,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Women's Right to Choose Under Attack, Again

The Bush Administration continues to do its utmost to prevent women from the right not only to abortion but also to birth control aids. The Bush appointees in SCOTUS have not yet overturned Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, Roe v. Wade is under attack in various states, and the current administration is using its powers to support the so called "right to life movement".

S. Dakota's attempts in 2006 to pass draconian anti-abortion law failed, but Republicans are still catering to those who oppose women's right to choose. Strangely, members of the movement are concerned about the foetuses but not for children of unwanted pregnancies. They don't give a hoot about caring for them.

Rob Stein in The Washington Post

The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.

Conservative groups, abortion opponents and some members of Congress are welcoming the initiative as necessary to safeguard doctors, nurses and other health workers who, they say, are increasingly facing discrimination because of their beliefs or are being coerced into delivering services they find repugnant.

But the draft proposal has sparked intense criticism by family planning advocates, women's health activists, and members of Congress who say the regulation would create overwhelming obstacles for women seeking abortions and birth control.

There is also deep concern that the rule could have far-reaching, but less obvious, implications. Because of its wide scope and because it would -- apparently for the first time -- define abortion in a federal regulation as anything that affects a fertilized egg, the regulation could raise questions about a broad spectrum of scientific research and care, critics say.

"The breadth of this is potentially immense," said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "Is this going to result in a kind of blessed censorship of a whole host of areas of medical care and research?"

Senator Ted Stevens - "Bridge to Nowhere"

In other news about the moral values gang, here is an item from my favorite Alaska's Corrupt Bastards Club:


Saturday, July 26, 2008


San'a to Mocha (Yemen, 1989)

Striking Architecture, Friendly People, Qat, Kalashnikovs, and Curried Goat Head

Reading Eric Hansen's admirable book "Motoring with Mohammed", took me back to 1989 when I visited North Yemen. It was not long after the period when Mr. Hansen was in Yemen, trying to reach an island on the coast to recover documents that he had buried there after the yacht he was serving on got beached.

Despite its arrid climate, ruggedness and vast stretches of desert, Yemen attracts tourists and archaeologists who are fascinated by the unusual architecture and culture of the Yemeni people. For me, it was not a pleasure trip. Mercury Venus, a ship carrying huge rolls of wrapping paper was what took me there. The objective was to expedite the discharge of the cargo and dispatch her for Mumbai to complete delivery of a shipment of steel pipes before the onset of the monsoon.

Due to delay in getting visa I arrived at San'a on Yemenia (Yemen Airways) from Gatwick two days later than planned. The ship was already at Mocha (al Mukha), at one time a well-known coffee exporting port. On arrival I found that the only way to get to Mocha, 249 km (135 miles) was by taxi. Two reps from an agency appointed for husbanding of the Mercury Venus arranged one for $200.00. And an hour after arrival at San'a I took off for Mocha.

It was May, blazing hot but not humid. The taxi, a beat up Peugeot diesel, had no air-conditioning and the driver, Khaled, like most Yemenis, was a cigarette smoker (Rothmans was the popular brand).

I no longer have the photographs I took. Following are from a site where subscribers graciously permit downloading of images for non-commercial use. I'm grateful to them.

Bab al Yemen Gate, San'a
©Hanno Maliepaard,http://www.woophy..com/

Burqa-clad Yemeni woman. I saw women without burqa too.
©GRAPAS, http://www.woophy..com/

Men chewing qat (see the bulging cheeks)
©Maria Antonia, http://www.woophy..com/

Qat seller, a common sight in Yemen. The curved daggers are called Jambiyah
©MOMO, http://www.woophy..com/

Kalashnikovs on sale outside a village restaurant at Shibam,
©koelblf, http://www.woophy..com/

A stall selling fabric and clothes for women
©MOMO, http://www.woophy..com/

The unusual houses on cliffs are found all over Yemen

©Marisoll, http://www.woophy..com/

A road through the desert
©MOMO, http://www.woophy..com/

View, outskirts of San'a

Main Street, Mocha (al Mukha)
©MOMO, http://www.woophy..com/

Between English and sign language, Khaled and I didn't have much difficulty communicating. Shortly after leaving San'a, Khaled stopped at a roadside shack -- earthen floor and a few wooden benches -- for lunch. He did the ordering. We were served platters with big hunks of meat and warm flat bread, somewhat like naan. We ate with our hands. Thought the meat was goat head but I was not sure. The taste was nothing to write about but I was hungry.

