Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 2015

Cultural boycott of Israel institutions disseminating misleading propaganda positions

On Monday, CounterPunch ran an article by Omar Robert Hamilton that responded to JK Rowling’s joint letter to defend Israel.

This was one amongst many responses to her letter. JK Rowling responded, and Omar responded to her. We run both below.

JK Rowling Responds:

I’ve had a number of readers asking for more information about why I am not joining a cultural boycott of Israel, so here it is:

As the Guardian letter I co-signed states, the signatories hold different views on the actions of the current Israeli administration.

Speaking purely for myself, I have deplored most of Mr Netanyahu’s actions in office. However, I do not believe that a cultural boycott will force Mr Netanyahu from power, nor have I ever heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.

If any effects are felt from the proposed boycott, it will be by ordinary Israelis, many of whom did not vote for Mr Netanyahu.

Those Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against – to take random examples – North Korea and Zimbabwe, whose leaders are not generally considered paragons by the international community.

The sharing of art and literature across borders constitutes an immense power for good in this world.

The true human cost of the Palestinian conflict was seared upon my consciousness, as upon many others’, by the heart-splitting poetry of Mahmoud Darwish.

In its highest incarnation, as exemplified by Darwish, art civilises, challenges and reminds us of our common humanity.

At a time when the stigmatisation of religions and ethnicities seems to be on the rise, I believe strongly that cultural dialogue and collaboration is more important than ever before and that cultural boycotts are divisive, discriminatory and counter-productive.

Omar Robert Hamilton Responds:

Dear Ms Rowling,

I don’t know if you read my response in Counterpunch to your signing the Cultures of CoExistence letter.

I hope you will take the two minutes it asks of you. You’ve since expanded on your position and so, although I may be speaking to an empty room here, I feel I should step in again.

Firstly, the cultural boycott is not designed to force Mr Netanyahu from power.

If it were not Mr Netanyahu in power it would have been Mr. Herzog and his track record leaves us no reason to hope he would be the kind of visionary leader needed to bring a just resolution to the great injustices that Zionism has wrought upon Palestine.

The cultural boycott is designed to isolate institutions that are directly collaborating with the Israeli government in the on-going occupation and colonization of Palestine.

The cultural, economic and political boycott is designed to bring justice for the Palestinian people.

It is misrepresentative to suggest that BDS is a blunt instrument that blindly targets people based on their ethnicity. That’s what Israel does.

BDS, on the other hand, is a carefully considered campaign based on ethical principles.

It does not target individuals, it does not target people for their beliefs; it targets institutions that profit from death and their brand ambassadors, it targets people who, by accepting money, make themselves complicit with the Israeli state.

Let’s take two examples.

Gal Gadot is an Israeli actress soon to be an international star for playing Wonder Woman.

She served in the Israeli Army and has no problem acting as a representative of her country. However, as no Israeli state institutions contributed to the financing of her films, she is not someone that would be targeted by BDS.

Idan Raichel, on the other hand, has hosted gala fundraisers for the Israeli Army and provided morale boosting entertainment for soldiers on active duty in the most recent assault on Gaza.

In his own words, Raichel said “I believe that our role as artists is to be engaged in the Israeli propaganda campaign [Hasbara].”

Mr Raichel is the kind of artist that BDS targets.

It is laid out very clearly on the website for the Palestinain Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

BDS targets artists, companies and institutions that are in the service of the state and its policy of ethnic cleansing.

You ask why we don’t boycott North Korea?

This is a question often asked by Israeli apologists and the answer is simple: North Korea has no international cultural propaganda programme to boycott. How many state-sponsored celebrations of North Korean culture are happening this year?

How many North Korean lobbyists are at work in Washington DC? How many popstars have had to rescind tweets against North Korea? The answer is zero.

BDS does not stop the sharing of art or of literature across borders.

BDS stops government-sponsored propaganda from masquerading unchallenged as art.

BDS demands that art be art and that artists speak for themselves and not be mouthpieces of an apartheid regime.

Real cultural dialogue between individuals or institutions not affiliated with the state is of no interest to this campaign.

What BDS targets is state-sponsored smokescreening designed to buy Israel more time to conquer more land.

As a signatory to BDS there would be no preventing you from talking and working with as many ‘ordinary Israelis’ as you like.

In fact, it would guarantee that this sector about whom you are so concerned is identified.

Israelis resistant to their state’s policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid are welcomed with open arms.

But those that profit from it: they are the ones that we are no longer interested in dialogue with.

I believe that if you consider this carefully you will find that it is actually BDS, and not the Cultures of Co-Existence Clan, that is in line with your stated principles.

Are you in the process of Killing your language for a substitute modern one?

They took my name tag, but I wanted to ask you, did anyone here write their name on the tag in Arabic? Anyone! No one? All right, no problem.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a restaurant with my friend, ordering food. So I looked at the waiter and said, “Do you have La2e7at al ta3aam?” (the menu in Arabic and in my own country Lebanon). He looked at me strangely, thinking that he misheard.

He said, “Sorry? (in English).” I said, “The menu (Arabic), please.” He replied, “Don’t you know what they call it?”

“I do.”  I said. He said, “No! It’s called “menu” (English), or “menu” (French).” Is the French pronunciation correct? “Come, come, take care of this one!” said the waiter.

He was disgusted when talking to me, as if he was saying to himself, “If this was the last girl on Earth, I wouldn’t look at her!”

What’s the meaning of saying “menu” in Arabic? Two words made a Lebanese young man judge a girl as being backward and ignorant. How could she speak that way?

TED shared this link October 25, 2015  at 2:12pm ·

“Language isn’t one, two, or three words put together. It relates to how we think and how we see each other and how others see us.”|By Suzanne Talhouk

At that moment, I started thinking. It made me mad. It definitely hurts!

