Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 Links, Memorials and Others

Peter Daou is not only a good journalist, he is clearly a great writer and thinker as well. This excerpt is a sample of why I say that. There is more at the link. 
How we face death is how we live life. We’re born to fear it, programmed to survive. The wonder of existence is that we can override our programming and confront death fearlessly. 
The real story of September 11th is the story of how individuals confronted their own death, from the sick, murderous bravado of the hijackers, willingly slamming themselves into buildings, to the incredible bravery of first responders climbing up to oblivion to save others. Or those graceful souls who swan-dived off the towers, the courageous passengers on Flight 93 and the countless unspoken heroes who gave their lives without hesitation to preserve the lives of friends, co-workers and strangers. 
Most of all, we see ourselves in the victims of that tragedy – we wonder what the moment of our demise will be like. How we’ll respond. What we’ll feel. What we won’t feel. 
Death is the engine of life; the awareness of our limits is what drives us to exceed those limits. Much as we crave immortality, the unspoken truth is that immortality in the form of endless human life would be the worst kind of hell. After countless years of mundane life, all meaning would disappear, all pleasure would fade, all relationships would devolve, all bonds of love would lose their immediacy. Life would become an interminable shade of gray. 
Still, oblivion seems even scarier. 
What we really want is to shake the bonds of time, to be timeless. To exist, but to exist in an eternal present. 
Either way, we are not fully alive until we have pondered the mystery of death, until we try to face life and death with courage and dignity. The encouraging and inspiring lesson from September 11, 2001 is that it is possible to do so.

Egypt’s loss could be Tunisia’s gain as tourists begin to flock back.
Credit: Louise Sherwood/IPS.

The figures show that by mid-August this year close to four million tourists had visited, generating almost 1.9 billion dinars (1.1 billion dollars).

An increased police presence is being maintained in resorts this season. Tunisia has only to look to Egypt to see what could happen to tourism revenue if the political situation turns violent.

“Tour operators have cancelled flights to Egypt until October. Tourists who booked to go there are being offered a refund or an alternative holiday in another destination such as Tunisia,” said Snene Mohamed Anas with Tunisie Voyages, a travel agency which provides excursions for the international tour operator Tui.

This link to The Arabist is RT by Kal. My thanks to him. Otherwise I might have missed it. 
I'm afraid if I don't copy this link in full the reader will fail to read it in full. This powerful piece of poetic prose is a brief lesson in Egyptian contemporary history. The bracketed number references refer to specific people, or in the case of [2] the Muslim Brotherhood.
Chat with a Modern Major General
Belal Fadl

Sir Major General -- rather, sir Lieutenant General -- that is, sir General of the Army sir! [1] You majestic pillar of strength, you Colonel of distinction, Our Father, who art in all sorts of investigations and secret services… you really don’t realize what you’ve done to the country, do you?

To make a long story short -- and just in case you forgot, in your ecstasy over what you imagine to be a landslide victory -- there once was a failing gang who came into power [2]. They betrayed their promises, allied themselves with you, and I thought they would buy your satisfaction by leaving your special privileges just the way they are. This gang bit off more than they could chew, and acted like a man who hasn’t seen meat in a year - they took one look at power, and made a fool of themselves. So of course, they failed spectacularly. They went down in flames and the people rose up against them, demanding that the gang leave and early presidential elections be held, so they could choose someone more respectable and appoint him as president instead. But of course, you’ve conveniently forgotten the part about those early elections, and instead imposed a roadmap that guarantees your immediate control of the country. And you’ve brilliantly taken advantage of the Brotherhood’s appalling foolishness - all of it. First they offered you their necks - and they didn’t wake up until it was too late; meanwhile, you’re reaping the benefits of their crimes: their loathsome sectarian discourse; allowing armed men in their sit-ins; shouting words that they can't back up; and depending on people like Safwat Hegazi and Essam Abdel Maged, men who would cause civilization to sink entirely.

