Monthly Archives: December 2009

Just Once

Just once I’d like to read a news article in the western media that talks about Yemen without including the line “…is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden.”

I know Yemen is exotic and mysterious to most Americans, but come on. How ’bout shaking it up a bit with a “…where the kingdom of Sheba was believed to be located,” or “…famous for its unique architecture”? After all, they manage to describe England without including the line, “…where Osama bin Laden’s son Omar lives.”

Yemen has some beautiful spots. If they’d make a point of attracting tourism, they could make a fortune. And as one of the world’s poorest countries, they could sure use it. A serious obstacle to that, though, is the local tradition of kidnapping people for ransom.

But just look at it! So pretty.

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Funny Translation Mistake

The font’s kind of small. Here’s what it says:
English: I think the wrong person just left.
Arabic: أعتقد أن الشخص الخطأ اليسار
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Long, probably boring explanation in the comments for anyone who’s interested.

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Children in the Hands of an Angry God

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”–Exodus 22:18 (for a long and interesting story about how “witch” here should be “poisoner,” check here).

MSNBC reported in October:

EKET, Nigeria – The 9-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him — Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Renegade branches, huh? How convenient that Christians can get away with pulling out the No True Scotsman fallacy every time and get away with it. Christ is the Prince of Peace, notwithstanding his saying, “I bring not peace, but a sword,” whereas Islam gets stuck trying to explain that no, actually, Islam specifically forbids that kind of behavior, but nobody listens.

For their part, the families are often extremely poor, and sometimes even relieved to have one less mouth to feed. Poverty, conflict and poor education lay the foundation for accusations, which are then triggered by the death of a relative, the loss of a job or the denunciation of a pastor on the make, said Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Good luck with that excuse, Mr Dawes. Nobody ever buys that female genital mutilation, for example, is a regional tradition and has nothing to do with Islam, so it’s only fair that nobody believe that Christianity itself isn’t the cause of killing and mutilating young children.

“When communities come under pressure, they look for scapegoats,” he said. “It plays into traditional beliefs that someone is responsible for a negative change … and children are defenseless.”

The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria’s 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Nigeria is one of the heartlands of abuse, but hardly the only one: the United Nations Children’s Fund says tens of thousands of children have been targeted throughout Africa.

Church signs sprout around every twist of the road snaking through the jungle between Uyo, the capital of the southern Akwa Ibom state where Nwanaokwo lay, and Eket, home to many more rejected “witch children.” Churches outnumber schools, clinics and banks put together. Many promise to solve parishioner’s material worries as well as spiritual ones — eight out of ten Nigerians struggle by on less than $2 a day.

“Pray your way to riches,” advises Embassy of Christ a few blocks away.

It’s hard for churches to carve out a congregation with so much competition. So some pastors establish their credentials by accusing children of witchcraft.

I hope this doesn’t catch on in the United States.

The Nigerian church is a branch of a Californian church by the same name. But the California church says it lost touch with its Nigerian offshoots several years ago.

I love this article because it’s not afraid to proclaim that Christians, evangelicals specifically, are killing and torturing and maiming children. The word “pastor” appears 19 times.

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On a completely different note, I recommend reading this article by Glenn Greenwald in Salon: The Joy of Airstrikes and Anonymity.

Excerpt:

Yet over and over and over, it turns out that these anonymous government assertions — trumpeted by our mindless media — are completely false. The Big Bad Guy allegedly killed in the strike ends up nowhere near the bombs and missiles. Sometimes, the very same Big Bad Guy can be used to justify different strikes over the course of many years (we know we said we killed him four times before, but this time we’re pretty sure we got him), or he can turn up alive when it’s time to re-trumpet the Al Qaeda threat (we said before we killed him in that devastating airstrike, but actually he’s alive and more dangerous than ever!!). Just like the “we killed 30 extremists” claim or the “we got Al Qaeda’s Number 3″ boast, this is propaganda in its purest form, disseminated jointly by the U.S. Government and American media, and it happens over and over, compelling a rational person to conclude that it’s clearly intentional by both parties.

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Let me also a link to this post over at Gawker: US Economy Crippled by Churches.

