Saturday, June 30, 2007

Weekend News Roundup

As usual, articles that caught my attention, plus censorship. Last week, I edited and edited and edited and my blog was spaced erratically. Blogger has solved the problem which includes more editing of the html. Sheesh! So I've decided to let it be. If it runs together so be it.

The photo of the cat, is one feral animal that has decided to sleep on my bedroom porch. It's a Cairene cat, fairly small, and I'm a dog lover, so this little animal annoys me. On the other hand, after hearing all the screeching that goes on here nightly, I figure the poor thing needs some rest, especially after I spotted it in the yard, with the top of it's ear chewed off. The photo of the jar of cherries, yes might look similar to what we Greeks call "visinada", a cherry syrupy drink, but no. I soak my sour cherries, in the sun, with sugar and vodka for over a month, and then add some brandy to let it brew a couple of weeks thereafter. That's how I like my cherry drink and it should be done just in time for the kids' arrival. But for the non-alcoholic version, check out the article below.

I've tried to shorten the quotes, since they seem to take up a lot of room and with Blogger being idiosyncratic these days, I decided to take it easy. The links are there for anyone wanting the full article.

And, alhamdullilah! Egypt has decided to ban female circumcision. Why is it that it always takes death to make us pay attention? Also, we see the stupid well in the U.S. deepen. Lawmakers can set dates for everyone to have passports, but can't get their own act together in anticipation. We've experienced that stupidity ourselves in my own family, here, and here. I will admit, Awesome Daughter had much better experience, with a two week, or so turn around time. On the other hand her application went to the Kentucky servicing facility and who the hell in Kentucky is applying for a passport? My guess - no one.

Plus, the Chinese connection to Sudan? "Oil, black gold", Sudanese.... Get a new perspective on what's fueling some of the problems in Sudan. And much ado about Rupert - Murdock, that is.

Egypt Bans Female Circumcision

The death of a 12-year-old Egyptian girl at the hands of a doctor performing female circumcision has sparked a public outcry and prompted health and religious authorities to ban the practice.

Her mother, Zeniab Abdel Ghani, told the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that she paid about $9 to a female physician to perform the procedure.

Female genital mutilation usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Those who practice it say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor.

After the girl's death, the country's supreme religious authorities stressed that Islam is against female circumcision.
"Its prohibited, prohibited, prohibited," Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said on the privately owned al-Mahwar network.

Egypt's renowned feminist activist, Nawal el-Saadawi, 76, who has published a biography on her own experience with circumcision, wrote: "Badour, did you have to die for some light to shine in the dark minds? Did you have to pay with your dear life a price ... for doctors and clerics to learn that the right religion doesn't cut children's organs."

Study Traces Cat’s Ancestry to Middle East
All the world’s 600 million housecats are descended from the subspecies known as Felis silvestris lybica, scientists have concluded based on new DNA research.

The wildcat DNA closest to that of house cats came from 15 individuals collected in the deserts of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the researchers say.

Since the oldest archaeological site with a cat burial is about 9,500 years old, the geneticists suggest that the founders of the five lineages lived around this time and were the first cats to be domesticated.

Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal. But three years ago a group of French archaeologists led by Jean-Denis Vigne discovered the remains of an 8-month-old cat buried with its human owner at a Neolithic site in Cyprus. The Mediterranean island was settled by farmers from Turkey who brought their domesticated animals with them, presumably including cats, because there is no evidence of native wildcats in Cyprus.

The date of the burial far precedes Egyptian civilization. Together with the new genetic evidence, it places the domestication of the cat in a different context, the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East, and probably in the villages of the Fertile Crescent, the belt of land that stretches up through the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and down through what is now Iraq.

Spas Enliven Jordan’s Salty Shore
Playing catch-up to the spas on the Israeli side, four hotels have been erected along Jordan’s eastern muddy shores, offering a multitude of affusion showers and aromatherapy sessions.

The Road Back to Damascus
From its ancient ruins to its surprising night life, Syria is archaeologically stunning, budget friendly and, equally important, largely safe for Western tourists.

“New York, great city!” he said. “Ahlan wa sahlan bi Sham.”

...Syria remains a tightly controlled society that is largely devoid of street and organized crime, due in part to extensively deployed police and undercover intelligence services. Militant groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood are officially banned and suppressed — sometimes very brutally — by the nation’s ostensibly secular Baathist leadership. For travelers, the risk of theft, attack or even harassment remains small. In my own travels, I never felt threatened and never once heard of any other tourists being accosted.

Traveling With Fluffy or Fido? Be Prepared

A follow-up to last month’s column with Cesar Millan on traveling with pets and a sampling of readers’ responses.

Although Cesar Millan condoned sedating dogs traveling in the airplane cabin — as long as the owner was careful to test the medication and monitor the pet’s reaction to it before traveling — some readers were adamantly opposed

The Cherries of Persia
The drink I chose — a sour cherry confection — had the taste of summer. Bitingly tart and soothingly sweet rather than sour, it blocked out the noise and heat and rules of the Islamic Republic just outside the doors of the ayatollah’s house.
Recipe: Sour Cherry Syrup

Taste of Colonialism
FR.OG, a SoHo restaurant and bar that opened in April introduce the Sazarak — a Middle Eastern riff on the sazerac, the canonical New Orleans cocktail.

“I was only able to find one distributor for arak,” Mr. Lewis said. Sometimes called the “milk of lions” in the Middle East, arak is an anise-flavored spirit in the same family as ouzo, sambuca and pastis.
Article includes recipe.

