Frankincense, one of the world’s oldest fragrances, is a gum resin that exudes from the bark of Boswellia trees, which grow in countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It has been used for more than 6,000 years by every civilization, from Mesopotamia to the present.
It is one of the oldest fragrances in the world. Nicolas Baldovini’s team at the Institut de chimie de Nice (CNRS/UNS) has just discovered the components that give frankincense its distinctive odor: two molecules found for the first time in nature, named “olibanic acids” by the scientists. Their research results have just been published online, on the website of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
It is mentioned more than twenty times in the Bible, where it is one of the gifts offered by the Three Wise Men. Frankincense (also called olibanum), one of the world’s oldest fragrances, is a gum resin that exudes from the bark of Boswellia trees, which grow in countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It has been used for more than 6,000 years by every civilization, from Mesopotamia to the present. Regularly burned during religious ceremonies, it contributes to the very particular smell of churches. Despite its long history and the large amount of research dedicated to it, the exact nature of the molecules that give frankincense its distinctive fragrance surprisingly remained unknown…(read more)
‘We Caved’: How Barack Obama’s Idealistic Rhetoric Collided With the Cold Realities of War and Dictatorship in the Middle EastPosted: January 9, 2016
The persistent problem of how to deal with American-allied strongmen has long tripped up an inflexible president who boasts of his preference for ‘pragmatic solutions’ over moral purity but has been unable to find much of either in the Middle East.
Eight new American fighter jets, freshly delivered from Washington, swooped low over the city, F-16s flying in formation. As they banked hard over the city’s center, they trailed plumes of red, white and black smoke—the colors of the Egyptian flag.
“The rhetoric got way ahead of the policymaking. It … raised expectations that everything was going to change.”
— Michael Posner, who served as Obama’s top State Department official for human rights and democracy in his first term
For Egypt’s brutally repressive president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the spectacle was a triumph, symbolizing not only his militaristic power at home, but also his victory over an American president who had tried to punish him before surrendering to the cold realities of geopolitics.
“He’s never quite melded his rhetoric with his policies.”
— Dennis Ross, who served as Obama’s top Middle East aide in his first term
Just two years earlier, Sisi had seized power in a military coup, toppling Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected successor to Hosni Mubarak, himself a strongman of 30 years pushed out in early 2011 by mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the summer of 2013, Sisi followed his coup with a brutal crackdown that would have done Saddam Hussein proud. His security forces arrested thousands of people, including much of his political opposition, and in one bloody day that summer, they gunned down some 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters (or more) who were staging peaceful sit-ins. The massacre was shocking even by the standards of Egypt’s long-dismal human rights record.
“It seems like we are swinging back to the idea that we must make a choice between supporting dictators or being safe.”
— Robert Ford, who was Obama’s ambassador to Syria before resigning in frustration over the president’s policy there
Obama was appalled. “We can’t return to business as usual,” he declared after the slaughter. “We have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and ideals.”
Several weeks later, Obama halted the planned delivery of U.S. military hardware to Cairo, including attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and several F-16 fighter jets, as well as $260 million in cash transfers. He also cast doubt on the future of America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt—a subsidy on which Cairo depends heavily, and much more than the United States sends to any country in the world aside from Israel.
But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. Read the rest of this entry »
Since October 10, ISIS and its sympathizers around the world have killed at least 525 people in six attacks in six countries outside its so-called caliphate.
Here is the chronology and body count of the attacks, with U.S. intelligence analysis of who was behind each:
—Oct. 10: The bombing of peace demonstrations outside the main train station in Ankara, Turkey left 102 dead. Directed by ISIS.
—Nov. 10: Two suicide bombers detonating themselves in a marketplace in southern Beirut, Lebanon, killing 43 people. Directed by ISIS.
—Nov. 13: Attacks on multiple sites in Paris, including the Bataclan theater, left 130 dead — excluding attackers. Directed by ISIS.
—Nov. 24: The bombing of a bus carrying members of the presidential guard in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis left at least 12 dead. An “announcement” attack by the ISIS affiliate in Tunisia. Read the rest of this entry »
‘We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act’
MOSCOW – The Kremlin said for the first time on Tuesday that a bomb had ripped apart a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month and promised to hunt down those responsible and intensify its air strikes on Islamist militants in Syria in response.
“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance.”
Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash, in which 224 people were killed on Oct. 31, was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.
