John Milton turns 400 today.


Happy birthday John!


Update: Posting Break and Career Move

I will be taking a break from regular posting, probably through the end of this calendar year (although I may post occasionally if something big comes up).

I'm in the process of gearing up for a career move into IT in 2009. I've been working in the clerical field - mostly Office Services and Litigation Copy - for most of my time in the private sector; that's the last 15 years. And the truth is, I enjoy clerical work ... but it's a job, not a career.

I've been interested in computers since I was a little kid. I attended the Talcott Mountain Science Center in my grade-school years (around 1974, age 11) and studied BASIC programming. I didn't study programming again until this past year when I began learning C and C++. ("What do you mean, there's no GOTO statment? How can you write a program without GOTO?!?")

I also enrolled in LearnIT! for the CompTIA A+ course - that's the entry-level certification for Windows-based computer techs. After I take (and pass) the certification exam, I'll be able to list myself as A+ certified.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the job postings for openings in the computer, technical, and IT fields that match my current skill set. I've got lots of end-user experience on both Windows and Macintosh. I have good customer service and people skills, and I'm comfortable with technology and problem-solving environments; so I am excited about this decision. If you're curious, here's my LinkedIn public profile: Asher Abrams.

I'll continue to post updates to DiL as time permits.


Mumbai, India Terrorist Attacks

A roundup of articles on the terrorist attacks at Mumbai, India.

Victims remembered. Neocon Express: 'Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivka Holtzberg headed up the Chabad Jewish center in Mumbai. The gunmen walked in and murdered them in front of their child who survived, rescued by an Indian employee. Americans Alan Scherr and his 13 year old daughter, Naomi Scherr, were murdered while eating dinner at the Taj Hotel. A gunman simply walked in and shot them in cold blood in the name of "Islam" for no reason other than their mere existence which was offensive to them. ...'

CNN: Witnesses describe horror. CNN:

Anthony Rose, an Australian visiting Mumbai to produce a travel show, told CNN Thursday that he checked into the Taj hotel just a minute before attackers stormed into the lobby Wednesday night.

"They came in with all guns blazing," Rose said. "It was just chaos." Video Watch Rose's comments on terror attacks »

Rose and others found refuge in a hotel ballroom, where they waited for six hours hoping to be rescued.

Although they could hear explosions and gunfire nearby, there were no sirens or police evident, he said.Video Watch how terror attacks have shaken India. »

Help never arrived and the group were forced to smash a thick glass window and climbed down to the street on curtains.

"As soon as the hotel was on fire, we knew we had to go," Rose said.

Meanwhile Manuela Testolini, founder of the In A Perfect World children's foundation and ex-wife of music icon Prince, described how she saw someone shot in front of her at the Taj before sheltering with 250 other terrified people in the darkened ballroom.

Full article at the link.

Footage of capture. Gateway Pundit: 'Caught in a car with its tires blown out the Mumbai terrorist was told by the police to come out with his hands up. Instead, the terrorist pulled out a pistol and shot 3 policemen dead. That's when the Indian crowd decided to do the job the police were meant to do. They beat his a$$ on the street.' From the video:

The footage, which was captured on a mobile phone, shows a furious crowd beating the alleged terrorist, Ajmal Qasab (Azam Amir Kasav), before he is taken away.

It allegedly shows him with other gunmen on Marine Drive, a few streets away from the train station where the group had just carried out a killing spree.

Fleeing the scene of the carnage, the gunmen were forced to stop because the tyres of their getaway car had blown out.

Hostages were tortured. Even hardened doctors used to violent deaths were shocked at what they saw. Rediff:

"Bombay has a long history of terror. I have seen bodies of riot victims, gang war and previous terror attacks like bomb blasts. But this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing," a doctor said.

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.

Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.

The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.

How an ISI Kashmir operation turned into a massacre at Mumbai. Steve Schippert at The Tank recommends this article in Asia Times Online:

A plan by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that had been in the pipelines for several months - even though official policy was to ditch it - saw what was to be a low-profile attack in Kashmir turn into the massive attacks on Mumbai last week.

The original plan was highjacked by the Laskar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistani militant group that generally focussed on the Kashmir struggle, and al-Qaeda, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200 people in Mumbai as groups of militants sprayed bullets and hand grenades at hotels, restaurants and train stations, as well as a Jewish community center.

The attack has sent shock waves across India and threatens to revive the intense periods of hostility the two countries have endured since their independence from British India in 1947.

There is now the possibility that Pakistan will undergo another about-turn and rethink its support of the "war in terror"; until the end of 2001, it supported the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. It could now back off from its restive tribal areas, leaving the Taliban a free hand to consolidate their Afghan insurgency.

The details of what happened:

Under directives from Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kiani, who was then director general (DG) of the ISI, a low-profile plan was prepared to support Kashmiri militancy. That was normal, even in light of the peace process with India. Although Pakistan had closed down its major operations, it still provided some support to the militants so that the Kashmiri movement would not die down completely.

After Kiani was promoted to chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj was placed as DG of the ISI. The external section under him routinely executed the plan of Kiani and trained a few dozen LET militants near Mangla Dam (near the capital Islamabad). They were sent by sea to Gujrat, from where they had to travel to Kashmir to carry out operations.

Meanwhile, a major reshuffle in the ISI two months ago officially shelved this low-key plan as the country’s whole focus had shifted towards Pakistan’s tribal areas. The director of the external wing was also changed, placing the “game” in the hands of a low-level ISI forward section head (a major) and the LET’s commander-in-chief, Zakiur Rahman.

Zakiur was in Karachi for two months to personally oversee the plan. However, the militant networks in India and Bangladesh comprising the Harkat, which were now in al-Qaeda’s hands, tailored some changes. Instead of Kashmir, they planned to attack Mumbai, using their existent local networks, with Westerners and the Jewish community center as targets.

Read the rest at the link. Schippert adds: 'And keep in mind that the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) was an original signatory to bin Laden's International Islamic Front in 1998, which formally created al-Qaeda as "the base" organization for international Islamic terror groups.' Here, according to Schippert, is the take-away analysis:

1. ISI fingerprints are on the genesis of the attack plan.

2. Upper echelons of ISI delegated seemingly unsupervised to a junior officer, who signed off on the LeT/al-Qaeda alterations from small Kashmir assault to large scale Mumbai killing spree.

3. Upper echelons of ISI & military perhaps unaware of alterations, but not with clean hands. Kashmir or Mumbai, they planned terror attacks.

