The jaw is any opposable articulated structure at the entrance of the mouth.

In most vertebrates, the jaws are bony or cartilaginous and oppose vertically, comprising an upper jaw and a lower jaw. The vertebrate jaw is derived from the most anterior two pharyngeal arches supporting the gills, and usually bears numerous teeth.

Moray eels have two sets of jaws: the oral jaws that capture prey and the pharyngeal jaws that advance into the mouth and move prey from the oral jaws to the esophagus for swallowing

The vertebrate jaw probably originally evolved in the Silurian period and appeared in the Placoderm fish which further diversified in the Devonian. The two most anterior pharyngeal arches are thought to have become the jaw itself and the hyoid arch, respectively. The hyoid system suspends the jaw from the braincase of the skull, permitting great mobility of the jaws. While there is no fossil evidence directly to support this theory, it makes sense in light of the numbers of pharyngeal arches that are visible in extant jawed vertebrates (the Gnathostomes), which have seven arches, and primitive jawless vertebrates (the Agnatha), which have nine.

It is thought that the original selective advantage garnered by the jaw was not related to feeding, but to increased respiration efficiency. The jaws were used in the buccal pump (observable in modern fish and amphibians) that pumps water across the gills of fish or air into the lungs in the case of amphibians. Over evolutionary time the more familiar use of jaws (to humans), in feeding, was selected for and became a very important function in vertebrates. Many teleost fish have substantially modified their jaws for suction feeding and jaw protrusion, resulting in highly complex jaws with dozens of bones involved.

The jaw in tetrapods is substantially simplified compared to fish. Most of the upper jaw bones (premaxilla, maxilla, jugal, quadratojugal, and quadrate) have been fused to the braincase, while the lower jaw bones (dentary, splenial, angular, surangular, and articular) have been fused together into a unit called the mandible. The jaw articulates via a hinge joint between the quadrate and articular. The jaws of tetrapods exhibit varying degrees of mobility between jaw bones. Some species have jaw bones completely fused, while others may have joints allowing for mobility of the dentary, quadrate, or maxilla. The snake skull shows the greatest degree of cranial kinesis, in order to allow the snake to swallow large prey items.


Syria Peace Talks Face Delay, Big Powers Split

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) – International powers are unlikely to meet their goal of convening peace talks on Syria in Geneva next month as differences emerge between Washington and Moscow over opposition representation, Arab and Western officials said.

Failure of the main Syrian National Coalition to take a clear stance over the talks, which aim to find a political solution to Syria’s 2-1/2 year civil war, are also expected to contribute to a delay of up to one month, the officials told Reuters.

“A clearer picture will emerge when the United States and Russia meet next week, but all indications show that the November 23 goal will be difficult to meet,” said one of the officials involved in preparing for the talks.

U.S., Russian and U.N envoys are due to meet in Geneva next Tuesday as part of the preparation for the long-delayed peace conference, which was first proposed back in May.

A main point of contention, the official said, is the role of the Western-backed opposition coalition – an issue which has flared up since a meeting in London last week of Western and Gulf Arab countries opposed to Assad.

They announced that the Geneva negotiations should be between a “single delegation of the Syrian regime and a single delegation of the opposition, of which the Syrian National Coalition should be the heart and lead, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

Russia sees the coalition as just one part of the opposition and has suggested that several delegations, including Damascus-based figures tolerated by the government, could represent President Bashar al-Assad’s foes.

That position was echoed by Hassan Abdul Azim, head of the opposition National Coordination Body, who said after meeting international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus that delegates should attend not under the banner of the coalition but as part of a united “Syrian National Opposition”.

A communique at the end of the London meeting also said Geneva would aim to establish a transitional government by which time “Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria”.

“The Russians are furious at the strong stance taken in London and that the communiqué went a long way towards satisfying the demands of the coalition,” a Western official said.


Preparations for the Geneva talks were thrown into further confusion on Tuesday by the dismissal of Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, after he met senior U.S. diplomat Robert Ford in Geneva on Saturday.

Jamil, a member of what Assad describes as the “patriotic opposition”, was sacked for leaving the country without permission and holding unauthorized meetings, state media said.

“He saw Ford after meeting Russian officials in Moscow. The meeting was long but useless,” a Middle East official said, asking not to be named.

“Jamil put forward what Ford apparently regarded as unworkable proposals regarding the Geneva talks. He also unsuccessfully tried to win U.S. backing to include him on the opposition side in the Geneva talks,” he said.

Another diplomatic source said Russia had backed the idea, but that the coalition would not have agreed to sit on the same side of the table as Jamil in any negotiations.

“It will take time between Russia and the United States to resolve their differences. We are looking now at Geneva between November 23 and Christmas,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged the Geneva meeting faced objections from both sides in Syria.

But he added during a visit to Greece: “There are contacts between Russia and the U.S. and we should not allow these efforts to fizzle out.”


Differences between Moscow and Washington are not the only obstacles to the peace talks going ahead.

Ahmad Jarba, president of the opposition coalition, has publicly resisted calls to commit to attending the so-called Geneva 2 conference, saying the coalition will not take part if there is any chance Assad might cling to power.

“He was speaking to his constituency and his public stance differs from what he told us privately,” one delegate at last week’s London meeting said, trying to play down the significance of Jarba’s stance.

“We assured Jarba that an understanding had been reached with the Russians for Geneva to produce a transitional governing body with full powers over the army and security apparatus and that Assad would not be allowed to retain power under any special clauses. But his fate will not be specifically discussed at Geneva,” the delegate said.

Even if Jarba were to attend, he has no authority over the rebel brigades battling to overthrow Assad. Many have rejected any negotiations not centered around Assad’s removal and said they would charge anyone who attended them with treason.

Opposition sources said Jarba, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, travelled there in recent days to meet King Abdullah. Jarba will preside over a coalition meeting in Istanbul on November 9 to discuss taking a position on Geneva.

“The meeting will likely stretch for up to a week as usual. What is required is for the coalition to forget rhetoric and come up with a strategy, road map and a detailed policy,” one envoy said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was still planning for a November conference but “no date or details is set or final until the United Nations announces it.”

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters on Wednesday: “We’ll continue to work diligently for a conference in Geneva and we’re working intensely.”

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky added: “We continue to work towards the holding of Geneva 2 and there will be a meeting next week in Geneva to see where those prospects stand and to continue preparations.”

Several officials, including Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, have said they expect the Geneva 2 conference to convene on November 23, though the United States, Russia and the United Nations have all said no date has been officially set.

“A date has not been officially set because no one wants it to be officially postponed,” a Western diplomat said. “But it has been clear all along the aim was Nov 23. It looks now that it will be de facto postponed.”

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Lou Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols in New York and Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Dreams Of Greatness Inspire Ambitious Afghans

By Sudipto Ganguly


Afghan cricket team captain Mohammad Nabi Esa Khil (C) holds the ACC Cup after the team’s arrival in Kabul, in this October 12, 2013 file photo, following Afghanistan’s qualification for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Surrounded by thousands of makeshift tents in the dusty refugee camp he called home, not even in his wildest dreams could Mohammad Nabi have believed that his decision to while away the hours with a miniature cricket bat would lead him to play in the 2015 World Cup. To match feature CRICKET-AFGHANISTAN/     REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/Files

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Surrounded by thousands of makeshift tents in the dusty refugee camp he called home, not even in his wildest dreams could Mohammad Nabi have believed that his decision to while away the hours with a miniature cricket bat would lead him to play in the 2015 World Cup.

Like most of his team mates, Nabi got the first taste of the sport while living in a refugee camp in Peshawar, after his parents had fled Afghanistan while the country was ravaged by the Soviet war.

With no access to television or other forms of entertainment in the camps, a simple game involving a bat and a ball seemed to be the obvious option for the children to spend time.

“I picked up cricket on the streets in Pakistan. We used to play with tennis balls,” Nabi, who captained the team during the qualification campaign, told Reuters.

Cricket gained prominence in Afghanistan as the refugees started returning to the country in the 1990s.

But the idea of rubbing shoulders with top players such as Younus Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq or Michael Clarke in the sport’s most prestigious and glamorous tournament would still have been a far-fetched dream.

After all it was only in June this year that the International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the sport, granted Afghanistan Associate status, which is the second tier of membership behind the 10 test-playing nations.

But the lack of pedigree or facilities did not stop cricket’s greenhorns from beating Kenya in Sharjah this month to qualify for their maiden 50-over World Cup.

The unexpected qualification has only fired their ambition as the war-torn country eyes regular competition with top-tier cricket teams to reach the next level.

“We believe it will be the start of a new phase for Afghanistan,” Noor Muhammad Murad, the chief executive of the country’s cricket board, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Thousands of ecstatic fans, for whom insurgency and bomb attacks are part of a daily routine, flocked to the stadium in Kabul to welcome their heroes on their return from Dubai.


Playing against associate members does not excite the Afghans any more as they believe that competing against stronger opponents is the only way to improve before the World Cup.

But that plan is yet to materialise as none of the Asian countries have shown interest in playing against them.

Noor has written relentlessly to cricket boards of neighbors India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and even plans to visit them in the near future to nail down a chance to play against the more established nations of the sport.

“If you compare our situation with Scotland, we have clean-swept them. But England is giving them a chance to play ODIs, Australia is giving them chance, Pakistan is giving them chance,” Noor rued.
“We need the experience. We are eligible for the Asia Cup but we are not allowed to play.”

Top-tier countries maybe worried about lack of interest in a match against Afghanistan but Noor tried to allay those fears.

Most new entrants end up being the whipping boys when playing against prominent teams in tournaments like the World Cup but Afghanistan has vowed that they will not be travelling to Australia and New Zealand to just make up the numbers.

“Afghanistan will ensure that they will play a very competitive game in the World Cup and not let the competition seem easy against our team,” Noor said.


With more than 15 months left for the tournament, most would be happy to sit back, enjoy the accolades that are pouring in and delve in celebration but not the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB).
The ACB rather wants to use the occasion as a springboard to develop the sport in the country.

The World Cup qualification has brought in added funds from the ICC and they plan use it to invest in a 500-day program to prepare for the 2015 tournament and improve cricket facilities.

While most of the fund will be spent in conducting foreign tours, super-skill training and coaching programs, some money will also be earmarked for improving the mental strength of players.

Afghanistan currently has two international stadiums and nine turf grounds which pales in comparison with neighboring India, where 49 grounds have hosted international matches and where academies grow in major cities like mushrooms every month.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)


India, U.S. Preparing Satellites To Probe Martian Atmosphere

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – Two new science satellites are being prepared to join a fleet of robotic Mars probes to help determine why the planet most like Earth in the solar system ended up so different.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, the country’s first interplanetary foray, is due to blast off on November 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

Billed as a pathfinder to test technologies to fly to orbit and communicate from Mars, the satellite follows India’s successful 2008-2009 Chandrayaan-1 moon probe, which discovered water molecules in the lunar soil.