But in a late night Kremlin meeting on Monday three days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers’ personal belongings.
“We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them.”
— Vladimir Putin
“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance,” said Bortnikov. Read the rest of this entry »
(CNN) The only reasonable explanation for the crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt is “an external influence,” an executive from the airline that operated the flight said Monday, stressing that planes don’t just break apart in midair.
“There was nothing abnormal before the plane crash. It suddenly disappeared from the radar.”
— Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel
The executive was not specific about what he meant by an external influence. Experts say it is too early to know for certain what caused the plane to break up at the start of what could be a lengthy investigation.
The state-run Russian news agency Sputniknews.com reported that the head of Rosaviatsia, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, had told Rossiya-25 television that claims that external factors could have caused the crash were not based in fact.
“It is completely premature to speak about the reasons of this, as there are not grounds. And I’d like to call on the aviation community to refrain from any premature conclusions,” it quoted Alexander Neradko, the agency chief, as telling the station.
CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest suggested that the Kogalymavia official could have meant something abnormal and out of the ordinary had occurred.
“We exclude technical problems and reject human error,” the Kogalymavia airline official, Alexander Smirnov, said at a Moscow news conference as he discussed possible causes of the crash.
He added that the crew did not issue any warnings or communications during the final moments, indicating that the flight crew must have been disabled and not able to radio out.
However, Smirnov said that while the plane’s flight and voice data recorders had been recovered, they had not been read or decoded.
Officials have played down an apparent claim by Islamic militants in Sinai that they brought down the Airbus A321-200, saying technical failure is the most likely reason for the crash.
Here’s where things stand:
Flight 9268 was on its way from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg early Saturday when it dropped off radar about 23 minutes into the flight, Egyptian officials say.
Air traffic controllers apparently didn’t receive any distress calls from the pilots. “There was nothing abnormal before the plane crash,” Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel said Saturday. “It suddenly disappeared from the radar.”
CNN’s Richard Quest said it was “unusual” for an aircraft to go down roughly 20 minutes into a flight.
Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan took issue with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s comment that protests had erupted in both Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya, citing evidence from the House Select Committee’s investigation stating that no protest of any kind had occurred in Benghazi. He then went on to quote from various State Department spokespersons who, in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, claimed that the incident in Benghazi was linked to the Cairo-based protest, which was a reaction to an offensive online video.
“I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book, ‘Hard Choices’. I’d be glad to send it to you, congressman.”
— Hillary Clinton, in condescending answer to Jim Jordan’s question
“Where’d the false narrative start? It started with you, Madame Secretary,” said Jordan, adding that a statement released by Clinton the night of the attack suggests as much. “At 10:08, with no evidence. At 10:08, before the attack is over.
Clinton proceeded to emphasize her official statement’s use of the phrase “some have sought,” which described the efforts of a small group to use the video as a means of inciting anti-American sentiments in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the region. “I used those words deliberately. Not to ascribe a motive to every attacker, but as a warning to those across the region that there was no justification for further attacks.” Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Rogin writes: Secretary of State John Kerry has been painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Congress killed the Iran nuclear deal. Among other things, he has warned that “our friends in this effort will desert us.” But the top national security official from one of those nations involved in the negotiations, France, has a totally different view: He told two senior U.S. lawmakers that he thinks a Congressional no vote might actually be helpful.
His analysis is already having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.
The French official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande. Before that, as the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014, he led theFrench diplomatic team in the discussions with Iran and the P5+1 group. Earlier this month, he met withDemocrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both top members of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Iran deal. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was also in the room.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage…He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
— Loretta Sanchez
According to both lawmakers, Audibert expressed support for the deal overall, but also directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to the bomb without restrictions.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage,” Sanchez told me in an interview. “He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
(Before the publication of this article on Thursday, Jacques Audibert, the Elysee Palace office and the French Embassy in Washington were asked for comment, and did not respond. After its publication, the embassy released a statement saying it “formally denies the content of the remarks” attributed to Audibert by the two members of Congress, and U.S. Ambassador Hartley described them as “inaccurate.” Audibert tweeted that he “never said or suggested that a no vote from Congress … might be helpful or lead to a better deal,” and has not responded to requests for an interview. Read the rest of this entry »
Mary Chastain reports: An explosion has killed Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat and injured at least seven more people on Monday morning in Cairo.
Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, a spokesman for the health ministry, said Barakat passed away after surgeries. Ghaffar had previously stated he did not believe the prosecutor had suffered life-threatening injuries.
A witness spoke to Daily News Egypt:
A Heliopolis resident told Daily News Egypt they heard the explosion early Monday, and stepped onto their balcony to see a damaged motorcycle.
The witness also said there was an exploded vehicle, which according to the testimony, was Barakat’s security vehicle. The witness added that surrounding vehicles were in flames.
The damages on the attack scene included seven other injuries from Barakat’s staff and passengers, in addition to damages to 35 cars and nine houses in the area of the explosion.
No group has yet to take responsibility for the attack. A group called Giza Popular Resistance claimed it first, but someone removed it from their Facebook page and the Twitter account denounced the post. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday’s decision is latest in a series of mass trials that have led to death penalty verdicts against the leadership and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood
The court’s preliminary verdict Saturday is subject to review by the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, whose opinion isn’t legally binding but is traditionally adopted by the court.
“The death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition.”
— Amnesty International
A final verdict based his opinion will be delivered June 2 but will be open to appeals, which can take years in Egypt’s clogged judicial system.
Mr. Morsi has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison last month in a separate case in which he was found guilty of fomenting violence during a series of protests in 2012 that dogged his year in office.
The former Egyptian president was among 106 members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood sentenced to death on Saturday, including the group’s spiritual guide Mohammed Badie and prominent Islamic scholar, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar.
The decision—broadcast on state television as Mr. Morsi and some of co-defendants smiled defiantly from inside the caged dock used to hold the accused—was received quietly in Egypt. However, authorities said it may have inspired a violent response in the restive Sinai Peninsula where security forces have struggled to contain a low-level Islamist insurgency.
Hours after the verdict was delivered, unknown gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying several judges and aides in the northern Sinai town of al-Arish, killing three judges, a driver, and wounding three others, according to Egypt’s state news agency.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the state news agency quotes unnamed security officials saying the attack may have been retaliation for the verdict against Mr. Morsi. Read the rest of this entry »
John Kerry Awarded Historic Rating! Unfortunately, Not the Good Kind: Kerry Rated ‘Worst Secretary of State in 50 Years’Posted: April 26, 2015
The Survey of 1,375 U.S. Colleges and Universities was Conducted by Foreign Policy Magazine and the College of William & Mary. John Kerry Came in Dead Last.
“I got beat by James Baker and Madeleine Albright?”
Henry Kissinger was ranked the most effective secretary of state with 32.2% of the vote. He was followed by James Baker, Madeleine Albright, and Hillary Clinton, as judged by a survey of 1,615 international relations scholars.
Kerry received only 0.3% of the votes cast. Read the rest of this entry »
In which our resident scholar on all things Middle-East – and circus related, Andrew Klavan, explains Barack Obama’s policy for that troubled region. Think of it as Smart Diplomacy for Dummies…
Becky Davis reports: Over the remains of the Chinese-style Passover banquet – soups with bamboo and huge chunks of fresh tofu, steamed fish and platters of crisp greens in mustard sauce – Li Penglin, 16, lifted a glass of Israeli wine from his place at the head table. Quietly but without faltering, he read out a Chinese translation of a Hebrew prayer.
About 50 guests, including several local government officials, responded with a chorus of amens, downing their thimblefuls of wine while self-consciously leaning to the left. Some poked neighbors who, unfamiliar with the Jewish custom, had neglected to incline.
It was an atypical scene on an atypical occasion: a Chinese celebration of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
“There’s no conflict between Passover and Qingming. They’re both about remembrance of ancestors – very similar, just with different methods.”
In a hotel dining room festooned with purple garlands for a coming wedding, Chinese of Jewish descent in the central city of Kaifeng came together on Friday night for a Seder, the traditional Passover meal over which the Exodus story is recounted. Just two days before Qingming, the “tomb-sweeping” festival when Chinese traditionally pay their respects at family graves, they had gathered to recall ancestors even more ancient and a world away.
The millennium-old Jewish population of Kaifeng has witnessed a surprising revival in recent years, a phenomenon all the more notable for the tolerant eye that the Chinese government, which does not count Judaism among state-sanctioned religions, seems to have turned toward it.
