April 30, 2006

"I Will Die": Gaza on the Verge of a Health Crisis

In between all the headlines about the "civilized" world stopping its aid to the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, and behind the rhetoric and the justifications for such immoral actions, average Palestinians are rotting away in their homes and in hospital beds as they await much needed medical supplies.

From cancer patients to those with a common stomach flu, the answer from the hospital is the same: go home, we can't help you, we don't have medicine.

Palestinian health minister Dr. Bassem Naeem made a plea on AlJazeera today to world leaders and Arab and international NGOs to assist the Palestinians in obtaining much needed medical supplies in light of the Israeli closures of major passageways to the Gaza Strip (yes, that piece of land that Israel recently unilaterally 'disengaged' from but which remains under a strong chokehold from the IDF) and a halt in international aid. He warned that the Palestinian territories would face an imminent health crisis if no assistance was provided in the coming days.

Gaza's main hospital did not have what she needed, the Palestinian mother of seven said. Ghaith, 60, had her left foot amputated recently after an illness. She also suffers from chronic blood pressure.

"I will die. Without medicine I will die," Ghaith said as her son Hani, a police officer whose salary is nearly a month overdue, pushed her along a hospital corridor.

A combination of Israel's frequent closures of border crossings into Gaza and reduced foreign aid flows in the wake of the election win of the militant group Hamas in January has worsened humanitarian conditions in the impoverished strip. [link]

Even those countries that have heeded the message from the health minister have faced serious roadblocks to providing much needed emergency aid to the sick in the Gaza Strip. A Jordanian shipment of medical supplies to al-Shifaa Hospital stopped short of being delivered to sick patients as it is being blocked by the Israeli forces from entering the Strip, according to statements made the health minister on AlJazeera this evening.

Al Araj [economy minister] asserted that Israel is using the closure of the crossings and Gaza's humanitarian crisis as leverage against the Palestinian side, adding that international trade agreements have forbidden the use of commercial crossings as negotiations card, but Israel insists on doing so and forcing the passage of certain goods through its Kerem Shalom crossing.

On the other hand, the Minister of Health Basem Naim revealed that his ministry is suffering from a severe shortage of medicines due to the continuous Israeli siege and closure of the Gaza Strip.

Naim asserted that the Ministry of Health needs at least $4 million for its monthly operating costs, adding that the constant closures have disrupted the work of hospitals and primary care centers, as well as hindering the arrival of medical assistance from several countries. [link]

The blockage of emergency medical assistance translates into the deterioration of the health of hundreds of patients in Gaza's hospitals, some of whom have even lost their lives.

Palestinian health officials said the ministry also had to scale back the number of patients it transferred abroad for treatment because of accumulating debts.

"That means I may lose my son," said Musa Bahloul, standing next to his 13-year-old boy, who needs a kidney transplant.

Most Gazans rely on government hospitals and clinics for cheap or free services. When more than half the population is living under the poverty line, not many can afford expensive health services. But even those who may have money to buy medicine, pharmacists say many types of medicine are just not available under the current seige. Health practitioners continue to make appeals to the rest of the world.

But Mazen al-Aloul, chief nurse at Shifa, said employees were depressed about not getting their salaries.

"We suffer serious shortages in everything, but most importantly ... dealing with difficult illnesses like cancer and kidney failure," he said.

"We know America stands with Israel but we urge Europe, the mother of democracy, to lift the siege on our people," he said.
I'm afriad, brother, that the EU has abandoned you, and so has most of the world for that matter. You chose to vote, this is your punishment.

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April 28, 2006

United States of Israel?

Robert Fisk does it again, this time meeting up with one of the authors of the recent study on the Israeli Lobby's influence on American foreign policy. The two professors have tried to stay out of the spotlight and instead respond to attacks against them through academic means. Not surprisingly, they have been attacked as anti-Semites because they dared to state the obvious: American foreign policy is heavily influenced by a pro-Israel lobby that pressures the US into making decisions that do not benefit the short or long term interests of Americans. On the contrary, this influence has had a consistently negative impact on America's relations with the rest of the world, and in particular, the Arab and Muslim world. More on the report in this earlier post.

The full text of Robert Fisk's article can be found on this great new blog, or on the Independent's website if you have access to the Portfolio accounts.
"Anyone who criticizes Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy," the authors have written, "...stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-Semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israeli lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism ... Anti-Semitism is something no-one wants to be accused of." This is strong stuff in a country where - to quote the late Edward Said - the "last taboo" (now that anyone can talk about blacks, gays and lesbians) is any serious discussion of America's relationship with Israel.
In the article, also Robert Fisk discusses the biased reaction of the American press to the release of the Walt & Mearsheimer study.
For a while, the mainstream US press and television - as pro-Israeli, biased and gutless as the two academics infer them to be - did not know whether to report on their conclusions... or to remain submissively silent. The New York Times, for example, only got round to covering the affair in depth well over two weeks after the report's publication, and then buried its article in the education section on page 19. The academic essay, according to the paper's headline, had created a "debate" about the lobby's influence.
The infamous Harvard professor and staunch pro-Israel advocate, Alan Dershowitz, naturally felt compelled to attack the study arguing that the professors "recycled" bigoted "accusations", in other words, he played the anti-Semitic card. The professors are working on a response to his baseless accusations.

Robert Fisk recalls his own experiences in speaking out against Israeli policies and the pressure he faced from US to Australia throughout his career.

I'll leave you with the last section of the article as I don't think there's much to add.
Across the United States, there is growing evidence that the Israeli and neo-conservative lobbies are acquiring ever greater power. The cancellation by a New York theatre company of My Name is Rachel Corrie - a play based on the writings of the young American girl crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 - has deeply shocked liberal Jewish Americans, not least because it was Jewish American complaints that got the performance pulled.

