While seeking the space tourist's first name on wikipedia, I found Michael Somogyi, a Hungarian biochemist.
Commentary on the Politics, History and Culture of the Middle East and Central Asia, by Brian Ulrich
"In the bigger electoral picture, according to the polls, Ayalon poses a great threat to Likud leader Netanyahu. This was largely born out by yesterday’s primary first round results. Barak’s main support came from vote contractors and the support he received amongst the old guard of the party machine, as well as amongst the Arab and Druze communities – all of which are largely irrelevant to the Labour Party when it comes to general elections. Ayalon, by contrast, polled well where the election was genuine and genuinely competitive and where Labour needs to grow its strength in the general elections, notably in the large cities (Ayalon won Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa)."
"Second, the return of jihadis who fought in Iraq since 2003 has exacerbated the spread of violent radicalism in the camps. The jihadis who have returned, whether Lebanese, Palestinian or from elsewhere, come with stories from Iraq and also a militarism that had been largely missing in the heavily Sunni Muslim community of Lebanon prior to 2003.
"Third, the fighting that has taken place during the past two weeks is also related to the internal domestic strife in Lebanon. In their efforts to counter the massive popular mobilization of the Hezbollah-led Shiite community, the Sunni leaders of the Saad Hariri-led March 14 coalition have not been above stoking the sectarian fires of Lebanon's Sunni community. Indeed, at a recent rally to mark the anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, the largely Sunni crowd broke out into chants of 'Wahad, itnayn! Wahad, itnayn! Rafiq al-Hariri wa Saddam Hussein!' ('One, two! One, two! Rafiq al-Hariri and Saddam Hussein!'). In the largely Sunni port cities of Tripoli and Sidon, tributes to what they consider the Sunni martyr Saddam Hussein—executed by the 'Shiite government' in Baghdad—are disturbingly common (al-Akhbar, February 15)."
"The highly confidential discussions center on the Minsk Group’s existing peace plan that essentially boils down to holding a referendum on self-determination in Karabakh years after the liberation of Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani districts surrounding the disputed enclave. Disagreements on the date and other practical modalities of the proposed referendum are believed to have been one of the reasons for the collapse of the Rambouillet and Bucharest talks. Armenian officials say Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would thus be able to legitimize its secession from Azerbaijan. Aliyev has claimed, however, that the Karabakh Armenians would only vote on the degree of their self-rule within Azerbaijan. According to Armenian diplomatic sources privy to the negotiating process, the would-be peace deal may not set any dates for such a vote. In that case, Karabakh will indefinitely remain under Armenian control without Azerbaijan having to renounce its sovereignty over the territory.
"Another key stumbling block is Armenian withdrawal from Kelbajar and Lachin, two of the seven Azerbaijani districts that are sandwiched between Karabakh and Armenia proper. The Armenian side has been ready, at least until last summer, to liberate Kelbajar only after the referendum, something that was deemed unacceptable by Baku. It has also rejected Azerbaijani demands for the return of Lachin, which serves as the shortest overland link between Karabakh and Armenia."
"You don't agree with all his posts, but they make you think about new issues -- and whether he's as cute as his pics!
"Find him at: A friend of a friend's Top 8
"Your first move: Bloggers love having an audience almost as much as they like a battle of wits, so stir up some controversy by telling him when you disagree with a post.
"Hidden payoff: An outspoken guy can stir up passions you never knew what you had -- and help you figure out what you really stand for."
"Every single game ends in true, ultimate sudden death (or victory if you're an optimist). At any moment, a bounce of the puck, a quick break, a slap shot with eyes, a turnover, or anything at all can win or lose the game. Nothing is safe, nothing is routine, nothing can let you breath easy.
"There is never a quarterback taking a knee to set up a field goal. There is never the relief of knowing when your team is at bat, it can't be scored upon.
"In hockey, teams are almost always on both offense and defense at the exact same time. Momentum means nothing. You can have five minutes of sustained pressure on offense and lose in the blink of an eye at the other end of the ice.
"Fans literally scream in horror, like they are watching a car wreck, when play gets too close to the net of their team.
"It's unique and special and spectacular.
"And yet, the NHL might want to tinker with it, gimmick it up and get it over with sooner?"
"First, Israel defeated the intifada; second, Arafat died; third, Mahmoud Abbas was elected the new PA president; and fourth, Israel removed itself from Gaza. The latter three in particular served to strengthen Hamas -- not Fatah. The reality of the fractiousness of the Palestinian cause was already coming into view in 2005, before Hamas was elected, when more Palestinians were killed in internecine fighting than in battle against Israel. It might be gratifying to make a post facto declaration that in 2005, the old hands among the Palestinians had their territory under control until the Bush administration, which can’t do anything right, forced inadvisable changes on them. But that idea is simply a flight of fancy."