The trouble began after lunch. Khaled stopped at a qat market and got a supply of the green leaves before hitting the road for Mocha. There were areas when we were on mountain roads and I could see hulks of vehicles that went down the cliff. After a while Khaled's driving became noticeably erratic. I requested him to slow down but he paid no heed. Then I asked him to stop and let me down. He indicated that there was no need to be afraid; he was OK. True, if he did let me off it was not simple, getting another car to take me to Mocha. I was tired after the long flight and I dozed off. Woke up to a tremendous lurch and wrenching sound. We were off the road but the car didn't go down the cliff to the right of us. High on qat, Khaled had lost control of the car but by luck or skill swerved to the left and ended up in a ditch. Apart from banging his head on the steering wheel Khaled was fine and so was I after the shock wore off. The front axle was out of whack; the car was no longer driveable.

There we were on a dusty, barren stretch of road halfway between San'a and Mocha, yet within minutes of the accident we were surrounded by Yemenis who seemed to appear from nowhere. There was one young man who spoke English and he said although traffic was light, cars and trucks do use the road to Mocha. Didn't take too long before another Peugeot diesel stopped at the scene of the accident. Khaled and the young Yemeni spoke to the driver. Khaled paid him some money and transferred my suitcase to the other car. There were two women in burqa and a man in the backseat. They did their best to make room for me to squeeze in.

Rest of the drive was uneventful. I got to Mocha, and the agents took me to the ship. The ship was under a Korean master and crew. Discharge operations were going well. Capt. Kim said he expected to complete discharge by noon the next day. There was no decent hotel in Mocha. I was offered use of the Owner's Cabin on the ship. Sounds fancy but it was 110 degrees (F) and the quarters were not airconditioned.

Next day I told Capt. Kim that I'd see him in Mumbai 8 days later and saw the ship depart from Mocha. When I went back to the agents' office I was told that they had arranged for a taxi to take me back to San'a after lunch. We had lunch at the office. A large tin platter was brought in with with rice and fried fish (looked like pomfret). There were four of us. We ate with our hands from the same platter. It was delicious.

The taxi showed up and when I asked the driver what he was called. He said "Khaled". Another Khaled! He was younger and he spoke better English than the first Khaled. But after we got on the road to San'a he took out a bag full of qat and started chewing. When I mentioned my experience on the trip to Mocha he said he was not going to have too much. How much is too much? I resigned myself to the Yemeni habit and accepted Khaled's offer to try chewing qat. It creates a thirst and requires drinking a lot of water. I must confess that I never reached the high -- the euphoric sense that qat is reported to create. Perhaps I didn't chew it right and slowly ingest the juice. But we got to San'a without mishap. Yemeni men, women, and some kids, chew qat. Alcoholic beverages, however, were restricted; available only to foreigners staying at large hotels.

Checked in at the Taj Sheba, run by the Uberoi Group of India. The next evening I flew out of Yemen via Riyadh to Mumbai, went on to New Delhi to spend a few days before returning to Mumbai. My only unpleasant experience was when the Yemeni woman at San'a airport said she had no change after I tendered a $20.00 bill for "departure tax"of $8.00. She wanted to pocket the money but I refused to budge; told her that I'd wait until she got change. After a few minutes she found the change. Later, I found that usually the departure tax was included in tickets issued abroad.

