Monday, September 27, 2010

International Media

The union of the Slovenian military has formally objected to being sent to the war in Afghanistan, fearing that it will be considered a peacekeeping operation no longer, and it is illegal, in a strenuous letter to the president of their country.

Press TV is reporting that a Polish soldier has been killed in the war in Afghanistan.

The Local has the story of a Swedish filmmaker that was shot while filming in Afghanistan this week.

Babies in Afghanistan are born at a terribly low birthweight, and many have extreme deformities, report RAWA.

Coverage of the Aafia Siddiqui trial here.

North American and Antipodean (NZ and Australia) Media

Outside the wire in Afghanistan, write two staff reporters at the Burlington Free Press.

Kandahar roulette with a nine millimetre, writes Rajiv Srinivasan in the New York Times' At War blog.

This is a wonderful tale about Afghanistan and how people with disabilities are treated in the country. Read it here.

The St. John's Telegram in Newfoundland is one of many outlets reporting that General Petraeus is supporting a plan to reach out to the Taliban.

CNN gives us the astonishing revelation that the soldiers alleged in the Afghan killing team implicated themselves on tape.

Another CNN story examines plans for a railway in Afghanistan.

The Colorado Gazette has this story, from the Associated Press, about NATO moving into Pakistan.

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the chief of Homeland Security calls a plan to monitor various groups in America, including animal rights and gay rights groups, a mistake.

A Pakistani minister resigned after criticizing the army, in this report carried in Wisconsin's Capital Times.

A drone strike killed four people in Pakistan last night, report Agence France Presse.

Guam is grieving an Afghan war death, record ABN news.

Charlotte, North Carolina's Observer has a breaking news update about Pakistan's response to the attacks.

The Idaho Statesman leads with the news that a mistrial was declared in the Blackwater trial about the Afghans that were killed, and that the jury was deadlocked.

Idaho's Boise Weekly reports on Project Censored, saying that one of the most underreported stories in 2009-2010 are the covert activities of Blackwater in Pakistan - and that they are apparently running predator drones over the border whose strikes are unknown to the media.

In Helena, Montana, the Independent Record has two interesting, previously unmentioned stories, this one about Pakistani angst in the wake of Aafia Siddiqui, and this one about the three reporters in the country that were detained being released by NATO.

Did 9/11 really change everything, New Zealanders ask, in this front page link at the nation's

Mark Dodd and Jeremy Kelly report on the court martial of Australians in their country for the civilian deaths of children; Australian media have been asking their leaders about whether the rules of engagement should be changed.

NPR chronicles the widening dissent in the ranks of those who must put their reputations on the line to defend Afghanistan war decisions; the lawmakers and top White House officials.

The Atlantic runs Andrew Sullivan's chat with Joe Klein under the headline, Dial Back in Afghanistan, Please in which he describes how ordinary civilians that he has been meeting on the road can't relate to the reasons for the war.

Why are we even there, many here ask. Read the most recent story, published in the Star Tribune of St. Paul, Minnesota, where Americans express misgivings.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Here's an article in Rabble about Canadian war resisters. For "Kevin", who lives in Calgary, the big day is coming..

Carol Dance writes an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on the Afghan war that is out today. Check it out here.

NATO helicopters violated Pakistani sovereignity yesterday, killing people in Pakistan, according to Reuters. Who will ask the critical question: Is America now at war with Pakistan, too?

Seven more people are killed in a US drone attack, carry Sify, the BBC, AFP...

Rallies are scheduled across the US, Australia and Canada to free Private Bradley Manning, the Wikileaks' Army insider, say Federal News Radio.

These Afghan prisoners came from areas so remote that they did not know how taps worked and had to be stopped from washing in the toilets, when they were detained.

A massive offensive works its way into Arghandab, near Kandahar, by NATO. The aim is to kill as many people that are are actively opposed to US occupation as possible, reports the New York Times.

Con Hallinan questions the US surge in Kandahar in this interesting piece in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Radio Free Europe gives out radios to rural people in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan War Weekly, by Frank Brodhead. This is excellent.

And the FBI just raided a whack of antiwar activists in the midwest.
We all know its a hotbed, but one wonders how many other anti-war folk in other parts of the country are organizing as well. Many activists have been threatened and warned.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has some riveting photographs in a gallery about Afghanistan's election.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Regrets about the war in Afghanistan? Who on earth wouldn't have them, say those who have actually been fighting the Taliban ; have a look if you get the chance.

More than half of all of the military officers randomly surveyed by the Air Force Times, an industry publication, would not vote Republican in the next election, and the majority favour a greater soft power approach in Afghanistan and in Third World disaster areas.

Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller inform in the Washington Post that CIA activities and assassination units in Pakistan and Afghanistan are far greater than previously thought, according to the new book out by Bob Woodward.

This Canadian woman's daughter died in Afghanistan in the Panjwaii District and she is openly questioning the point of the war, write the Toronto Star, who also interview the author of a book about the fallen soldier's life.

The Guardian reports that Britain is to send two more Tornado jets to Afghanistan, which are to be deployed for the next three months by the British Royal Air Force.

Code Pink front this open letter about John Stewart, to their readership, on their blog, in which they call for an end to America's wars.

Nine foreign troops are blown up in Kandahar, in a helicopter crash, report the South Asian Link, and a number of bystanders wounded.

Thirty-three people have died in bomb blasts yesterday in Afghanistan, including three foreign troops, as reported in an AP story in the Miami Herald.

Another bomb blows up in Afghanistan, killing forty-one.

Four killed in a drone attack in Pakistan, reveal Voice of America.

The jury in the Blackwater case is out.

The intense surge moves deep into Kandahar, report ABC News.

Christopher Ketcham has an opinion piece out today on rendition and the Afghan kill team.

Paul Jay of the Real News network also talks to embedded reporter Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times about the Afghan kill team.

A second journalist was detained in Afghanistan today, reports the Winnipeg Free Press, this time from Al Jazeera.

Three foreign troops were killed in Afghanistan this week, and two Taliban were captured.

One child was killed and 29 were injured in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber blew up in Balkh province.

Canadians gather to protest the Afghanistan war.

The US gives out kites in Afghanistan.

There are many recent, excellent written reviews of The Tillman Story movie, based on John Krakauer's book, out this month, and here is one of them by John Dillingham.

The Cost of War blog represents an interesting new site that has tirelessly researched the news, stories, and spin from America's war zones.

A film review of Essential Killing, about one Afghan that tried to get away.

Declan Walsh writes in the Guardian about the reaction in Pakistan to the Aafia Siddiqui case.

Angela Harper writes about how the return of Australian troops is an emotional event. The Australian Age has also reported that the federally driven national security committee is independently reconsidering its role, in addition to the parliamentary debate on the war that is expected to take place in the near future.

London's Tricycle Theater puts on a three night play about Afghanistan and brings it to Minneapolis, where the Star Tribune has given it a review.

Toronto folk get ready to head to the Stewart and Colbert rallies.

The Business Insider is the first in what will doubtless be a long list of publications to reveal that covert operations have been conducted by the Americans on the Pakistani side of the border.

The Daily Mail leads with the news that Ed Milliband of the Left has won leadership of the Labour Party in Britain.

UK's Guardian newspaper carries the most recent call from United Nations Rapporteur Philip Alston, who asserts that there should be a public inquiry into the deaths of Afghan civilians along the lines of Gaza.

The Seminal calls for an end to the Afghan war.

Wonkette calls Afghanistan, "America's favourite manmade disaster" and talks elections.

The US suppresses freedom of the press in Afghanistan, according to this audio clip by the Progressive, out today.

America want more recognition for aid, the Associated Press write in this story in the Miami Herald.