Eight clans in Kaifeng claim to be able to trace their lineage back to a small number of Sephardic Jews who made this fertile region their home in the 12th century, when Kaifeng was the capital of the Northern Sung Dynasty and a bustling hub on the Silk Road. But intermarriage, assimilation and isolation eroded their numbers over time. Floods and fires repeatedly destroyed the city’s synagogue, which was not rebuilt after a flood in the 1850s. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s further quashed any lingering expressions of religious practice. Read the rest of this entry »
Pictures of the heavily armed masked militants watching while a pile of drums burnt in the Libyan desert were released earlier today – purportedly by the ‘media wing’ of the local group.
It is understood the brightly coloured instruments had been confiscated by the religious police, and were destroyed near the port city of Derna, in eastern Libya.
‘Unislamic’: The group claims it burned the drums because it believes music is against their religion
Seized: A statement said the instruments were ‘burnt in accordance with Islamic law’
A message released with the pictures explains: ‘Hesbah seized these un-Islamic musical instruments in the state of Warqa (we call it the city of Derna).
It adds they were ‘burnt in accordance with Islamic law’.
Whether or not it actually is has been a point of some debate in the Islamic world, but Libya’s ISIS recruits are not the first to burn instruments. Read the rest of this entry »
A country torn by civil war provides fertile ground for the extremist group—right on Europe’s doorstep
Yaroslav Trofimov reports: Two rival governments in Libya have fought an increasingly bloody civil war since last summer, as the world paid little attention. While they battled for control of the country’s oil wealth, a third force—Islamic State—took advantage of the chaos to grow stronger.
The beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic State followers has finally drawn the global spotlight to the group’s rising clout in Libya, which not long ago was touted as a successful example of Western intervention. The killings prompted Egyptian airstrikes on Islamic State strongholds in Libya and spurred calls for more active international involvement in what is fast becoming a failed state on Europe’s doorstep.
“The situation in Libya has been out of control for three years,” Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi cautioned in a television interview after the video’s release. “We shouldn’t go from total indifference to hysteria.”
— Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
The Libyan affiliate of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has, in fact, been spreading its sway for months. First it established an area of control last fall in and around the eastern city of Derna, a historical center of Libyan jihadists. Recently, it also took over parts of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, on the central coast, setting up a radio station there and sending Islamic morality patrols onto the streets.
All the while, the two rival governments of Libya focused on combatting one another, each supported by regional powers. Both preferred to largely ignore the influx of foreign jihadists forming new alliances with local extremists—and their unification under Islamic State’s banner.
“As all the attention of the two sides was on fighting the other side, this kind of group prospered in the political and military void. There are no good guys or bad guys there—both sides have been acting in bad faith.”
— Karim Mezran, a Libya expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington
Libya isn’t the only place outside Syria and Iraq where the extremist group has established affiliates, largely by absorbing homegrown jihadist groups into its project of world domination and religious war until the total triumph of Islam. There are also Islamic State “provinces” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, in Yemen, and in so-called Khorasan, a region straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan. Read the rest of this entry »
Airstrikes follow release of video purportedly showing the beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians
A spokesman for Egypt’s military said Egyptian aircraft had targeted Islamic State training camps and weapons and ammunitions stores in a bombing raid around dawn. The planes returned to their bases in Egypt safely, the spokesman said in a post on his Facebook page.
“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty.”
The announcement was accompanied by video footage that the spokesman said showed Egyptian fighter jets taking off at night in preparation for airstrikes on “ISIS in Libya,” according to text accompanying the video.
“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty,” an announcer said in an official Egyptian military video posted on the same Facebook page.
“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side.”
Omar al Sinki, the minister of the interior in Libya’s Tobruk-based government, said Egypt’s air force had struck 7 targets in Derna early Monday. He added that the strikes had been coordinated with the anti-Islamist forces based in eastern Libya and that General Khalifa Haftar, the nominal leader of those forces, was in Cairo on Monday “coordinating” with Egypt’s armed forces and that the campaign would be sustained.
“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side,” he said
A spokesman for Egypt’s defense ministry declined to comment on Monday beyond what the military posted on Facebook, although a news conference was planned for later Monday.
— Tristan Lejeune (@TristanLejeune) February 16, 2015
Saqer al Joroushi, the commander of Libya’s air force, was quoted by Egyptian state media saying “at least 50” militants had been killed in the airstrikes, in addition to several being arrested. He said Egypt had conducted the strikes “with full respect to the sovereignty of Libya.” He also said Libya wouldn’t allow any ground operations by the Egyptian armed forces.
