Wednesday, 28 October 2009
A Musical Interlude: Let's Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep (Jack Payne)
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Listen here.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 11:08 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Nothing To Do With Muslims Or The Muslim Religion
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Here is most of a report from ABC News about the raid at a warehouse in Dearborn, Michigan: :

"Federal authorities in Detroit say they fatally shot the leader of a radical fundamentalist Sunni Islam group after he failed to surrender on several criminal charges.

The U.S. attorney's office says Luqman Ameen Abdullah was killed while exchanging gunfire with federal agents Wednesday at a warehouse in Dearborn.

A court document says Abdullah is an imam, or prayer leader, of a radical group whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the United States. Authorities say he's also known as Christopher Thomas.

Abdullah and 10 others were charged today in a criminal complaint with conspiracy and theft of interstate shipments, mail fraud to obtain the proceeds of arson, illegal possession and sale of firearms, and the altering and tampering with vehicle identification numbers (VIN)…..

The case was being investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Detroit, though the men charged today were not charged with terrorism offenses.

The raid followed a series of recent arrests, including those of a man suspected of plotting attacks against New York, to men in Dallas and Springfield, Ill., accused of being homegrown terrorists.

Imad Hamad, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told a local Detroit news channel that he was told the arrests in the latest case were not related to the suspects' religion.

‘Basically, they assured us that this raid, this initiative, is solely criminal and has nothing to do with Muslims or people of Muslim faith," he said in a report by the television station WJBK. "I cannot enter any judgment basically about this. Simply, I don't know them. I got to learn about what I heard today.’"

 

Now let’s put that statement by Imad Hamad, the one in which he claims he was assured that this raid was “solely criminal and had nothing to do with Muslims or people of Muslim faith” besides the other information given in the story. To wit:

“Federal authorities in Detroit say they fatally shot the leader of a radical fundamentalist Sunni Islam group after he failed to surrender on several criminal charges.

The U.S. attorney's office says Luqman Ameen Abdullah was killed while exchanging gunfire with federal agents Wednesday at a warehouse in Dearborn.

A court document says Abdullah is an imam, or prayer leader, of a radical group whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the United States. Authorities say he's also known as Christopher Thomas.”

Luqman Ameen Abdullah, the man who was killed and the apparent head of the criminal conspiracy, was a Muslim, an imam or prayer leader. His fellow criminals were, similarly, all Muslims and members of his “radical group” whose “primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the United States.”

Do you agree with Imad Hamad that this raid had nothing to do with Muslims or the Muslim religion.

If you do, then please explain. Write only on one side of the blue books.  

 

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Posted on 10/28/2009 10:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Imam killed in shootout with police in Dearborn
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When was the last time a Buddhist monk, or a Hindu guru, or a Christian priest, or a Jewish rabbi was killed in a shootout with police?  Are all religions basically the same, do they all teach the same values?  From AP:

DETROIT – Federal authorities in Detroit say they fatally shot the leader of a radical fundamentalist Sunni Islam group after he failed to surrender on several criminal charges.

The U.S. attorney's office says Luqman Ameen Abdullah was killed while exchanging gunfire with federal agents Wednesday at a warehouse in Dearborn.

A court document says Abdullah is an imam, or prayer leader, of a radical group whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the United States. Authorities say he's also known as Christopher Thomas.

The FBI was trying to round up Abdullah and 10 followers on many charges, including conspiracy to sell stolen goods and illegal possession and sale of firearms.

The FBI says Abdullah regularly preached anti-government rhetoric, and some of his followers converted to Islam while in prison.

Killed by kuffar in a shootout?  He must be copulating with virgins as we speak.  Praise Allah.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 5:29 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
France Launches National Pride Campaign
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Daily Mail: France is to adopt a series of measures to 'reaffirm pride' in the country and combat Islamic fundamentalism.

They include everybody receiving lessons in the nation's Christian history and children singing the national anthem.

Using words which infuriated ethnic minority groups and Socialist opponents, immigration minister Eric Besson also said he wanted 'foreigners to speak better French'.

 
French pride: Troops walk down the Champs Elysees during the Bastille Day parade (file photo)

French pride: Troops march down the Champs Elysees during the Bastille Day parade (file photo)

He called for all recent arrivals to be monitored by 'Republican godfathers', charged with helping immigrants to integrate better.

His proposed measures contrast sharply with the situation in Britain where 'citizenship education' centres on multicultural diversity.

M Besson, who was born in the former French protectorate of Morocco, suggested a debate on national identity' entitled 'What does it mean to be French?'

He also reignited the debate about face and body-covering Muslim veils, saying they should definitely be banned.

As well as providing civic lessons for adults - including classes about the country's Christian history and liberal political institutions - the government will encourage school children to sing the national anthem at least once a year. 

His proposed measures contrast sharply with the situation in Britain where 'citizenship education' centres on multicultural diversity and the European Union, while 'God Save The Queen' is not even taught in schools. 
 

In an interview broadcast on national TV, Mr Besson said : 'It's necessary to reaffirm the values of national identity and the pride of being French.

