Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Writers Won't Work on Awards Show

It was announced today by AP that the WGA is not allowing their writers write for this season's awards shows. This could prove to be problematic for the studios as Jon Stewart, an active member of the WGA, was slated to host the 2008 Academy Awards.

I haven't really been following the WGA strike, but I do follow my Jon Stewart news, because I desperately miss the Daily Show. It's a slightly bizarre situation for me because I don't actually watch the show on TV- I usually watch all the clips on the Comedy Central website. So it seems, for me personally, that the writers' demands for compensation for the new media is a valid point.

About a month ago, the New York Times published a diary of a striking Daily Show writer, Rachel Axler. I smiled while reading– it was some classic Daily Show humor.

"12:15 p.m. A man in a suit passes by. He yells, 'I hope you all get fired!'"

"Look — this is weird for us, too, you know. Writers are not a naturally combative species. We’re used to sitting in front of our computers and crying. Fresh air is like poison to us. If protocol didn’t dictate otherwise, it’s very likely we would never wear pants. But we’ve given up our salaries and our jobs — easily the only jobs we’re qualified for — to stand outside and yell at people. So, for the sake of decency, could you please not yell back?"

But I really do miss Jon Stewart delivering it. Last week (I believe), the Daily Show showed up on Foxtrot! I was so excited and so relieved to know that the other mediums (cartoons!) were affected by the WGA strike as well.

Reading the diary of Axler, it felt good to know that the writers miss us too.

"1 p.m. Back on the walkin’ oval. I wear four sweaters on my torso and one wrapped around my head. If I were at work today, what would I be doing? Probably working on a headline about Musharraf. Watching videotape of Bush urging another leader to rethink martial law. Ingesting vile amounts of Boo Berry cereal to stimulate the joke-writing process.

Do I actually miss that? Yeah, I actually miss that."

Links: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/arts/AP-Hollywood-Labor-Awards-Shows.html
Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/11/fashion/11strike.html

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Serving Life For Providing Car to Killers

Instead of focusing on the most prominent piece of news today, "U.S. Finding Says Iran Halted Nuclear Arms Effort In 2003," I decided to look a little left of the front page of New York Times to see what's going on in our nation's judicial system. It is an article written by Adam Liptak, and it is about how there exists a legal doctrine in the American judicial system that considers accomplices to crimes as culpable as the offenders themselves, and therefore the accomplices should recieve the same punishment as the offenders.

Liptak focused on the case of 25-year-old Ryan Holle, who has served 5 years of his life sentence without the possibility of parole due to his unwitting help to a murder that happened on March 10, 2003. He is guilty of lending a car to his friend, who later in the night, killed a girl by beating her head in.

"Mr. Holle was a mile and a half away, but that did not matter," writes Liptak.

Liptak gives the prosecutor, David Rimmer's, reasoning of why Holle should get life, saying, "No car, no crime. No car, no consequences. No car, no murder."

Rimmer seems to see the events to be transitive, almost in a seemingly simplistic manner.

Liptak is very informative in his article, giving us the history of how the law came about. More importantly, he elaborates on his the English, Indain, and Canadian courts have decided to abolish the doctrine. It is the overwhelming accordance among the common law countries that a person should be held accountable for his own acts, but not for the acts of others.

This makes America an exception when it comes to the stringent belief that a crime is directly supported by the events leading up to it. It seems to me that we could enter the realm of "what-ifs" and "maybes" if we were to adhere our lives strictly to that rule. What if I decided to throw five dollars into a homeless man's hand, does that mean I am directly responsible if he later chooses to use the money to get heroin, and while he's doped up, commits a murder?

If the situation I just brought up seemed a little unfair, we can consider the murder itself then. William Allen Jr., the man who borrowed the car from Holle had wanted to use the car to drive himself and his friends to the home of a marijuana dealer to steal a safe that contained a pound of marijuana. The situation turned ugly, and they ended up killing the drug-dealer's 18-year-old daughter.

Christine Synder, the mother and drug-dealer, said that she screamed her head off when she saw her daughter's head bashed in. She was sentences to three years for the drugs found.

If the courts wish to truly apply this doctrine to this particular case, they should not only give Holle a life sentence for being an accomplice, they should also give Mrs. Synder a life sentence, for bringing about the crime. I think the strict adherence to the law in which accomplices are just as guilty as the offenders is tragically unfair, but if the courts really wish to make full use of it, they should punish all the people involved in bringing about the murder– and that includes the mother who decided that it is safe to deal pot while she is living with her 18-year-old daughter.

One of the most important things that bornes guilt, I believe, is the intention of the action. Because Holle never intended for the girl to be murdered by his friends, his serving the jail time will not rid of him of any guilt, because he does not have any. All it would do is increase his distrust in our nation's legal system, and also render him completely cynical of the goodness of his friends.

Can you imagine? Before you decide to lend a pair of scissors to a friend, you have to weigh your pros and cons. Pro: My friend can get her craft project done. Con: She might stab her partner with them.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/us/04felony.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Muslim Girls, Scouts Offer a Chance to Fit In

Do you guys remember the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the main character didn't want to go to Greek school when she was young because she was unable to be part of the Girl Scouts? The rejection of her culture was the result of her indignation of feeling left out.

So, I guess there is something inherently American about being part of the Girls Scouts, something I really don't quite understand since I did not grow up in the States. However, today's article was about how there have been a growing number of Muslim Girl Scout troops because it is believed that the troops can be used as a tool of assimilation for the girls into American culture, without losing their Muslim identity. Neil MacFarquhar reports that some slight modifications to the Girl Scouts program would have to be made for these girls, like eating beef hot dogs instead of pork, or respecting fasting schedules. However, the program leaders feel that this is a way to show the world that a girl wearing a hijab is still like every other American girl.

It really is an admirable effort for diversity by these Scout leaders. However, my main problem with this article is the way MacFarquhar started.

He begins the article by describing how 12-year-old Asma Haidara likes to put her girl scout sash over her everyday clothes whenever she does quotidian things, like riding the train or shopping a Target because she finds that the green sash "reduces the number of glowering looks she draws from people otherwise bothered by her traditional Muslim dress."

My intuitive reaction to that was that this 12-year-old girl has already learned to mask and tweak her outward identity according to what she thinks society wishes to see. I understand why she would want to do that: It is not a great day if someone decides to judge you on a distorted perception that they have of your religion. But it is just as bad to put on a different outfit to try and persuade others that you are different from other Muslims because you are so American– Look, I'm wearing a green Girl Scout Sash!

Also, MacFarquhar wishes for one of the core message to be that Muslim people are just like American people. He writes, "By teaching girls to roast hot dogs or fix a flat bicycle tire, Farheen Hakeem, one troop leader here, strives to help them escape the perception of many non-Muslims that they are different."

I believe that without differences, there won't be knowledge, or education. How can Americans possibly learn about true Islam if Muslims themselves wish to dilute their identity? There will be no questions asked if there are no differences shown, and if no questions are asked, how are we to understand what's going on in the world right now? The prevailing message that we are currently getting is that Islam is a driving force of terrorism (Look at Middle East! Look at 9/11! says the newspapers), but not all Muslims are bad– The good Muslims are just like Americans, no different from you and I! says this article.

I absolutely loathe that message, and I wish MacFarquhar had taken a different angle to his article. His real message (what it should have been) was not totally lost, but it was completely buried! It comes after he explains how the Girl Scouts have decided to make Muslim communities for Muslim girls.