He separately told the Saudi Arabia-owned Al Arabiya television station that Libya’s own air forces had launched attacks on Islamic State targets in the coastal city of Sirte, a stronghold of those loyal to ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and nearby towns. However, a resident of Sirte said he had seen no evidence of an aerial attack on the city.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Libya Dawn, a more moderate Islamist group that controls the Libyan capital Tripoli, “deplored the violation of sovereignty” and said children had been killed in bombing of Derna. Read the rest of this entry »
The Egyptians, dressed in orange jump suits, were beheaded after being forced down on the ground on a beach. An early caption in the video says the location is “Wilayat Tarabulus by the Mediterranean Sea,” which suggests that it was filmed near Tripoli.
“This undeniably means that the group now views Christian populations as not only targets but also part of the bigger ‘Crusader plot,’ not separate from the US-led coalition or aggressors. The group’s message is highly intimidating and it somewhat challenges the Western nations to intervene and save the Christians as it intervened to save the Yazidis and others.”
Each of the victims, who are all male, is paired with a masked, knife-wielding terrorist and, after a brief statement by the ISIS leader, they are all beheaded.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) February 15, 2015
The video is called “A Message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” and was released by the group’s Al-Hayat Media Center, according to Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant. Read the rest of this entry »
FORBIDDEN WORDS: Internal Emails Show Al Jazeera English Banning Use of Terms ‘Terrorist,’ ‘Militant,’ ‘Islamist’Posted: January 27, 2015
Brendan Bordelon reports: Shortly after news broke of a deadly January 27 attack by Islamic terrorists on a hotel in Libya’s capital, Al Jazeera English executive Carlos van Meek shot out an email to his employees.
“All: We manage our words carefully around here,” the network’s head of output wrote to staff at the Doha-based news channel’s New York and Washington, D.C. newsrooms. “So I’d like to bring to your attention some key words that have a tendency of tripping us up.”
In an email obtained by National Review Online, van Meek warned the network’s journalists against the use of terms including “terrorist,” “militant,” “Islamist” and “jihad.”
From: Carlos Van Meek
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 10:06 AM
To: AJE-Newsdesk; AJE-Output; AJE-DC-Newsroom
Subject: Terrorists, Militants, Fighters and then some…
All: We manage our words carefully around here. So I’d like to bring to your attention some key words that have a tendency of tripping us up. This is straight out of our Style Guide. All media outlets have one of those. So do we. If you’d like to amend, change, tweak.. pls write to Dan Hawaleshka direct who is compiling the updates to the Style Guide and they will be considered based on merit. No mass replies to this email, pls.
EXTREMIST – Do not use. Avoid characterizing people. Often their actions do the work for the viewer. Could write ‘violent group’ if we’re reporting on Boko Haram agreeing to negotiate with the government. In other words, reporting on a violent group that’s in the news for a non-violent reason.
TERRORISM/TERRORISTS – One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. We will not use these terms unless attributed to a source/person.
ISLAMIST –Do not use. We will continue to describe groups and individuals, by talking about their previous actions and current aims to give viewers the context they require, rather than use a simplistic label.
NOTE: Naturally many of our guests will use the word Islamist in the course of their answers. It is absolutely fine to include these answers in our output. There is no blanket ban on the word. Read the rest of this entry »
Brendan Bordelon reports: As journalists worldwide reacted with universal revulsion at the massacre of some of their owxn by Islamic jihadists in Paris, Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out a staff-wide email.
“Please accept this note in the spirit it is intended — to make our coverage the best it can be,” the London-based Khadr wrote Thursday, in the first of a series of internal emails leaked to National Review Online. “We are Al Jazeera!”
“I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one or two of them will kill you.”
— Mohamed Vall Salem
Below was a list of “suggestions” for how anchors and correspondents at the Qatar-based news outlet should cover Wednesday’s slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo office (the full emails can be found at here at NRO).
“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well.”
— Salah-Aldeen Khadr
Khadr urged his employees to ask if this was “really an attack on ‘free speech,’” discuss whether “I am Charlie” is an “alienating slogan,” caution viewers against “making this a free speech aka ‘European Values’ under attack binary [sic],” and portray the attack as “a clash of extremist fringes.”
