Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2013

“Action Alerts” analysis, all wrong, from Political Scientists?

It’s an open secret: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), Political Scientists have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money.

The most obvious example may be political scientists’ insistence, during the cold war, that the Soviet Union would persist as a nuclear threat to the United States.

In 1993, in the journal International Security, for example, the cold war historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote that the demise of the Soviet Union was “of such importance that no approach to the study of international relations claiming both foresight and competence should have failed to see it coming.  And None actually did so.”

Careers were made, prizes awarded and millions of research dollars distributed to international relations experts, even though Nancy Reagan’s astrologer may have had superior forecasting skills.

Political scientists are defensive these days: in May, the House passed an amendment to a bill eliminating National Science Foundation grants for political scientists.

Soon the Senate may vote on similar legislation. Political Scientists, especially those who have received N.S.F. grants, will loathe JACQUELINE STEVENS for saying this:  just this once she is sympathetic with the anti-intellectual Republicans behind this amendment. Why?

The bill incited a national conversation about a subject that has troubled her for decades: the government — disproportionately — supports research that is amenable to statistical analyses and models, even though everyone knows the clean equations mask messy realities that contrived data sets and assumptions don’t, and can’t, capture.

JACQUELINE STEVENS Published on June 23, 2012 in the NYT Sunday Review “Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters”

DESPERATE “Action Alerts” land in my in-box. They’re from the American Political Science Association and colleagues, many of whom fear grave “threats” to our discipline.

As a defense, they’ve supplied “talking points” we can use to tell Congressional representatives that political science is a “critical part of our national science agenda.”

Katia Fouquet
Political prognosticators fare just as poorly on domestic politics.

In a peer-reviewed journal, the political scientist Morris P. Fiorina wrote that “we seem to have settled into a persistent pattern of divided government” — of Republican presidents and Democratic Congresses.

Professor Fiorina’s ideas, which synced nicely with the conventional wisdom at the time, appeared in an article in 1992 — just before the Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidential victory and the Republican 1994 takeover of the House.

Alas, little has changed.

Did any prominent N.S.F.-financed researchers predict that an organization like Al Qaeda would change global and domestic politics for at least a generation? Nope.

Or that the Arab Spring would overthrow leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia? No, again.

What about proposals for research into questions that might favor Democratic politics and that political scientists seeking N.S.F. financing do not ask — perhaps, one colleague suggests, because N.S.F. program officers discourage them?

Why are my colleagues kowtowing to Congress for research money that comes with ideological strings attached?

The political scientist Ted Hopf wrote in a 1993 article that experts failed to anticipate the Soviet Union’s collapse largely because the military establishment played such a big role in setting the government’s financing priorities.

“Directed by this logic of the cold war, research dollars flowed from private foundations, government agencies and military individual bureaucracies.”

Now, nearly 20 years later, the A.P.S.A. Web site trumpets my colleagues’ collaboration with the government, “most notably in the area of defense,” as a reason to retain political science N.S.F. financing.

Many of today’s peer-reviewed studies offer trivial confirmations of the obvious and policy documents filled with egregious, dangerous errors.

My colleagues now point to research by the political scientists and N.S.F. grant recipients James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin that claims that civil wars result from weak states, and are not caused by ethnic grievances.

Numerous scholars have, however, convincingly criticized Professors Fearon and Laitin’s work.

In 2011 Lars-Erik Cederman, Nils B. Weidmann and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch wrote in the American Political Science Review that “rejecting ‘messy’ factors, like grievances and inequalities,” which are hard to quantify, “may lead to more elegant models that can be more easily tested, but the fact remains that some of the most intractable and damaging conflict processes in the contemporary world, including Sudan and the former Yugoslavia, are largely about political and economic injustice,” an observation that policy makers could glean from a subscription to this newspaper and that nonetheless is more astute than the insights offered by Professors Fearon and Laitin.

Note: Can any grievances and inequalities be remedied under weak government? Obviously not. Strong central government with a strong force to back its legitimacy can reform, if it set its mind to change a political condition. A weak government is unable to change anything in a statu quo….

Focusing on “Ideas in action”: TEDxBeirut 2012

Ideas? Who cares about ideas?

Ideas are all over the place, space and time.

They are the same ideas: edited, reformulated, updated, new terms replacing “outdated” terminologies

They are the same ideas: One generation emulate the trend or fashion to discredit sets of ideas as non valid for the period, paradigm shifts in a few disciplines, ideas too general and not accounting for the reality of discovered idiosyncrasies…

And the next generation dust off many discredited ideas and programs, and adopt them as very relevant to the period and time…

Archives are packed with all kinds of worthy ready-to apply projects and ideas that nobody was assigned to take on the responsibility of following through, of selecting teams to consider as the ideas as theirs and take the plunge of transforming valid and detailed ideas into socially pertinent applications…

Ideas? Almost every week I have gorgeous well-developed ideas, a few I took the trouble to post in the category “Daydream projects”…

And who read projects and programs?

