March 31, 2006

Jill Carroll's Ordeal

I wanted to wait a day or so before writing about the long awaited release of CSM reporter Jill Carroll who was kidnapped in Iraq nearly 3 months ago. It was exciting to hear the good news yesterday morning that Jill had been released by her captors and was safe and unharmed. Soon after her release, a video showing Jill praising her captors' treatment of her and attacking the US occupation of Iraq as well as President Bush garnered much attention from the msm.

I heard analysts on the radio and read blogs and articles on the Internet attacking Jill, many even calling her a "traitor"! All of this less than 2 days since her release. I had my personal doubts about what Jill said, especially the part where it appears that she is praising the individuals who kidnapped her. It definitely sounded fishy. But as usual, many individuals who just want an excuse to attack liberals and anyone against the war on Iraq didn't hesitate in launching their own tirades against Jill.

As it turns out, Jill was forced to make this video as a condition for her release. I'm sure all those cowards who hurried to call her a traitor would've done the same thing in her position--anything to be released and free from captivity.
In a long phone conversation with his daughter on Friday, Mr. Carroll says that Jill was "under her captor's control."The night before journalist Jill Carroll's release, her captors said they had one final demand as the price of her freedom: She would have to make a video praising her captors and attacking the United States, according to Jim Carroll.
This is very typical of much of the media here in the US, and more specifically ultra-conservative bloggers and commentators. Similar attacks were launched against the recently released hostages from the Christian Peacemaker Team after they insisted that they are still against the War on Iraq and a military solution to the ongoing violence.

I am very happy to know that Jill is free. I cannot even begin to imagine what she has been through for that long, but we will definitely get a better idea when Jill starts talking on her own, as she did with the Washington Post stating,
"It was like falling off a cliff for three months, waiting to hit the ground."

Our prayers continue for the many other reporters, diplomats, and hundreds of Iraqi citizens who are kidnapped on a daily basis by thugs roaming the streets of Iraq thanks to Bush & Co.'s lack of a plan for post-war Iraq. May God be with you and your families.

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March 29, 2006

Photoblog: Mason Madness

A huge pep-rally was help in the main student union on Wednesday to support the team before they left for Indianapolis in the afternoon. The atmosphere at Mason is indescribable!

Huge pep-rally yesterday at the Johnson Center at GMU

President Alan Merten and Coach Jim Larranage got the crowd hyped up

The Johnson Center was *packed*!

Celebrating with loooots of cake :)

After the pep-rally, we went to watch the Patriots practice at the Patriot Center, got their autographs and took pictures with them! Fun stuff :D

the team practicing rebounding

Coach Larranaga chatting it up

team practice at GMU's Partiot Center

Lamar Butler speaks to the press

Kryptonite Kids! Good luck in Indy!

Jai Lewis speaking to the press after the practice

*all photos are copyright of moi

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March 28, 2006

A Tragedy Overlooked: Abdul Qadir's Story

Abdul Qadir is an internal refugee in a village near Mandera, in north eastern Kenya. Every morning he walks to the nearest shallow well to obtain water. The shallow well is no longer shallow - it is now 80 feet deep as people dig down to find precious water.

"We are eating maize or anything that we can get because a poor man has no choice. For water we have to go to the shallow well. We go every morning and I bring back 80 liters per day for drinking, bathing, wudu (ritual purification) and for the family," he said.

However, the water is not enough for his animals which also need pasture to survive. In the heat of the dry barren land they grow weaker day by day.

Abdul Qadir’s face is drawn with fear and despair. At his feet lies one of his sheep – it is dead. He has lost over 70 of his herd and he fears the rest will die in the next few days.

"Our life is poor – in the house there is nothing to eat. I have eleven children to look after but I can only take food for three."

"The children are suffering. Some of them are ill because of hunger. My youngest baby cried last night from hunger – she is one year and seven months old."

Abdul Qadir is not alone in his suffering; every other family in Bullokon village faces the same desperate situation.