"Scouting is a way of celebrating being American without being any less Muslim, Ms. Hakeem said," he finally writes.

Understand that I think this Girl Scout program is an admirable project, and I am sure Miss. Haidara also likes wearing her green sash because she is proud of being a Girl Scout, not just because she wants to avoid looks. But really, it's all in the way that the writer tells it, and this hook and nut was a real miss.

A little over a month ago, NYU organized a discussion between Jewish and Muslim leaders, and it was moderated by Russell Simmons (Why him, I don't know– as far as I can see, all he does that could be thought as interfaith-related is yoga, which, let's be frank, is not even related.) It was a fairly illuminating session because the leaders did not all agree, like many people thought they would. An example would be when they were asked if they believe that Abraham was a good man. Most of the leaders agreed, but one of the rabbis said no, because he started wars.

The public thought that because these people were gathered in this space to fuel interfaith dialogue, then they would only talk about their similarities. However, there are stark differences between both religions that cannot be ignored, because it would be denying their own beliefs. It's not a dialogue if everyone just sits around and nods– if there are differences, they need to be addressed. The beauty of living in America is that people can have blatant disagreements when it comes to faith and culture, and still understand that that is a category in one's identity that does not encompass his/her entire person.

Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/us/28girlscout.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

Link to an article regarding the discussion between Jewish and Muslim leaders, thanks to Washington Square News, NYU school newspaper: http://media.www.nyunews.com/media/storage/paper869/news/2007/10/23/News/Bringing.Judaism.Islam.Together-3049685.shtml

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Democracy's Root: Diversity

The Sunday Op-Ed section is always so interesting to read, because there's Frank Rich, who is explosive, yet sometimes astute, in his observations, and there is a section by Clark Hoyt, who is the public editor of the Times. It's fun to read Hoyt call the Times out on various hypocrisies and mistakes in the newspaper.

However, today, I was focused on an Op-Ed by Thomas L. Friedman, whom though is prominently featured weekly in the Times, I have never taken the time to read his pieces. His subject was about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's visit to the vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday. He had presented the Pope with a golden sword studded with jewels and a gold and silver statue depicting a palm tree and a man riding a camel. Friedman's problem with this event is that the Pope should have asked to visit Mecca, because it is illegal for Non-Muslims to go there.

I'm starting to get rather sick of reading about other countries' cultures in the point of view of an American, because it seems to me to be rather presumptuous of us to say that having a single national religion is akin to being intolerant of other religions. Friedman's issue with Saudi Arabia si that they forbid practice of any of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian religions in public. The authorities, according to BBCnews.com, would also deport workers who have been holding private services.

Also, after he observes the lack of religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia, he goes on to say that "more churches and mosques have been blown up in the past few years than any time I can remember." I am not one to crack down on religious tolerance, but I think that it is misleading to equate the dislike of certain religions to the willingness to bomb a center of faith. It is unfair to lump all religious intolerance under the cause of acts of religious terrorism. Sometimes it has to do with social conflicts and class disparities. Sometimes it stems back to the bloody history between two sects/religions.

Friedman is quick in his words, but not so much in thought. He likes to elect truisms in his writing, saying things like, "...in most of the Arab-Muslim world toda, where the political ethos remains "Rule or Die." Another awful, awful mistake he made when comparing India and Pakistan: " Yet they are basically the same people– they look alike, they eat the same food, they dress alike." That's like saying all Americans are the same as Canadians, which many Americans would disagree to. Friedman is focused on the superficial details of the essence of nationality, whittling it down to just appearances and food. The fact that he said that also shows that he took no time to distinguish the subtleties between both nations– which I don't know whether if that makes him stupid (the sentiment "physical features are all the distinguishes a nation.") or racist ("All brown people look the same, and I don't know why they have to fight.")

I agree with his general point, which is that we should celebrate diversity, especially if we want to promote democracy– though I think we should just celebrate diversity, without that conditional. I thoroughly dislike his way of going about it to express it. It was uneducated, as it had many misconceptions of different races and of Islam. It is especially irresponsible to just espouse his views under the guise of "information regarding Islam" (citing BBC and such) when we live in a world fraught with tensions between the Western world and the Muslim world.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejah, at Columbia, Parries and Puzzles

Yesterday, there was an article in the New York Times headlined "U.S. Focus on Ahmadinejah Puzzles Iranians," and it was written by Michael Slackman. I was going to blog about that, but then I decided to wait until today's front page news, which is about President Ahmadinejah's speech at Columbia. However, yesterday's article was interesting in that it basically said that Iranians do not understand why Americans wish to focus on Ahmadinejah when it is not he who has the final say on many of the political and social issues in the country; it is the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is considered the commander-in-chief. However, the article admits that Ahmadinejah's actions and provocative speeches are probably the reason why he is the first thing we Americans think of when the topic of Iran comes up.

Another interesting thing that I read about yesterday actually discounted the parallels being made between Hitler and Ahmadinejah. I believe it was on Slate.com, and it said that the comparisons between Ahmadinejah and Hitler was inaccurate because Hitler did not care about what other people other than the German thought about him. Every single appearance he made was carefully staged and prepared so that there was always a sense of power associated with everything he said. However, for Ahmadinejah to thrust himself into an environment where the critics are violently opposed to him would be, in fact, stupid of him, and his image.

Which brings me to the front page of today's New York TImes. Before I read this article, the only thing I heard about his speech was that "There are no gays in Iran. That phenomenon does not exist in our country." It seemed that the constant repetition of just that one quote of his enforces our belief that he is ignorant or in denial.

Anyway, according to the article, which is by Helene Cooper, the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, opened the event with a "10-minute verbal assualt." Bollinger had been receiving an immense amount of pressure from the academic and public community about his invitation to Ahmadinejah, and I guess he felt the need to wave his flag patriotically to prove to his detractors that he was not, in fact, supporting the President.

I thought it was apt for Ahmadinejah to respond the way he did: "In Iran, tradition requires when you invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students enough to allow them to make their own judgment, and don't think it's necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of complaints to provide vaccination to the students and faculty." That was definitely a zap at Bollinger's armor.

One thing that Cooper seemed to illustrate in the article, which I thought was fantastic, was how Columbia was pushing Ahmadinejah to answer questions about Israel's sovereignty, and Ahmadinejah was responding by switching the side of the arguments over to the Palestinians' point of view. He is right; it is a major contradictation that I feel that the public sometimes forgets to explore. We focus on the Jewish plight, and their return to their homeland. But we forget that by displacing a major ethnic group, Israel has come about in the same way that Hitler once envisioned his new Germany. Just that whole thing has always made me very uneasy, and I know this opinion is not particularly popular, especially in the very fraught relations between the Islamic and international community.

Ahmadinejah said, "I ask you, is the Palestinians issue not a question of international importance? Please tell me yes or no." This was in response to the question about Iran seeking the destruction of the state of Israel, and the moderator had wished for a yes or no answer. This is a loaded question and it does not serve to illustrated the complicated nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict!

At the end, Cooper wrote about how the event at Columbia is about academic freedom, and how in some ways, we are fortunate to be able to even have that choice available to us. Such a notion would not even entertain Ahmadinejah for his country.

