Monday, May 6, 2013

Morning Twitter Messages -- May 6

This morning's messages are a mixture without much of a theme. Readers can comb through them and follow whatever catches the imagination. 
The first link is mine. I feel like an old man showing off pictures of a new grandchild. 



This is important.

This is the entire article from The National, the Abu Dhabi Media company's first English-language publication. I think of it as Saudi Arabia's official newspaper although there is nothing of the sort being advertised.

I wish Americans could read this article with open minds. Unfortunately many (if not most) Americans immediately put on blinders when they see the word "Muslim" and from that point forward everything they read comes through a stupidity filter, much the same way a few years ago anything that said "Russian" was presumed to indicate a Communist effort to destroy the United States.

I am certainly no expert but I have done enough reading to know that the Syrian civil war has many moving parts. Aside from the geopolitical challenges at the nexus of Europe, Asia and the Middle East sectarian and ethnic conflicts are also part of the mess. One important subtext, which I suspect is behind this Brotherhood-"opposition groups" connection, is the Sunni-Shiite divide which is rarely mentioned by non-Muslim analysts except in passing. My sense is that this part of the conflict is for many more compelling than any other consideration.

Muslim Brotherhood opens direct link to rebels in Damascus
Phil Sands
May 6, 2013

GAZIANTEP, Turkey // The Muslim Brotherhood recently opened direct contacts with opposition groups in Damascus, providing them with cash for the first time and promising political influence in an effort to gain their support, according to Syrians organising clandestine relief efforts in rebel-held areas of the capital.

The infusion of cash and offer of political collaboration last week came just days after the Muslim Brotherhood's secretary general, Raid Al Shaqfa, announced the organisation would reopen offices inside Syria, after years of exile. 
The Brotherhood's largesse followed a cutback of relief assistance to some groups in the capital by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the officially recognised opposition alliance.
Although a member of the SNC, the Muslim Brotherhood is not solely channelling its aid through the formal opposition framework. Instead, it is independently dispensing cash and supplies in it own name, the Syrian aid organisers in Damascus said. 
The move by the Brotherhood into Damascus is likely to become yet another bone of contention between groups attempting to overthrow the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. Deep mistrust, infighting that includes violent clashes between armed rebel groups and a failure to properly coordinate aid and military efforts have severely hamstrung Syria's opposition.

The SNC has struggled to gain credibility and influence on the ground, a problem it is trying to address by appointing an interim government and providing it with resources to undertake relief efforts to needy civilians and induce rebel military factions to unite under the same leadership.
Critics of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Free Syrian Army's ruling joint command, have charged that it is trying to dominate the opposition and impose an Islamist agenda at the expense of efforts to oust the Assad regime. 
Another key complaint is that it operates its own militia groups and distributes resources only to factions promising loyalty. The Brotherhood vociferously denies all these charges.
There appears to have been little progress in addressing the fissures in the opposition, with different groups still jockeying for position rather than uniting and coordinating their anti-Assad activities. 
One major opposition network in Damascus had all but run out of cash this month after its regular funding, sent from Saudi Arabia, was cut off, members of the network said.
The SNC also failed to deliver promised levels of financing and relief supplies, leaving a significant shortfall in humanitarian aid for hard-hit areas of the capital. 
The Muslim Brotherhood stepped in, however, directly establishing contacts with the network and offering to fill the funding gap. 
"The Muslim Brotherhood just asked us how much we needed, we told them, and they immediately send that amount," said a senior activist based in Damascus involved in the aid efforts. 
He is not aligned with any political faction but sits on an influential committee distributing aid in the capital and surrounding suburbs. 
Organisational security precautions among activists on the Damascus committee - including a strict compartmentalisation of information to guard against captured members giving up the names of their colleagues under interrogation - mean no one has knowledge of all the committee's workings . 
But the committee member said the monthly funding needed for just one neighbourhood of the capital was almost US$140,000. Most of that money is given out in small stipends to poor families who have lost sons or fathers in the conflict and have no other source of income on which to survive. 
The Muslim Brotherhood not only paid that amount, he said, it also told activists they should take one per cent of the funding for their personal salaries, something none had done before. 
"We all work as volunteers, for free, and most of us refused to take any money. We don't want to be paid when every dollar should be used for humanitarian needs, which increase on an hourly basis," he said. 
In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood offered relief supplies but on condition that when they were distributed it is made clear they are from the Muslim Brotherhood, not the Syrian National Coalition or any other opposition faction, the activist said.