I received this story from Islamic Relief, an international relief organization that "strives to alleviate the suffering, hunger, illiteracy and diseases worldwide without regard to color, race or creed and to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner." IR is a trusted NGO which is affiliated with the UN and has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the US.

More on the the crisis in the Horn of Africa:

UNICEF-More than 8 million people across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti are affected by the drought. The severe crisis is threatening the lives of 1.5 million children under the age of five.

BBC NEWS in-depth coverage of Africa Food Crisis

*photo courtesy of BBC

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News Roundup

Israelis enjoyed their day off as election day is a holiday in Israel. It appears that Israelis would have rather gone to the mall than to the polls to vote today. Voter turnout was the lowest in Israeli history, estimated around 60%, which observers said would help smaller ideologically driven parties. Exit polls showed that the new party Kadima, Ariel Sharon's creation now under the guidance of acting PM Ehud Olmer gained the most seats (~30), followed by Labor (~20), and then Likud (~10). I think everybody just misses Sharon.

Tensions were at an all time high between Shia leaders and the US military as presidential inquiry has begun over the weekend massacre of more than 20 Iraqis who were praying in a mosque. The operation was conducted by US and Iraqi troops who claimed that those killed were insurgents. Eyewitnesses report that the attack took place in a mosque while people were praying. The US military has denied that it entered a mosque. US military spokesman Barry Johnson said, "In our observation of the place and the activities that were going on, it's difficult for us to consider this a place of prayer." After 3 years in Iraq, you would expect the US military to recognize a place of prayer when it sees one. I would say "Mr. Johson, In my observation of the your soldier's actions and continued disregard for civilian life over the past three years in Iraq, it's difficult for me and the rest of the world to believe anything you say."

Meanwhile, as the US tries to promote a stable democracy in Iraq, the US ambassador to I
raq Zalmay Khalilzad told Rida Jawad al-Takki that President George Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" the retention of Ibrahim Jaafari as Prime Minister of Iraq. The US embassy in Baghdad confirmed Mr Khalilzad had met Mr Hakim on Saturday, but denied he had made such a demand. A spokesman for Jaafari said "an ambassador telling a sovereign country what to do is unacceptable." So much for democracy promotion, let the lobbying begin!

Dubya got bored of his right hand man Andrew Card and ordered a shake up of White House staff. Card resigned today and will be replaced by Joshua Bolten, previously the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Exit neo-con, enter neo-con!

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March 27, 2006

Who Said Cell Phones Were Bad For Us?

It's interesting to see how Internet and cell phone technology keeps evolving. Innovations in these two essential communications outlets have always been under scrutiny, and a lot of "bad news" usually emerges about the health risks of phones, or prolonged internet use. Of course these are legitimate concerns, but it's nice to hear about all the good that comes from cell phones and the Internet.

The Economist had an interesting article highlighting a study that looks at the ways the health industry is using text messaging for medical purposes. The goal is three-fold: "efficiency gains; public-health gains; and direct benefits to patients by incorporating text-messaging into treatment regimes." Whether its a reminder for your doctor's appointment, when to take your medication, or when to administer your insulin injection, a simple text message can make a big difference in some people's busy lives. Other messages have a more preventative approach, seeking to dissmenate public health information, such as reminders for vaccinations.

While I definitely see this as beneficial, how far will these "reminders" go? Are we going to be bombarded with messages about not eating junk food, getting our shots, and having our cavities fixed? Don't these outlets usually get abused by corporations for advertising purposes? Trust me, the last thing I want to get is a txt telling me to buy this or that kind of aspirin or toothpaste.

England has experimented with this new technology:
Several trials carried out in England have found that the use of text-messaging reminders reduces the number of missed appointments with family doctors by 26-39%, for example, and the number of missed hospital appointments by 33-50%. If such schemes were rolled out nationally, this would translate into annual savings of £256m-364m.
In some developing coutries, where more and more people have access to cell phones, "health" messages have been particularly helpful:
Text messages have been used in India to inform people about the World Health Organisation's strategy to control tuberculosis, for example, and in Kenya, Nigeria and Mali to provide information about HIV and malaria. In Iraq, text messages were used to support a campaign to vaccinate nearly 5m children against polio.
If this trend spreads, I presume more such reminders, not related to health will pour into my cell phone. "Pay your credit card bill; Take out the trash; Cut the grass; Drink Coke."