Just an ending note: I guess Bollinger got what he wanted, because the American Israel Public Affairs Committee indirectly praised him for his attacks in the beginning of the event by sending out his speech and calling it a "Must-Read." I guess it's appropriate that the committee would forget to also include everything that the president said. It is this sort of one-sided information that could really affect people's point of views, allowing them to form opinions that are not as fair as they could be.

Link to yesterday's article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/24/world/middleeast/24iran.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin
Link to Slate article: http://www.slate.com/id/2174602/nav/tap2/

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Voices Rise in Egypt to Shield Girls from an Old Tradition

It has been a while since my reaction to an article has been as visceral as to this story that appeared in the New York Times today. The lede was certainly eye-catching and compelling. "A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor's office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor."

"Here" referred to Egypt, which I have always thought was very modern and urban when it came to their living situation and habits. Unfortunately, according to Michael Slackman, despite the modernization of Egypt, this surgery has been performed on girls between the ages seven and thirteen for many centuries. Even though Egypt had issued a nationwide ban in 1996, it allowed a loophole that have caused critics to believe that it countered the ban, allowing for this practice to nevertheless continue.

However, it is only recently that the voices against genital mutilation have risen to a necessary roar. Slackman credits it to the country's growing ability to talk frankly about sex. The issue is now receiving attention at a national level through television advertisements, news shows, and newspaper coverage. Religious leaders are also stepping forward to say that the Koran (as the majority in Egypt is Islamic) does not condone this act. The government also shut down a clinic that performed this "circumcision," as many of the men of older generations called it, after the 13-year-old girl died from the complications of the surgery. It is a rare moment when the government, media, and religious advocates are all trying to promote the same message.

The statistics for the wide-spread acceptance of genital mutilation in Egypt is astounding. In 2005, a health survey showed that 96 percent of married, divorced, or widowed women have gone through the surgery. In the article, Slackman had obtained quotes from some men that are extremely against the eradication of this surgery. Their words expressed so much anger- which I can understand since it is their values that are being challenged. Yet I wish they could see that sometimes, people get their values wrong. One clear, go-to example is the slavery of African-Americans that existed in American society for so long.

An obstacle to stopping the surgeries permanently in Egyptian society, that Slackman very astutely raised in the article, was the fear that women who do not undergo the surgery will not be able to find a man to marry, and that because of the circumcision and their landing of a husband, their family's honor will be preserved. I feel that these two factors may prove to be the most challenging to widespread social change. It is easy to abhor the action, the cutting, that is performed, but it is hard to discount the belief that men and women have held for so long. What if the men decide that they don't want to marry a women who hasn't had her clitoris cut off? Then I'm afraid that the practice might be done secretly and worse, in unsanitary conditions.

It is fantastic, though, that they have been able to get the message out, since the first step to acknowledgment is knowledge. The first pop culture reference that came to my mind was an Angel episode where Bai Ling played a female in a species where when the females came of age, they had little spikes that jutted out from their backs. These spikes gave the females their emotions and their powers, and it frightened the males, so they always cut it off just as the females hit puberty. Also, as Buffy said in the fourth comic book of the Season Eight BtVS installment, it's not about the power, or the demons; it's about women. And I feel that the angered reactions of the patriarchal society of Egypt is not about traditions, but about losing their hold over the women.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/20/world/africa/20girls.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1190301778-luALifvQfKXEI7Ai62+ELA

Monday, July 23, 2007

2007 Democratic Debate hosted by Anderson Cooper

Did anyone catch the 2007 Democratic Debate tonight? It was hosted by Anderson Cooper and held in North Carolina. I was pleasantly surprised to see that CNN had decided to allow people to submit questions to the candidates through Youtube, but I think it definitely helps to capture a wider range of opinions and concerns.

I don't know any of the candidates very well- at least, not in the way I think is sufficient for me to judge them. All the information I really get about them are the headlines from the New York Times and CNN, and occasionally the New York Post. It's important, I feel, to get to know a candidate not just from his/her head-turning actions ("So-and-so raised that much money from those sources? So-and-so does not support gay marriage?"), but also from the things they did as governor or senator- the things that doesn't necessarily catch the media's attention, but it definitely helps the public.

Anyway, this debate really was a good way for me to get a feel for the Democratic candidates, and Gov. Bill Richardson really is standing out to me. I think that says a lot, especially since he has such flashy competitors, like Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden. Plus, I really appreciate that he has a great deal of experience in foreign policy and UN relations- which is really what this country needs right now: some coherent sense of direction in foreign diplomacy.

Some of the questions were extremely intelligent and well-thought-out. One that sticks out is a reverend saying that back when slavery was still present, politicians used the Bible as a justification for the oppression of black people. He goes on to ask how that is any different from the Bible-touting politicians who oppose gay marriage and civil unions. That question was directed to Sen. John Edwards, because he is from the South and has strong Catholic beliefs, and he also opposes gay marriage.

I was very impressed when Sen. Edwards said that the Reverend is right- that politicians should not use their faith as a justification on why there ought not to be gay marriage- even though he has indeed been guilty of doing so. He also said that his opposition to gay marriage is deeply personal to him. I saw that statement translate into layman terms: "I don't like gay marriage because I am not used to the idea of two men or two women having sex, and that action being legal and accepted in our present society." There were just ways that Sen. Edwards could have dodged that bullet, but he chose to just admit outright that it was wrong of him to quote the Bible for such an issue.

The final questions was by someone who said it was to lighten the mood. The Youtube user wanted each candidate to tell the person to the left of him/her one thing that they admire in the candidate, and one thing that they dislike. I thought that it was completely revelatory of each candidate and the way they answered. A good example would be Sen. Hillary Clinton saying that she admired Sen. Obama, just like she admires all the other candidates, and she ended there- to which Anderson Cooper says, "I take it that you're not going to answer the question." My favorite response was (if you can guess) Sen. Richardson's, where he went into great detail about Sen. Biden's contributions to America ("This man has devoted his whole life to public service...") His reply was good-humored and honest, unlike Sen. Biden's response to Sen. Dennis Kicinich ("I don't like a damn thing about this man- I'm only kidding.")

Finally, Youtube has also posted all the questions that aired on the Debate. I will include the link below.

I think that Anderson Cooper did a phenomenal job dogging the candidates to answer the question instead of veering off into a whole tangent of self-promotion. I clapped my hands every time he said, "So was that a yes or a no?" It's no secret that these responses that the candidates have are well-rehearsed verbal vomit that sometimes have no definite meaning behind the pretty words.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/debates

You should also surf around Youtube to find broken-up segments of the democratic debate.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Funeral For A Young Police Officer Draws 10,000 Mourners

I literally gasped when I saw the cover page of the New York Times this morning. At first I thought I was seeing some sort of parade or commemoration for some important event, possibly happening in another country- but then I saw the bright store fronts that was so distinctively Brooklyn, and I realized that today was the funeral for the officer who got shot on July 9th by car thieves.

I have unintentionally caught the head and the tail end of this story. When it first happened, I remember the New York Times running a large article about how the officer, Russel Timoshenko, and his partner, Herman Yan, were shot by three men in a stolen car. That article stuck out in particular because there was an accompanying piece about how the majority of the NYPD is now made up of immigrants (Timoshenko is Belorussian; Yan is from Hong Kong) and I thought about the boy who was an NYU student who got killed a couple months back- he was Russian, I believe. The New York Times had an article about how he and his family had immigrated from Russia, and they live in Green Point now, and what a great kid this boy was.

I really didn't read much about it again (maybe once in the Post) until today when the above picture caught my attention.

