,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


No Tears for the Children of Gaza

Have the Israelis Collectively Lost Conscience ?

There was a time, forty plus years ago, when I was 100% pro-Israeli. My position had nothing to do with religion. Rightly or wrongly, in those days I considered the Israelis as underdogs and supported their struggle for a home land.

Now I see them as brutal, tyrannical aggressors in denying Palestinians their rights to live free from restrictions and conditions that demean the human spirit.

The Israelis continue to remain oblivious to world opinion. One reason for their intransigence is the unqualified backing they receive from the United States. Is the Obama administration going to take a different direction? It is too early to tell what, if anything, George Mitchell will be able to achieve. Nothing will change until America recognizes that Palestinians have legitimate reasons for their grievances.

Washington Post Jan 26, 2009
In the Gaza Strip, where half the population is under the age of 16, the young bear some of the war's deepest scars. At least 280 children were killed, nearly as many as the number who died in Gaza during the entire second intifada, or uprising, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights. More than 1,000 others were wounded.

Even the children who escaped physical injury face the psychological consequences of having lived under near-constant bombardment for 22 days and nights. A week into a fragile cease-fire, mental health experts, human rights advocates and parents say they worry that this generation of Palestinian children will suffer the effects of the war for decades to come.

"For the Children"

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
are valleys and pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Gary Snyder,
Turtle Island (New Directions Paperback 1974)

Monday, January 26, 2009


The Meltdown Hits Close to Home

Hard Times * C.P. Cavafy

A 100 employees getting the axe at Company "A", 5000 to be laid off by Company "B". The daily headlines about layoffs and increasing number of jobless had become old hat; they no longer meant much. Most of us had resigned ourselves to the bleak economic landscape......that the crisis facing us would get worse, the end was nowhere in sight. Nevertheless, it disturbed me when I heard on Saturday evening that two friends received notice of termination from their employers. Now, when I read or hear about the meltdown, I can put faces on the terrible toll being paid by men and women in the work force.

An example of the difference between fact and truth? 30,000 Circuit City employees losing their jobs is fact, a sad fact; to hear that two friends are joining the ranks of unemployed is truth -- it is personal -- the effect is deeper.

From the Silicon Valley to New York; Shanghai to London (UK) the nights are uneasy for those who still have jobs. The anxiety and the hard choices they face are very real.

The Poet of Alexandria

The currrent issue (January 26th) of The New Yorker magazine contains a poem by C.P. Cavafy, translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn. The poem didn't make an impresssion but it reminded me of the excellent translation of Cavafy's works by John Mavrogordato.

Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of parents who were from Constantinople. A homosexual, Cavafy wrote lovingly about the city and people of Alexandria. The one below is from Lawrence Durrell's Justine -- the first volume (published 1957) of The Alexandria Quartet. Great. Durell's notes stated that the translations "were by no means literal"

The City

You tell yourself I'll be gone
To some other land, some other sea,
to a city lovelier far than this
Could ever have been or hoped to be--
Where every step now tightens the noose:
A heart in a body buried and out of use;
How long, how long must I be here
Confined among these dreary purlieus
Of the common mind? Wherever now I look
Black ruins of my life rise into view.
So many years have I been here
Spending and squandering and nothing gained.
There's no new land, my friend, no
New sea; for the city will follow you,
In the same streets you'll wander endlessly,
The same mental suburbs slip from youth to age,
In the same house go white at last--
The city is a cage.
No other places, always this
Your earthly landfall, and no ship exists.

C.P. Cavafy --translated by Lawrence Durrell

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Atrocities By Descendants of Victims of Holocaust

Israel Suspected of Using Phosphorus Bombs on Civilians

The wheel has turned full circle. Reports about Israel's use of phosphorus bombs in Gaza have raised accusations of "war crimes". Some Israelis, whose parents and grand parents were tortured and killed during Hitler's Third Reich, have no compunction about deaths and injuries they inflicted in Gaza. It is unlikely that the inquiries would result in punitive action against Israel. The UN has no teeth. Only America can make a difference by joining with other nations to condemn Israel. But America has always been complicit in Israel's military actions. Probably the unconventional weapons were part of the arsenal Israel received from the United States.

From The New York Times

January 22, 2009
Outcry Erupts Over Reports That Israel Used Phosphorus Arms on Gazans

GAZA — In early January, a week into Israel’s war in Gaza, the home of Sabah Abu Halima was hit by an Israeli shell. Ms. Abu Halima, the matriarch of a farming family in the northern Gaza area of Beit Lahiya, was caught in an inferno that burned her husband and four of their nine children to death.

But as she lay in a bed on the third floor of an annex to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday, bandaged all over and in terrible pain, it was less the magnitude of her loss than the source of the fire that was drawing attention, not only from her doctors but also from human rights organizations and even the Israeli military.