'I think, for example, that it would be good for all young French people to have the chance to sing The Marseillaise at least once a year.' 
 

Making clear that radical Islam was a threat, Mr Besson said: 'In France, the nation and the republic remain the strongest ramparts against ... fundamentalist tendencies. France is diversity, and France is unity.' 
 

 
Swing to the Right: Nicolas Sarkozy with his immigration minister, then a political adviser, Eric Besson, left, in 2007

Swing to the Right: Nicolas Sarkozy with his immigration minister, then a political adviser, Eric Besson, left, in 2007

Mr Besson defended a decision to send illegal Afghan immigrants - all of them Muslim - back to Kabul on charter flights organised in conjunction with the British government last week, saying there would be many more.   
 

More than 21,000 people have been deported from France this year - with 27,000 the ultimate target, said Mr Besson.  
 

He also reignited the debate about face and body-covering Muslim veils, saying they should definitely be banned.

'For me, there should be no burqas on the street,' said Mr Besson. 'The burqa is against national values - an affront to women's rights and equality.'  
 

Explaining the apparent shift to the extreme right by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, Mr Besson evoked the legacy of Jean Marie Le Pen's anti-immigration National Front party, which is struggling massively with huge debts and low electoral support.

Mr Besson said: 'We should never have abandoned to the National Front a number of values which are part of the Republic's heritage. I think that the political death of the National Front would be the best news for all of us.' 
 

But Mohammed Moussaoui, a prominent French Muslim leader, said debates like the one about the burqa were stigmatising the country's entire Muslim community, which at some five million is the largest in western Europe.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 4:40 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
A Musical Interlude: Deep Water (Elsie Carlisle)
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Listen here.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 4:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Joseph Schmidt
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Watch, and listen, here.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 3:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Jurgen Flimm, Antisemite
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From CAMERA:

October 28, 2009

Inserting Anti-Israel Messages Into Grand Opera Productions

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Scene from Flimm's staging of Moïse et Pharaon (Moses and Pharaoh) at Salzburg Opera Festival

The tentacles of those who would defame Israel reach out to just about everywhere in the news and entertainment media. The glorious world of grand opera is not immune to this dynamic of distortions and falsehoods. An example from early this year was a performance of composer John Adams’ opera The Death of Klinghoffer.

A more recent example of this dynamic is a politicized version of the opera Moses and Pharaoh composed by Gioachino Rossini, the great 19th century Italian opera master, and first performed in 1827. The recent production of the opera was staged in August 2009 at the prestigious Salzburg (Austria) Opera Festival by the Festival’s director, Jurgen Flimm. The November 2009 issue of Opera News magazine (published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild) described the anti-Israel message of Mr. Flimm’s production:

In interviews, Flimm had announced that the biblical story couldn't be told today without mentioning the ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs. So instead of watching dancers during the ballet music, we had to read quotations from the Bible on the closed curtain, demonstrating the vindictiveness of the Hebrew god. When the "ballet" was over and the curtain rose again, the stage was covered with dead children — probably an allusion to the Gaza war. To balance the message, the Israelites arrived for the finale with suitcases filled with ashes. No Red Sea had to be crossed; they simply disappeared through a back door.

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The "ongoing conflict" between Jews and Arabs today is the same one that was going on in 1948, long before there was a single Israeli soldier in those parts of Judea and Samaria (toponyms that had been in continuous use, in the Western world, for nearly 2000 years) that the Arabs started to call "the West Bank." The "ongoing conflict" between Jews and Arabs is the one that was going on in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was clear that the Muslim Arabs could not stand the idea of Jews buying land and possibly creating a state in the Middle East where they would not be dhimmis. The "ongoing conflict" between Jews and Arabs is one that goes on between Muslim Arabs, and all others, anywhere that those Muslim Arabs find themselves thwarted in their attempts to remove all obstacles to the spread and then the dominance, or to the coninued dominance in some places, of Islam.

Jurgen Fllmm has a special responsibility to find out about this. Antisemitism is always and everywhere intolerable. But in a German, or in an Austrian, it is worse than intolerable. It deserves severe punishment. If Germany, or if Austria, have a purpoose, or need a purpose, that purpose should be, for all time, to make the world unsafe for antisemitism. That should be the goal of their foreign policies, or rather, of their policies foreign and domestic.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 3:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Kutuzovshchina
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In a response to the letter from Matthew Hoh one respondent, a veteran of the Gulf War, denounces the Bushes, or rather “Poppy Bush.” The Bushes certainly deserve condemnation, but they are not alone. But who should ‘scape whipping in the various Administrations over the past 20 years? The mistake of using military force, when the most effective instruments of Jihad (the struggle to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam) are not qitaal (combat) nor terrorism (which we have no trouble identifying, but Muslims justify as merely a way of making the military odds less overwhelmingly against them), but rather the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da'wa, and demographic conquest.