TEDx annual event in the Near East (Palestine in Ramallah, and Lebanon in Beirut) have shifted perceptibly from the realm of ideas to the pragmatic direction: What is useful and badly needed are the discovery of teams and associations grabbing ideas suited for the region and communities and transforming them into tangible projects.

The thousands of people who are familiar with the countless speakers of TED might have realized that the ideas thrown around are basically Ideas generated by elite classes of billionaires, trying to disseminate a new ideology of “Reformed” elite classes, reaching for the other less fortunate classes around the world…in order to develop mental capabilities?

Ideas, there are plenty and can be gathered in shovelful.

There are thousands of ideas and detailed projects in archives in all government ministers around the world and in companies. And there are a few bold and determined persons who are dusting off these files and retrieving a few of these ideas that are still very much “modern” and readily applicable…

TEDx Beirut 2012 adopted the theme: “All we need is…”

In the case of Lebanon, we actually need almost everything to make our daily life barely sufferable: From potable water reaching homes, electricity, affordable heading fuel, non-contaminated imported food, trustworthy imported medications, managing refugees (Palestinians and recently Syrians by the hundred of thousands), managing safe and sane prison systems, reforming the judicial system, passing legislations for civil marriage…

Just your basic needs: We have to leave out the fundamental problems, a long laundry list of political and social reforms, sitting in drawers since 1943…

TEDxBeirut 2012 was hoping to focus on solutions rather than the problems, as if the problems have already been identified, clarified, discussed, and agreed upon for resolution…

And how can you focus on solutions for problems not seen as problems by many communities?

What we need are varieties of opportunities, created and facilitated by private  associations, organizations and public institutions…

What is needed are options for possibilities to grow and gather people around definite feasible projects, tailor-made to Lebanon and the Near-East conditions

From limitation to Inspirations“?

How to inspire the Lebanese into associating into teams, and focusing on specific pragmatic projects and programs that the society badly needs and take a life of their own…

Ideas, there are plenty of ideas.

And focusing just on ideas within the domain of new technologies is plainly an elitist idea, which can be afforded by the elite classes around the world.

Elites conversing with elites and letting the common people share and bask in their glorious ideas

Unconsciously, TEDxBeirut reversed this trend: MOST of the speakers had no new ideas and what I observed is a refreshing new direction of discovering “Ideas in action”…

Many speakers have moved to applying older ideas and constituting associations and organizations in order to realize good ideas that their time has come.

The speakers were:

1. Sareen Akharjalian: Created an online comic called “Ink On The Side”

2. Amal al Dahouk is a marketing manager at Exeed and a blogger

3. Hani Asfour is an architect specializing in design of workspaces at Polypod (

4. Loryn Atoui is founder of One Wig Stand for providing wigs to cancer patients (

5. Jana Bou Reslan is in Educational PhD program and teaches at La Sagesse Univ. Her coming project is a book “I are, We am: Beyond Oneness”.  (

6. Farid Chehab is advisor to the board of leo Burnett MENA and an author “A bet for a national conscience”. I overheard that he is the representative of the owners of luxury hotels and resort complexes in order to secure plenty of water for them…

7. Rabih el Chaer is managing director of Lebanon Transparency Association, such as advising on rule of laws, public affairs programs, and media… (

8. Esraa Haidar founded a marketing firm Consult-E Market and keep a blog on the topic of veiled women (

9. Marjorie Henningsen is experienced in mathematics education and Educational Reform, curriculum and Instruction… Co-founded Wellspring Learning Community (

10. Zeina Saab founded The Nawaya Network dedicated to developing hidden potentials for at-risk youth (

11. Imad Saoud is an “Aquatic scientists” with emphasis on coastal reef ecology. The talk is to optimize usage of water, both fresh and salty, in order to feed growing population (See note)

12. Suzanne Talhouk founded the association “Fe3l Amr” (Verb order) and advises media associations

13. Salim Zwein talked on the usage of Thorium as a cheap, clean, efficient and abundant source of energy to replace uranium…

Note 1: Prof. Charles el Achi, director of NASA/Cal Tech Jet Propulsion Lab, paid a visit and briefly talked on team building for the Mars landing of Rover Curiosity.

Note 2:

Note 3: In the next 40 years, we expect to add two billion people to the world, and the amount of freshwater in the world is not increasing…
So how are we going to feed these extra 2 billion people?
With the same drop of water we have cleaned the cow shed, produced energy, produced duckweed, farmed fish and irrigated our crop.
Now this is how you feed two billion people if you do not have much water.”
If each Lebanese person saves one liter of water a day, that will amount to 4 million liters every day.
With 4 million liters I can produce 80,000 kg of tomatoes and 80,000 kg of fish while decreasing energy use by more than 100,000 liters of fuel and decreasing pollution tremendously.”
Aquaculturist / Aquatic Scientist Imad Saoud

Like to join me visiting the Prison of Roumieh in Lebanon?