Katy Booth details in the Colorado Gazette that new license plates have been designed in Colorado for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

The Baltimore Sun have a story on the bomb threat hoax- a Canadian man was said by a caller to be carrying explosives on a flight to Pakistan, and Swedish police, where the plane was detained, have found that this wasn't the case.

The San Francisco Chronicle has Laura King's byline about attacks against the NATO base.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

IKEA invests in 100 million women and children in India.
I noticed that Judy Shepard is still touring the United States and I wanted to give her some publicity on my blog by posting a link to one of her most recent interviews. Judy is the awesomely strong and resourceful mother of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered for being gay in Laramie, Wyoming, and whose death helped to inspire the recent hate crimes provisions in America. She recently wrote The Meaning of Matthew, which can be found on Amazon and is about the life of her son.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today there is an interview out of Australia on philosophy in Afghanistan.

Also, nine Coalition forces were killed in a helicopter crash. NATO has said that they currently have no more information on what happened, but that there is no evidence of a firefight. It is believed that many of the dead are American, but the exact nationalities of each of the fallen are not known. The article also says that one American civilian and one Afghan were injured in the blast.

The Baltimore Sun editorializes that it might be wise to rethink and bring "our troops home as quickly as possible".

Further, last week, the Economist newsmagazine opined that the entire Afghan war is "a waste of time".

Another Taliban commander has been killed in a drone attack.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

NATO's War

Radio Free Europe is saying that eight children have died overnight in northern Afghanistan due to fighting around the elections, an update on the six previously reported by other sources.

A drone strike has killed five people overnight in Afghanistan.

RAWA is noting that forty people were also injured at the elections.

Al Jazeera's Afghanistan correspondent Sue Turton explains the security situation in Kabul.

This article illuminates the reality on the ground during the election process in Afghanistan, and demystifies the stories emerging in the press. An extremely worthwhile read.

Seven people were just killed in eastern Afghanistan by NATO forces, according to CNN.

Eighty insurgents were killed by NATO elsewhere in the last twenty-four hours, and one family has had one person killed and eight members wounded in Southern Afghanistan.

NDTV has shared the news that a Sikh woman is running in the Afghan elections.

There has been a new delivery of aircraft to Afghan forces, reports Robert Leese of the ISAF mission.

One reporter that is embedded with a force in the Kunar mountains reports that they have killed over 200 insurgents during his tenure in the last while.

Politico's Laura Rozen updates us that ISAF has denied an Iranian report that seven ISAF soldiers crossed the Iranian border with Afghanistan and were detained in Iranian territory.

Over 1,100 people have been killed in non-Afghan drone attacks since 2008, write Zee news, including four people who were killed in a strike in Pakistan last night, according to a report by Agence France Presse.

The Hindustan Times documents that the number of total people killed as a result of the Afghan elections was eighty-nine.

The Canadian government is boosting aid for soldiers wounded in the Afghan war.

Marjorie Cohn editorializes about Bradley Manning
, the Wikileaks whistleblower, who is currently being held in an American military prison.

A Japanese reporter adventures to cover stories and take pictures in Afghanistan, after previously having done the same in Iraq.

Georgia are debating their role in Afghanistan, sources in eastern Europe report.

116 people are dead and 180 are wounded in a conflict over water in rural Pakistan, says CNN.

NATO has updated its numbers to twenty-two people killed in election violence, and the bodies of three kidnapped election workers
have been found in Afghanistan.

CTV reports that Canada's Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, interrogated fifty Afghans in the latter's own country, but has not admitted to mistreating them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Frontier Post: Afghanistan

There is an updated and revised article from Los Angeles Times correspondent Laura King, giving her account of the Afghan elections here.

This report suggests that
Russia will be discussing Afghanistan at the United Nations.

Bloomberg newspapers discusses Kabulbank's meltdown, stating that "unlike many institutions in Afghanistan, Kabulbank actually worked."

Today Marisa Taylor and Warren F. Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers shine a light on Blackwater and KBR's activities in Afghanistan

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a leader on violence in Afghanistan's elections. They are citing ten people as the body count, which is less than sources previously mentioned.
Some interesting snippets, here and here.


There was a recent article in the Georgian Daily on Afghanistan that looked interesting. I can't find it online, but if I do I will post it here.

The Washington Post has a video, and an article out about the Winfield affair here in which Thomas Winfield reported that his platoon would go out and kill and dismember Afghan civilians as a game. The soldiers, after having killed a number of Afghans, are now being prosecuted.

An American airstrike kills seventy people in Afghanistan last night.

Drone strikes in Northwest Pakistan have stepped up hugely.

Julian Assange, the founder of wikileaks, has been completely acquitted of any charges of improper conduct in Sweden and is now free to leave. Mr. Assange is widely rumoured to be planning a release of documents to his website on the Iraq war.

Two French hostages in Afghanistan are in sound health.

The Afghan diaspora in Russia asks for help in voting in future elections in Afghanistan.

I just came across this article, about charitable donations to Afghanistan, whilst browsing the web.

A judge in America may review the drone attacks in Afghanistan.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that fourteen people were killed on Afghanistan's election day.

There are two new films out at the Toronto Film Festival about Afghanistan's neverending conflict, one from the Danes- the famed and long awaited Armadillo, and the other from a Polish director, a portrayal of a Taliban fighter who escapes from captivity and his fight to survive.

The Toronto Star's James Travers' writes on the Afghan detainee abuse affair.

Laura King writes in the Los Angeles Times about the Afghan election, adding that total numbers for how many people were killed is not known, and that one insurgent was killed as he was about to attack a polling station.

The United States of America's forces are currently pushing a massive offensive into rural Kandahar, reveal the Washington Post.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports an engagement between Afghan protestors and Australian forces here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On the Afghan Front

The notorious Blackwater trial on Afghanistan started a couple of days ago in Virginia. Two guards are accused of shooting two unarmed men in a car, and a pedestrian.

Activists go on trial for protesting the drone attacks, including Colonel Ann Wright, and a Pakistani actress talks about how the US military's presence worsened the effects of the floods to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now this week.

There is also a large protest against civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai tells American lawmakers that the US is not making progress in Afghanistan because of said casualties. Mr. Karzai, has of course, also recently told the Americans that he would like armed security companies in Afghanistan to cease operating.

Canadian forces alone paid 650,000 dollars to families over the course of two years for collateral damage- the killing of civilians. Any payment over two thousand dollars was considered exceptional and required permission from the Deputy Minister of National Defence. The lowest payment was just one hundred and four dollars.

Robert Naiman suggests that negotiation with the Taliban could start this week, and could end the night raids, which are most dreaded by Afghans. He writes at the Huffington Post. Mr. Naiman ventures a suggestion that the United States could learn from the negotiaions on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, in addressing this situation, and describes why they are useful.

Greg Carlstrom writes about the mass discontent with Obama's Afghan war policy in Washington, and adds that Gilles Dorronsoro has called for an immediate pullout from the country.

Australia is seeking to brand itself as a middle power, and Kevin Rudd expresses support for Pakistan and caution about Australia's role in Afghanistan.. One effective way to impress middle power status on others would be to be among the first to withdraw from the Afghan war.

Peter Cameron cites the fact that the Afghan war is the longest in US history and suggests that Australians should follow the Dutch and leave the country.

This month has been the deadliest month for drone strikes in Pakistan since they started in 2004.

There are reports that flood rescue workers were killed in the drone attacks so far this month.

Protestors call for international treaties to stop the drone attacks, including Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur. There are a number of upcoming conferences on the drones this month.

Derrick Crowe takes on Joshua Foust in a debate about the Afghan study group at the Huffington Post. Definitely worth a read.