The Mars Orbiter Mission has ambitious science goals as well, including a search for methane in the Martian atmosphere. On Earth, the chemical is strongly tied to life.
Methane, which also can be produced by non-biological processes, was first detected in the Martian atmosphere a decade ago.

But recent measurements made by NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, show only trace amounts of methane, a puzzling finding since the gas should last about 200 years on Mars.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission also will study Martian surface features and mineral composition.

Also launching in November is NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, spacecraft.

MAVEN will focus on Mars’ thin atmosphere, but rather than hunting methane, it is designed to help scientists figure out how the planet managed to lose an atmosphere that at one time was believed to be thicker than Earth’s.

“MAVEN is going to focus on trying to understand what the history of the atmosphere has been, how the climate has changed through time and how that has influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential habitability – at least by microbes – of Mars,” lead mission scientist Bruce Jakosky, with the University of Colorado at Boulder, told reporters on a conference call on Monday.

MAVEN is due to launch on November 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and reach Mars on September 22, 2014 – the day after India’s spacecraft arrives.
They will join two NASA rovers, two NASA orbiters and a European Space Agency satellite already studying Mars.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Sandra Maler)


Special Report: As Egypt’s Brotherhood Retreats, Risk Of Extremism Rises

By Michael Georgy and Tom Perry


People and police are seen through a hole in the wall of the al-Azhar university administration building after students tried to break-in during student protests in Cairo October 30, 2013. Egyptian police fired teargas at protesting students at Cairo’s al-Azhar university on Wednesday hours after authorities announced the detention of Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Erian, part of a crackdown against the Islamist movement. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) – In Egypt’s second city, medical student Ahmed Nabil lives in fear that the police may come and arrest him any day. As a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he is part of a movement facing an onslaught by the security forces which toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

“These days we can be picked up at any time,” said Nabil, whose parents are also members of the organization, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement and a supporter of Mursi.

The Brotherhood’s discipline and hierarchy helped it win elections after the 2011 popular uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, eventually propelling Mursi into power. But now the army-led government and its supporters regard the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and enemy of the state. The security forces and police, feared and despised under Mubarak, are lauded for cracking down on the organization.

The Brotherhood denounces violence and says it is committed to peaceful protest. But as members go into hiding, its key building blocks – local groups of seven members known as usras – are under pressure.

“The most important person for me is the head of my usra,” said Nabil. “I get everything from him.”

In Nabil’s eyes, the usras, which provide everything from Koran studies to marriage counseling, are crumbling. That raises the risk the organization will fracture, and that some members will abandon peaceful activism to take up arms.

In a sign of how the Brotherhood is retreating, Nabil has bought a new, unregistered mobile phone. He encrypts text messages and is careful about what he writes on Facebook, fearful that the authorities are monitoring communications.

Nabil said he has lost five friends killed in demonstrations and that he narrowly escaped arrest when he took part in a protest. He worries about survival and avoiding jail. The clampdown, he said, could radicalize some members.

This month suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers near the Suez Canal, fired rocket propelled grenades at a state satellite station in Cairo and exploded a car bomb near an Egyptian army intelligence building in the city of Ismailia. More than 50 people have been killed and more than 270 wounded in recent clashes between the police and protesters supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
Even as questions remain over who mounts such attacks, it seems clear the recruitment pool for radicals has grown significantly since Mursi’s overthrow.

“Not all people in the opposition can go on resisting peacefully if this unbelievable pressure continues, especially the detentions of leaders who pushed the movement to remain peaceful,” said Nabil. Before they were imprisoned, top Brotherhood leaders often told followers that avoiding violence would give the movement the moral high ground against the government.

“All these military actions against us, including killing and torture and arrests, push us to respond with force. One prays that God ends the crisis before we reach the situation in Syria,” he said, referring to civil war in that country. “As our grand guide (top leader) said, ‘Our peaceful ways are stronger than a bullet.’”

The government makes no distinction between the Brotherhood and al Qaeda-inspired militants based in the Sinai Peninsula who have sharply stepped up attacks against soldiers and police since Mursi was overthrown. The authorities say the Brotherhood’s members are terrorists out to spread an Islamic caliphate across several nations, not focus on Egypt’s well-being.

A top security official who has monitored the Brotherhood for decades told Reuters: “The usra has been destroyed in a very big way. The Brotherhood member is taught not to think on his own, just to take orders. This is how the group functions. So if there is no one to give them orders it means the group is in trouble.”


The usra was devised by Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, to indoctrinate and mobilize followers. Usras typically used to meet once a week for at least three hours, usually at the home of a member. The usra leader could be so pivotal that members sought their permission to travel to Cairo.

During past crackdowns, the usra survived by adapting. Its size was reduced to three members when restrictions were tightened. Those small units avoided arrest by speaking while walking down streets or meeting in tea houses, not homes. In prison, the usra became the number of men in each cell.

After Mursi fell, the Brotherhood had hoped to mobilize millions of protesters; but the army reacted forcefully, bulldozing a protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya in eastern Cairo on August 14, killing hundreds of Mursi’s supporters. Security forces have arrested many top Brotherhood leaders, including Mursi, on charges of inciting or perpetrating violence.

Before the leaders were detained, they sent messages to Brotherhood officials urging them to ensure that usras continued, according to the head of an usra and other Brotherhood members. But members are struggling.

In Alexandria, Abu Bakr al-Masri is the head of an usra and worships in a spartan Brotherhood mosque on the bottom floor of an apartment building. For decades, the Brotherhood has used such mosques in rundown neighborhoods across Egypt to deepen its influence and raise funds.

Masri’s usra has not met since Mursi fell. He is proud of his position but worried because he can no longer guide young men.

“I gave people advice on everything. Even if you have trouble with your wife you come to me,” he said, sitting in his apartment, a block from the mosque. “The usra is under a lot of pressure now. I speak to people in the usra by phone, but it is always brief and we never have a chance to speak about the important issues.”

There are usras for women and Masri’s wife, Um Abdullah, heads one. It, too, has not met since July and she is a member of another that has stopped gathering.

“I am sitting here doing nothing,” she said, complaining about the Brotherhood’s isolation. Um Abdullah, who was veiled, is tasked with spreading the Brotherhood’s views of how Muslim families should approach life. There is little scope for that now. “I used to be able to go out in the streets and tell other women about our vision, about the true Muslim family,” she said. “Now I can only wander in our building and speak to my neighbors.”

The Brotherhood has few options. Many Egyptians turned sharply against the organization during Mursi’s year as president. He was accused of trying to give himself sweeping powers, entrenching the Brotherhood in the institutions of state and mismanaging the economy. The Brotherhood denies those charges.

While limited protests by Mursi supporters continue, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of the military, has announced a political roadmap promising new elections. The transition includes rewriting the constitution that was drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly, passed in a referendum and signed into law by Mursi. The most contentious feature of the new constitution may be a clause banning religious political parties.

The Brotherhood wants nothing to do with the transition and its supporters are retreating. In one tight-knit Brotherhood community in Alexandria, four families have already fled for fear of arrest after the security forces and army began conducting overnight searches of apartment buildings, according to local Brotherhood supporters.


In the office of Ahmed Fahim, a lawyer in Alexandria who represents Muslim Brotherhood members, stands a photograph of a past leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an offshoot of the Brotherhood. It’s a small sign of Fahim’s defiance.

His day usually starts with a brief walk to the courthouse, which he believes treats the Brotherhood unfairly. “Why do they let common criminals see their day in court while Muslim Brotherhood detainees are seen as a security risk and are only allowed hearings in jail?” he said.

A Justice Ministry official said security forces advise the ministry that taking Brotherhood members to a courthouse poses a security risk because there could be protests and other problems.

For Fahim, all around are reminders of the Brotherhood’s steep fall from power. In the street a young boy sells posters showing army chief Sisi with Gulf Arab leaders who pumped billions of dollars into Egypt after Mursi fell. At the courthouse, overlooking the sea, a blue police truck displays a poster showing Sisi beside Gamal Abdel Nasser, a former president of Egypt who ordered a crackdown on the Brotherhood after an attempt to assassinate him.

Fahim seemed resigned to the idea that the Brotherhood will experience hardship. “We knew from the beginning that our path would not be lined with roses, but thorns,” he said. He no longer thinks it is realistic to demand Mursi’s reinstatement.

He worries about the fate of the usra – but also the possibility that members of the Muslim Brotherhood may turn to armed struggle. “People won’t be able to hold back,” he said, though he calls for restraint.

At his modest apartment, Fahim spoke proudly about how his son Muiz, 10, and daughter Amena, 7, joined him at the demonstration at Rabaa al-Adawiya, which at times swelled to tens of thousands of protesters. The family laughed when the daughter said she didn’t like Sisi or Mubarak. But the mood soured when they recalled how the Rabaa protest was crushed.

The conversation turned to how unpopular the Brotherhood is. A joke doing the rounds illustrated the grim mood: A boy who wants to have his father killed leaves their fifth floor apartment, goes to the ground floor and posts a sign at the entrance, “Muslim Brotherhood headquarters is located on the fifth floor, apartment three.”

Like Fahim, some outside experts fear the severity of the crackdown could backfire. “The weekly usra meeting is a very important tool in shaping the mindset and behavior of Brotherhood members. The alternative might be an extreme path,” said Khalil al-Anani, senior fellow at The Middle East Institute in Washington.

“This might replicate the 1950s and 1960s when the state cut links between the leadership and grassroots, leading in the end to the deviation of youth and creation of groups that started insurgencies.”
While Reuters found no evidence of Brotherhood members joining extremist groups, the authorities are now portraying most Islamists as one broad group of terrorists.


When reporters first met Nabil, the medical student in Alexandria, he was upbeat about the prospect of the Brotherhood returning to power. He had spent a great deal of time reading commentaries from Brotherhood officials about how many military coups had ultimately failed.

He was especially interested in reading about Algeria. There the army’s decision to cancel elections in 1991, which Islamists had won, plunged the North African country into a civil war that killed at least 150,000 people.

But later Nabil grew downbeat. With the top Muslim Brotherhood leaders behind bars and his usra leader on the run, Nabil has no one to help him get through tough times. Fear of arrest has forced Islamists to cut down on protests. Maintaining secrecy is important: Protest locations are only shared with a few. False destinations are sometimes announced on Facebook to confuse the authorities.