Barack Obama, with his demonstrated naivete, and complete misperception of Islam, still has time to learn more, and thus come to harder, harsher, but ultimately far less costly, to Americans and the rest of the West, conclusions. But at this point, he seems both locked into his pieties about Islam (look at that hideous Cairo speech), even if he doesn't really believe most of them (how could he? how could anyone of semi-sense?), and also feels it necessary to show he can be "tough" and therefore is likely to keep troops in Afghanistan. In other words, he has gotten himself into a fix, where he cannot remove the troops as part  of a grander strategy to check the main weapons of Jihad I noted above, to allow Muslim countries to go to hell (without our attempts to rescue them), to be full of the violence and aggression that would otherwise be turned on Infidels (the very violence and aggression with which the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira are full, texts written by Arabs whose tribal warfare predates Islam, but the attitudes were embedded, for all time, in the canonical texts of Islam), and to exploit, mainly by doing nothing, the pre-existing fissures, sectarian, ethnic, and economic, within the Camp of Islam.

Barack Obama's administration should perform an unexpected, but welcome, volteface: pull the troops out of Afghanistan, but at the same time, in a dozen other actions (such as, for example, proposing drastic changes in immigration laws so that certain peoples are kept out, or seizing the southern Sudan and Darfur, or halting all this nonsense about a "solution" to the Arab and Muslim Jihad against Israel and, what's more, declaring that any attack on Israel will be considered an attack on the United States, and be met with "massive retaliation," or calling for a meeting of NATO to discuss the further fitness of Turkey for membership, or to discuss "internal security threats" to the Western alliance," and so on) .

 

In other words, it is not enough to staunch the flow, to halt the squandering of men, money, materiel, and morale in Afghanistan as in Iraq. It must be done in a context that shows that the war of self-defense against the adherents of Islam who engage, directly or indirectly, in Jihad -- and Jihad is not limited to violent Jihad -- will now be run by people far more clever, and more soberly ruthless, than has up to now been the case.

We should pull troops out of Afghanistan not because Islam is no threat, but because it is. And instead of those military adventures, those attempts to remake societies that are primitive, and violent, and aggressive, and economically backward -- because of Islam itself -- to more cleverly seek to diminish the scope and power of the threat from Islam, by dividing, demoralizing, diminishing the size, of the Camp of Islam. There are many ways to do this. So far, not one of them has been tried.

Let me start by recommending some pieces I have put up at this site, with relevant mention of the Russian hero of the Napoleonic wars, General Kutuzov I wrote some months ago, posted here, on Kutuzov. Kutuzovshchina, that's just the ticket for the Pentagon today. The most recent one is here , and an earlier one can be found here.

 

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Posted on 10/28/2009 3:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
OIC Pushes Global Blasphemy Law
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The Christian Science Monitor seems to be coming to its senses on Islam. Gone are the days when they recommended Karen Armstrong as someone who could tell you everything you need to know about Islam. We are glad to see this opinion written by their editorial board.

Remember the Danish "Muhammad cartoons" that set off riots by offended Muslims more than three years ago? The debate pitted freedom of press and speech against notions of freedom from insult of one's religion. It rages still – but now in a forum with international legal implications.

For years, Islamic nations have succeeded in passing "blasphemy" resolutions at the United Nations (in the General Assembly and in its human rights body). The measures call on states to limit religiously offensive language or speech. No one wants their beliefs ridiculed, but the freedom to disagree over faith is what allows for the free practice of religion. The resolutions are misguided, but also only symbolic, because they're nonbinding.

Symbolism no longer satisfies the sponsor of these resolutions – the Organization of the Islamic Council. Under the leadership of Pakistan, the 57-nation OIC wants to give the religious antidefamation idea legal teeth by making it part of an international convention, or legally binding treaty. Members of the UN Human Rights Council are passionately debating that idea in Geneva this week.

The United States under Barack Obama recently joined the UNHRC, maligned for years as the mouthpiece for countries that are themselves flagrant human rights abusers. A "new" council formed in 2006. President Obama's hope is that as an engaged member, the US can further reform – and its own interests. This case will test his theory.

Consider the wording put forth by Pakistan, written on behalf of the OIC. It proposes "legal prohibition of publication of material that negatively stereotypes, insults or uses offensive language" on matters regarded by religious followers as "sacred or inherent to their dignity as human beings."

This gives broad latitude to governments to decide what's offensive. Countries such as Pakistan already have national blasphemy laws, but a global treaty would give them international cover to suppress minority religious groups with the excuse that these groups offend mainstream beliefs.

And what about unpopular, even "insulting" dissenters within a majority religion – such as women who seek to interpret Islamic sharia law so that they may gain more rights?

Besides, international treaties are meant to protect the rights of people, not ideas. A legal defense of dignity – how a person is viewed – is not on par with a defense of a person's inherent identity and rights. And treaties already aim to protect individuals from discrimination and violence based on religion.

As a newcomer to the Human Rights Council, the US is vigorously arguing against the OIC's latest push, as are European countries. They may not get very far in changing minds in the governments of Egypt or Saudi Arabia. But human rights advocates such as Freedom House and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom say Latin American and sub-Saharan African countries could be persuaded to resist the OIC's push.

