Friday, December 31, 2010
Kat's Korner: Mystic Melanie
The siren and the sage of the Woodstock festival has been on a career revival of late -- one that probably kicked off in 2007 at the Meltdown Festival and includes the raves and word of mouth for her 2009 tour -- and this latest release will only continue to remind the world that a major talent is doing some serious explorations.
It also underscore how sexism continues to reign as you realize Van Morrison can be a "mystic" but so many critics actively seek out terms to dismiss Melanie with. She's just as much a mystic and seer and, these days, even more so. "Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu" she chants on "Motherhood Of Love" -- a song inspired by the Hindu guru and the "hugging saint" Mata Amritanandamayi. Mysticism and wisdom populate the album: "destiny lies in the fools who refuse to give up on the dreams" and "reason to the heart is a message undelivered" being only two examples. And her creed is outlined in the song she and her son Beau Jarred Schekeryk wrote, "Smile," whose refrain is "I love people who smile, If everybody smiles, we'll have a hometown all over the world." The song first appeared on her 2002 album Crazy Love and it's since become one of the anthems [like her "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)" and "Ring the Living Bell"]. This one's a toe-tapper and highly infectious.
And Melanie? She's a rock and roll survivor.
I tried to die young
Boy, did I try
But the voice deep in side
would not let me succumb
And I laughed at the things that I'd done
When I tried to die young
But she survived and lived to share on this final album featuring Peter Schekeryk with a production credit. Longtime collaborators and spouses, Melanie and Peter got together before Woodstock, had a family and saw the world. But he passed away this fall from a heart attack. And for many listeners, that probably adds another level to an already rich and textured album.
Death's not a topic a mystic can avoid and it winds in and out of the thirteen songs. "Working Legend," for example, has been reworked as a tribute to Johnny Cash. And there's "Life Without You" whose lyrics include, "I've read all those books on letting go, You're on every page it seems, But in sleep you're the place I go, Why do they call them dreams?"
This is such a brave album, a real treasure that can let you rock out ("My Surprise") or let you get lost in the harmonies. Chief among the latter is "Hush-a-bye:"
And after all the fighting's done
Life will take over
No one will have won
And when this world's gone on too long
Life will take over
This album is a real joy and one of the unexpected treasures of 2010. You can purchase the CD at Melanie's concerts, the download is at Cyrpress Rosewood and an early, working version of the album can also be downloaded at Amazon (this is not the completed album available at Cypress Rosewood).
the common ills
Continued attacks on Iraqi Christians, continued birth defects in Falluja
Falah: If they want us to leave, we will leave. If they want us to sleep on the street, we will sleep on the street If they want us to join them and be terrorists, we will do.
Rawya Rageh: The most recent round of violence began in October when gunmen stormed this Cathedral in Baghdad, a siege that ultimately left more than 40 worshipers dead. Signs of that attack still scar the site, with no sign of letting up. Just last week, al Qaeda warned of more attacks during the holidays resulting in what the already dwindling community described as their grimmest Christmas ever. This is what Christmas Eve mass looked like at one of Baghdad's largest Churches, celebrations canceled, congregations decimated. The UN says thousands have fled to northern cities and neighboring countries. The government had promised increased security and both the Prime Minister and Church leaders have been urging Christians not to flee. But some say, it's not that simple.
Father Saad Sirop Hanna of St. Joseph's Church: Reality imposes itself on people's choices and lives. What the Church had announced is that we want our community to remain intact in this country but the reality is much more powerful. Change is minimal and slow.
Rawya Rageh: The Christian community in Iraq is now facing a difficult choice.
The above is from Rawya Rageh's video report for Al Jazeera. Yesterday Christians in Baghdad were again targeting with multiple bombings. Al Jazeera notes that some were homemade bombings, some were grenades and that 2 people died with eighteen more injured. Jacque Clement (AFP) quotes Father Yousef Thomas Mirkis ("head of the Dominican order in Iraq") stating, "It's a mess. It shows the incapability of the government to restore security. It is very difficult to understand why people attack the Christians, because we do not have any political power and we are not a threat." Bagdhad's Chalden Catholic Church's Father Saad Sirop Hanna declares that "the purpose of these attacks is to threaten the Christians and force them to flee from Iraq."