I’m denied the right to speak my own language in my own country? Where could this happen? How did we get here?

01:48 Well, while we are here, there are many people like me, who would reach a stage in their lives, where they involuntarily give up everything that has happened to them in the past, just so they can say that they’re modern and civilized.

Should I forget all my culture, thoughts, intellect and all my memories?

Childhood stories might be the best memories we have of the war!

Should I forget everything I learned in Arabic, just to conform? To be one of them?  (Who are these Them?)

Where’s the logic in that? Despite all that, I tried to understand him. I didn’t want to judge him with the same cruelty that he judged me.

The Arabic language doesn’t satisfy today’s needs. It’s not a language for science, research, a language we’re used to in universities, a language we use in the workplace, a language we rely on if we were to perform an advanced research project, and it definitely isn’t a language we use at the airport. If we did so, they’d strip us of our clothes.

Where can I use it, then? We could all ask this question! So, you want us to use Arabic. Where are we to do so? This is one reality.

But we have another more important reality that we ought to think about. Arabic is the mother tongue. Research says that mastery of other languages demands mastery of the mother tongue. Mastery of the mother tongue is a prerequisite for creative expression in other languages.


First, Gibran Khalil Gibran, when he first started writing, he used Arabic. All his ideas, imagination and philosophy were inspired by this little boy in the village where he grew up, smelling a specific smell, hearing a specific voice, and thinking a specific thought.

So, when Gibran Khalil Gibran started writing in English, he had enough baggage. Even when he wrote in English, when you read his writings in English, you smell the same smell, sense the same feeling. You can imagine that that’s him writing in English, the same boy who came from the mountain. From a village on Mount Lebanon. So, this is an example no one can argue with.

Second, it’s often said that if you want to kill a nation, the only way to kill a nation, is to kill its language. (Israel is doing its best to kill the language of the Palestinians under occupation)

This is a reality that developed societies are aware of.

The Germans, French, Japanese and Chinese, all these nations are aware of this. That’s why they legislate to protect their language. They make it sacred. That’s why they use it in production, they pay a lot of money to develop it.

Do we know better than them?

 We aren’t from the developed world, this advanced thinking hasn’t reached us yet, and we would like to catch up with the civilized world.

Countries that were once like us, but decided to strive for development, do research, and catch up with those countries, such as Turkey, Malaysia and others, they carried their language with them as they were climbing the ladder, protected it like a diamond. (Turkey changed the Arabic characters to Latin)

They kept it close to them. Because if you get any product from Turkey or elsewhere and it’s not labeled in Turkish, then it isn’t a local product.

You wouldn’t believe it’s a local product. They’d go back to being consumers, clueless consumers, like we are most of the time.

So, in order for them to innovate and produce, they had to protect their language. If I say, “7oriyye, Istiklal (Freedom, independence in Arabic),” what does this remind you of? It doesn’t ring a bell, does it? Regardless of the who, how and why.

06:18 Language isn’t just for conversing, just words coming out of our mouths.

Language represents specific stages in our lives, and terminology that is linked to our emotions. So when we say, “Freedom, sovereignty, independence,” each one of you draws a specific image in their own mind, there are specific feelings of a specific day in a specific historical period.

 Language isn’t one, two or three words or letters put together. It’s an idea inside that relates to how we think, and how we see each other and how others see us.

What is our intellect?

How do you say whether this guy understands or not?

So, if I say, “Freedom, sovereignty, independence (English),” or if your son came up to you and said, “Dad, have you lived through the period of the freedom (English) slogan?” How would you feel? If you don’t see a problem, then I’d better leave, and stop talking in vain.

The idea is that these expressions remind us of a specific thing.

I have a francophone friend who’s married to a French man. I asked her once how things were going. She said, “Everything is fine, but once, I spent a whole night asking and trying to translate the meaning of the word ‘toqborni‘ for him.” (Bury me)

The poor woman had mistakenly told him “toqborni,” and then spent the whole night trying to explain it to him. He was puzzled by the thought: “How could anyone be this cruel? Does she want to commit suicide? ‘Bury me?’ (English)” This is one of the few examples.

 It made us feel that she’s unable to tell that word to her husband, since he won’t understand, and he’s right not to; his way of thinking is different.

She said to me, “He listens to Fairuz with me, and one night, I tried to translate for him so he can feel what I feel when I listen to Fairuz.” The woman tried to translate this for him: “From them I extended my hands and stole you –“ (Laughter) And here’s the pickle: “And because you belong to them, I returned my hands and left you.” (Laughter) Translate that for me.

What have we done to protect the Arabic language? We turned this into a concern of the civil society, and we launched a campaign to preserve the Arabic language.

Even though many people told me, “Why do you bother? Forget about this headache and go have fun.” No problem!

The campaign to preserve Arabic launched a slogan that says, “I talk to you from the East, but you reply from the West.”

We didn’t say, “No! We do not accept this or that.” We didn’t adopt this style because that way, we wouldn’t be understood. And when someone talks to me that way, I hate the Arabic language.

 We want to change our reality, and be convinced in a way that reflects our dreams, aspirations and day-to-day life.

In a way that dresses like us and thinks like we do. So, “I talk to you from the East, but you reply from the West has hit the spot.

Something very easy, yet creative and persuasive. After that, we launched another campaign with scenes of letters on the ground. You’ve seen an example of it outside, a scene of a letter surrounded by black and yellow tape with “Don’t kill your language!” written on it. Why?

Seriously, don’t kill your language. We really shouldn’t kill our language. If we were to kill the language, we’d have to find an identity.