Qat (pronounced cot), also referred to as khat, quatt, kat, and tchat (in Ethiopia), is a leafy narcotic popular in certain areas of Africa and, more recently, Britain. Qat, from the Catha Edulis tree, originated in Ethiopia and spread to Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Arabia, the Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, South Africa and Yemen. Yemeni qat is the most often discussed, and reportedly of better quality than that from other places. When chewed, qat leaves produce feelings of euphoria and stimulation. Qat has become a major cultural phenomenon for Yemeni and Somali societies and has been the cause of conflict over production and distribution in these countries.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Islamic Republic of Iran - Still In Stone Age

Barbaric Islamic Laws

"Under Iran's Islamic law, stoning to death is the punishment for the crime of adultery." Makes you wonder not only about the mullahs and the Ayatollahs who run Iran, but also about the Iranian people. If all Iranians do not actively condone such prehensile laws, they certainly do very little to protest against them. The infamous Spanish Inquisition and the burning of heretics by the Catholic Church occurred more than 500 years ago. Then there was the Holocaust during Hitler's Third Reich. What the Islamic fundos are doing now in the name of god clearly demonstrates that given a chance they are capable of much more evil. What kind of society makes people tolerate such utterly atrocious laws, laws that have no place in today's world. Is it fear or they just don't care ?

Has Zohreh Sefati, considered a great mutjahed (female equivalent of ayatollah), spoken out about this? Not likely, she is married to an ayatollah.

And they have finessed the execution of death by stoning:
  • Under Iran's strict penal code, men convicted of adultery should be buried up to their waists and women up to their chests for stoning. The stones used should not be large enough to kill the person immediately.
Nauseating. It is not Iran's nuclear program that qualifies it for censure and ostracism, it is adherence to such practices that makes it unfit to be a member of the global community. There needs to be worldwide condemnation of the barbaric laws and gross abuse of human rights.

From BBC News - July 20, 2008

Nine face stoning death in Iran

At least eight women and one man are reported to have been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran.

The group, convicted of adultery and sex offences, could be executed at any time, lawyers defending them say.

The lawyers have called on the head of Iran's judiciary to prevent the sentences from being carried out.

'What are we waiting for, gathered in the market-place?
The barbarians are to arrive today."

--C.P. Cavafy


Saturday, July 19, 2008


Waning Days of the Bush Presidency

Still Catering to Anti-Choice Groups

184 days to go. His legacy is down the tube. He remains willfully unaware of his rating in the polls -- not the only subject he is unaware of; he is going to leave bucket loads of doo-doo for his successor to deal with; but the Decider has tricks up his sleeve.

In another attack against States' rights, the Bush administration's latest move is an effort to put up bureaucratic obstacles to prevent women from access to contraceptive care.

Reuters - July 18, 2008
The planned rule is aimed at countering recent state laws enacted to ensure that women can get contraception when they want or need it. It also would help protect the rights of medical providers to refuse to offer contraception.

Hillary Clinton Speaks Out

Thursday, July 17, 2008


So Many Books, So Litle Time

Travel Books

As all web surfers know, the Internet often yields unexpected pleasures. The vast array of information makes it impossible to catch all the gems that can be found, and one shouldn't even think of what is slipping through the net.

Rory MacLean's Travelog in the Guardian (UK), July 16, 2008, is a treasure trove for those in search of travel books.

What I enjoyed -- enjoyed more than the article itself -- were comments from readers.

michaelspring Comment No. 1220830 July 15 13:20
The only travel guide that gets better every time you read it is JG Links' Venice for Pleasure. Be there, even without being there...

petrol Comment No. 1220917 July 15 13:49
This year, for anyone going to the Arab world, I'd recommend "Playing Cards in Cairo" by Hugh Miles

PKupfer Comment No. 1220968 July 15 14:06
The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley is the best narrative on contemporary Africa I have read and highly under-rated...

Sikandarji Comment No. 1221042 July 15 14:24
Flann O'Brien 'The Best of Myles'

BrianCough Comment No. 1221374 July 15 15:58
Motoring with Mohammed, by Eric Hansen, about travels in the Middle East is bloody great.

nationwide Comment No. 1221678 July 15 18:30
Pete McCarthy's two books. McCarthy's Bar if you're going to Ireland, and The Road to McCarthy if you're going any of the (Irish) places therein. He was fantastically funny.

LouiseMycroft Comment No. 1221801 July 15 20:38
I won't be leaving home without Patrick Leigh Fermor's 'Words of Mercury', to remind me that every single person I meet is a fascinating human being. I love 'Mani' and his other travel books; 'Words of Mercury' is a distillation of his experiences and - like other great 'dipping in' books - always opens at the page most appropriate to that moment.

I'll also be taking last summer's wonderful read, 'Findings' by Kathleen Jamie. She makes every single word really count.