Though there has been no independent confirmation, Palestinian officials say her family was hit by white phosphorus, a weapon that militaries use widely to obscure the battlefield but that is also limited under an international convention that bans targeting civilians with it.

The Israeli military issued a short statement on Wednesday, saying it was investigating whether its use of phosphorous weapons was improper and reiterating that it was “obligated to international law” in the matter. Early in the war, Israeli officials would not confirm whether the military was using white phosphorus at all, but said only that it was using weapons in legal ways.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said it found “indisputable evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus in densely populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north.” In a statement, it said its investigators “saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still-burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli Army.” It called such use a likely war crime and demanded a full international investigation.

The use of white phosphorus and other incendiary weapons is covered in one protocol of a 1980 international treaty, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, that bans making civilians “the object of attack” by such arms. More broadly, though, international officials have acknowledged that militaries can legitimately use the substance in some cases.

Phosphorus rounds are usually used to spread a thick, white smoke to screen military actions and mark specific areas. Military experts say phosphorus is often particularly useful in urban warfare, in part because it creates tall columns of smoke that can obscure upper-story windows.

But human rights groups harshly criticize its use, saying that the horrible burns and the widespread fires that phosphorus causes make it a menace to civilians. Peter Herby, the head of the Arms Unit for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement that his agency would not comment publicly on whether it considered Israel’s use of white phosphorus a violation of international humanitarian standards, pending further investigation.

In Gaza, Ms. Abu Halima said that when her family was hit, “fire came from the bodies of my husband and my children.”

“The children were screaming, ‘Fire! Fire!’ and there was smoke everywhere and a horrible, suffocating smell,” she said. “My 14-year-old cried out, ‘I’m going to die. I want to pray.’ I saw my daughter-in-law melt away.”

Dr. Nafez Abu Shaban, head of Shifa’s burn unit, said the family’s burns, which he and an assisting doctor from Egypt had treated, were of a kind he had never encountered, reaching to the muscle and bone.

“They were deeper and wider than anything I had seen; a bad odor came from the wounds and smoke continued to come out of them for many hours,” he said in his office around the corner from Ms. Abu Halima’s sickbed.

He added, “We took out a piece of foreign matter that a colleague identified as white phosphorous.”

Dr. Shaban said that dozens of such cases came to Shifa during the war and that his unit was unprepared to handle them. Many of the burn patients have been sent to Egypt and abroad from there. In a few cases, he said, seemingly limited burns led to the patients’ deaths.

The doctors discovered that the best way to deal with such burns was to get the patients immediately into surgery and clean the areas well. Initial attempts to dress phosphorous burns like normal ones made them worse.

Part of what makes white phosphorus controversial is that it can be difficult to control how wide the effects are. When the shells explode in the air, they disperse pieces of felt soaked in phosphorus — larger version of the shells contain more than 100 of them — that can land on people and cause intense burning, according to Chris Cobb-Smith, a British Army veteran who is here as part of Amnesty International’s investigative team.

The newspaper Haaretz reported Wednesday that one focus of the Israeli military’s inquiry was the use of white phosphorus by a reserve brigade that fired about 20 such shells in Beit Lahiya, where Ms. Abu Halima lives. Col. Shai Alkalai, an artillery officer, is leading the investigation.

Haaretz said about 200 such shells were fired in the fighting, nearly all at orchards where Hamas gunmen and rocket-launching crews were taking cover.

The article added that some of the rounds used were recently acquired 120-millimeter phosphorus shells that have a computerized targeting system attached to a G.P.S. unit. It quoted commanders as saying the shells had been effective but were apparently also responsible for the strike on a United Nations school that killed two and a friendly-fire episode that seriously wounded two Israeli officers.

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said in an interview, “We don’t know why they used them, but we do know that it could constitute a war crime.”

She added, “It is not a banned weapon, but it matters how you use it and there is no reason to use it in such densely populated areas. We want a full impartial investigation, not one by the army that used it.”

Ms. Abu Halima said that on Tuesday some relatives went to her home and found it destroyed. They then properly buried the dead.

She wept with fury, saying that as farmers she and her family had good relations with Israelis, selling them produce in past years. But now, she said, she wants to see Israel’s leaders — she named the foreign minister and president — “burn like my children burned.”

“They should feel the pain we felt.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Early Spring

January 2009

While some parts of the country are experiencing a severe winter and blizzards, in the San Francisco Bay area it is balmy, almost spring-like weather. Sunny and blue sky. Day-time temp. has been in the low 70's Fahrenheit (21 deg. C).

New York Temperatures May Plummet to Lowest Since ‘04 (Update2)

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- New Yorkers will get a blast of the coldest temperatures since 2004 after a snowfall today that snarled flights at the region’s airports. Temperatures will dip into the single digits tonight and may peak at 10 degrees (minus 12 Celsius) tomorrow, said Jim Connolly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton, New York. With the wind chill, the temperature will feel like zero or colder, he said.