We’d have to find an existence. We’d go back to the beginning. This is beyond just missing our chance of being modern and civilized.

After that we released photos of guys and girls wearing the Arabic letter. Photos of “cool” guys and girls. We are very cool! And to whoever might say, “Ha! You used an English word!” I say, “No! I adopt the word ‘cool.'”

Let them object however they want, but give me a word that’s nicer and matches the reality better. I will keep on saying “Internet”

I wouldn’t say: “I’m going to the world wide web” (Laughs) Because it doesn’t fit!

We shouldn’t kid ourselves. But to reach this point, we all have to be convinced that we shouldn’t allow anyone who is bigger or thinks they have any authority over us when it comes to language, to control us or make us think and feel what they want.

 Creativity is the idea. So, if we can’t reach space or build a rocket and so on, we can be creative.

At this moment, every one of you is a creative project. Creativity in your mother tongue is the path.

Let’s start from this moment. Let’s write a novel or produce a short film. A single novel could make us global again.

It could bring the Arabic language back to being number one.

So, it’s not true that there’s no solution; there is a solution! But we have to know that, and be convinced that a solution exists, that we have a duty to be part of that solution.

 In conclusion, what can you do today? Now, tweets, who’s tweeting?

Even though my time has finished, either Arabic, English, French or Chinese. But don’t write Arabic with Latin characters mixed with numbers! (If Arabic keyboard not available? If you are too slow to type Arabic characters?)

It’s a disaster! That’s not a language. You’d be entering a virtual world with a virtual language.

It’s not easy to come back from such a place and rise. That’s the first thing we can do.

Second, there are many other things that we can do. We’re not here today to convince each other.

We’re here to bring attention to the necessity of preserving this language. Now I will tell you a secret. A baby first identifies its father through language. When my daughter is born, I’ll tell her, “This is your father, honey (Arabic).” I wouldn’t say, “This is your dad, honey (English).”

And in the supermarket, I promise my daughter Noor, that if she says to me, “Shokran (Thanks in Arabic).  I won’t say, “Dis, ‘Merci, Maman,'” and hope no one has heard her. (Applause)

 Let’s get rid of this cultural cringe.

How much do you know about orgasm? 10 facts you ignore?

I’m going to show you a couple of images from a very diverting paper in The Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine.

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say that it is the most diverting paper ever published in The Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. The title is “Observations of In-Utero Masturbation.”

Now on the left you can see the hand — that’s the big arrow — and the penis on the right. The hand hovering. And over here we have, in the words of radiologist Israel Meisner, “The hand grasping the penis in a fashion resembling masturbation movements.” Bear in mind this was an ultrasound, so it would have been moving images.

Patsy Z  shared this link TED|By Mary Roach
Orgasm is a reflex of the autonomic nervous system.
This is the part of the nervous system that deals with the things that we don’t consciously control, like digestion, heart rate and sexual arousal.
And the orgasm reflex can be triggered by a surprisingly broad range of input. Genital stimulation. But also, Kinsey interviewed a woman who could be brought to orgasm by having someone stroke her eyebrow.
People with spinal cord injuries, like paraplegias, quadriplegias, will often develop a very sensitive area right above the level of their injury, wherever that is. There is such a thing as a knee orgasm in the literature.

I think the most curious one that I came across was a case report of a woman who had an orgasm every time she brushed her teeth.

Something in the complex sensory-motor action of brushing her teeth was triggering orgasm. And she went to a neurologist, who was fascinated. He checked to see if it was something in the toothpaste, but no — it happened with any brand.

They stimulated her gums with a toothpick, to see if that was doing it. No. It was the whole, you know, motion. And the amazing thing to me is that you would think this woman would have excellent oral hygiene.

Sadly — this is what it said in the journal paper — “She believed that she was possessed by demons and switched to mouthwash for her oral care.” It’s so sad.

When I was working on the book, I interviewed a woman who can think herself to orgasm. She was part of a study at Rutgers University. You’ve got to love that. Rutgers.

So I interviewed her in Oakland, in a sushi restaurant. And I said, “So, could you do it right here?” And she said, “Yeah, but you know I’d rather finish my meal if you don’t mind.”

But afterwards, she was kind enough to demonstrate on a bench outside. It was remarkable. It took about one minute. And I said to her, “Are you just doing this all the time?”

 She said, “No. Honestly, when I get home, I’m usually too tired.”

 She said that the last time she had done it was on the Disneyland tram.

 The headquarters for orgasm, along the spinal nerve, is something called the sacral nerve root, which is back here. And if you trigger, if you stimulate with an electrode, the precise spot, you will trigger an orgasm.

And it is a fact that you can trigger spinal reflexes in dead people — a certain kind of dead person, a beating-heart cadaver.

Now this is somebody who is brain-dead, legally dead, definitely checked out, but is being kept alive on a respirator, so that their organs will be oxygenated for transplantation.

In one of these brain-dead people, if you trigger the right spot, you will see something every now and then. There is a reflex called the Lazarus reflex. And this is — I’ll demonstrate as best I can, not being dead. It’s like this. You trigger the spot. The dead guy, or gal, goes… like that. Very unsettling for people working in pathology labs.

 If you can trigger the Lazarus reflex in a dead person, why not the orgasm reflex? I asked this question to a brain death expert, Stephanie Mann, who was foolish enough to return my emails.

I said, “So, could you conceivably trigger an orgasm in a dead person?”

She said, “Yes, if the sacral nerve is being oxygenated, you conceivably could.” Obviously it wouldn’t be as much fun for the person. But it would be an orgasm —

There is a researcher at the University of Alabama who does orgasm research. I said to her, “You should do an experiment. You know? You can get cadavers if you work at a university.” I said, “You should actually do this.”