CNN quotes Kiyour Kizarab whose Baghdad home was targeted in the bombings, "I am 60 years old and I gave a lot to this country, but this tough situation is like a message asking me to leave my country. If these attacks will continue, and the government can't stop them, then I don't think we will have a future here." AP reports the two killed were 78-year-old Janet Mekha and 76-year-old Fawzi Rahim who were killed when they responded to their ringing doorbell by opening the door just as the bomb went off. Something to remember about yesterday's attacks is the climate Iraqi Christians in Baghdad (and Mosul) were already living in. Many families had stopped sending their children to school in the weeks following the October 31st attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church, thinking that their homes could provide the safety the government could not. Now their homes themselves have become targets.
Today the US State Dept issued the following statement from Acting Dept Spokesperson Mark C. Toner: "We condemn the violence against Christians carried out overnight by terrorists in Iraq. President Talabani, Prime Minister Maliki, and virtually every political bloc and major religious leader in Iraq have denounced attacks on Christians and stressed the centrality of Christians in the fabric of Iraqi society. We commend the Government of Iraq for increasing its security measures to protect Christian communities since the October 31 suicide bombing attack at Our Lady of Salvation Church. We call on the Government of Iraq to redouble its efforts to protect Christians and apprehend the terrorists who are behind these acts."
Global Blogger offers "Iraq: 2010 in Review" (Global Post) which includes:
At present, it is uncertain whether that withdrawal date will actually be honored. Although the war has dialed down, civil unrest and insurgency persist. Civilians and soldiers, both American and Iraqi, are still dying every day. This enduring violence has raised important question about whether U.S. deployment could possibly continue into 2012 and beyond. At every level of the diplomatic and military hierarchy, officials from both countries fear that Iraq is not ready to secure its borders or provide adequate security against terrorist attacks or religious warfare.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – who secured another term in office after a grueling political bout in the wake of the March elections – has quietly acknowledged that his government may need a new agreement with the United States. Publicly, he has ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, stating that Iraqi security forces will be up to the task of confronting any remaining threats to national sovereignty and domestic unity. As al-Maliki told the Wall Street Journal, “The last American soldier will leave Iraq. This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed.” Many observers believe that al-Maliki must ultimately oppose an extension because of his political alliance with anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his obligations to Tehran.
True or false, there's a feeling in DC that some of Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters can be peeled away with 'incentives' (money) provided Nouri doesn't launch another attack on them. al-Sadr's influence was seen as waning as 2007 ended and 2008 began but then Nouri attacked Basra and then Sadr section of Baghdad elevating Moqtada al-Sadr to new found heights where he appeared a leader as he issued one statement after another from outside Iraq. As always, from outside Iraq. There are no facts that demonstrated al-Sadr's supporters can be peeled away, that is a judgment call that's been made by the US government. That's DC gossip, take it for what it's worth or not.
Meanwhile Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:
A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.
The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.
The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja's genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.
Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) adds, "The research and a forthcoming report by the World Health Organisation on the same issue will renew international attention on the siege of Fallujah, condemned by anti-war activists and human rights campaigners as an excessive response to insurgent activity. Thousands of alleged insurgents and civilians are said to have been killed. White phosphorous and depleted uranium shells are known to have been used in large numbers. Depleted uranium in particular has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects."