"How can the West condemn the Islamic world for not accepting Mohamed cartoons," Philip Weiss asked in The Nation, "when a Western writer who speaks out on behalf of Palestinians is silenced? And why is it that Europe and Israel itself have a healthier debate over Palestinian human rights than we can have here?" Corrie died trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home. Enemies of the play falsely claim that she was trying to stop the Israelis from collapsing a tunnel used to smuggle weapons. Hateful e-mails were written about Corrie. Weiss quotes one that reads: "Rachel Corrie won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted."

Saree Makdisi - a close relative of the late Edward Said - has revealed how a right-wing website is offering cash for University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) students who report on the political leanings of their professors, especially their views on the Middle East. Those in need of dirty money at UCLA should be aware that class notes, handouts and illicit recordings of lectures will now receive a bounty of $100. "I earned my own inaccurate and defamatory 'profile'," Makdisi says, "...not for what I have said in my classes on English poets such as Wordsworth and Blake - my academic speciality, which the website avoids mentioning - but rather for what I have written in newspapers about Middle Eastern politics."

Mearsheimer and Walt include a study of such tactics in their report. "In September 2002," they write, "Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website (www.campus-watch.org) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel... the website still invites students to report 'anti-Israel' activity."

Perhaps the most incendiary paragraph in the essay - albeit one whose contents have been confirmed in the Israeli press - discusses Israel's pressure on the United States to invade Iraq. "Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq's WMD programmes," the two academics write, quoting a retired Israeli general as saying: "Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq's non-conventional capabilities."
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Darfur: Just When We Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse...

The UN is cutting in half its daily rations in Sudan's Darfur region due to a severe funding shortfall.

"This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made," James Morris, head of the UN's World Food Programme, said.

From May the ration will be half the minimum amount required by each day. The cut comes as the UN said Darfur's malnutrition rates are rising again.

Nearly 3m in Darfur are totally reliant on food aid after being driven off their land by three years of conflict. [BBC]

Meanwhile, the leaders of the free world are more concerned about Iran enriching a little uranium that COULD possibly cause the deaths of just as many people, oh say, about 50 years from now.

Why not help those people who are dying RIGHT NOW?! Why not mobilize the most powerful countries for a worthy cause like this?! WHY WHY WHY?!

Maybe because making a big fuss about Iran will make gas prices go through the ROOF, giving Exxon Mobil and their buddies (including Bush & Co.) something to rave about...to the tune of $8 Billion to be specific.

[related post]
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April 26, 2006

Do Not Attack Iran

Former National Security Advisor and noted international relations scholar


April 25, 2006

Bin Laden & Zarqawi Speak Out... And I Shout Back!

Apparently, they're in the mood to talk these two thugs. Osama bin Laden released an audio tape on Sunday reiterating his prevoius assertions that the West is at war with Islam. He cited recent events related to the cutting of aid to the Hamas led Palestinian government as proof of this "crusade" against Islam and Muslims. Bin Laden also called on his supporters to prepare for a long war against the "crusaders" in Sudan. These calls fell on deaf ears as both Palestinian and Sudanese sources distanced themselves from bin Laden's statements.

Today, a website that broadcasts information related to Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi's insurgent network released a video showing an unmasked Zarqawi making more threats against the "crusaders" in Iraq. He threatened that "what is coming is even worse." Zarqawi also admonished the US for not accepting a truce offered by who he referred to as "our prince and leader", Osama bin Laden.

Two these two cowards, I say:

We don't need your sympathy. We don't want to hear your conspiracy theories explaining everything going on in the world. We don't need to hear verses of the Quran from you because you are hypocrites, choosing to exclude most of the basic principles in Islam. We don't need you to feel bad for the Palestinian people. We don't need you to ask the world to help Hamas, because unlike you, Hamas chose a civilized way to enter politics and change the status quo of the Palestinians. We don't need you to tell us about human rights and crusades in Darfur. We don't need you to tell us to go fight our Muslim brethren in Darfur who are suffering everyday, and not because of a "crusader" war.

We need you to get the hell back in your stupid cave and stop talking to us. You've done enough damage claiming you are acting like a righteous Muslim, blowing up innocent people in planes and hotels and resorts. You know nothing of jihad. You know nothing of what Muslims across the world are going through because of your murderous acts.

You do not know that Muslims in America and Europe are suffering everday because of your sick interpretation of the noble concept of jihad. You do not know that young American Muslim girls are being targeted because of your filthy words. They are being physically attacked, their headscarves torn off by extremists of other religions, just like yourself and because of your actions.

You do not know what our Muslim brothers go through in the West everyday when they are in the airport, in a college classroom, in their offices, on the trains. They are all suspects now, all because of your sick ideas and your personal ambitions, none of which have to do with our beautiful religion.

Everything that we have accomplished and every step that we have made to bring the beauty and essence of Islam to the rest of the world has been hijacked by you and the innocent young boys that you prey on. You brainwash them into thinking they are doing the work of God. There are many of them across the Arab and Muslim world. Poor, hopeless, jobless, willing to do anything to put out the rage inside their hearts. Their ineffective leaders have sucked the life out of them, and you deceive them even more. You lie to them and tell them they will go to heaven, to meet their Lord. Oh my Allah, how He has taught us in the Quran to LIVE for Islam before we die for it. To live for others, to help others, to spread Islam through our peaceful and kind actions.

How dare you even begin to think that you are following in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet Muhammad...how dare you taint his image. How dare you cause cartoonists to make fun of him because of your murderous actions. They are not at fault. You Osama and Abu Musab are at fault. That caricature was of YOU and NOT our beloved Prophet. He is innocent of what you claim he has preached. He preached nothing but peace. He was a patient and soft spoken man, not a sword wielding one. He cared for his neighbors, even the Jewish one who threw trash in front of his home everyday. Yes, you heard me, his Jewish neighbor.

Leave the Muslims alone. We don't want you to speak on our behalf. We don't support your terrorist tactics. We don't need your conspiracy theories. We need you to go back to your cave and ask Allah for forgiveness for all the sins you have committed. I, for one, will never forgive you for what you have done to my brothers and sisters in humanity whom you have killed, and I cannot forgive you for the damage you have inflicted on Muslim communities across the world, especially those in the West. May you live in misery throughout this life and may you burn in Hell in the next one.