She said, “You get the human subjects review board approval for this one.”

According to 1930s marriage manual author, Theodoor van De Velde, a slight seminal odor can be detected on the breath of a woman within about an hour after sexual intercourse. Theodoor van De Velde was something of a semen connoisseur.

05:50 (Laughter)

This is a guy writing a book, “Ideal Marriage,” you know. Very heavy hetero guy. But he wrote in this book, “Ideal Marriage” — he said that he could differentiate between the semen of a young man, which he said had a fresh, exhilarating smell, and the semen of mature men, whose semen smelled, quote, “Remarkably like that of the flowers of the Spanish chestnut. Sometimes quite freshly floral, and then again sometimes extremely pungent.”

In 1999, in the state of Israel, a man began hiccupping. And this was one of those cases that went on and on. He tried everything his friends suggested. Nothing seemed to help. Days went by.

At a certain point, the man, still hiccupping, had sex with his wife. And lo and behold, the hiccups went away. He told his doctor, who published a case report in a Canadian medical journal under the title, Sexual Intercourse as a Potential Treatment for Intractable Hiccups.”

I love this article because at a certain point they suggested that unattached hiccuppers could try masturbation.

I love that because there is like a whole demographic: unattached hiccuppers.

Married, single, unattached hiccupper.

In the 1900s, early 1900s, a lot of gynecologists believed that when a woman has an orgasm, the contractions serve to suck the semen up through the cervix and sort of deliver it really quickly to the egg, thereby upping the odds of conception. It was called the “upsuck” theory.

07:35 (Laughter)

If you go all the way back to Hippocrates, physicians believed that orgasm in women was not just helpful for conception, but necessary. Doctors back then were routinely telling men the importance of pleasuring their wives.

Marriage-manual author and semen-sniffer Theodoor van De Velde has a line in his book. I loved this guy. I got a lot of mileage out of Theodoor van De Velde. He had this line in his book that supposedly comes from the Habsburg Monarchy, where there was an empress Maria Theresa, who was having trouble conceiving.

And apparently the royal court physician said to her, I am of the opinion that the vulva of your most sacred majesty be titillated for some time prior to intercourse.”

 It’s apparently, I don’t know, on the record somewhere.

Masters and Johnson: now we’re moving forward to the 1950s. Masters and Johnson were upsuck skeptics, which is also really fun to say. They didn’t buy it. And they decided, being Masters and Johnson, that they would get to the bottom of it.

They brought women into the lab — I think it was five women — and outfitted them with cervical caps containing artificial semen. And in the artificial semen was a radio-opaque substance, such that it would show up on an X-ray.

This is the 1950s. Anyway, these women sat in front of an X-ray device. And they masturbated. And Masters and Johnson looked to see if the semen was being sucked up. Did not find any evidence of upsuck.

You may be wondering, “How do you make artificial semen?”

I have an answer for you. I have two answers. You can use flour and water, or cornstarch and water. I actually found three separate recipes in the literature.

My favorite being the one that says — you know, they have the ingredients listed, and then in a recipe it will say, for example, “Yield: two dozen cupcakes.” This one said, “Yield: one ejaculate.”

09:49 (Laughter)

There’s another way that orgasm might boost fertility. This one involves men. Sperm that sit around in the body for a week or more start to develop abnormalities that make them less effective at head-banging their way into the egg.

British sexologist Roy Levin has speculated that this is perhaps why men evolved to be such enthusiastic and frequent masturbators. He said, “If I keep tossing myself off I get fresh sperm being made.” Which I thought was an interesting idea, theory. So now you have an evolutionary excuse.  

 All righty. There is considerable evidence for upsuck in the animal kingdom — pigs, for instance.

In Denmark, the Danish National Committee for Pig Production found out that if you sexually stimulate a sow while you artificially inseminate her, you will see a 6% increase in the farrowing rate, which is the number of piglets produced. So they came up with this five-point stimulation plan for the sows. There is posters they put in the barn, and they have a DVD. And I got a copy of this DVD.

This is my unveiling, because I am going to show you a clip.

Now, here we go, la la la, off to work. It all looks very innocent. He’s going to be doing things with his hands that the boar would use his snout, lacking hands. Okay.

 This is it. The boar has a very odd courtship repertoire.

 This is to mimic the weight of the boar.

11:42 (Laughter)

You should know, the clitoris of the pig is inside the vagina. So this may be sort of titillating for her. Here we go.

 I love this video. There is a point in this video, towards the beginning, where they zoom in for a close up of his hand with his wedding ring, as if to say, “It’s okay, it’s just his job. He really does like women.”

When I was in Denmark, my host was named Anne Marie. And I said, “So why don’t you just stimulate the clitoris of the pig? Why don’t you have the farmers do that? That’s not one of your five steps.”

I have to read you what she said, because I love it. She said, “It was a big hurdle just to get farmers to touch underneath the vulva. So we thought, let’s not mention the clitoris right now.”

12:55 (Laughter)

Shy but ambitious pig farmers, however, can purchase a — this is true — a sow vibrator, that hangs on the sperm feeder tube to vibrate. Because, as I mentioned, the clitoris is inside the vagina.

So possibly, you know, a little more arousing than it looks. And I also said to her, “Now, these sows. I mean, you may have noticed there. The sow doesn’t look to be in the throes of ecstasy.”

And she said, you can’t make that conclusion, because animals don’t register pain or pleasure on their faces in the same way that we do. Pigs, for example, are more like dogs. They use the upper half of the face; the ears are very expressive. So you’re not really sure what’s going on with the pig.

Primates, on the other hand, we use our mouths more. This is the ejaculation face of the stump-tailed macaque.