Renee Montagne reports that Atta Mohammed Noor, a "key player" who is working inside Afghanistan's North, would support negotiating with the Taliban.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just broke the story that access to Wikileaks is prohibited for Canadian defence staff, according to a recent memorandum that says that the site could transmit viruses to defence computers.

Moscow and Kabul are boosting their energy ties, and here is another Russian perspective on the project.

It is also reported that the Polish president wants to pull troops out of Afghanistan, as eighty percent of Poland's public is against the war.

Hamid Karzai has orchestrated a High Peace Council to talk to the Taliban.

Seema Jilani's wisdom, patience and love shine in this piece about aid work in Afghanistan.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

US, Afghan troops push into Taliban stronghold

Edited 16 September, 2010, 16:40

American and Afghan forces pushed into the region west of Kandahar, where the Taliban Movement was born and continues to dominate the region.

US military veteran Jake Diliberto from Rethink Afghanistan argued that the overall situation in the region will result in very little beyond a large casualty rate.

“Not much is going to happen, besides a bunch of dead people. The political outcomes are going to really be inconsequential and overall the overall objectives set by the Obama administration are going to be, are not going to have a significant impact and there’s not going to be any serious developments, positive developments for the coalition,” said Diliberto.

Diliberto argued that there is simply no way a withdraw schedule will meet US President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline.

“There’s no way that we’re going to be able to get out of there by 2011 or even start a drawdown”, he said.

Diliberto explained that southern Afghanistan is decades behind any notion of developmental success. The region is populated by the Taliban, the Pashtun people, making it incredibly challenging to win the region.

“It’s just a big big mess that’s not going to have any real sort of positive situation for decades,” said Diliberto.

He argued that the US is staying in Afghanistan long enough to prop-up the Karzai government, not to win the war on terror. He said that the longer the US stays the more money the US taxpayers will have to pay – it’s a quagmire.

For the US to leave without embarrassment and to show success, there would need to be a severe redacting in violence and the local population would have to support the government, said Diliberto. The military would need to have the ability to protect the people and the insurgency would have to decline like in Iraq, he argued.

US ‘kill team’ in Afghanistan

One of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the war in Afghanistan; five soldiers have been accused of conspiracy and murder for being a part of a ‘kill team’ that blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random, and then collected their fingers as trophies.

More information on the alleged ‘kill team’ has come to light and military defense attorney Eric Montalvo, the legal representation for one of the five soldiers, said that failures in the military system and a lack of general supervision are to blame. The soldier Montalvo represents is responsible for coming forward with information on the incidents by way of confiding in his father.

“The problem is how did people like this get into position that they are and where’s the leadership? Where’s the officer in charge? Where is the command? Where is the daily inspections? How where they accounting for rounds? I mean, there’s so many little questions, you know, that if you look on this on a day to day basis how is it that these individuals are running around the country side doing whatever they want to do, including murder, and nobody has any accountability for that.” said Montalvo.

He added, “It’s a deficiency in the entire system. You have a complete and utter total breakdown of chain of command, of reporting requirements on every level, and that’s how this thing came about.”

According to former US State Department official Matthew Hoh, the goal of the military operation in Kandahar is unachievable. Rather than trying to outmuscle the Taliban, which is impossible due to the heavy support of the local population, the United States should work more closely with the people.

“Akin to what we did in Iraq in 2006-2007 in Anbar province,” Hoh explained, “we turned the Sunni insurgents onto our side, and against Al Qaeda. That’s what we need to do in Afghanistan. When we went into Afghanistan in late 2001 we stabilized it, we vanquished one side, put the other side into power, we never addressed those underlying causes of the conflict,” he pointed out.
The famous Indian medieval mausoleum Taj Mahal is under a threat of being flooded. The building stands on a bank of the Jamuna River, and the river’s water level is now steadily rising because of heavy rains.

Now only a brick ramp separates the historical monument from the water, but if there is more rain, the water may run over it.Taj Mahal is called “the world’s eights miracle” and is on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
A group of former Guantanamo detainees has signaled their readiness to become candidates in next month's parliamentary election in Afghanistan, media reports said.

Among them, ex-Taliban leader Esatula Nashrat, who was put behind bars at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba in 2003.

Released in 2009, Nashrat indicated intent to seek office in Afghanistan in the parliamentary polls scheduled for September 18.
The UN has evacuated about a third of its permanent international workforce from Afghanistan amid fears that this weekend's parliamentary elections will be marred by violence and fraud, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
The exodus of roughly 300 staff took place earlier in the day in the face of the Taliban’s ongoing threats to torpedo the elections scheduled for September 18.

Yesterday and Tomorrow

From a book published by a nineteenth century linguist:

There is a river in India, known as the Indus, or the Sindhu:

1. "Let the poet declare, O Waters, your exceeding greatness, here in the seat of Vivasvat.[196] By seven and seven they have come forth in three courses, but the Sindhu (the Indus) exceeds all the other wandering rivers by her strength.

2. "Varuna dug out paths for thee to walk on, when thou rannest to the race.[197] Thou proceedest on a [184]precipitous ridge of the earth, when thou art lord in the van of all the moving streams.

3. "The sound rises up to heaven above the earth; she stirs up with splendor her endless power.[198] As from a cloud, the showers thunder forth, when the Sindhu comes, roaring like a bull.

4. "To thee, O Sindhu, they (the other rivers) come as lowing mother-cows (run) to their young with their milk.[199] Like a king in battle thou leadest the two wings, when thou reachest the front of these down-rushing rivers.

5. "Accept, O Gangâ (Ganges), Yamunâ (Jumna), Sarasvatî (Sursûti), Sutudri (Sutlej), Parushnî (Irâvâtî, [185]Ravi), my praise![200] With the Asiknî (Akesines) listen, O Marudvridhâ,[201] and with the Vitastâ (Hydaspes, Behat); O Ârgîkîyâ,[202] listen with the Sushomâ.[203]

6. "First thou goest united with the Trishtamâ on thy journey, with the Susartu, the Rasâ (Râmhâ, Araxes?[204]), and the Svetî—O Sindhu, with the Kubhâ (Kophen, Cabul river) to the Gomatî (Gomal), with the Mehatnu to the Krumu (Kurum)—with whom thou proceedest together.

7. "Sparkling, bright, with mighty splendor she carries the waters across the plains—the unconquered Sindhu, the quickest of the quick, like a beautiful mare—a sight to see.

8. "Rich in horses, in chariots, in garments, in gold, in booty,[205] in wool,[206] and in straw,[207] the Sindhu, handsome and young, clothes herself in sweet flowers.[208]


9. "The Sindhu has yoked her easy chariot with horses; may she conquer prizes for us in the race. The [187]greatness of her chariot is praised as truly great—that chariot which is irresistible, which has its own glory, and abundant strength."[209]

This hymn does not sound perhaps very poetical, in our sense of the word; yet if you will try to realize the thoughts of the poet who composed it, you will perceive that it is not without some bold and powerful conceptions.

Take the modern peasants, living in their villages by the side of the Thames, and you must admit that he would be a remarkable man who could bring himself to look on the Thames as a kind of a general, riding at the head of many English rivers, and leading them on to a race or a battle. Yet it is easier to travel in England, and to gain a commanding view of the river-system of the country, than it was three thousand years ago to travel over India, even over that part of India which the poet of our hymn commands. He takes in at one swoop three great river-systems, or, as he calls them, three great armies of rivers—those flowing from the north-west into the Indus, those joining it from the north-east, and, in the distance, the Ganges and the Jumnah with their tributaries. Look on the map and you will see how well these three armies are determined; but our poet had no map—he had nothing but high mountains and sharp eyes to carry out his trigonometrical survey. Now [188]I call a man, who for the first time could see those three marching armies of rivers, a poet.