The following community sites have updated since yesterday's snapshot:
- 10 Best DVDs of 201018 hours ago
- 10 Best DVDs of 201018 hours ago
- Fringe, Chuck, Ralph J. Dolan22 hours ago
- 2010 in Page Turners22 hours ago
- Even more banks are failing22 hours ago
- Rosie the Riveter passes away22 hours ago
In addition, Kat did her last album review of 2010 with "Kat's Korner: Mystic Melanie" today. She'll be doing a music in review for the year here, Ruth will be covering the year in radio, Isaiah will have a comic, Martha and Shirley will do their look at books and I'll do a year-in-review piece. Those will run between now and tomorrow (I haven't even started my piece except for some scraps/notes written on the road over the year). I'll do at least one Iraq entry tomorrow and one on Sunday -- we're on holiday schedule, Monday we return to normal schedule. And, noted above, Marcia's "2010 in Page Turners" and Rebecca's "2010 in page turners" and Ann's "10 Best DVDs of 2010" and Stan's "10 Best DVDs of 2010" are two joint-posts looking at the year in books and movies.
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the telegraph of london
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Calls to leave, Iran points finger at Saudi Arabia
Meanwhile two papers weigh in that the US needs to leave Iraq. The editorial board of the Orange County Register argues, "We argued from the beginning, nearly eight years ago, that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and the prolonged U.S. occupation seems to have led to an Iraq that is more shaky than stable and has serious tolerance problems, leading, for example, to most Iraqi Christians fleeing the country. For better and for worse, however, it is time to allow Iraqis to handle these Iraqi problems. The U.S. should continue to withdraw troops on schedule and allow historians of the future to weigh the pluses and minuses of our misadventure in Iraq." The Pensacola News Journal's editorial board opines, "Frankly, we figure the future of Iraq lies in an increasingly authoritarian government that, while mild by Middle East dictatorship standards, will hopefully also be reasonably secular and relatively democratic. Meanwhile, the terrorists will continue to set off bombs, the Shiites and Sunnis will continue to scratch and claw for power, and the Kurds will try to stay out of it under independent governance. For the United States, the best outcome will be if Iraq keeps arm's-length from Iran and succeeds in greatly expanding oil exports, which frankly we believe was the point all along, no matter all the rhetoric we were spoon fed about spreading democracy, etc."
Press TV reports that Fawzi Tarzi, a Moqtada al-Sadr acolate, is isnisting that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism in Iraq and quotes the Iraqi National Alliance's Mohammed Hussein stating, "We should seal our borders with Saudi Arabia to hold the flow of terrorism." And Iran's state-run media also serves up Wisam al-Bayati (link has text and video) with the assertion that Saudi Arabia is "snubbing" Iraq's government out of Baghdad because many in it are Shi'ite.
There will be a snapshot today. Tomorrow there probably won't be one unless news of the day demands one. Tomorrow and Saturday, the focus will be on the end of the year. We'll close with this from Mehdi Hasan's "US Drone Attacks Are No Laughing Matter, Mr Obama" (Guardian via Information Clearing House):
Speaking at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in May, Barack Obama spotted teen pop band the Jonas Brothers in the audience. "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don't get any ideas," deadpanned the president, referring to his daughters. "Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming." The crowd laughed, Obama smiled, the dinner continued. Few questioned the wisdom of making such a tasteless joke; of the US commander-in-chief showing such casual disregard for the countless lives lost abroad through US drone attacks.
From the moment he stepped foot inside the White House, Obama set about expanding and escalating a covert CIA programme of "targeted killings" inside Pakistan, using Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles (who comes up with these names?) that had been started by the Bush administration in 2004. On 23 January 2009, just three days after being sworn in, Obama ordered his first set of air strikes inside Pakistan; one is said to have killed four Arab fighters linked to al-Qaida but the other hit the house of a pro-government tribal leader, killing him and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child. Obama's own daughter, Sasha, was seven at the time.
But America's Nobel-peace-prize-winning president did not look back. During his first nine months in office he authorised as many aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W Bush did in his final three years in the job. And this year has seen an unprecedented number of air strikes. Forget Mark Zuckerberg or the iPhone 4 – 2010 was the year of the drone. According to the New America Foundation thinktank in Washington DC, the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan more than doubled in 2010, to 115. That is an astonishing rate of around one bombing every three days inside a country with which the US is not at war.
And the carnage continues. On Monday, CIA drones fired six missiles at two vehicles in a "Taliban stronghold" in north Waziristan, on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, killing 18 "militants". Or so said "Pakistani intelligence officials", speaking under condition of anonymity to the Associated Press. Today another round of drone strikes is thought to have killed at least 15 "militants" in the same area.