13:47 (Laughter)

And, interestingly, this has been observed in female macaques, but only when mounting another female.

13:57 (Laughter)

Masters and Johnson. In the 1950s, they decided, okay, we’re going to figure out the entire human sexual response cycle, from arousal, all the way through orgasm, in men and women — everything that happens in the human body.

With women, a lot of this is happening inside. This did not stop Masters and Johnson. They developed an artificial coition machine. This is basically a penis camera on a motor. There is a phallus, clear acrylic phallus, with a camera and a light source, attached to a motor that is kind of going like this.

And the woman would have sex with it. That is what they would do. Pretty amazing. Sadly, this device has been dismantled. This just kills me, not because I wanted to use it — I wanted to see it.

14:45 (Laughter)

 One fine day, Alfred Kinsey decided to calculate the average distance traveled by ejaculated semen. This was not idle curiosity. Doctor Kinsey had heard — and there was a theory going around at the time, this being the 1940s — that the force with which semen is thrown against the cervix was a factor in fertility. Kinsey thought it was bunk, so he got to work. He got together in his lab 300 men, a measuring tape, and a movie camera.

15:26 (Laughter)

And in fact, he found that in three quarters of the men the stuff just kind of slopped out. It wasn’t spurted or thrown or ejected under great force. However, the record holder landed just shy of the eight-foot mark, which is impressive.

15:45 (Laughter)

Sadly, he’s anonymous. His name is not mentioned.

In his write-up of this experiment in his book, Kinsey wrote, “Two sheets were laid down to protect the oriental carpets.”

16:07 (Laughter)

Which is my second favorite line in the entire oeuvre of Alfred Kinsey. My favorite being, “Cheese crumbs spread before a pair of copulating rats will distract the female, but not the male.”

 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship

I was walking down the street when a man stopped me and said,
Hey yo sistah, you from the motherland?
Because my skin is a shade too deep not to have come from foreign soil
Because this garment on my head screams Africa
Because my body is a beacon calling everybody to come flock to the motherland
I said, I’m Sudanese, why?
He says, ‘cause you got a little bit of flavor in you,
I’m just admiring what your mama gave you
Let me tell you something about my mama
She can reduce a man to tattered flesh without so much as blinking
Her words fester beneath your skin and the whole time,
You won’t be able to stop cradling her eyes.
My mama is a woman, flawless and formidable in the same step.
Woman walks into a warzone and has warriors cowering at her feet
My mama carries all of us in her body,
on her face, in her blood and
Blood is no good once you let it loose
So she always holds us close.
When I was 7, she cradled bullets in the billows of her robes.
That same night, she taught me how to get gunpowder out of cotton with a bar of soap.
Years later when the soldiers held her at gunpoint and asked her who she was
She said, I am a daughter of Adam, I am a woman, who the hell are you?
The last time we went home, we watched our village burn,
Soldiers pouring blood from civilian skulls
As if they too could turn water into wine.
They stole the ground beneath our feet.
The woman who raised me
turned and said, don’t be scared
I’m your mother, I’m here, I won’t let them through.
My mama gave me conviction.
Women like her
Inherit tired eyes,
Bruised wrists and titanium plated spines.
The daughters of widows wearing the wings of amputees
Carry countries between their shoulder blades.
I’m not saying dating is a first world problem, but these trifling moterfuckers seem to be.
The kind who’ll quote Rumi, but not know what he sacrificed for war.
Who’ll fawn over Lupita, but turn their racial filters on.
Who’ll take their politics with a latte when I take mine with tear gas.
Every guy I meet wants to be my introduction to the dark side,
Wants me to open up this obsidian skin and let them read every tearful page,
Because what survivor hasn’t had her struggle made spectacle?
Don’t talk about the motherland unless you know that being from Africa
means waking up an afterthought in this country.
Don’t talk about my flavor unless you know that
My flavor is insurrection, it is rebellion, resistance
my flavor is mutiny
It is burden, it is grit and it is compromise
And you don’t know compromise until you’ve rebuilt your home for the third time
Without bricks, without mortar, without any other option
I turned to the man and said,
My mother and I can’t walk the streets alone back home any more.
Back home, there are no streets to walk any more.”

Yale senior wins the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship
The stage was set for Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud ’16 at the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship (iWPS).


US Ground Troops In Syria Is “Illegal, Big Mistake”, Russia Warns Obama Of “Unpredictable Consequences”

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US would no longer hesitate to engage in “direct action on the ground” in Iraq and Syria. 

The change in rhetoric (and apparent shift in strategy) comes just days after the US seemingly prepared the public for what might be coming by releasing helmet cam footage of what Washington says was a raid on an ISIS prison by Delta Force (accompanied by the Kurdish Peshmerga).

70 prisoners were allegedly freed although not before the US suffered its first combat death in Iraq since 2011.

The timing of the video is suspect, to say the least.

It came just days after Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford visited Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi in an effort to dissuade Baghdad from requesting Russian airstrikes on ISIS targets.

It appears as though Washington is trying to simultaneously,

1.  prove to Mid-East governments that the US can still be effective in the fight against terrorism even as questions remain about ulterior motives and even as Russia racks up gains in Syria, and

2. prepare the public for the possibility that America is about to put boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

Here’s more from WSJ on Washington’s new “strategy”:

The White House is seriously considering deploying a small squadron of Apache attack helicopters to Iraq as part of a package of new assistance programs to counter Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. (Why not deliver these Apache that are paid for by the Iraqi government?)

The move could ultimately require the deployment of hundreds more U.S. service members to Iraq.

