Armaggedon in different traditions–and can “Operation Straight Up” make troops ‘rapture ready’

NPR has been running a series about end times religious thought, or “eschatology” from the perspectives of different religious traditions.

Particularly interesting was the Iranian belief in the messianic return of the 12th Imam as a precursor to Armageddon and how Christian thought regards this appearance of the “Mahdi” as the “anti-Christ”.

Another interesting detail: the Pentagon’s “Operation Straight Up”, which attempted to provide the American troops in Iraq with proselytizing material advocating a rapture type religion from the Left Behind book series–before publicity killed the deal. Troops were set to receive religious “taken up” materials in Arabic and a “left behind” type video game whose object is to kill non-born-again civilians.

Posted in Curiosities, Religion. Comments Off on Armaggedon in different traditions–and can “Operation Straight Up” make troops ‘rapture ready’

Jordanians Talk about Child Labor

Child labor continues to be a topic of interest in Jordan, probably discussed over tea, if I know my Jordanians. Here is the latest talk from the Jordan Times 8-23-07:

Society holds conference on child labour, education

IRBID (Petra) – The Family and Childhood Protection Society on Saturday organised a conference to discuss the relation between child labour and school dropouts. HRH Princess Sana Asem inaugurated the one-day event, where participants reviewed prospective solutions to address such a phenomenon. The society’s president, Kathem Kfeiri, said child labour is on the rise, noting that a total of 5,000 cases were detected in 1997, but the number had increased to 7,000 despite efforts exerted in this regard. Head of the Women’s Cultural Forum Fayza Zu’bi presented a paper on the significance of providing welfare for children and establishing cooperation between the school and the family. At the end of the conference, Princess Sana presented certificates of appreciation to those who contributed to child-related projects.

I notice three things:

1) Child labor is increasing. We don’t know what industry this is in or if it is across industries, but I have started to notice t-shirts with a “Made in Jordan” label here. Could it be the garment industry? At the same time there is a movement in the west for “fair trade” products.

2) The topic has a royal patron, which in Jordan can really help call attention to an issue. Princess Sana Asem, born 1960, has a B.A. in English literature and translation. She is married to Prince Asem bin Al Nayef, born in 1948, the son of Prince Nayef bin Abdullah I (a younger son of Abdullah I of Jordan) and Princess Mihrimah Sultan (grand-daughter of Sultan Mohammad Rashad of Turkey). One of the prince’s daughters by a previous marriage, Noor, is married to Prince Hamzah bin al Hussein.

3) One of the prospective solutions considered is “establishing cooperation between the school and the family”. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the PTA? I always wondered why Jordan doesn’t have any Parent Teacher Association.

Posted in Fair Trade, Jordan, الأردن. Comments Off on Jordanians Talk about Child Labor

Iranian Barbershops closed by religious police: Can the unibrow be far behind?

Religious police have closed some 20 barbershops in Iran as a part of a crackdown on “bad hijab” or unIslamic clothing. On the forbidden list are makeup, tattoos, hairstyles with gel where the hair stands up, and plucking eyebrows for men.

Plucking eyebrows?

I saw a barber who knew how to do this in the north of Jordan. A friend of mine had a rather wolfish look–widow’s peak, eyebrows growing close together and a huge Arab mustache. I walked around with his sister while he went in for maintenance. The eyebrow plucking he was adamant must be done with a string. The string is held between the barbers two hands and dragged across the skin. As it is dragged across the skin the thread twists. The hairs get caught in the string and are plucked. After my friend emerged from the barber, I realized he had a unibrow and needed frequent attention to keep from looking Neanderthal.

The hair-plucking trick with the string is common and women do it too. One day I went with my Iraqi neighbor to find a beauty salon with reasonably priced haircuts. We ended up paying around four dollars each. I didn’t know what I wanted, so the stylist said “I will give you a Versace cut” and it was pretty good too. My friend knew in detail what she wanted layered and so forth and her haircut was more of a process. At the end, the stylist pointed out some courser facial hair on her temples, a new price was negotiated, and out came the string, deftly rolled across her forehead. I couldn’t see a difference but she was enormously satisfied with her appearance.

bert_and_ernie_and_duckie72.jpgAfter my friends’ experience with plucking hair, I started becoming more aware of the appearance of Arab men on the street. A surprising number of them look like they might have unibrows that are kept separated into distinct eyebrows only by a barber’s frequent attention.