So after you won people over and they came out in the millions to remove this gang from power, instead of finishing up right and keeping your eye on the prize for the first time in your life… you decided to give this group CPR, so they could play the role of the oppressed, and gather their scattered members underground, just like in 1954 and 1965. And thanks to your politics, you’ll find that people will sympathize with them once again -- not out of love, but out of hatred, after their behinds are handed over to your men in the security headquarters, to be electrocuted once again.

Just as greed was the Brotherhood’s downfall, believe me - your policies will be your undoing. Your desire to take everything will lead you to lose everything. We will discover that an iron fist rules over this generation of revolutionaries, and they have turned a blind eye to it because they want to see where it will lead. Trust me, believe me, it’s not a misunderstanding; they are testing what you do. See how you decided to ruin that man with pure intentions, a stutter, and a clear stance [3] -- the one who agreed to work with you in hopes that you might have learned a lesson from those who came before you? And when he refused to do what you wanted, you mistreated him, forcing him to follow you. Even al-Azhar, which has consistently spoken about respect for you -- why did you circumvent it, cast it aside, and force it to issue a statement saying you didn’t consult their opinion on the massacre you committed… and as for the respectable people who agreed to work with you in government, you overpowered them, bullying them until they had second thoughts before taking a respectable position, and those thoughts multiplied a thousand times over. And of course, in the midst of all this, you are quite pleased with the media, working in your service, without thinking of the price society might pay for embracing hatred, violence, and anger, for vilifying others and accusing them of treason, for its lust for revenge.

Of course, you must feel quite safe sitting in the middle of your security, your servants, and your entourage, protecting yourselves and your children’s futures. Each of your men is protecting himself and his children’s futures; he does it in his own way, and with whatever it takes. In the end, it will be the average people who pay the price, the honorable citizens. Or to be more accurate: it will be the people you boast about when they join your ranks, and who you call fools as soon as they are against you. Because to you, they’re just numbers - just like to its leaders, the members of the Muslim Brotherhood are just numbers of martyrs and victims. Unfortunately, in the end it will be the little man -- the original inhabitant of Egypt -- who pays the price, led by the officers and the army recruits. And on the day he is killed, they’ll come to have their photos taken at his funeral. They’ll use his blood to quash and suppress others, and to cover up your political failure. And in the end, unfortunately, no one will care about him other than his family and loved ones.

I can’t blame you if you don’t understand what you’ve done to this country - the consequences get more and more dire as you march on with the same policies. There are many people who have read countless books, and who have taken respectable positions their whole lives. We figured they were savvy intellectuals… but the most important men and women keep on applauding you. And making excuses for you, just as the generations of intellectuals before them applauded and justified the actions of those before you, and those before them. It must be said that the generations who have applauded before were much more cultured and talented… but applause hasn’t prevented us from stupidity, nor protected us from defeat, nor stopped the wheel of regression from spinning onward. If you’re pleased that the people whose phones you used to tap in the past have now opened up a hotline between you and them, you won’t be able to enjoy it for long, because this land is teeming with people, and even if they swallow bullshit when forced or tricked, you eventually discover that no people can live off bullshit. Because of this, you’ll be faced with it all again, until you or those after you have tamed them - or until those who come after them defeat you, and get this country its rights. It will all continue, again and again, until a majority of the people discover that we can be more pure and more beautiful without those who squander our freedoms and dignity, our principles and our humanity.

Of course, you don’t realize that while you’ve solved one problem, you’ve created more problems in its place. These problems are just beginning to take shape, problems that nourish injustice, bitterness, and vile hatred, problems that will blow up in all of our faces one of these days, and without warning. I hope it disturbs you and you alone - I’ve had it in for you. You’ve opened the gates of hell, thinking you wouldn’t burn -- because after all, hell’s flames don’t sear the devils who live there. But you don’t understand that once hell’s gates are opened on earth, the destiny of hell’s guardians is to burn -- no matter how much they think they are protected, or secure, or seated on an eternal air conditioner.

Finally, as our good friend Ibn Arous [4] said: “It is inevitable that on a given day, grievances will be redressed.” Many people thought that this day had arrived, but it turns out that it's still on its way. We will work for it, and we just might see it -- us, or those who come after us, or those who come after them. In the end, this day will come, because Egypt isn't going anywhere -- and Egypt is the only one among us that is everlasting.

1. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
2. The Muslim Brotherhood.
3. Mohamed ElBaradei.
4. Ibn ‘Arous is an Egyptian poet, though whether he was a real person or a fictional character is debated. The verse continues: “White on all the oppressed / Black on all the oppressors.”

The first item I read this morning was a re-post at 3Quarks Daily by Abbas Raza, founder and editor of that uniquely excellent site, a remembrance of his friend EHTESHAM U. RAJA, who perished in the World Trade Center.  
Time permitting, do take time to read it. 
This is a moving tribute by one of my most cherished Web acquaintances.  And anyone not already familiar with 3 Quarks Daily should know your life has an empty spot you didn't realize was there. 



The gulf between the richest 1% of the USA and the rest of the country got to its widest level in history last year.

The top 1% of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3% of total household income in 2012, which is their biggest slice of total income in more than 100 years, according to a an analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Paris School of Economics at Oxford University.

The richest Americans haven't claimed this large of a slice of total wealth since 1927, when the group claimed 18.7%. The analysis is based on data from Internal Revenue Service data.

==► Again, INCOME and WEALTH are not the same. 
Wealth = assets minus liabilities.
High income does not always indicate great wealth.
But income over living expenses is the source of NEW wealth.
So when most of "total income" is collected by the richest one percent, there is no way for others to have meaningful upward mobility. 

Unless and until this level of inequality is corrected, the gap between rich and poor will remain and continue to grow.  This is not rocket science. 

Egypt bans mosque preachers in crackdown on Islamists
Tue, Sep 10
By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities will bar 55,000 unlicensed clerics from preaching in mosques in the latest move against sympathizers of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, the minister of religious endowments said on Tuesday. 
Egyptian authorities have been cracking down on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood since the army toppled him on July 3 following mass protests against his rule. 
Minister of Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said the clerics lack licenses to preach and were considered to be fundamentalist and a threat to the Egypt's security. 
The ban will mainly target small unlicensed mosques or random praying areas. The idea is to spread a moderate message of Islam and keep Egyptians away from radical ideas. 
"The decision is only meant to legalize the preaching process during Fridays' mass prayers and make only those authorized to do it, do it, Gomaa told Reuters. 
Authorities moved to crush the Brotherhood following the overthrow of Mursi, Egypt's first democratically leader. More than 2,000 Islamist activists have been arrested and most of the Brotherhood's leaders, including Mursi, jailed on charges of inciting or taking part in violence. Some have also been accused of terrorism or murder. 
Over the same period, more than 1,000 people have been killed in political violence. Most were protesters killed by security forces breaking up pro-Mursi camps in Cairo. About 100 were members of the security forces. 
Islamist attacks, mainly targeting security forces, have risen sharply in Egypt since Mursi's overthrow. 
A suicide car bomber blew himself up next to Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim's convoy last Thursday in a daylight attack in Cairo that killed a passer-by and an unidentified person and wounded 20.

The military-led authorities consider the Brotherhood a terrorist group and discussions are underway on the possibility of banning it.

This news was unthinkable forty-eight hours ago. 
Now somebody please tell me how Barack Obama had nothing to do with this.  

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia hasn't yet fulfilled a contract to send sophisticated S-300 air defense missile systems to Syria to avoid tilting the balance of power in the region.

Russian officials have acknowledged that Moscow signed a deal for the delivery of the powerful missiles a few years ago, but have been coy about whether any of them have been delivered.

Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Lebanese TV station Al-Manar last week that Russia has fulfilled some of its weapons contracts recently, but he was vague on whether this included the advanced S-300s. Israel's defense minister told a parliamentary committee Monday that according to "Russian talk," the weapon has not yet been delivered.

Speaking after a Russia-European Union summit in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, Putin defended the S-300 deal, saying it complies with the international law, but added that Russia hasn't yet fulfilled it.

"It's perhaps the best such weapon in the world," Putin said at a news conference. "It's indeed a serious weapon. We don't want to throw the region off balance."

"The contract has been signed a few years ago. It hasn't been fulfilled yet," Putin said.

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