4. That “major reshuffle in the ISI two months ago,” recall, was when Lt. General Nadeem Taj, a relative of Musharraf, was forced out as Director General of the ISI. It was a Pakistani intelligence shake-up largely by American insistence.
5. While the US had hoped the ‘double dealing’ of Taj would have left with him, it has to be understood that General Kiyani - head of Pakistan’s military and thus effectively its military intelligence (ISI) - while admirably stalwart against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the North West and tribal areas, has always been equally stalwart regarding the Pakistani conflict with India over disputed Kashmir.

General Kiyani may have intended a minor operation for Kashmir and was almost certainly in the dark about the metamorphosis of the operation into a Mumbai massacre, but the law of unintended consequences holds little acquittal when leaders play with the fire of terrorism.

Commentary. I'm absolutely at a loss to write anything fit to read about this atrocity. A small gang of sadistic psychopaths terrorize a city while the police cower and do nothing. A two-year-old boy is beaten while his parents are murdered. The only real heroes, apparently, were the hotel workers:

They were heroes in cummerbunds and overalls. The staff of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel saved hundreds of wealthy guests as heavily armed gunmen roamed the building, firing indiscriminately, leaving a trail of corpses behind them.

Among the workers there were some whose bravery and sense of duty led them to sacrifice their own lives, witnesses said.

Prashant Mangeshikar, a guest, said that a hotel worker, identified only as Mr Rajan, had put himself between one of the gunmen and Mr Mangeshikar, his wife and two daughters.

“The man in front of my wife shielded us,” Mr Mangeshikar said. “He was a maintenance section staff member. He took the bullets.” For the next 12 hours, before Mr Rajan was finally taken out of the hotel, guests battled to stop the bleeding from a gaping bullet wound in his abdomen. It is not known if he lived. ...

The Belmont Club has more.

It's late, and I don't have time to write any more now. I have a fourteen-month old girl who started walking last week, and who's up past her bedtime; elsewhere in this city, my twelve-year-old son is three weeks away from his thirteenth birthday and his bar mitzvah. I don't know what to say about all of this, or even how to think about it.


Morning Report: 2008-11-14

Unmistakable signs of progress, and a change of focus, in the war on terror.

"The war is over and we won." So says Michael Yon thru Instapundit:

Michael Yon just phoned from Baghdad, and reports that things are much better than he had expected, and he had expected things to be good. "There's nothing going on. I'm with the 10th Mountain Division, and about half of the guys I'm with haven't fired their weapons on this tour and they've been here eight months. And the place we're at, South Baghdad, used to be one of the worst places in Iraq. And now there's nothing going on. I've been walking my feet off and haven't seen anything. I've been asking Iraqis, 'do you think the violence will kick up again,' but even the Iraqi journalists are sounding optimistic now and they're usually dour." There's a little bit of violence here and there, but nothing that's a threat to the general situation. Plus, not only the Iraqi Army, but even the National Police are well thought of by the populace. Training from U.S. toops has paid off, he says, in building a rapport.

He says the big problem everybody is talking about now is corruption. But hey, we have that here, too. He'll be heading to Afghanistan next week. "Afghanistan is a bad situation, but on Iraq I can't believe things have turned out so well."

Voters more optimistic than ever about war on terror, Rasmussen says. Another grim milestone for the MSM: Rasmussen reports:

Voter confidence in the War on Terror has reached its highest level ever, with 60% now saying the United States and its allies are winning, according to the first Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey on the issue since Election Day. ...

Just 15% of voters say the terrorists are winning the War on Terror, which is the lowest level seen in tracking history dating back to April 2004. Another 18% say neither side is winning.

BTW, the paragraph at my ellipsis discusses lower voter confidence in "bringing the troops home from Iraq" during Obama's term, in case you were wondering. But that's a separate issue from winning or losing the WOT; and see Instapundit's comment. Shmuel Rosner at Commentary says: 'With more than two months until inauguration day–if these trends continue–it’s possible that all Obama will have to do by the time he takes the oath is to promise a continuation of Bush’s winning policies in Iraq.'

Britain to send 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan ... per request. The Telegraph:

The Government is considering sending extra reinforcements in order to meet an anticipated request from Barack Obama, the US president-elect, after he takes office in January, according to the BBC.

US strikes in Pakistan to continue. Bill Roggio at The Standard:

The U.S. military has struck yet again inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. U.S. Predators hit an al Qaeda safe house in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Twelve people, including five “foreigners” were killed in the attack.
The strike occurred just one day after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari protested the attacks. “It’s undermining my sovereignty and it’s not helping win the war on the hearts and minds of people,” Zardari said in an interview. On the same day, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry described the attacks as a “violation of international law.”
But the United States is stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue. On one hand, the attacks risk destabilizing Pakistan’s government and turn Pakistanis toward the extremists. On the other, U.S. intelligence strongly believes al Qaeda has regrouped in the tribal areas and is actively plotting strikes against the West, using men with Western passports.

Commentary. Tony Bey recommends Michael Rubin's article at Forbes arguing against the strategy of trying to "pry Syria away from Iran". Rubin:

It is tempting to believe that U.S. diplomacy can flip Syria. The last rejectionist Arab state, Syria is a lynchpin not only in the Arab-Israeli peace process, but also in efforts to resolve Iraqi insurgency and Lebanese instability. Alas, as audacious as Obama's hope might be, Syria cannot be flipped. It may be fashionable to blame Bush for the failure to seize a Damascus olive branch, but the real problem has less to do with any U.S. administration and much more to do with Arab history and political culture.

For more than a millennium, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo have competed for the leadership of the Arab world. ...

Diplomats seeking to flip Assad are asking him to commit political suicide. Syria has less than 20 million citizens to Egypt's 80 million; for Damascus to work in the same coalition as Cairo is to subordinate itself to it. Absent the crisis of resistance, Assad has little reason to justify rule by his Alawite clan, a minority Shiite sect, among a disenfranchised Sunni Arab majority.

Go read it all.



Total hits to date on DiL - Blogger: 73,380.

Thank you, and keep 'em coming.


Four Years

Tomorrow, April 21, marks four years of posting at Dreams Into Lightning and four years here on Blogger. The main site for this blog is now Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad, which has been in action for two years.

Since I started posting on TypePad, I've been cross-posting here more or less regularly, to maintain Dreams Into Lightning - Blogger as a backup and archive site.

I'm now going to discontinue my practice of copying identical posts from TypePad to Blogger. This site will remain up, but posting will be less frequent and will consist of summaries of, and links to, my most important posts at DiL - TypePad.

Thanks for visitng, and if you haven't done so yet, please bookmark Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad as the main location for this blog.


China Cracks Down on Tibet Freedom Protests

With the Olympics coming up, the thugs in Beijing are worried about China's image. Here's a roundup of the Chinese dictators' latest headaches.