If Nabil does run into his ursa leader at a protest, there is little time to talk, he said. Demonstrations are often cut short to avoid clashes with security forces, who may have been tipped off by informers.

Pro-government activists called baltagiya, or thugs, usually attack the processions from behind, using everything from rocks to swords and guns, demonstrators say. Nabil pointed to Egyptian flags held by Brotherhood members and said: “Actually those flags have another purpose. When we are attacked, people holding them flip them around and use the wooden poles to defend protesters.”

He cannot count, as the Brotherhood once did, on popular support. During one demonstration, Nabil and a friend looked up at the balconies of surrounding buildings to find people insulting them and hurling water. “Every week we count the numbers of people who are against us,” he said.

There is no doubt the army-backed government has the upper hand, and Brotherhood members often compare the current campaign against the group to the repression imposed by Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s.

In Alexandria, Abdel Latif Mohammed, a Brotherhood member who is now too old to kneel for prayers in the mosque, recalled how jailers during Nasser’s crackdown whipped his feet and then set dogs on him. He recalled, too, that 15,000 people were arrested in one night. Yet in Mohammed’s eyes, the current situation is worse.

No government spokesman would comment on the scale of the crackdown. But a senior security official told Reuters: “This group has to be stopped. They are terrorists with an international agenda. They don’t care about Egypt.”

Even lawyers who defend Muslim Brotherhood members say they no longer feel safe and move from one house to another to avoid arrest. In August, in an interview with Reuters, Khalaf Bayoumi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood lawyer in Alexandria, predicted he would be arrested. He is now being held with other Islamists at the sprawling Borg al-Arab prison on the edge of Alexandria.

Visitors to the prison say groups of 35 Mursi supporters are crowded into cells built for 10. Army tanks guard the premises.

Before he was incarcerated, Bayoumi said that to survive, the Brotherhood must preserve the usra. “If the Brotherhood loses that, the group will fall,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Abdel Rahman Youssef in Alexandria; Editing By Richard Woods and Simon Robinson)


Polio Reemerges in Syria and Israel, Threatening Europe

New cases in Syria highlight the vulnerability of nearby countries to the viral disease

By Declan Butler and Nature magazine

polio vaccine

ORAL POLIO VACCINE: An Israeli child receives an oral polio vaccination as the disease has begun silently spreading, bringing with it the real risk of a European outbreak.Image: Abir Sultan/EPA/Alamy

To many Europeans, poliomyelitis is an ancient foe. But for the first time in years, there is a risk that the crippling paralytic disease is about to make an unwelcome return. Poliovirus has re-emerged on Europe’s southeastern flank — in Israel and Syria — leaving public-health officials concerned that the disease could be imported and again become established on the continent.

Europe is surprisingly vulnerable. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared its European region, which now spans 53 countries from Portugal to Russia, free of polio in 2002. But many countries have since dropped their guard. Surveillance systems are often incomplete and of poor quality, and suboptimal vaccination rates mean that many countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, are considered to be susceptible to outbreaks sparked by imported cases (see ‘Polio threat’).

The situation is “a wake up call”, says Marc Sprenger, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm. Given the weaknesses in European polio defences, the extensive levels of travel between Europe and Israel, and the millions of refugees fleeing Syria, the ECDC thinks that there is a real risk of outbreaks in the European Union (EU). Member states are taking the threat of import “extremely seriously”, Sprenger adds.

The effort to eradicate polio has made great strides since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Then, 350,000 children were paralysed annually in 125 countries. That toll has been slashed in the past 25 years by more than 99%, with just 223 cases last year. Polio is now endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Sporadic imported cases continue to occur, however, particularly in Africa, with a Somalian outbreak causing 174 cases so far this year.

The latest threat emerged on 19 October, when the WHO reported a cluster of cases of acute flaccid paralysis — a classic polio symptom — in Deir-ez-Zor, a conflict-ridden province in eastern Syria. Two of the 22 cases were confirmed as polio by national authorities, and on 29 October, the WHO confirmed a total of ten. Officials had assumed the worst. “Everyone is moving to outbreak-response mode,” Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesman for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, told Nature last week.

The cases are probably a result of a steep fall in child immunization rates in Syria owing to the ongoing war. Because there tend to be about 200 non-paralytic cases of polio for every paralytic one, the cluster is probably “only the tip of the iceberg”, says Sprenger. There is a major risk that the disease could become endemic in Syria, adds Rosenbauer.

Israel faces a different but also concerning situation. It has high levels of child immunization against polio, but wild poliovirus has been found in sewage in several towns in southern Israel since February. The virus has also been detected in the West Bank and Gaza. The ECDC and the WHO estimate a high risk of international spread of poliovirus from Israel, given the prolonged circulation of virus over a large area.

Israel has so far identified 42 people shedding poliovirus in their faeces. None of them had symptoms of paralysis, and they had been fully vaccinated with inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which is used in routine immunizations and protects against all polio strains. This is the first time that widespread wild polio has been found without any clinical cases. Most EU countries use IPV, and if exposed to imported polio they could be faced with silent spread of the virus in the environment too, putting unvaccinated populations, particularly infants, at risk. IPV gives a high level of individual protection, but provides poor gut immunity, meaning that vaccinated people might still shed the virus in faeces. An alternative is oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), a weakened form of the live virus that provides strong gut immunity and prevents faecal shedding. It is used for mass vaccinations and outbreak control because it is effective, cheap and easy to administer. But in rare cases it can cause polio, so polio-free countries prefer to use IPV, which carries no such risk.

To stop silent transmission, Israel has since August given OPV to more than 890,000 children, and Syria has begun administering OPV to 2.4 million children. The WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) are planning a vaccination campaign in all neighbouring countries. The appearance of polio “is going to have implications beyond Syria”, says Rosenbauer.

Israel’s effective sewage-surveillance systems were able to detect the virus before any clinical cases occurred, but in Europe, only a handful of countries monitor sewage. Surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis is also often poor. The risk that imported cases could go undetected and spread before causing outbreaks is very real, says Sprenger. Europeans who are vaccinated would be protected. But in many countries, including Ukraine, Romania and even some richer nations, polio vaccination rates can be suboptimal. Up to 12 million EU children are not vaccinated against polio.
“We need to improve environmental surveillance and not wait until we have a clinical case of polio,” says Sprenger.

This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on October 29, 2013.


Voters to Decide Nine Proposed Constitutional Amendments

houstonIn addition to local and municipal races in many areas of the state, voters statewide will decide the fate of nine proposed constitutional amendments to the Texas Constitution in a statewide election on Tuesday, Nov. 5. And, the balloting will be the first time the state incorporates its new voter ID rules. Early voting for the upcoming election began Monday and concluded on Friday, Nov. 1.

Before a voter can cast a ballot in that election, he or she must show one of seven forms of approved identification. They include a Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), a DPS-issued personal identification card, a DPS-issued concealed handgun license, a U.S. military ID card with photo, a U.S. citizenship certificate with photo or a U.S. passport.

Although there are nine proposed amendments to be decided, one – Proposition 6 – has been getting most of the attention. The proposed amendment would create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas. If approved by voters, the Texas Legislature has already provided a mechanism for funding – authorizing a one-time $2 billion investment from the state’s rainy day fund. Those funds would allow for financing of local water projects that are part of the 2012 State Water Plan through affordable bonding.

Among these projects that are part of the state plan are conservation and reuse projects, desalination projects, new pipelines, reservoirs and more. Officials are hopeful the $2 billion from the rainy day fund will provide a continuing revenue source for water projects as loans are paid back. These funds will be managed by the Texas Water Development Board.

The remaining proposed amendments include:

Proposition One – Providing a tax exemption for all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse or a member of the U.S. military who was killed in action.

Proposition Two – Eliminates a requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is currently in operation.

Proposition Three – Allows the governing body of a political entity such as a municipality, county, etc. to extend the date by which aircraft parts held by a business in the state as exempt from property tax as “Freeport goods” must be transported outside the state to retain their tax-exempt status.

Proposition Four – Allows for a tax exemption on part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or his or her surviving spouse if the residence was donated to the veteran by a charitable organization.

Proposition Five – Authorizes reverse mortgage advances to be used to purchase a homestead the borrower will use as his or her primary residence and expands the conditions under which a lender may require repayment to include failure to occupy the homestead within the period specified in the agreement.

Proposition Seven – Allows a home-rule municipality to include in its charter how to fill a vacancy on its governing body for an unexpired term of 12 months or less.
Proposition Eight – Allows repeal of a part of the constitution that allows for creating a hospital district in Hidalgo County because of the restriction on the limitation of the property tax rate that can be imposed.

Proposition Nine – Would expand the types of sanctions that can be assessed by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on a judge or justice, including public admonition, warning, reprimand or mandatory training or education in addition to punitive sanctions.

An analysis of each of the proposed amendments is provided by the Texas Legislative Council (see: http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/pubsconamend/analyses13/analyses13.pdf)
NEXT WEEK: On Nov. 5, voters also will decide more than $5.2 billion in bond issues for cities, counties, school district and other taxing entities.


Community News (V15-I45)

Virginia governor appoints Syed Ali to Board of Medicine

SyedAliVirginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently announced the appointment of  Syed Salman Ali, M.D. of Vienna, a hematologist-oncologist with Fauquier Health Physician Services, to the state’s Board of Medicine.

He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from New York Medical College in 2003.

Among his many academic honors, Dr. Ali served as Chief Resident at North Shore University Hospital, and graduated magna cum laude from the undergraduate biomedical science program at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. Dr. Ali is currently a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Eid ul Adha meat distributed to North Jersey food banks

In keeping with Eid ul Adha’s spirit of sacrifice and charity Muslims in North Jersey donated meat to local food banks in North Jersey area.  The nonprofit Peace Islands Institute, accompanied by local legislators, did a mini-tour of five North Jersey food banks, donating more than 100 pounds of fresh meat at each stop, the Montclair Times reported.

“Two-thirds of the animal has to be donated without looking at religion, race or color,” explained Ercan Tozan, executive director of Peace Islands Institute.

Representatives from the nonprofit were accompanied by Montclair’s two representatives in the New Jersey Assembly, Thomas P. Giblin and Sheila Y. Oliver. Also in attendance were the Rev. John A. Mennell of St. Luke’s and Anne Mernin, director of Toni’s Kitchen.

Islam Awareness Week held at U.Missouri

The Muslim Students Organization at the University of Missouri organised a very successful Islam Awareness Week on campus which included a lecture. Speaker Waheedah Bilal spoke about Muslim women and their identity in the West, reported the student newspaper, the Maneater.