It is great that the New York Times bothered to tie the two police shootings together, to remind people that it is a dangerous profession that men and women are voluntarily choosing. It humanizes the NYPD, turning them into real people with real faces- they are not just a cloudy blob of blue that help to promote vague abstracts like "justice" and "law."

I actually encountered some people today who were at the funeral. They had just came from the funeral and were slightly drunk.

Today's article was written by Andy Newman. I shall also include the original article in the links below.

Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/20/nyregion/20cop.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Link to the first article on July 10: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/nyregion/10cops.html?ex=1185163200&en=e192231783ece338&ei=5070
Link for article about immigrants in NYPD: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/nyregion/10partners.html?ex=1185163200&en=00a9a35563d18c15&ei=5070

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Truck Bomb Hits Baghdad Mosque, And 61 Are Dead

The New York Times reported that a suicide bombing took place in Baghdad yesterday when a truck filled with explosive crashed into a Shiite mosque just as people were finishing their midday prayers. At least 61 people were killed and 130 were wounded.

Just like every article lately that's been centered around suicide bombing and sectarian strife in Baghdad, the writer, Alissa J. Rubin, mentioned that this bombing was preceded by the Strong U.S. military presence that does not seem to put much of a dent in the violence that goes on there.

As terrible as it is for me to say this, I think it is stupid for journalists and writers of the New York Times to keep reinterating that thought- i think the people and the administration get it: the security measures increase did hardly anything to help better control the situation in Baghdad (at least that's what NYT thinks.) And if they didn't get it, taking a paragraph (that's about 80 words) to repeat that day after day is not going to convince them; it just takes up front page space.

That aside, this was a pretty revealing article in terms of what the people in Baghdad think about America's inability to stop this senseless bloodshed.

"The Americans know everything, they can do everything... why do they let these things happen here in Iraq?" said Abu Muhammad, who is one of the custodians of the bombed mosque.

It's such a simple concept that a person doesn't have to be a political analyst or an anthropologist to wonder: Why is the strong military and political American presence allowing this to happen? Why are they unable to control it?

Then there is another thought that perhaps the Americans do want these terrible things to happen in Iraq. Iraqis are angry by their inaccessibility to normal lives, because they have to be constantly on their toes about any unknown vehicle or suspicious character- it's understandable for people to blame and point fingers when they are in an unceasing state of panic.

Not that the Americans don't warrant suspicion.

Anyway, reading this, I thought of an interview a while back that Jon Stewart from the Daily show had with a Middle East analyst named Reza Aslan. One of the thing he said was the Al-Qaeda is tolerated in Iraq by the American presence there. They are only about seven percent of the population (I believe the number is seven, though this would require some fact-checking on my part.) and if the U.S. got out of Iraq, the other 93 percent would immediatly slaughter them. When Aslan said that, Stewart's eyebrows went up, and he said, "Hey, I've got an idea!"

The reason why I thought of it was because one of our government's main reasons for staying in Iraq is to squash Al-Qaeda, and yet by their leaving it, they would have successfully squashed it, because there is just no way that tiny seven percent of crazy lunatics could control that country, especially since our own government failed and we had a large presence there (This is according to Aslan, by the way.) I know there are other reasons for not leaving, such as sectarian strife between the Sunnis and the Shiites- which has little to do with Al-Qaeda (though that organization completely exploit these people's distrust and fear for each other for it's uncomprehensible purposes).

One more thing about this article- Rubin mentioned that the bombing of this mosque was especially significant (Other than the 61 people dying) because it was one of the places where there were a mix of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds who worshipped together. This shows that these terrorists are of neither sects (is that the right word?) even if they claim to be so.

Here's the video of the interview of Jon Stewart with Reza Aslan:

Link of the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/20/world/middleeast/20iraq.html?ref=todayspaper

Friday, May 25, 2007

Israel Seizes 33 Palestinians in Crackdown in West Bank

This is somewhat of a continuation of the last post. Same topic, different day. Though the article was not on the front page of the New York Times, the picture that went with it was, and the thing that stuck out to me (besides the gaping chasm of rubble surrounded by people) was the pointing finger to the left of the photo. There's blame being shifted around by the agitated government officials.

This article was written by Isabel Kershner and she leds with the news that Israel arrested 33 important West Bank Palestinians (read: officials) in a raid as their stance against Hamas bristles. A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister of Israel said that they have conclusive evidence that links those government officials to the recent terrorist activities.

One of the most senior officials that Israel arrested was the Palestinian education minister, Nasser Eddin al-Shaer. He had been previously arrested in August, but was released in September because there was no evidence to hold him. According to Rabia al-Barghouti, spokesman for the Palestinian Legislative Council, al-Shaer is not a member of Hamas and has a clean security record.

Something else that Kershner mentioned was that there were forty-one Palestinian legislators being held by Israle, and they keep having the detention extended for two more months every time they appear in front of a judge. They are mostly being held for being a part of Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organization (According to Wikipedia, U.S.A. agrees.)

The spokeswoman of the Israeli Prime Minister said that Israel was going after Hamas "in all its aspects." So since the Hamas broke the truce about ten days ago, Israel has been firing rockets back and launching airstrikes. There have been 38 Palestinians killed, 156 wounded in 35 airstrkes since May 17 (Jeebus).

"Among the dead were seven Palestinians under the age of 16," said a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.

On the other side, there have been one Israeli woman killed and two seriously injured. Many others have been treated for lighter injuries.

Kershner is not subtle in her placement of these numbers: first, the Palestinians casualties, then the Israeli casualties. Basically, I think the Palestinian government wants all this fighting to stop (from what I garner from the article) but the Hamas is a group of people who refuse to agree since a breaking of the truce has now set things to be unclear and unassured- not to mention also that each side's word is completely unreliable. The Israeli government seem pretty gung-ho about clearing out the Hamas, saying, "The Palestinians have made a mockery of the so-called cease-fire in the Gaza Strip."

I'm sure the arrest of important government officials will lessen the tensions between the two nations and help foster a trusting environment for favorable negotiations. I'm also sure that the lumping of the Palestinians high officials with a declared terrorists organization will help to alleviate the mistrust and corruption in the Palestinian government itself. What happened to Israel saying that they will not be manipulated into full-out dischord with Palestine over terrorist acts that both sides agree is uncalled for? They said that they will enter this on their own terms- but look! they just got all trampled over by their pesky emotions and their anger, and now both Israelis and Palestinians are dead.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/25/world/middleeast/25mideast.html

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unity Fractures as Palestinians Battle in Gaza

This was on the front page of the New York Times today, and it was written by Steven Erlanger. It's a feature story updating us on the Hamas-Fatah conflict and how it is starting to drag in the Israeli army, because there are people being wounded and hurt in Israeli towns as a result of the fighting in the Gaza strip.

I was captivated by this article because of Erlanger's excessive use of numbers. "Excessive" is the wrong word, because that would mean that I was turned off by it, but really, I was just so in shock by how many people had been killed in that short amount of time.

This was my first time reading about the Hamas-Fatah conflict and so I had to Wikipedia it to find out more about it. I could already guess most of what it said about Hamas by the article, that it is considered a terrorist group by many countries, and the Hamas-Fatah conflict is a factional conflict between Palestinians. Hamas is currently the majority ruling party in Palestine, after the early 2006 elections. Because of that, the U.S. has been on strained terms with Palestine (though that's not the only reason.)