These largely non-Muslim countries have typically voted as a bloc on the nonbinding religious defamation resolutions. But the trend has shifted so that more of them are now either abstaining or voting against the resolutions. Chile, for instance, recently switched from abstain to "no" at the March Human Rights Council vote; Liberia switched from "yes" to "no" at the last General Assembly meeting.

These are democracies that understand that suppression of speech in the name of religion can come with a negative effect – suppression of people and theological fault lines that at some point will erupt. It is, conversely, open debate, interfaith dialogue, and righting of misconceptions that will allow religion to flourish – including Islam, whose many followers feel so maligned at the moment.

"Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called antidefamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion. I strongly disagree," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week.

She went on to argue that the best antidote to religious intolerance is enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, government "outreach" to minority religious groups, and "the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression."

The US is now in a position to persuade along these lines from inside the Human Rights Council. It should proceed with the vigor that Ms. Clinton talked about.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 1:22 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
A Tissot in Brooklyn
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Maureen Mullarkey gives her full review in First Things

The life of James Tissot (1836–1902) brackets the Victorian age; his art reflects, to a remarkable degree, the preoccupations of that time. Not least of these were the Victorian Catholic revival and devotional mores on both sides of the English Channel. The tenor of that piety—and modern distance from it—is the unspoken subtext of the Brooklyn Museum’s decision to rescue a portion of Tissot’s The Life of Christ, a suite of 350 watercolors, from climate-controlled oblivion for a three-month airing.

(...)

Women wept at the 1894 Paris Salon when selections from The Life of Christ were first exhibited. Some knelt. Others crawled from one image to another as if making the Stations of the Cross. Men removed their hats. On tour, the series drew large pay-per-view crowds in London, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. A boy soprano singing hymns accompanied its first Brooklyn showing.

In little more than a century, the Christian story has lost purchase on the culture at large; moreover, viewing habits have changed. The Brooklyn Museum has closeted The Life of Christ, acquired by public subscription in 1900, for decades. Why, now, such generous exposure? Is Christianity making a comeback in museum culture? Hardly. Exhibition is a form of asset management that serves multiple ends, including box office ones. Tissot’s reputation and market prices have recovered from the neglect imposed by early modern rejection of all things Victorian. And exhibition, enhanced by a scholarly catalogue, is today’s prelude to tomorrow’s deaccession.

Whatever prompted the current hanging, it is an oddly compelling event. Its claim on admirers of Tissot and on students of his time and place is undeniable. Beyond that, the work is a vivid reminder that art is an instrument thoroughly of this world. It is not revelation, and it is poorly suited to the spiritual burdens laid upon it. The historical value of Tissot’s illustrated gospel survives a devotional value that is long spent.

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Posted on 10/28/2009 12:10 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Rifqa Bary: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
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I was on a conference call this morning with a group of Muslim apostates and defenders of Rifqa Bary when news came (See: AP report-  “Runaway convert back in Ohio after 3-month flight,” ) that a hearing had been held in the Franklin County Ohio Juvenile Court and she was in Ohio foster care custody. The group on the conference call was stunned by these developments that followed a ruling October 23rd which granted jurisdiction in this matter to the Franklin County Ohio Children Services. On October 13th, Judge Daniel Dawson in the Florida 9th Judicial Circuit Court ruled that Rifqa Barry would be returned to Ohio subject to her parents producing valid immigration papers under US Law. A deal that could have saved Rifqa was abandoned by her Florida court appointed Guardian Ad Litem, Ms. Krista Bartholomew, when her parents decided to change counsel.

Near the end of a lengthy hearing in Orlando on October 13th, Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Krista Bartholomew urged the Court not to allow Rifqa's return to Ohio until the Barys complied with prior Court rulings to submit their immigration papers for review. (It was revealed in a previous hearing that the Barys' visas had expired in 2005.) Judge Daniel Dawson agreed.  He ordered attorney Shayan Elahi to produce the papers within ten days or face contempt of court charges; and he asked Bartholomew to file contempt charges with the Court if the deadline passed without the papers.  Yet in a strange turn of events, a deal that could have saved Rifqa Bary was botched by the very same Krista Bartholomew.

So what was the deal that was allegedly struck in discussions between Ms. Bartholomew and the Bary’s attorney David Colley? In exchange for the Bary’s consent to State of Ohio Dependency for Rifqa, a Contempt Motion for her parents would not be filed. Before the deal was signed, the Barys fired Counsel David Colley on the grounds that they couldn’t afford to pay him. In his place, a Muslim American attorney, Omar Tarazi, was appointed as counsel for Rifqa’s parents. Instead of Rifqa Bary being declared a dependent of the State of Ohio, put on a fast track for a green card and ultimate US Citizenship, she’s in foster care custody facing a lengthy dependency hearing. Her communications via cell phone and internet have been restricted by a Court ruling. Justice was delayed and denied.