“One of the challenges is the media and the narrow confines of how Islam is portrayed. Don’t let the media perpetuate an image,” Bilal said. “As Muslim women, we are always working against a stereotype.”

“The best way to combat stereotypes is to continue living a normal life and let people get used to the differences.”

She said the best way to end stereotypes is to have open discussions about contending issues.

Muslim students help stock pantry at Episcopal church

Muslim students in Richmond, Virginia, helped stock the food pantry at an Episcopal Church as part of their efforts to help the needy.

Students from the Iqra Academy of Virginia helped in the sorting of canned goods which they had donated to the community food pantry at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

Feras Abuzayda, the principal of Iqra Academy,  told the Times Dispatch that said his school’s participation was part of its dedication to interfaith service.

“This is a way for our students to make a connection with their creator and to spend time being a good neighbor,” he said.


Fundraiser for The Muslim Unity Center

By Adil James, TMO


One of the older and stronger mosques in the Detroit area is so not by virtue of the wealth of its congregants but more because of the faith and commitment and involvement of the community, who stand together to rise above the many difficulties that face them in a difficult neighborhood, trying to bring the light of faith to those most in need of it.

The Muslim Center of Detroit, based at Davison and Wilson, held a fundraiser Saturday evening at the Doubletree in Dearborn.  About 500 people were present for the dinner and speeches, and for a fundraiser which collected, it was estimated late the night of the fundraiser, about $80,000.

One of the main purposes of the evening was to get the mosque out of debt.  The MC of the evening was Imam Saleem Khalid.  The theme, “The Beginnings of a New Tomorrow.” 

Zarinah El-Amin Naeem spoke very movingly about the mosque’s history as a home and focal point for its families, of its having begun in 1985 “for the pure worship of Allah” and the inclusion of Muslims of all ethnicities–she described its guiding principles as being “faith, family, and work.” 

“It started with a few families that started on faith–Allah blessed their effort, making The Muslim Center instrumental and strategic for helping people,” and she mentioned many different community service programs that have helped and that continue to help the people nearby the mosque, whether Muslim or not–one excellent example was the Huda Clinic, but she also listed programs that “fed, clothed and warmed thousands of souls through the years.”

She spoke also of the education in Islam that was provided at the mosque, where people could enroll in classes about fiqh, seerah, and aqeedah.

She also explained that it is a “halal outlet for fun where the entire family comes.”

“The Muslim Center brings you closer to each other and closer to Allah.”

She also described the “Halal Jazz Cafe.”

Imam Siraj Wahhaj was the keynote speaker and in many ways the focus of the evening, functioning as a speaker and also as the fundraiser.  He spoke at length before beginning the fundraising–one of his themes was that Muslims must seek self-reliance, especially by buying rather than renting buildings–he gave several examples where people were weakened by their dependence on landlords. 

He quoted a biblical passage that was actually very moving, quoting the advice that you (believers) should marry, and have children, and help your children, boys and girls, to marry, and seek the peace of the country in which you live, so that you and the country in which you live can grow in prosperity together.

Then he spoke of the growing world problem especially in Westernized countries unfortunately of low birth rates. 

This event was very successful and all speakers spoke well and about interesting subjects.


WSU Hosts Rabaa_Detroit: Rally, Panel & Frozen Flash Mob

By Noor H. Salem

WSU PanelThe Wayne State University MSA and Egyptian Student Association (ESA) came together this week to host an extraordinary tri-day event. In support of democracy in Egypt, the MSA and ESA found it essential in bringing this to the attention of others. What’s really happening in Egypt? Why are innocent civilians being killed? Why is no one doing anything about it?

Day 1 was a Rally for Rabaa around the Wayne State University campus on Monday, October 21st from 11:30AM until 1:00PM. Students from all over Michigan came to WSU and joined the rally. That included students from University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Michigan State University, Henry Ford Community College and Oakland University. The rally was expected to be a big event and the show up proved the prediction correct. It was only an introduction to the next event, held the very next day.

Students wore the black and yellow colors in support of Rabaa and made sure their signs, balloons, and banners all matched too. Students even road bikes together across the WSU campus apart of the protest. They did not forget to tie yellow balloons to their bikes to go an extra mile.

Day 2 was an indoor seminar and panel focusing on the theme: What is Rabaa Square?/Are You Ready to Make History?. It was the very next day- Tuesday, October 22nd from 3:00PM until 6:00PM in the Kresge Auditorium at WSU.  Many Wayne State University and non- Wayne State University students came to the panel, but not as many as the rally outdoor. The panel welcomed all students on campus or not- both those who were unaware of the current situation in Egypt and those who were aware but were seeking more information. Three speakers took turns and explained what Rabaa is and how it started. They informed the students how the events in Egypt are affecting us as American citizens today. 

Day 3 of the event was supposed to be on Saturday October 26th from 11:00AM until 4:00PM in the Keast Commons at WSU. However, due to several circumstances, this was changed. This third event brought was going to be a way of bringing the experience of Rabaa to Detroit. They were planning on having demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, exhibits, Rabaa music and poetry, speeches, and games.

The Day 3 event became a Freeze Flash Mob held on Tuesday, October 29th from 11:00AM until 1:00PM at the Fountain Court of Wayne State University. The flash mob had protestors demonstrate factual scenes of what happened in Rabaa Square in Cairo, Egypt. It was a successful yet heart trembling event.

Thumbs up to the Wayne State University MSA and ESA for putting together such a beneficial, extraordinary, and essential event.


Advice Column: Instant Soup

By Noor H. Salem, TMO


Question: I run off to work and never have time to prepare lunch.  I found instant noodle soup cups that are prepared by adding boiling water. They have chicken flavors and vegetables in the soup. Is this a good idea for a mid-day lunch?

chicken noodle soup


Quick meals, high-speed, drive-thru, and instant meals; this country is running on stress. We want to do everything, but we want it done faster and quicker.  Do note though, faster and quicker does not mean healthier. In fact, being under stress around the clock could harm one’s health in the long run. Now, let’s get to the focus: instant soups. Instant noodle soups consist of noodles, dehydrated vegetables (a few pieces of corn, carrots, and peas), chicken stock, and flavoring. But what’s really in the soup? Well, the noodles are made up of enriched flour, which is bleached. The three of four pieces of peas and corn you find in your soup is not even a quarter of a serving. You need vegetables at lunch! The “chicken”-let’s not go there. Tons of artificial and natural flavorings are added to create the stock flavoring. The majority of these soups have over 38 ingredients, a lot more than what you’d use a home. MSG, hydrogenated oils, and a ton of other harmful cheap ingredients are what make your soup so instant and “good”. This soup is not a good lunch. You’re not getting healthy carbohydrates, lacking protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.

You could simply prepare a big batch of soup with lots of fresh vegetables, unbleached noodles, natural stock, grass-fed meat, and your own favorite spices. Pack it in a well-sealed glass tuber ware and you’re good to go. You’d be getting your balanced proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in one dish. You won’t need 38+ ingredients to make it taste good, and you’ll feel good yourself.


Leaders from Muslim World Gather at 9th World Islamic Economic Forum in London

By S.N. Syed


LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 29: British Prime Minister David Cameron (2R) attends the Leaders Lunch alongside H.R.H. Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain (3L) and H.E. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (R) at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum at ExCel on October 29, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images for 9th World Islamic Economic Forum)


LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 29: H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan speaks during the Opening Ceremony & Leaders Panel at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum at ExCel on October 29, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Miles Willis/Getty Images for 9th World Islamic Economic Forum)

Political and business leaders from across the Muslim world gathered at ExCel in London this week at the 9th WIEF, entitled “Changing Worlds, New Relationships.” Participants came together to discuss issues ranging from Islamic finance and banking to the emerging halal industry to the role of emerging Muslim economic power in Western markets like London.

2013 represents the first time the WIEF has left the Muslim world, highlighting the growing importance of London as a hub for Islamic finance, investment, and commerce. The Forum attracted >2700 delegates (including 18 Global Leaders, such as the Presidents or Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Great Britain, Kosovo, Bosnia, as well as the Sultan of Brunei, King of Jordan, and Crown Princes of Bahrain and the UK) from 128 countries, representing new heights for the event.

The attendance of so many dignitaries underscored the growing global role of Islamic capital and institutions and the importance of both intra-Islamic interfaces and further engagement with non-Muslim economies. Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK noted, that despite resistance from some domestic quarters to investment from Muslims, “Far from weakening our industrial base, that investment actually strengthens it. Islamic investment is already fundamental to our success.”

The Forum also served as a matchmaking opportunity for investors and businesses focused on the Muslim world. Investment opportunities in market such as Kosovo, Afghanistan and Bosnia were highlighted throughout the Forum. In addition, the exhibition area featured globally relevant ventures such as zakat-specialized accounting/auditing services.

The highlight of the event came in an address by HRH Prince Charles of Wales to the Forum on Tuesday evening. The Crown Prince spoke extensively about the role of Islamic principles in shaping the global economy. In particular, he highlighted the potential positive impact of properly implemented Islamic principles, finance, and financing on solving our environmental and climate related challenges, calling the current global overuse of natural resources or capital “usurious” in some senses. The Crown Prince noted that the need for a sense or pursuit of justice as found in the Islamic tradition has never been greater.

As noted by the Managing Director of Malaysia’s Khazanah sovereign wealth fund, Tan Sri Dato Azman Bin HJ Mokhtar, “Islam is neither East nor West. We need to find a middle way between socialism and capitalism, and we can find a lot of that in our traditions.”


How the Sunni-Shia Schism Is Dividing the World

The unprecedented Saudi refusal to take up its Security Council seat is not just about Syria but a response to the Iranian threat

By Robert Fisk

ScreenShot006 (2)The Muslim world’s historic – and deeply tragic – chasm between Sunni and Shia Islam is having worldwide repercussions. Syria’s civil war, America’s craven alliance with the Sunni Gulf autocracies, and Sunni (as well as Israeli) suspicions of Shia Iran are affecting even the work of the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia’s petulant refusal last week to take its place among non-voting members of the Security Council, an unprecedented step by any UN member, was intended to express the dictatorial monarchy’s displeasure with Washington’s refusal to bomb Syria after the use of chemical weapons in Damascus – but it also represented Saudi fears that Barack Obama might respond to Iranian overtures for better relations with the West.

