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Archive for the ‘al-Qaeda’ Category

Obsession: a deadly DVD

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 22, 2008

My father’s emails usually have fairly straightforward subject lines – ones like “Wedding in VT”, “small rug”, or “First Draft”. But the email he sent me Friday afternoon was a bit different. The subject line was merely:


What on earth? I thought, clicking on it. My father isn’t the type to become obsessed with anything. But someone thought he should be – he and every other Iowan. So this someone – a shadowy someone incorporated as a non-profit called “The Clairon Fund” – sent DVD copies of a film called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” to every subscriber of the Des Moines Register last weekend.

My father scanned the DVD in its accompanying packaging, which you can download as a PDF here. (The download is more than worth the effort, but if you are on a Lebanese connection, be forewarned: its 4.5 MB.)

This is the poster of the movie (again, the scan my father made is much, much richer – it shows not only the DVD cover but also testimonials from various “experts” and other promotional materials. Horrifying, and McCarthy-esque.):

I am an Iowan and a New Yorker, and both parts of me are furious.

First, the New Yorker. This poster shows MY CITY. My New York, my Manhattan, my World Trade Center towers in their stark aftermath. This city, this image, and these buildings are not up for grabs, and they should not be taken by people bent on exploiting them for their own ends.

Second, the Iowan. My fellow Hawkeye State’rs are down-to-earth, middle-of-the-road Americans. They favor family values, a hard work ethic, and sensible, durable clothing. And for the past 12 or so years, their votes have helped determine the results of the US presidential election.

Iowa is a farm state, but its citizens are not ignorant. Our public schools are among the best in the country, and our state universities turn out some of the top medical and scientific research (well, not in ALL fields – but in several). The slick New York propagandists’ idea that they can simply slip a DVD into the local paper and frighten Iowans into voting one way or another offends me. More than offends me.

Thanks be to God for my fellow citizens. What was their response to this DVD?

Here’s the first one:

I am incredibly disappointed in the Register for serving as the delivery agent for “jihad Swift Boating” by including the DVD “Obsession” in the Sept. 14 edition. I watched it in its entirety.

This DVD connects modern Jihadi to Nazi Germany ideologues. It attempts to scare us into a paranoiac approach to our place in the world.

While I do not deny that terrorism is a real threat, and feel strongly that we must all prepare to deal with it, this is a blatant attempt to frighten us into our own brand of Western militancy. The last eight years of the Bush doctrine have taught us the consequences of stirring the hornets’ nest of militant Islam in the Middle East. Saber rattling, “shock and awe” and cowboy diplomacy have only fueled hatred of the United States in the Islamic world and threatened our long-term security here at home.

The fact that this DVD, which was produced in 2006, should be released with less than two months before our national election and that it should be targeted for newspapers in swing states is a thinly veiled ploy to frighten the electorate into voting for the perceived “party most likely to protect us.”

I shouldn’t be surprised that the Republicans are willing to stoop to frightening footage to secure votes. I had not thought the Register would serve as the delivery boy for Jihad hysteria.

– James L. Fritz, Decorah

Mr. Fritz doesn’t come from a booming metropolis – Decorah is a small town with long-standing farm roots. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has never met a Muslim – and his capitalization of “Jihad” is quaint. I’m glad that he wrote this letter, and I’m proud to share a state with him.

Here’s another:

The DVD enclosed in Sunday’s Register contains 60 minutes of propaganda aimed at convincing the viewer that “radical Islam” threatens everyone in our country and that very nearly everyone in Muslim countries grows up learning the beliefs of “radical Islam.”

Though several people are named as responsible for making, manufacturing and mailing the DVD, in spite of a strenuous search on the Internet, I learned almost nothing about the executive producer (Peter Mier), the director (Wayne Kopping) and the Clarion Fund Inc., the nonprofit that apparently sponsored the DVD and seems to exist only as a street address in New York and as a 501c(3) with no disclosed source of funding.

What did the Register ask to know about the Clarion Fund Inc. before agreeing to insert the DVD?

