12 March, 2008

Shaky Ground

A small to moderate earthquake struck near Istanbul tonight. The lights flickered at school, but then they do a lot due to construction in the building. My students and I didn't feel a thing and didn't realize until another student stuck her head in to ask if we'd felt it. It was strong enough to scare my roommate, however. Being from south Florida, I'll take a hurricane over an earthquake any day.


How Will They Spin It Now?

In news shocking to almost no one with any intelligence, a US military-backed report (download and read the report for yourself) released yesterday found no pre-war link between former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. No bulletproof evidence. No sinister nexus. No aid and comfort. Nothing.

According to the Washington Post this is the first study to examine Hussein's links to terrorist organizations, including those other than Al-Qaeda, using solely Iraqi documentation. Also according to the Post, while the study is said to have found non-operational links with other groups considered terrorist in nature, these links are said to have been of a nature to bolster his image as a leader in the region.

So, the count so far is no WMD, no link with Al-Qaeda, and almost how many dead as of today on both sides? I am no fan of Hussein's and I am somebody who wrestles with questions about what role other countries can and should play in ending dictatorships. And having one friend in the military, I am well aware there are good men and women trying to do good things in Iraq, who believe they can help. The lies and spin are an insult to them. The issue here is that time and time again, this administration lied again and again to bolster their plans. Time and again VP Cheney stood in front of the media and repeated the lie that there was a link, the words for years like a somber drumbeat. Certainly the uncritical, overly accepting public and media also had a role in the relationship. And now, several years into a war based on lies that has left a country in tatters with no end in sight we wait to hear any sort of coherent plan from candidates and leaders as to how to get out of this filthy mess.


11 March, 2008

Gulf War Syndrome Is Declared Real...Nearly 20 Years AFTER The War

It took more than 15 years, but it appears all those members of the coalition forces from the 1991 Gulf War weren't making up the health problems that came to be known as Gulf War Syndrome according to a study released today. Not surprisingly, it looks like the chemicals that sickened them were doled out by the the military, in the form of bromide pills intended to protect against nerve agents and a variety of pesticides used around military bases. Even more disturbing, according to this article, is that those same pesticides that caused chronic problems such as memory problems, difficulty sleeping, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, rashes and breathing problems are still being used in homes and businesses around the world today.

"Furthermore, the same chemicals affecting Gulf War veterans may be involved in similar cases of unexplained, multi-symptom health problems in the general population," said study author Beatrice Golomb of the University of California San Diego's school of medicine.

Hopefully, people will now take sufferers seriously and work towards some effective treatments, preferably NOT at a Veteran's Administration facility. Of course with record high suicide rates among those returning from the current war, not to mention the large number of veterans having to live on the streets, these veterans may get shunted to the back of the line.


No Torture. No Exceptions. Period.

I'm on deadline for my photos of and article about Jordan and teaching a full shift, which means I'm not the most serene or pleasant person to be around right now. However, I'll be putting on some tea and spending some quality time this weekend with this group of essays from Washington Monthly magazine. The series of essays on torture and why the U.S. should end the practice are written by authors from along the political spectrum, but all conclude practices such as simulated drowning (aka waterboarding) should be banned. There really should be no need for debate.


Will They EVER Learn?

Thanks to Laila over at Raising Yousuf for putting me on to this important article from Vanity Fair during our dinner together in Istanbul last week.

To those who pay attention this story is not at all surprising, however it's nice to see it finally breaking into the mainstream media to prove we're not a bunch of nutters wearing tinfoil hats spouting off about conspiracies. Well, at least not about this...


The Trouble with "Turkishness"

The idea that there is one model of "Turkishness" or even one ideal Turk, pushed for and accepted by many, fails to acknowledge the truth and beauty of the many peoples that make up this country. I've had friends whisper the fact that they're Kurdish. Diversity may bring certain challenges, one only has to look to my home country for that, but overall it made the country richer and stronger. Would I be the person I am today if I'd not grown up around people able and encouraged to celebrate their cultures and diversity? I don't think so. I am very interested to see Attila Durak's photographs of the true wealth of Turkey. Read this article from the NY Times to find out more.


10 March, 2008

Saudi Woman Takes A Spin & A Stand

In honor of International Women's Day, Wajeha Al-Huwaider went for a drive, something forbidden for women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and posted this video in protest. The ban is ridiculous. As far as I can tell, nobody had cars in Prophet Mohammad's time, so who's to answer the question "What Would The Prophet Drive?" Better yet, what would Khadija or Aicha drive? I prefer to imagine them behind the wheel of a hybrid, not the SUVs ubiquitous to the region. And who's to say he wouldn't have handed the driver's seat over to Aicha from time to time? Best of luck to Ms. Al-Huwaider and other the women of KSA waiting for their ride.