Washington Times: China tightens grip on Tibet.
Foreign tourists were asked to leave Tibet yesterday, and witnesses said Lhasa looked like a ghost city after a day of violent protests Friday. Protesters were given until tomorrow to surrender to authorities or face criminal action.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported at least 10 "innocent civilians" were burned to death Friday. The Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government in India said Chinese authorities killed at least 30 Tibetans, including at least five by shooting, and as many as 100. The figures could not be independently verified. The Tibetan administration denied that the protesters came under fire.

China blocks YouTube.
Internet users in China have reported that they have been unable to access YouTube.com starting from Sunday. This happened after dozens of amateur videos chronicling the violence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, were apparently posted on the popular video-sharing site.

Excerpt from Wired blogs:

The blocking added to the communist government’s efforts to control what the public saw and heard about protests that erupted Friday in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, against Chinese rule. Access to YouTube.com, usually readily available in China, was blocked after videos appeared on the site Saturday showing foreign news reports about the Lhasa demonstrations, montages of photos and scenes from Tibet-related protests abroad.

This Ain't Hell: Buddhist monks lead democracy protests in Tibet.
Just as they did in Burma last fall, Buddhist monks are the engine driving the latest protests in Tibet ...

Go to the link for a complete roundup.

Gateway Pundit links to International Campaign for Tibet:
An unprecedented wave of protests swept monasteries and towns in eastern Tibet as violence and crackdown continued in Lhasa today.

More than a thousand monks were joined by laypeople in a major protest at Kirti monastery and town in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, this morning, which led to at least eight, possibly many more, people being killed, according to several sources. Three were named as Norbu, a 15-year old high school student, 30-year old Tsering, and Lobsang Tashi, 35. According to one reliable report, eight bodies had been on display outside the police station in Ngaba, in an act that appeared to have been intended to deter the local populace from further acts of protest.

According to one eyewitness report, the paramilitary armed police had been carrying out drills in the town in a display of force which appears to have angered Tibetans. After a morning prayer ceremony, monks reportedly joined laypeople in a spontaneous protest, shouting slogans of Tibetan freedom and in support of the Dalai Lama before armed police fired into the crowd. An eyewitness report from the area said that the local government run hospital was refusing to treat the wounded.

A crackdown may now be beginning in the county town of Machu (Chinese: Maqu), Gansu province, after an estimated 1500 Tibetans gathered this morning, calling for the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and shouting pro-independence slogans. Some were carrying Tibetan flags and images of the Dalai Lama. Around 11 truckloads of armed police were seen approaching the protestors by one eyewitness, according to a new report received by ICT.

Information of new protests in the region has emerged today so quickly that full confirmation of all details is not possible. Sources reported that despite high levels of fear and intimidation, and the shock of witnessing people being killed in front of them, Tibetans still had the courage to report on what they had seen. Unlike in Lhasa, where there has been an ethnic element to protests, the demands of demonstrators in monasteries and towns of eastern Tibet appeared to be entirely political, focusing on Tibetan freedom and independence, the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, and concerns about the Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who has been in Chinese custody since 1995. In one demonstration, protestors reportedly called for the dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Beijing to be supported. ...

Times Online: Chinese troops parade parade handcuffed Tibetan prisoners in trucks.
The Chinese Army drove through the streets of Lhasa today parading dozens of Tibetan prisoners in handcuffs, their heads bowed, as troops stepped up their hunt for the rioters in house-to-house searches.

As the midnight deadline approached for rioters to surrender, four trucks in convoy made a slow progress along main roads, with about 40 people, mostly young Tibetan men and women, standing with their wrists handcuffed behind their backs, witnesses said.

A soldier stood behind each prisoner, hands on the back of their necks to ensure their heads were bowed.

Dreams Into Lightning welcomes International Campaign for Tibet to the blogroll and our feed reader.

Via International Campaign for Tibet, Race for Tibet: San Francisco.
The International Campaign for Tibet invites Tibet supporters to join our Olympics campaign, Race for Tibet, by participating in two events coinciding with the arrival on U.S. soil of China's official 2008 Olympics Torch. At the University of California in Berkeley on April 7 and at U.N. Plaza in San Francisco on April 8, ICT will engage the public in an examination of China's human rights record in Tibet in this Olympics year.

The Chinese government, to underscore the theme of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, "One World, One Dream," is running the Olympics Torch around the world. The torch arrives in San Francisco - its only North American stop - on April 9.

We hope you will join ICT and a coalition of human rights advocates to honor the principles of fair play and human rights enshrined in the Olympics Charter, under which American and athletes from around the world will compete in Beijing. We will call on President Bush to publicly align himself with our positive message affirming these Olympics ideals before he departs to attend the Games.

Most critically, we will challenge the Chinese government to use the Olympics opportunity to step forward on the world stage, abandoning its human rights abuses and failed policies in Tibet.


On Monday April 7 at 7:00 p.m., the International Campaign for Tibet will host an interactive conversation on the situation in Tibet and other human rights considerations around Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics. The event is free and will be at the Joseph Wood Krutch Theatre on the Clark Kerr Campus of UC Berkeley, 2601 Warring Street. For directions please click here: http://www.housing.berkeley.edu/conference/conf_dirto_CKC.html

Refreshments will be served.

Anti-Chinese protesters in Tibet Monday faced a midnight deadline to surrender to police or face harsh punishment following days of violence as the region's governor insisted his security forces had showed restraint.

Shops, schools and businesses were open Monday in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, but tensions remained high throughout the territory and three neighboring provinces three days after deadly clashes.

Telegraph: Police flood Tibetan areas ahead of deadline.
Police staged a massive security operation across Tibetan occupied areas of China today in advance of a deadline for rioters and protestors to give themselves up to the authorities.

Convoys of paramilitary vehicles were seen on roads in the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan, which border on the Tibetan autonomous region.

In Rebkong, Qinghai province, which saw some of the earliest protests by monks in the current wave of disturbances back in February, riot squads were jogging in formation towards Tibetan areas of town this morning.

They were joined by hundreds of paramilitary police. ....


Interview with a Religious Abuse Survivor

Much of what I cover here at DiL is about the struggle against religious oppression in the Middle East. What follows here, though, is an interview (or more properly, Q&A) with a woman who was sent as a teenager to a Christian "religious school" in America. The institution she attended is profiled here:

1.When were you first sent to Victory? What caused your family to decide to
send you there?

I was 15 when I was first sent to VCA. It was April 10, 1990. My parents sent
me there because I was suicidal and had been in the psych ward for two months
and they couldn’t afford it anymore.

2.How long did you stay at Victory?