New Yorkers are a hardy lot. They will survive the cold spell. And for us, Bay area residents, it will be payback time during the summer months. We need rain, a lot of it to avoid drought. Time is running out.

Here are some pictures taken during recent outings -- walking and bicycling trips.

San Andreas Lake, looking south from Sweeney Ridge access trail
© Musafir

City of Pacifica from Sweeney Ridge
© Musafir

Foggy Bay - Container ship heading for Oakland

© Musafir

On a recent hike at Foothills Park, we took Los Trancos trail from Wildhorse Valley, then followed Trappers Fire Road and Shotgun Fire Road all the way to top. The fire road ends at Gate 4 (Page Mill Road) which has no public access. After a picnic lunch we returned to the valley via Costanoan trail.

View of Windy Hill from Madrone Fire Road, Foothills Park
© Musafir

JHL at junction of Trappers and Shotgun Fire Roads, Foothills Park
© Musafir

Deer grazing at grounds of Filoli
© Musafir

Meeting of seagulls on Upper Crystal Spring Reservoir
© Musafir


Sunday, January 11, 2009


'Horror' of Gaza


Innocent civilians in Gaza are paying a heavy toll for actions by Hamas. There is world-wide condemnation of Israel's retaliation which greatly exceeds all reasonable responses to rockets launched by Hamas. Israel has full support of the U.S. Government in what it is doing. But what if the USA didn't give the green light to Israel ? Chances are that Israel would not have used its military power without restraint to kill and destroy as it is engaged in doing now.

The world is waiting to see what Barack Obama would do after he is inaugurated as president on January 20th. Would he take a high moral position and do the right thing or, like other American politicians, decide not to displease AIPAC ? We don't have to wait long to find out.

Headline in Guardian.co.uk

"Leading British Jews call on Israel to halt 'horror' of Gaza"

A group of Britain's most prominent Jews has called on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, warning that its actions, far from improving the country's security, will "strengthen extremism, destabilise the region, and exacerbate tensions inside Israel".

Describing themselves, as "profound and passionate supporters" of Israel - and supporting its right to defend itself against the "war crime" of Hamas rocket attacks - they added that the current tactics threatened to undermine international support for Israel.

The intervention, in a letter published in today's Observer, came as fears grew that Israel was to launch a "new phase" of its military offensive inside the Gaza strip. Yesterday warplanes dropped leaflets warning Gazans "not to be close to terrorists, weapons warehouses and the places where the terrorists operate". The two-week-old campaign has already killed more than 800 Palestinians, while 13 Israelis have died, three of them civilians killed by Hamas rockets.

Although individual Jewish writers and religious figures have expressed their opposition to the conduct of Operation Cast Lead, the letter represents the most significant break with Israel's tactics from a group of UK Jews.


Use of Incendiary Bombs


Sunday, January 04, 2009


Shema Yisrael or Shame on Israel

Israel's Use of Military Force - Lebanon Redux

Shame on Israel for what it is doing in Gaza. For the unjustified -- disproportionate -- response to Hamas, for the indiscriminate killing of civilians and destruction of homes, shame on Israel, and shame on major powers, especially America, for unequivocally supporting Israel. A lot of the hardware being used by the Israeli military is supplied by the United States. The military industrial complex at its nefarious best.

It has become quite clear that President-elect Obama's position about the Middle East will not be substantially different than one followed by President Bush. No American politician, Democrat or Republican, is immune to the pervasive influence of AIPAC. As to Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, and Tzipi Livni, call them sorority sisters. Two of them have bloody hands; the other one will soon dip her hands.

Anyone remembers UN Resolution No.242 ? See the article Still Waiting for No.242 by Paul Foot in Guardian.co.uk, November 13, 2002.

AFP - January 4, 2008
Moawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza medical emergency services, told AFP the number of Palestinian killed since the Israeli operation was launched on December 27 had now passed 500, including 87 children.
News.Yahoo.com - January 4, 2008
Israel launched the air campaign against Gaza on Dec. 27 with the aim of halting incessant rocket fire on its south. The operation appears to have slowed but not halted the rocket fire.

Hundreds of rockets have hit Israel since the offensive began, and four Israelis have been killed. The relatively low number of Israeli casualties is largely due to warning sirens that give residents notice of incoming missiles and allow them to take cover.

The death toll in Gaza has outraged many. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon conveyed his "extreme concern and disappointment" to Olmert and called for an "immediate end" to the operation.

Denunciations also came from the French government, which unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce earlier this week, and from Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, Muslim nations with ties to Israel.


The late Yehuda Amichai on war


You who are lengthening your lives
with the best doctors and best medicines
remember those who are shortening their lives
with the war
that you in your long lives are not

You who are again screwing
the younger generations
and winking at each other
the winking of your eyelids
is like chill of the swinging shutters
in an empty house.

---Yehuda Amichai (translated from Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier)

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