“What Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them!” Salem later wrote. “It’ snot [sic] about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I’M NOT CHARLIE.”
— Mohamed Vall Salem
“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate [sic]—is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”
His denunciation of Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed didn’t sit well with some Al Jazeera English employees.
Hours later, U.S.-based correspondent Tom Ackerman sent an email quoting a paragraph from a New York Times’ January 7 column by Ross Douthat. The op-ed argued that cartoons like the ones that drove the radical Islamists to murder must be published, “because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.”
That precipitated an angry backlash from the network’s Qatar-based correspondents, revealing in the process a deep cultural rift at a network once accused of overt anti-Western bias. Read the rest of this entry »
— Volksbüro (@Volksburo) August 23, 2014
Photos have surfaced on Twitter of smiling men celebrating in front of airplanes, alleged to be images of the capture of Tripoli’s airport by jihadist forces. The seizure of the Libyan capital’s airport–and eleven of its commercial jetliners–has caused concern that the Islamists will use the planes for an attack on September 11…
Actor calls on ‘peers who signed that poison letter’ to avoid inciting anti-Semitism
The war raging in the Middle East has divided observers all over the world regarding the actions of Israelis and Palestinians. The entertainment industry is no exception, as a wide range of celebrities have publicized their own opinions. They include Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, who earlier this week signed a letter published in a Spanish newspaper condemning Israel, only to issue statements days later clarifying their own distaste for anti-Semitism. But those actions weren’t enough for veteran actor Jon Voight, a staunch longtime supporter of Israel who penned his thoughts below on this controversial subject.
My name is Jon Voight and I am more than angry. I am heartsick that people like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused.
“I am asking all my peers who signed that poison letter against Israel to examine their motives. Can you take back the fire of anti-Semitism that is raging all over the world now?”
They are obviously ignorant of the whole story of Israel’s birth, when in 1948 the Jewish people were offered by the UN a portion of the land originally set aside for them in 1921, and the Arab Palestinians were offered the other half. The Arabs rejected the offer, and the Jews accepted, only to be attacked by five surrounding Arab countries committed to driving them into the sea. But the Israelis won. The Arabs tried it again in 1967, and again in 1973, launching a sneak attack on the holiest Jewish holiday. Each time the Jews prevailed but not without great loss of life. And when Israel was not fighting a major war, it was defending itself against terrorist campaigns. Read the rest of this entry »
- A few minutes ago, two rockets fired from Gaza struck the Ashkelon area, and five rockets struck elsewhere in southern Israel, as per IDF.
- In an interview to a news agency, President Shimon Peres admits that firing at Gaza made for a “moral dilemma”, but there was no alternative to it.Speaking to the Associated Process, the nonagenerian President said, “There is a moral problem, but I don’t have a moral answer to it. If they are shooting at us, and don’t let our mothers and their children … have a full night’s sleep, what can we do?”
Israel says Hamas is telling Gazan civilians to ignore IDF warnings. The Israeli Army further says that it called off three airstrikes after identifying civilians in the area.
Earlier today, we urged civilians to move away from IDF military targets in Gaza. Once again, Hamas told civilians to ignore our warnings.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 16, 2014
Holding off its barrage of rockets briefly in line with a truce proposed by Egypt, Israel resumed its strikes on Gaza Strip as Hamas continued firing, dashing hopes of a ceasefire. Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING: Egyptian Court Convicts 3 Al Jazeera Journalists to Seven Years in Prison on Terrorism-Related ChargesPosted: June 23, 2014
Three journalists working for Al Jazeera were convicted Monday by an Egyptian court to seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges, The Associated Press reported.
The three journalists for the network’s English-language channel — Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian who has previously worked for CNN and The New York Times; Peter Greste, an Australian who has previously worked for the BBC; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian who has worked for other international news organizations — have been in jail since December. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 2, 2014
There’s an interesting article about this here. From the YouTube Summary: Egypt has traditionally attracted tourists with its ancient monuments and beach resorts, but Siwa Valley, a remote oasis in the west of the country, is an Egyptian tourist destination with a difference.
Its main landmark is salt. Locals use it not just for cooking, but also as building material for everything from candle holders to an entire hotel.