I was there until Dec 17, 1991. I also did a short stay from Oct 1992-Dec 1992
when I was 18 because I tried to kill myself again. I was 18 though so I was in
this weird limbo space where I was not a staff, but also not really a “girl” in
the school either. Kind of like in VCA purgatory.

3. You are familiar with the information posted at the ISAC site (
http://www.isaccorp.org/victorychristianacademy.asp ). Can you confirm any of
these incidents from your personal experience? Is there any information on the
site that you believe to be inaccurate? Are there other incidents that do not
appear on the site? Have there been any significant developments since 2005?

Yeah, I was there when the stuff went down with Rebecca R. It was
downright funky how crazy everything got. Palmer went absolutely nuts over
her. He would call her into his office with a one-way mirror during school all
day long and keep the lights off and play this really loud classical music. It
was a trip. He only ate bananas for weeks and lost all this weight and preached
all these love sermons. I don’t know much about any recent stuff, I have kept
my distance since I left.

4. I understand that local and county authorities may be unable or unwilling
to zealously pursue some of the allegations against VCA. Have State of Florida
or Federal authorities been involved in any way?

I don’t know. I think they are untouchable due to some kind of Christian school
organization that Palmer is part of. There is a woman ... who was in
the school about 1992 who could tell you more.

5.The mind control techniques are really creepy, especially this "sheep and
goats" business. G. tells me that our mutual friend survived by
internalizing the idea that "I am a sinner". Can you share some of your own
thoughts about this? As a child psychologist today, can you shed some light on
this process?

I think children have to make sense of the world by blaming themselves so they
can trust the adults who are in charge of them. Because, how scary would the
world be if the adults who are in control are really, really wrong? At VCA
especially, all the lies they were feeding us were all about what sinners and
whores, so this would compound the shame and blame we were already feeling.

6. Returning to your own experiences, how did you survive? When and how did
you finally get out? Did you know all along that "these people are really
f*cked up" or did you have to go through a period of "deprogramming" before you
could recognize the abuse for what it was? What things helped you along the
way? And what things made it harder?

I was abused my whole life. My mother was very abusive and a rage-a holic when
I was growing up, so I was used to being abused physically mentally and
emotionally. So really VCA wasn’t as bad for me as it could have been I wasn’t
physically abused there, only mentally and emotionally so yes it was fucked up,
but not anything I wasn’t used to. I got out after I graduated by going to an
almost equally weird college in Pensacola, which was just as misogynistic and
Christian based.

It did take me a while before I realized that what they did was abuse too.
Doing acid and going on Dead tour helped me to see that the world can be a
beautiful place and to experience freedom as a right and a responsibility. I
think also I naturally have a kind of resilient and happy-go-lucky personality
which has helped me to deal with the experiences I have had in my life. I also
went through 9 years of therapy…

7. Has VCA ever threatened or attempted legal action against ISAC or
individual survivors for exposing abuse and misconduct?

Not that I know of.

8.Have your family and community been supportive of your recovery process? How
has your experience at VCA influenced your views of religion? What would you
like to say to parents who might be considering sending their children to VCA?

My parents have never really admitted that they had any kind of real
responsibility for this. They still don’t even really believe it was all that
bad. I just don’t talk about it with them. I can’t even really set foot in a
church and listen to a preacher without getting angry any more. I still believe
in God and Jesus but not any more than I believe in my spirits and ancestors
and the Goddess and Buddha… I don’t pray to God and I don’t really hang out
with Christians. I’m pretty leery of Christians in fact. It took me a long time
to get over the anger I had towards the hypocrisy and fear-based indoctrination
of that place…It took me a long time not to generalize Christianity as what VCA
made it out to be.

9. Are there other so-called "schools" like VCA? What is being done about
them? What else can we do to help?

Yes there are other schools. I don’t know what’s being done though…


Science News

Evolution: Four aspects of human thought. PhysOrg: ' In new work presented for the first time at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, presents his theory of “humaniqueness,” the factors that make human cognition special. He presents four evolved mechanisms of human thought that give us access to a wide range of information and the ability to find creative solutions to new problems based on access to this information. ... These four novel components of human thought are the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding; to apply the same “rule” or solution to one problem to a different and new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.'

History: Napoleon not murdered, say Italian physicists. PhysicsWorld: 'The idea that Napoleon Bonaparte was murdered by arsenic poisoning appears to have been ruled out by new research by nuclear physicists in Italy. The team analysed samples of the French emperor’s hair that they had irradiated with neutrons and found that it contains about the same amount of arsenic as hair from several of his contemporaries — suggesting that the poison probably came from environmental sources such as wallpaper dyes, rather than from a malicious poisoner. ...'

Astronomy: Organics on Titan. Astronomy: 'Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.'

Mathematics: MathWorld gets a new look. Wolfram Blog reports on the newest upgrades at Wolfram MathWorld. Also, if you are a math geek, do not miss Wolfram Demonstrations. It's crack for mathheads, baby.

Marine life: Save the sharks! PhysOrg reports that extinction may be looming in the future of many large shark species.

The Good News

Denmark MPs: Iranian regime "must be nuts". Judith Apter Klinghoffer:
This time the Danes are more united and more determined to defend their own freedoms. This time the Danish press acted as one. 23 newspapers reprinted the cartoons on the same day. The message of defiance was clear and inhibited the ability of politicians to kow tow to Muslim "sensitivities."

Iranian failure to take this into account led to its humiliating rebuff. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Danish parliament was about to visit their Iranian counterparts. The Iranian Parliamentarians notified their future guests that they will refuse to meet with them unless an apology for the republication of the cartoons precedes the Danish MPs. The Danes responded by canceling the visit. Cultural understanding, they insisted, is a two way street.

Judith's friend further reports that 'the committee unanimously refused to deliver an apology for what Danish free media prints, and has canceled the planed trip to Iran, and has on public TV said that the Iranians must be nuts (Yes, these were the words), to come up with such demands, and that there's no way Danish politicians are going to visit the country under such conditions.' Arutz Sheva reports similarly blunt language from the Danes: 'Ten members of Denmark’s Parliament have cancelled a trip to Iran following Iran’s insistence that they apologize for the publication in Danish newspapers of cartoons depicting the founder of Islam, Mohammed. A member of the Danish Foreign Policy Committee explained Saturday that the lawmakers had been asked to condemn the cartoons. “They can’t and they won’t,” she said.' Meanwhile, dozens of Danish newspapers have reprinted the cartoons in a show of support for free speech.

Progress in Iraq. And even the New York Times admits it. Sunni extremism is now in retreat.