"The assistance was offered to us for free, its supplies of rice, sugar, food, that kind of thing. But the boxes have 'Muslim Brotherhood' written on them and we have to clarify to the recipients that the assistance is from the Muslim Brotherhood," he said. 
Non-political non-governmental organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies and UN agencies, routinely mark put their organisation's stamp on aid. 
Activists within the committee, predominantly Sunni Muslims, were grateful for the support.
"The timing was good, we need any kind of assistance, we are short of everything, even more so than before," a committee member said. "We are accepting help from anyone, even if it comes from the devil." 
After announcing it is reopening offices inside Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood has also been making private contacts with opposition activists in Damascus. 
"They have been getting in touch with activists and making them good offers, I'm not sure if they're offering money but they are certainly promising people high level positions in the movement if they agree to be a part of it," said a dissident in the Syrian capital with extensive family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. 
He said the Muslim Brotherhood was "working hard" to build its strength in Damascus. 
"Their timing is good, they have come at a time when other groups are failing to deliver, they have supporters everywhere," he said. 
Speaking with the newspaper Asharq Al Awsat last month, Zuhayn Salim, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood said the organisation would seek to boost aid efforts for civilians. 
"The decision to open Brotherhood offices in Syria was taken by the group's leadership a few months ago. Now, the decision will be carried out," he said. "These offices will work to achieve coordination between the Brotherhood's supporters, reorganise the group's affairs and provide relief aid for the Syrian people, who are suffering at both the humanitarian and economic levels."
Opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood worry about its rising influence, their fears stoked by what they view as the authoritarian tendencies it has shown after rising to power in post-Mubarak Egypt. 
In April, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood made a public defence of its record and motivations, saying it was committed to building a "modern, civil state where citizens are equal regardless of difference in their sectarian, religious and political affiliations." 
Its supporters say it offers an antidote to rising Islamic extremism in Syria by providing a moderate alternative likely to appeal to the country's Sunni Muslim majority. 
The Muslim Brotherhood led a militant insurrection against former president Hafez Al Assad in the 1980s, which was violently put-down. The organisation was subsequently forced underground and into exile. It remains unclear how much popular support it has inside Syria.


Changing the subject, if you don't know Mona Altahawy you are missing out on one of Egypt's most energetic and outspoken voices of liberation, a one-woman revolution who misses nothing. And I mean nothing.

From the WaPo article...

A no-fly zone is feasible. Yes, Syria possesses capable air defenses, but they are no match for U.S. air power. I flew missions over Sarajevo; over Pristina, Kosovo; over Nasiriyah and Mosul, Iraq. Not once during any of those air missions did I feel as threatened as I did than when I patrolled the highways of Iraq in a Humvee. We must not lose confidence out of fear by overestimating our opponent’s capabilities.

A no-fly zone will not immediately end the conflict, but neutralizing the Syrian air force will erase one of the regime’s decisive advantages and lead to a major turning point in the conflict. Doing so is not only morally right but also in our strategic interest. The spillover of violence into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq is already happening. Moreover, in a post-Assad Syria, the opposition will not forget which nations came to its aid. That was the case in Bosnia and Kosovo, and it has been the case throughout the Muslim world during the recent government upheavals. It was also the case in Iraq, until the occupation spiraled downward into a chaotic insurgency that we initially failed to grasp.

A no-fly zone will provide more options in working with the commander of the Free Syrian Army, Gen. Salim Idriss. With established “safe zones,” Syrian rebels could be trained inside Syria. It will open the door for building governance in liberated areas.


From the article...
Reporters covering a horrific gun death in the small town of Burkesville, Ky., were rejected by the town's residents, some of whom threatened reporters with violence and ended up carrying out those threats. 
The New York Times' Trip Gabriel details his travels to the town, which has been rocked by the accidental death of a 2-year-old girl who was shot by her 5-year-old brother. The gun with which the 5-year-old, Kristian, shot his sister was a gift from his grandmother. 
The circumstances of the death have sparked questions about a culture in which 5-year-olds are given guns as gifts — questions that the town rejected this past weekend.
In the wake of the elementary-school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last December, Gabriel writes that the town wanted no part of being a symbol in the national debate over guns.