-Mark Kane, Des Moines

Good question, Mr. Kane. This isn’t exactly the usual type of Sunday insert. Why didn’t the paper’s advertising staff ask about the DVD and its distributor – or watch it themselves? Why would this Clarion Fund fund its distribution? And why would a New York non-profit (located in … Koreatown, naturally) be interested in Iowans?

When I talked with my parents this afternoon, my father said: You know, we weren’t the only ones who got this DVD. The packaging included a long list of other US newspapers.

Yes, my mother added. All swing states – just like us.

So when I finished talking to them, I did a little online investigating. How might readers of the Flint Journal have felt about the DVD, or the Rio Rancho Observer?

I can tell you how readers of the Toledo Blade responded. Here is a sample of the letters that the paper published today:

DVD gives a one-sided view of Islam

Imagine my shock and dismay when I received last Sunday’s Blade with the hate-filled DVD, Obsession, to preview. The fact that many staff members of The Blade have been hosted generously by many of the northwest Ohio area Muslim community and then would place that offensive DVD for general distribution is appalling.

In an era when we are trying to teach tolerance and acceptance of others, what would possess The Blade to send out such intensely anti-Muslim propaganda?

If it was for profit, then shame on you. Education? Then shame on you, again. There are two sides to every issue. The true Islamic side was never considered.

Unfortunately, there are many people who will view this DVD and accept it as an authority on Islam, while the ‘other side’ of Islam, who make up the majority, will not have been represented. The true meaning of Islam is peace.  I will find my peace in
canceling my Blade subscription.

Catherine L. Hammoud

‘Obsession’ crosses line of free speech

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment with The Blade’s decision to allow the Obsession DVD to be distributed with The Blade.

I am all for free speech, and have no problem with right-wing people expressing their views. A free exchange of ideas is necessary for a healthy democracy. I also realize that with declining readership, newspapers need all the advertising revenues they can get. But the Clarion Fund’s Obsession DVD crosses the line — it not only represents an utter distortion of fact but is also incredibly unproductive and outright harmful in the way it perpetuates and builds upon existing stereotypes of Muslims.

I think The Blade should apologize for its poor judgment in allowing the
DVD to be distributed with its newspaper and, in the future, refrain from distributing such material — be it right-wing or left-wing in nature.

Jeff Nelson
Robinwood Avenue
Fear makes people easier to control

Having tried for many years to mount programs, including films, that promote interfaith understanding, I know very well how difficult it is to secure funding and marketing for such positive events.

So I am absolutely astonished at the amount of money spent distributing the DVD
Obsession to communities across the United States.

Especially in an election year, the promotion of fear is very suspect. If you can keep the people afraid, you can control them. In my personal opinion, fear-based government policies have dangerously undermined sacred American principles. As a result, we are not more safe, but less so.

I know money talks, but I am seriously disappointed in The Blade for supporting this fear-mongering campaign.

Judy Lee Trautman

I’m seriously disappointed in all these papers. Didn’t any of them have the courage to say: this is hate speech?

I’ll end with one more pasting – an editorial from the Palm Beach Post‘s Editorial Page Editor, Randy Schultz.

The secret cell helping McCain

Last week, an ad for John McCain came with The Post. But it wasn’t labeled as an ad for John McCain.

The stealth ad is a DVD titled Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The film’s premise – and this will shock you – is that groups such as Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah and their copycats are worth worrying about. Why, though, is this an ad for John McCain? To sound like one of the speakers in the film, it’s a matter of connecting the dots.

Distribution of the DVD, whose producers say it will “change the way you look at the world,” was timed with the post-Labor Day start of presidential election season. About 95 percent of the papers that contained the DVD are in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and New Hampshire.

Notice a pattern? Right, those are the swing states that most analysts believe will determine the election. The issue on which polls consistently show John McCain ahead of Barack Obama is national security. One way to make voters worry less about the economy and more about national security would be to send out a DVD that opens with clips of 9/11 and includes scenes of Muslims chanting “Death to America!”

Oh, and there’s that lie recirculating on the Internet that Barack Obama is a Muslim. So, for good measure, the DVD went in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a suburban paper north of New York. All have many Jewish readers. The DVD went in the World Jewish Digest. The clear intent is to plant the idea that electing Barack Obama would be like putting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Oval Office.