The next thing that strikes one in that hymn—if hymn we must call it—is the fact that all these rivers, large and small, have their own proper names. That shows a considerable advance in civilized life, and it proves no small degree of coherence, or what the French call solidarity, between the tribes who had taken possession of Northern India. Most settlers call the river on whose banks they settle "the river." Of course there are many names for river. It may be called the runner,[210] the fertilizer, the roarer—or, with a little poetical metaphor, the arrow, the horse, the cow, the father, the mother, the watchman, the child of the mountains. Many rivers had many names in different parts of their course, and it was only when communication between different settlements became more frequent, and a fixed terminology was felt to be a matter of necessity, that the rivers of a country were properly baptized and registered. All this had been gone through in India before our hymn became possible.

And now we have to consider another, to my mind most startling fact. We here have a number of names of the rivers of India, as they were known to one single poet, say about 1000 b.c. We then hear nothing of India till we come to the days of Alexander, and when we look at the names of the Indian rivers, represented as well as they could be by Alexander's companions, mere strangers in India, and by means of a strange language and a strange alphabet, we recognize, without much difficulty, nearly all of the old Vedic names.[189]

In this respect the names of rivers have a great advantage over the names of towns in India. What we now call Dilli or Delhi[211] was in ancient times called Indraprastha, in later times Shahjahânabâd. Oude is Ayodhyâ, but the old name of Saketa is forgotten. The town of Pataliputra, known to the Greeks as Palimbothra, is now called Patna.[212]

Now I can assure you this persistency of the Vedic river-names was to my mind something so startling that I often said to myself, This cannot be—there must be something wrong here. I do not wonder so much at the names of the Indus and the Ganges being the same. The Indus was known to early traders, whether by sea or by land. Skylax sailed from the country of the Paktys, i.e. the Pushtus, as the Afghans still call themselves, down to the mouth of the Indus. That was under Darius Hystaspes (521-486). Even before that time India and the Indians were known by their name, which was derived from Sindhu, the name of their frontier river. The neighboring tribes who spoke Iranic languages all pronounced, like the Persian, the s as an h.[213] Thus Sindhu became Hindhu (Hidhu), and, as h's were dropped even at that early time, Hindhu became Indu. Thus the river was called Indos, the people Indoi by the Greeks, who first heard of India from the Persians.

Sindhu probably meant originally the divider, keeper, and defender, from sidh, to keep off. It was a masculine, before it became a feminine. No more telling name could have been given to a broad river, which guarded peaceful settlers both against the inroads of [190]hostile tribes and the attacks of wild animals. A common name for the ancient settlements of the Aryans in India was "the Seven Rivers," "Sapta Sindhavah." But though sindhu was used as an appellative noun for river in general (cf. Rig-Veda VI. 19, 5, samudré ná síndhavah yâdamânâh, "like rivers longing for the sea"), it remained throughout the whole history of India the name of its powerful guardian river, the Indus.

In some passages of the Rig-Veda it has been pointed out that sindhu might better be translated by "sea," a change of meaning, if so it can be called, fully explained by the geographical conditions of the country. There are places where people could swim across the Indus, there are others where no eye could tell whether the boundless expanse of water should be called river or sea. The two run into each other, as every sailor knows, and naturally the meaning of sindhu, river, runs into the meaning of sindhu, sea.

But besides the two great rivers, the Indus and the Ganges—in Sanskrit the Gangâ, literally the Go-go—we have the smaller rivers, and many of their names also agree with the names preserved to us by the companions of Alexander.[214]

The Yamunâ, the Jumna, was known to Ptolemy as Διἁμουνα,[215] to Pliny as Jomanes, to Arrian, somewhat corrupted, as Jôbares.[216]

The Sutudrî, or, as it was afterward called, Satadru, meaning "running in a hundred streams," was known to Ptolemy as Ζαδἁρδης or Ζἁραδος ; Pliny called it Sydrus; and Megasthenes, too, was probably acquainted [191]with it as Ζαδἁρδης. In the Veda[217] it formed with the Vipas the frontier of the Punjâb, and we hear of fierce battles fought at that time, it may be on the same spot where in 1846 the battle of the Sutledge was fought by Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Henry Hardinge. It was probably on the Vipâs (later Vipâsâ), a north-western tributary of the Sutledge, that Alexander's army turned back. The river was then called Hyphasis; Pliny calls it Hypasis,[218] a very fair approximation to the Vedic Vipâs, which means "unfettered." Its modern name is Bias or Bejah.

The next river on the west is the Vedic Parushnî, better known as Irâvatî,[219] which Strabo calls Hyarotis, while Arrian gives it a more Greek appearance by calling it Hydraotes. It is the modern Rawi. It was this river which the Ten Kings when attacking the Tritsus under Sudâs tried to cross from the west by cutting off its water. But their stratagem failed, and they perished in the river (Rig-Veda VII. 18, 8-9).

We then come to the Asiknî, which means "black." That river had another name also, Kandrabhâga, which means "streak of the moon." The Greeks, however, pronounced that Σανδαροφἁγος, and this had the unlucky meaning of "the devourer of Alexander." Hesychius tells us that in order to avert the bad omen Alexander [192]changed the name of that river into Ακεσἱνης, which would mean "the Healer;" but he does not tell, what the Veda tells us, that this name Ακεσἱνης was a Greek adaptation of another name of the same river, namely Asiknî, which had evidently supplied to Alexander the idea of calling the Asiknî Ακεσἱνης. It is the modern Chinâb.

Next to the Akesines we have the Vedic Vitastâ, the last of the rivers of the Punjâb, changed in Greek into Hydaspes. It was to this river that Alexander retired, before sending his fleet down the Indus and leading his army back to Babylon. It is the modern Behat or Jilam.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ottawa author, psychologist and relationship researcher Dr. Sue Johnson is on a mission: she wants the federal government to put an effort into improving marriages.

Reports on the state of our unions are numerous.

The Vanier Institute of the Family, which conducts research on the changing nature of the Canadian Family, reported last year that a Canadian's risk of divorcing by their 30th anniversary now stands at 38 per cent, a drop since the 1999s. The average age at divorce in Canada is 44 for men and 41 for women.

Other studies point out that happy marriages are good for health, for productivity and for the economy. For example, relationship distress adversely distresses human immune and hormonal systems, Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser reported after she took blood samples from newlyweds at odds with one another.

Other studies have shown that both men and women with high blood pressure and heart disease fared better if they were in loving partnerships.

Johnson, the head of the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute and a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa, argues that Canada needs a national institution to co-ordinate strategies to build strong marriages.

"There is little support for the most basic unit in society. We don't have an active government policy for an institution that thinks about how to strengthen marriages," she says. "I'm not sure we have to throw millions at it. But you need a national commitment and a central organization."

It's different elsewhere, Johnson points out.

For example, the California Healthy Marriages Coalition, funded by a $11.8-million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides relationship skills and marriage education classes.

The coalition estimates that California pays $4.8 billion for the costs of family fragmentation, ranging from ranging from welfare costs to increased health care and high school dropouts.

In Washington state, a course for low-income couples called "Bringing Baby Home" focuses on how having a baby can shift the dynamics of a relationship. Another U.S. program called "Marriage Savers" matches mentor couples with a young pair to demonstrate how a healthy relationship works.

In a 2006 statement, President Barack Obama said research "shows that marriage education workshops can make a real difference in helping married couples stay together and in encouraging unmarried couples who are living together to form a more lasting bond." Expanding access to these kinds of services is "something everyone can agree on," he added.