Now THAT would be something!

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George Mason University's Cinderella Story

John Smallwood of the Mercury News writes the "Cinderella" title has got to go as Mason advances to the Final Four:
Don't be fooled.

Don't look at George Mason University in the Final Four and get duped into seeing Cinderella.

Don't look at the roster of no-name kids who couldn't get scholarships to any major program and see 14 pairs of glass slippers.

George Mason is not Cinderella.

Cinderella would not - make that could not - have done what the Patriots just did.

Cinderella might always show up in the NCAA Tournament, but she does not go to the Final Four. That exclusive arena is reserved for truly elite teams.

Tim Sullivan of writes about Mason's shock and awe campaign:

Obscure George Mason won a regional championship game yesterday against overwhelming Connecticut 86-84, was forced into overtime to finish it and earned every single snippet of nylon in its hands, its hats and around its necks.

From afar, it was astonishing. An upset for the ages. People who have watched college basketball for decades kept searching for parallels and kept coming back to a hockey game played in 1980.

Pat Forde at writes that we're in a whole new ball game thanks to Mason:

Now that everyone's bracket has been folded, spindled and Masonically mutilated, it's time for a moment of reckoning. After two of the most stunning, suspenseful and spellbinding weeks in the history of the sport, this is what we have learned:

Everything we believed to be true about this college basketball season has been rendered false.

Up is down. Down is up. The earth is flat. The sun rises in the west. The smartest Patriots coach is not Bill Belichick, it's Jim Larranaga. And America's team is George Mason.

The Boston Globe's Mark Blaudschun writes jokes about Mason's Cinderella Men:

This time, there was no last-second miracle. This time, there was no comeback to savor.

This time, in the high-intensity forum of the NCAA Tournament, David slew Goliath.

Playing the role of David, Cinderella, and anything else you want to call them was No. 11-seeded George Mason, which knocked off No. 1 seed Connecticut, 86-84, in overtime in yesterday's Washington Regional final, much to the delight of the majority of the sellout crowd of 19,718 fans at the Verizon Center.

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March 26, 2006


It's an unbelievably amazing feeling to win when you are the underdog. George Mason University just had its most amazing game IN HISTORY! 11th seeded GMU beat top seeded University of Connecticut in game so close they had to go to overtime. We thought we had won at the end of the original time, but a layup by U Conn made the basket in the final 7th of a second, yes 0.7 of ONE second!!! My sister and I were jumping up and down thinking the game was over and we won (almost twisted my ankle), only to find out that the U Conn shot made it before time was up and the score tied, 74-74.

Going into overtime was miserable as we had been so close to a win. The points went back and forth, with Mason keeping the edge most of the time. Fouls by U Conn helped Mason ensure a 5-point lead with 1 minute left until the end of the game. It was a nail biter but WE WONNNNNNNNNNNNN an amaaaaaaaaaazingly close game!

NOBODY in their right mind would've bet on a team like Mason which has never even entered the NCAA quarter-finals. Barely anyone outside the DC Metro area even knew where Mason was. The largest public university in Virginia and the most diverse in the nation, Mason is largely a commuter school that lacked the national attention college sports teams usually garner. This has definitely changed, and the Cinderella school is now in the Final FOUR! We have nothing to lose because we've never gotten this far, we are ECSTATIC!


[photos courtesy of GMU and Yahoo News]

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March 24, 2006

March Madness is Sweeeeeeeeeet!

I'm not much of a sport's fan. Being the eldest of three girls doesn't help, and my dad is not a huge sports guy. I watch the Olympics and the World Cup when it comes around. I used to cheer on the Houston Rockets way back when Hakeem Olojoun was the best player on the team, but I stopped watching NBA games when he, Michael Jordan, and all the great ones left and the teams started falling apart.