If you’re a strong John McCain supporter, you might be saying, I don’t believe it. Why don’t you call the people who sent out the film and ask what they intended? Good thought. I had it myself.

The sponsoring group for Obsession is The Clarion Fund, based in New York. I left two messages for the media contact. Neither was returned. I e-mailed a request for an interview to a related Web site, radicalislam.org. I got no response.

The Clarion Fund was organized in 2006 as a 501(c)3, which grants it tax-exempt status as an educational nonprofit. But The Clarion Fund is not listed with Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits based on efficient use of donors’ money. You can find Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast and United Way of Palm Beach County with the maximum four stars.

I called NSA Media in suburban Chicago. NSA placed the DVD with The Post, which – like the other publications – approved it after the usual review by the Advertising Department. NSA Media referred specific questions to The Clarion Fund. “It’s all on their Web site.” In fact, the Web site contains little information about The Clarion Fund. No names of directors. No sources of money. Just the mission statement, which includes this line: “Clarion Fund is helping Americans understand that the mainstream media is not adequately conveying the reality of radical Islam.”

Of course. Obsession contains a chapter called “Denial,” which compares the supposed failure to confront Islamic terrorists to the failure to confront Nazi Germany: Al-Qaeda in 2008 is Adolf Hitler in 1938. It’s a tempting comparison, because of the anti-Semitism then and now, but a false one.

“Radical Islam,” unlike Hitler, has taken no territory. This is not Munich in 1938. In fact, the very terror tactics shown in the DVD have turned sentiment strongly against Al-Qaeda in many Islamic countries, including Iraq. As one U.S. national security expert said a couple of years ago, two people believe that Al-Qaeda could pull off world domination: Osama bin Laden and George Bush.

The irony is that The Clarion Fund, whatever the group is and whoever runs it, is operating like the secret cells it warns about. Terrorists are cowards. In their own way, so are the people sending out this campaign ad.

If you want to contact any of the newspapers that distributed this DVD, an article in the Huffington Post lists them by state:

Colorado – Boulder Daily Camera, Centennial Citizen, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Greeley Tribune

Iowa – Daily Nonpareil, Des Moines Register, Iowa City Press Citizen, Quad City Times, Sioux City Journal

Indiana – South Bend Tribune

Florida – Daily Commercial, Florida Times-Union, Ft. Lauderdale El Sentinel, Ft. Myers News Press, Miami Herald, Ocala Star Banner, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tampa Tribune, Tallahassee Democrat, St. Petersburg Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Michigan – Detroit Free-Press, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Lansing State Journal

Missouri – Springfield News-Leader

Nevada – Las Vegas Review-Journal/Sun, Nevada Appeal, Reno Gazette-Journal

New Hampshire – Portsmouth Herald News, Union Leader

New Mexico – Clovis News Journal, Hobbs News-Sun, Rio Rancho Observer

Ohio – Canton Repository, Columbus Dispatch, Dayton Daily News, Middletown Journal, Morning Journal, Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator

North Carolina – Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer

Pennsylvania – Bucks Co. Courier Times, Erie Times-News, Morning Call, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Reading Eagle, The Patriot-News

Virginia – Sun-Gazette, Virginian-Pilot

Wisconsin – Green Bay Press-Gazette, Janesville Gazette, Journal Times, La Crosse Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

And if you want to contact the Clarion Fund, the address given on the DVD packaging is:

255 W. 36th Street, Ste. 800
New York, NY 10018
(646) 308-1230

Just remember: be polite, be professional, and articulate your position using evidence, not personal insults.


Posted in advertising, al-Qaeda, Americans, Arab world, citizenship, Iowa, Islam, politics, religion, research, words | 25 Comments »

one year ago

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 20, 2008

the Nahr al-Bared conflict began. I haven’t seen this “anniversary” mentioned anywhere today – not in the morning newscasts, not in the blogs, and not in the newspaper. But its been hanging in my heart all day.

I remember being sad then, and the memory of the conflict and how long it lasted makes me sad now.