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Oh Darfur!

5 Truths About Darfur, by Emily Wax, Washington Post
1. Nearly everyone is Muslim.
2. Everyone is black.
3. It's all about politics.
4. This conflict is international.
5. The "genocide" label made it worse.

Rally To Stop Genocide in Darfur
April 30th
Washington, D.C.

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April 23, 2006

Truth or Lie, Bush Used it To Support Illegitimate War

"The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."

This is what former top CIA official Tyler Drumheller said today on CBS' 60 Minutes regarding the Bush administration's tactics. Ed Bradley spoke to Drumheller as well as former ambassador Joseph Wilson about the Niger uranium issues that surfaced in the months before the lead up to the Iraq invasion.

It all started much earlier than many would expect. Only one month after 9/11, the Bush administration received information from Italian intelligence sources that Saddam Hussein had purchased 500 tons of "yellow-cake uranium" from Niger, of course with the intention of using it to build a nuclear weapon. Drumheller says that most people at the CIA doubted the report, and questioned its authenticity. They didn't give it much attention.

VP Dick Cheney, however, insisted that this claim be investigated, so former ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent to Niger in February 2002 to do just that.
Wilson spent eight days in Niger looking for signs of a secret deal to send yellowcake to Iraq. He spoke to government officials who would have known about such a transaction. No one did. There had been a meeting between Iraqis and Nigerians in 1999, but Wilson was told uranium had never been discussed. He also found no evidence that Iraq had even been interested in buying uranium.
Wilson adds that he came back confident that the Italian intelligence had been false and that there was no basis to the Niger uranium deal. He relayed this information to the CIA, and then director George Tenet used the results of the investigation to convice Bush's speech writers to remove any references to the story because "it was overblown" and "the evidence was weak." Although the Niger story was removed from a speech Bush was scheduled to give in Cincinnati, it would soon reappear in much more high profile address by the president.

At the same time, the CIA had made another breakthrough: Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, had agreed to reveal Iraq's military secrets to the agency, ratting out his long time boss, Saddam Hussein. The administration was excited to hear that such a high level source had decided to speak out. What he told them, however, would be even a bigger shock.
"He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program," says Drumheller.

"So in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam's inner circle that he didn't have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?" Bradley asked.

"Yes," Drumheller replied. He says there was no doubt in his mind at all.

"It directly contradicts, though, what the president and his staff were telling us," Bradley remarked.

"The policy was set," Drumheller says. "The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."
Once again, the Bush administration clearly heard from a high-level source that there were no WMD in Iraq. They had been planning to take Sabri's account seriously had he revealed something more in their interest. Now, they claimed that his information "could not be corroborated."

The Niger story resurfaced when an Italian spy claimed he had documents to prove the purchase of uranium by the Iraqis. He tried to sell them to an Italian reporter, but after close inspection, she doubted their authenticity. Elisabeta Burba says they were "bad forgeries", and handed them over to the US embassy in Rome in late 2002.
Drumheller says the CIA station chief in Rome, who worked for him, told him he didn't believe it. "He said, 'It's not true. It's not; this isn't real,'" Drumheller recalls.
Still, in January 2003, the National Intelligence Council conducted yet another investigation of the Niger story and concluded that it was baseless. This should've been the end of the story, until...
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," the president said.
In his 2003 State of the Union Address, just weeks after the final investigation, President Bush insisted on using the Niger story to support his bid for an invasion of Iraq. Even after many analysts and experts had agreed the story was baseless and there was no evidence to support it, the president used it in one of the most important statements to his people. He knowingly used false information to support a war he had planned to conduct regardless of the nuclear ambitions of Saddam Hussein. He knowingly lied to the American people.

If this isn't a good reason to impeach this president, then please turn your tv on and wait for a report about the civil war in Iraq. If that still isn't enough, I don't know what is. Maybe we should just send a stripper with some cigars to the White House. That'll do it.

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April 22, 2006

On Sweet 16's, Rotten Teens (and pre-teens) and Paris Hilton

An interesting piece in this week's TIME magazine discusses the increasingly disturbing trend among teens. No, it's not sex, drugs, drinking, or dropping out of high school. Well, I'm not sure how to put it, maybe frivolously spending money on anything and everything that may be remotely "hot" or has a brand name attached to it. This rant might sound a little off because I'm on lots of drugs right now (Tylenol, Robitussin, and lots of Halls) and because this crap is really getting to me.

I'm so fed up with this focus on money, money, money. Every teen age girl these days seems to own at least one Coach handbag, if not Louis Vuitton, Dooney & Bourke, Fendi, etc. She's at the salon every day, manicures and pedicures every week, and of course designer outfits from the Puma shoes to the Bebe top. Forget the fact that her parents are probably $20,000 in debt, that their credit cards are maxed out, her mom looks like she just walked out of a homeless shelter, and her dad probably works at McD's. The problem is both with girls who can afford but more so with girls who cannot. Of course this a boy's problem too, but I'm not that familiar with what guys are into these days.

Back to the gals and the TIME article. Ana Marie Cox writes about lavish Sweet 16 parties and the hit MTV show that documents these sad displays of superficial glitsy teens and parents who's main goal is to compete with one another.
MTV's highly rated My Super Sweet 16 [...] documents the excesses of privileged youths commemorating the mighty achievement of making it through their 16th year. Shell-shocked parents--always uttering the mantra "It was worth it"--typically peel off checks for upwards of $200,000. We learn that from the Sun Belt to Erie, Pa., the lack of taste knows no ethnic, religious or cultural bounds. You give teenagers $200,000, and they will spend it exactly as you would expect. The parties are the aesthetic equivalent of Hilary Duff MP3s.
Let me repeat... two-hundred thousand US dollars... the cost of about 10 Honda Civics; a nice 2-bedroom flat in North Carolina; I can't bear to go on.
A precocious celebutant makes her entrance via helicopter. A self-proclaimed "divo" (like diva but different) rents out the mall to stage a faux fashion show (prompting a backstage catfight over a limited supply of bustiers). There are hired dancers, a raj-like litter hoisted by hand-picked hotties and an apparent contractual obligation for someone to arrive in a stretch Hummer. I had no idea so many stretch Hummers even existed. No wonder we had to go to war in Iraq.
Oh yes, Iraq... Forget it, I won't even go there.