France may boycott Durban over anti-semitic, anti-Israel propaganda. JTA: 'Nicolas Sarkozy said France would not participate in the Durban II racism conference if it repeated the 2001 anti-Semitic debacle. "France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001," the French president told CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish groups, in an address this week.'

European book fairs to honor Israel. The good news from France doesn't stop with Durban. Turning back to A7, we learn that the largest book fairs in France and Italy are honoring Israel: 'In recognition of its 60th year of independence, the State of Israel will be the "guest of honor" at two of Europe's largest book fairs this year. Dozens of Israeli authors have been invited to France and Italy for the events. The two fairs, each of which regularly draws upwards of 200,000 people, will feature displays and activities about Hebrew literature and the culture of the Jewish State. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to open the five-day Paris Book Fair on March 14 ...' And in Italy, the Turin International Book Fair will open on May 8 - the Hebrew anniversary date of Israel's independence - and will feature Israeli books and films.

Patriots demonstrate at Silver Spring. Tom the Redhunter reports on counter-demos against the leftists at the Silver Spring, Maryland recruiting station.

At US-Islamic World Forum, keynote speakers sound a new tone. The Belmont Club:
Tamara Cofman, who's attending the annual 5th Annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum notices that anti-US rhetoric is way down this year. Instead of fire-breathing anti-American keynote speakers, "the opening keynote was instead delivered by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who argued that Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia were right to expect and accept American military intervention to relieve their suffering, and America was just in coming to their aid."

The reason for the change in tone has been a grudging respect for successes in American foreign policy and Washington's new focus on Iran.

Read the post to find out where a certain well-known American fits in the picture.


Make Love, Not Jihad

V-day is Verboten-day in the theocratic Muslim world. Here's Robert Spencer at Human Events, via Muslims Against Sharia:
The ever-tolerant Muslim world is now condemning Valentine’s Day.

Jamaan al-Harbash, a member of the Kuwaiti parliament, has called for Valentine’s Day celebrations to be banned. “We call on the commerce minister,” he declared in a fine froth of moral indignation, “to perform his duties by banning celebrations of Valentine’s Day which is alien to our society -- and contradicts our religion’s values and teachings.” Another Kuwaiti MP, Waleed al-Tabtabai, chief of a committee in parliament that monitors “alien practices,” said his committee will undertake a study this week on how to stop Valentine’s Day from initiating the “moral corruption” of Kuwaiti youth.

Over in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, the notorious religious police who go by the name of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have banned red roses. The Virtue Cops have even ordered florists and gift shops in Riyadh to take any red item off the shelf, lest Saudi lovebirds associate red with hearts and start a-spooning. Nothing new in that: in 2004, the Saudi fatwa committee forbade Saudis from celebrating the day: “It is a pagan Christian holiday and Muslims who believe in God and Judgment Day should not celebrate or acknowledge it or congratulate (people on it). It is a duty to shun it to avoid God’s anger and punishment.”

This is not just an Arabian Peninsula thing, either. ...

Read the rest at the link. Happy Valentine's Day.
Make love, not jihad!


Morning Report: February 10, 2008

Terrorists in Iraq continue to lose ground. What's the difference betseen a leftist and a liberal? The Gray Lady's blurry vision.

Terrorist's diary reveals despair. Washington Post via MSNBC reports on the diary of an Iraq insurgent calling himself Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector. 'Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader detailed the organization's demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or "Awakening," forces.' The diary was found during a raid on a safe house in Balad, Iraq, on November 3 by US forces. Full article at the link.

Adam Gadahn said to be killed. Bill Roggio, Long War Journal:
One day after a Pakistani newspaper reported al Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn may have been killed in the same airstrike that killed al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi, the rumor remains unconfirmed.

Speculation over Gadahn's presence at the al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan began on Jan. 29, the day of the airstrike. An unnamed US official denied Gadahn was killed in the strike. But on Feb. 7, The News reported, based on statements from Western sources, that Gadahn was killed in the airstrike.

Gadahn was believed to be en route to the village of Khushali Tari Khel to attend an "an important meeting with other senior al-Qaeda commanders for planning the so-called spring offensive against US and NATO troops in Afghanistan," The News reported. Two other al Qaeda leaders, Abu Obeida Tawari al Obeid, a Saudi; and Abu Adel al Kuwaiti, were also reported killed in the North Waziristan airstrike.

Totten: Assad suckers Obama. Michael J. Totten: 'Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal. The difference between an American liberal and an American leftist on Lebanon is enormous. I can’t tell you how many Western leftists I’ve met who ran off to Beirut where they endlessly excuse or even outright support Hezbollah. ... Obama’s problem isn’t that he’s on the wrong side. His problem is he’s the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of naïve Westerners who think they can reason with Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad.' Go to the article in Contentions at Commentary for the rest.

Briefly noted. "The declining terrorist threat."

Commentary. Phyllis Chesler takes on Noah Feldman and the New York Times for its oddly selective sympathy for religious wearers of head coverings ... among certain religions, but not others.
Here’s an idea: In a gesture towards even-handedness, perhaps The Paper of Record might also agitate for the right of European Jews to wear headcoverings (kipot or yarmulkes) without risking being cursed, beaten, or knifed to death? Better yet: How about some even-handed agitation for the religious rights, not only of Muslims in Turkey, but of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Ba’hai, and Zoroastrians, to practice their religions openly in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia—without being arrested and stoned to death?



Egg Against a Rock

The Belmont Club considers a hypothetical Chinese attack.
But these would take out only a fraction of American combat power. Most US strength is deployed far back. Nor does it take into account the very considerable combat power of Japan and Korea, which if once deployed, would a force to reckon with. In fact, Chinese military planners have expressed the professional opinion that any such surprise attacks would be like “throwing an egg against a rock.” If so, why are the Chinese even contemplating such scenarios?

Because the American public is “abnormally sensitive” about military casualties, according to an article in China’s Liberation Army Daily, killing U.S. airmen or other personnel would spark a “domestic anti-war cry” on the home front and possibly force early withdrawal of U.S. forces.

He's quoting Roger Cliff in AIM Points Magazine.

Remarks. I recently mentioned the evolving Iran-Russia-China axis with a link from FrontPage Magazine:
Iran is rightly portrayed as one of the most pressing threats to the United States and her interests. But Iran remains in many respects a piece on the chessboard of a greater Russian and Chinese game.

Iran seeks greater power and regional dominance and enjoys the support of both Russia and China in its pursuits. Both afford Iran the protection of cover and interference at the UN Security Council and other diplomatic endeavors, allowing Iran to continue its nuclear efforts under a fairly comfortable security blanket.