Among other proposals, U.S. officials said some in the military recommend openly deploying a small number of forces on the ground in Syria, embedded among moderate rebels or Kurdish forces there, for the first time. (As if they would be able to recognize who is the enemy)

Pressure is mounting on the regime (which regime? Syrian government?) to change course.

Recent Russian intervention in Syria on the side of the regime, and the threat of Moscow intervening in Iraq next, has spurred the U.S. to step up its role, defense officials acknowledge.

Pentagon officials have recommended to the White House that the U.S. deploy as many as eight Apache helicopters and their crews to Iraq. The helicopters, known for their targeting prowess, could work in conjunction with as many as two dozen ground spotters who would embed with local ground forces to call in strikes against Islamic State targets. (Any embedded journalists?)

Another proposal, which is less likely, would insert small numbers of combat advisers on the front lines with Iraqi forces and possibly with moderate rebels inside Syria.

Pentagon officials are also likely to enhance Iraqi intelligence capabilities, possibly through a group on the ground that would serve as a single point of coordination between the U.S. and Iraq, a senior military official said.

Last week, the defense chief said Americans should expect more raids like the joint U.S.-Kurdish operation that took place in the town of Hawija, Iraq, in which 70 prisoners were freed and an American was killed in action, the first since 2011.

The U.S. also recently dropped 50 tons of ammunition to an umbrella group of moderate rebel forces inside Syria now known as the Syria-Arab Coalition, or SAC, as part of a renewed effort to strengthen local forces. (Daesh or ISIS received  the drop with thanks)

Pentagon and White House officials indicated the deployment of Apache helicopters was being given the most serious consideration, and therefore the most likely step. 

U.S. officials say momentum is building within the administration to ramp up those efforts even more, capitalizing on the strength of Kurdish and other Iraqi forces.

“I believe we will have an opportunity to reinforce Iraqi success in the days ahead,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford told Senate lawmakers at a hearing on Tuesday.

Alright, so let’s see if we can untangle this.

Washington intends to send in the Apaches to bolster Iraqi forces both Peshmerga and otherwise. Or at least that’s what it sounds like.

The Pentagon is also considering the placement of American ground troops with “moderate” rebels and with the YPG in Syria.

As we’ve detailed extensively (and this isn’t exactly a secret), Iran effectively runs the Iraqi military via its various Shiite militia proxy armies.

That’s not an exaggeration. As Reuters reported earlier this month, “the Fifth Iraqi Army Division now reports to the militias’ chain of command, not to the military’s, according to several U.S. and coalition military officials.”

So when the Apaches and their crews aren’t supporting the Kurds, they’ll be openly supporting Iran-backed fighters.

Only that isn’t at all consistent with placing US ground troops with Syria’s “moderate rebels” like the Free Syrian Army because after all, they’re fighting the very same Iran-backed Shiite militias.

So the US would be bolstering the militiamen in Iraq with Apache gunship support and then firing on those exact same militiamen across the border in Syria in support of the “moderate” rebels battling to oust the Assad regime.

It’s beyond absurd. (Is the strategy of the US to destabilize the Middle-East more rational?)

And then of course there’s the whole Kurd/Turkey problem.

The US is,

1.   fighting alongside the Peshmerga in Iraq and intends to support them going forward with Apache helicopters,

2.  paradropping guns and ammo to the YPG in Syria (as part of a ridiculous ruse that involves the largely made-up SAC mentioned above by WSJ), and now

3.  may even send in ground troops to fight with the YPG.

But Turkey just bombed the YPG yesterday.

Additionally, the US is flying sorties from Incirlik Turkish airfield which sets up the insanely ridiculous possibility that if the US embeds troops with the Syrian Kurds, US jets could be taking off from the same base as Turkish warplanes only the US warplanes would be supporting the YPG while Turkish warplanes bomb them.

Finally, there’s the possibility that if the US puts boots on the ground in Syria in support of the “moderate” rebels, those troops will be killed by Russia and Iran (which Dunford said on Tuesday likely has “more than 1,000 [soldiers] on the ground in Iraq [and] something less than 2,000 in Syria”),

And with that, we close with several comments from Chairman of the Russian Upper House committee for foreign affairs, Konstantin Kosachev (via RT) and a few images

Commenting on the potential involvement of US ground troops against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Kosachev once again highlighted that, when it comes to Syria, the US-led anti-ISIS campaign is already violating international law. Potential troops on the ground, Kosachev believes, will further violate international regulations

“Any operations – air based operations, ground based operations – in Syria by American forces will be illegal,”Kosachev told RT, explaining that Washington has not been invited by Damascus to take part in military operation in a sovereign country.

“They will get trapped, they will get involved in this ongoing conflict and the consequences will be absolutely unpredictable,” Kosachev said, addicting that sending US troops into Syria would be a “big mistake.”

At the same time, Kosachev, stressed that Russia would not send ground troops into Syria.

“No ground operation is possible [in Syria], because that would inevitably involve Russia in the ongoing war,” the politician told RT.

Garbage Crisis in Lebanon Issue #2: Waste Management –

Pros and cons of all options:  Composting,  Recycling,  Incinerating, New landfills, and Exportation

Global Perspectives Author: Marie-Ange Abou Mansour

This second white paper in the series presents the pros and cons of different waste management solutions including recycling, landfilling, composting, incineration and exportation.

The paper also looks at waste management solutions that are being applied in Arab countries and Europe 

Cedric Choukeir  shared this link with Joanna Choukeir Hojeily

‪#‎Chehayeb‬ proposes landfilling, ‪#‎Bou‬ ‪#‎Saab‬ says incineration, Civil Society calls for Composting and Recycling…

Read YEF’s Second white paper of the ‪#‎Waste‬ Crisis in ‪#‎Lebanon‬
Author: Marie-Ange Abou Mansour


Municipal solid waste reflects the culture that produces it and affects the health of the people and the environment surrounding it.