[VIDEO] NBC Chief Foreign Reporter Describes Obama’s Diplomatic Failures: ‘Vortex of Instability’, ‘Lot of Frustration’Posted: May 29, 2014
Hard Pressed to Find Country Where Relations Improved under Obama
“Our allies have become confused”
“…Now you have a presidency, for six years, that’s pulling out, very rapidly, and that is creating kind of a pump action, a vortex of instability, that has left allies like Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, and even some European countries, very confused. Are we going in? Are we pulling out? Are we leading? Are we trying to set the agenda? And I think that has been a lot of frustration..”
“Yes, he talked about ending these two unpopular wars, but I do sympathize with some of the things said in the Wall Street Journal. Right now we have a black hole in Syria. Iraq is in a state of collapse. Libya is about to about to go back into a civil war, and this was the one case where we intervened militarily, so, I think there is ah, a lot of problems, on the horizon…”
Detained since December 29: Peter Greste. Photo: AP
“Few of us would have the courage to practise true investigative journalism in places like Mexico, where your head can end up next to your laptop on a road as a message to others.”
— Investigative reporter Nick McKenzie
He says his case has become an emblem for the need for freedom of press worldwide.
In a message read by his parents in Sydney on Friday, Greste said the irony of his sending greetings from Mulhaq Al Masra Prison hardly needed mentioning.
“Yet here we are, the Al Jazeera three, facing our 126th day of detention and a seventh appearance before an Eygptian court on charges of terrorism,” he said.
Greste, a reporter with the Al Jazeera network, and television producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been detained since December 29 on charges of helping terrorist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. They will make their seventh request for bail on Saturday.
Greste said many local journalists were also in jail because of what Egyptian authorities described “as their own war on terror”.
His parents Lois and Juris Greste were “panic stricken” when they heard that nearly 700 members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been sentenced to death. Read the rest of this entry »
This isn’t new, but it’s worth remembering.
…So Viral, It Even Has a T-Shirt
For TheBlaze, Sharona Schwartz reports: A video in which an Egyptian woman accuses President Barack Obama of interfering in Egypt’s business, calling the U.S. president a “donkey” and exclaiming multiple times, “Shut up your mouth, Obama,” has gone viral in the Middle East, inspiring a remix, Photoshopped spoofs and even T-shirts.
In the video which appears to have been taken during a protest, the unidentified woman wearing a turquoise-colored hijab speaks both in English and Arabic.
Screenshot: MEMRI via YouTube
“I’d like to convey the following message to Obama. Listen, Obama. We are Egyptian women. You are listen, Obama? Shut up your mouth, Obama. Shut up your mouth, Obama!”
she says in the video.
“Our message to you, you donkey: No matter what you do, we will not restore the ousted president [Mohammed Morsi],” she said according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
“Al-Sisi, yes. Al-Sisi, yes. Morsi, no. Morsi, no”
…the woman chanted, referring to Egyptian Defense Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who played a key role in deposing Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi last summer.
The audio of the woman has been remixed into a techno musical version posted on YouTube with the hilarious slug, “Shut up your mouse, Obama,” the alteration of the word “mouth” likely attributable to her mispronunciation of the sound “th,” as is often heard among non-native English speakers. Other memes online [on the hashtag #shutupyourmouseobama, of course] included a Photoshopped image of Obama seemingly watching the woman mouthing off at him and a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Shut up your mouse, Obama!”
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink announced on twitter last night that she had been jailed by Egyptian police as she was on her way leading a group of activists to “Hamas-lead” Gaza traveling via Cairo. This morning she tweeted that the Egyptian Police had broken her arm.
Code Pink had worked with the Muslim Brotherhood to over throw Egypt’s former President Mubarak. The current government of Egypt has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization after Brotherhood leader Morsi was removed from the presidency. Perhaps that is why Benjamin was detained.
Last night her twitter feed read:
Help. They broke my arm. Egypt police
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) March 4, 2014
(see more of the feed at Breitbart.com) It’s unclear how Benjamin is tweeting with a broken arm, or allowed to tweet at all from her Egyptian jail cell.
NRO‘s Andrew C. McCarthy writes: The “blame it on the video” fraud so carefully orchestrated by the Obama administration in connection with the Benghazi massacre on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has always rested on a premise that remains unquestioned by the mainstream media – and that is itself a fraud. To wit: the Libyan violence, in which a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered, was triggered by rioting at the U.S. embassy in neighboring Egypt which was unquestionably provoked by an anti-Islamic video (an obscure trailer for the more obscure film, Innocence of Muslims).