The two Muslim lawyers, Shayan Elahi in Florida and Omar Tarazi in Ohio, appear to have been successful using family laws in both states to return Rifqa Bary to Ohio. The suspicion is that both lawyers are being paid by CAIR and other Muslim Brotherhood fronts to stifle apostasy among young American Muslims by using Rifqa Bary as a test case. Why else would Mohamed and Aysha Bary dismiss their Ohio Counsel, David Colley, on the grounds that they couldn’t afford to pay him?  After all, Counsel Tarazi costs them nothing.

Rifqa Bary’s Ohio legal team of Kort Gatterdam and Angie Lloyd, an expert in child advocacy law and clinical professor at Ohio State University Law School, may face a daunting task given a tough prosecutor and an outstanding petition by her parents to declare her an “incorrigible child.”

This exchange reported by the AP at today’s Ohio court hearing may be a foreshadowing of the tough legal battles ahead:

The children's services agency had blamed Bary's use of Facebook for her troubles, saying she went to Orlando, Fla., after talking to the Rev. Blake Lorenz, pastor of Global Revolution Church, in an online prayer group.

Bary disappeared July 19 and police used phone and computer records to track her to Lorenz.

"What we want to restrict is the other people, the other organizations, the other forces, that have interjected themselves into this case inappropriately, and has caused the additional problems that we've seen," said Jim Zorn, a children's services attorney, who had asked for tougher supervision that would have restricted Bary from using the Internet and her cell phone.

The girl's parents supported the restrictions, saying through their attorney they were concerned about her interacting with adults over the Internet.

"As you know, there's a lot of danger and concern about that with children," said their attorney, Omar Tarazi.

Kort Gatterdam, an attorney representing the girl, opposed the request, saying problems were caused by a conflict between the girl and her parents, not the Internet.

"We're making some assumptions, without evidence in the record, that she has done something improper talking to people on Facebook. There's no evidence of that," Gatterdam told the judge.

"If the goal here is normalcy and reunification or whatever, this is not the way to go."

According to Pastor Jamal Jivanjee, a friend of Rifqa’s, Rifqa Bary has become an iconic figure to many American Muslim youths and Muslims abroad seeking to leave Islam. He has been inundated with hundreds of emails supporting her cause. 

What can be done to secure Rifqa Bary?  Her legal team and advisers are looking at a number of possible scenarios. The outcome hangs in the balance, now that justice has been delayed.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 10:38 PM by Jerry Gordon
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
A Musical Interlude: Perfidia (Benny Goodman Orch., Helen Forrest)
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Listen here.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 9:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The Obvious Starts To Become Obvious
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Baghdad attacks stir fears of Sunni violence

BAGHDAD — Iraq's Sunnis, long dissatisfied with the Shiite-led government, seek more power, respect and a bigger share of oil wealth in upcoming elections. But disunity among their political leaders and the sheer force of Shiite numbers threaten to derail those hopes.

The result, some analysts and Iraqis fear, could be increased violence as some embittered Sunnis try to destabilize the government and gain power.

Sunday's bombings that killed 155 people in Baghdad sent a chill across the country, with an al-Qaida-linked group claiming responsibility. Two years ago, Iraq descended into intense violence when Sunni extremists launched bombing campaigns that aggravated the underlying Sunni-Shiite tensions, fueling a vicious cycle of sectarian reprisals that brought the country to the edge of chaos.

For now, mainstream Sunnis seem willing to seek what they want through the ballot box in a nationwide vote scheduled for January.

But analysts caution that fringe al-Qaida-linked groups, like Islamic State of Iraq which claimed responsibility for Sunday's attacks, could play off the simmering Sunni fear and anxiety, especially if the January election proves bad for Sunnis.

"They want to make this government dysfunctional," said Riad Kahwaji, head of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, discussing attacks by Sunni extremists.

Al-Qaida in Iraq, which once held sway among Sunni insurgents in the country, "wants to make a comeback, and they seem to be making a comeback in a very noisy and bloody way," he said.

Sunnis, who make up 20 percent of the overall population, have never accepted their status as a minority after generations as the politically dominant group in Iraqi society. They lost that status when the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein and propelled the Shiites, who make up an estimated 60 percent of the population, into power.

In addition, Sunnis complain that the Shiite-led government keeps them from positions of power such as the police, doesn't share the country's oil wealth sufficiently with Sunni areas and targets Sunnis for arrest.

Intensifying fears of violence is the fact that a law to govern January's elections remains caught in a deadlock. It has been during periods of political impasse that Iraq becomes particularly vulnerable to renewed violence.

In 2006, months of political wrangling over the country's first permanent post-invasion government allowed al-Qaida linked insurgent groups, backed by some Sunnis, to provoke Shiite militias into a near-civil war.

So far, Shiites in Iraq do not seem to be responding, even when provoked by the recent rash of extremist al-Qaida-linked attacks.

Yet, "there is always that danger that the sectarian factions can revert to violence. So, it's vital to keep the political process going," said Terrence Kelly, a senior analyst at the RAND Corp. "Al-Qaida's goal has always been to keep a democratically based political process from taking hold."