Some might say I'm coming down too harsh on these kids, let them enjoy their youth for Paris Hilton's sake! If they can afford it, why not, right?

Blasting such shows on the most watched channel by teens is a recipe for disaster. Every girl will want that kind of party, helicopter entrance and all. What's next? Renting out an island? Oops, they probably already did that.
Thankfully, I don't have cable TV for this specific reason. I don't watch much of this trash anyway, but I have seen clips of this show and it's really sickening.
I don't understand how parents can support these things?! The only explanation is that they are reaping the benefits too. Their daughter's party becomes the talk of the town for a week or so. Whooptee doo!

I hate how we are being sucked into this market crap more and more. We can't even buy things that look nice anymore. Handbags that look like the designer's throw-up but has a tiny little label is HOT, and sells for hundreds of $.

Conformity and uniformity make me sick! I hate seeing everyone with the same shoes, same jeans, same handbags! What ever happened to being unique? To standing out? And I don't mean by having a pricier Fendi bag.

What I fear is this...
The series is like an infomercial for class war, and should the revolution come, an episode guide will provide a handy, illustrated list of who should go up against the wall.
This is not an outlandish thought at all. Don't think that we don't have people starving in this country. Look at our screwed up economy, tax cuts for the rich and everything in between. High schools are boiling with these tensions. And don't tell me it's always been like this.

What will happent to our girls? If their future is that of Paris Hilton, someone shoot me now please.

We need a wake up call. I don't know how loud/scary it has to be for us to respond.

Take a look at the full TIME article, it's definitely worth a read.

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April 21, 2006

Oil Prices Hit Record Highs

I'm really avoiding the gas stations. I don't want to see those numbers climbing higher and higher! It's enough we have to consider that these prices will inevitably sky rocket during the summer... I'd reather not even think about it. Thanks President Bush, first you screw up Iraq and now you're trying to screw with Iran, and all we get is more crap that translates into a crappy economy and high gas prices!
Crude oil rose to a record $74.10 a barrel on concern that shipments from Iran and Nigeria will be disrupted as the U.S. increases output of gasoline for the summer driving season.

The standoff over Iran's nuclear program has intensified, increasing the chances of sanctions against the world's fourth- biggest oil producer. Rebel attacks in Nigeria have shut about 20 percent of output in Africa's biggest oil producer. Oil was pulled lower in early trading on speculation that refiners will increase output because of improved profit margins.

Crude oil for June delivery rose 41 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $74.10 a barrel at 11:28 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest for a contract closest to expiration since trading began in 1983. The May contract, which expired yesterday, reached records the last three days. Prices are 37 percent higher than a year ago. [link]
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April 20, 2006

Da Vinci Mania!

I just bought the paperback version of the Da Vinci Code a few days ago to reread it before the movie comes out. Turns out I've forgotten a lot of what happened in the book, which makes for a great 2nd read. The first time I "read it" was actually by listening to the CD's in my car. So this is my first time reading it from the book itself.

I got the CD's from the library because I simply did not have time to read it (3rd yr college student= one too many research papers). I figured that my half-hour drive to and from university would be better spent listening to the Da Vinci Code than superficial news reports. It was great listening to it because the person reading it knew how to change his voice according to the character, and he was apparently fluent in French so he could pronounce everything clearly and correctly (something I definitely couldn't have done if I simply read it). So I'm glad that now when I read the book I know I'm pronouncing the names right (in my head, not out loud). The funny thing is the names are pretty hard for the average American to pronounce, so it was funny listening to some of my friends pronounce the names like Fache and Sauniere in many different (incorrect) ways.

Anyways, so I love this book because it moves so fast and I don't even notice that I'm reading so many pages in an hour. I'm not a particularly fast or slow reader, but this book makes me feel like I read super fast :)

My Google homepage today had an extra box advertising The Da Vinci Code Quest which is a series of puzzles that you have to figure out and can possible win a variety of prizes, including trips to London & Paris by plane and train, MP3 players, digi cams, laptops, LCD tv's, and even a cryptex replica (for 10,000 finalists)!!! So go try it for yourself, it should be fun, and good preparation for the movie that's coming out May 19th. I love the website for the movie too: www.SoDarkTheConOfMan.com!

As for the actors in the movie, I really didn't picture Langdon to be a Tom Hanks...I don't know why, but that's the beauty of books, you can make the characters look however you want them to look. Maybe when I watch the movie Tom Hanks will convince me that he's worthy of being Langdon, what do you Da Vinci code lovers/haters think?

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April 19, 2006

Dutch Scientific Council: Islam & Democracy Compatible

Thankfully, someone has recognized that a mixture of Islam and politics does not always result in something ugly and scary (ie: al-Qaeda).
The Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) in the Netherlands, advising the government with the reports it prepares, acknowledges that Islam is "in perfect dynamism" with democracy and human rights.

The council, covering relations between Islam and democracy in its latest report titled "Dynamism in Islamic activism," stresses the frequently used statement that in principle Islam conflicts with democracy along with the cliche "clash of civilizations" leads to blocked dialogue among cultures.

A new opening is needed, the Council diagnosed, giving the following advice to EU countries: "Instead of exporting democracy to Muslim countries, democratic attempts harmonious with their own traditions and cultures must be supported."

The study reveals a lack of direct communication with Muslim nations, and describing Islam together with the words "clash of civilizations" and terrorism are the biggest obstacles facing dialogue. The report stresses new policies on a global scale must be put into practice in order to decrease the tension between Islam and the West.

Full story

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April 18, 2006

Arab Countries Snub Hamas...Again!

Last week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit turned down a meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar because he was "too busy" and "could not make time" to meet his counterpart. Most journalists and political analysts considered this an excuse to avoid meeting with the al-Zahar who is a member of the controversial Hamas party.