Posted in al-Qaeda, explosion, Islam, Lebanon | 2 Comments »

one more reason to avoid fast food …

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 4, 2007

A kind soul forwarded the most recent warden message from the US Embassy:

The U.S. Embassy has learned that extremist organizations may be plotting an attack against the McDonald’s restaurant franchise in the area of Sidon in the near future. U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise added vigilance when near this establishment and to report any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately.

I’m sure this is a very serious warning, and I’m sure that a cabal of angry extremists will be gnashing their teeth and lamenting: Curses! Foiled again! when they learn that the Americans are onto them.

As you can probably tell, part of me really wants to laugh about this – a McDonald’s in Saida? How random. How minor. How unlikely to kill any Americans. What if it isn’t extremists at all, but some guy opening a Dunkin Donuts franchise who wants to kill the coffee competition?

But if the plot is for real, it isn’t random, and it isn’t minor. Sidon/Saida is the hometown of Rafiq Hariri and Fouad Siniora. Copious amounts of Hariri money have gone into educational initiatives, heritage projects and, of course, the beautiful Hariri mosque there. Its known to be deeply Sunni (and also, although less relevant here, for having particularly delicious sweets and knafeh).

An attack in Saida – an extremist Sunni attack in the heart of Hariri-land – would not be good. At the very least, it would suggest that Hariri money isn’t going as far as it used t0 – and that while still influential, the family can no longer be assumed to control the city.

And it would represent a major shift in terms of Lebanese political violence. Since 2005, most bombings here have been aimed at political targets. The spring bombings in Achrafieh, Verdun, etc. were aimed at ordinary people – and even they seem to have been very carefully designed to create fear without taking lives. An attack on a restaurant sounds to me like an attack on ordinary people, and one in which the prospect of a high body count doesn’t bother the attackers.

Luckily warden messages and travel warnings generally air on the side of deep caution, so I’m not terribly worried. What I wish the Embassy would send out are warnings about the daily dangers of life here, like: “WARNING: poor drainage system may cause local flooding in intersections and outdoor plazas”. I was nearly swept away by a wave of water cascading down the street last night – and if it didn’t threaten my life, it certainly did destroy my favorite black leather heels.

Posted in al-Qaeda, explosion, Lebanon | Leave a Comment »

loving life in Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 22, 2007

I understand that the Lebanese defense ministry has declared victory against Fatah al-Islam – which makes it a perfect time to return to Beirut, I think. Hence I am gathering my bags and hopping on a plane tomorrow afternoon.

Last week G sent me a visual Fatah al-Islam joke that I have been saving for the right moment – a moment that appears to have finally come.

The photo plays on the connection between the March 14 political coalition and the I love life campaign and the possible (probable?) patron/client relationship-gone-sour between the Hariri family and Fatah al-Islam.

To me it also shows the bankruptcy of this type of militancy. This group does not love life – or at least its leaders do not. Reports of group members surrendering have appeared here and there for the past two weeks. Perhaps facing a meaningless death forced those men to confront the emptiness of the true “culture of death”.


Posted in advertising, al-Qaeda, Arab world, Beirut, Islam, Lebanon, media, words | 4 Comments »

Reactions, news and otherwise

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 3, 2007

This morning at the gym I glanced up from a fashion magazine to see a “breaking news” alert from al-Jazeera, whose morning news coverage was largely given over to the ongoing battle at Nahr al-Bared.

UNIFIL denies that any of its units are participating in the Lebanese Army’s operations against Fatah al-Islam

Hmmm. News like this – that focuses on the response, rather than the original news item – fascinates me. And there has been much of it recently. 

Last week I read a news update on Tayyar.org that said merely: There is no bomb in the X Building near Sassine. Of course I was relieved to know that this building was bomb-free (Sassine is a square in Achrafieh, somewhat near where my party-throwing friends live.). But on the other hand, I was a bit curious to know why Tayyar was announcing the status of this building in particular. I would like to think that all buildings here are bomb-free – was there a reason to highlight the status of this one?

Of course, I assumed that Building X was pronounced bomb-free because a bomb threat had suggested it might be otherwise. The trigger event behind most of these ‘reaction’ news stories isn’t usually too hard to guess at.