Last week, a 38 year-old prisoner was murdered in the section reserved for the extremist Wahhabi islamist Jund el Sham  who were captured in the camp of Nhr al barted after 6 long months of fighting with the lebanese army, and were not convicted so far.

Every now and then a few, of these jihadist prisoners are allowed to flee from prison, and lukewarm investigations are conducted… But no prison reforms are very credible or lasting for any duration…

Women accused of killing their husbands, runaway domestic workers, children denied education, and countless others jailed without trial…

In overcrowded prisons, numerous are being held arbitrarily without trial for excessive periods, while migrant workers, asylum seekers, and refugees remain incarcerated until well after their set release dates.

State of Lebanon neglect in penitentiaries sees prisoners finding small ways to turn punishment cells into more humane reformatories. Playing cards, holiday decorations, and caged friendships  offer the justly and unjustly caged reminders of the outside world.

Convicted and unconvicted inmates are left to share cells with murderers and marijuana-smokers.

The Lebanese Daily Alakhbar English published “Lebanon Prison Blues

According to the 2008 Lebanese Center for Human Rights report, 66% of those imprisoned in Lebanon had not yet been convicted and 13 percent were being held beyond their sentence.

When trials are staged in corrupt courts, with paid judges and inadequate checks on trial procedures, incrimination is subjective.

Criminals become criminals because crimes are attached to their names, sometimes rightly so, but consistency and credibility are lacking with unevenly imposed ‘justice.’

To make matters worse, the state does little to secure a life, free from excessive hardship after prisoners are released, inviting repeat offenses from those they purportedly aimed to reform.

What messages the following pictures send?

Note 1: Photoblog by Haytham al-Moussawi (Roumieh Prison), Marwan Bu Haidar (Juvenile Detention Center), and Marwan Tahtah (Baabda Women’s Prison)

Note 2:

Note 3: In Aleppo Syria, where the State has vacated its responsibilities, lawyers and former judges are instituting a judicial system, and resuming the procedures in order to get out of the chaos

(Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

(Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

(Photo: Haytham Al-Moussawi)

(Photo: Haytham Al-Moussawi)

(Photo: Haytham Al-Moussawi)

(Photo: Haytham Al-Moussawi)

(Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

(Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

(Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

(Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

Alice “The Siren”

X was 3 year-old and lived with his single shizophrenic mother and very obese and who was mostly sick in bed… The mother died in bed and X survived an entire week on bread and jam until there was nothing to eat: He could not open the locked front door or open the food cans. X didn’t know better but to sleep by his mother, and the stench was insufferable, but X could not realize that there is such thing as dying: mother will be up anytime soon.

How X was discovered we don’t know. X was not officially adopted, but Irene considered X her proper son: She had given up on getting pregnant and her husband was the type who took Irene decisions as orders and never tried to counter her opinions. Irene was a tall beauty and she bathed with X and lavished her “love” on him. X fell totally in love with Irene and nothing existed to him but his new found mother.

X never refused Irene anything she asked and he was the most obedient boy any mother could hope for: X would never do anything that angered Irene.

Two years later, Irene is pregnant with a girl and X is already a non entity, a burden to ignore and feed.  If it was not for her husband who for once took a stand, X would have been shipped to a public institution.

Alice was born and would never stop screaming, and X could no longer suffer all that racket, particularly that Alice displaced him with the total love and affection of Irene.

At the age of 5, and being warned never to approach Alice or even touch her, X was once left alone with Alice being bathed by her father. The father was washing Alice and had to answer the door. X drowned Alice without being aware of what he was doing: Alice was now quiet and things will be back to normal.

The father came back in the bathroom and reanimated Alice, but Alice suffered brain damage and was no longer the same baby: She was completely silent, never moving, never demanding anything… X was smiling in the bathroom, and insinuated to the father that Irene and everyone else will be happy again.

Irene focused her time, energy and attention on getting Alice back to something close to normal.

Ironically, Alice meant nothing to X, but Alice adored X: She only smiled and looked at X, and her mother Irene was sort of invisible to her. As she grew up, Alice was never a few feet away from X. When X went to school she was watching him from the window, and when he was back, Alice was waiting for him at the bus stop, smiling to him.

Alice turned out to be a stunning beauty with the same hair as Irene, chestnut color, until she tried to walk or talk, and people got scared and realized that she is not a normal person.  Alice was a perfect swimmer and looked totally normal in the water, and she could dive and outpace anyone swimming.

Once, Irene ordered X to jump in the water as Alice advanced very far out in the sea. X could barely swim and hated water, but he had to obey. Alice almost drowned X and shouted: “This is me you fool. I am your sirin” and insisted that he tows her to shore…

Alice barely talked, though she could for a 5 year-old brain that would never develop any further. X never answered Alice queries or returned her admiration: He didn’t care for her, and it was Irene who responded to Alice’s questions. Irene was beside herself with the attraction of Alice to this over fat boy.

Indeed, X replaced the love of Iirene with eating anything at hand, and he felt constantly hungry.  X had to come to term that Irene don’t love him anymore and has total contempt for him, but he will keep loving her no matter what she did to him.