In Quest for Passport, Patience, Time and Contacts Count
New travel restrictions for U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and countries in the Caribbean have resulted in a backlog of passport applications.

New travel restrictions for citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and countries in the Caribbean, who previously had not needed passports to re-enter the United States, have doubled the turnaround time for an application to 12 weeks from 6.

The result is a backlog of nearly three million applications — including those of people like Colonel King, who are not traveling to countries affected by the new restrictions. Many travelers have turned to their Congressional representatives to get appointments at one of the 14 regional passport agencies or to arrange for expedited service.


In Sudan, China focuses on oil wells, not local needs
The Chinese are far from the first to be accused of taking advantage of this continent. In fact, they are walking down a path well traveled by many of those very nations now pointing an accusatory finger at them.

"I would not say this is colonialism, as that term was specific to a particular place and time," he says. "But I would call it apostcolonial exploitation, in which the Chinese are stripping the continent of raw material as fast as they can and are fairly ruthless about bringing their own laborers for projects and ignoring locals."


For those of you who have not lived in the Middle East before Orbit TV, there was only one: STAR TV, owned by Rupert Murdock. For more on what media Murdock owns, look here. For those of you who want a long story made short and don't want to read all the articles, just watch Keith. He sums it up pretty well.

Keith Olbermann on Rupert Murdock, Part 1

Keith Olbermann, Part 2:

Bill Moyers, On Murdock:
But the problem isn't just Rupert Murdoch. His pursuit of The Wall Street Journal is the latest in a cascading series of mergers, buy-outs, and other financial legerdemain that are making a shipwreck of journalism. Public minded newspapers are being dumped by their owners for wads of cash or crippled by cost cutting while their broadcasting cousins race to the bottom. Murdoch is just the predator of the hour.

TIME Magazine,
Exclusive: Rupert Murdoch Speaks
"They're taking five billion dollars out of me and want to keep control," Rupert Murdoch was saying into the phone, "in an industry in crisis! They can't sell their company and still control it — that's not how it works. I'm sorry!"

This page has links to more:
Murdoch vs. Family-Owned Newspapers
Why the Wall Street Journal Deserves Murdoch

And it doesn't end there. For more on the press sucking up to the powers that be see the article down farther: Free Press In France: The Right To Say What Politicians Want

Bending to Power
How Rupert Murdoch built his empire, and how he uses it
But it is linked to the history of a few great newspapers, The Wall Street Journal being a prime example. The argument for Murdoch’s qualification to control the Journal seems to be predicated on his stewardship of another great newspaper, The Times.

But The Times is only the ghost of a great newspaper, which died decades ago, and which has not come back to life after a quarter century in Murdoch’s hands. It did try to revive itself, under a great editor, just after he bought it. And as we’ve seen it that was quickly suppressed, for fear of offending the politicians in power.

A Marine Tutorial on Media ‘Spin’
Military hearings on the murders of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in November 2005 have unearthed a memo complete with “talking points” and a searing view of American journalists.

Second Case Brought Against Saudi Religious Police in Death of a Suspect
The kingdom's religious police enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law. With 10,000 members in almost 500 offices across the country, they make sure restaurants and stores are closed during prayer times and enforce bans on prostitution, consumption or sale of alcohol, and pornography.

The force enjoys wide support among Saudi conservatives, who fear the encroachment of Western values and feel the kingdom's Islamic mores would erode without it. The commission's mandate is based on a Koranic ruling.

But religious police have also long been resented for their zealous involvement in people's private affairs and the free rein they enjoyed until recently.

And, for good measure, Iranian Cyberfeminist Multimedia
"Change for Equality: The Site of the One Million Signatures Campaign, Change for Equality, has been blocked once again. This latest effort at censorship marks the 6th time that the site of the Campaign has been blocked by authorities.

Russian Probe Shuts Media Foundation

MOSCOW -- A Russian nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. government to train journalists and improve management at local television stations has been shuttered by a criminal investigation that critics charge is politically motivated.

"There are certain cases that are key cases," said Kuznetsov. "This case is a litmus test. It defines the condition of this society, the justice system, censorship, openness, freedom of speech, the basic values of a society and a democracy."

Free Press in France: The Right to Say What Politicians Want
The issue of self-censorship has come into sharp relief because of declining circulation and a concentration of media ownership among the new president’s allies.

Text Messages Giving Voice to Chinese
Opponents of Chemical Factory Found Way Around Censors

Despite efforts by local Public Security Bureau technicians to block the cellphone campaign, thousands of people heeded the alarm during the last days of May. Despite warnings from city hall and a large turnout of uniformed and plainclothes police, they marched in hot, muggy weather through the streets of Xiamen to protest the chemical factory being built on Haicang, an industrial and residential island across a narrow strait from downtown Xiamen.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful, except for pushing against policemen lined up to stop the march, witnesses said. About 8,000 to 10,000 people participated the first day and half that many the second day. But something unprecedented occurred that gave the demonstrators a power even they had not envisioned: Citizen journalists carrying cellphones sent text messages about the action to bloggers in Guangzhou and other cities, who then posted real-time reports for the entire country to see.

Wen said he and his friends have since concluded that if protesters had been armed with cellphones and computers in 1989, there would have been a different outcome to the notorious Tiananmen Square protest, which ended with intervention by the People's Liberation Army and the killings of hundreds, perhaps thousands, in the streets of Beijing.

New Zealand:
New Censorship: It Ain’t Your House You Creeps

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