This June, Obama announced the creation of the President's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative and said he would ask Congress to move on his $500-million budget request for a Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund.

Johnson has developed relationship programs for the U.S. military for soldiers returning after deployment. Corporations have asked her to produce courses for employees because workers who are happy in their relationships are more engaged, stable and creative.

Fifteen years ago, Johnson would have said it's impossible to define, scientifically, how to support marriages. "But there has been a lot of research into adult love and bonding since then."

You think people are not by nature monogamous? Johnson doesn't agree, but when she expressed this opinion a few weeks ago when she was a guest on the CBC's Steven and Chris show, there was a collective gasp.

"When a marriage doesn't work, the people in that relationship often get married again. If we're not monogamous, then we're psychotic," says Johnson.

She has collected her 25 years of research into the marriage bond in a book called Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for Lifetime of Love. It is not how much a couple disagree, it's how they disagree that determines a couple's chances for sticking together, she says.

"You need to teach people things to make a difference. Men like our stuff. It's scientific, it's logical and it doesn't blame them."

Anne-Marie Ambert, a professor of sociology at York University and author of the text Changing Families: Relationships in Context, says the well-being of both adults and children is better served in stable marriages.

"Children develop more happily, become better citizens, do better in employment and education when they live in two-parent families," Ambert says. "I could care less if people get married or live together. But I am a researcher and an educator and the facts agree."

But she argues that if we want to strengthen conjugal bonds as a society, we first need to attack poverty, which prevents people getting married in the first place and is one of the most significant risk factors for divorce once they are married.

Ambert says children should learn as early as elementary school about how to become part of a happy couple -- how to empathize and how to be sensitive -- and they should start learning about relationships before they learn about sex. That requires that teachers be trained and be brave, because there is the risk of offending people. "The earlier the better," she says.

Clarence Lochhead, the executive director of the Vanier Institute of the Family, says Johnson's idea is interesting, but he hesitates to endorse it.

"It would be a good and healthy thing. But one would have to be careful about framing the need for such an agency and make sure that it's inclusive," he says.

The notion of family has proved be a fluid thing. Rather than "marriage," Lochhead prefers to use the term "relationship of care that involves commitment over time."

Even young people aspire to marriage and say they want to spend their lives with a single person, but that is not the reality for many Canadians, he says.

"We gave up on the idea of promoting a version of the ideal family and concentrate on the lived reality."

Johnson says her idea is not about only heterosexual couples, or people in legal marriages, or even about keeping unhappy people together.

She opposes the punitive approach to divorcing couples. In the U.S., for example, there is a movement afoot to repeal no-fault divorce.

"We always reach for a stick and not a carrot," she says. "We need more choices, including working on your marriage."


What: An eight-week relationship education program that is being offered for the first time in Ottawa

Where and when: Hopewell Public School, 17 Hopewell Ave., Thursdays from Sept. 23 to Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $600 per couple plus GST

Information: 613-722-5122 or

Read more:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thus Spoke Zarathrushtra

When shall, Wise One, humanity settle down in dwellings?
When shall they throw out the filthy intoxicant?
It is through it that the priests
and the wicked rulers of the lands form their evil intellects.

Gathas: Song 13.10


Waters we venerate,
The dammed [pond], the collected [lake],
The running [stream], the well-banked [river],
The well-gushing [waterfall] and the well-bathing [sea].

(Haptanghaiti: Song 4. 3 = Yasna 38. 3)

"The reward of the Magnanimity Fellowship; shall be yours
as long as you remain united in weal and woe with all your in wedlock. ...
May each of you win the other through righteousness.”

Pouruchista, the daughter of Zarathrushtra, the Iranian prophet, (he who founded Zoroatrianism, and who wrote the verses above) was given freedom to choose her marriage partner.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What did chastity mean to me, all my life?

Sure, we all have limits. Just because I didn't have a boyfriend, I announced recently, didn't mean that boys didn't want to sleep with me. TONS of boys did! I could've got married if I wanted to!- That last bit is a bit well-, but all of a sudden I was awash in an orgy of excess. Lots of people wanted me! I'm hot, damnit! Boys were lining up to sleep with me. I'm not the stigmatised virgin.

And then I had to ask myself why it mattered. Is my spirit not strong enough to brave a little transient scorn, in favour of something lasting and more enduring? All my life I've answered yes to that question, and have seen people who once believed otherwise, acknowledge its power, and this transcendent path continues to reassure me now.

I had one guiding truism in my life, to be married, and in a spiritual, deep commitment with another human being. I didn't expect the other to be perfect- they could quite leave me, or cheat on me. One of the things about life is that it is alive with that sort of possibility, and is chock a block with dizzying unpredictability. But I knew that I wouldn't regret giving it my best shot even if some sort of calamity occurred. In life, my parents taught me to always enter into your endeavours- like marriage, with your fullest effort. Then, even if things go wrong, you can at least feel that you gave it a fair go.

I wasn't always sure that I wanted to be married. All I knew is that the other sorts of connections that I braved witness to were deeply unsatisfactory. It didn't resonate with me to have ten, twenty or thirty partners. Even now, I'd watch my roommates lie about sleeping with different men, generally because they were ashamed- ashamed of having done it, but even more profoundly, ashamed of being rejected, or severing the relationship. And they had been uprooted from their body's deepest sharing so many different times- sometimes by socially guided, personal whim, often by the whims of the men that they were with. They suffered. And they hardened their hearts. They wouldn't put so much effort in next time. They wouldn't have patience again because it was all too much- to hope and then not care. In the insignia of the modern era, one of the guys whose blog I used to read penned the following line for his personal interests: "caring but not caring".

"Caring but not caring"- it was the ultimate suave, in rico, one of the most fluid and admirable ways of epitomizing exactly how we should be. Care enough to shag her and make her breakfast. But don't mind when she walks away, because that's just not cool.

Yet the girls I lived with did mind. It really bothered them, but they hid it, awash in the little packages of birth control pills, the flavoured condoms, and the graphic details on how best to have bondage sex and tie successful rope knots at our local campus women's centre. Somehow no one was teaching them how to untie the knots in their heartstrings, their memories, and their loss of faith that when you invest in someone, he is there for you. Instead they got older, and stopped remembering what it was like to have a lasting bond with any partner at all. Sometimes they slept with one guy, then another, then they hooked back up with the first guy again. And they stopped being so nice because lots of people had stepped on them. Yet still they cried over various men, and wondered what was wrong with them. But at this point they were like addicts. They didn't know how all of this had started. It seemed, though, that their own capacity for bonding was so damaged, they couldn't stop. Or else they just couldn't find anybody who was willing to give up on the surfeit of free sex and relinquish their own addiction to consider them.

Alcohol, the classic helper, did its damage when it came to lacerating these girls as well. Without it, many of the wild tales and fast times might've been subject to a person's natural inhibitions. I've listened to stories from young, beautiful women that would shock any society. They would get so drunk that that they would be vomiting everywhere, and the guys who brought them home would throw them in the shower, rinse them off, and then throw them into their beds to have encounters that the girls would barely remember later. The girls who told me these stories afterward would wish they hadn't occurred, but no one had created a safe space for them, of help and love and acceptance- so that they had the strength to resist the lure of these mistakes, for which the ground was prepared by popular culture.

In an era where one of the most inspirational movies is American Pie, in which a bevy of young men and women must shed the terrible burden of their virginity before they leave for the adult world of college, young women have hardly anywhere to turn to be safe, to be cherished, to be loved without having to sacrifice their bodies, their esteem and their self worth. The narratives being put forward for the young American girl, and those minorities that are to be deemed socially acceptable assimilates are ones which fundamentally betray them as creatures of beauty and wonder worth nourishing and sustaining so that they can make maximum contributions to the greatness of western society.