The attackers have targeted mostly government buildings — a potent target since the government is Shiite-led, but less outright sectarian than attacking Shiite markets and neighborhoods as in the bloody days of 2006 and 2007.

Iraq's mainstream Sunnis have been quick to distance themselves from the horrific bombings, and analysts note that groups like al-Qaida in Iraq which claimed the attacks, should not be confused with the Sunni population or political groups.

Yet there is no question that many Sunnis are disaffected as the January vote nears, and looking to the election to regain some of their lost power. Sunnis, who led the country under Saddam, boycotted a critical first nationwide vote in 2005, resulting in a Shiite-led government.

"Despite the existence of some Sunni figures in the parliament and government, we are still suffering from obvious exclusion from the political environment, and we have no influential say in the decision-making process of the country especially in the security side," said one Sunni from Baghdad, Khalil al-Obeidi.

In a key turning point of the war in late 2006, one-time Sunni insurgents denounced violence, turned on their former al-Qaida-linked partners from abroad, and began working with the U.S. military to root out insurgents.

That was viewed as a critical factor, along with a surge in U.S. troop levels, in pulling Iraq back from the brink of civil war.

Multiple Sunni parties plan to take part in January's election, which analysts consider a good sign. But the Sunnis also make clear they expect something for their part in making the country safer.

"They are now willing and ready to play a role, and they expect to be given a piece of the pie," said Kahwaji.

Lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq, who leads a Sunni bloc of 11 members in parliament, said Sunnis are looking for transparent elections that serve "all Iraqis of all sects and religions."

He warned that if Iraq's political makeup remains the same after the election — meaning a Shiite dominated government — the country will remain "unstable."

The problem is that the Sunnis are not necessarily able to bring about change at the ballot box. They are fragmented and on the defensive, said Joost R. Hiltermann, from the International Crisis Group.

The Shiite-led government has won praise for some outreach to Sunnis. But it has never done as much as the United States has urged to allow former Baathists allied with Saddam, mainly Sunnis, to regain a role in Iraq's government.

"I don't think the Sunnis want a delay in the elections — I don't think anyone in Iraq wants this," Hiltermann said. "But the Sunnis are on the defensive."

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Posted on 10/27/2009 9:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Alex Massie's Article Is Preposterous; Many Of the Responses, However, Are Not
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Read -- read especially the many good and intelligent responses, along with a handful of the usual idiotic Defenders of the Faith (the Faith being Islam, and its adherents) -- right here.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 9:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Good God
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NY TIMES, October 28, 2009

Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll

By Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen.

KABUL, AfghanistanAhmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.

The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America’s increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.

More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in a large swath of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Wali Karzai said in an interview that he cooperates with American civilian and military officials, but does not engage in the drug trade and does not receive payments from the C.I.A.

The relationship between Mr. Karzai and the C.I.A. is wide ranging, several American officials said. He helps the C.I.A. operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government, the officials said.

Mr. Karzai is also paid for allowing the C.I.A. and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city — the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s founder. The same compound is also the base of the Kandahar Strike Force. “He’s our landlord,” a senior American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Karzai also helps the C.I.A. communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban. Mr. Karzai’s role as a go-between between the Americans and the Taliban is regarded by supporters of working with Mr. Karzai as valuable now, as the Obama administration is placing a greater focus on encouraging Taliban leaders to change sides.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment for the story.

“No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations,” said Paul Gimigliano, the spokesman.

Some American officials said that the allegations of Mr. Karzai’s role in the drug trade were not conclusive.

“There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court,” said one American official familiar with the intelligence. “And you can’t ignore what the Afghan government has done for American counterterrorism efforts.”

At the start of the Afghan war, just after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, American officials paid warlords with questionable backgrounds to help topple the Taliban and maintain order with relatively few American troops committed to fight in the country. But as the Taliban has become resurgent and the war has intensified, Americans have increasingly viewed a strong and credible central government as crucial to turning back the Taliban’s advances.

Now, with more American lives on the line, the relationship with Mr. Karzai is sparking anger and frustration among American military officers and other officials in the Obama administration. They say that Mr. Karzai’s suspected role in the drug trade, as well as what they describe as the mafia-like way that he lords over southern Afghanistan, makes him a malevolent force.

These military and political officials say the evidence, though largely circumstantial, suggests strongly that Mr. Karzai has enriched himself by helping the illegal trade in poppy and opium to flourish. The assessment of these military and senior officials in the Obama administration dovetails with that of senior officials in the Bush administration.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it,” a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this story, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the information.

“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” the American officer said of Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”

American officials say that Afghanistan’s opium trade, the largest in the world, directly threatens the stability of the Afghan state, by providing a large percentage of the money the Taliban needs for its operations, and also by corrupting Afghan public officials to help the trade flourish.

The Obama administration has repeatedly vowed to crack down on the drug lords who are believed to permeate the highest levels of President Karzai’s administration. They have pressed him to move his brother out of southern Afghanistan, but he has so far refused to do so.