I am picturing the new Iran, without barbered eyebrows. A chorus line of Iranian men comes on stage in the Monty Python tradition looking like they might be ready to burst into a chorus of Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! As they turn, you can see they each have a unibrow and look exactly like Bert as in Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Of course there is only one song that goes with Bert’s unibrow. The line of husky Iranian men bursts into a chorus of “Rubber ducky, you’re the one…”

National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq summary declassified

The intelligence community has declassified the summary of a longer National Intelligence Estimate report on Iraq. Here is a link to the text of the ten-page report. Here is a link to which provides more links to analysis. Here is a link to the previous report from February 2007.

Posted in Iraq, Middle East. Comments Off on National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq summary declassified

Turkey’s presidential campaign rhetoric heats up

Turkey’s prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, is under fire from the press and other non-governmental institutions in Turkey’s latest battle over the candidacy of Abdullah Gul for the presidency. While the secular nature of the state of Turkey is guaranteed by the constitution, Gul is a former Islamist. Even worse, his wife wears an Islamic headscarf.

“The people who say that [Gul is not my president], must renounce their citizenship,” Prime Minister Erdogan said on television Monday, a reference to columnist Bekir Coskun of the nation’s largest daily newspaper, Hurriyet.

In an August 15 column Coskun had written that Gul would “not be my president”. “From now on no one can speak of a secular state… political Islam has taken another step forward.”

On Wednesday Erdogan’s critics started weighing in.

Leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal:

“It is clear that tolerance, democratic thought and a sense of law does not lie behind these comments. How can the prime minister tell a respected journalist to leave Turkey?”

Radikal newspaper columnist Murat Yetkin:

Erdogan’s comments echoed those of far-right groups who in the past had used to say about Turkey “love it or leave it”.

Sedat Ergin, a columnist at leading liberal daily Milliyet:

“Prime Minister Erdogan showed the understanding of an autocratic leader. In the next statement, he may even send dissenting writers into exile.”

turkey-demo-resample.jpgTurkey’s president is elected by the legislature. The first two rounds of voting were on 27 April and 6 May, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was unable to get a two-thirds majority for Gul, after millions marched in public demonstrations for secularism. An election returned the AKP to power with a larger majority, and Gul was once again selected as the candidate.

turkey-gul.jpegThe first round of voting on August 20 failed to elect Gul and a second round was scheduled for August 24.

Gul is expected to be elected on August 28 when only a simple majority of the legislature will be required. Unless, of course, the military steps in to prevent an Islamist government as they did in 1997.

Posted in Free speech, Middle East, Religion. Comments Off on Turkey’s presidential campaign rhetoric heats up

Banned in Turkey: religious extremist demonstrates control of Turkish courts by banning

Hot diggety dog. I’m banned in Turkey.

Okay, everyone else with a blog is banned in Turkey too.

Apparently this is all the doing of a Moslem creationist and holocaust-denier named Adnan Oktar who is the author of the books written under the pen name Harun Yahya. As far as I can tell, Oktar has been accused in the Turkish courts of sodomy, sex with minors, blackmail, bribing public officials, carrying on defamation campaigns against a political rival and a movie star who refused to have sex with him, and oh yeah, illegal possession of guns. He is the named author of a huge array of books that one would think impossible for only one person to write, including a very expensive-looking anti-Darwin tome filled with glossy photos that infringe an a number of copyrights. The books are being given away in European countries.

Somehow Adnan Oktar (or Harun Yahya) also has enough hidden clout to get a Turkish court to issue an order banning all blogs from the country.

No one seems to be able to trace Oktar’s financial backing.

Posted in Conspiracies, Free speech, Islam. Comments Off on Banned in Turkey: religious extremist demonstrates control of Turkish courts by banning

Email registration site protects your real email address from spam

I have just discovered a site for hiding your email address.