"Among the Arab countries today in which there is a modicum of internal stability, each is controlled by an Arafat-type figure -- an anti-democratic strongman who is able to crush all challenges to his authority. Likewise, among those Arab countries that aren't ruled by a despot, the political dynamic is also consistent: In Lebanon, Iraq, and now Gaza, sectarian violence is the dominant form of political expression. It’s true that Arafat’s authority was weaker in Gaza than in the West Bank, but in Gaza there was always another strongman present to keep a lid on things: the Israeli occupation. When Israel disengaged in the summer of 2005, suddenly Gaza was without any master at all, and that’s exactly when the territory started going full-tilt toward the Hobbesian state of nature it now finds itself in.
"And so to blame recent Bush administration choices for this lawlessness -- or more precisely, to invent stories about administration choices -- is more than a bit much. Even if the PA elections in 2006 hadn't occurred, I doubt the battle we are seeing today wouldn’t have happened. The fight is foreordained by Gaza's demography, its political and religious extremism, Arafat's death, and Israel's unwillingness to police the territory. The Bush administration is simply along for the ride -- as is Israel. And the reason why Abbas has never been able to emerge as a leader of the Palestinians is because his weakness is similarly foreordained. Consensus-based political leadership is anathema to the Arab world. We're seeing that rather starkly today in Gaza."
"One of the interesting things that has happened in Lebanon in the past two days is that the Palestinian factions – Fatah and Hamas – that are busy killing each other in Gaza are actually cooperating in Lebanon, with each other and with the local authorities, to isolate the al Qaedist threat. The Hamas representative in Lebanon, Usamah Hamdan, has condemned the Fatah Al-Islam group and pledged to work to dissolve their activities."
Labels: U.S. Politics
"High-profile cases like Tabandeh's suggest that pressure on minority religious groups, like Sufis and dervishes, has increased in Iran.
"Last year, a Sufi house of worship was destroyed in Qom, and hundreds of Sufis were detained.
"The U.S. Commission On International Religious Freedom said in a May 2 statement that an already 'poor' government record on religious freedom had deteriorated in the past year -- particularly for religious groups like Sufi Muslims and Evangelical Christians.
"Critics are likely to claim that Iranian authorities' latest move against the leader of the Nematollahi order is another sign of intolerance toward those who do not practice Islam as it is promoted by the political and religious establishment.
"Several conservative clerics have in recent months described Sufism as a danger to Islam.
"Tabandeh's Nematollahi Gonabadi order is reportedly among the largest Sufi groups in Iran."
"Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told female politicians in Tehran on May 20 that it is necessary to 'amend areas of the civil law that create certain problems for Iranian women,' Mehr reported. He told a gathering of members of 'fundamentalist' or conservative women's groups that 'there is a sense that certain laws are not in keeping with the conditions of our time.' He expressed support for the mobilization of more women in public life through political parties, and said no society could grow adequately if deprived of the presence of half its population in public, business, or social life. Mariam Behruzi, a conservative politician who attended the meeting, told ILNA on May 20 that the groups discussed equalizing blood money for men and women. Blood money is the compensation paid to the relatives of a murder victim, but currently the fine paid for a dead man is twice that for a woman."
"The antiboycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policy.
"The Arab League boycott of Israel is the principal foreign economic boycott that U.S. companies must be concerned with today. The antiboycott laws, however, apply to all boycotts imposed by foreign countries that are unsanctioned by the United States.
"The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to all "U.S. persons," defined to include individuals and companies located in the United States and their foreign affiliates. These persons are subject to the law when their activities relate to the sale, purchase, or transfer of goods or services (including information) within the United States or between the U.S. and a foreign country. This covers U.S. exports and imports, financing, forwarding and shipping, and certain other transactions that may take place wholly offshore.
"Generally, the TRA applies to all U.S. taxpayers (and their related companies). The TRA's reporting requirements apply to taxpayers' 'operations' in, with, or related to boycotting countries or their nationals. Its penalties apply to those taxpayers with foreign tax credit, foreign subsidiary deferral, FSC (Foreign Sales Corporation), and IC-DISC (Interest Charge-Domestic International Sales Corporation) benefits."
Labels: U.S. Politics
"It is hard to come up with the name of a Jewish figure whose life story is more relevant today than King Herod, whose tomb was discovered this week at Herodium. Herod was a vassal of a world power, the Roman Empire. He pursued a complex relationship with the Roman emperors and the neighboring rulers: the Egyptians, the Nabateans and the Arabs. He was unpopular among his own people because he was perceived as a puppet of the Romans, he murdered three of his own children as well as many of the Hasmonean elite because of his Edomite origins. He had to deal with strong opposition, from the Hasmoneans and later from the Pharisees.