The family moved to another town as Irene inherited her mother’s house, whom she called “The Viper”. Fat X was the new target for bullies at the new school. X was content with his books and didn’t feel the urge to befriend or associate with kids his age.

One team of bullies, led by Eric, made X life at school a living hell. Ken was basically the “hunting dog” of Eric and Magnus was the third leg. These bullies would fake running after X so that X keeps running and Eric would curse Alice and call her “Mongolian”.

At the age of 18, the voices in X head convinced him that it was time to leave the family, especially as he began to comprehend that Alice’s condition was of his own doing.

On a summer day, Eric demanded from X to bring him a bottle of whiskey after midnight so that he may join them in the party.

X came with the whiskey and the bullies were already drunk. Eric forced X to have several sips of whiskey and the ground started turning around X and his vision blurred. Suddenly, here comes Alice looking for X after midnight. And Eric made Alice drink whiskey and complimenting her on her beauty.

Alice is 13 years by now and still not normal in the head, but a great beauty. Eric pulls Alice top and handles her small perfect tits, and takes off Alice underware to check her pussy. And Eric said “I’m primo” and raped Alice. X is totally drunk and helpless and Magnus is also out of it.

Eric orders Ken to be next on top of Alice and then they force Magnus off the ground and pull down his trousers and made him sleep on top of Alice. Eric is back for an encore, and this time he is vicious and is pulling on Alice hair. And Alice screamed, a deafening stream of screams that made Eric box the head of Alice and break the bones of her face.

The bullies are now very terrified and realizing that they committed a serious crime, except Eric, a sick person lacking empathy. They ran away leaving Alice bleeding and injured. X ran to his home, shutting out his ears to the echoes of the screams and got in bed.

In the morning, the police didn’t pay a visit to the bullies. Irene assumed that it was X who raped Alice. They kicked X out of the house and a few days later moved out to another town. Alice was sent to an institution. The police didn’t receive a complaint and the bullies were not suspected of rape.

X is now about 40 of age, married with two sons and returned to his school town Fjallbacke to work in the local library. X is changed and looking very different: robust, handsome, wearing corrective glasses, and friendly. Eric, Ken and Magnus didn’t suspect that this is the same X they used to harass. The three former bullies were all married with kids. Ken and Magnus were happily married, but Eric was still chasing girls and was rich from shady business transactions.

What happened to X in the last 22 years? No information. Only once, X fell in love with a single mother with a little kid. This was the period that X felt totally happy: laughing, playing with the kid, and discussing project with Maria, this beautiful former professional dancer with chestnut colored hair and in the blue robe, like having a kid of his own…

And one day, the other person in X butted in and started to harass X: He was not supposed to be that happy, he had no right to be happy after what he committed in childhood… And the only way for X to return to his normal unhappy life was for the two cherished persons to die. X wore women garments and the long chestnut wig and Maria and the kids were drowned in the bathtub.

X was on medication when he arrived to town 5 years ago. And in the last 18 months, he decided that it was about time to write his book “The Sirin”. X had to stop taking medication that prevented him from pouring out his frustration. He worked in a shed on his manuscript.

As X started writing his manuscript, he began receiving threatening letters almost every month.

Eric and Ken also received threatening letters in the last 3 months, but nobody would divulge to anyone that he received such kinds of letters. Magnus never received a threatening letter.

The evening before the signing ceremony for his published book, Magnus, the only real friend of X, read a copy of the book and understood who was X. In the morning, Magnus visited with X to apologize and try to check his reaction.  My contention was that Magnus was ready to pay a visit to the police and get this heavy burden off his chest.

On entering the shed, Magnus saw a lady with long chestnut hair and he was stabbed to death. Apparently, Magnus barged in the wrong timing: X was in his second personality condition. X liked Magnus and had no grudge against him.

X went to the ceremony and received a bouquet of flowers with a card saying: “She walked by your side. She followed you. You have no rights on your own life. She does.” And X fainted.

The lady with the wig paid a visit to Lisbet, the dying wife of Ken, and told her the story of the secret childhood life of her husband.

Ken also was saved from an attempt at his life while jogging in the same usually route. Ken believed that Alice is back with vengeance on her mind.

It dawned on X that if he does not commit suicide, he will eventually attempt to kill his two kids. X hanged himself.

X was the person sending the letters to himself and also to Ken and Eric.

The wig was the same in color, length and shape as Alice, Irene and Maria.

Who X was emulating and in the name of whom of the three ladies was he on a rampage?

Was X punishing himself for failing Irene (the only person he loved before Maria) in taking good care of Alice and protecting her?

Was he angry for failing Alice, the one person who adored him without any precondition?

Was he angry against those who raped Alice simply because they ultimately were the cause for his second personality to kill Maria and her son?

Note 1: “The Siren” is a detective murder novel (410 pages) written by the Swede Camilla Lackberg. I read the French version. After page 50, I got restless and jumped to the last chapter, and then returned to read the beginning of each chapter, which started with significant sections of what X had published.

