, particularly those who have spent time on the eastern Afghan border. News of the lawsuit came as relations between the United Sates and Pakistan plunged to a new low after a cross-border air strike on Saturday by U.S.-led forces that left 24 Pakistani troops dead. The lawsuit alleges that Meyer's supervisor, McCreight, belittled him after his critical email and made sarcastic remarks about his nomination for the Medal of Honor, referring to his "pending star status." McCreight, a retired Marine sniper who also received awards for his military service, "remains employed by BAE Systems," the company said. Meyer quit BAE in May and tried to go back to a previous job training active-duty troops at Ausgar Technologies, the Wall Street Journal reported. But his old supervisor reportedly spoke to a Pentagon manager overseeing the hiring of veterans for the program, alleging Meyer was mentally troubled and had "a problem related to drinking in a social setting." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
Posted on 11/30/2011 3:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Yemenites

Part 1 of Israel’s Diverse “Oriental Jewish Communities”

by Norman Berdichevsky (December 2011)

A central tenet of Zionism is that Jews share a common heritage and destiny. Nevertheless, the reality of Jewish society in the state of Israel is marked by four prominent social and geo-cultural divisions: Orthodox observant vs. secular, veteran settlers vs. new immigrants, the haves vs. the have-nots and Geo-cultural origin (European vs. Middle Eastern or Oriental). more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:31 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
In the Court of the Tsadik

by Geoffrey Clarfield (December 2011)

"Geoffrey, it's Shlomo. Meet me at Bathurst and Eglinton in thirty minutes. We're going to play for the Sufis!"

This was not the first time I had received what I used to call "the call." I do not mean Max Weber's theory of the Protestant basis of the modern psychological calling, that draws an individual to his or her profession, but that semi frantic, always warm hearted voice that was part Shtetl and part hip San Francisco and belonged to the only psychedelic Rabbi I have every known and worked with, that spiritual wonder worker, Shlomo Carlebach.  more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 3:24 PM by NER
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