LibertyKnox Comment No. 1222325 July 16 10:01
To me, Jonathan Raban is genre-busting in his brilliance - 'travel writer' doesn't do him justice. Old Glory and Passage to Juneau are ferociously good.

rosangela Comment No. 1222407 July 16 10:36
I have just ordered a book called "The Wrong Way Home (Paperback) by Peter Moore".
As I live in Austria and the book is coming from England I will have to wait a bit till I receive it. In any case it promises to be a good read.
Has anyone read it? Regards from lovely Vienna!

Haven't found The Best of Myles by Flann O'Brien but quite a few of the recommended titles are in my local library. Enough to keep me hooked for a while. "Motoring with Mohammed" and Pete McCarthy's books about Ireland are at the top of my list. When I traveled in Ireland, J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man was what I carried with me. Not a travel book but it made sense to me to re-read it in Ireland.

"Mary Maloney's beautiful arse
Is a sweet apple of sin
Give me Mary's beautiful arse
And a full bottle of gin."
--The Ginger Man, J.P. Donleavy

My own submission to the Guardian:

fiatlux Comment No. 1223371 July 16 16:25
Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater
Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
Slow Boats to China by Gavin Young

"shemarch" (Comment No. 1220949 July 15 14:00) submitted Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Yes, that too beckons at odd times and occasions.

So many books, so little time. But we keep going back to old favourites.

The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you the knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.
---Elizabeth Hardwick

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Milton Friedman is Gone, Where Are His Disciples ?


"Regulation", the Taboo Word for Supply-siders Raised Its Head

What happened to the champions of free market economy? They are strangely silent about recent statements from Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson that some regulation -- need to monitor actions by Wall Street-- was called for.

Sacrilegious, un-American. How dare they malign the sacred cow! A year ago Bernanke and Paulson would have either kept their mouths shut or probably have been canned for speaking out. Now, during the sunset of the Bush administration and plunging stock prices due to the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage industry, the people who permitted wrongdoings in the financial markets no longer have the power to continue their support of corporate malfeasance.

Don't write them off though. They are waiting in the wings, praying for John McCain to win the presidential election. McCain has promised to balance the budget by 2013, but did not say how he was going to do it. It is a 'pie in the sky' kind of thing. McCain's empty rhetoric notwithstanding, the free-marketers will again have their place in the sun if he becomes president. Not much is expected to happen between now and November. In the unlikely event that Bernanke and Paulson follow through in introducing some measures with teeth to curb the unethical Wall Streeters, McCain and the Republicans will do all they can to scrap them.

And what will his administration do if Barack Obama wins the White House? Hard to predict. Judging by his recent actions, we are going to be disappointed if we hope to see major changes. But even minor changes to stop the country from going down the road that Bush built would be good for us.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Barack Obama and A Sellout on FISA

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

President Bush is happy. He has reason to be; he got the bill he wanted. It includes immunity for telecom companies that opened their records and allowed access without court order.

Among the Democratic Senators who supported the bill: Diane Feinstein of California. No surprise there. Senator Feinstein is at times more a Republican than Democrat, especially on issues related to Israel. This, however, was not related to Israel unless one considers Israel indirectly benefiting from the passage of the bill. The surprise was Senator Hillary Clinton's vote against the bill.

As to Senator Obama's vote in support of FISA, the handwriting was on the wall. He began laying the ground work (hinting) for the change in his position a few weeks back. The primaries are over, and with them a lot of his promises. It is a new Obama. He is catering to the conservatives much more than some of us expected him to.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
--- Maya Angelou

Monday, July 07, 2008


The Flag - Honor and Disrespect Revisited

Marc Leepson's "Capturing the Flag", in the Opinions section of The Washington Post of July 6th includes:

But what exactly does this overabundance of flag-embossed merchandise mean -- for our campaigns and our culture? There is something off-kilter about revering the ideals that our flag embodies, attempting to ban its destruction, then using it as a political club or sitting down in a flag-patterned lawn chair, tucking into red-white-and-blue-frosted cupcakes and dabbing our mouths with a Stars and Stripes napkin. Does the flag embody American idealism, American cynicism or American comfort? Which values, precisely, have captured our flag?