This week,
Jordan has announced that it will cancel the planned Wednesday meeting with al-Zahar after it accused Hamas of "smuggling weapons" into Jordan, hinting in a separate announcement that the weapons found were to be used to attack "vital" Jordanian targets.

This is clearly another excuse for the Jordanians to avoid a controversial meeting with members of Hamas. Both Jordan and Egypt should be ashamed of themselves, as they are rejecting meetings with members of a democratically elected party representing the Palestinian people. Had it been a meeting with a low-level Israeli politician, the red carpet would have been rolled out for them without any objection. These are the same countries that did nothing during the Intifada (2000-2003) in removing ambassadors or refusing to meet with Israeli officials.

Qatar, a country willing and able to host the Asia Games, has generously donated a whole $50 million to the Palestinian Authority. Let me repeat, FIFTY MILLION BUCKS, one Qatari prince can shake his ASS and this amount will come rolling out of his pockets. Mind you, this is the same country that is willing to plop down $600 million just for the residential project that will house the players visiting the country in December. Forget the other few $BILLION$ that will be needed to fund the rest of the games, which are the largest after the Olympics.

Besides Qatar, only Iran and Russia have offered aid assistance to the Palestinians. All of these donations however, do not cover a fraction of the monthly needs of the PA to pay government salaries and to maintain a semi-government system. The Arab League ministers tried to come to an agreement to provide $55 million to the PA on a monthly basis but that is yet to be confirmed.

Arab leaders, despite their diplomatic public statements, want Hamas to fail miserably. They want to tell their populations that dictatorship is better for them...Look what elections did for the Palestinians...You want Islamic parties? This is what Islamic parties do, they fail. Democracy doesn't work for you Arabs. You're better off with dictators like us.

And the US and EU? Well, they're basically spitting in the face of Palestinians and Arabs in general by encouraging them to pursue democracy and free elections, but withdrawing their support when those elected do not float their boat. We don't need your damn help, we don't need to keep begging for your money, and we don't want to be blackmailed just because you offer us some leftovers after you give the billions to Israel. We want you to leave us the hell alone and let us find a democracy that fits OUR needs and OUR traditions and OUR people's interests.

In the end, it is the mothers of Palestinian prisoners, the families of those brutally killed by Israel, and the rest of the Palestinian population imprisoned and starved that will suffer from these "snubs" and "diplomatic gestures."

Shame, shame, shame!!!

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April Issue of WRMEA Now Online

This month's issues of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs is now available online.

Articles include:
Israel and the U.S. Take Aim at Palestinian DemocracyRachelle Marshall

Freeing Sami Al-Arian Will Help the U.S. Regain Our Higher Ground—Paul Findley

In Iraq, Mosque Outrage Also Brings SolidarityDahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed

Hamas' Electoral Victory—Five Views—Charley Reese, John V. Whitbeck, John Gee, Paul Richter, Samah Jabr

AIPAC Spy Case: Larry Franklin Sentenced, Former Honchos May Sue Over Legal Fees—Andrew I. Killgore

The magazine also includes special book reviews, sections on Arab and Muslim American activisms, human rights, and waging peace. It's definitely worth a look!

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs is a 100-page magazine published 9 times per year in Washington, DC, that focuses on news and analysis from and about the Middle East and U.S. policy in that region.
The Washington Report is published by the American Educational Trust (AET), a non-profit foundation incorporated in Washington, DC by retired U.S. foreign service officers to provide the American public with balanced and accurate information concerning U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states.

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Dr. Sami Al-Arian To Be Released Soon

After failing to convince a jury to convict him on any charge, the US government has decided not to re-try Dr. Sami-Alrian on the remaining charges (which the jury dead-locked on). An agreement was signed between the two parties that would allow Al-Arian to be released from jail and deported to another country. I wrote about Dr. Al-Arian's horrific ordeal with the US government in this post.

His wife Nahla spoke to Aljazeera today explaining that his plea was simply acknowledging that he was part of an organization which the US considers an illegal one, but that his involvement was strictly humanitarian in nature. The government wanted to save face after a stunning victory for Al-Arian where the jury did not find him nor any of 3 friends guilty in any of the more than 200 charges put forth by the government.
Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University in California and an assistant attorney general from 1985 to 1989, called the deal "a face-saving gesture" in a test case that was a serious disappointment to the government.
Al-Arian chose to sign this plea as it is the last and final way to put an end to this trial that has devastated his career and his family.
Moreno, al-Arian's lawyer, said that given his pending sentencing, scheduled for May 1, "this is not a time for any political statement to be made." But she said the former University of South Florida computer engineer was "at peace" with "a just resolution to bring about closure to a nightmare."

"Dr. al-Arian has been very sensitive to the suffering of his family and his five children, and in particular his two youngest children, who have been the most traumatized by having their father in prison for three years," Moreno said.

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April 17, 2006

Aljazeera Hosts San Francisco Arab Americans

The Aljazeera show "Open Dialogue" featured a lively discussion among Arab American students in San Francisco on a variety of issues including civil rights, Middle East politics, cultural barriers, and identity, among others. UC Berkley Professor Hatem Bazian was one of the main participants. The students at SFSU discussed their various activities, the most recent of which is a mural dedicated to the late Edward Said. Will Youmans at KABOBfest wrote about this for the Arab American News.

The show was repeated on Aljazeera today (Monday) at 3:05 am KSA time and 10:05 am EST in the US. I didn't realize that their reruns are so close to each other, but they should have the transcript up soon on their website in Arabic.

In any case, Dr. Bazian spoke about the pressure faced by professors teaching Middle Eastern politics or history. He said he knew of students in his classroom who attended just so they could write down what he says, essentially spying on him, and transmitting that information to other private organizations. These include the infamous Campus Watch network which was founded by known Islamophobe Daniel Pipes as well as the likes of David Horowitz who recently authored a book entitled "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America." Both the organization and the book are essentially a witch hunt against any academic that dares to provide a human side of the Middle East, more specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They want to "black list" these professors, ruin their reputation, and eventually remove them from their positions in some of the most prestigious universities in America. Taking their statements out of context, these Islamophobic pop stars are attempting to muffle dialogue at the most important institutions of our time: universities. Dr. Bazian openly discusses this intimidation and the students also provide their own accounts of such abuse.