Other Western officials pointed to evidence that Ahmed Wali Karzai orchestrated the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of phony ballots for his brother’s re-election effort last August. He is also believed to have been responsible for setting up dozens of so-called “ghost” polling stations — existing only on paper — that were used to manufacture tens of thousands of phony ballots.

“The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone,” General Flynn said.

In an interview, Ahmed Wali Karzai denied any role the drug trade and that he takes money from the C.I.A. He said he received regular payments from his brother, the president, for “expenses,” but said he did not know where the money came from. He has, among other things, introduced Americans to insurgents considering changing sides. And he has given the Americans intelligence, he said. But he said he is not compensated for that assistance.

“I don’t know anyone under the name of the C.I.A.,” Mr. Karzai said. “I have never received any money from any organization. I help, definitely. I help other Americans wherever I can. This is my duty as an Afghan.”

Mr. Karzai acknowledged that the C.I.A. and special forces stay at Mullah Omar’s old compound. And he acknowledged that the Kandahar Strike Force is based there. But he said he no involvement with them.

A former C.I.A. officer with experience in Afghanistan said the agency relied heavily on Ahmed Wali Karzai, and often based covert operatives at compounds he owned. Any connections Mr. Karzai might have had to the drug trade mattered little to C.I.A. officers focused on counterterrorism missions, the officer said.

“Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade,” he said. “If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t live in Afghanistan.”

The debate over Ahmed Wali Karzai, which began when President Obama took office in January, intensified in June, when the C.I.A.’s local paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, shot and killed Kandahar’s Provincial police chief, Matiullah Qati, in a still-unexplained shootout at the office of a local prosecutor.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Qati’s death remain shrouded in mystery. It is unclear, for instance, if any agency operatives were present — but officials say the firefight broke out when Mr. Qati tried to block the strike force from freeing the brother of a task force member who was being held in custody.

“Matiullah was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr. Karzai said in the interview.

Counternarcotics officials have repeatedly expressed frustration over the unwillingness of senior policy makers in Washington to take action against Mr. Karzai — or even launch a serious investigation of the allegations against him. In fact, they say that while other Afghans accused of drug involvement are investigated and singled out for raids or even rendition to the United States, Mr. Karzai has seemed immune from similar scrutiny.

For years, first the Bush administration and then the Obama administration have said that the Taliban benefits from the drug trade, and the U.S. military has recently expanded its target list to include drug traffickers with ties to the insurgency. The military has generated a list of 50 top drug traffickers tied to the Taliban who can now be killed or captured.

Senior Afghan investigators say they know plenty about Mr. Karzai’s involvement in the drug business. In an interview in Kabul earlier this year, a top former Afghan Interior Ministry official familiar with Afghan counter narcotics operations said that a major source of Mr. Karzai’s influence over the drug trade was his control over key bridges crossing the Helmand River on the route between the opium growing regions of Helmand Province and Kandahar.

The former Interior Ministry official said that Mr. Karzai is able to charge huge fees to drug traffickers to allow their drug-laden trucks to cross the bridges.

But the former officials said it was impossible for Afghan counternarcotics officials to investigate Mr. Karzai. “This government has become a factory for the production of Talibs because of corruption and injustice,” the former official said.

Some American counternarcotics officials have said they believe that Mr. Karzai has expanded his influence over the drug trade, thanks in part to American efforts to target other drug lords.

In debriefing notes from Drug Enforcement Administration interviews in 2006 of Afghan informants obtained by The New York Times, one key informant said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had benefited from the American operation that lured Haji Bashir Noorzai, a major Afghan drug lord during the time that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, to New York in 2005. Mr. Noorzai was convicted on drug and conspiracy charges in New York in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year.

Habibullah Jan, a local military commander and later a member of parliament from Kandahar, told the D.E.A. in 2006 that Mr. Karzai had teamed with Haji Juma Khan to take over a portion of the Noorzai drug business after Mr. Noorzai’s arrest.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 8:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
High Noon
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Watch here.

This just in from "Variety":

In the latest re-make of "High Noon," the role of Gary Cooper as Marshall of Hadleyville, New Mexico will be played, as it was for the last re-make,  by Israel. This time, however, the role of the Miller Gang  will be played by Iran. The names of the actors taking on the roles of the  fearful  townsfolk, who leave the Marshall to face the Miller Gang all alone, have not yet been made public and apparently are still under discussion.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 8:22 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Matthew P. Hoh Has Written An Excellent Letter
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Please take special note of the first paragraph on Page 3.

Rebecca posted it below; I will do so again right here.

 

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Posted on 10/27/2009 7:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War
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Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain Matthew Hoh's resignation letter in PDF form is here.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 6:39 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Two Men In Chicago Planned Terror Attack On Danish Newspaper
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Feds: Chicago men planned to attack Danish paper

CHICAGO – Two Chicago men who were schoolmates in Pakistan plotted terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper that triggered widespread protests by printing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in announcing charges against the men.

David Coleman Headley, 49, took trips to Denmark in January and July to conduct surveillance on possible targets, including the Copenhagen and Aarhus offices of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, prosecutors said in criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, helped arrange Headley's travel, prosecutors said.