Note 2: Camilla Lackberg had published “The princess of Ices”, “The Predicator”, “The Stone Cutter”, “The bird of bad Omen”, “The German Kid”,  and Cyanide. Erica Falck is the heroine of the detective novels.

Note 3: In the last few pages, you discover that almost everyone in the novel has died or in the process of dying. Louise, wife of Eric, is driving to the airport to take a good peek at her husband in shackles, and she smashes into a car.  And who is in the other car? Erica (pregnant with twins) and her sister also pregnant. The two ladies were driving to the hospital because detective Patrick (husband of Erica) suffered a heart attack, just as he closed his case…

I felt dejected with all these deaths happening on the last page, a superfluous carnage that is irrelevant to the story. Why?

Note 4: Eric, one of the main villains, is going to get it easy: A couple of years in prison and will resume his previous life trend and behavior. The message is that “if you lack empathy and are immoral, you can get away with responsibilities and remorse…”

Note 5: I guess Camilla lacked the necessary imagination to compose samples of threatening letters sent to Ken and Eric, on the ground that the letters might let the rabbit out and readers might guess the underlying relationship…

My position is: “If you are not given a chance to try to guess and imagine the stroy, it is not worth reading a detective novel…”

Note 6: What do you think was the life of Irene before she decided to marry Ragnar? And why did she marry a short, colorless, and insipid man?

I conjecture that her haughty mother  “The Viper” taunted her relestlessly for fooling around and maybe falling in love with a man that she thought was not in the same “classy circle” or potential class the mother figured her highly beautiful daughter deserved. And Irene got pregnant and her beau fled and she had to abort, and discovered that she could not be pregnant again… And she married the first man who showed some interest…

Does foreign aid work?

The answer to this question mostly depends on:

1. How you define aid

2. How you quantify what exactly constitutes foreign aid, and

3. Where you stand in the ongoing debate about the effectiveness — or the lack of it — of foreign aid.

Do you define “Foreign aid is a transfer of money from one country’s government (mostly a developed western country) to another country’s government (mostly a developing country in the global south – Africa, Asia and Latin America), or basically a financial transaction between nations…?”

In this case, the aid is an official bribe to secure “colonial” interests in the underdeveloped States

Is foreign aid an exchange in kind of exporting modern skills and equipment in order to obtain higher “added values” from cheaper labor…?

Is foreign aid a mechanism of funding NGO, indirectly paid by governments, in order to facilitate exchange of skills and setting up programs tailor-made to the mentality of the developed culture…?

Is foreign aid what the international institutions lend to developing countries, such as IMF and World Bank…? Under unbearable restrictions…

Is foreign aid what is directly extended to specific communities at their own initiatives…?

Can we categorize the work extended by UN peace keeping forces as foreign aid?

The-under-developed-countries-are-plagued-with-common-disease, should medical aid and facilities be given priorities? (Read note 1)

Evidences point that development-programs-in-Africa-are-planned-poverty (Read note 2)

There are those who strongly believe that it works, like Bill Gates and Jeffrey Sachs.

And there are those who wholeheartedly believe it simply does not work and actually harms those it seeks to help, like William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo.


If “Foreign aid is a transfer of money from one developed country’s government to a developing country’s government…” then there has been an enormous amount of data lately, which is gaining popularity, proving that aid might actually not work.

Dambisa Moyo, in her famous Dead Aid book about foreign aid in Africa, forcefully argued that aid perpetuates dependency and is unhelpful for accountability in recipient countries since it’s free. She recommended shutting it off and heading to financial markets for capital for those countries in need – and to do it within 10 years!

Recently, the criticism has even spread to the work of NGOs mushrooming in developing countries. In a recent informative and now popular TED talk, Ernesto Sirolli, an Italian former do-gooder, reflected on what he did in Zambia.

In what sounds like confession, Sirolli offers details of the white elephants they built. He puts it bluntly this way:

‘Every single project we set up in Africa failed …… everything we touched we killed’

And offers this advice to prospective do-gooders:

‘Best shut up when you arrive in a community: Never begin with any ideas …. Just learn to first listen’

Some are even going further and questioning the effectiveness and impact of aid in emergency situations, an area long thought to be the only where aid works among its detractors. Take Haiti for example.

The catastrophic earthquake in 2010 struck the island,  killed 316,000 people, injured 300,000 others, and left a million people homeless.

After such a disaster from Mother Nature, whether in poor or rich countries, you would only expect support for aid and solidarity.  Not so.

Haiti, nicknamed the republic of NGOs, attracted a lot of emergency aid immediately after the disaster, but things just don’t seem to improve. Despite billions of dollars in pledges (most of it still unfulfilled – a problem of free gifts), a recent article in The Economist noted:

‘And yet more than 350,000 Haitians are still living in tents in scattered camps; many of those who have moved out have returned to substandard housing in hillside shanties and seaside slums.