I will wait to see if this episode is translated to English, and will link it here if so. Otherwise, I might translate some of the most important excerpts of the discussion. If anyone has seen the show, what are your thoughts?

UPDATE: The transcript of the show in Arabic can be found here on Aljazeera's website.

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Dummies and Idiots...Definitely *not* referring to Jordanians

I think you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of books they read...especially if they tend to have a few from the "for Dummies" series or the "Complete Idiot's Guide" series. These popular self-help books are all over the place and they cover *thousands* of topics ranging from how to play golf, how to type, what is catholicism, how to reinvent yourself, how to get published, and the list goes on and on.
Anyway, I looked around my room today to find that I have checked out a bunch of these books from the library over the past few weeks. So, what do these books say about me?
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Interview: I'm looking for my first full-time career job and, yes, I'm reading this book to get tips on how to nail my interviews ;) This book was helpful although I've been reading a lot on this topic so much of the information is the same. The presentation of the materials and information in this book, however, is much better than others.

- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Excel 2000: One of my interviews required me to take a simple Excel test so I checked this one out to remind me of what I took in highschool because I apparently haven't used Excel during college. I didn't have the patience to read through most of this book, so I just called a friend and he gave me the lo down on Excel.

- Office XP for Dummies: The same interviewer also wanted to test my Microsoft Word skills, and although this program has been my best buddy throughout college, I still felt the need to browse through this one to see if I was missing anything. Of course, I was not aware of every useful icon and avenue in XP, but I'm still working on it.

- Scrapbooking for Dummies: My somewhat new hobby I guess. A friend introduced me to this "universe" of scrapbooking (using decorative material to make a book of memorable photos pages), and I really have to admit that I had no idea this even existed on such a large scale. It's a freakin' industry and it's definitely booming! But I think that this hobby of many (women) has been overly commercialized like everything else in America. Anyway, it's fun so you should check out this book to get a start if you're interested!

I think it's great that we have these resources here. Although for some subjects these books address tend to be shallow (ie: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict), for more practical things like golfing or buying a house, they can be very helpful.
It's funny that when I first came across these series a few years back I was kind of shocked to see them calling the readers "idiots" and "dummies" but then again that's definitely eye-catching. I wondered what would happen if I bought a book like this for a friend or relative in Jordan. An awkward moment might ensue that would sound a little like this:

me (handing over the book): hey, i got you this book cuz i thought you would like it.
jordanian (looking at the front cover, eyes slowly getting bigger and jaw dropping)
me: it's about how to...
jordanian (interrupting): excuse me?! shu shayfeetnee 7mar ana? mfakreetni idiot willa dummy? la shukran...
me: but wait, that's just the name of the series, there are lot of books like this, don't take it personally, i have them too...
jordanian (shoving the book back in my hand): ma3lesh ma3lesh, ma biddi. wa7deh amreekeieh shayfe 7alha 3alayna, gal idiot gal... wallahi 3al!

Mind you, this isn't a diss on my fellow Jordanians. I think most Arabs would have the same reaction. Not because they're rude and don't accept gifts, not at all. But because the term "idiot" or "dummy" would really be offending, even if it is meant as a joke. It's hard to take jokes when they are on you, especially when it's something you haven't seen before. Jordanians just need to stop taking everything so seriously :)

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April 15, 2006

On Rachel Corrie...and the Israeli Lobby in the Washington Post

Two very well-written letters to the editor appear in the Washington Post today. The first is from Rachel Corrie's aunt and uncle defending her actions and reiterating the truth about the way Rachel was killed. Their letter was in response to an article written last weekend in the Post about the controversy over the play about Rachel's life that was prevented from taking place in New York theaters. The article alludes to the Israeli theory behind Rachel's death, that she was protecting "terrorists" who had "tunnels" under the house that was to be destroyed.
Her family members fought back with this letter:
There were no tunnels under the Samir family's home. As the Israeli army bulldozer approached the Samir home, Rachel stood her ground in front of it, knowing that the three young Samir children were inside. Six months after Rachel's death, the Israeli army demolished the home and found no tunnels of any kind under it. The Samir family was neither compensated for its loss nor helped to find a new home [...] There were no tunnels under the Samir home; the Israeli government has never said there were tunnels under the home Rachel was protecting. Once and for all, it is time to put an end to the fallacy that tunnels had anything to do with Rachel's death.
In another unrelated letter to the editor, Mona Bashir of Harrisburg, PA, defends the research conducted by Mearsheimer and Walt ("The Israel Lobby") and notes that the history of the US has been to follow its interests, but that its 'special' relationship with Israel does not follow this trend. Indeed, the sacrifices that the US has been willing to make for the sake of Israel have not proven to be of any benefit to the security or stability of the US, rather to the contrary.

George Washington, in his farewell address of 1796, cautioned about forming "passionate attachment[s]" with other countries to avoid "a variety of evils." He warned of creating the "illusion of an imaginary common interest" where none exists, and he feared that we would be diverted from pursuing our real national interests. Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt are saying that the pro-Israel lobby has done just that.

She then ponders this thought and question...

Accusations of anti-Semitism distract us from the exploring these critical issues. We should not be deterred but should discuss the subject of the study:

Does the pro-Israel lobby encourage U.S. administrations to pursue policies in the Middle East that are contrary to this nation's interests?

Keep writing to those editors, your letters will make a difference!

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April 14, 2006

Islamists Take On Arab Reform

April's edition of the CEIP's Arab Reform Bulletin focuses on the role of Islamists in the Middle East (more about the ARB in this post). From Morocco to Jordan to Egypt, this collection of news summaries and articles focuses more specifically on how Islamic parties preform once they are in power.