Globally, people are discarding growing quantities and varieties of waste. The world is being urbanized at an unparalleled rate.

These trends pose a challenge to cities and municipalities that want to manage waste in an environmentally acceptable manner.

Effective waste management strategies depend on many factors including: waste characteristics, socioeconomic variables and institutional capacity.

Globally, waste governance is becoming regionalized and formalized: In industrialized countries, where citizens produce far more waste than non-industrialized countries, waste tends to be managed formally at a municipal or regional level.

In less-industrialized countries where less waste is produced and which is mostly biogenic, a combination of formal and informal actors manage waste. Many waste management policies, technologies and behaviors provide a variety of environmental benefits.

Key waste management challenges include: integrating the informal waste sector in developing cities, reducing consumption in industrialized cities, increasing and standardizing the collection and analysis of solid waste data and effectively managing complex waste.

How can some alternatives adopted

worldwide help solve this crisis?

I- Composting:

Composting is done by mixing organic waste materials like food waste with bulking agents like wood chips to facilitate a breakdown of the organic materials.

Based on the U.S Environmental Protection Agency reports, garden trimmings and food scraps make up 27% of all solid waste in the United States and every bit that is composted keeps waste out of landfills. The waste from individual homes alone can be decreased by 50 to 75 % through composting.

Pros & Cons:

Environmental benefits: Composting can remediate and revitalize soil that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and can remove oil and heave metals from storm water runoff.

Time: The time it takes to create fertilizer that you can actually use is one disadvantage of composting. In order for the compost to be successful, you need to give the food and other material in the compost at least a month to decay. To note that during cold weather, it takes even longer for the material to break down.

Smell: As things rot and decay, they emit a bad odor. One way to cut down on the smell is by making sure food items are buried deep into the compost. Compost piles tend to have an earthy smell but could at times smell mildly sour if there is more green matter.

The odor problem can be solved by ensuring the ratio of compost ingredients is correct and finding a related space away from buildings and outdoor living areas.

Cost: The main cost involved with composting is the container. It helps contain the pile and keeps it safe from pests.

Pests: Placing the pile away from

buildings helps prevent any issues with rodents. Enclosing the pile prevents many pests from entering the container.

Space: As composting can be done on a regional level in Lebanon, it needs a suitably large space. In small regions where space is limited this might pose a distinct disadvantage.

II- Recycling: In Lille (France) and New York (USA), every single item of solid trash produced has to be sorted into different piles of trash, depending on whether it will get recycled or whether it will get composted. Papers go into one pile, cans go into another and the rest go into a dispenser.

When it comes to recycling, just 4% of household waste in Sweden goes into landfills. The rest winds up either recycled or used as fuel in waste-to-energy power plants.

According to Teddy Barhoun, a Business Development and Operations Manager at Lavajet, landfilling should be reduced by 75%, and what is sent to the landfill should be inert, non-organic and stable.

Pros & Cons:

Recycling will not only decrease the load that Lebanon’s landfills have to handle daily, but it will make the country more environmentally conscious. It reduces the consumption of energy, protects the environment, lessens pollution and helps conserve the Natural Resources.

On the other hand, recycling can have disadvantages if it is not managed properly:

It is not cost-effective all the time. Sometimes, it might be necessary to create separate factories for processing reusable products. It can potentially produce more pollution through the transportation, cleaning and storage processes needed.

Caution must be taken to prevent unhygienic and unsafe recycling sites. Areas where all kinds of waste are being dumped are susceptible to debris and the spread of disease as the result of harmful waste toxins and chemicals. Once combined with water, this waste can lead to the formation of leachate, leading to increased toxicity in bodies of water, including drinking water.

The recycled products are not always of durable quality. These items might be taken from other waste items that are overly used or fragile.

III- Incinerators: Lebanon has electricity issues in addition to its garbage issues. There is a possibility that the former can be resolved by addressing the latter. The Lebanese government argues that if the waste is treated beforehand – a process that involves separation – and then burned it can be used as an energy source.

Burning the garbage in the incinerators generates 20% of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings.

It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes. Sweden recovers the most energy from each ton of waste in the waste to energy plants. This is an alternative that could be quite viable for Lebanon.

Pros & Cons:

Garbage incinerators that produce energy can help Lebanon’s ailing electricity sector.

If the gas released from an incineration plant is not properly filtered it can be very toxic for residents living nearby. The problem with incinerators is that, when not properly maintained, they produce immense levels of pollution and the maximum level at which they can handle waste is about 160 tons a day. (Naameh landfill, the country’s biggest, handles about 2800 tons a day).

Finding a location for incinerators is even harder than finding locations for new dumps or landfills. Lebanon has had a tumultuous history with incinerators. In one example, a large incinerator located in the Amrousieh suburb of Beirut was burned down in 1997 by locals weary of the fumes it was emitting.

IV- New landfills: Countries such as Saudi Arabia that have vast desert space are more suited for landfilling solutions. In Lebanon, if recycling is too hard and incinerators are too costly/ polluting, another option is to invest in new landfills in remote, scarcely inhabited regions, provided that such landfills be maintained and properly handled in environmentally friendly and

scientifically appropriate ways. Reports indicate that Sukleen used to landfill around 80% of the collected waste. Meanwhile, Riad Assaad (CEO of South For Construction – SFC) said that SFC planned to landfill 8% of the garbage only in a space outside Beirut as a condition of the tender’s term.

Pros & Cons:

Currently, landfills are the most popular solution to Lebanon’s waste problems, as they are used to dispose over 50% of the country’s solid waste, according to statistics from the Environment Ministry. If used in a proper way, they can give energy by taking advantage of the gases emitted (e.g Methane).