I am not the only one to have walked away from this taut tightrope, a barely realized juggernaut through which young women seek to shape their reality. A whole generation of women, and its leaders, are slowly starting to realize where they were being let down. But as long as people believe that "caring but not caring" is the cynosure of social success, and the credo of belong, young men and women will continue to falter in building a place where less people suffer and more people succeed. And avoiding that bleak future should be what we all want.
The first date is with a colleague's handsome friend. His name is Nick, he's an architect, and he lives with his dog called Max. Aside from that, I know only one other fact about him: he knows everything about me. As much as some of my closest friends and family - my own mother even.

Let me rewind. A year ago, I published Chastened, a memoir detailing my decision to voluntarily spend 12 months living and loving without sex.

Now, depending on your outlook, a year is either an eternity or an insultingly brief spell - certainly not a book-worthy feat. But the time frame wasn't the point.
Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder: Hephzibah Anderson took a year off sex - and found fulfilment

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder: Hephzibah Anderson took a year off sex - and found fulfilment

It was the choosing that counted - the stepping back and taking control of a part of my personal life that seemed to be increasingly shaped by other people's expectations.

My life had not been promiscuous. I'd never had a one-night stand, and if you insist on talking numbers, my tally of partners was still in single digits - downright modest by the standards of the London media circles I moved in.

So quantity wasn't the issue. Nor was quality, though looking back, one dimension was missing from the dating experiences of my 20s: love.

It was a chance encounter that brought it home to me. Shortly before turning 30, I was in New York visiting friends when I happened to bump into my university ex with his new fiancée, doing a spot of holiday engagement-ring shopping on Fifth Avenue.
I couldn't help wondering whether we women hadn't traded sexual frustration for emotional frustration

Almost a decade had passed since our breakup, yet he was the last man to have told me 'I love you'. This realisation was a scathing indictment of my relationship choices since, and brought into sharp focus the emotional frustration that defined those years.

Relationships would begin well enough, but once we'd gone to bed, I would need something more from the guy in question, more than he usually seemed prepared to give - not the kind of commitment that's sealed with a ring, but certainly some level of emotional investment.

Of course, the worst thing a girl can be is needy, and so, like my friends, I spent my 20s tiptoeing around commitment-phobes, hoping to coax them into a lasting relationship while bottling up my own need for meaningful emotional engagement.

By the time I turned 30, I couldn't help wondering whether we women hadn't traded sexual frustration for emotional frustration.

Most of us wanted relationships, but very few guys seemed prepared to go that far. The words 'I love you' carried the same forbidden frisson that sex once held for our grandparents.

Deciding to ban sex from my life for a year was a drastic response to the kind of dating woes plenty of women put up with. But after yet another heart-bruising break-up, that was precisely what made it so appealing.

We spend an increasing portion of our lives single - marrying later, divorcing in greater numbers. I wanted to find a fresh way of pursuing love into my 30s, one that was more personal, less of an emotional rollercoaster, and hopefully a little more romantic.
Flawed perspective? The women of Sex And The City had sex like men - but the entire show was based on their difficulty in finding love

Flawed perspective? The women of Sex And The City had sex like men - but the entire show was based on their difficulty in finding love

As for physical intimacy, I wanted to reconnect with my own hopes and needs, and see if a more old-fashioned approach might be more enjoyable, not to mention successful.

As a culture, we mock the abstinent and stigmatise the dry spell, but for me, those 12 months turned out to be very fertile. Yes, there were plenty of challenges, yet how much there is to be gained by going without.

I discovered it's easier to open up emotionally when you've drawn some physical boundaries.

I learned that when sex is off the menu, you become a more generous dater - you give people a chance. The hectic, sex-driven pace of modern courtship is rarely conducive to spotting quieter, potentially longer- lasting connections.

Once I'd stepped back from it all and embraced my temporary vow of chastity, I was able to appreciate the pressure that pop culture, from music lyrics to shampoo ads, puts on women to be sexual all the time. Even our hair has to be sexy. Not having to bother made that year relaxing.
As a culture, we mock the abstinent and stigmatise the dry spell... But I learned that when sex is off the menu, you become a more generous dater - you give people a chance

As for the men I dated that year, some didn't get it, but most did. In fact, they appreciated the chance to adopt a more old-fashioned role. They sent flowers and offered to cook me dinner. They even sent love letters.

Ironically, I garnered far more male interest that year than before or since.

The vow was a challenge to those who knew about it, but those who didn't were responding to my newfound self-possession and reserve. Surrounded by silicone-enhanced, mass-produced sexiness, we forget the allure of mystery.

That chaste year reached its close with my deciding not to sleep with someone, even though the challenge was up.

I liked him a lot, and we'd been dating for several months, but he was heading out of the city for a while the very next day, so the timing didn't feel right. If my year had been about anything, it was about listening to my heart.

Of course, when people ask how it ended, that's not really what they mean. They want salacious details, they want to know whether sex after that year was different - was it better?

Almost three years have passed since those 12 months officially ended. In answer to the question I'm most frequently asked, yes, I have had sex since. In fact, I've had three relationships, all far more serious than any that preceded my 12-month experiment.

In each instance, I've taken my time before introducing a physical component. It hasn't yet scared off a man I've been interested in. In fact, it's a good litmus test. And yes, when you get there, the sex is invariably better.

The shortest of those relationships, at just four months, was with Nick, the handsome friend of my colleague. He knew everything about me precisely because he'd read my book. It was long distance, which made it easier to defer the physical side.

The other two lasted six and seven months respectively. One was with a divorced man in his 40s, who turned out to have had a similar flirtation with chastity in his 20s, before meeting his ex-wife.

The third was a fellow writer in his mid-30s. A few months before we met, he'd determinedly sworn off casual encounters. They made him feel lonely, he confessed.
If he's scared off easily then he's probably not The One

If he's scared off easily then he's probably not The One

So why did those relationships end? In part, because of the success of my chaste year. It made me more assertive about what I'm seeking, and at 34, that's not only emotional engagement, but the real thing: marriage, children, the full commitment-phobe's nightmare.

After a while, either I couldn't see it with the man in question, or he couldn't see it with me. There was some heartache, but those relationships turned out to have had an expiry date, and both parties had been honest with each other.

Some will say that a couple should figure all that out before going to bed. Perhaps they have a point, but the reason I wrote my book - and this article - is to try to bring sexual moderation back into the mainstream.

In a culture where it's not uncommon for a first date to include breakfast the morning after, most women wouldn't deem it feasible to leave sex until marriage. After all, physical compatibility does count for something.

But waiting until you feel a connection that isn't purely physical - that should be something every woman feels is her right. Based on the feedback I've had from younger readers - women in their early 20s, say - this doesn't appear to be the case.

The sexual revolution has left women with no reason to say 'No'. Permissiveness has itself become restrictive. If you think we've attained complete sexual liberation, try telling someone that you've chosen abstinence. People - and women more so than men - often get defensive, angry even.

At some point in the torrid wake of the sexual revolution, we've been sold the idea that equality for women is the right to embrace the very worst aspects of male behaviour - to match guys hookup for hook-up, tequila shot for tequila shot.

The best way to demonstrate our independence, we mistakenly believe, is to love and leave like men.

My chaste year taught me that true equality is the right to be fully, unapologetically female. I've also realised that we tend to underestimate men - the right kind of men, that is.

And there's nothing like telling guys that you won't be sleeping with them for a while to help suss out the cads from the keepers.

Bidding goodnight to a date some months ago, I broke off a kiss to explain myself. 'I'm not 16,' he said, a little offended at the idea he might not want to see me again, just because I wouldn't be sleeping with him any time soon.

