daily archive: 09/30/2005
Courting the Saudis
Condoleezza Rice authorized a six month waiver of action in punishing Saudi Arabia
for "particularly severe violations" of religious freedom. Karen Hughes paid lip service
to female students from a private university in Jeddah, saying how impressed and surprised she was to see that "they clearly feel much a part of the debate in the society even though they don't have the right to vote nor to drive." (I wonder how she managed to say that with a straight face.) Meanwhile, Al-Waleed bin Talal, the "Rudy-kicked-my-ass" Saudi prince, bought a stake in Fox News Network.
A thimbleful of cognac to zulubaby and Dances With Typos for the links. (I'm sorry you two have to share, if we were a Saudi blog maybe we could afford two thimblefuls, but we're not.)
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Medicinal Brandy Menu
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Brady Bunch Throw Tantrum
The Brady Gun-Grabbing Campaign
is running ads in British newspapers warning Britons that they'll get shot as Florida tourists, in light of Florida's new law that gives gun owners the right to use deadly force to prevent crime or serious injury, and gives them relief from frivolous civil suits.
A series of alarming adverts, to be placed in British newspapers, warns potential tourists about a new law allowing gun owners to shoot anyone they believe threatens their safety.
It means thousands of British families who travel to the Sunshine State are now caught up in the ongoing political row over gun control in the United States.
The Florida law, supported by the National Rifle Association, was approved by the state legislature in April.
The state's governor, Jeb Bush - whose brother is the US president - described it as a "good, commonsense, anti-crime issue".
Critics call it the "shoot first" law and say it allows gun owners to shoot if they engage in a simple argument in public. Supporters call it the "stand your ground" law and say criminals will think twice before attacking someone.
Previously, gun owners could only use their weapons if they first attempted to withdraw and avoid a confrontation, and were permitted to shoot threatening individuals only inside their home or property.
Now they can use "deadly force" if they "reasonably believe" that firing their gun is necessary to prevent a crime or serious injury. The law also effectively prevents civil legal action by victims of such shootings.
The Brady Campaign to Control Gun Violence, based in Washington DC, has pledged to "educate" tourists by placing adverts in US cities, and in key overseas markets such as Britain.
"Warning: Florida residents can use deadly force," says one of the adverts. Another reads: "Thinking about a Florida vacation? Please ensure your family is safe. In Florida, avoid disputes. Use special caution in arguing with motorists on Florida roads."
I have some ads for British tourists, too!In Florida, the good guys have guns too.In Florida, you don't go to jail for putting a burglar in the hospital or morgue.Crooks beware: Floridians aren't easy prey!Florida: Where Criminals Pay The PriceFlorida: Actions Have ConsequencesFlorida: No "Happyslapping" Here! OR ELSE.
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Frothing at the mouth
Mustafa Sami, columnist at Egypt's Al-Ahram, thinks the Guantanamo Bay detention center is "very much like the Nazi camps"
and it's "the first massacre of the 21st century." I couldn't help but notice that Mr Sami not only doesn't seem to know much about World War II, he also seems to be unaware of current affairs in his own country. Perhaps he would benefit from reading the rest of the articles in Al-Ahram: To be alive
P.S. In the comments of the Al-Jazeera article, besides the raw Jew-hatred, I also noticed every imaginable spelling of the word "Jews."
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In Other News today, absolutely NOTHING happened!
LA Times-Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy.
Err, no, LA Times, media sensationalism
takes a toll on truth and news accuracy. Bzzt! Thanks for playing.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Maj. Ed Bush recalled how he stood in the bed of a pickup truck in the days after Hurricane Katrina, struggling to help the crowd outside the Louisiana Superdome separate fact from fiction. Armed only with a megaphone and scant information, he might have been shouting into, well, a hurricane.
The National Guard spokesman's accounts about rescue efforts, water supplies and first aid all but disappeared amid the roar of a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.
"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Bush said Monday of the Superdome.
His assessment is one of several in recent days to conclude that newspapers and television exaggerated criminal behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly at the overcrowded Superdome and Convention Center.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified "rapes," and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of "scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials."
Indeed, Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a national television audience on "Oprah" three weeks ago of people "in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."
Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.
The wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling — that an infant's body had been found in a trash can, that sharks from Lake Pontchartrain were swimming through the business district, that hundreds of bodies had been stacked in the Superdome basement.
"It doesn't take anything to start a rumor around here," Louisiana National Guard 2nd Lt. Lance Cagnolatti said at the height of the Superdome relief effort. "There's 20,000 people in here. Think when you were in high school. You whisper something in someone's ear. By the end of the day, everyone in school knows the rumor — and the rumor isn't the same thing it was when you started it."
Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bodies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.
Hyperbolic reporting spread through much of the media.
Fox News, a day before the major evacuation of the Superdome began, issued an "alert" as talk show host Alan Colmes reiterated reports of "robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murder. Violent gangs are roaming the streets at night, hidden by the cover of darkness."
