daily archive: 02/08/2005
Church and State
A massive scandal has erupted in Greece this last month:
Several judges have already been sacked for allegedly taking bribes to fix trials and grant parole to convicted felons, while an investigation is continuing to uncover the extent of the problem. Simultaneously, a handful of high-ranking clerics face antiquities smuggling, embezzlement and indecency charges, among others, as in at least two instances the judicial and clerical corruption charges are intertwined.
So what does the Greek Church say about all this? According to Archbishop Christodoulos...
...the recent crescendo of media attention on the accusations against the high-ranking clerics -- ranging from antiquities smuggling to embezzlement and misappropriation of funds to even charges of indecency and licentiousness -- is merely an attack against the Church "during a period when the country needs its (Church) spiritual guidance".
Finally, Christodoulos said whatever problems related to the clergy are not solved with a prosecutor's "stick".
In other words, "leave us alone to enjoy our corruption, you bastards!"Christodoulos says he's determined to proceed with 'clean-up'; cites 'attack' on Church itself
I'm so grateful for the separation of Church and State in this country, I can't even begin to tell you.
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Killing the Barbers
Umm Ali says militants killed her son last month for the most unlikely of reasons: He trims men's beards.
In Baghdad's Dora neighborhood, residents say Sunni Muslim extremists have made barbers the new hunted, accusing them of violating a strict reading of Islamic teachings that say men should keep their beards long.
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Anti-Semitic advert pulled from Czech TV
A commercial with a blatant anti-Semitic motif that is being broadcast on Czech public television has come under fire from Israelis and Jews in the republic. Following protests, the advertisers announced they would stop broadcasting the ad as of tomorrow.
The ad was produced by Mountfield, a company marketing home and garden products. Broadcast on both Czech public TV channels, the ad shows a customer wishing to buy a saw for less than its listed price. When the vendor refuses, the customer dresses up as an ultra-Orthodox Jew and manages to bargain with the vendor until he gives him an 80 percent discount. At the end of the scene, the "ultra-Orthodox" customer leaves mumbling to himself "80 percent off ... that's not such a big deal."
The Israeli ambassador in the Czech Republic, Arthur Avnon, and the curator of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlat, demanded that Mountfield pull the ad. A company spokesman said over the weekend "at the request of Israel's ambassador, the ad will not be broadcast as of Monday this week."
This is the part that got me:
The spokesman refused to apologize, saying the ad was intended to describe the "positive aspects" of a skillful Jewish merchant - a figure frequently described in literature, the company said - "to show customers how to best take advantage of company reductions."
In Europe, today.
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It's true that Europeans think of Americans as being "overly religious." Maybe they're blasé about it because Europe has been a continent dominated by state religions and church intrigues and holy inquisitions for centuries so maybe there's a stigma attached to being "religious." But in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with having faith. I wish I had some myself, actually. From Davids Medienkritik: Bush on God
A recurring critique in the German media focusses on President Bush's personal faith. Bush, according to the German media, "listens" to God before making political decisions; he "asks" God for advice on earthly matters such as going to war or balancing the budget. This defines Bush in the sophisticated minds of German journalists as either a sinister bigot or a naive backwater hack.
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Here it is, U.N. anti-Semitism broken down to its simplest elements:
In each of the nineteen Middle East resolutions passed at the 2004 United Nations General Assembly, at least one of the three “Ds" was always found to be present. Without exception, all resolutions reflected either a demonization of Israel, or a double standard being employed, or a deligitimization of the Jewish State, or a combination thereof. In not one instance was a resolution free from any of these elements, each of which carries antisemitic overtones.UN Voting
Twelve of the nineteen resolutions - an astounding 63% - contained at least two of the three “D" indicators. These results indicate a worrisome trend in that close to two thirds of all Middle East resolutions could well be characterized as antisemitic.
Seven of the nineteen resolutions – 37% - contained all three “D" indicators. These results indicate that more than 1/3 of all Middle East resolutions cross over into the realm of antisemitism, and are the most blatant manifestations of a UN system riddled with discrimination and prejudice against the Jewish State.