Since the book was published, plenty of male readers have confided that when the right woman comes along, they'll gladly wait - until marriage, if needs be.
If we want sex to be meaningful and thrilling, it's not a question that should ever be asked or answered lightly

There's ample scope for misunderstandings in any relationship, but if you begin by being candid about your own desires - by admitting that it's a meaningful relationship you're craving, if that's the case - I believe you'll be rewarded with honesty in return.

I still have girlfriends who ask me if that scares a man off. They quickly realise how crazy the question sounds - if he's going to be scared off, he isn't the one. And beware the man in a rush: after all, why hurry unless you've somewhere else to be?

My year's mission was to find a more successful way of pursuing love into my 30s, and I believe I've found that. The men I date are kinder, more considerate, more romantic.

While I remain single, I'm contentedly so. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a chaste spell to others as a way of feeling more confident and focused.

Equally, for those stuck unwillingly in a dry spell: try not to think of it that way. Try to focus on the opportunities - claim those months 'without' for yourself.

While I still cannot offer you that classic happily-ever-after to my own story, I do have a coda for you. A few weeks ago, a man I've known for several years, and have begun spending time with romantically, asked me to stay the night.

'It's not an easy question to ask someone who wrote your book,' he added, seeing me hesitate. I laughed, and then reflected that if we want sex to be meaningful and thrilling, it's not a question that should ever be asked or answered lightly.

I won't reveal how I responded - you've heard far too much about me already - but I will say that in acknowledging the charged, delicious complexity of his offer, the man in question won a little piece of my heart.

Chastened: My Modern adventure In Old-Fashioned Romance is published by Vintage, £7.99.

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Australia bans pro-euthanasia TV advert

Exit International advert features an actor playing a man with a terminal illness asking to be allowed die with dignity

Philip Nitschke, director of Exit International, said his group would relaunch a new version of the ad within days. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Australia has banned a television advert arguing for euthanasia, featuring an actor playing a man with a terminal illness asking to be allowed die with dignity.

The advert was made by the lobby group Exit International to relaunch the debate in Australia on the right to die, 14 years after the Northern Territory government became the first in the world to introduce a voluntary euthanasia law, only to see it overturned by the federal authorities.

The last time a similar advert was shown on Australian television was more than 10 years ago. It featured a woman suffering from what she believed was terminal bladder cancer pleading to be allowed to die. Her disease went into remission and the case became a rallying cry for the anti-euthanasia lobby.

In the new advert, which has been banned by the broadcasting regulators on the grounds that it promotes suicide, which is illegal, the man argues: "I chose to marry Tina, have two great kids. I chose to always drive a Ford. What I didn't choose was being terminally ill. I didn't choose to starve to death because eating is like swallowing razor blades.

"And I certainly didn't choose to have to watch my family go through it with me. I've made my final choice. I just need the government to listen."

Philip Nitschke, director of Exit International, told the Age the ban violated the right to free speech, and said his group would relaunch a new version of the ad within days.

The right to die has become the subject of agonised debate in many countries. In the UK, terminally ill Diane Pretty sought legal assurance that her husband would not be prosecuted for helping her to die.

An increasing number of individuals are circumventing local laws by travelling to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where they are given medical advice and assistance to commit suicide, which is legal under Swiss law. This month, two people were arrested for accompanying a disabled man who lived in a Tyneside care home to the Zurich clinic.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

US drone strike kills three in Pakistan
September 12, 2010 - 12:54PM

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A US missile strike on Sunday killed three militants in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt, near the Afghan border, officials said.

The strike early on Sunday hit Newey Adda village in the Datta Khel area near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district, officials said.

"A US drone fired two missiles. The target was a house used by militants as a compound. Three militants have died," a senior security official in Peshawar said.
"Libraries are our future, to close them would be a terrible, terrible mistake; it would be stealing from the future to pay for today, which is what got us into the mess we're in now."

- Neil Gaiman

Andrew Motion
, Britain's Poet Laureate, whose work I have always admired, has also recently spoken out in support of keeping public libraries open.

Increased funding for libraries, and library opening hours, is absolutely central to just about every belief that I've ever held. :)
Interesting, na?

State Toxics Watchdog Panel Purged
By Annette Fuentes |August 30, 2010 2:19 p.m. |In Environment

A panel of scientists who watchdog state policy on toxic chemicals has just been slashed, with five of its nine members dismissed, according to a report from California Watch. And strawberries may be at the root of it all.

The Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants, a little-known appointed expert panel, helps shape state environmental policy. The members, who included some of the state’s leading academics on health and environmental science, have not infrequently stirred controversy and riled the chemical industry. But California Watch suggests that the issue that brought things to a head was a proposal to use the pesticide methyl iodide on strawberry plants.

Panel chair John Froines of UCLA and some of his colleagues have faced the wrath of industry over the years and was one of the fired experts--he also publicly slammed the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for its plan to approve methyl iodide use.

Five replacements have been named.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pink day spreads anti-bullying message
Schools across province take part in campaign to battle intimidation
Fri, Sep 10 - 4:53 AM

Then-Central Kings Rural High School students David Shepherd and Travis Price bought 75 pink tank tops and other pink items for students to wear after a new student at the school was bullied for wearing a pink shirt in 2007. (Ian Fairclough)
Then-Central Kings Rural High School students David Shepherd and Travis Price bought 75 pink tank tops and other pink items for students to wear after a new student at the school was bullied for wearing a pink shirt in 2007. (Ian Fairclough)

Many students throughout Nova Scotia were attired in pink Thursday as a reminder that bullying will not be tolerated in their schools.

Activities on the third annual Stand Up Against Bullying Day included the wearing of pink T-shirts, assemblies and projects about peace.

Some students made anti-bullying art and poetry, held discussions about bullying or had guest speakers and team-building exercises.

"But addressing issues of bullying needs to be something that happens all year round," said Clare Levin, executive director of Peaceful Schools International, in an interview.

She said members of the Halifax-based organization are committed to building a climate of peace in schools.

"The best way to prevent bullying is to take a proactive approach and create an environment where it is not acceptable."

Peaceful Schools International has 45 member schools in Nova Scotia.

"But most schools, whether or not they are members of PSI, still try to do something to mark the day in some way," said Levin.

She said the pink shirt initiative is a good example of how bullying can be stopped if students don’t act as bystanders.

The inspiration for Stand Up Against Bullying Day came from two Grade 12 students at Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge, Kings County.

In 2007, Travis Price and David Shepherd rallied behind a new student who was being bullied simply for wearing a pink shirt. They brought pink shirts to school and handed them out to classmates to wear in solidarity with the new student.

Their actions sparked similar events around the world, and helped to raise awareness about other initiatives in schools, particularly positive effective behavioural supports.

They are used to teach and reinforce expected behaviours while providing support to all students, including those dealing with behavioural challenges.

"Some schools give special recognition of anti-bullying day, but many have anti-bullying efforts as part of their culture all year long," said Margo Tait, superintendent of the Annapolis Valley regional school board.

"What we really encourage is that there is an awareness of bullying and approaches to preventing it throughout the year. It’s something we need to be aware of all the time."

Joe Morrison, principal at Oxford School in Halifax, encouraged his students and staff to wear pink to recognize the day. He also invited students to get involved in peace initiatives that will take place throughout the school year.

"At Oxford, we have student ambassadors who participate in various activities throughout the year that promote peaceful relationships and environments.

"Junior high students actually have the opportunity to become trained in how to peacefully and safely de-escalate bullying situations, and we try and hold at least one anti-bullying or peace event each month."

Ira Archibald-Falon, a Grade 9 student ambassador for peace at Oxford School in Halifax, said peace and anti-bullying activities help students become better friends.