Anyway, there have been recently an increase of Hamas attacks on the Fatah, and also on Israeli towns (Wikipedia said that the Hamas are known for suicide bombings outside of Palestine, and also for attacks on Israeli civilians and military) and Erlanger writes that it is perhaps to prompt retaliation from the Israeli government so as to reunify Palestinians. These attacks have included rocket fire fired from Gaza that have wounded two Israeli women.

Erlanger goes into how if Israel retaliated strongly against Hamas, they could end up unifying the Palestinian factions against them. He gives the example of how last summer, when Israel faced a similar situation with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, that instead of stopping the attacks from Hezbollah and strengthing the Lebanese government (that Israel wanted to strengthen), they got the opposite result: Hezbollah did not stop attacking and was thoroughly unified against Israel, and the Lebanese government was severly weakened.

I guess the Israel government learned its lesson, because it decided to think twice before responding harshly to the Hamas attacks.

"Israel is not going to be dragged into the Gaza Strip the way that Hamas wants," said Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "We will choose the time and place to respond. The price of any operation must be measured in terms of how effective it would be in stopping rocket fire, and the cost in life on both sides..."

The rest of the article is devoted to the violence that both sides have recieved, and honestly, it is so heartbreaking to read all these numbers, and about all these families that are being uprooted because they fear that they may be caught in the fire of the factional violence.

It really got to me when I read Abdel Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman said that Hamas leaders "want to turn Gaza into a new Somalia or Dafur." That's incredibly foreboding and it does not help that both sides are just so full of hate and anger. It's easy to dismiss Hamas as being in the wrong and being overly agressive (what with Wikipedia saying what it said- no, serious, look it up) but at the same time, Erlanger writes about certain Hamas who are in power who have stayed out of the fighting, like Islam Shahwan, and only decided to deploy against the Fatah because of the increased attacks towards the Hamas government. Really, it takes both sides to create this much problems and strife.

Towards the middle of the article, Erlanger writers about 200 Gaza residents who were marching in the center of Gaza City with Palestinian flags, trying to show peace. However, gunmen started to move around the group, and following gunfire, the demonstrators were scared off, and one was wounded.

I just went to the Times website to get pictures, and as it turns up, Erlanger has just posted another article. Judging from the headline ("8 Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza Kill At Least 7") it seems that the Israeli government has decided to take up the offensive. Damn it.

Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/17/world/middleeast/17mideast.html?fta=y

For some odd reason, Blogger is not letting me put up pictures. Well, if you got to the link above to the Times website, you will see the pictures I was going to put up. Also, if you do that, be sure to read the article. Erlanger does a good job conveying the helplessness of the civilians who don't seem to be angry or hateful, just frightened for their lives and children.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Op-Ed: Iraq Is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

This is an Op-Ed piece by columnist Frank Rich of the New York Times. It was originally published on Sunday, April 22. But since it's Opinion, I didn't care much to blog it by that very exact day.

The column started out as a criticism to President Bush's selective attendance to various events that are pressing to our country. Rich said that the President only shows up for events (funerals, memorials, speech events) for things that does not directly correlate to the Iraq war, because these are the things that he cannot be blamed for.

Rich uses the metaphor of a cancer to show how the Iraq war may have started off all these other problems. An example: "At home, the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer’s metastasis — the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz."

For a short Op-Ed, it actually has quite a fantastic structure. As I said before, Rich started out with Bush's public appearances (or lack thereof) and then he went into how there are other people in the news who are being criticized right now for misdemeanors (Gonzales and Wolfowitz), but that the media have completely forgotten about their roles in the Iraq war.

Then Rich goes into great explanation about Bernard Kerik, who recently withdrew from a cabinet position because it emerged that he had questionable finances records and that Gonzales had rushed his nomination into his position. The White House pinned the blame on Rudy Giuliani, and it is most unfortunate since Giuliani is now running for President.

However, the White House had also failed to mention that Kerik had failed in his duties in Iraq a year before his cabinet nomination. He was supposed to train the Iraqi police, but instead, "Mr. Kerik gave upbeat McCain-esque appraisals of the dandy shopping in Baghdad’s markets."

From there on out, Rich shows quite well how the White House may be facing domestic problems with these people's alleged mistakes, and they may have serious PR issues because of that. But what's worse is that these domestic jobs were given to these individuals after their failures in the Iraq war, and that when the domestic problems arose, it would actually be better for the White House to have the scandals and the front page splashy headlines because it serves to shadow the ugly going-ons in Iraq.

It's good that Rich is an opinion writer because the diction that he chooses are often powerful and evocative- a little too much for objective reporting.

Here's the lead of his piece:

"President Bush has skipped the funerals of the troops he sent to Iraq. He took his sweet time to get to Katrina-devastated New Orleans. But last week he raced to Virginia Tech with an alacrity not seen since he hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life medical care."

And here is Rich's point at the very end:

"Like the C.I.A. leak case, each new scandal is filling in a different piece of the elaborate White House scheme to cover up the lies that took us into Iraq and the failures that keep us mired there."

I thought that his flow and transitions were very good, and they all added up to his kicker at the end. I actually don't read Frank Rich very often- not for any particular reason, I just usually go straight to Nicholas Kristof and Paul Krugman, or the guest writer- so this was actually a great introduction of Rich for me. He's very harsh and astute in his writing, I quite admire it.

Since it is Op-Ed, you can only view it if you subscribe to Times Select. But I found that a website called Truth Out copied and pasted the piece, so go read it- it's quite an eye-opener.

Link: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042207C.shtml

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2007 Pulitzer Winners for Journalism

Today, the winners of 2007 Pulitzer Prize was announced in the Metro section of the New York Times. Oded Balilty of The Associated Press won the prize for Breaking New Photography for his "powerful photo of a lone Jewish woman defying Israeli security forces as they remove illegal settlers in the West Bank," said the judges.

This photo is especially amazing because it makes a person wonder what happened the milisecond after the photo was snapped. Was the woman pummeled by the force of the soldiers trying to rush past her? You can see, in the background, people standing around, watching and waiting. Why just her?

Another winner worth noting is Andrea Elliott from the New York Times. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her features on a series of articles on Sheik Reda Shata, an imam from Egypt who is working in a mosque in Brooklyn. Congratulations to her!

If you look a couple entries down, you would see that I had a post about an African-American imam who went to Long Island to speak to a mosque that had Muslims that were South-east Asians and Arabs immigrants. It was about how these different races are of the same faith and they are trying to find ways to connect and strengthen the Muslim faith in America, especially during these times of prejudice and fear.

Elliott is an extremely compelling writer, very informative in her reporting- and judging from her page on the New York Times website, she really deserves this award for her hard work and her dedication to her subject. I'm really happy for her.

Link for the 2007 Pulitzer winners: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/16/business/media/16pulitzers.html
Link for Elliott's coverage of Muslims in America: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/series/muslimsinamerica/index.html

Monday, April 16, 2007

Russia Tries To Save Polar Bears in Legal Hunt

This was in the New York Times today, and it was written by Steven Lee Meyers. It's a short piece about how in Vankarem, Russia, they have decided to legalize the hunting of polar bears to help to prevent illegal poaching of the bear.

Meyers used the word "counterintuitive" to describe this action. I'm still trying to sort my thoughts out on this one.