March Madness? What is that anyway...for a while I had no idea what the heck it was. College basketball? Nothing big for me because George Mason University doesn't have a football team which is usually what gets American students riled up about college sports.

George Mason's Men's Basketball team made it to the Sweet 16!

I'll let the experts explain:

The first week of the tournament was packed with upsets. Six of the top teams, including basketball powerhouses Ohio State (a No. 2 seed), Tennessee (also a No. 2) and North Carolina (No. 3) got knocked off by teams with lower seedings (a higher number on a 1-to-16 rating). That means they lost to teams the NCAA committee and other basketball experts thought were not as good.

Two of the biggest surprise teams were local favorites George Mason (a No. 11 seed) and Georgetown (No. 7). George Mason beat Michigan State (No. 6) and North Carolina, two schools that were in the Final Four last year. That's pretty good for a team some folks thought should not even be in the tournament.

Hell ya, it's amazing! And now my school is going crazy :) Sports does that to people, especially the NCAA tournaments. Everyone from students to alums to 70-year old neighbors of the university are having a blast watching Mason upset the top teams in the country.

For employers, March Madness means distractions and lack of productivity to the tune of $3.8 billion in estimated losses.

In any case, TONIGHT is the big game, with Mason's Patriots playing against Wichita State right here in DC's Verizon Center. Tip off is at 7:27 PM on CBS.

Cross your fingers and cheer for MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASON!

Update: We woooooooooooooooooon! We WON! Off to the round of 8 :D

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March 23, 2006

Racism on the Rise in Israel

A recent poll conducted in Israel reveals that 68% of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same apartment building as an Israeli Arab, 46% would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their home, and 41% of Israeli Jews support the segregation of Arabs and Jews in places of recreation.
"Racism is becoming mainstream. When people talk about transfer or about Arabs as a demographic time-bomb, no one raises their voice against such statements. This is a worrisome phenomenon," Bachar Ouda, director of the Center for the Struggle Against Racism, said on Tuesday. The report covered the year 2005 and the center will, in the future, present monthly and bi-annual polls.
These opinions are translated into discriminatory policies and violent attacks against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
During the course of 2005, 225 racially-motivated incidents directed at Arab citizens were reported to the center or in the media. The center believes that less than 20 percent of attacks or other incidents are ever reported.

Responding to the report, Hadash Chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh said racism against Israeli Arabs "is a direct result of official racist and discriminatory policies" dictated by the government.

Who are Israeli Arabs?!

Palestinians with Israeli citizenships (aka 'Israeli Arabs') have long been targets of discrimination as they represent the growing number of non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
Their status is often overlooked by the international community because of the focus on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Palestinian citizens of Israel represent more 20% of Israel's population and number over 1.2 million. Most are Muslim (80%), in addition to 10% Chrisitian, and 10% Druze. The state's emphasis on it being Jewish in nature lays the ground for the inherent discrimination against the non-Jews.

According to ADALAH, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel:
In 1947, the Palestinians comprised some 67% of the population of Palestine. On 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was established. During the Arab-Israeli war that immediately followed, approximately 780,000 of the pre-1948 Palestinian population fled or were expelled, forced to become refugees in the neighboring Arab states and in the West. Of the 150,000 Palestinians who remained in the new state, approximately 25% were displaced from their homes and villages and became internally displaced persons as the Israeli army destroyed over 400 Arab villages. As a result of the war, the Palestinian population in Israel found itself disoriented and severely weakened. They had been effectively transformed from members of a majority population to a minority in an exclusively Jewish state. They lacked political as well as economic power, as their leadership, as well as their professional and middle classes, were refused the right to return and compelled to live outside of the state.
Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel's Schools (HRW)
Mossawa: The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel
Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

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March 21, 2006

Mother's Day? When is it?

