Saturday, July 28, 2007

Weekend News Roundup

Take it for what it is.

Sorry, but I spent a few hours at the Citadel, in scorching heat. I think you are all capable of reading the headlines and short quotes for yourselves. Suffice it to say, I am wiped out! I hope to get a photo blog together about our self guided tour. Maybe I forgot to mention the kids are in town too, complicating all sorts of daily life, which is actually a good thing, since it takes my mind off of Doggie's passing. On the other hand, the kids have taken to the Strange Cat on my Porch / Chair (feral - check out my flickr site), and have been baiting him with smoked salmon. More on that later, as well.

I'm not even going to bother separating the original quotes into the proper paragraphs this week. I just don't have the energy. Looks like Firefox did that for me, but if you're browser displays massive paragraphs, then you know what happened. Needless to say, any derogatory articles about the U.S.A. are embarrassing and we need need to fix it. What we don't need are stories about how we mistreat our expat workers in Iraq (much less in the U.S.) Someone tell me how far are we from slave labor in Iraq? And why are we allowing the abuses of the Gulf States expat worker practices to be carried out by our own government / contractors?

Islam in Europe:

In Europe, skylines reflect the rise of Islam

After decades of worshiping in basements and courtyards, Muslims are building hundreds of new mosques across the continent.

WIESBADEN, GERMANY - In the Rhine Valley city of Mannheim, the glittering minaret of Germany's biggest mosque overshadows what was once the region's most vibrant church, testifying to Muslims' new confidence as Christian churches are closing down.

Major mosque projects from Cologne, Germany, to Amsterdam to Seville, Spain, have met with fierce opposition and fears that they will serve as breeding grounds for terrorists. Family members of two of the suspects in the Glasgow, Scotland, car bombings this month said the men had been radicalized by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist group with plans for an 18-acre complex near London's 2012 Olympic stadium that would house Europe's largest mosque.

Only a handful existed 10 years ago, but today 159 mosques dot Germany today, with 184 under construction, according to the Central Institute for Islamic Archives in Söst.

Vatican City: Islam a Threat, Pope’s Adviser Says

Msgr. Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary and close adviser, warned of the Islamization of Europe and stressed the need for the Continent’s Christian roots not to be ignored. In comments released in advance of an interview to be published today in the German weekly Süeddeutsche Magazin, he said: “Attempts to Islamize the West cannot be denied. The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected with it should not be ignored out of a wrongly understood respectfulness.” He also defended a speech Benedict gave last year linking Islam and violence, saying it was an attempt by the pope to “act against a certain naïveté.”

Exapt Workers:

Foreign Workers Abused at Embassy, Panel Told

Foreign workers lived in tightly packed trailers and had "insufficient equipment and basic needs -- stuff like shoes and gloves," Owens said.

They worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and made as little as $240 a month, he said. They were "verbally and physically abused" and had their salaries docked for petty infractions, he added.

Rory J. Mayberry, an emergency medical technician who worked briefly at the embassy site under a subcontract, testified that he was asked by First Kuwaiti managers to escort 51 Filipinos through the Kuwait airport and onto a flight to Baghdad. However, "all of our tickets said we were going to Dubai," he said, adding that a First Kuwaiti manager instructed him not to tell any of the Filipinos that they were going to Baghdad.

He said the men were basically "kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the U.S. Embassy." Their passports had been confiscated, and they were driven away on buses after landing in Baghdad, then were "smuggled into the Green Zone," he said.


Two Cultures, Slowly Uniting In Matrimony

The result has been the rise of a hybrid wedding scene in which ever more Caucasian couples eschew pastels in favor of South Asian reds; Middle Eastern and African couples use the ornate South Asian wedding canopies known as mandaps; and South Asian couples include bridesmaids, unthinkable in India or Pakistan.

"It's been fascinating to watch the cross-cultural exchange going on," said Sachi Sood, 27, of Gaithersburg-based Partyland Flowers & Event Decorators. "I feel like I'm witnessing the melting pot in action."

With the melting comes a few misfires, of course. When Foxchase Manor, a wedding hall in Manassas, hosted its first Hindu wedding, the havan, or sacred fire, nearly set off the ballroom's sprinklers.

At Filipino weddings, Cisek is careful to get almost as many photographs of the couple's ninong and ninang -- godparent-like figures -- as she takes of the parents.