According to the article, the Russian government banned the hunting of polar bears in 1956 after there was a sharp drop due to over-zealous hunters. Every year, they carry out a census and then come up with a quota that the hunter can work with, then the ban is partly lifted so that this quota can be met. Polar bear meat is important in Russian culture, in terms of fur and meat- so as I understand, it would be a sort of culture abhoration if there were no polar bear hunts whatsoever.

For the past couple of years, because the sea ice that the polar bears survive on (a mental iimage of one crouching on the sea ice, waiting to whack the head of a seal comes to mind) has been melting and also because winter has been arriving later, there have been more and more polar bears hanging out at the shore of Vankarem. Since 2003, there have been three attacks by the bears, and the village has had guards in the fall to monitor the safety of the village.

Although I do think it's not exactly rational logic that makes a government think that a lifting of a ban would prevent, or at least lessen, an action, there is something else that is far stranger. So, the Russian government banned the hunting of polar bears in 1956 with the purpose of stopping the rapid decline of their population. While this law is in effect, the hunting continues, though illegally, and as many as a hundred are killed every year (and this number is only under the "Illegal" label- let's not forget those yearly jaunts when the government temporarily lifts the ban.) There is currently an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the world, and the U.S. is thinking of including them on the list of threatened species.

Why would they think that a law, that was originally set to enforce it and that did absolutely nothing to enforce it, would further enforce it when it is done away?

Anyway, the article ends with a quote by Stanislav Belikov, who helped to set the rules for the resumed polar bear hunt, who also said that "the threat of climate change and poaching made urgent measures necessary."

"In 50 years," he said. "We may only be able to tell our grandchildren that these creatures existed here."

What was that quote supposed to do? Affirm my cynicism that this new law (or lack of law) will make it so that we had to tell our grandchildren about them because they couldn't possibly see it for themselves because these animals would be extinct? I just don't understand this placement of the quote or the set up, it seems so- counterintuitive. And confusing.

Unless, of course, if Meyers is trying to show his disdain for the lifting of the ban by placing this quote there, so that it would seem incredibly stupid for someone allowing the killings of polar bear to say that he wanted his grandkids to see polar bears in the future. If that is what he meant: Well-played, Meyers.

Speaking of polar bears, did anyone see the cover of Vanity Fair (I think) with Leonardo DiCaprio posing on ice with a baby polar bear? The first thing I thought when I saw that was that it was definitely photoshopped because Leo looked like he was floating on the ice. But he wasn't, and it was taken by celebrity photography, Annie Leibovitz. Huh, that must make it good then.

I also felt a little sick, mostly because the polar bear is now used as the mascot for all things environment-related- and we, the public, are just amazed by how cute and wonderful it is. "We must stop global warming for those polar bears- they look so cuddly." I don't underestimate the public into thinking it in exactly those terms, but why should stopping global warming have anything to do with whether the animals are babies or not?

Did anyone see Happy Feet? My friend said that the ending was like a slap in his face- I really need to watch that movie.

Link for article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/16/world/europe/16polar.html?ref=todayspaper
Link for Vanity Fair cover: http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/toc/2007/toc200705

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Washington Back Channel

This is a long feature in this past Saturday's New York Times magazine, and it was written by Max Frankel. It's incredibly long but also amazingly informative. I really do recommend reading this one online. It's a critique on the Libby case, though really, Frankel is just using the Libby case as a prop to show how the reporter-official relationship work, since it is our most recent example of the use of leaks and misleading information.

Not only does Frankel explain how reporters and Washington officials exchange secrets to further each other's motives, he also draws specific examples from the history of the Valerie Plame-Wilson fiasco and the WMD accusations that propelled into the indictment of Scooter. And then Frankel draws parallels from his experience as a reporter to show that this is not the first time it's happened.

Now the way he does this is quite skillful, because he manages to inform the readers who have not been following the Plame affair since it's began (that's me) and also to make connections to how it relates to the nature of political journalism, especially in Washington.

I think- and I'm not too sure, because this article was really dense, and i'm still trying to smooth out some confusion on my part- that his point is that the government has every information marked "secret" and disclose it to the press whenever it serves their purpose, so it makes whatever matter they are trying to prove or show or promote more legitimate and important. In order to do this surreptiously, the government sometimes enlist the help of willing journalists who are in search of a good story, and they will accidentally let slip this information. Now, a proper reporter will investigate further, and of course he will come up with some information. The next step is for the reporter to choose the right time to publish this "leak" like it was news, when really the government officials have been anticipating it since their tongue slipped during the conversation.

The problem with the Plame affair and the Libby indictment is that the jury never went into why and how it happened. With Libby, they simply focused on him lying ("forgetting") on when he heard about Plame. And with Plame, the blame has been thrown all over the administration, with all the leaks and the information criss-crossing each other, that it just turns on to be a huge convoluted mess.

Here's the thing that kinda bugged me: Frankel never actually goes into it, but he hints several times that the reason why Armitage even leaked Plame in the first place (I guess I should use the word "allegedly") is because he was holding grudges against the Wilsons. Frankel used the word "bitter feud" to describe it. From what I can tell, the "bitter feud" began when Valerie Plame asked her husband, Joe Plame, an ambassdor, to look into the matter as to whether Iraq was trying to buy some WMD material (stuff? I don't know what term to use), and Joe came up with nada- or at least information that was incongruous with that claim. However, the government got hold of it, and decided to use that in a memo where the President announced that Iraq was harboring WMD, which acted as a reason for invading Iraq. Now, how did the government get the information? Does this mean that Plame was asked by the CIA to investigate that? And even so, how could the government manipulate this information to further their economic/political agendas?

I don't know if Frankel was trying to trivialize it or humuliate them, but he seemed to make the beginnings of this affairs to be rather petty. I mean, I don't know much about it, so I'm going by the use of diction and the tone of voice.

Obviously, it shows dishonesty and corruption on the government's part- but in the paragraph before, it also shows how just because an information is important and is "secret" does not mean that it is true or helpful.

Here's something I found interesting as well:

"'Off the record' information could not be published, but could guide research and perhaps be confirmed elsewhere; 'deep background' material could be printed only if not attributed to anyone; 'background' called for a circumlocution, like 'senior administration official.'"

Frankel also wrote in a memo in 1971 (during the Pentagon Papers leak when he was chief Washington correspondent for the NYT):

"Learning always to trust each other to some extent, and never to trust each other fully- for their purposes are often contradictory or downright antogonistic- the reporter and the official trespass regularly, customarily, easily and un-self-consciously (even unconsciously) through what they both know to be official 'secrets.'"

Frankel ended the article with his concerns on how the Libby trial will affect the future of journalism.

"Was it worth turning the White House into a defensive fortress? Was it worth invading newsroom files and alerting other sources that their chance of exposure has been significantly increased? Was tracking down one leak worth the risk that greater wrongdoing will go unreported in the future?"

When I was in my Foundations of Journalism class, we actually spent a lot of time discussing leaks as whether being helpful or harmful. I'm just really happy to see Frankel expand on these questions- shows that no matter how long we spend discussing it, it will always be relevant to how reporters treat information, and how officials dispel them- because whatever comes out of this hold of knowledge can either be helpful or disastrous to the well-being of the country.

Link to Frankel's article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/magazine/25Libby.t.html?ref=magazine

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Greenwich Village Gunfight Leaves Four Dead

This one definitely hits close to home. I was walking home from work yesterday around 9-ish, and there were a lot of police cars just making their way towards the south side of West Village. And usually, I don't turn my head when I hear cop cars, I'm used to sirens. But then there was another, and then another- and all these cop cars were coming from different directions and all going to the same place. I considered going down the street to see what was going on because I was curious and nosy, but I decided to just go home.