For the past few years I find myself confused about this day. Here in the US, we celebrate Mother's Day on the 2nd Sunday in May. In the Arab world, it is celebrated on March 21st, which usually comes as a surprise to me because I'm not expecting to hear "happy mother's day" on Arabic satellite TV channels on this day.

Apparently, this day is celebrated around the year in different parts of the world, the most common day being the 2nd Sunday in May. Wikipedia has a more on when the holiday is celebrated in different parts of the world as well as the history of this day.

Interestingly enough,
Mother's Day in the United States was first proclaimed in 1870 in Boston by Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, and Howe called for it to be observed each year nationally in 1872. As originally envisioned, Howe's "Mother's Day" was a call for pacifism and disarmament by women. Early "Mother's Day" was mostly marked by women's peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War.
I doubt that these women would have wanted their special day to be abused by Hallmark and the rest of corporate America. It's fascinating to see how the meaning of this day has completely changed over the years.

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First Iraq, and Now Iran...All for You, Israel

In case anyone hadn't heard this declaration before, just in case, Bush made it crystal clear yet again today:
"But now that I'm on Iran, the threat to Iran, of course - the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel."
And in case you don't know much about the "special relationship" between the US and Israel, this report by Harvard and Chicago University professors should make it clear, yet again:
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.
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March 20, 2006

On the 3rd Anniversary...(continued)

together we light

gathering for peace

to remember the innocent victims

and pray for the rest

trying to keep the candles lit despite the winds and cold weather

but is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

peace songs by a Vietnam War veteran

cold cold day

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA)

Cindy Sheehan

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March 19, 2006

On the 3rd Anniversary...

There are some events in every person's life that they will never forget. They will always remember where they were when they heard about or experienced something that affects them in the most profound ways. And there is a certain age when such events begin to mean something else.

For me, the US invasion of Iraq is one of those events. I can say it is the first full scale war that I witnessed as a mature individual, understand the reasons behind it, the consequences, and everything in between. I was in Saudi Arabia at the start of the Gulf War I, but all I remember was taping down the windows, getting extra food, and hiding in one of our bedrooms and listening to the radio. I didn't know why it happened, or what really war entailed-- I was only 6 or 7 at the time. During the Bosnia war in the mid-90's, I began to slowly understand the horrors of war. My parents tried to tell me what it was about and explain how and why it happened. They're not the type of parents that like to sheild their children from anything and everything that might be horrific. They couldn't anyway, and I was always a curious child, especially about world affairs. I remember attending a huge protest in downtown D.C. during this time. I think this was my first experience at a political rally. I must've been 11 at the time, and I was happy to be there--I felt like I was doing something important. I also remember US aerial bombings of Iraq in the late 90's, and I was always aware of the conflict in Palestine.

But the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was different. There was at least a year of preparation before the war began, and during that time the anti-war movement was gaining strength. I atteneded at least 4 large scale protests in DC; the largest one on Jan.15th 2003 when more than 1/2 million people attended. It was exhilirating. To see the sheer amount of people amassed on the National Mall in DC was amazing. I made colorful posters, wore my anti-war pins, memorized the chants, painted my face with flags and peace signs, and talked to reporters and activists during these events. For a long time, I really honestly believed that the war might not happen if enough of us protested and took action against it. Maybe it was naive, but as I look back on it, I don't regret feeling that way. I'm glad I had the chance to feel that I could make a difference, and I believe we did. Just because the war happened, I don't believe that was our failure. The war obviously turned out to be someone else's failure.

So on the 3rd anniversay of this war, I cannot help but recall all the events that have taken place since then that have made me hate this war even more. Do I remember my Iraqi friend's cries on the phone as she relayed to me the horrors of finding two of her extended family members murdered in cold blood in their own home? Or when she told me about her 23-year old cousin, a father-to-be, who was killed because of a road-side bomb? Or the horrors of her grandmother as American forces bombed her town and killed her neighbors? My friendship with her put the Iraq war closer to me than I wanted, but it was a daily reminder that those numbers of dead I heard on tv were not just numbers. They were families and people, mothers, sons, daughters, fathers, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, human beings... all lives lost, ended abruptly and unexpectedly, maybe unfairly. It is a constant reminder, and for those who don't have this reminder, maybe they forgot about the war that happened years ago...maybe they forgot that they were paying for this war, or that their family members might be killed because of a war conducted in their name, whether they liked it or not.