Today when I returned home and googled “UNIFIL” and “Nahr” I found the unsurprising beginning of the story: accusations made by Fatah al-Islam earlier this morning. Reuters had this to say, in a story that has been picked up by numerous news outlets:

In what was seen as a direct threat against U.N. peacekeepers in south Lebanon, the militants’ spokesman, Abu Salim Taha, told Reuters on Saturday night that a UNIFIL naval force joined the fighting, hitting a civilian shelter and inflicting casualties.

My gym has reacted to ‘the situation’ in Lebanon with a new development of its own – last week it closed its main entrance, requiring all gym-goers to enter via the parking garage.


I’ve seen the parking garage security, and I’m unimpressed by it – almost as unimpressed as I am by the idea that Fatah al-Islam is planning to send a suicide bomber on foot into the pedestrian entrance and down two floors to the underground reception in order to target a few track-suited Lebanese.

Oh well. I don’t mind walking around to the garage if it makes them feel better.

Posted in al-Qaeda, Americans, Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, explosion, Lebanon, media, news, photography, politics, time, travel, words | Leave a Comment »

missing the party

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 2, 2007

Last night I stayed in, working to finish a conference report that was due … oh … yesterday. Thank goodness for time zones – it was due in New York, which gave me an extra seven hours.

By staying in I missed what must have been one heck of a house party: a joint birthday fete for two friends that included rented 400 mega-watt speakers and a “noise complaint”visit from the Internal Security Forces. I feel certain that no Iowa “kegger” could have had a more spectacular ending than two men with machine-guns arriving to close it down.

I missed the party, but I did make it to the re-hash, which took place this afternoon over left-over Indian takeout. As I greedily scooped up dal with reheated naan, host number one filled me in about which guests came, while host number two described the ISF’ers. For a full accounting (that uses the party as a segue to discuss the gun battles going on even now up in Nahr al-Bared), see his Killing Time in Lebanon.

Meanwhile the news from the north gets worse – I have had to look up word after word just to keep up with the escalation in violence.

In the English language media, the Lebanese Army is still ‘pounding’ and ‘crushing’ the militants. In the Arabic, the attacks come from both sides: the latest Tayyar update says that the “clashes are very violent, more ferocious than during the day”.

Other reports state that the militants are stuffing the bodies of their dead (as well as cars and buildings) with explosives; perhaps this was their response to the call made this afternoon by the Union of Palestinian Ulema – a call for a temporary truce (hudna) so that the bodies of the dead inside the camp could be removed for burial.


(I’m not an Aounist – I’m simply hungry for news, and no other Lebanese site, media or otherwise, provides such frequent updates.)

Posted in al-Qaeda, Americans, Beirut, blogging, food, friends, Iowa, Islam, Lebanon, music, neighbors, nightlife, politics, television, weather, women, words | 2 Comments »

What’s in a name? the Arab Conference on Geographic Names

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 31, 2007

This has been a busy period for the Lebanese Army. In addition to maintaining what appears to be at best a stand-off against the militants in Nahr al-Bared (don’t believe last week’s English language media reports claiming that the army was “pounding” the camp – the army is barely keeping up!), I learned today that its “Directorate of Geographic Affairs” is holding an Arabic place name transliteration conference. 

This sounds laughable to anyone who has not tried to look up Arabic terms in English. There are several ‘standard’ systems of transliteration, each of which attempts to address the issue of non-English sounds, doubled letters, and long versus short vowels differently. Some require special fonts; others require the capitalization of ‘hard’ letters, resulting in spellings like “marHaba”. English and French transliterations spell Arabic letters and vowels differently: Mashreq vs. Machrek, for example.

In other words, this is a serious undertaking – even if undertaken at a curious time.

Here is the notice I saw in this morning’s paper:

Beirut? Beyrouth?

The third Arab Conference on Geographic Names (ACGN), which endeavors to transliterate Arabic geographic names into Latin letters, opened a two-day session on Wednesday in Beirut. Representatives from Arab geographic and cartographic institutions attended the ACGN, as did geography experts from the United Nations. In 1971, the first ACGN also took place in Beirut, which gave the moniker “Beirut System” to the united system for transliterating Arabic names.