For Russia, already sitting atop a major portion of the world's oil reserves, the gains are monetary and psychological, with Iran as a major arms client as well as its principle client in Russia's lucrative nuclear construction and supply market. The Bushehr plant construction alone was a $1 billion dollar deal, with the potential prospects of more in the relatively near future.

For China, the issue is one of energy. Just as the Russian supply of nuclear fuel began transit preparations within hours of the release of the December Iran NIE, China in turn immediately signed a massive long-term energy deal with Iran worth billions. Before the NIE, there was hesitance from China in signing an open deal. The United States in particular had made specific demands for more sanctions against a recalcitrant Iran as well as public calls for other nations to specifically stop making energy agreements until Iran complies. Signing the energy deal before hand would have meant strained relations with lucrative trading partners and potential economic damage. China was patient, as it always is. And the NIE afforded them the diplomatic cover necessary to ink the deal, affording the oil-starved dragon energy relief and enriching the Iranian regime during economic plight.

What remains to be seen is whether the American public of the 21st century will prove as pliant as our adversaries imagine. I'm betting they've got us figured wrong.


Zero Dimensional

“No, I mean they would kill me.”

There are problems, and then there are problems.

Nicholas Kulish, writing in the New York Times' Berlin Journal, tells us about the lives of gay Muslims in Europe, as seen at a gay dance club in Berlin.
But most of the people filling the dance floor on Saturday at the club SO36 in the Kreuzberg neighborhood were gay, lesbian or bisexual, and of Turkish or Arab background. They were there for the monthly club night known as Gayhane, an all-too-rare opportunity to merge their immigrant cultures and their sexual identities.
Well, that's nice. But there are a few harsh realities to be dealt with. Here's how Kulish explains it:

European Muslims, so often portrayed one-dimensionally as rioters, honor killers or terrorists, live diverse lives, most of them trying to get by and to have a good time. That is more difficult if one is both Muslim and gay.

Our friend Nicholas Kulish wants you to know he won't have any of this nasty stereotyping; far be it from the New York Times to portray Muslims - one-dimensionally or otherwise - as honor killers or terrorists. So we learn that
To be a gay man or lesbian with an immigrant background invites trouble here in two very different ways.

“Depending on which part of Berlin I go to, in one I get punched in the mouth because I’m a foreigner and in the other because I’m a queen,” said Fatma Souad, the event’s organizer and master of ceremonies.

And these two things are exactly equal to one another, right? But there's something odd going on here:
But gay men and lesbians from Muslim families say they face extraordinary discrimination at home. A survey of roughly 1,000 young men and women in Berlin, released in September and widely cited in the German press, found much higher levels of homophobia among Turkish youth.

You don't say?
Hatin Sürücü was shot dead at a bus stop in Berlin, Germany, on February 7. The 23-year-old Turkish woman was mourned by the lesbian and gay community, but not by her family. Deutsche Welle reports:
To the people who came to this bleak part of Berlin's Tempelhof district for Tuesday's solemn vigil -- called not by the city's Muslim community but a gay and lesbian organization -- the image of the young woman in a headscarf, a baby in her arms, was familiar from newspapers and television. A few notes at the memorial read, "Hope you get a better deal in your next life," and "Live a life on your own terms."

"It's a scandal," said Ali K, 33. "All Muslims in Berlin should take to the streets to protest." Yasemin, 22, said, "It's horrific. All Hatin was doing was leading her life the way she wanted."

But it was a choice she paid for with her life. On Feb. 7, 23-year-old Hatin Sürücü was gunned down at the aforementioned bus stop. She died on the spot. Shortly afterwards, three of her brothers -- who reportedly had long been threatening her -- were arrested. Investigators suspect it was a so-called "honor killing," given the fact that Sürücü's ultra-conservative Turkish-Kurdish family strongly disapproved of her modern and "un-Islamic" life.

Sürücü grew up in Berlin and was married off at 16 to a cousin in Istanbul. ...

Here's more from the DW article on Hatin Sürücü:
Days after Hatin Sürücü was killed, some male students of Turkish origin at a high school near the scene of the crime reportedly downplayed the act. During a class discussion on the murder, one said, "She (Hatin Sürücü) only had herself to blame," while another remarked "She deserved what she got --the whore lived like a German." The school's director promptly dashed off a letter to parents and students, castigating the students and warning that the school didn’t tolerate incitement against freedom.

Oh, but wait. Silly me. I've gotten distracted. We were talking about the wonderful gay night life in Berlin. Let's get back to Nicholas Kulish. Now where were we? Ah, yes, "... much higher levels of homophobia among Turkish youth."
“These differences are there,” said Bernd Simon, who led the study and is a professor of social psychology at Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel. “We can’t deny them. The question is how do we cope with them.”

“The answer is not to replace homophobia with Islamophobia,” he added, pointing out that homophobia is also higher among Russian immigrants and in other, less urban parts of Germany.

Well that certainly is enlightening. "The answer is not to replace homophobia with Islamophobia," the good professor instructs us. Homophobia, islamophobia ... six of one, half a dozen of the other. And we may not know what the answer is (Professor Simon hasn't even attempted to answer his own question) but at least we know what it is not. I feel better already.

But what are those gay Muslims themselves saying?
Kader Balcik, a 22-year-old Turk from Hamburg, said: “For us, for Muslims, it’s extremely difficult. When you’re gay, you’re immediately cut off from the family.”

He had recently moved to Berlin not long after being cut off from his mother because he is bisexual. “A mother who wishes death for her son, what kind of mother is that?” he asked, his eyes momentarily filling with tears.

Hasan, a 21-year-old Arab man, sitting at a table in the club’s quieter adjoining cafe, declined to give his last name, saying: “They would kill me. My brothers would kill me.” Asked if he meant this figuratively, he responded, “No, I mean they would kill me.”

And so, at the end of his 1100-word opus, Nicolas Kulish has his epiphany. Like a sort of reverse Balaam, he wanted to say only nice things about gay life for Muslims in Germany. But reality had other ideas.


Last week, two young lives were snuffed out in Texas.
Yaser Abdel Said, 50, was wanted on a warrant for capital murder after police say he shot the girls Tuesday and left them to die in his taxi, which was found parked in front a hotel in Las Colinas, a suburb north of Dallas. Police said Mr. Said should be considered armed and dangerous.

Friends of Amina Yaser Said, 18, and Sarah Yaser Said, 17, described the girls to the Dallas Morning News as "extremely smart — like geniuses," saying the slain sisters had been enrolled in advanced placement classes and were active in soccer and tennis at suburban Lewisville High School.

While police refused to discuss a possible motive for the crimes, family and friends told reporters that the girls' Westernized lifestyle caused conflict with their Muslim father, who immigrated from Egypt in the 1980s.