So on this anniversary, I didn't chant in a massive rally. I attended a candle-light vigil commemmorating all the lives lost because of this war--Iraqis and Americans. But that doesn't mean we didn't protest. We did. Various speakers called on us to continue the stuggle to stop this war, to put an end to the human suffering that Bush and his cronies have caused. Our Congressman Jim Moran attended, and echoed those sentiments--he is just great! And Cindy Sheehan made a surprise appearance as she told us to remember her son and the many others like him who sacrificed their lives for this unjust war. It was a much quieter type of event as compared to the rallies I attended a few years ago. The numbers of Americans killed in VA were read and red stickers placed on the VA map, as well as the numbers of Iraqis killed in various Iraqi cities were remembered.

For me, it's a good reminder. We tend to get caught up in our own troubles, thinking that if the car didn't start this morning, it's the end of the world. While half way across the world, when Baba or Ali doesn't come back home after a long day in Baghdad, that is really the end of the world. We shall never forget, and we will continue to pray and struggle until someone puts and end to this injustice and oppression...

I leave you with pictures of the vigil in the next post.

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March 18, 2006

No Blood, No Foul: Task Force 6-26

The American military never fails to disgust me. Another prisoner abuse haven was profiled today in the New York Times. Camp Nama is run by a "shadowy" military unit known as Task Force 6-26, and was apparently one of the locations used to detain and interrogate suspected Iraqi insurgents. The article relies on interviews with government employees who requested to remain anonymous because of security concerns. The information they were about to reveal is a sickening tale of yet more prisoner abuse, most definitely amounting to torture, where prisoners were treated as targets in a "paintball" game...
Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.
Some soldiers and military officials will defend their actions, claiming that most of the prisoners are high ranking terrorists. Of course they are, just like this kid:
In early 2004, an 18-year-old man suspected of selling cars to members of the Zarqawi terrorist network was seized with his entire family at their home in Baghdad. Task force soldiers beat him repeatedly with a rifle butt and punched him in the head and kidneys, said a Defense Department specialist briefed on the incident.
Soldiers can get pretty bored with their interrogations, so they decide they decide to entertain themselves...

Some former task force members said the Nama in the camp's name stood for a coarse phrase that soldiers used to describe the compound. One Defense Department specialist recalled seeing pink blotches on detainees' clothing as well as red welts on their bodies, marks he learned later were inflicted by soldiers who used detainees as targets and called themselves the High Five Paintball Club.

But then again, it's easy to say it just never happened, after all, it was a blackhole...

Mr. McGraw, the military spokesman, said he had not heard of the Black Room or the paintball club and had not seen any mention of them in the documents he had reviewed.

These types of interrogation techniques are legitimate too. Oh and then the computer crashed:

In January 2004, the task force captured the son of one of Mr. Hussein's bodyguards in Tikrit. The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited. Army investigators were forced to close their inquiry in June 2005 after they said task force members used battlefield pseudonyms that made it impossible to identify and locate the soldiers involved. The unit also asserted that 70 percent of its computer files had been lost.
When the soldiers got sick of beating up the prisoners...

Prisoners deemed no threat to American troops were often driven deep into the Iraqi desert at night and released, sometimes given $100 or more in American money for their trouble.

In the end, a few soldiers might get a few months in jail, but the details of the horror will most likely remain secret.

Military and legal experts say the full breadth of abuses committed by Task Force 6-26 may never be known because of the secrecy surrounding the unit, and the likelihood that some allegations went unreported.

In the summer of 2004, Camp Nama closed and the unit moved to a new headquarters in Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad. The unit's operations are now shrouded in even tighter secrecy.

And Iraqis lived happily ever after...