There is now more evidence corroborating the fact that al Qaeda-linked jihadists, not the video, propelled the Cairo rioting — just as al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, not the video, propelled the Benghazi attack.
As I’ve previously recounted, “blame it on the video” was a fraud as to Egypt as well – a calculated fraud set in motion by State Department officials in Cairo who began tweeting about their outrage over the video before the rioting started. At the time they did so, our government well knew both that there would be demonstrations at the embassy and that those demonstrations were being spearheaded by al Qaeda.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism reports: The State Department broke with normal procedures last week when it ordered the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) not to conduct a secondary inspection on members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood‘s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) on their way to visit government officials and think tanks in the United States.
This happened despite the fact that one member of the delegation had been implicated – though not charged – in a U.S. child pornography investigation, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has learned.
As the Arab Spring enters its third year, events in the region remain fluid. Still, enough time has now passed that some preliminary conclusions can be reached.
Zachary Keck writes: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is one institution certainly drawing lessons from the Arab Spring. It is well known that the CCP studies political unrest in other parts of the world in search of lessons it can use to maintain stability at home. The most notable instance of this was the massive study the CCP undertook into the causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The lessons the CCP drew from its more than decade-long study into the Soviet bloc have since been incorporated into the curriculum at party schools, and are regularly referred to by senior Chinese officials.
Although the CCP’s study of the Arab Spring won’t be nearly as massive, the events in the Arab world are of significant interest to the party for a number of reasons. The first is simply their size and magnitude. Additionally, in its early days the Arab Spring inspired some Chinese to call for a Jasmine Revolution in China. Although nothing much came from these calls, there were a tense couple of weeks in China that saw the CCP on high alert.
Finally, Chinese leaders should be particularly interested in the Arab Spring simply because it provides an excellent case study. Although the protests seemed to be motivated by similar causes, they quickly diverged in terms of how each government responded, as well as their ultimate outcomes. Thus, the protests offer valuable lessons for how the CCP can maintain power in China. Four points from the Arab Spring seem particularly pertinent:
1) Get Ahead of Events
The regimes that have best weathered the Arab Spring have gotten ahead of events on the ground. At the first sight of unrest in Egypt, Saudi Arabia sought to preempt protests by significantly increasing subsides. The Gulf Cooperation Council contained unrest in Bahrain by using overwhelming force to smother the then-nascent protests. Only after order had been restored did the government begin offering small concessions. In other countries like Morocco and Jordan, governments quickly appeased protesters by offering at least cosmetic concessions, such as removing especially unpopular leaders. The new Chinese leadership seems to be pursuing a similar course by initiating highly publicized anti-graft and mass line campaigns that are partly aimed at reducing public anger over the party’s excesses.
At least one student was killed in the fighting, a doctor told the AFP news agency. Reuters also quoted an activist as saying a protester had been killed, although this was denied by a security source.
State TV broadcast footage of black smoke billowing from the university’s faculty of commerce building and said “terrorist students” had set the agriculture faculty building on fire as well.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said the fighting began when security forces fired teargas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students who were preventing their classmates from entering university buildings to take exams. Protesters threw rocks at police and set tyres on fire to counter the teargas.
The Brotherhood was officially designated as a terrorist organisation by the state earlier this week after 16 people were killed in a suicide attack on a police station, although the group condemned the attack and it was claimed by a radical faction based in the Sinai Peninsula.
CAIRO — David D. Kirkpatrick writes: Egypt’s military-backed government has issued a law that all but bans street protests by applying jail time or heavy fines to the public demonstrations that have felled the last two presidents and regularly roiled the capital since the Arab Spring revolt.
The new law, promulgated on Sunday, is the latest evidence of a return to authoritarianism in the aftermath of the military takeover that removed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July. It criminalizes the kind of free assembly and public expression that many Egyptians had embraced as a cherished foundation of their new democracy after the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. And the relatively muted outcry against the law, mainly from human rights advocates, demonstrated how far public sentiment has swung.
Rights activists said the new law appeared even stricter than those in place under Mr. Mubarak. It effectively replaces a three-month “state of emergency” declared in August, when the government used deadly force to crush street protests by Islamist opponents of the July 3 takeover, killing more than a thousand. The state of emergency — which suspended protections against police abuse — expired last weekend, but the new protest law now grants the police other added powers that they could use to squelch any attempt to mobilize.