Gabriel details one particular harrowing scene after the girl's funeral: 
After the funeral service, two men advanced across North Main Street toward a single television crew present, from the German network RTL, and punched the cameraman, bloodying his face and knocking him down. 
Two other men told a newspaper reporter, “If you had any sense, you’d get out of here. You’re next, buddy.” 
Gabriel later confirmed on Twitter that the "newspaper reporter" referred to in the story was him

Long read next. Bookmark for later...


I so hope the anti-choice crowd will understand how crazy it is to use Gosnell as a cause célèbre.


I can't make anyone read something, but if I could this would be among the selections about which I would say "don't skip this one."  I've followed Julia Ioffe since she was on assignment in Russia last year and she is a card-carrying expert on both cultural and political  matters from that part of the world. 

From the article...
Zubeidat is the new Chechnya, and the new Dagestan. At the Makhachkala press conference, she is dressed in a long-sleeved black caftan, her face framed tightly by a black and white hijab. Her mourning is expressive and theatrical, almost Middle Eastern. She talks about how she regrets moving to America— “why did I even go there?”—
about how she expected America to keep her children safe, but instead “it happened opposite,” she says, weeping. “America took my kids away.” If the Tsarnaevs hadn’t emigrated, Zubeidat contends, “my kids would be with us, and we would be, like, fine.” 
That, in the new Chechnya and the new Dagestan, is highly unlikely. While the Tsarnaevs were in Kyrgyzstan and America, the region began to change rather violently. After the First Chechen War ended in 1996, Chechnya became a mix of lawless wilderness rife with violence and kidnapping, and pockets ruled by fundamentalist warlords, like Aslan Maskhadov. After a second war between Russia and Chechnya broke out in 1999 and dragged on for years, Vladimir Putin installed Ramzan Kadyrov as president of Chechnya. Kadyrov was the son of a separatist mufti and led a vicious militia that switched to the Russian side early in the second war, and become allied with the FSB. 
Kadyrov, who now posts photographs of his devout family at play or going on Muslim pilgrimages on his Instagram account, is accused of grotesque human rights violations. He now rules Chechnya with a mix of terror and a torrent of money from Moscow. He has led Chechnya down the path of increasing Islamization. Women are now required to cover up, lest they be harassed by the authorities or, worse, subject to paintball attacksby Kadyrov’s modesty vigilantes. Kadyrov has also voiced his support of honor killings, a rather stark turn for the once secular republic. “Now Chechen women must wear hijab and long dress with long sleeves to go anywhere out of home. There have been many situations of the public humiliation of those who tried to resist,” a Chechen woman told me. She asked to remain anonymous for fear for her family’s safety. “The previous generation was under the radicalization of Wahhabi regime during 1996-1999, but the Wahhabis lost, they didn’t achieve the goal to cover all Chechen women with hijab. But now the government has achieved that goal. This young generation of radicalized girls and boys might be a real threat to the society in the nearest future.” 
Even before this policy had firmly taken root, the region became a source of unique terrorism: the female suicide bomber. The first woman to detonate herself was 22-year-old Khava Baraeva, who, in 2000, drove a truck packed with explosives into a local Russian military base, killing three. She was going after the commander who had killed her husband. Other Chechen and Dagestani women followed her lead, blowing up military posts as well as civilian targets inside Russia. Two women, for example, simultaneously brought down two Russian airliners in 2004, killing 89, and two young Dagestani women blew themselves up in the Moscow metro, in March 2010, killing 40. Half of the terrorists who seized the Dubrovka theater in Moscow in 2002 were women, strapped with explosives. Experts estimate that up to 40 percent of suicide bombings originating in the region are perpetrated by women.

Then there's this, about that terrible tragedy in Bangladesh -- without a happy ending. Horrible. It's okay to skip this one if you've had enough. Just remember the story next time you shop for a clothing bargain. 

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