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Zarqawi: A tool of Saudi, Pakistani intelligence
This is a pretty interesting find:Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi“lone wolf" manipulated by ISI and Saudi Intelligence
(to counter UBL? So it says...Hamas was created to counter Fatah. When will people learn to just kill them straightforwardly without creating competitor terrorists?)
There is significant evidence in the classified archives of Pakistani intelligence apparatus that the “lone wolf" Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is a sort of rival to and not a collaborator of Osama bin Laden that both Saudi Arabia and Islamabad tried to use against OBL when they were under tremendous pressure from Clinton Administration to either have OBL nabbed or to have him squeezed out of Afghanistan following the Somalian, Nairobi, US Cole bombing incidents in 1998.
In the pre-1998 period media coverage-wise Zarqawi’s operations were small and insignificant and he had yet to emerge as a key player in the war of terrorism. During his Jihadi operations in Afghanistan, Zarqawi had no doubt ties with OBL’s Al Qaeda and even there was element of co-operation among their operatives. However, Zarqawi had closer links with Pakistan’s intelligence network ISI.
It was a concerted effort of the ISI to ensure that OBL and Zarqawi do not get closer and therefore on occasions ISI played one against the other—to counter balance them. Most of the time Zarqawi was given more funds by ISI to sustain him and his gradually emerging international network. And often ISI bailed him out when he came to the point of drying up his funding sources. Zarqawi did not have huge Saudi financial supporters as did OBL who himself was multimillion dollar man and had stacked up funds in most of the Middle Eastern states and elsewhere too. Zarqawi’s dependence for many years was entirely on Pakistan and its supportive Jihadi parties that in turn were getting their funds from the ISI. Zarqawi’s most useful contacts were with Pakistani militant wing of Jamiautul Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Samiul Haq group that had been training various groups of Islamic militants at its network of over 500 madaris (religious seminaries) as a sort of cover job for ISI. However, surprisingly Zarqawi was also developing an effective and widely spread international network. He had his links in Hamburg and he, according to Pakistani intelligence, sources was known closely to Muhammad Ata to the extent that he might have influenced him more than OBL.
Pakistani intelligence’s secret archives have evidence that former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had received funds nearly 200 million US dollars from Osama Bin Laden in Jeddah as the country’s main opposition leader to politically eliminate his rival Benazir Bhutto whom both Osama and the Saudi government did not like. (There is photograph of the meeting of OBL and Nawaz in Jedah in the ISI files). However, a time came in 1999 when President Clinton in his desperation to get rid of OBL pressurised Pakistani prime minister to nab OBL or put pressure on the surrogate Taliban government to expel him out of Afghanistan.
As a matter of fact Nawaz Sharif-appointed and trusted ISI chief—Lt General Ziauddin Butt—was also allocated 25 million US dollars by the Clinton administration to raise a special squad of commandos to get Osama bin Laden. However, the Pakistani military establishment led by the then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf had a different agenda for Pakistani domestic politics. He and his colleagues had decided to take over, planned a coup and were looking for an excuse to remove Nawaz Sharif that they found in October 12, 1999 just a few days US State Department had categorically stated in a press release that the United States would not approve a military take over in Pakistan.
Soon after return from his visit to Washington in mid-1999, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif despatched his ISI chief Lt. General Ziauddin Butt to go over to Afghanistan and pressrurise Mulla Omar—head of the Taliban government—to either hand OBL over to Washington or expel him from Afghanistan. Musharraf and his generals apprehended that Mulla Omar might give in to Nawaz ‘s pressure—after all his government was being sustained by Pakistan that was paying him 50 million dollars a month for payment of salaries to Afghan government employees besides petrol, kerosene oil and food stuff like wheat etc. on credit. The initial deliberation looked successful since Mulla Omar gave a statement that he was ready to look into the evidence of terrorism that Americans have against OBL and had indicated his willingness to produce OBL before an Islamic Court in an Islamic country but refused to hand him over to Pakistan or to the US since “Osama was not guilty until proven otherwise".
Musharraf and his generals—to counter this move—had despatched Lt General Muhammad Aziz Khan to Mulla Omar to tell him not to buckle under the pressure and to protect Osama. Musharraf’s message to Omar was “don’t be afraid, we’re with you".