The Beirut System is followed throughout the Arab world, said Maroun Kharbash in an opening speech at the event.The conference will discuss establishing the Arab Cartographic Association to guarantee exchanges of geographic information in development and catastrophe management.

And here is the information available on the Army’s website:

Third Arab conference on geographic names

General information on the conference
Provisional agenda


1. The Directorate of Geographic Affairs (DAG) is organizing the Third Arab Conference on Geographic Names that will be held in Beirut on the thirtieth and thirty-first of May 2007.

Conference Objectives
2. The conference aims at discussing the Romanization system and creating standard rules for an integrated system to transliterate the Arabic geographic names to the Latin alphabet in a standard way. This system would be agreed upon in the attendance of specialized representatives of the Arab League, which paves the way for this system to be adopted by the United Nations and other international organizations as a standard system of transliteration of Arabic geographic names.

3. The conference would also discuss with the directors of the cartographic and geographic information institutions the establishment of the Arab Cartographic Association (ACA) which will be responsible of the issues of coordination among the Arab countries in the domain of geographic information and its crucial role in crisis management and permanent and global development in all participating countries. This is comparable to other regions of the world that has established geographic associations for inter-coordination between its member states like RCCAP.

Former Conferences
4. The First Arab Conference for Geographic Names was held in Beirut in 1971, which resulted in what is called Beirut Paper. This paper contains a standard system for transliteration of Arabic geographic names to Latin alphabet. This system, however, was applied in inconsistent way among Arab states.

5. This inconsistent application pushed the Arab experts to propose modifications to Beirut Paper in the 22nd Session of Experts on Geographic Names that was held in Berlin in 2002. Those experts also decided to build a new Romanization system based on the proposed modifications and have it legalized by the Arab League in order to be adopted by the United Nations during the conference that will be held in New York in August 2007.

6. The Second Arab Conference for Geographic Names was held in Libya in 2004 to materialize what was agreed upon in Berlin in 2002, but the Arab experts did not reach a final agreement.

7. During the 23rd Session of Experts on Geographic Names that was held in Vienna in 2006, the Arab experts decided to hold a conference in Beirut to decree a standard Arabic transliteration system.

8. The followings are expected to participate in the conference affairs:
a. Directors of the cartographic and geographic information institutions in all Arab countries.
b. Chiefs of associations of geographic names in all Arab countries.
c. Experts on geographic names in all Arab countries.
d. Representatives of the Arab League.
e. President of ESCWA in Beirut or her representative.
f. Chairperson of UNGEGN.
g. Secretariat of UNGEGN.

Patronage of the Conference
9. The conference is patronaged by Mr. Prime Minister.

10. Invitations were sent for each of the following:
a. Ministers of: Interior and Municipalities – Defense – Culture and High Education – Education and Vocational and Technical Training – Agriculture – Energy and Water – Finance – Tourism – Industry – Administration Development Affairs – Public Works and Transportation.
b. Directors of: Buildings and Roads – Environment – Internal Security Forces – General Security – Culture and High Education – National Education – Tourism (Director General of Archeology) – Bureau Director of the Minister of Administration Development Affairs.
c. Councils: Conseil pour le Development et la Reconstruction (CDR) – Conseil National pour la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
d. Syndicates: Engineers Society in Beiurt – Society of Certified Topographs.
e. Universities: Faculties of Engineering at AUB and BAU – ESGTL.
f. Companies: MAPS – Khatib&Alami – GIS Transport – HI TECH…

11. Letters were sent to the following seeking their sponsorship:
a. Locals: Engineers Society in Beiurt – Society of Certified Topographs – Lebanese University and Faculty of Engineering in private universities – Large companies in Lebanon (Khatib&Alami – MAPS…).
b. Internationals: ESRI – FIG – ICA – RCCAP – Digital Earth – ISO.

Other Information
12. You will be able to follow up with the conference last updates, arrival and accommodation details, and other organizational issues on the Lebanese Army website at

Meanwhile, in other language nerd news … 

The “situation”, as people call it reverently, has enabled me somewhat coincidentally to hear a civilian address a soldier on three separate occasions recently. The term I thought I was hearing was … watan. 