This comes on the heels of the murder of Aqsa Parvez in Canada last month.
A 16-year-old girl is dead and her father has been charged with murder after an attack in a Mississauga home.

Aqsa Parvez, a student at Applewood Heights Secondary School, had been on life support in hospital since yesterday morning.

Police went to the family's two-storey home on Longhorn Trail about 8 a.m. yesterday after receiving a 911 call in which a man allegedly claimed to have killed his daughter.

Paramedics found Aqsa with a faint pulse and rushed her to hospital. She was later transferred to a Toronto hospital and placed on life support.

Peel police said this morning that she died overnight.

Friends at the victim’s school said she feared her father and had argued over her desire to shun the hijab, a traditional shoulder-length head scarf worn by females in devout Muslim families.

Here's Phyllis Chesler:
Just yesterday, an Egyptian Arab Muslim father in Dallas, Texas allegedly shot his two beautiful teenage daughters to death because he disapproved of their American-style ways. Their names were Amina and Sarah Said and their father’s name was Abdul Said. The girls looked sassy and full of life; they looked like Dallas teenagers. They were 17 and 18 years old and their friends considered them “geniuses.” Abdul was a taxi driver. (In parts of Europe, taxi drivers are known to aid and abet honor murders).

Perhaps how Amina and Sarah dressed, and how they thought, shamed their father Abdul. He was no longer in control of his women—a mark of shame which provoked his need to kill them. Perhaps their flowering sexuality enraged him because it made him desire them—and from this he concluded that other men might desire them too and if he could not have them, no man could.
The blogs and the local Texas media (the Dallas Morning News) were all over this. Hot Air, Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch, were too. The only national coverage of this story was contained in the Washington Times. Why did the national and international media so far shy clear of this story? Perhaps they chose to dig deeper first or maybe they were waiting for an arrest to be made. But one also wonders: Were they afraid of being accused of “Islamophobia” if they reported the truth?

There's that word again. Where is all this islamophobia coming from, anyway? Via Muslims Against Sharia, here's an article in the Yemen Times arguing unironically that there must be violence against women:
This title may sound strange, but it’s actually not just a way to attract readers to the topic because I really do mean what it indicates. Violence is a broad term, especially when used regarding women. In this piece, I want to shed light on those instances where violence against women is a must. ...

Perhaps Abdul Said, fine upstanding chap that he is, was just doing his Islamic duty. We know he was a good Egyptian Muslim; perhaps of the same moral fiber as those Egypt-based internet users who populate my site statistics with searches like "egypt women fuck", "pics of egyption woman for fuck", "egyptian fucking pictures", "fucking girls from egypt", "fucking egyptian girls", and similarly inspiring sentiments. Or perhaps there's some profound cultural and moral value that's being upheld by the sexual harassment of women in Egypt. But I'm digressing again.

And I'm probably being unfair by picking on the Egyptians, so I'll turn now to Irshad Manji, a lesbian Muslim of South Asian background, on Aqsa Parvez:
Aqsa Parvez told friends and adults at her public high school that she feared what her father would do if she stuck by her decision to reject the hijab — the Islamic headscarf. She also said it’s better to live in a shelter than at home.

Nobody listened. Now she’s dead.

Moderate Muslims have warned that we shouldn’t leap to conclusions. Who knows what other dynamics infected her family, spout hijab-hooded mouthpieces on Canadian TV. Not once have I heard these upstanding Muslims say that whatever the “family dynamics,” killing is not a solution. Ever. How’s that for basic morality?

Irshad goes on to make an important point: even "progressive" non-Muslims fall into the trap of confusing the hijab (which Irshad contends is itself of pre-Muslim, tribal origin) with the basic Muslim injunction to "dress modestly".

And this brings us to the idea expressed in the title of Irshad's post - "Covering up the diversity of Muslim women." By refusing to see women in the Muslim world as individuals with hopes, needs, fears, dreams, and faces of their own, the self-styled "progressive" left buys into the notion of women as objects - expressions of an exotic oriental culture more primitive, and yet somehow ineffably wiser, than our own, decadent, materialistic, industrialist Western world.

Times Online reports: Woman artist gets death threats over gay Muslim photos.
THE Dutch were debating the limits of freedom of expression last week after an artist who photographed gay men wearing masks of the prophet Muhammad was forced into hiding and her work removed from a museum exhibit.

Speaking on the telephone from an unspecified location in the Netherlands last week, the artist, an Iranian exile who goes by the pseudonym of Sooreh Hera, said she had been threatened with “execution”. She accused the director of the municipal museum in The Hague of cowardice for caving in to Muslim extremists.

Her story is a reminder of the tensions that have put the Netherlands and other European countries on the front line, sending dozens of people threatened by extremists into hiding since 2004, when a Dutch film-maker was murdered on the street and his collaborator driven into exile. [That's Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for those of you who may need a reminder. - aa]

This leaves Hera, 34, in no doubt that she is in real danger. “They said to me, ‘We’re going to burn you naked or put a bullet in your mouth’,” she said, referring to menacing e-mails.

“They say, ‘Now you are locked in your home and you cannot go out any more’.”

She said that by photographing gay Iranian exiles in masks of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and Ali, his son-in-law, she had wanted to expose a “hypocritical” attitude towards homosexuality in countries such as Iran, where men can be hanged for homosexual conduct. ...

I can picture Sooreh Hera patiently explaining the death threats to the Dutch police: "No, I mean they would kill me."

Read the rest at the link. You know, when the words "woman", "artist", "gay", and "death threats" all occur in a single headline, you'd think this would be just the kind of thing the liberal left ought to be on top of. Well ...
Wouter Bos, the deputy prime minister, seemed to take a stand for freedom of speech, saying: “In a democracy, we do not recognise the right not to be insulted.” The left wing de Volkskrant newspaper, by contrast, praised the museum for its “great professionalism” in excising the images.

Gateway Pundit has a roundup; and here's a link to Sooreh Hera.


To worry, as the journalist quoted in the first section above did, about the "one-dimensional" portrayal of terrorists and honor murderers, is to forget the victims. Not merely to forget, but to deliberately blot out of memory. As if it was only the aggressor, and not the victim, who had any reality to begin with. Then one must dance, so to speak, around the reality of violence and fear that rules the lives of so many dissidents, women, and gay people in the Muslim world.

Ironically it's exactly these people - folks like the well-meaning journalist - who help to create the "one-dimensional" picture of Islam, while ignoring the lives of those who sought to reimagine, reinvent, reform, question, rebel against, or abandon Islam entirely.