Danish authorities said there could be more arrests.

According to U.S. prosecutors, Headley told FBI agents after his Oct. 3 arrest at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport that the initial plan called for attacks on the newspaper's offices, but that he later proposed just killing the paper's former cultural editor and the cartoonist behind the drawings, which triggered outrage throughout the Muslim world. He described his plans to contacts in Pakistan as "the Mickey Mouse project," according to the FBI.

The newspaper published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. One cartoon showed Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Any depiction of the prophet, even a favorable one, is frowned on by Islamic law as likely to lead to idolatry.

Headley, a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. He was arrested as he boarded a flight to Philadelphia, the first leg of a trip to Pakistan.

Headley and Rana are each charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Rana was arrested Oct. 18 in his home.

Headley's attorney, John Theis, said he would have no comment. Rana's attorney, Patrick Blegen, said that his client "is a well respected businessman in the Chicagoland community."

"He adamantly denies the charges and eagerly awaits his opportunity to contest them in court and to clear his and his family's name," Blegen said. "We would ask that the community respect the fact that these are merely allegations and not proof."

Nobody answered a knock at the door at Rana's Chicago home on Tuesday. Neighbors, who asked not to be quoted, said they did not know Rana or his family.

Jakob Scharf, the head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, or PET, called the alleged plot "serious" but said investigators didn't believe an attack was imminent. He said the alleged plotters considered various options, including using handguns and explosives, and that investigators seized footage of sites around Denmark ranging from the newspaper's offices to Copenhagen's main train station.

"We cannot exclude that there could be more arrests" in Denmark or other countries, Scharf said at a Tuesday news conference.

U.S. prosecutors said Headley was carrying a data stick in his luggage that contained surveillance video footage of sites in Denmark. They said Headley reported and attempted to report on his efforts to individuals with ties to terrorism overseas, including at least one with links to al-Qaida.

Headley and Rana attended school together in Pakistan, the FBI said in court papers. Headley posted a message on an Internet discussion site in October 2008 saying he resented the Danish cartoons and adding: "I feel disposed toward violence for the offending parties."

According to prosecutors, Headley told FBI agents after his arrest that he received training from a terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, starting in 2006. Headley told agents he had worked with Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani based terrorist with al-Qaida links, and that Kashmiri helped plan an attack in Denmark, prosecutors said.

He said he had surveilled the paper's offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus "in preparation for an attack to be carried out by persons associated with Kashmiri and Individual A," prosecutors said. They did not identify Individual A.

Headley told agents he "proposed that the operation against the newspaper be reduced from attacking the entire building in Copenhagen to killing the paper's cultural editor, Flemming Rose, and the cartoonist who drew the cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, Kurt Westergaard, whom Headley felt was directly responsible for the cartoons."

Headley also told agents that he conducted surveillance of Danish troops posted near the newspaper, believing they might be a quick reaction force in the event of an attack. He also said he surveilled a Copenhagen synagogue in the mistaken belief of one of his contacts that Rose was Jewish."

Westergaard, 78, said in a posting on the Jyllands-Posten Web site that he trusts the Danish security services to keep him safe, but that "it is scary to be threatened."

"I am an old man so I am not so afraid anymore," he said.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the public should be assured that there was no imminent danger in the Chicago area."

"However, law enforcement has a duty to be vigilant to guard against not just those who would carry out attacks here on our soil but those who plot on our soil to help carry out violent attacks overseas," Fitzgerald said.

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What turned a man iiving in Chiicago into a man who plotted the murder of Danes, possibly many of them, in Copenhagen? It was a mental illness. Headley, you see,  suffered from adult-onset Islam.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 3:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Pseudsday Tuesday
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Something I don't understand is the new something I never understood, according to The Times:

One of the coolest parties to come out of Ibiza this summer didn’t feature the next big DJ — nor was it fuelled by the next designer high. At the Barefoot Doctor’s Dub Spirit night, horizontal hedonists lounged on pillows in the outdoor chillout at the luxurious Atzaro spa, allowing the mellifluous tones of Barefoot himself, chanting over hypnotic dubstep, to take them on a guided meditation.

“People feel spaced out, relaxed, light-headed and light-hearted,” says Barefoot of the 80-minute session. Some might then indulge in a couple of drinks, and the event turns into “a nice, chilled, dancey, party-type thing”. Enter the concept of slow partying, where a new chilled-out mood is the very antithesis of the turbo-charged, champagne’n’cocaine snort-a-thon that came to define our downtime in the boom. These days, it’s more about sitting down, sipping an artisan cocktail and even, in the case of London’s It-listers, with whom the tranquilliser Valium is gaining a reputation as the drug of choice, popping a proverbial chill pill. When Peaches Geldof was caught on camera handing a wad of cash to her dealer last year, her words were: “I need to get all that stuff off you tonight. Tomorrow, I need Valium.” And today, in the aftermath of the mother of all parties, is that tomorrow.

Time was when we did the former. Not any more. It's wall-to-wall latter.

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Posted on 10/27/2009 2:39 PM by Mary Jackson
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