"This day reminds us of the importance of healthy, safe and positive learning environments for students and teachers alike," said Education Minister Marilyn More in a news release.

"Bullying is unacceptable, and I want to encourage all students to confide in a teacher, counsellor, principal or parent if they are being bullied or know of someone who is."

Albany, New York - September 9, 2010

New York students now have more protection against bullies.

Gov. David Paterson has signed a new law protecting public school students from discrimination and bias-based bullying. The law specifically tackles harassment based on race, weight, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender.

Schools now have to set up programs to prevent such incidents. They also must report bullying incidents to the state if they occur on school grounds or at school functions.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hooray for the Guardian. This is out today

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army's criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them".

One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon".

Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit to form a "kill team". While on patrol over the following months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians. According to the charge sheet, the first target was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle", when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January.

Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were on guard at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin emerged and stopped on the other side of a wall from the soldiers. Gibbs allegedly handed Morlock a grenade who armed it and dropped it over the wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover. Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.

Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told Holmes that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told anyone.

The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade.

The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.

Five soldiers – Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael Wagnon and Adam Winfield – are accused of murder and aggravated assault among other charges. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

The killings came to light in May after the army began investigating a brutal assault on a soldier who told superiors that members of his unit were smoking hashish. The Army Times reported that members of the unit regularly smoked the drug on duty and sometimes stole it from civilians.

The soldier, who was straight out of basic training and has not been named, said he witnessed the smoking of hashish and drinking of smuggled alcohol but initially did not report it out of loyalty to his comrades. But when he returned from an assignment at an army headquarters and discovered soldiers using the shipping container in which he was billeted to smoke hashish he reported it.

Two days later members of his platoon, including Gibbs and Morlock, accused him of "snitching", gave him a beating and told him to keep his mouth shut. The soldier reported the beating and threats to his officers and then told investigators what he knew of the "kill team".

Following the arrest of the original five accused in June, seven other soldiers were charged last month with attempting to cover up the killings and violent assault on the soldier who reported the smoking of hashish. The charges will be considered by a military grand jury later this month which will decide if there is enough evidence for a court martial. Army investigators say Morlock has admitted his involvement in the killings and given details about the role of others including Gibbs. But his lawyer, Michael Waddington, is seeking to have that confession suppressed because he says his client was interviewed while under the influence of prescription drugs taken for battlefield injuries and that he was also suffering from traumatic brain injury.

"Our position is that his statements were incoherent, and taken while he was under a cocktail of drugs that shouldn't have been mixed," Waddington told the Seattle Times.
10 Killed in Pakistan Roadside Blast

VOA News 09 September 2010
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A roadside bomb killed at least 10 people Thursday in Pakistan's restive northwest tribal region said officials.

The victims were traveling in a passenger van in a remote village in Kurram tribal district when their vehicle hit the buried explosive, wounding four others, according to authorities.

In neighboring North Waziristan, a suspected U.S. drone strike killed at least five militants. Officials said the strike, the fourth of its kind in the region in 24 hours, targeted a compound on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the region's main town. Drone attacks Wednesday reportedly killed almost 20 militants.

The tribal region is considered a stronghold for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants accused of planning and staging attacks against NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Although U.S. officials do not publicly confirm drone strikes, they have said privately that many key militant leaders have been killed.

Separately Thursday, a bomb exploded near the house of a government minister in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing at least three people.

Police say the bomb detonated near the house of Baluchistan provincial finance minister Asim Kurd, who was reportedly unhurt in the attack.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
Three drone strikes kill 18 terrorists in N Waziristan

MIRANSHAH: Three US missile strikes in North Waziristan killed 18 terrorists on Wednesday, local security officials said.

The first attack took place in Dandey Darpakhel village, five kilometres northwest of Miranshah. In the second attack, a US drone fired two missiles, which struck a vehicle, killing four terrorists in Amboor Shaga village of Dattakhel town in North Waziristan. The third strike again hit North Waziristan. Dandey Darpakhel, a village five kilometres from Miranshah was targeted twice and missiles destroyed two different compounds, killing a number of terrorists. All three strikes were confirmed by intelligence officials in Miranshah, who also confirmed the death toll. The US says it needs to carry out drone strikes to target al Qaeda and Taliban leaders hiding in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. Pakistan wants transfer of drone technology so that it can act on its own. agencies

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Things to Do in La Jardine (Garden!) Now :)

Bulbs For Forcing Into Winter Bloom:
Fragrant Paperwhites and magnificent Amaryllis are well known for blooming inside when the weather is cold outside. They are available in fall. There are also specially prepared Hyacinths that can be "forced" into winter flowering. In addition, there is a designation on certain Crocus, Tulips, and Daffodils that states on the packaging "suitable for forcing".
Follow the planting instructions on the packaging and, in all cases, use a light, sterilized potting soil for indoor use with a layer of gravel or broken potshards at the bottom of your planter. Don't over water or you'll end up with long, floppy stems. Warmth and just a bit of moisture are enough to trigger flowering.

Source: Blue Willow Garden & Landscape Design Centre in Baldwin, Ontario.

The Fairy School

At goldenrod and aster time,
The fairies near our pool
Put on some freshly laundered wings
And flutter off to school.

They sit at little toadstool desks
And do their fairy sums
And learn to color autumn leaves
Before the frost king comes..

Sunday, September 5, 2010

From the Graniad, out of their correspondent in New York.

Campaigners against prostitution and sex trafficking appeared to have won a victory over the weekend when Craigslist, the powerful online advertising website, capitulated to mounting pressure and removed its "adult services" content from US servers.

The move is an important concession in the fierce debate in America between free speech and first amendment advocates and those seeking to clean up the web and protect vulnerable girls and women from exploitation. It follows a sustained campaign by prosecutors across the US to have the sex advertisements removed.

In the absence of comment from Craigslist, it is not clear whether the shift will be permanent. It is also unclear what the concession means for other countries, including the UK, where "erotic" services remained available today. However, the fact that the site's executives placed a "censored" block over its adult services link in the US suggests that, in word at least, they have not given up the fight.

The sex services portion of the website, previously called its "erotic" section, was criticised as a thinly veiled clearing house for prostitution. It exposed Craigslist to several damaging scandals, the most serious of which was the killing in April last year of Julissa Brisman, a 25-year-old masseuse from New York, in a Boston hotel. Philip Markoff, her alleged murderer, was dubbed the Craigslist killer because he had arranged to meet her through the site. He killed himself in jail last month.

Brandon Petty pleaded guilty last month to sexually attacking with a knife four women who had advertised for sex through Craigslist. He faces up to 45 years in prison.

Also last month, an advert was placed in the Washington Post and another paper under the headline "Dear Craig", in which two women said they had been forced into prostitution with punters attracted through the website. One of the women said she had been sold by the hour at lorry rest stops while the other said she had been a victim of sex trafficking from the age of 11.

Chief prosecutors from 17 states across the US clubbed together on 24 August to write a joint letter to the website complaining that "ads trafficking children are rampant on it". They accused the site of profiting from the "suffering of the women and children who continue to be victimised by Craigslist".

Though Craigslist has faced an intensifying public relations crisis, it is shielded from prosecution by a federal law that protects internet providers from the actions of their users.

According to web advertising monitors AIM group, Craigslist made $45m from its sex ads last year, about a third of its total profits. The website insists it has responded to concerns by introducing in the past year a system of weeding out the most egregious adverts, claiming to have rejected 700,000 items since May 2009.

"Craigslist is committed to being socially responsible, and when it comes to adult services ads, that includes aggressively combating violent crime and human rights violations," the chief executive, Jim Buckmaster, recently said on his blog.