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March 17, 2006

Website of the Week: 1001 Islamic Inventions

The 1001 Inventions website is the face of a unique UK-based educational project that uses Muslim contributions to society as a way to highlight the rich heritage of Muslim communities in the UK and across Europe.
1001 Inventions is a non-religious and non-political project seeking to allow the positive aspects of progress in science and technology to act as a bridge in understanding the interdependence of communities throughout human history. 1001 Inventions consists of a UK-wide travelling exhibition, a colourful easy to read book, a dedicated website and a themed collection of educational posters complementing a secondary school teachers' pack.
The traveling exhibition is based in the UK (maybe it will cross the border to the rest of Europe and North America?), although individuals around the world can take advantage of other parts of this project:

--> The 1001 Inventions Book is available for order online and can be a great addition to any public or private library. "Over 350 pages of colour photographs and written in an accessible style for those with limited knowledge of either Islam or history."

--> Educators can also use the 1001 Inventions Teacher's Pack which includes "important teacher’s guides and experiments to do at school and is devised to support teachers and the classroom environment." The pack is available for download here FREE of charge.

--> Educators and individuals alike can take advantage of beautifully designed 1001 Investions Educational Posters that include timelines of inventions, profiles of Muslim inventors, a world map of inventions, and themed posters that focus on how these inventions are found in our homes, schools, hospitals, markets, towns, our world, and our universe. They can be ordered online here.

Take a quick look through the website and you will find more information on many of these inventions. The website has a plethora of information, commentary, and space for your comments; it's addictive! You can also have fun with some of the quizzes and games here.

Here are some of my favorite snippets...

-Did you know that cosmetics were introduced to the West by a Muslim doctor?

-If you've ever had an allergic reaction to something you may be interested to know that this problem was first studied by a Muslim scolar, Al-Razi, who also discovered asthma.

-Did you know that cheese was first made in the Middle East?

Did you know that the basic scale in music today comes from Arabic syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and ti? The Arabic alphabet for these notes is Dal-Ra-Mim-Fa-Sad-Lam-Sin.

- Did you know that the popular Spanish music and dance of Flamenco comes from the phrase 'Fallah Mango', meaning the running farmers, a singing style developed by Moorish farmers facing the injustice of inquisition?

- Did you know that well before braille was invented that some 600 years before a Syrian Muslim had created his own system?

I could go on forever, but go see for yourself. Great isn't it? Kudos to all the individuals who worked on this project, the sponsors, and all of the supporters. Brilliant work!

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March 16, 2006

march sixteenth

March 16th is a day of contemplation for me. Four years ago today, my grandfather passed away, a man I dearly loved and admired. Three years ago today, Rachel Corried passed away, a woman I never knew, until her death appeared all over my computer screen. Even though I didn't know Rachel, on March 16th she became a close friend, a woman I grew to admire as I read more of her last words and understood why she had stood bravely in front of that Israeli bulldozer on that fateful day.

My grandfather struggled similarly, but with something more natural, but not any less brutal: cancer. Thousands of miles away, his once strong body whithered away as the cancer spread across his soft skin and his big heart. Even when you know it's coming, you are never prepared. I wasn't in Jordan when he took his last breath, and I wasn't in Palestine when Rachel took her last breath, but I felt the loss nevertheless. And after the loss, you begin to regret many things...i wish i had spent more time with jiddo* every summer... i wish i had known rachel before they killed her...i wish i wish i wish...

None of that really matters today, we cannot turn back time, we can't change the past...but we still have a hold on the future. Rachel's words, her bravery and her selflessness intrigued me and motivated me. Why would this young student, just like me, travel half way across the world to a country she did not know, and risk her life for people she did not share anything with except the simple but priceless commonality of humanity? In my life, what have I done for the cause of justice? How could I, a Muslim, an Arab, an American...a human...not do enough for something I believe so strongly in. My grandfather too, like many in his generation, risked their lives for the this same cause...i wish i had sat with him longer, heard more of his war stories, and experienced them through his eyes.