For Muslim weddings at which male and female guests celebrate in separate rooms, Cisek dons modest long sleeves and skirts. And she uses only women to process the photos because it would be improper for men who are not related to the female guests to look at them.

Cisek has also learned never to suggest that a Nigerian woman put down her purse for a formal group shot. "A lot of times the purse is considered an essential part of the outfit, along with matching shoes and these fabulous, enormous head wraps," she explained.


Suitcases: a window on the traveler's soul

A guide to packing predicaments, from sartorial crises to rides on the baggage carousel.

THE OH-NO-NOT-ANOTHER-BLACK-BAG PACKER: Round and round they go on every baggage carousel: an endless circle of black suitcases, each without any identifying mark. "I know what my bag looks like," the owner insists. Yet he picks up each one to make sure it isn't his – then tosses it back so carelessly that the real owner must scramble onto the still-revolving carousel to retrieve it before it goes around again ... and again ... and ...

A Withered Greek Summer Festival Bursts Into Bloom

The complex at the heart of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival has been transformed from a moribund event into a vibrant arts experience.


Snow demands reporter change 'twisted words' in article
Referring to Snow's words on Wednesday to Kinsolving, Farah writes, "This is a rebuke, and a threat, and an attempt to control Les Kinsolving and WND's right to ask questions at the White House."

Oddly, Farah complains that longtime correspondent Helen Thomas has been "treated with with respect – even deference by Snow," when compared to Kinsolving. However, the most notable occurrences inside the briefing room the last few years have been the contentious battles between Thomas and the White House secretary, including the time when Snow thanked her "for the Hezbollah view."

Farah's column also announces that "Kinsolving will no longer attend" the "Tony-Snow-censored White House news briefings."

Study: Internet censorship spreading

"Recent moves against free speech on the Internet in a number of countries have provided a bitter reminder of the ease with which some regimes, democracies and dictatorships alike, seek to suppress speech that they disapprove of, dislike, or simply fear," the report by the 56-nation OSCE said.

"Speaking out has never been easier than on the Web. Yet at the same time, we are witnessing the spread of Internet censorship," the 212-page report said

Israeli textbooks anger nationalists

ABU GHOSH, ISRAEL - When Issa Jaber was teaching civics and history, he tried as much as possible to stick to the books. The texts, issued by the Israeli Ministry of Education, teach the history of the Jewish state's establishment in 1948 from a natural perspective – its Zionist founders.

Except that for an Arab teacher to stand in front of a classroom and speak about Israel's War of Independence and not mention that Palestinians call the same event the Nakba (Catastrophe) isn't so natural. Recognizing that, this week Israel's Minister of Education approved an Arabic textbook mentioning the Nakba, a move that is garnering applause in some corners and outrage in others.

This article seems very similar to one I posted previously.
Sarkozy's tight circle of media friends

The concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few well-connected industrialists has been building for years. But the circles of influence, wealth, and political power have converged to an unusual degree in Mr. Sarkozy's France. This month, the country's richest man, who was also the best man at the president's wedding 11 years ago, is negotiating to buy France's leading financial newspaper, Les Échos.

Photos embarrassing to Sarkozy have been suppressed, and unflattering articles pulled before publication. Sarkozy has denied meddling, but whether they were prompted by direct interference from above or self-censorship on the part of overly cautious editors, the incidents have set off newsroom protests.

Among Sarkozy's intimates is Serge Dassault, owner of the historically conservative Le Figaro newspaper and a senator from the president's right-wing party. Martin Bouygues, godfather to Sarkozy's youngest son, controls the biggest French television channel, TF1. A string of media properties is also owned by Arnaud Lagardère, an aerospace company chairman who once said he and Sarkozy were as close as brothers. Journalists at his publications have repeatedly accused Mr. Lagardère of politically motivated interference.

The latest focus of journalists' suspicion is Bernard Arnault, chairman of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. The prospect of him controlling Les Échos is causing as much journalistic angst here as Rupert Murdoch's impending purchase of The Wall Street Journal in the US.

Bad News Tests China's Propaganda Arm

After a meeting of top Beijing propaganda officials, for instance, the capital's newspaper editors and television news directors last week were handed a list of newly off-limits subjects, Beijing journalists reported. The list included food safety as well as riots, fires, deadly auto accidents and bloody murder cases, they said.

"Our bosses said the next couple of months, preceding the 17th Party Congress, will be very tense," a Beijing reporter said after getting the new instructions.


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