It was on the front page of the New York Times, and apparently some man walked into a pizzeria on MacDougal St., DeMarco's, and shot the bartender. Then when he left the pizzeria, two auxiliary officers followed him down the street, while calling for the cops. Suddenly the man turned around and shot those two auxiliary officers. I guess by then the cops started arriving (which was around the time when I was walking home) and they shot the man and he died.

Anyway, what I learned from that article was that sometimes the cops who hang out on busy streets, who patrol and stuff, aren't actually cops, but they're called auxiliary officers. They have almost identical uniforms. On the newspaper, there was a sidebar where they talked about auxiliary officers, and what their duties are.

"The two were members of the city’s auxiliary police force, which is made up of unpaid volunteers who wear uniforms virtually indistinguishable from those of New York City Police officers but who are unarmed."

Basically, they're just for show, to keep the crowds safe, and they're not being paid to put their lives at risks.

So on my way out of my dorm, the security guard warned me about the two reporters hanging out outside, and that they would bug me to sign them in. I asked why they're there, and security guard said, "Didn't you hear? An NYU kid died in that shooting last night."

Anyway, the newspaper did not mention names, but if you look at it online, it says names. The NYU kid was one of the auxiliary officers and his name is Yevgeniy Marshalik, Eugene to most people. He lives in my dorm, and he's 19.

Definitely hits closer to home than I'd like it to. This is so unfortunate, I don't even know what to say.

This article was written by Alan Feuer and Al Baker. The article about auxiliary officers is titled "Uniformed Eyes and Ears on the Front Lines" and it was written by James Barron.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/nyregion/15cops.html?hp=&pagewanted=all
Link for the article about auxiliary officers: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/nyregion/15auxiliary.html

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

For U.S. Troops At War, Liquor Is Spur to Crime

This was in the New York Times, and was written by Paul von Zielbauer. I don't think I've read much by him- i mean, I've probably skimmed but that's it, because his name just doesn't register.

Well, this one caught my attention because what he did was list all the various offenses that U.S. soldiers have gotten punished/convicted/let go for that was alcohol-related, and all these offenses have been publicized before as a way to promote anti-U.S.-involvement sentiment. However, I think this article did well to seperate the offenses of the soldiers into problems that come from drinking, instead of cramming it into the problem of the U.S. being at war in Iraq.

If young men at home are drinking and doing stupid stuff like getting into fights and bar brawls, what makes anyone think it would be any different in a war-zone, when tensions are a lot higher? Especially if most of these men are really, REALLY young, and probably not allowed to drink legally in the U.S. There's just a greater tendency for testosterone-filled men to want to prove their masculinity in a situation where they are otherwise striking out. By striking out, I mean by the onslaught of sectarian violence and the U.S. inability to have control in a country that their hubris got them into.

von Zielbauer listed some medical experts, and one of them was Charles P. O'Brien, who is a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He said, "I think the real story here is in the suicide and stress, and the drinking is just a symptom of it."

That makes me really sad. It reminds me that these soldiers are just human as the rest of us, and they are not just invincible bodies of men that serve and protect.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/world/middleeast/13alcohol.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance

This is a huge article in the NYT that spans on a quarter of the cover, and then to 2 whole pages in the metro section. It's incredibly interesting, and the picture NYT chose to run on the cover is emblematic of the progress that these two cultures within the same religion have undergone.

The story is about how African-American Muslims and immigrant (Arab, South Asian) Muslims are hesitant to embrace each other despite having the same religion. Black Muslims face different problems and different stereotypes. The article said that a lot of these black people actually found their faith in prison when they were lost and down, by following the path of Malcom X. They are often the forgotten members are the Muslim community.

Oh, since I mentioned the picture on the frontpage. It shows Dr. Faroque Khan, who is the head of a mosque in Long Island, and Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, head of a mosque in Harlem, sitting on the ground with their legs crossed, and they have food in front of them. They are leaning in towards each other, Imam Talib is talking and gesturing with his hands, and Dr. Khan is listening intently. Behind them, there are some other people in a line of some sort, presumably waiting to get food. I thought this picture was great, because it just shows how the rest of the Muslim community are kinda unaware of the steps that need to be taken in order to unite these two seperate faiths into one religion.

Here's something that the article mentioned that was kinda intriguing. It said that when blacks became Muslims, they had to part with mainstream culture in some way, whereas Muslim immigrants are just trying their best to assimilate into the American culture.

"Black converts often take Arab names, only to find foreign-born Muslims introducing themselves as 'Moe' instead of 'Mohammed.'"

That must be frustrating. Because say you are someone who is being judged by a religion you choose to take up because you really really believe that your soul belongs to that religion, and then you meet someone whom you feel is privileged enough to grow up in that environment and yet wants to hide that rich history.

Another difference is the economic rift in these two communities. The muslim immigrants are often well-educated and came here for a job, or to study or whatever. So as a result, they live in nice neighborhoods (ie. Long Island) and drive nice cars. On the other hand, like I said before, many of these black muslims found their faith out of desperation, and it is often from hitting hard times.

Something the writer, Andrea Elliott, also said was that for some people who convert to Islam, it is sometimes a political action because they are looking for a faith that does not cater to the majority, that is not "dominated by the white elite."

It's hard to judge, because this is just one article (and to be fair, the only in-dept article) that I have read about Muslims, be it black or immigrant. However, it seems like black Muslims are very hung up on combining politics with religions, like they are trying to prove something by clutching on to their Koran.

I got that impression halfway through the article, when Imam Talib is quoted, "We need power. Without that, we'll destroy ourselves." He said that in context of having returned from Manhattan Detention complex where he works as a chaplain, and there were men in there from his mosque who were back in jail. So, he is saying this kinda in exasperation, in quiet desperation- that's what I have worked from the quotes.

Also, the reason why Imam Talib traveled to Long Island to speak in Dr. Khan's mosque was to ask for funds for his mosque. Again, there's the whole donation factor involved. Of course, the article is about what it took in order for Dr. Khan to invite Imam Talib to his mosque, the understanding that he had to go through. And also what it took for Imam Talib to accept this invitation, since it means venturing out into a part of the religion that he is not fully aware of.

But the practical end of this deal is that Imam Talib got $10,000 from the congregants of Long Island. I know, bright side is that that immigrant population is responding well to the sermons of a black muslim. And then the article say that that is the most amount of money Imam Talib has ever raised for his mosque in one night- well, duh, since they are rich Long Island dwellers, instead of Harlem neighborhoods.

That came off very cynical. That was just my take on it though. The article is definitely worth taking a look at.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/nyregion/11muslim.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Four Unspeakable Truths: What Politicians Won't Admit About Iraq

Today's article is in the front and center of Slate.com and is written by Jacob Weisberg.

Weisberg basically lists the four truths about the Iraq war that politicians won't or are afraid to admit. The first is that the war was a mistake, and I guess Hillary Clinton was the first politician who came to mind.

The second is that American soldiers are victims as much as heroes. I guess we all remember how everyone reacted last year when Kerry made a blunder during a speech saying that if we don't study hard, we would end up in the war (or something like that, I don't remember the exact words) That was really bad because it showed that he thought that the soldiers who went to war are not going there because they are heroes, but because they are not in college. Weisberg felt that though Kerry quickly apologized for it, that was largely true.