A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 7,500 people since October 2010 remains a threat, with cases spiking after each tropical storm. Epidemiologists blame poor hygiene at a military base of the UN peacekeeping mission for the outbreak, though the UN has denied responsibility’.

Another recent article in the Wall Street Journal reckoned the same thing, that charity has not done much for Haiti and charges:

‘…Foreign aid—whether it goes through the governments or NGOs—distorts both politics and commerce, undermining the evolution of market economics. Free resources reduce the pressure on politicians to make the reforms necessary to attract capital. When food and services are given away, entrepreneurs who might serve those markets are shut out’.

Could the lack of improvement be blamed on aid?

Is aid in itself bad or is it the way it’s delivered?

The jury is still out.

Responding to those who are struck by emergencies, and finding the best way to help those in need remains a human imperative to which we must find adequate solutions.

Obadias Ndaba is President of World Youth Alliance

This entry was posted on January 20, 2013, in Global

Note 1:

Note 2:

Note 3: Apparently, Obadias Ndaba, claims that this article or part of it is his, and want it removed. Why? . If there are corrections or changes, why not update the article? /

Palestinian refugees struggle to survive

Precarious conditions define the lives of refugees around the world, and a few camps are worse off than others.

Recent surveys of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon show that they live in poor surroundings, and that their environment has a negative impact on their physical and mental well-being.

Scientific surveys raise concerns about the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and their access to healthcare and food.

Andrew Bossone published in NatureMiddle East on Jan. 20, 2013:

Unhealthy living conditions among Palestinian refugees put them at greater risk to illnesses.© Andrew Bossone

Two teams of researchers lead by professors of public health from the American University of Beirut recently conducted surveys in refugee camps in Lebanon to assess how living conditions are affecting physical and mental well-being of the 450,000 Palestinians living there.

They found a strong link between chronic illnesses and inferior housing, as well as high levels of poverty, food insecurity and poor health in general. “There was a positive association between chronic illness and water leakage [in the refugees’ homes], while poorer mental health in particular was associated with crowded housing, water leakage, and [poverty],” says Rima Habib, an environmental health expert and co-author of one of several studies published in The Lancet.

The first study focused on the environmental conditions of 356 Palestinian refugees.

More than 40% of the houses surveyed had water leaking from the roof or walls. Nearly a third of them reported chronic illness and 24% reported an acute illness in the previous six months, with women fairing worse.

The report highlights the strong correlation between water leakage and chronic illness, supporting the link between poverty and health in these communities.

The second study assessed food security among 11,092 Palestinian refugees, where nearly two thirds of households reported food insecurity, lacking access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food all the time.

Of the 59% of households below the poverty line, 15% reported suffering severe food insecurity. Those households were also more likely to have at least one member with a chronic disease, a disability or a mental illness, compared to the rest of the community.

Dangerous camps

Life under occupation doesn’t make it easy to maintain good health systems.”

Refugee camps in Lebanon are packed with narrow, over-crowded alleyways and chaotic bundles of electrical wires strewn across buildings.

The refugees have few economic opportunities and are paid less than Lebanese doing the same work. The national laws of Lebanon forbid refugees from more than 30 occupations and they are not permitted to own land.

“They have more concerns than fixing the electricity system or removing electricity wires from water,” says Salah Hamzeh, a Palestinian who used to live and volunteer in a refugee camp in Beirut. “They need to go out and work and bring back bread for their families. They don’t plan or save. They live day by day.”

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has registered more than five million refugees living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.

“Palestinian refugees do not have access to the services covered by the Ministry of Public Health for Lebanese citizens,” says Hoda Samra, UNRWA’s public information officer in Lebanon. “[Only] UNRWA is responsible for the provision of health services to Palestine refugees in Lebanon.”

Challenges in Gaza

The 1.1 million Palestinian refugees living in the narrow Gaza Strip face similar problems.

© Andrew Bossone

According to the Initial Health Assessment Report: Gaza Strip, released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2012, nearly 10% of children under five suffer from stunting. The rate of acute malnutrition in this age group has more than doubled since 2000. Additionally, a quarter of them were found to be anemic.

“There are quite severe shortages of drugs and consumables particularly in the past six months [arising] from financial problems faced by the Palestinian Authority, which supplies drugs to Gaza and the West Bank,” says Anthony Laurance, WHO representative in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Gaza has been under an economic blockade since 2007.

While Israel promised to ease restrictions in 2010, hospitals continue to report shortages of medicines and cannot get needed equipment. According to the WHO report, hospitals in Gaza face shortages of more than 40% of essential drugs and more than 50% of common medical supplies.

Additionally, anyone who travels out of Gaza needs to apply for a travel permit from Israel.

About 10% of travel permits from Gaza to Israel or the West Bank for medical reasons are denied by Israeli authorities, and others face delays that force them to miss appointments, according to the WHO and Gisha, an Israeli organization promoting the right of freedom of movement in Gaza.