As part of US-generated hectic activity to rope in OBL, even Saudis tried to use their pressure. Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Turki visited Kabul and talked to Mulla Omar of the dire consequences at the hands of Americans. Mulla Omar is believed to have snubbed Saudi prince and told him he cannot betray his benefactor that Osama was.
At this stage—according to Pakistani classified archives—both Saudi Intelligence Chief and his Pakistani counterpart used their contacts to get in touch with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi operating in Afghanistan’s Khost and Herat areas independent of OBL though supportive of Mulla Omar.
Several meetings were held and Zarqawi came over to a Pakistani safe point bordering Afghanistan. At one stage he seemed convinced by Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt that it was both in the interest of the Islamic world and Afghanistan to expel OBL from Afghanistan. The Saudis sent a similar message to him. However, a single off-guard silly remark by the Pakistani interloper cheesed Zarqawi off when the former told the Jordanian Jihadi leader that in “the deal there was much money for all three parties—namely Zarqawi, Mulla Omar and ISI". Zarqawi left the place in a huff. However, he had second thoughts and he promised to think over the offer but as he was leaving he told the Pakistani general that it would be very difficult to commit an immoral act such as betraying the common cause that he and OBL were fighting for. “It is not the living that we believe in. To us it is the cause that is supreme".
Pakistani intelligence sources do not attribute that much of the effectiveness to Zarqawi and his group as is being projected by the western media especially the American that, according to them, are trying to build Zarqawi larger than life and a more lethal leader than Osama bin Laden. A high level source in ISI –on commitment not to be quoted by name—believes that Washington in order to lick its wound of not getting OBL before the American presidential elections, now wants to present to the American public opinion al-Zarqawi—if not as Number One terrorist but at least equal to bin Laden. ISI claims that several of the individuals now being named as key al-Qaeda figures, such as al-Zarqawi, were not linked to bin Laden in the past but were in fact rival militants. The ISI, however, tends to believe that Zarqawi at the moment is the most dreaded terrorist who is commanding the field and not hiding in the mountains like bin Laden.
In the ISI view corroborated by other experts too, one-legged Jordanian terrorist—seems to have built from strength to strength from being a small time operative in the 1980s. al-Zarqawi had no doubt chosen to be in the forefront of those foreign Islami militants who had joined the holy war in Afghanistan to free it from the stranglehold of the Soviet Union. In 1992 he returned to his home country Jordan where he was imprisoned for his radical activities.
In February 2003 it was US Secretary of State Colin Powell who catapulted Zarqawi to newer heights of his hitherto insignificant existence and made him out of the blue crash land in the world of global terrorism when in his speech before the United Nations Zarqawi was cited in his case justifying for attacking Iraq. He carried the impression that Zarqawi was part of bin Laden’s network—hence linked with Saddam Hussein-- when the fact was that Zarqawi had always been operating independently of OBL, having had his training camps in the West of Afghanistan near Herat. Later when the U.S. State Department increased the reward money for his head or for his arrest from $10 million to $25 million, the message to the world was that Zarqawi, indeed, is more dreaded than Osama. ISI sources, intriguingly point out that despite putting Zarqawi’s "market value" at par with that of Osama, Zarqawi is not on the FBI’s list of most wanted fugitives.
A senior officer in the Pakistani military intelligence apparatus who had known Zarqawi from the Afghanistan jihad days, insists that Zarqawi does not have links with bin Laden and that he is a very secretive operator who has a strong ego and would never play second fiddle to any one—especially when he knows the huge difference between him and Osama. While Zarqawi leads his men from the front in the battle field and subversive operations, Osama sits in the comfort of his well-provided holes in safe mountains away from bombing from the air and ground fire--only to appear—once in a blue moon-- as a Hollywood star to make a “special guest appearance" on mysterious Al-Jazeera TV networks make shift studios that however ensure that his presentation is reassuring, fully powdered, well-combed, dented, painted, well-trimmed beard dressed up in laundry fresh clothes.
The ISI sources believe that Zarqawi can become a lethal challenger to OBL as the leader of Islamic terrorists. “And perhaps the Americans too want him that way", the ISI source said adding that is why Zarqawi’s name keeps cropping up in the western media almost every day. It is also felt that Zarqawi’s media management is being done in a way to back the Americans with a justification to carry out one of the so far the most ferocious and intensive air and ground operations on Fallujah that is being allegedly defended by Zarqawi and his men. ISI believes that the “lone wolf" is acquiring centre place as the leader among the terrorists and one should dread the day when he might successfully pull one of his daring bombing feats by hitting an American target inside the United States since experts apprehend that he is preparing for such a terrorist attack on American soil.