These attacks by unmanned aircraft may have succeeded in eliminating hundreds of dangerous militants, but the truth is that they also kill innocent civilians indiscriminately and in large numbers. According to the New America Foundation, one in four of those killed by drones since 2004 has been an innocent. The Brookings Institute, however, has calculated a much higher civilian-to-militant ratio of 10:1.
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the orange county register
the pensacola news journal
And Christmas did take place, was publicly celebrated in the KRG. They beefed up security, there were no known attacks on Iraqi Christians.
How is Barzani able to do to that over three provinces and Nouri can't even secure the city of Baghdad? In what world does that make sense?
Janet Ritz (Huffington Post) interviewed Qubad Talabani, the KRG's US representative and the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Excerpt:
In Iraqi Kurdistan, nationalism is the common belief in a distinctly pluralistic society where the Kurds have opened their gates to Iraqi Christians seeking refuge from extremist violence.
"We've had this welcoming policy [to Iraqi Christians];" Mr. Talabani explains; "we've probably settled in Kurdistan 12,000 to 15,000 Christian families and, regrettably, hundreds of thousands have left Iraq altogether. Those who've chosen not to leave Iraq have resettled in Kurdistan."
They've shown the same tolerance toward other religious minorities. Problems, when they do arise, are cultural in nature. Mr. Talabani was candid about the challenges faced by women in their rural regions, with crimes of honor killings and female genital mutilation, on which, he said, Kurdistan, unlike other parts of the Middle East, reports and has begun work to stop. It won't be easy. In the male dominated culture that exists in the rural areas, he points out that it will take religious leaders and village elders to change the practices. There's been some progress in those efforts, including a statement by the Kurdish Islamic authority to condemn the practices, but, as he said, "we can't shy away" from the problem. There's more work to be done.
Long targeted throughout the endless and illegal Iraq War, Iraqi Christians have faced a new wave of persecution which began October 31st with the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Attacks have continued in Baghdad and Mosul forcing many Iraqis to flee. Some have gone to the KRG, others have left the country. J. Lee Grady (Charisma) looks back at the "Top Spiritual Trends of 2010" and notes, "The Open Doors organization says the 'religicide' of Christians in Iraq today is similar to what happened to Iraqi Jews in 1941." Maria Mackay (Christian Today) reports:
Barnabas Fund recently received a letter from an Iraqi archbishop warning that Christians were too afraid to leave their homes. The very real threat of being killed in broad daylight is making it difficult to do the very practical things like shopping and, more importantly, going to work.
The international director of Barnabas Fund, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, said: “It is like living in a prison camp. You could leave the house but you don’t know what is going to happen. Because of the targeted attacks, there is a chance that Christians venturing out to work or onto the streets will be attacked or killed. The fear is effectively leaving Christians stranded in their homes.”
Nick Vinocur (Reuters) reports on the sour grapes of Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (the lack of leadership currently at that organization was never more obvious) and the UNHCR over France taking in victims ofthe October 31st attack. The two go down to the whine cellar and emerge with a chardonnay of green-eyed bitchery. Bitter Becca Heller, IRAP, whines that it's just not fair to everyone that France took in Iraqi Christians. Grow the hell up. A spectacular attack on a house of worship resulted in France offering medical help and asylum. It's not at all surprising, it's not 'discriminatory' towards others. It was spectacular attack like nothing anyone was prepared for or expected. France's offer was not at all different from those reaching out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Little whiny asses need to stop their carping. Instead of whining over what someone else did, maybe the two organizations might try doing something of their own. Because what the world's seeing is the United Nations repeatedly stating that it is not safe to return to Iraq but unble to halt the forced deportations of Iraqi refugees in Europe back to Iraq. And IRAP? The US-based organization has had no impact on US policies. So instead of whining over what the government of France did -- a noble thing to reach out to any community after an attack -- the two organizations might try sobering up, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on a real issue.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010