“Life under occupation doesn’t make it easy to maintain good health systems and health infrastructure,” says Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha.

“There are resources available, but the biggest concern is the restrictions on movement and access,” Bashi says. “Some of the Israeli restrictions make it difficult to get equipment. For example, it’s difficult to properly run magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other equipment because there are restrictions on [parts] and it’s difficult to get the machinery out of Gaza for servicing.”

There is only one working MRI machine in Gaza. Of the five CT machines there, three are out-of-order until spare parts arrive, states the WHO report.

The Gaza in 2020 report, released in August 2012 by the UN, details how Gazans are worse off than they were in the 1990s, and will have continued shortfalls in housing, electricity, water and sanitation, health, education and economic opportunities, particularly if the current political status quo continues.

In both Gaza and Lebanon, economic development is seen as an important factor in improving their lives.

Habib says: “Economic marginalization must end, their access to adequate health services must improve, and the poor conditions that they live in must be remedied. Giving Palestinians unconditional universal rights that are their basic entitlement as human beings would certainly have a positive influence on their health.” The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance . Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 2012. The Lancet (2012).


Stolen Identity? Stealing the Books: What Did Israel Do with Palestinians’ Literary Heritage? 

Have you seen “The Great Book Robbery”?

Gish Amit, an Israeli PhD student at the time (2005-9) said:


Nora Lester Murad posted on Jan. 20, 2013:

AP 1 corr

The camera follows two Palestinians (with Israeli citizenship) from the counter at Israel’s National Library to a table. They carry a small stack of books from a collection labeled “AP” for “Absentee Property.”

They sit awestruck in front of the collection. They touch covers showing respect for the books, their rightful owners, and the Nakba that caused Palestinians to lose their country and heritage.

One of the Palestinians opens a book and finds “Khalil Sakakini” written by hand in the inside cover. He gasps.

The audience watching the film, crammed into the basement floor of Educational Bookshop on Salah Al-Din Street in Jerusalem, is captivated.  I crane my neck to see past the tall woman in front of me.

The importance of this book, a one-time possession of one of the Arab world’s most important educators and nationalists, jumps off the screen. I feel an unspoken sadness in the room as we grasp the reality: This priceless piece of Palestinian heritage, and so many others, is held by Israel’s National Library.

This scene is one of many gripping scenes in the film, “The Great Book Robbery” shown for the first time in Palestine on January 12, 2013 to an audience of almost 150 people. The documentary by Israeli-Dutch director Benny Brunner unfolds the story of at least 70,000 books looted from Palestinian homes and institutions in 1948.

Benny Brunner, a longtime maker of films says of himself: “His work is subversive in nature and has proven to be a thorn in the collective Israeli establishment’s backside.”


It is widely known that when approximately 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from Palestine before and after the establishment of Israel, most Palestinian land and belongings were lost.

This film highlights the plight of books. It’s a story that isn’t well-known, and to lovers of books, it is particularly tragic.

According to the film, Gish Amit, a PhD student at the time (2005-9), stumbled by accident upon Israeli documents attesting to the “collection” of books Palestinian books in 1948 as he was writing his dissertation about archives.

Among papers preserved at the National Library, Amit found detailed documentation about approximately 30,000 Palestinian books that were taken from private homes and institutions in Jerusalem, by staff of the National Library in coordination with the army.

In an article originally published in Haaretz, Amit commented on the fact that documentation of the theft was found in the Library itself. He said,

“It is the paradoxical structure of any archive: the place that preserves the power and organizes it is also the place that exposes the violence and wrongdoing. In this respect, the archive is a place that undermines itself.”

Only about 6,000 books are still labeled “Absentee Property”—and these, we were told, can be seen by logging into the National Library of Israel and searching by call numbers starting with AP.

Brunner speculates that the other 24,000 books that are listed in the documentation are either mixed in with the general collection or have been lost or destroyed.

Another 50,000-60,000 books are known to have been looted from other parts of Palestine, mostly textbooks, which Brunner speculated were mostly destroyed or sold. During the discussion that followed the film, he also made the point that rare manuscripts (estimated by a knowledgeable member of the audience as numbering around 50,000 originating from 56 libraries in and around Jerusalem) are not included in the estimates and are totally unaccounted for.

There are rare Palestinian manuscripts in the collection at the National Library, but they are not accessible by the general public. There are also rare Palestinian manuscripts at Hebrew University.

Brunner added: “We should remember the film only addresses books that were stolen in 1948. We don’t know the details of what happened in 1967, though we do know there is a pattern of Israeli looting of Palestinian books, photographs and archives, including the PLO archives in Lebanon. (when Israel entered the capital Beirut in 1982)”

To prove this point, a member of the audience later told me that a rare copy of Palestine in Pictures from the early 1920s was confiscated by the Israelis when her father crossed Allenby Bridge from Jordan in 1987 after he waited five hours to get it back. He finally asked for and was given a receipt for his book, but as history proves, documentation does not necessarily lead to restitution. The only other copy the owner knows of is in Bodlian Library at Oxford University

The Great Book Robbery, which took five years to make, was broadcast by Al Jazeera English and seen in fifty countries, and has also been screened in the three major cinemas in Israel. The director has so far been unable to arrange a showing on Israeli television.