"Herod's political talents, however, enabled him to remain on the throne for 33 years, until the day he died. In addition to insuring his political survival, Herod found time to fill the country with impressive construction projects. Herod's genius as a builder is proven by the fact that some of these projects, such as Caesarea amphitheater and the Western Wall, are part of Israeli life today.
"Israeli politicians could perhaps have learned from Herod how it is possible to survive, to rule and to build all at once. It is possible that had they learned from his rich experience, they would have spared themselves the need to appoint an investigative commission or two."
"The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Monday night that it has uncovered the grave and tomb of King Herod, who ruled Judea for the Roman empire from circa 37 BCE...
"The tomb was discovered by Hebrew University Professor Ehud Netzer, who is considered one of the leading experts on King Herod. Netzer has conducted archeological digs at Herodium since 1972 in an attempt to locate the grave and tomb.
"The discovery solves one of Israel's greatest archeological mysteries. Additional details will be made available at the Tuesday press conference.
"The majority of researchers had believed that Herod was in fact buried at Herodium, based on the writings of the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, but multiple excavations at the site failed to locate the grave."
Zoe: "You sanguine about the kind of reception we're apt to receive on an Alliance ship, captain?"
Mal: "Absolutely. What's 'sanguine' mean?"
Zoe: "Sanguine. Hopeful. Plus, point of interest, it also means 'bloody'."
Mal: "Well, that pretty much covers all the options, don't it?"
"On Thursday night, between 100,000 (police estimate) and 200,000 (organizers' estimate) Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to call for Olmert's resignation. Rinat observed that she hadn't seen so many foreign reporters covering an event since Sharon's stroke in January 2006. Neither had I. But most of the demonstrators - and most of the speakers - seemed to think that if we had had a different prime minister during the war, we could have "won." I'm not so sure that's accurate. I'm sure that few people read the whole report, but the bits that were excerpted in the media focused more on the committee's conclusion that Olmert didn't have a good plan to win the war, and much less on the part about him not having explored diplomatic options - in other words, that it might have been possible to avoid war altogether.
"Also, most people seem to be ignoring the rather plentiful evidence pointing to the fact that the ground was laid for the failure of that war long before Olmert took office. For example, Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, who headed military intelligence until January 2006, told Yedioth on Monday that he warned former PM Ariel Sharon of a high risk of kidnappings on the northern border six months before the war, and that Sharon - who certainly had plenty of military experience - brushed his concerns aside. When I tagged along with Michael Totten on his April 2006 trip to the northern border, a young IDF captain told us very soberly that we really shouldn't be there, because 'everything could explode at any moment.' It's worth going back to read Michael's report to see that there's no way the army could have been unaware that Hezbollah was preparing to attack. And it's simply not credible to contend that the army didn't report what it saw in front of its eyes - a massive buildup of Hezbollah military force on the border - to the prime minister."
"With the removal of the gag order on the investigation of former MK Azmi Bishara on Wednesday the severity of the allegations against him is now becoming evident. The case was built using wiretappings conducted by the Shin Bet during the Second Lebanon War.
"The wiretaps were authorized by the High Court of Justice, which is the only body capable of sanctioning the surveillance of a Knesset member and that authorization must be renewed every three months...
"In one of the conversations Bishara was asked an unusually direct question by his Hizbullah contact who wanted to know how Israel would respond if it were hit by long range missiles which would reach beyond the city of Haifa. Bishara mumbled and admonished his contact, hinting that the conversation may be monitored, but after a short while his aspirations got the best of him and he told the Hizbullah man that such an action would serve Hizbullah's goals. Several days later rockets began hitting targets south of Haifa."
"In the near future, he may be required to order the IDF to embark on a major military operation - for instance, in the Gaza Strip - that will claim lives. He is not taking into account the possibility that some soldiers might refuse to obey orders originating with the prime minister whom the Winograd Committee concluded was responsible, personally and ministerially, for the failures in last summer's war."
"The decision to respond with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan, based on careful study of the complex characteristics of the Lebanon arena. A meticulous examination of these characteristics would have revealed the following: the ability to achieve military gains having significant political-international weight was limited..
"Consequently, in making the decision to go to war, the government did not consider the whole range of options, including that of continuing the policy of ‘containment’, or combining political and diplomatic moves with military strikes below the ‘escalation level’, or military preparations without immediate military action -- so as to maintain for Israel the full range of responses to the abduction. This failure reflects weakness in strategic thinking, which derives the response to the event from a more comprehensive and encompassing picture...
"Some of the declared goals of the war were not clear and could not be achieved, and in part were not achievable by the authorized modes of military action."
"The ability of Hezbollah to sit ‘on the border’, its ability to dictate the moment of escalation, and the growth of its military abilities and missile arsenal increased significantly as a result of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in May 2000 (which was not followed, as had been hoped, by The Lebanese Army deploying on the border with Israel."