It’s supposed to be used for throwaway site registrations to prevent sites from getting your email address and sending you a lot of spam, but it looks like people are using it for adult sites too. An Email send to is supposed to be publicly accessible so if you register for something you (or anyone else) can go to the site a few seconds later to read the email or retrieve a password. The recipient does not see your Email address because you don’t give it out.

Karina goes to Jordan: Bismallah, Karina.

Tonight I received a phone call from my old sometime-roommate in Amman, Karina. She was passing through O’Hare on her way to Jordan and called on her way through town. She’ll be staying with friends at a village outside of Madaba.

I remembered what my Egyptian friend told me when I left Jordan.  “When you get on the plane you must say Bismallah” (in the name of Allah). Coincidentally, this is also the word you must say if you see a Djinn in the desert.

Bismallah, Karina.  Safe journey.

Posted in Jordan, الأردن. Comments Off on Karina goes to Jordan: Bismallah, Karina.

Chicago City Colleges Outsources T-shirts to Foreign Sweatshops

You would think the City Colleges of America’s Second City would not be supporting sweatshop labor, child labor and union busting. But the other day I went to a concert at one of Chicago’s city colleges and as a door prize, I received a t-shirt made in a sweatshop.

Everyone who walked in the door received a t-shirt with the school logo on it. My shirt was a Hanes “Beefty-T” made in the Dominican Republic. I seemed to remember something about Hanes, so when I got home I looked it up.

Hanes has one of the worst, if not the worst human rights records in the industry. Last October the national labor committee reported the re-emergence of child labor in factories making apparel for Hanes and WalMart.

The children report being routinely slapped and beaten, sometimes falling down from exhaustion, forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, even some all-night, 19- to 20-hour shifts, often seven days a week, for wages as low as 6 and a half cents an hour.

Now a new report from the Worker’s Rights Consortium talks about the same factory in the Dominican Republic that manufactured the t-shirt I got as a door prize. The one with the name of one of Chicago’s city colleges on it.

The Worker’s Rights Consortium has over 150 affiliated colleges and universities that help support its work of investigating overseas factories an d insuring fair labor practices for  workers in factories that produce apparel for college logos. Harvard University is a member.  Duke University is a member.  The University of Illinois at Chicago is a member.

What about Chicago City Colleges?  Surely the City Colleges of Chicago supports fair labor practices.  Do you see any of the Chicago City Colleges on the list?


Is your school on the list?

Impeach Bush sign taken down? Try a t-shirt instead.

Is it illegal to post an “Impeach Bush” sign on public property? We’re about to find out.

Ohio teacher Kevin Egler and his friends have been posting anti-war signs all over Ohio and surrounding states. They say the war in Iraq is illegal and immoral. Now Egler has been issued a ticket for posting an Impeach Bush sign in Kent in Portage County. The Kent police said he was “unlawfully advertising in a public place”.

Egler said that when he was stopped in Kent, he asked the police officer how his sign differed from Realtors posting signs on public property saying “This way to the house for sale.” He said the officer asked, “You don’t know the difference?” but never explained what it might be.

Egler’s lawyer says he knows the difference. A real estate sign is a commercial message. Egler’s sign is a political message. Political messages have more legal protections, says the attorney, Bob Fitrakis, who specializes in first amendment law. Fitakis is also editor and publisher of The Free Press website, which so far has not commented on the arrest.

For some time I have been quietly offering a few sweatshop-free “impeach” t-shirts through the Columbus, Ohio-based company Skreened. I haven’t written about them though, because I’m not at all sure impeachment is the best approach. But if someone does believe impeachment is the right approach, they should be able to say so. That part is a no-brainer. So for anyone who wants to exercise their freedom to say Impeach!, here is your shirt.

Shirts are available in a several styles and colors. The slogans are shown on a variety of different tees so you can get an idea of what’s available. Sizes run small–they are “fashionably snug”–so for a looser fit, order up a size. Oh, yes, there is one slightly naughty slogan. If you were offended by the detail of the Monika Lewinsky discussion, you will be offended by this–it’s definately NSFW and not child-friendly. It’s the light green one in the upper right with the navy blue slogan, but too hard to read in thumbnail size. So if you’re offended by that sort of thing, don’t click on it.

To order a shirt, click on the picture.