The Saudi head of intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan – a true buddy of President George W Bush during his 22 years as ambassador in Washington – has now rattled his tin drum to warn the Americans that Saudi Arabia will make a “major shift” in its relations with the US, not just because of its failure to attack Syria but for its inability to produce a fair Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
What this “major shift” might be – save for the usual Saudi hot air about its independence from US foreign policy – was a secret that the prince kept to himself.
Israel, of course, never loses an opportunity to publicise – quite accurately – how closely many of its Middle East policies now coincide with those of the wealthy potentates of the Arab Gulf.
Hatred of the Shia/Alawite Syrian regime, an unquenchable suspicion of Shia Iran’s nuclear plans and a general fear of Shia expansion is turning the unelected Sunni Arab monarchies into proxy allies of the Israeli state they have often sworn to destroy. Hardly, one imagines, the kind of notion that Prince Bandar wishes to publicise.

Furthermore, America’s latest contribution to Middle East “peace” could be the sale of $10.8bn worth of missiles and arms to Sunni Saudi Arabia and the equally Sunni United Arab Emirates, including GBU-39 bombs – the weapons cutely called “bunker-busters” – which they could use against Shia Iran. Israel, of course, possesses the very same armaments.

Whether the hapless Mr Kerry – whose risible promise of an “unbelievably small” attack on Syria made him the laughing stock of the Middle East – understands the degree to which he is committing his country to the Sunni side in Islam’s oldest conflict is the subject of much debate in the Arab world. His response to the Saudi refusal to take its place in the UN Security Council has been almost as weird.

After lunch on Monday at the Paris home of the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal, Kerry – via his usual anonymous officials – said that he valued the autocracy’s leadership in the region, shared Riyadh’s desire to de-nuclearise Iran and to bring an end to the Syrian war.  But Kerry’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime must abandon power means that a Sunni government would take over Syria; and his wish to disarm Shia Iran – however notional its nuclear threat may be – would ensure that Sunni military power would dominate the Middle East from the Afghan border to the Mediterranean.

Few realise that Yemen constitutes another of the Saudi-Iranian battlegrounds in the region.

Saudi enthusiasm for Salafist groups in Yemen – including the Islah party, which is allegedly funded by Qatar, though it denies receiving any external support – is one reason why the post-Saleh regime in Sanaa has been supporting the Zaidi Shia Houthi “rebels” whose home provinces of Sa’adah, al Jawf and Hajja border Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are – according to the Sunni Saudis – supported by Iran.

The minority Sunni monarchy in Bahrain – supported by the Saudis and of course by the compliant governments of the US, Britain, et al – is likewise accusing Shia Iran of colluding with the island’s majority Shias. Oddly, Prince Bandar, in his comments, claimed that Barack Obama had failed to support Saudi policy in Bahrain – which involved sending its own troops into the island to help repress Shia demonstrators in 2011 – when in fact America’s silence over the regime’s paramilitary violence was the nearest Washington could go in offering its backing to the Sunni minority and his Royal Highness the King of Bahrain.

All in all, then, a mighty Western love affair with Sunni Islam – a love that very definitely cannot speak its name in an Arab Gulf world in which “democracy”, “moderation”, “partnership” and outright dictatorship are interchangeable – which neither Washington nor London nor Paris (nor indeed Moscow or Beijing) will acknowledge. But, needless to say, there are a few irritating – and incongruous – ripples in this mutual passion.

The Saudis, for example, blame Obama for allowing Egypt’s decadent Hosni Mubarak to be overthrown. They blame the Americans for supporting the elected Muslim Brother Mohamed Morsi as president – elections not being terribly popular in the Gulf – and the Saudis are now throwing cash at Egypt’s new military regime. Assad in Damascus also offered his congratulations to the Egyptian military. Was the Egyptian army not, after all – like Assad himself – trying to prevent religious extremists from taking power?

Fair enough – providing we remember that the Saudis are really supporting the Egyptian Salafists who cynically gave their loyalty to the Egyptian military, and that Saudi-financed Salafists are among the fiercest opponents of Assad.

Thankfully for Kerry and his European mates, the absence of any institutional memory in the State Department, Foreign Office or Quai d’Orsay means that no one need remember that 15 of the 19 mass-killers of 9/11 were also Salafists and – let us above all, please God, forget this – were all Sunni citizens of Saudi Arabia.[sic]


Planning Ahead Reduces Stress

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

“Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth, before you become old; and your health, before you fall sick; and your richness, before you become poor; and your free time before you become busy; and your life, before your death.” – Prophet Muhammad (s).


This morning, I was upset to realize that my son had gone to school without his coat because it didn’t fit anymore, and I spent some time fretting about having to buy him a new one. Then, I went into the closet and realized, he already has a brand new coat in a larger size. I bought it last summer when winter coats were on sale! The relief that I felt was physical. My blood pressure instantly went down and my head cleared of its stress. Isn’t it better to forget that you did something than to forget to do something?

The Muslims in New Jersey with their large families taught me a lot about stocking up on clothes. As a new mother I didn’t realize how fast the time goes by when you have a growing child and how stressful it can be to go clothes shopping with children. So if you find a good product on sale, buy it in several sizes.

So many problems can be solved more efficiently with advanced planning. Many of us however wait until it’s raining to buy an umbrella. Recently I was helping my friend sell sunglasses for a ridiculously cheap price, but they weren’t selling because it was cloudy. So many people make their decisions based on the here and now even when the future is completely predictable. The sun will be back. The winter will be back. Kids grow.

Much money can be saved by buying things you know you will need ahead of time, especially things that you are not going to use more of just because you have a lot of it: for example aspirin, toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo. Food is also usually cheaper if bought in larger amounts and you can save a lot of money by stocking up on things that are on sale – but be careful about stocking up on junk food and unnecessary convenience products because you probably will eat and use more if you have a lot. It more energy efficient to keep your freezer full than empty.
If we are really smart we realize that psychological issues can also be planned for ahead of time, for example: if we show concern for their feelings when they are very young, they will trust us with their problems when they are older, and be more likely to let us steer them away from bad ideas.

When it comes to small children, the ability to predict events is key to smooth parenting. We know that after being in a noisy crowded place, the kids will probably need to play alone for a while. If they don’t have a full stomach, they won’t be able to sleep. If they eat nothing but macaroni and cheese for a week, they will get sick. If they go to the park, they will need a bath.

Sometimes it gets tedious and overwhelming predicting the behavioral outcome of the entire family. Older children can be reminded of things that need to be done with a checklist on the door. But if an adult repeatedly has to remind another adult that you can’t leave the house at 2pm and be there by 2pm, or other such easily predictable events, the respect in the relationship will diminish. One spouse will take the roll of the nagging parent while the other takes the role of the annoyed teenager. One spouse or the other will usually act as general manager of the household, but it is important that one person is not always solely responsible for remembering everything that needs to be done, or they will burn out.

It’s also very important to learn to predict our own behavior based on past patterns, to avoid putting too much burden on others. There was one man who invariably fell asleep as soon as he came home from a political meeting. However, he would not admit this and would habitually make plans with his wife after a meeting. Time and time again, he would break her heart by falling asleep but every time a meeting came up he’d insist that this time he would not fall asleep. Tip: If someone else notices you have a pattern, you probably do. Learn to work around it. Schedule around it. Likewise, women have a certain time of the month when they don’t feel that well. It’s usually easy to predict. Don’t overbook on those days. Be aware of what you can and can’t do without becoming cranky or useless from exhaustion.

Another thing that many of us need to plan better is our old age. Unless we die, we know we are going to get old. It is possible to get caught up in the moment year after year, never thinking about tomorrow, but the younger people get started saving and investing, the greater likelihood that they will have their families’ needs met when they are elderly.

Oddly enough, given its importance, many people do not even think through and plan ahead for marriage. Since the decision to get married is often made emotionally, it is not uncommon for people to marry first and panic later. This is why it is a good idea to not only make sure the relatives discuss things with each other but for the couple to sit down with an experienced marriage counselor to go through all the issues that are likely to arise. Again, these things are usually pretty predictable. Not only do you have to make sure that the person is in a financial position to marry (and this should include checking their credit rating to find out if they keep their agreements), but it is a good idea to find out the fine details of their cultural and emotional expectations. Don’t wait until your wedding night to discuss whether or not you plan to have children right away and who is responsible financially for what. 

People who live unconsciously often feel powerless, as if life just “happens” to them. They are constantly dealing with emergencies instead of planning ahead. They don’t start their homework until Sunday at 10pm. They order pizza with a credit card because there’s no food in the house. They run out of gas on the highway. Worst case scenario, they get their heat turned off in winter, or their spouse gives up on them.

People who live consciously make a decision to invest time doing non-urgent but necessary things like good nutrition or family time – for the best possible outcome – because it’s easy to predict what will happen if you neglect your health or your family.


Analysis: Awash In Oil, U.S. Reshapes Mideast Role 40 Years After OPEC Embargo

By Warren Strobel


Pelicans sit on pilings along the Dauphin Island Parkway, Alabama May 5, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Forty years after an Arab oil embargo throttled the U.S. economy, surging North American energy production has brought the United States closer to a long-dreamed “energy independence” that is reshaping its goals and role in the Middle East.

On October 17, 1973, OPEC announced an oil embargo against the United States and any other country that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. That use of oil as a diplomatic weapon has driven an American yearning for disengagement from the Middle East and its problems ever since.

Such a strategic divorce is unlikely to occur soon, current and former U.S. officials say. Washington has too much invested in the region, from support for allies like Israel to the fight against Islamic militants.

But the United States is less vulnerable to Middle East oil shocks, current and former U.S. officials say, and may be less likely to station large ground and naval forces in the region in the future.

More problematically, it will have to find a way to cooperate in the Middle East with energy-hungry China, they said. And ties with Saudi Arabia, long nurtured by oil commerce, have been jolted by diplomatic disagreements over Iran, Syria and Egypt, and could fray further.

In the decades that followed the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries embargo, “you could not make plans in the Middle East or involving Middle East crises, without keeping in mind the considerations of the oil market,” Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State during the 1973 oil shock, said on Wednesday.

“But that is now changing substantially with the, I wouldn’t say ‘self sufficiency’ but narrowing the gap between supply and demand in North America, that is now of huge strategic consequence,” Kissinger said at a conference hosted by the group Securing America’s Future Energy.

The United States is less reliant each month on Middle East energy, thanks to increasing production of both oil and natural gas from technologies such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which allows extraction of oil and gas from shale deposits.

The country could be energy self-sufficient – producing enough to meet its own needs – by 2020, according to several analyses, and a debate has begun on whether to end an effective ban on U.S. crude oil exports.

The growth of the United States as an energy power is already making a difference in foreign policy.

Last year, Washington and its European allies orchestrated a partial boycott of Iranian oil, to compel Tehran to return to talks about its nuclear program. The sanctions against Iran took roughly 1 million barrels per day off world markets – without the oil price spikes many predicted.