A foreign-born citizen, I am bemused by the jingoism that exists about our flag. Respect the flag, of course, but not to the degree of making it a fetish. Yet the same people think nothing about dishonoring it every day by using geegaws and chochkes depicting the flag. Latest craze is waving gigantic flags during games and sporting events. Bigger is better? Ya Habibi.

U.S. History.org
Section 8c. reads:"The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free."

See: Another Photo Opportunity for the Buffoons in Congress
June 22, 2005

Sunday, July 06, 2008


July 4th Fireworks - Story of Two Ocean Containers

From Across the Pacific to Heartland America

Many of you enjoyed the July 4th fireworks. The display of images created by craftsmen and chemists never fails to impress the viewers. Over the years the fireworks have become very sophisticated. Most of the fireworks that we admire come from China.

Fireworks are considered hazardous cargo and designated under two categories by IMO and U.S. Code of Federal Regulations -- Class 1.4G and Class 1.3G Explosives, the latter being the more hazardous. Special requirements apply to carriage of such cargo by land and sea (prohibited for transportation by air).

Large volume of fireworks shipments arrive every year during the month of June. This year was no exception. QualityOne Logistics of California was involved with transportation of a number of shipments from China for importers in different parts of the country. All shipments were needed for display on 4th of July and arrival of the ships from China posed tight deadlines.

This is about two 40' ocean containers with Class 1.3G Fireworks from Liuyang, China (a major fireworks manufacturing center), to Inman, Kansas, in heartland America -- a distance of more than 7,000 miles by sea and land.

From the factory in Liuyang the containers were trucked to Beihai on the coast and loaded on a feeder ship for HongKong where they were transferred to a large container vessel for carriage to the United States. Danske Line of Copenhagen provides regular, fast service from China to all coasts of the United States. Because of the location of Inman, the fastest and most economical route was via the port of Los Angeles, California. The containers were discharged at Los Angeles and then put on an intermodal freight train to Dallas, Texas. QualityOne specializes in shipments to and from China, and had made arrangements for through movement from Beihai to the importers' warehouse which included trucking from Dallas to Inman.

As it sometimes happen in travel, transportation and in other areas, best laid plans go awry. Checking the progress of the containers on the freight train as it moved from Los Angeles, it became obvious that getting the containers to Inman in time for the importers to prepare for July 4th would be touch and go. Mandatory certification (for drivers) and special insurance coverage are required for motor carriers to qualify for carriage of such hazardous shipments. There are not too many of them and shipments intended for July 4th place heavy demands on their services.

The containers were due to arrive at Dallas on Sunday, June 29th. Southern Freight (the trucking company chosen for carrying the containers to Inman) informed us that it would not be possible for them to move them before Tuesday, July 1st. at the earliest. Dallas to Inman is 428 miles, about 8 hours' drive under optimal conditions. The importers, Sky Color Display, felt that receipt of the containers late on Tuesday would not allow them enough time to unload them and set up the fireworks. They offered to drive to Dallas and receive the shipments. That, too, presented problems. The importers would have required an interchange agreement with the steamship line to move the containers, and they would have had to return the empty containers to the rail ramp at Dallas which would have been quite expensive. Michael Huntsinger at Southern Freight offered a solution. Huntsinger said he could move the containers on Monday morning (June 30th) from the rail yard to Southern Freight's terminal and transload the cargo from the two ocean containers to Sky Color's trucks. Steve Bell of Sky Color accepted the plan; felt that it would work.....give them sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements before July 4th.

For the operation to proceed as planned there was need to obtain "rail pick up numbers" from Danske Line to enable Southern Freight to remove the containers from rail yard. That was accomplished early on Monday morning. Huntsinger confirmed that Sky Color Display's equipment and crew were in position and everything was "go". The transloading operation was completed without hitch and Sky Color's trucks departed for Inman before noon. It was gratifying to get an e-mail from Betty Bell of Sky Color that said: "received our products".

In this particular case, efficient and prompt response from all concerned -- at Danske Line's North American Rail Operations, Southern Freight, Dallas, and Sky Color -- made it possible to meet the deadline.

Note: Fictitious names of individuals and organizations were used for this post.

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