"Americans who attend college and have good employment options after graduation are unlikely to sign up for free tours of the Sunni Triangle. People join the military for a variety of reasons, of course, but since the Iraq war turned ugly, the all-volunteer Army has been lowering educational standards, raising enlistment bonuses, and looking past criminal records."

The third truth is that lives lost in Iraq are lives wasted. I can see why this one is particularly sensitive, especially to the parents of the American soldiers who have died. No one likes to hear that their kid's life had been wasted; they want to see their kid going down in the battlefield in glory, for some sort of purpose.

Personally, I don't know how I feel about truth #3. Makes me feel kinda bad, because I don't like to think that these people who feel they are doing something good are being judged as having wasted their lives when they get shot in the chest. Of course, what I don't like does not necessarily mean that it is not true.

The fourth truth is that America is losing or has already lost the Iraq war. That one really gets me, because it depends on what a person means when he says "lose." I felt like we lost the war the minute we did not have a plan as to how we would handle the sectarian violence and the politics of the country and the relations between the religious and non-religious. I guess this really is the classic case of "be careful of what you wish for." I mean, we "conquered" Iraq so quickly, and our government was so confident in overturning the situations that. And yea, now they have the whole of Iraq in their hands- all the problems and the blood.

Link: http://www.slate.com/id/2161385/nav/tap1/

Thursday, March 1, 2007

2 Paintings By Picasso Are Stolen In Paris

The headline pretty much says it all. What makes it even more incroyable is that it was stolen from the home of Picasso's granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso. There two paintings, "Maya with Doll" (1938) and "Portrait of Jacqueline" (1961), were both from Picasso's Cubism period, and police say that they are worth about $66 million dollars.

This caught my attention because I think it's kind of ridiculous that we have all these crazy war crimes, sectarian violences, rape cases, pyscho killers- and then these paintings by a celebrated painter is just stolen off the walls of his granddaughter's home. It seems so tame by comparison, and yet completely absurd. How did these robbers bypass strict security alarms? It just brings to mind the crazy agility of Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment, or even the whole complicated plan of Thomas Crowne. So theatrical.

I read an interview with an art lawyer in some art magazine, and she said that despite the triviality of art theft compared to the news on CNN, the money that people can make off selling these expensive art can help finance questionable operations, like terrorism. So it's not just capricious whims of bored rich people.

I just remembered an article in a NYT magazine last year about a man who is currently creating field where he combines art history with the "tools of criminology, pyschology and deductive logic" to help solve and retrieve valuable works of art. It was a very informative article about how he works on forming a profile on the type of person who would steal that painting, and then he would figure out how it was stolen. He is basically a pioneer in this field, and has really helped opened the eyes of the FBI and Scotland Yard. It is interesting that this forgotten field of crime is gaining some form of order and knowledge.

"'The art trade is the least transparent and least regulated commercial activity in the world,'' says Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register, a London-based company that maintains a leading database of stolen artworks."

I found the article and it was pubished in the NYT magazine's issue of December 17, 2006. The art historian/detective's name is Noah Carney. The article begins by describing his love of art, and how he would be the first suspect if a statue that he admires is stolen. It's a great piece written by Tom Mueller, and it is titled "To Sketch A Thief."

To end, I feel that Diana Picasso should get the help of Noah Carney. That would be great NYT karma there.

Link: 2 Paintings By Picasso Are Stolen in Paris- http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/01/arts/design/01pica.html?_r=1&ref=design&oref=slogin

Friday, February 23, 2007

Long Iraq Tours Can Make Home a Trying Front

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/23/us/23military.html?hp

In the NYT today, Lizette Alvarez wrote about the problems that soldiers who return from Iraq face with their families and their surroundings.

"Most families and soldiers cope heorically. But these separations jabe also left a trail of badly strained or broken unions, many severed by adultery or sexual addictions; burdened spouses...; financial turmoil...; emotionally bruised children...; and anxious parents who at times turn on each other."

I don't know about you guys, but I've always had that very victorious, brave image of a soldier returning from war and just enjoying life to the fullest because of everything he's seen. But sometimes, the reality that waits for them at home is not so celebaratory. It's heartbreaking that these soldiers are dealing with whatever they are dealing with at war, and they are constantly missing their friends and family- and then when they come back, they get pats on the back, but there doesn't seem to be a break for them.

When the article described that Cpl. John Callahan's wife had had two affairs since he's been gone, didn't pay for the credit card bills, and sent their children to live with her parents (this was the very first sentence of the article), it really hit home that going to war doesn't just affect the soldiers, it really also changes the lives of their spouses. I mean, there's the expected loneliness and worry, but then comes the not-so-great consequences from those emotions, like turning to another man when the husband is off serving the country, or just disregarding the children they have.

I watched Flags of Our Fathers yesterday and I remember Adam Beach's character, Ira Hayes, telling another person that he didn't want to be sent home, that he was going to be staying at the war. They sent him back anyway, and he spiraled into depression and alcoholism.

I can't even begin to imagine, and even the worst scenarios I think up- I know that's just not giving these experiences of the soldiers justice.

"When Sergeant Gallagher came home for two weeks last year, he walked out of the room anytime anyone talked about Iraq." That quote really got to me.

Here's another article for reference, from the LAtimes. It's about military amputees from the point of view of his spouse: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-journal23feb23,0,7265596.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The First Blog: Rape Accusation Reinforces Fears in a Divided Iraq

I've decided to create a blog where I can put down my thoughts about the news I read. I receive the New York Times everyday, and I try my best to read it. Sometimes I come across certain articles that really catch my attention, and I just feel like I need to write about it, but don't usually know where. So I guess this will be the place now.

The article that really stood out to me today is a front page story by Marc Santora. He's the NYT correspondent in Baghdad, I believe, and I really enjoy his writing. I think he is able to strike a neutral voice between the very angry sectarian opinions that are expressed on that side of the world.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/21/world/middleeast/21iraq.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

(I don't know how to shorten the link into a link. Sorry, guys.)

A Sunni woman announced on Baghdad TV that she was raped by Shiite officers. The entire community is shocked because no one really talks about rape so publicly. I mean, it's pretty alarming in a country as liberal and nosy as the US, imagine how strange and foreign it is for that to happen in Baghdad (I'm assuming).

What I thought was terrible was how the Sunnis and Shiites immediately got up in arms to defend themselves and blame each other. The Sunnis are saying that this is how the Shiites abuse their power, and the Shiites are saying that the woman is a liar and she is just trying to incite Sunni propoganda.

However, it is clear that Santora wishes to show that it shouldn't be about Sunni vs. Shiite. What the people should really be focusing on is the woman being raped by officers who are supposed to help maintain order.

"The case “should not be dealt with on a sectarian basis,” said Saleem Abdullah, a spokesman for the Tawafiq bloc of Sunni parties, which helped the woman come forward. “She is a sister for all Iraqis.”"

And then near the end of the article, Santora writes, "Sabah Salem, a professor at the Baghdad University College of Law, said that while men were occasionally charged with rape in Iraq and punished, many cases went unreported."

"'Rape cases in Iraq are viewed as a shameful thing to any woman regardless of the fact that she is the victim,' he said in an interview."

Santora is trying to point out that rape is happening in this world and it is going unreported, and a woman's body is being violated, and these people are just looking at it from the faulty, and extremely self-absorbed, perspective.