Apparently, there is some controversy over whether the original intention was to protect the books or to steal them, but regardless of the original intent, the Israel National Library, in cooperation with the Israeli Custodian of Abandoned Property has kept Palestinian private property for over 64 years and made no effort to return it to its rightful owners.

In fact, according to Benny Brunner, until the 1950, each card in the catalog listed the book with a code that linked it to the place where it came from, thus identifying the original owner. However, those codes were erased in the late 1950s.

Those who watched The Great Book Robbery that night were visibly moved. The film showed the vibrancy of Palestinian literary and cultural life before 1948, how it was stolen (with poignant quotes by a Palestinian prisoner of war who was forced to take part in looting his own village), and the impact on Palestinian identity and well-being today.

Many seemed inspired by the movie’s concluding slide which noted that:

1) no effort has been made by Israel to return the stolen books;

2) nor has there been any organized effort by Palestinians to claim them.


1. Should there be a national effort by Palestinians to reclaim books stolen in 1948 and since?

2. What Palestinian entity is the best custodian for these national treasures?

3. Would a successful claim on books strengthen the Palestinian claim on other stolen property or would a piecemeal approach starting with books weaken the Palestinian national movement for self-determination and reparations on a broader scale?

Note 1: Nora Lester Murad, PhD, writes fiction and commentary from Jerusalem, Palestine. Her blog, “The View from My Window in Palestine” addresses issues of international development and life under military occupation

She is a life-long social justice activist and a founder of Dalia Association, Palestine’s first community foundation. She tweets from @NoraInPalestine.

Note 2: Nora Lester Murad recently went to see Benny Brunner’s film, The Great Book Robbery and reviewed it in this post.

Editor’s note: From the Book Robbery website: “We are preparing a US screening tour in February 2013. If you are interested in ordering or organising a screening in your community, group, or organisation, please contact our tour manager Karina Goulordava <karinaig89(at)> for details.”

Not until you learn to sew: Will you learn what are sweatshop factories…

How to break the cycle of consumerism through awareness of sweatshop practice?

“Being able to sew means that when I see a piece of ready-to-wear clothing, I can see the hours of hard work that went into it.

And I get aware of how unrealistically low the prices are, and we expect to be able to pay for a throwaway dress or top.

I can see how $5 for a firsthand t-shirt that would have taken even a pro-seamstress over an hour to make cannot be a fair price, even without the costs of material and shipping. ..”

Layla Totah, of ‘The Old Fashioned Way’ sewing initiative, posted in NOW on Dec.10, 2012 under “Sewing against the stream”


“Cheap and fast fashion has changed the way most of us dress and shop.

Nowadays, trends in fashion move quickly. Necklines swoop and turn turtle, hems come in high and then make their way down to maxi lengths, all in a short space of time.

In this environment, shopping on a weekly basis becomes a necessity for those intent on keeping up.

This boom in shopping has altered the way we consider clothes.

Not long ago, an average of 64 new items of clothing a year (the number that Elizabeth Cline cites as today’s average in her recent book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion) would have seemed unthinkable, and non affordable to most.

This high number of garments is in exchange for a lower percentage of our household incomes than ever (3% as compared to 15% in 1900.)

Now, less money can go much further, and so we shop without pause, leaving no time to consider where our clothes are coming from and, equally importantly, where they will go once we have stopped wearing them.

Countless high street stores have been exposed for using inhumanely cheap sweatshop labor, paying barely live-able wages for excruciatingly long hours in cramped conditions.

Most of us are aware of the existence of cheap labor, yet struggle to connect its wrongs with the dresses and t-shirts and jeans that we buy. It has become increasingly difficult to disentangle finished garments from the fabrics and fingers that went into making them.

I consider myself lucky: my mum taught me the very nearly lost art of sewing when I was growing up. Making my own clothes not only brings me a lot of pleasure – being able to make clothes that fit how I want them to fit, in fabrics I choose from the shops of Bourj Hammoud (an Armenian quarter) in east Beirut– but also allows me to opt out of this consumerist cycle which is at least in part fueled by unjust practices.

While fashion used to be much more about self-expression, now it seems that it is driven foremost by ritual consumingsocializing on a Saturday has for many become synonymous with shopping.

I’m not standing in judgment on this – until I learnt to sew I too struggled to connect the clothes I saw in shops with the efforts that had gone into making them.

Making clothes isn’t easy or quick. Perhaps sparing a thought for that might help us to understand the knock-on cost of our fashion habits for those behind the sewing machines.

Note 1: Layla Totah is a sewing teacher in Beirut. Originally from London, she now runs ‘The Old Fashioned Way’ sewing initiative from her Sanayeh studio. 

Note 2: On sweatshop factories in Cambodia




January 2013

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