Increased oil supplies from the United States, and elsewhere, “really helped us tremendously in our negotiations,” with potential partners, a senior State Department official said.


Weary of war after years of costly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is wary of intervening in crises like that in Syria, and took on a limited role in oil-rich Libya’s 2011 civil war.

U.S. oil production has helped dampen price spikes from disruptions in places such as Libya, officials and analysts said, and with it pressure for U.S. intervention.

Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence, said that the United States’ increased energy output affords it the flexibility to reposition some military forces now in the Middle East “over the horizon,” where they could be called on in a crisis.

Blair did not suggest specifics, but said such a change would be a return to the traditional U.S. defense posture before a build up of U.S. forces in the region that began with a major oil tanker escort operation in the Gulf in the 1980s and increased with two wars with Iraq.

“We have the opportunity to refine our policy,” he said.

Publicly and privately, U.S. officials increasingly are emphasizing that the United States has no plans to leave the Middle East or retreat into isolationism.

“Reduced energy imports do not mean the United States can or should disengage from the Middle East or the world,” then-White House national security adviser Tom Donilon said in a speech in April.

“We have a set of enduring national security interests” in the region, Donilon said, citing Israel’s security, the fight against terrorism and “our historic stabilizing role in protecting regional allies and partners.”

The United States is also the only country that has been able to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to negotiate peace, and provides security guarantees to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states.
And America is still affected by global oil markets and the prices they set. The Saudis remain the key producer, with excess capacity to make up for unexpected supply shortages.

A February report by Citigroup said that Gulf Arabs will continue to seek U.S. security guarantees, particularly in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” revolutions. But it warned there could be fresh tensions between the United States and non-democratic governments in the Middle East and elsewhere due to the change in energy balances.

By the end of the decade, the United States “could be freed from the shackles involved in sacrificing a values-driven policy focusing on human rights and democratic institutions in order to secure cooperation from resource-rich despotic regimes,” Citigroup said.

Allies for decades, Washington and Riyadh find their interests now diverging on such key issues as how to support the rebels in Syria’s civil war, the intensifying U.S. diplomacy with Iran and the military coup in Egypt.


The coming years could see an awkward – or even tense – geopolitical duet between the United States and China in the Middle East, testing Americans’ willingness to share responsibility — and influence.

China’s imports are surging and it will overtake the United States as the world’s No. 1 oil importer in 2017, according to Wood Mackenzie energy and mining consulting group.

The United States could end up ensuring that energy supplies transit safely to China thanks to U.S. Navy patrols of the Straits of Hormuz at the outlet to the oil-rich Gulf.

The reason: Washington has every interest in seeing energy-hungry China’s needs met to avoid global disruption, but does not want to be displaced as the Middle East’s dominant outside power, energy analysts said.

U.S. officials appear to have mixed feelings about this scenario, hoping China will help share the security burden – up to a point.

“We don’t want China patrolling the sea lanes for us,” said Michael Levi, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Program on Energy Security and Climate Change.

The arrangement opens up other questions, officials and analysts said. Will Washington seek concessions from Beijing in return for its help? Will China supplant the United States as the chief defender of the Middle East status quo?

“There’s a set of evolving geopolitical equations here that start to become really interesting,” said the State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The question that I get asked the most whenever I’m in China is, ‘Is the United States still going to be engaged in trying to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East, and in transit lanes?’” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gardner and Arshad Mohammed. Editing by Alistair Bell, Peter Henderson and Grant McCool)


Iran Says Four Rebels Killed in Fresh Border Clash



Iranian border guards. – AFP Photo/File

TEHRAN: Iranian security forces have killed in a fresh clash four members of an extremist rebel group behind an attack that left 14 Iranian border guards dead, a top border guard commander said Tuesday.

“We clashed with Jaish-ul Adl and killed four of them,” the Fars news agency quoted brigadier general Hossein Zolfaqari, commander of Iran’s border guards, as saying.

According to the report, the clash took place near the town of Mirjaveh, close to the border with Pakistan in restive southeast Iran, some 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) from Tehran. Zolfaqari did not say when it took place.

Jaish-ul Adl, a rebel group formed last year whose name means Army of Justice in Arabic, has claimed responsibility for the deadly ambush on Friday in the mountains of Sistan-Baluchestan in the restive southeast.

The attack killed 14 border guards and wounded another seven.

Iran in retaliation said it had executed 16 “rebels” – eight insurgents and eight drug traffickers, all of whom had been on death row, according to Iranian media.

“Whatever measure they take against us, our response will be more crushing,” Zolfaqari said.

In a press briefing in the afternoon, he said that 20 “bandits” had been killed in 67 clashes near the border since March 2013, the Mehr news agency reported.

The general also warned that Iran “reserves the right to pursue the bandits on Pakistani soil,” adding that his unit had informed its Pakistani counterparts of this, Mehr added.

Tehran has demanded Islamabad take “measures to control the borders more seriously,” saying the militants had crossed from Pakistan and fled back across the border after the attack.

Iran says it plans to exert more pressure on Pakistan to prevent such attacks.

“A deputy interior minister will visit Pakistan to discuss the attack,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Tuesday during her weekly briefing.

Another militant group, Jundallah, Arabic for Soldiers of God, has also launched deadly attacks on civilians and officials in the southeast.

Iran captured and hanged its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, in June 2010.

The restive region near the Pakistani border is home to a large community of minority Sunni Muslims, unlike the rest of Shia-dominated Iran.

Drug traffickers and militants have clashed with Iranian forces in the region on several occasions.


Democracy Now: Spying on Allies Shows “Institutional Obsession” with Surveillance



Glenn Greenwald, Guardian Columnist.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the latest National Security Agency revelations, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden. Earlier today, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published an article co-written by Greenwald revealing the NSA recently tracked over 60 million calls in Spain in the space of a month. For the past year, he’s been a columnist at The Guardian newspaper. He is leaving the paper this week to join a new media venture funded by eBay founder, multibillionaire Pierre Omidyar. Glenn Greenwald joins us by Democracy Now! video stream from his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Glenn. Let’s start off with the latest news from Spain to Germany.

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, there’s a series of reports that have appeared in several different European countries over the past two weeks or so. As you indicated, there is a report this morning in El Mundo, which I co-authored, reporting that the NSA in one month, December of 2012, collected the data on 60 million telephone calls made to and from people in Spain. There was an article similar to that one in Le Monde, the Paris daily, the week before, that I also co-authored, indicating that the NSA had collected 70 million telephone calls and stored them in their system to be monitored and analyzed. And there have been a series of reports, of course, in Germany, really over the last three months, mostly co-authored by Laura Poitras, the American filmmaker with whom I’ve been working on the Snowden story from the start, about systematic and bulk spying on the people of Germany, and, more recently, targeting the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, that has caused a very significant political controversy and underscoring the principal point—is what these stories do—which is that it really is the goal of the NSA, as I’ve said many times before, to eliminate privacy worldwide by ensuring that all forms of human electronic communication are subject to its ever-growing surveillance net.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how the German spying worked. I mean, for Germans, Angela Merkel’s phone is very famous. Can you explain why? I mean her cellphone that she uses through all sessions of Parliament. There have been pieces, whole pieces, just written about her phone, well before this information came out.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, the NSA uses different techniques. One of the main techniques that it uses, as Der Spiegel in its cover story reported this week, is, through a consulate in Berlin, the NSA sends people who pretend to be diplomats, who are actually there to engage in mass surveillance on the German population, as well as to target the individual cellphone calls of prominent German politicians such as its chancellor. We did a similar report here in Brazil on the targeting of President Dilma Rousseff. And the same has happened in Mexico, where both the current and former Mexican presidents were targeted with similar forms of surveillance. And often the way that this is done is through people who pretend to be diplomats stationed at what pretends to be a consulate, but which is really an NSA outpost that exploits its positioning in the nation’s capital under diplomatic treaties to target the population and the leading democratically elected leaders with very invasive surveillance.

AMY GOODMAN: And the embassy itself, its placement, this massive embassy building that the United States moved into in 2008?

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. The Der Spiegel report is using a document that demonstrates that that embassy is essentially the outpost for NSA spying. And this is quite common for the NSA to do in capitals in the allies most closely aligned with the United States. And obviously what this does is it undermines trust between these allies and the American government. It also makes a mockery out of diplomatic treaties, which really do bar the exploitation of diplomatic relations, diplomatic buildings and other forms of diplomacy as a means to engage in surveillance, both on citizens indiscriminately and democratically elected leaders, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded the United States strike a no-spying agreement with Berlin and Paris by the end of the year, saying alleged espionage against two of Washington’s closest EU allies had to be stopped.

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: [translated] I think the most important thing is to find a basis for the future on which we can operate. And as I said today, trust needs to be rebuilt, which implies that trust has been severely shaken. And the members of the European Union shared those concerns today. But we all know that we have such important tasks in the world that we can only master together and that we are responsible for our mutual security, that we simply need to look into the future. Obviously, words will not be sufficient. True change is necessary.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Glenn Greenwald, you mentioned, you know, the spying on democratically elected leaders. She was being spied on even before she was chancellor.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right, exactly. And the current Mexican president was, as well, prior to his being elected. The United States government has created a spying system—and this is the picture that really emerges from all of the documents—that is obsessed, institutionally, with identifying any kinds of communications that it cannot intrude and then developing technologies in order to invade them, without really any thought as to the underlying rationale, a weighing of benefits and costs. It really is a spying system that exists simply to spy for its own sake, to augment the power of the United States government, to make sure that it has full understanding of what everyone in the world is thinking and doing and choosing and deciding. And that is really a very consequential—and, I think, menacing—development for the world and for the idea of individual privacy on the Internet and through telephones. And it’s up to the world, I think, to decide what should be done in light of these revelations.

AMY GOODMAN: During Friday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was questioned about NSA spying of the German chancellor.

NEDRA PICKLER: Thanks, Jay. I want to follow up on your comment in yesterday’s briefing about how the United States is not and will not monitor German Chancellor Merkel’s communications. Lawmakers in Berlin have objected to that answer because you didn’t say whether her communications were monitored in the past. So I want to ask you: Has the United States monitored the chancellor’s phone calls in the past?

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: Nedra, we are not going to comment publicly on every specified alleged intelligence activity. And as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. As I mentioned yesterday, the president spoke with Chancellor Merkel, reassured her that the United States is not and will not monitor the chancellor’s communications.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, your response?