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Cartoon

christmas sweater sibling rivalry

Click to enlarge. Do click it, otherwise you’ll miss the joke, because the small size is grainy.

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Merry Christmas – Laser Beam Cats

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Photo Rerun, for Christmas

nativity christmas cat paw white wooden

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Funny and Not Newspaper Mistakes

regrettheerror.com posted its end of the year 2009 list of greatest mistakes recently. Here’s a short one that seemed apropos:

Best Geographical Error

The Justice (Brandeis University):

The original article provided the incorrect location of New York University’s new institution. It is in Abu Dhabi, not Abu Ghraib.

and then there’s this not-funny one:

Best Hoax

The Sun (U.K.) reported in a front page story that several famous Jews were being targeted by Muslim extremists. Later, it published an article noting that it had fallen for a hoax:

A PHONEY terrorism “expert” has confessed to duping newspapers and a senior politician. Glen Jenvey has admitted making up stories about Islamic fundamentalism, including a faked list of prominent Jewish “targets”, which included Lord Alan Sugar.

He revealed his scheming in an interview with BBC reporter Tom Mangold, aired on Sunday’s edition of Donal MacIntyre’s Radio Five Live show.

Jenvey told how he fabricated the list of Jewish targets by posing as a fundamentalist on an extremist website where he urged others to suggest names. He then leaked the made-up list to a trusted news agency, used by The Sun, and online forum Ummah.com was wrongly accused of being used to prepare a backlash against UK Jews.

Jenvey – who had been described as “an extremely capable and knowledgeable analyst” by Tory MP Patrick Mercer – said: “I’m fully responsible for the story. The Sun was deceived …

and a funny one totally unrelated to the content of this blog:

Hamilton Spectator (Canada):

A story Saturday about Home Hardware signing on with Jim Balsillie’s bid to bring an NHL team to Hamilton got the number of people employed by the chain wrong. Home Hardware has 18,000 workers, not six million. We apologize for the error.

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Video: Cat, Roomba, Pitbull

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Organ Snatching; WSJ Thinks Arabs are Iranians

Here are a couple of stories to look into. The Arab News reports:

RAMALLAH: The chief Israeli pathologist and director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, professor Yehuda Hiss, has admitted harvesting organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians without the consent of their families.

You can read more at the link. And the other story, found at BoRev.net, is about a Wall Street Journal article conflating Iranians with Venezuelans of Arab descent. To make it more scary.

From the penultimate paragraph of the WSJ article:

What do Fadi Kabboul, Aref Richany Jimenez, Radwan Sabbagh and Tarek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah have in common? The answer is that they are, respectively, executive director for planning of Venezuelan oil company PdVSA; the president of Venezuela’s military-industrial complex; the president of a major state-owned mining concern; and, finally, the minister of interior. Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent have long played prominent roles in national politics and business. But these are all fingertip positions in what gives the Iranian-Venezuelan relationship its worrying grip.

From BoRev:

Wow, was your mind just blown? Iran is infiltrating the highest levels of the Venezuelan oil sector using…Christian immigrants from Lebanon! I don’t mean to add fuel to the fire or anything, but I think I saw a Sikh cab driver in Caracas once too.

The commenters at BoRev are pretty sure that all those guys are of Lebanese Christian descent, but I can’t verify it. After all, most people don’t have to declare their ethnic descent and religion to the world. A google search on their names mostly brings up dozens of blog posts about this WSJ article. Plus the dismaying realization that attempts to link Iran to Venezuela through Arab Christians has been going on for a while.

There are several sites out there linking Venezuelan Minister of the Interior Tarek El Aissami to Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in the sense that his great uncle was a Baathist, and I can’t figure out if that’s true or not, but I can pretty much guarantee that a tie to the Iraqi Baathist party is pretty much the opposite of a tie to Iran.

Plus, why did the WSJ writer, Bret “They All Look Alike to Me” Stephens, include Tarek El Aissami’s middle name and maternal last name? He doesn’t go by them, and his name is plenty scary-Arab-sounding without them.

See more mocking of Bret here. I only regret that there isn’t a lot more mocking.

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Happy New Year 1431

Today’s New Years Day on the Islamic calendar. Happy 1 Muharram, 1431.

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