Crudely put (and ignoring a generation of tortured academic scholarship on such issues as the relationship of notions of watan/vatan in Islamic lands to those of the patria/patrie), watan means country or homeland.

I find it fascinating that soldiers are addressed as “country” – but before I posted this fact, I wanted to confirm with a former soldier friend of mine that my ears were not simply mis-hearing muwatan, which means “citizen”.

H sided with my ears, and noted that watan is used to address soldiers in uniform. Now that I know what to call the uniformed men who search my bags when I enter downtown, what do I call the mukhabarat-i guys sporting polo shirts and walkie-talkies who hover near them? khayy al-kabir?

Posted in advertising, al-Qaeda, Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, citizenship, Lebanon, maps, media, neighbors, politics, research, travel, words | Leave a Comment »

from New York to infinity

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 30, 2007

Open Skies, Emirates’ Airline’s in-flight magazine, was filled with advertisements for the many luxury high-rises currently under construction in Dubai.

I was enjoying paging through them, marveling at the array of necessary luxuries (maids’ quarters, bellmen) and the building names (Elite and Prestige are my favorite), when I saw this one:


and caught my breath.

If you were a New Yorker five and a half years ago, you know this building.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed this building as the replacement for the World Trade Center.

It arches gracefully to the sky; and is lyrical without being sentimental.

After being accepted, plans for its construction were shelved after late-breaking concerns about its ability to withstand another September 11 attack. At the time, people speculated that safety concerns were merely an excuse to prevent the erection of a building whose arc reminded some of the way the twin towers crumpled before they fell.

I loved the building’s design; when it was subsequently taken up by Dubai real estate development firm Cayan as the Infinity Tower I had extremely mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the design should be realized. On the other, … this building for me has a very personal meaning.

I have seen renderings of it here and there, and each time I feel the same puncture; the same suck of air from my lungs.

Posted in al-Qaeda, Americans, Dubai, explosion, home, New York, time | Leave a Comment »

more adventures in real estate: al-Qaeda in Seattle

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 2, 2007

It looks like The Onion has some competition in the humorous news field:

Al-Qaeda to open branches in Pakistan, Bahrain, Seattle

KABUL, Afghanistan (CAP) – Senior leaders of al Qaeda have announced that the terrorist group is moving forward with plans to open a number of new branches, including expansion into the untapped markets of Pakistan, Bahrain and Seattle, Wash. The news comes after a massive restructuring that saw al Qaeda’s workforce reduced by 25,000.

“The Board of Directors has voted unanimously to provide the necessary funding for 12 to 15 new branches around the world,” said al Qaeda CFO Abil MusDos al-Fraedo. “However, we are most excited about the possibilities of our new location in Seattle.”

al-Fraedo said the group hopes to move into its new digs on 1st Avenue South in Seattle by this fall. They’re currently putting a contract out to bid to perform some renovations to the property, including 45 new double-paned windows, an additional 60 spaces in the parking lot, and a terrorist obstacle course and training center behind the building.

“They were actually quite pleasant to deal with,” said Seattle Zoning Board member Chad Barker. “They got their paperwork in on time, showed up at the hearings – I think we had one, maybe two death threats when we denied a rezoning request, but eventually they were understanding.”

While there were a few small protests when al Qaeda signed the purchase and sale, opponents of the deal were noticeably absent from the city meetings. Most city leaders remained nonplussed about the event, saying that terrorists eat and shop just like anyone else and that any money being put back into the local economy is good business.

“You know, terrorists put their bombs on one strap at a time just like the rest of us,” said City Council President Nick Licata. “While I’m not excited about having a terrorist cell right here in Seattle, legally our hands are tied. They could prove to be very good neighbors.”

al Qaeda also sought tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization, but the City Council turned that down by a vote of 6-3. A determination on the terrorist group’s request for a common victualer’s license is still pending.

I’m sending this “article” on to my sister. She’s a friendly person – perhaps she will offer to bake a batch of cookies to take to Seattle’s newest corporate neighbors :-).

Posted in al-Qaeda, Americans, explosion, family, humor, media, news, politics, Seattle | 3 Comments »