GLENN GREENWALD: Remember, all of the stories that we are reporting are based on the NSA’s own internal documents, the claims that the NSA has made to itself and to its four closest allies when it comes to surveillance programs, which is the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. And so, I think at this point there’s really nobody rational who doubts the veracity of any of these reports. They’ve proven to be true in every single case. So when the documents prove or when other evidence proves that Chancellor Merkel was targeted with this kind of surveillance, it’s obviously the case that she was. And Jay Carney’s refusal to deny that she was such a target, after making a point to say she no longer will be in the future and is not right at this very second, I think, obviously, demonstrates that. That is the difficulty for the U.S. government, is there’s no way for them to demonize or to discredit the reporting that we’re doing, precisely because the reporting that we’re doing is based very faithfully on the claims that the NSA itself makes in their own documents.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, this is Congressman Peter King, chair of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press. He defended the NSA’s spying.

REP. PETER KING: I think the president should stop apologizing, stop being defensive. The reality is, the NSA has saved thousands of lives, not just in the United States, but also in France and Germany and throughout Europe. And, you know, the French are some ones to talk, when the fact is, they’ve carried out spying operations against the United States, both the government and industry. As far as Germany, that’s where the Hamburg plot began, which led to 9/11. They’ve had dealings with Iran and Iraq, North Korea—the French and the Germans and other European countries. We’re not doing this for the fun of it. This is to gather valuable intelligence, which helps not just us, but also helps the Europeans.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Congressmember Peter King, who may well be running for president of the United States. Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, are Democratic partisans at all embarrassed by the fact that the most vocal proponents of these NSA spying programs, aside from people like Dianne Feinstein, are the very Republicans whom they spent years deriding as these radicals and extremists, people like Peter King or John Boehner or Michele Bachmann, all of whom have very vigorously defended President Obama’s spying program? Does that give Democrats any pause at all about what the real value or purpose of these spying programs are?

What Peter King is essentially telling the French and telling the world is that they ought to be grateful that the United States government is invading the privacy of their citizens by the millions and intercepting their communications data. And I think that message is resonating really quite poorly around the world. This is not 1982, where the United States can simply dictate imperialistically to the rest of the world what it ought to be grateful for and have the rest of the world necessarily accept it with reverence. It’s a much different world. And I think Peter King lives in that age that no longer really exists.

But look, this is the claim that every power faction uses whenever they engage in mass surveillance, which is they try to tell the population, “Don’t worry. We’re doing this because we love you. We want to protect you. This is for your own good.” And in every single case when powerful factions are permitted to engage in surveillance in the dark without really any accountability—not often, but inevitably, always—it is radically abused. And that’s what makes this so dangerous.

And it’s not surprising that people like Peter King are finding common cause with people like Dianne Feinstein or even Nancy Pelosi, the sort of establishment leaders of both political parties, to defend these systems, because these systems do vest those in power with extreme amounts of authority to do all sorts of things that people in power always want to do.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is introducing legislation that would codify the NSA spying, that would grant the NSA explicit authority to gather records, listing the numbers, duration and time of all U.S. telephone calls, Glenn.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, is there anything more indicative of just how broken Washington is, that the person who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is a committee that was created in the wake of the findings of the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, that was intended to serve as a restraint and a check on what the Intelligence Committee does, is the greatest loyalist and the most servile devotee of protecting and shielding the authority of that community, named Dianne Feinstein? I mean, it just shows how—what a complete joke and a travesty the idea of congressional oversight has actually become.

And what the Dianne Feinsteins and the John Boehners of the world are doing right this very minute is they know that the public is outraged by these revelations, that they need to be placated symbolically. And so, what they’re trying to do is to devise legislation that, with this very Orwellian tactic, will slap the word “reform” on it and say that it’s designed to reel in some of the abuses of theNSA, but which are really—in title, are designed to let the NSA continue to do exactly what they’ve been doing, and in many cases, as you just suggested, even strengthen the NSA further. Remember, these are the people who defended, who joined together—the Republican and Democratic party leadership defended, with the White House, the ability of the NSA to continue to bulk spy on American citizens, to collect all of our phone bills, showing all of the telephone calls we make and receive. And there’s a coalition of outsiders in Washington, both on the right and the left, who are working to undermine that. But the tactics of the NSA loyalists, like Dianne Feinstein, is to produce legislation that they can deceive people into believing is reform, when in reality it does the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: In an interview on Thursday, the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, called for newspapers to stop reporting on its secret surveillance.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: I think it’s wrong that—that newspaper reporters have all these documents, 50,000 or whatever they have, and are selling them and giving them out as if these—you know, it just doesn’t make sense. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers. But from my perspective, it’s wrong, and to allow this go on is wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, that was Keith Alexander.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. First of all, what General Alexander said there—and remember, he’s probably the most powerful military official in the United States. I think everybody, more or less, agrees on that. He didn’t actually say that newspapers should stop publishing. He said something far more pernicious. He said, “We,” namely the government, “should come up with ways to stop them from continuing to report.” And he then said, “I’m not really sure exactly what ways there are, but the courts and the Congress should try and figure that out.” Now, I can’t imagine, in a minimally free country, how courts and Congress could get together and stop journalists from reporting on newsworthy stories, the way that General Alexander is calling for something to be done. I mean, if that isn’t an extraordinarily creepy and authoritarian expression of sentiment, I don’t really know what is. And to think that this is the person who Democratic loyalists and Republican authoritarians argue should be entrusted with this massive, suspicionless spying system and to control it and operate it in the dark is stunning. Who would ever trust anyone, let alone somebody who has that instinct for the government to silence journalists, with running that kind of a system?

I also noticed that he said something very interesting and disturbing, which is, he sees journalists as, quote, “selling” documents. Now, selling top-secret documents, which was what he accused journalists of, is espionage. It’s treason. It’s what people like Aldrich Ames and other people are in prison for life for having done. So is that what the government, the United States government—is that the official view of the U.S. government about what this reporting is, that we are “selling” top-secret documents? That didn’t just come out of the air, that phraseology. That must be lingering somewhere. And I think it’s an extremely disturbing interview that he gave that requires a lot more attention.

AMY GOODMAN: Should security officials, like James Clapper, head of national intelligence, who lied before Congress when they asked if he was spying on Americans and said, “No,” and afterward said he doesn’t know what possessed him to lie—he didn’t use the word “lie” there, to not tell, you know, the full truth—should they be charged with perjury?

GLENN GREENWALD: Of course. I mean, it’s not technically perjury, because I believe that the committee chairman, before which he appeared, did not actually swear him and force him to take an oath. This is an informal practice that’s very bad in Washington. When top officials testify before the Senate, they don’t require them often to take an oath, because it’s somehow insulting to their integrity or something to ask them to do it. But whether you take an oath or not, it’s a felony under the United States code to mislead and lie to the American Congress. There were officials prosecuted under that statute as part of the Iran-Contra scandal, although many of them were ultimately pardoned and otherwise shielded. Baseball players were prosecuted under this statute for going before Congress and falsely denying steroid use.

So, for the top national security official in the United States to go to the Senate and lie to their faces and deny that the NSA is doing exactly that which our reporting proved that the NSA was in fact doing is plainly a crime, and of course he should be prosecuted, and would be prosecuted if we lived under anything resembling the rule of law, where everybody is held and treated equally under the law, regardless of position or prestige. Of course, we don’t have that kind of system, which is why no Wall Street executives have been prosecuted, no top-level Bush officials were prosecuted for torture or warrantless eavesdropping, and why James Clapper hasn’t been prosecuted despite telling an overt lie to Congress. And what’s even more amazing, though, Amy, is that not only has James Clapper not been prosecuted, he hasn’t even lost his job. He’s still the director of national intelligence many months after his lie was revealed, because there is no accountability for the top-level people in Washington.

And the final thing to say about that is, there’s all kinds of American journalists who love to go on television and accuse Edward Snowden of committing all these grave and horrible crimes. They’re so brave when it comes to declaring Edward Snowden to be a criminal and calling for [inaudible]. Not one of them has ever gone on television and said, “James Clapper committed crimes, and he ought to be prosecuted.” The question that you just asked journalistically is such an important and obvious one, yet not—none of the David Gregorys or Jeffrey Toobins or all these American journalists who fancy themselves as aggressive, tough reporters, would ever dare utter the idea that James Clapper ought to be arrested or prosecuted for the crimes that he committed, because they’re there to serve those interests and not to challenge or be adversarial to them.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, opinions are changing, meaning the pundits and writers are changing their views, like Richard Cohen of The Washington Post_, whose latest piecestory.html says, “What are we to make of Edward Snowden? I know what I once made of him. He was no real whistleblower, I wrote, but ‘ridiculously cinematic’ and ‘narcissistic’ as well. As time has proved, my judgments were just plain wrong,” he says. And I want you to respond to that and also the significance of this weekend’s protest, because I dare say what has changed is the massive grassroots response, whether it’s in the streets or just people being horrified at what’s taking place. But the significance of the rally that took place on Saturday that Edward Snowden sent a message to?

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, you know, look, Richard Cohen is—has long been one of the most, I would say, trite and dishonest American columnists. He has his job because these positions have always been life-tenure positions. Once you get a job as a Washington Post columist, you keep it forever. That said, the facts that have emerged are so completely contrary to the script from which these Washington journalists were reading, all in unison at the very beginning, that he just couldn’t any longer maintain that with a straight face. Literally—I went back when I was writing my book, and I looked at all this—within 24 to 48 hours of Edward Snowden’s identity being revealed by our article on June 10th in The Guardian, countless pundits and reporters and Democratic Party loyalists were—who didn’t know the first thing about Snowden—were all singing the same song, which is that he was a fame-seeking narcissist—this was the cliché they all invoked—and wanted to damage the United States. And the facts were always so completely contrary to that. He refused every single television interview once he revealed himself, because he wanted to make sure that the focus stayed away from him personally and stayed on the substance of the NSA revelations. And as Richard Cohen finally realized and pointed out, he could have done all sorts of things with the material that he possessed, if he wanted to harm the United States or was interested in enriching himself. He could have sold it to foreign intelligence services for millions of dollars. He could have passed it to enemy governments. He did none of that. He sacrificed his entire life, unraveled his life, sacrificed his liberty, in order to inform the world about what was being done to their privacy. And so, the script, the clichés that they were all given and which they all mindlessly recited, that he was a fame-seeking narcissist, couldn’t have been further from the truth. And kudos to Richard Cohen for finally acknowledging and admitting that.