The Los Angeles Times adopted a breathless tone the next day in its lead news story, reporting that National Guard troops "took positions on rooftops, scanning for snipers and armed mobs as seething crowds of refugees milled below, desperate to flee. Gunfire crackled in the distance."
The New York Times repeated some of the reports of violence and unrest, but the newspaper usually was more careful to note that the information could not be verified.
The tabloid Ottawa Sun reported unverified accounts of "a man seeking help gunned down by a National Guard soldier" and "a young man run down and then shot by a New Orleans police officer."
London's Evening Standard invoked the future-world fantasy film "Mad Max" to describe the scene and threw in a "Lord of the Flies" allusion for good measure.
Televised images and photographs affirmed the widespread devastation in one of America's most celebrated cities.
"I don't think you can overstate how big of a disaster New Orleans is," said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a Florida school for professional journalists. "But you can imprecisely state the nature of the disaster. … Then you draw attention away from the real story, the magnitude of the destruction, and you kind of undermine the media's credibility."
Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.
"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."
Some of the hesitation that journalists might have had about using the more sordid reports from the evacuation centers probably fell away when New Orleans' top officials seemed to confirm the accounts.
Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass appeared on "Oprah" a few days after trouble at the Superdome had peaked.
Compass told of "the little babies getting raped" at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.
State officials this week said their counts of the dead at the city's two largest evacuation points fell far short of early rumors and news reports. Ten bodies were recovered from the Superdome and four from the Convention Center, said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
(National Guard officials put the body count at the Superdome at six, saying the other four bodies came from the area around the stadium.)
Of the 841 recorded hurricane-related deaths in Louisiana, four are identified as gunshot victims, Johannessen said. One victim was found in the Superdome but was believed to have been brought there, and one was found at the Convention Center, he added.
I, for one, am seriously pissed off. I believed all those stories, the 7-year-old raped and killed and so on, and I feel like a sucker. My respect for the media, already nonexistent, is at the point where if they said the sun was shining I'd take an umbrella with me.
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Part II: Remnant of Israel
The tall man found an empty carrel in a corner. He set down the tome he had taken out of the antique books section. His credentials had held up, and he was able to obtain the rare book for which he had come to Rotterdam. Scholars are familiar with Menachem Man Amelander's She'erit Yisrael in Yiddish. It is a sweeping history of the Diaspora from the destruction of the second Temple to the date it was published in 1743. What is not widely known is that text was the expurgated version of an earlier work in Hebrew. The key he sought was what was excised from the earlier text, which he now held in his hand.
Several hours after scanning the text he had found several encouraging references. Oddly they were in a crude cipher that was so simple to decode, he wondered if the purpose was to highlight the references, rather than conceal them. This also cause him concern that his treasure might already have been found, due to the provenance of the book. It had disappeared since the destruction of the small Rotterdam synagogue by the Nazis. A month earlier it had been discovered in a collection of books donated to the library by the estate of a bibliophile who was rumored to have collaborated with the Germans. One of his contacts had notified him of the find. The collection had included some older works with which that the curators were preoccupied so the time to act was now.
In the coded passages, different veiled references seemed to point to the same subject, but the tall man had no idea what it could be. Two in particular seemed significant: "the inheritance of ha-cohen ha-gadol" or the high priest, and "the burden of Aaron". The text never used the same reference or code word twice, although they all were related to some aspect of the Old Testament priesthood or Temple worship.
He had fifteen minutes of the three hours he was allowed remaining. He produced a small electronic device from the inside of his jacket and within seconds he had found 3 small RFID tags hidden in the binding of the book. Once they were removed he took a another book out of his back pack. Satisfied it was an acceptable copy of the real text, including the bar code, he inserted the tags into the copy and put the original in his back pack. Once he no longer needed it, he planned to send it to Israel, where he felt it belonged. Provided the person who would check the book back in didn't read Hebrew, he was home free.
As he strolled through the security gates without incident, he was considering his next move. What ever it was he was searching for the trail had ended in Spain. A passage he just read in She'erit confirmed his suspicion that it turned up in Holland. An interesting character by the name of Menasseh ben Israel fled Spain and several references tied him to the "inheritance" including one in Rotterdam where he passes it to a Portuguese rabbi by the name of de Pinto, who founded the now destroyed synagogue on the Maas. There was a typically oblique reference to the Binah and Ark. Due to the hostility of their ungentle gentile neighbors, many Diaspora synagogues were equipped with what for some reason was called a "Jeremiah hole". If the synagogue was attacked and burned, as happened many times in Jewish history, The Torah scrolls could be safely hidden in a fireproof chamber below the foundation. Because Rotterdam had had a Sephardic congregation it was most likely hidden below the Binah or lectern. That night they would visit the Persian's construction site to see if he was correct.
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