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The Sum Of The Matter
There is nothing more interesting or more arresting than this new phenomenon known as the blogosphere. In fact, it's downright addicting. When I am sitting in my office or lounging around the house I always have either Little Green Footballs or Discarded Lies on my computer screen. I have even switched browsers, moving from Mozilla Firefox to Maxthon just for the auto refresh function. I particularly enjoy reading the insightful posts of people from around the world who comment on the news as it's happening.
I also very much enjoy posting my own comments. Adding my perspective to the mix helps me feel as though I am participating in the news and, hopefully, offering some insight that will be useful to others. There are many aspects to the blogosphere that causes it to be so popular and hard to resist but, none more than the anonymity we enjoy. It is the great equalizer. You simply log on with a nickname and you begin on equal footing with every other blogospherian. The things that tend to polarize us humans, such as race, creed, wealth and etcetera are moot. However, the golden equalizer called anonymity is a two edged sword. The very thing that can enable us to trade thoughts and ideas with kings and peasants alike can easily turn into a self devouring monster.
Just as anonymity can help equalize it can also help enable, even encourage one to portray themselves as someone they are not. I heard a Glenn Beck segment recently in which Glenn spoke with a woman who confessed to having created an alternate ego so convincing that she had people from all over the world fooled into believing that she was a middle aged man who is suffering with AIDS.
But, the abuse of anonymity doesn't have to be so radical. In my case it wasn't. I simply found myself responding to my fellow posters with harsh and insincere words that I would never dream of using with those whom I know. Tossing off a trite or belittling comment was easy and suddenly this potion called anonymity calls forth the sleeping Mr. Hyde to spew things the good Doctor would never say.
So, what is the sum of the matter? In a word, character. Some have said the explanation of the word character is, what I do when no one is around. If I may modify it slightly for the blogosphere I would say that character is being true to who I really am, even if no one will ever see my face.
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bigel is pacing in the bloggie living room. His silk foulard is askew and his hand shakes as he holds his crystal tumbler with Dewar's and ice. He's muttering in a low voice. zorkie is sitting by the fire, knitting a sweater and humming a happy tune.
bigel: There were islamonazis in the barn, I saw them. Why won't they believe me? And her? Most of all her? How can she doubt me like this?
zorkie: What now, dear?
bigel: I told you, they were there!
zorkie: bigel, honey, don't start again, there's no one in the barn.
bigel: Look, I know this is difficult to believe but you have to listen to me: this is happening zorkie, it's happening now, and we have to put a stop to it!
zorkie: bigel, honey...
bigel: zorkie for the last time! It's an islamonazi conspiracy and there are aliens involved!
zorkie: bigel, honey...
bigel: Oh fercrissakes, woman!
bigel storms out of the room. zorkie sighs and resumes knitting and humming a happy tune.
Meanwhile, in the barn...
Gustav: Achtung Ali, ve have message from Osama.
Ali: Oh Gustav, hold me!
Meanwhile, in a monastery in Tibet...
Thom: papijoe, this is not the time...
papijoe: I got a letter from NY Nana.
Thom: Oh, what now?
papijoe: She says we have to go back immediately.
Thom: But we have fifteen more days on this deal!
papijoe: She said "orders from above."
Thom: You mean -
papijoe: Ssh! Yes...
Thom: Sigh...Never fails...Every time I find my Zen, whoosh! Fine, whatever, let's go pack...
Meanwhile in a sprawling ranch in Texas...
The phone rings in RIP Ford's trophy room.
RIP Ford: Hello?
RIP Ford: Hey George!
RIP Ford: Yeah, just got back myself! How many strings of beads did you get? Ha-ha-ha! I bet you didn't tell Laura, didya? Ha-ha!
RIP Ford: Sure I'll do ya a favor!
RIP Ford: Yeah, I know Jefe...What about him?
RIP Ford: No!
To be continued...
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