As far as the rally is concerned, you know, I think there was an attempt early on to say that people in general don’t really care about privacy, don’t care about civil liberties. I’ve been hearing this for the last seven or eight years as I’ve made that my principal focus. And the fact that here we are five months later, and these revelations are every bit as consequential and are riveting people around the world as they were five months ago, just proves how true that is. The fact that there is a rally of people who are disregarding the sort of standard partisan divisions or ideological conflicts coming together—right, left, center—and realizing that their enemies are the people in government from both political parties who believe that their powers should be exercised in secret and with no accountability, really is a testament to how much privacy is valued around the world. Human beings understand instinctively why the private realm is so crucial. Edward Snowden is considered a hero in countless nations around the world. And it is true, of course, that there’s an authoritarian strain in American political culture that says that has anybody who defies government authority and dictate, who exposes things that government officials shall—have decreed shall be kept secret, is an evil and bad person, but this is really a fringe and increasingly marginalized view. And I think you see people use the Internet increasingly for everything that they do more, coming to see these—this surveillance system over which they have no control and didn’t know about until four months ago as being really dangerous and threatening.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, it isn’t—something that isn’t not talked about as much or written about as much, extremely threatening to these governments—for example, what you exposed in Brazil working with Globo, the newspaper, the spying, the—most of the media has focused on Dilma Rousseff, the president, and she refused to come to a state dinner in protest this month. But the spying on Petrobras goes to bigger point, that—since the Cold War is over, that a lot of U.S. intelligence is used to spy for corporations. And the significance of this, of what the NSA is doing?

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, it’s a really important point, Amy. I mean, the spying on the individual leaders gets a lot of attention, in part because those individual leaders seem not to get truly angry until it’s revealed that not just millions of their citizens, but actually they themselves, are being spied on. That’s just the nature of political leaders.

But the bulk of the reporting has been about two things in these other countries: number one, the mass indiscriminate spying on the populations, millions and millions of calls and emails every single day; and then, secondly, what you just referenced, which is the clearly economic espionage. That’s significant for two reasons. Number one, the U.S. government has gone around telling the world, from President Obama on down, from the beginning of these stories, that this spying is necessary and justified to protect the American people from terrorism and to preserve national security. And yet, so much of the reporting we’ve done has proven that to be an utter lie. I mean, they’re spying on Petrobras, as you just said. They are spying on the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy in conjunction with the Canadian intelligence service, which just happens to oversee the industry in Brazil in which Canadian companies have the greatest interest. We’ve reported on extreme levels of surveillance at the Organization of American States or at economic conferences in Latin America designed to negotiate economic accords between countries. And so, what it’s really doing is it’s making it clear that the United States government’s claims to the world cannot be trusted, that when President Obama opens his mouth and justifies these programs, everyone now knows that what comes out of his mouth is false. And I think that’s the job of journalists in—to hold people accountable that way, but it also has serious repercussions for how American politicians are perceived in the world and what the role of the United States government is in the world.

But the other aspect to it is, is that the United States government has been very vocally running around for years accusing China of engaging in espionage and surveillance for economic advantage and industrial advantage. And these revelations prove that the United States is doing exactly the same thing. And if you reveal to populations around the world that their calls are being spied on by the millions, they’ll first wonder, “Why are my calls of interest to the U.S. government?” But when it becomes apparent that the United States government is doing this for economic advantage, they start to feel personally implicated, like they’re being actually robbed. Petrobras is an incredibly important company for Brazil. It funds a lot of their social programs, and it’s state-owned. It’s a source of national pride. And people understand that the reason they’re spying on Petrobras or on the Ministry of Mines and Energy or economic conferences isn’t because they think there are terrorists or other bad people inside those institutions; it’s because the United States government wants undue economic advantage—exactly what they denied they do and what they claim only China does.

AMY GOODMAN: Pretty interesting that after you testified in the Brazilian Senate, the members of the Senate put on Edward Snowden masks.


Indian, Pakistani Troops to Observe Calm on Border


Pakistan-India border1
File:  Guard ceremony, India-Pakistan border.

Islamabad/Jammu: India and Pakistan on Tuesday agreed to end skirmishes and to observe calm in the Sialkot sector of the international border so that farmers from both sides can harvest their crops.

The agreement was reached during a flag meeting between commanders of the Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers. The BSF lodged a strong protest against frequent ceasefire violations from across the border.

“Now the farmers can harvest their paddy crops till the border line without any fear as it was decided to observe calm. The meeting passed in conducive atmosphere and there were some very good decisions taken in the meeting,” DIG (BSF) J C Singla said after the meeting held at a border outpost along the border in R S Pura.

A Pakistani security official, who did not want to be named, said in Islamabad that the two sides agreed to respect the ceasefire agreement of 2003 and not to use force against each other. He refused to give more details about the meeting.

Singla said the BSF lodged a protest with Pakistani officials over ceasefire violations, shelling in civilian areas and sniping incidents.

Both sides will monitor the international border and “we will ensure that peace prevails”, Singla said.

This was the first successful attempt at holding a flag meeting of border commanders after similar efforts failed on October 18 and on October 20.

The flag meeting began at 11.30 am and continued for three-and-a-half hours. A brigadier from the Rangers led the Pakistani side.

There have been several incidents of heavy shelling along the nearly 200-km border in Jammu-Sialkot sector, resulting in casualties on both sides.

The worst flare-up since the more than a decade-old ceasefire created tensions despite newfound goodwill in the wake of the election of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in May.

The intermittent cross-border firing started in January but intensified in August, when India said five of its soldiers were killed in an attack by Pakistani forces along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Since October 14, Pakistan Rangers shelled border villages and outposts with mortars and rockets. They also resorted to heavy firing with machine guns and automatic weapons along the border in Jammu frontier, Indian officials said.

One Indian soldier was killed and 32 others, including 17 civilians, were injured.


Requesting Your Assistance: Protect the Right to Wear Hijab

By Zeynep Kandur, Ä°stanbul, Turkey

To the Editor:


Women shout slogans to protest against a ban on the wearing Islamic head scarves in universities, in Ankara, Turkey.  Photograph by Burhan Ozbilici, AP

In response to the letter written by Professor Carol Delaney, dated October 9, 2013:

Professor Delaney claims that the lifting of the ban by the Turkish government on headscarves in government offices is not a step towards democracy, but rather a step on the slippery slope towards the Islamist state Prime Minster Erdogan desires.

First of all, let it be stated for the record that Prime Minister Erdogan has never expressed a desire to establish an Islamic state. After ten years of single-party rule, AK Party has made no move towards an Islamic state.

The lifting of the headscarf ban is something that has directly affected 65% of the adult female population in Turkey; to classify this as undemocratic is beyond comprehension. During the summer Gezi Park events, a letter was posted on Change. Org (link http://smart.aksam.com.tr/Home/ newsdetail?7/guncel/basortusuz-kadinlardan-basortusune-ozgurluk-bildirisi/haber-221420). The letter, signed by a large number of secular women, states that any form of discrimination between covered and non-covered women in Turkey is unacceptable.

For decades covered women have been denied equal rights; they have been prevented from pursuing further education. They have been denied the right to pursue a career in public employment. More insidiously, they were even prevented from attending graduation ceremonies for their children or loved ones, or seeking services from public offices. The end result was that covered women, who form a majority of the adult female population in Turkey, were marginalized in their own nation.

It is time that this politicization of the headscarf in Turkey comes to an end. The headscarf was made into a political symbol when it was banned in government offices. It was not politicized by those who wore it. It was politicized by those who wanted to remove it from the public sphere. The lifting of the ban is an attempt to restore balance in society.Indeed, the proposed regulations include a punishment for those who force women to remove their headscarves, as well as for those who force women to wear headscarves.

The claim that the headscarf in Turkey differs from the West is unacceptable. Throughout Turkey women from all levels of education, academics, business women and artists, wear the headscarf as an expression of their sincere belief. To suggest that these women are being manipulated or forced into wearing the headscarf is denigrating their belief and their intelligence. Moreover, how one interprets the command to cover in the Qur’an is surely a matter of personal choice, and cannot be dictated by another, in particular a person outside the religion.

Here Professor Delaney has taken advantage of her academic identity while abandoning the principle of objectivity. What she has written is reminiscent of Orientalism, a sociological approach that blatantly denigrated Eastern cultures. This can only mean that there are still people who continue to see non-Western societies as being made up of second-class beings who are in need of civilization. This reflects poorly both on Professor Delaney and on the field of anthropology.

It is time that the issue of the headscarf is removed from the agenda. It is time that women are allowed to make their own choice about wearing or not wearing a headscarf. It is time that the headscarf becomes a personal decision, not a political one.

Zeynep Jane Louise Kandur (translator, teacher)

Tugba Ercan (teacher)

AyÅŸe KardaÅŸ (advisor to the Prime Minister)

Assistant Professor Åžule Albayrak (university lecturer)


Please go to http://chn.ge/1bE0CiR and sign the petition.


US drones: Pakistani Teen Tells US How His Grandmother Was Killed by Strike

By Telegraph.co.uk Foreign Staff

9yroldgirl picture drone strikes

Nine-year-old Nabila Rehman holds her drawing depicting the drone strike that killed her grandmother Photo: EVAN VUCCI/AP

A Pakistani teenager moved a translator to tears on Capitol Hill as he spoke of the moment his grandmother was killed in a US drone strike.

Zubair ur Rehman, 13, who attended the event with his father Rafiq and his sister Nabila, aged nine, described how Momina Bibi, 67, was out picking okra when a drone fired several missiles at an unknown targets near his compound.

He said he first heard the drone hovering overhead but was not concerned because neither he nor his grandmother were militants.

“When the drone fired the first time, the whole ground shook and black smoke rose up. The air smelled poisonous. We ran, but several minutes later the drone fired again,” he said at the congressional briefing.

“People from the village came to our aid and took us to hospital. We spent the night in great agony in at the hospital and the next morning I was operated on. That is how we spent Eid.

“Now I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly. When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear. Children don’t play so often now, and have stopped going to school. Education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.”

His sister, Nabila, who held up a picture she drew depicting the strike above her village, told the various members of Congress who attended the event: “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything. I heard a scream. I think it was my grandmother but I couldn’t see her.

His father told various members of Congress who attended the event that nobody had ever told him why his mother was targeted on October 24, 2012, in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province.

“Some media outlets reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Others reported that the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All of them reported that three, four, five militants were killed,” he said.

The use of drones to fight the war on terror has intensified markedly under Barack Obama as the number of troops on the ground in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas has been scaled back prior to a complete drawdown in 2014.

It remains a major source of tension between the US and Pakistan, with Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, calling for an end to US drone strikes during his first meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House last week.

Mr Sharif was elected over the summer on a promise to halt America’s drone campaign, which a report by Amnesty International estimated has killed 900 civilians in Pakistan – a figure that is disputed by the US government.

The story of the Rehman family is featured in a new film on the human cost of drones strikes, “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars”, by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Foundation which is released on Wednesday.