It's interesting to note that much of the discussion in academic circles about reform in the Middle East is focused on Islamic parties and trends. Over the past few years, various parties with varying degrees of Islamic platforms have emerged as significant players in various Muslim majority countries, especially in the Arab world. While there is discussion about other independent parties that have attempted to emerge into the political scene through parliamentary or municipal elections, none have been as organized, galvanized, and popularized as Islamic parties.

One of the most important features of this month's bulletin is that it provides a better view of these unique parties which are often portrayed as a monolithic whole and painted with one brush. In reality, however, they work in different capacities, under different rules and regulations, and addresssing different needs for different populations. Islamists in Palestine are likely to focus on the needs of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories which are much different than those of Moroccans, for example. The portrayal of all Islamist parties as just a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is false and inaccurate, and does not do justice to the diversity of these parties, their platforms, and their approaches.

This month's bulletin is a must read for anyone interested in the process of reform and democratization in the Arab world, and the impact that Islamic parties have had on these socio-political developments. An Arabic translation of the bulletin will appear on the CEIP's website within the next few days.

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April 13, 2006

Cherry Blossoms & Spring = : - )

Living in the DC metropolitan area, one cannot miss the buzz about the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The main attraction is the area around the Tidal Basin where hundreds of cherry trees reach peak bloom at the end of March, creating a picturesque view that cannot even be described in words. The crystal blue water is surrounded by full blossoms in beautiful shades of pink and white. The festival is actually a celebration of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people Washington, D.C. in 1912. The trees can be found all over the nation's capital blossoming and ushering in the new season.

Of course the beauty of these trees is now not confined to DC, but in many neighborhoods around the region. I couldn't make it to festival this year, but I'm lucky enough to be living in a large neighborhood where the landscapers have done an amazing job of planting these trees in strategic locations to give the best possible view when they reach their peak blossom. Below are some pictures I took of the cherry blossoms over the past few weeks, mostly around my neighborhood, and some a little further out. Enjoy :)

[click photos to enlarge]

Here are different variations of the blossoms, from pinkish-white to near fuschia

all around the court

the blossoms at peak bloom

the white ones look like cotton balls!

some have a green tint

our very own cherry tree, not yet fully blossomed, but still very beautiful


blue Spring skies

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April 12, 2006

In UAE, Workers' Dreams are Shattered

Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post journalist Anthony Shadid reports from the hustle and bustle of Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, where South Asian workers are struggling through legal means to get compensated for hours of work they have not been paid for. A construction company for whom they labored for hours on end went bankrupt and escaped without paying their workers. The country that has become the beacon of tourism and business industry in the Middle East will surely not continue in its success if it continues to violate the basic labor rights of these individuals who have no way of protecting themselves from such abuses.
A sweltering fog still shrouded the East Coast & Hamriah Co. labor camp when, dressed in the equivalent of their Sunday best, the migrant workers set out after dawn Tuesday. They didn't shower beforehand. Water was cut last year to their shantytown, now abandoned by their employer. They didn't eat breakfast. They have no electricity to cook.

Siddiq and the workers of the East Coast & Hamriah Co. live in conditions so bleak as to defy their lingering faith. Their story is a Kafkaesque tale of those left behind, as they pursue salaries of hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars by trekking every few days to a court that has become their bane and hope.

Although unions are banned, workers have launched strikes over the past year to protest living conditions, salaries of between $4 and $7 a day and hazardous workplaces, where human rights groups say deaths are sometimes covered up.
UAE is not alone. All countries in the Gulf rely on cheap South Asian labor to build their high rises and highways. I came across an interesting website a few weeks ago that belongs to a group of South Asian workers living and working in the UAE. The website tells the horrific stories of some of these laborers and the struggles and injustice they face on a regular basis. It's worth a look. Human rights organizations continue to call on these nations to respect the labor rights of these workers, to pay them on time, provide decent living conditions, reasonable time off, etc. These calls usually fall on deaf ears. It's a shame because I've lived in UAE and I know how humble and down to earth many local Emaratis are. At the same time, I saw with my own eyes the types of living conditions that laborers are forced to accommodate to.
I hope things will change soon for the better.

Read the full report here.

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April 11, 2006

Bits of News

HAMAS has apparently decided to change its mind about the tactic it is most infamously known for, suicide bombings, despite the fact that its social and humanitarian programs far outweigh this tactic in influence and scope. This shift has been expected as many observers noted the organization's ascendance into the democratic scene will inevitably impact some its long standing traditions, including the highly controversial "martyrdom operations."

An article in the Observer details the semi-official announcement: [via KABOBfest]
Hamas is to abandon its use of suicide bombers, who have killed almost 300 Israelis, in any future confrontations with Israel, its activists have told The Observer. Yihiyeh Musa, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Hamas had moved into a 'new era' which did not require suicide attacks. 'The suicide bombings happened in an exceptional period and they have now stopped,' he said. 'They came to an end as a change of belief.'

Another case of citizens of the UK or the US being arrested, jailed, and tortured in Arab countries while the governments of the countries of their citizenship turn a blind eye to their suffering. In this case, three Muslim British men living in Egypt are accused of being active members of an outlawed party, and are subsequently detained in one of the worst prison facilities in the world. This Guardian article captures their story:
Four years ago, three British men were jailed in Egypt for being members of a banned political party. Last month they walked free - after what they describe as years of horrific torture. To stave off madness, Maajid Nawaz organised daily races between two pebbles flicked haphazardly across the floor of his solitary confinement cell. By night, he studied the stars through a skylight in the roof of his Egyptian prison. He had no lights, no toilet and no sheets. For months he talked to himself; his only other constant companions were cockroaches.
When you thought there couldn't possibly be another scandal related to the Bush administration's drum up to the war on Iraq...yet another emerges. This administration never ceases to amaze us with its unrelenting policy of deception. Two days before President Bush boasted about "mobile biological laboratories" found in Iraq that "prove" the case for WMD, a Pentagon-sponsored fact-finding mission had already concluded that "the trailors had nothing to do with biological weapons." Dammit, why can't we just give the President the benefit of the doubt? Maybe Rumsfeld forgot to mention this minor detail in his daily briefing with Dubya!
The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.
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April 9, 2006

Remembering Deir Yassin

While it may be just another day for most of us, today marks the 58th anniversary of the brutal massacre of more than 100 innocent Palestinian men, women and children from the village of Deir Yassin by members of the Zionist Irgun & Stern Gangs. This brutal oppression of Palestinians by the state of Israel continues today. Criminals who were members of such gangs became prominent Israeli politicians who were hailed as "peace makers" and "democrats" by the West. Not surprisingly, Zionists have tried to deny that this massacre even took place. How typically cowardly of them.