Both of these amazing human beings have shaped the way I see the world today. A world facing a lot of injustice, but one where average people, like you, me and them, can bring a ray of hope to those who are suffering, or at least enlighten ourselves so that we do not become like those who inflict injustice upon the rest.

When I remember my grandfather and Rachel, I sometimes think to myself that they deserved to live longer...but who am I to decide that? Indeed, Allah is the most just and the most merciful and I could not go on a single day without this belief...the belief that there is a God and an afterlife in which such oppressors will face justice once and for all.

We shall meet soon insha'Allah*.

Until then jiddo, I will read your diary, hold your shmagh* tightly in my hands, admire your picture near the staircase, and pray for the day when I will see you again. I love you.

Until then Rachel, I will remember your selflessness and hope that a many more people in this world would be like you, speaking out against injustice at any cost. You did not die in vain, your life continues today and your story inspires millions to stand up and speak the truth. Your parents, friends and supporters have outdone themselves, and you would've been very proud. We shall meet one day.

*jiddo: grandpa
*insha'Allah: God-willing
*shmagh: red and white checkered traditional scarf, variations also in black and white

In Rachel's own words...
Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide stop. I don't think it's an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: "This is the wide world and I'm coming to it." I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside.

*jiddo: grandpa
*insha'Allah: God-willing
*shmagh: red and white checkered traditional scarf, variations also in black and white

More: Rachel Corrie Foundation, EI resources, photo story, Rachel's Memorial Website

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March 15, 2006


Who cares what the US says, we want human rights!
The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to create a new human rights organisation for the world body, despite United States criticism.

The 47-nation UN Human Rights Council will replace the current 53-country UN Human Rights Commission.

The existing body has been heavily criticised for having countries with poor human rights records as members.

The US voted against the plan, saying the reforms did not go far enough, but pledged to work with the new council.

Nurse: yes, and would you like me to implant your records in your arm or in your nose?

The two D.C. residents are among just a handful of Americans who have had the tiny electronic VeriChip inserted since the government approved it two years ago. But the chip is being aggressively marketed by its manufacturer, which is targeting Washington to be the first metropolitan area with multiple hospitals equipped to read the device, a persuasive factor for Fischer and Hickey. Within weeks, the first hospital is expected to announce plans to start routinely scanning all emergency-room patients.

Some doctors are welcoming the technology as an exciting innovation that will speed care and prevent errors. But the concept alarms privacy advocates. They worry the devices could make it easier for unauthorized snoops to invade medical records. They also fear that the technology marks a dangerous step toward an Orwellian future in which people will be monitored using the chips or will be required to have them inserted for surveillance.

A round of appluase...for us!
The number of bloggers - people who write online journals - topped 30m this week, according to, the search engine that monitors activity of this kind. This may give an exaggerated idea of the size of the global blogosphere because a lot of people have more than one website and others are inactive. But it does suggest that a milestone may have been passed and that blogging is graduating from being a minority sport to a mainstream activity.

A neo-con turns on his buddies

"America at the Crossroads" serves up a powerful indictment of the Bush administration's war in Iraq and the role that neoconservative ideas — concerning preventive war, benevolent hegemony and unilateral action — played in shaping the decision to go to war, its implementation and its aftermath. These arguments are made all the more devastating by the fact that the author, Francis Fukuyama, was once a star neoconservative theorist himself, who studied with or was associated with leading neoconservative luminaries like Paul D. Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Albert Wohlstetter and Allan Bloom, and whose best-selling 1992 book, "The End of History and the Last Man," was celebrated (and denounced) as a classic neoconservative text on the end of the cold war and the global march of liberal democracy.
Sleeping pill or midnight snack pill?

The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug's users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands.

The next morning, the night eaters remember nothing about their foraging. But they wake up to find telltale clues: mouthfuls of peanut butter, Tostitos in their beds, kitchen counters overflowing with flour, missing food, and even lighted ovens and stoves. Some are so embarrassed, they delay telling anyone, even as they gain weight.

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