I am not going to split hairs over whether these atrocities were committed "by Islam", "in the name of Islam", "by extremists who hijacked Islam", or whatever. The common thread is a hatred of joy, creativity, diversity, and life itself. It is a nihilistic desire to reduce the rich flower of the living world to a zero-dimensional state of uniformity and nothingness.

This time last year, Aqsa Parvez and Sarah and Amina Said were active, healthy, determined young women. Now all that's left of them is a collection of pixels on the screen of your computer, and the memories they left behind with those who knew them.

Remember their faces. Remember their names.

Aqsa Parvez

Sarah and Amina Said


Morning Report: January 2, 2008

A shooting in Sudan, a massacre in Kenya, a scandal in Malaysia, a volcano in Chile, and more.

Sudan probes US diplomat's death, claims "not a terrorist attack". ABC: 'Sudan Sudanese authorities on Wednesday questioned witnesses in the slaying of an American diplomat who was shot by gunmen in a drive-by attack in the capital. Sudanese officials insisted the shooting was not a terrorist attack but the U.S. Embassy said it was too soon to determine the motive. John Granville, 33, an official for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was being driven home at about 4 a.m. Tuesday when another vehicle cut off his car and opened fire before fleeing the scene, the Sudanese Interior Ministry said.'

Church burned in Kenya; many killed. AP: ' NAIROBI, Kenya - A mob torched a church where hundreds had sought refuge Tuesday, and witnesses said dozens of people — including children — were burned alive or hacked to death with machetes in ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed election. The killing of up to 50 ethnic Kikuyus in the Rift Valley city of Eldoret brought the death toll from four days of rioting to more than 275, raising fears of further unrest in what has been one of Africa's most stable democracies.' Gateway Pundit has a roundup on this tragedy.

Malaysia minister resigns after sex video. AP via MSNBC reports that Malaysia's Health Minister Chua Soi Lek has resigned after being pwned on video with a woman in a hotel room. He's married with three kids.

Volcano erupts in Chile. AP via CNN reports that hundreds of people fled a volcanic eruption in Conguillio National Park, about 400 miles south of Santiago.

Irshad responds to critics. Irshad Manji responds to feedback on her CNN commentary faulting the late Benazir Bhutto for failing to fulfill her potential:
Many of you have branded me tasteless, disrespectful, opportunistic and just plain selfish for refusing to practice hero worship.

Some have called my commentary a personal attack on Bhutto. But questioning someone’s track record is not the same as challenging their humanity. Surely people who believe in Bhutto’s democratic ideals would appreciate the essence of democracy: dissent.

Dissent is fine, others wrote, but why so soon after her murder? Let me turn the question around. Would media be interested in airing a balanced assessment of Bhutto’s achievements after her death ceases to be news? Sorry, people. That’s not the way journalism works.

Better that something thoughtful be published and criticized than not submitted at all because its nuance or timing will offend. If you can’t handle offense, then you can’t handle meaningful democracy....

Go to the link for the rest.

Bhutto killing: CTB names names. Paul Cruickshank at the Counterterrorism Blog: 'It is much too early to say for sure who ordered Benazir Bhutto killed. The Musharraf regime has not done itself any favors by the way it has handled the aftermath of her assassination, helping to fuel conspiracy theories about her death. But that should not detract from the fact that the prime suspect, Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander in South Waziristan with presumed strong links to al Qaeda, had both the motive and capability to see her killed. If the accusations against Mehsud hold up then it will be no easy task for the Pakistani authorities to bring him to justice.' More at the Guardian,

The drone surge. In from the Cold covers the increase in UAV activity in recent months:
From the robots used against roadside bombs, to the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operating overhead, our military forces are relying, more than ever, on remotely operated systems to save lives and expand capabilities. ...

A Pentagon official interviewed for the story predicts that demand for the drones will remain high, despite the projected decline in ground units. That will (likely) renew the debate over UAV employment, and how much coverage is really required for on-going operations. Accidents aside, the sustained, high operations tempo of Predator, Raven and Global Hawk units puts added pressure on crews, maintenance personnel, the logistics system--and the extensive intelligence network used to process information gathered by UAVs.

Read it all at the link.

Dear Mom. Jason at Countercolumn retells his grandfather's harrowing loss of his crewmates to the Luftwaffe on August 17, 1943. And: "On September 8th, 2001, he found them." Read it all.

Zoe: Activist, neocon. After delivering a meticulous rebuttal to a backward-thinking article at the Wall Street Journal, Zoe at A. E. Brain muses:
I have no illusions that I won't get soaking wet either. But what makes me a neo-con rather than a Kumbayah-singing feelgood Hippie is that I believe in personal responsibility, and actually doing something to keep the dark of ignorance away rather than singing or praying. Not that I can do much. Write articles, letters, talk to politicians, fight my own personal battles, give help on support sites where "we are so close we bleed in each others wounds" and try to live my life too without this dominating my blog or my life too much. I loathe being an "activist", it is so, so Not Me, but what else can I do and remain true to my principles?

And in the meantime, a nuclear-armed power is descending into anarchy, a brave woman has lost her life, in the long term there's a decreasing likelihood that the majority of denizens of the solar system will speak English or live under a Democracy in 300 years time, and I should keep my sense of proportion.

Commentary. Norm Geras has some thoughts on the liberal "Who are we to criticize?" mantra:
Two familiar variants of the 'Who are we?' objection don't withstand much scrutiny. One is the frankly relativist variant that would forbid us from applying 'our' standards - on human rights, democracy, etc - to another culture which supposedly doesn't share those standards. The relativist argument fails for the simple reason, among others, that it treats the culture in question as a monolith. In virtually every case of this kind there are people within that culture who are themselves proponents of the criticisms coming from without and of the values in light of which these are being levelled. To say of some external 'we' that it's none of our business is in effect to argue for leaving such people, local critics of dictatorship and oppression, unsupported against the upholders and beneficiaries of dictatorship and oppression.

A second variant of the argument says that our real business is to concentrate on political sins and omissions close to home - where (the implication often is) we are more capable of making a difference for the better. Apart from the fact that the one focus doesn't rule out the other since you can object to injustices in your own society while giving what support you can to movements against injustice elsewhere, this argument is usually one of mere convenience anyway. Most of its sponsors don't genuinely believe that, for example, the work of the anti-Apartheid movement internationally was misguided, or that people in Britain should ignore the appeals of Amnesty International concerning prisoners of conscience in far-off places. They're just wanting to discomfit some political interlocutor over a criticism he or she has made, the force of which they'd prefer not to have to acknowledge.

I mean to do a post one of these days on the liberal "we". Meanwhile, let's keep working to make this year - and every year - better than the one before.