The story goes a little like this...
Early in the morning of April 9, 1948, commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents. The village lay outside of the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish State; it had a peaceful reputation. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Deir Yassin was slated for occupation under Plan Dalet and the mainstream Jewish defense force, the Haganah, authorized the irregular terrorist forces of the Irgun and the Stern Gang to perform the takeover.

In all, over 100 men, women, and children were systematically murdered. Fifty-three orphaned children were literally dumped along the wall of the Old City, where they were found by Miss Hind Husseini and brought behind the American Colony Hotel to her home, which was to become the Dar El-Tifl El-Arabi orphanage.

May they all rest in peace...Never again...

More on the Deir Yassin massacre: [via EI]
  • In Memoriam: Deir Yassin, Arjan El Fassed (9 April 2004)
  • Remembering Deir Yassin, Daniel McGowan (26 September 2003)
  • First U.S. Memorial to Deir Yassin Dedicated in New York State, WRMEA (November 2003)
  • Efforts to negate right of return have long, ignoble history, Issam Nashashibi (29 August 2003)
  • Remembering Deir Yassin, James Zogby (Al-Ahram Special)
  • Reinterpreting Deir Yassin, Sharif Kanaana, Birzeit University (24 November 1998)
  • Fifty years of dispossession, Jan de Jong Le Monde Diplomatique (September 1997)
  • The '48 Nakba and the Zionist quest for its completion, Illan Pappe (October 2002)
  • The 1948 Massacre at Deir Yassin Revisited, Matthew Hogan (2001)
  • Deir Yassin: Remembrance and Forgiveness, Daniel McGowan, The Link (April/May 1997)
  • Remember Deir Yassin: A Reflection on Memory and Justice, Marc H. Ellis, Birzeit University (April 1997)
  • Destroyed Palestinian Villages: A Reign of Terror & Systematic Expulsion, Birzeit University (March 1997)

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    *photo: [the tomb of the unknown at Deir Yassin]

    April 8, 2006

    Under the weather

    It hasn't rained for a while here, we're actually experiencing "drought conditions" in the DC metro area and this weekend has brought some much needed sprinkles. Much needed...as if we would die without it, like the millions in the Horn of Africa. We just turn the tap and the water gushes out in every variation from cold, warm, to scolding hot. We just don't know how lucky we are...

    It feels like a Sunday today because it's been raining and gloomy pretty much all day. Those poor people at the Cherry Blossom Parade were bummed out.

    I like a rainy day every once in a while of course. Especially during this transition from winter to spring, as the grass turns from a burnt out brownish gold to lush green, subhan'Allah, it's beautiful.

    Such a blahhh mood today, I think because my head feels weird because I'm "down with a cold" and might've taken one too many Tylenol. Went to the library to get books on grammar and Excel. Ehh. I have a job interview on Monday and they want to test my grammar and Excel abilities! I haven't looked at a grammar book since 9th grade...and I'm not a big fan of Excel either. I know it makes cool spreadsheets that add up lots of nice numbers, but I'm not really a numbers person. Anyway, I guess this will be a good refresher course.

    I'm off to buy ridiculously cheap products that were manufactured in China by human beings who weren't paid nearly half what they deserve. We live in a sick world.

    April 7, 2006

    Death in Gaza, Death in Baghdad...News from the Occupied Territories

    I really don't understand and cannot begin to fathom what kind of human being is capable of such a heinous crime. Man or woman, Muslim, Jew, or Christian, Shi'a or Sunni, the result is the same. Thousands of innocent Iraqi families are being ripped apart by death and destruction. Damn you Bush.

    Three bombers dressed as women have killed at least 70 people at a Shia mosque in Baghdad, police say.

    The bombers were dressed as women in black robes when they attacked on Friday, two inside the mosque and one just outside, a police official said.

    Some police sources said the bombers were women; others said they were a woman and two men dressed as women.

    The bombing also wounded 158 people.

    The mosque complex belongs to the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the most powerful group inside Iraq's ruling Shia alliance.

    While in Iraq attacks are being perpetrated by criminal gangs of various ideologies, in the Palestinian territories the perpetrator is always the same: Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF).

    Six Palestinians, including a child, have been killed in an Israeli air strike outside a militant training camp near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

    The dead included a senior commander in the Popular Resistance Committees group and his five-year-old daughter.

    Witnesses said three rockets were fired. At least 12 people were injured.

    @ the Kennedy Center: "Walking the Winds: Arabian Tales"

    If you live in the DC metro area, this would be a great event to attend over the next two weeks that it is showing at the Kennedy Center.

    A World Premiere Original Production
    Co-commissioned and Co-produced by the Kennedy Center and the Performing Arts Center of Amman, Jordan

    This groundbreaking collaboration between Jordanian and American artists celebrates the richness, diversity, warmth, and humanity of Arabian culture. Incorporating lively song and dance into an engaging "story theater"-style musical, Walking the Winds weaves together a colorful spectrum of Arabian legends and lore, by turns heroic, comic, and dramatic. Don't miss this landmark production featuring theater, music, choreography, and poetry from one of the most fascinating and influential regions of the world.

    Recommended for ages 9 & up

    Walking the Winds: Arabian Tales
    (Apr 7 - 16, 2006)
    Part of the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration Series
    Tickets: $15

    Check out the website for more information on showtimes and to buy tickets.