Meanwhile, according to Dr. George Ayoub (Environmental Engineering Professor at the American University of Beirut) Lebanon’s landscape is not suitable for landfills. “Wherever you want to build a landfill you’re surrounded by towns and cities and housing, it’s a major problem”.

Ayoub argued that any land used to build landfills would be condemned for the next 80 years as it would continue to emit toxic gases. The fermentation and decomposition of the waste releases methane, carbon dioxide and -in extreme cases- hydrogen sulfide. It also causes dust and pollution.

Moreover, when the rain water or the snow falls on the landfills, it penetrates into the deep levels of the landfills and spreads pre-existing toxins. This combination called leachates can affect the ground water and other water bodies and hence harm the ecosystem in many ways.

V- Exportation: Instead of drowning in garbage, it could be sold and outsourced. Both Sweden and Norway are willing and able to receive waste.

Sweden – in response to its energy needs for heat and electricity – has recently begun to import about 800,000 tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. They hope to receive waste from Italy, Romania, Bulgaria or the Baltic countries, because landfilling is common in these countries due to a lack of incineration or recycling plants.

According to a Daily Star report, Economy Minister Alain Hakim announced that a deal could be reached to export a portion of Lebanon’s garbage to the northern European nation. As a party of the Basel convention, Lebanon will have to follow narrow guidelines that regulate how countries trade hazardous waste.

Pros & Cons:

Short-term relief from the ongoing crisis.

Exporting is a costly process that burdens the country with the task of thoroughly sorting its garbage. The country needs to sort the waste and label the hazardous material before selling it. According to the Basel Convention, dangerous waste cannot cross the borders of the country without being tested.

Meeting the mandates of the Basel Convention could cost Lebanon around $40 million over two months, and the country is not able to bulldoze its sorted garbage onto the barges. Organic waste, which is about 80% water, would have to be desiccated and baled. 60% of the waste is organic, which would cost Lebanon a lot of time and resources according to Antoine Abou Moussa, the Environmental Consultant for TERRE Liban.

How are other countries managing waste?

Saudi Arabia: It is the wealthiest and biggest country of the Gulf region with about 29 million inhabitants. The city Jeddah (3 million inh.) has tasked the collection and transport to 3 local companies for 5 years. The financial volume of the project is about €250 million. According to a report issued by EcoMena in March 2015, the population in Saudi Arabia is around 29 million, and the country generates more than 15 million tons of solid waste per year. The per capita waste generation is estimated at 1.5 to 1.8 kg per person per day. Different recycling technologies such as construction waste treatment plants, scrap tire treatment plants, scrap wood crushing units, and composting were purchased to produce material for the coverage.

Jordan: The population in Jordan is currently estimated to be around 6.8 million. The solid waste profile in Jordan according to a report issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Environment in 2015 is broken down as follows:

Food: 50%

Waste dry recyclables: 34.5%

Paper and cardboard waste: 15%

Glass: 2%

Metals: 1.5%

Plastics: 16%

Others: 15.5%

To note that the per capita waste generation in Jordan is 0.9kg per person per day.

Switzerland: Since 2000, the total volume of hazardous waste in Switzerland has been approximately 1.2 million tons per year according to the Swiss Confederation National Reporting. The recycling of hazardous waste is being promoted by the implementation of the Ordinance on Movements of Waste and Technical Ordinance on Waste, the development of new treatment methods, and rising raw material prices. Today, three different types of landfill sites exist in Switzerland, depending on different types of waste:

Landfills for inert materials: only rock-like wastes may be disposed of, from which virtually no pollutants will be leached out by rainwater. These include materials such as construction waste (concrete, bricks, glass, and road rubble) and uncontaminated soil that cannot be used elsewhere.

Landfills for stabilized residues: are designed for the disposal of materials of known composition, with high concentrations of heavy metals and only a small organic component, and which cannot release either gases or substances readily soluble in water.

Bioreactor landfills: chemical and biological processes are expected to occur. At these sites, drainage controls are also required. Any gases emitted are to be captured and treated.

About 14% of all hazardous waste is exported for recycling, treatment or land filling, with around 63% of this total being disposed of in Germany, and the rest almost exclusively in other EU countries – Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.

Areas where wastes have been deposited or have infiltrated underground require closer investigation.

This task is handled by the cantonal agencies and a number of federal authorities. Financial support for the management of contaminated sites can be provided by the federal authorities

Around 26 million francs per year is available for this purpose. All polluted sites are entered in the register maintained by the cantonal office in charge









Clowns Without Borders witnessed a capsized boat at night: casualties

 Sabine Choucair posted this Oct. 29, 2015

Lesvos is where you can plan nothing ahead of time; even deciding to go to the toilet involved two shows because… why not?

And what else we’re here for!

At night, it was a different story. we heard of a boat that had capsized with 400 people on it. We ran there not in clown costumes.

I was translating, supporting wounded people, people who lost family members, women and kids.

Molly and Luz helping with distributing warm clothes to the lucky ones who made it and Clay playing music sometimes and supporting us some other times.

There was this man in his 40s, crying so much. I thought he had lost a family member like many others around.

We sat together and he recounted that the moment they started swimming he saw a baby in a life jacket drowning, he held him tight and swam and swam and swam… then looked to check on him to realize that he was only holding the life jacket.

The baby slipped away and with him this man’s soul got lost in the sea

Our first performances in lesvos …
We’ve done one camp and a harbor so far.
It is so beautiful to be able to draw smiles on bored, tired, anxious, worried faces.
Thank you @clownswithoutborders Luz Gaxiola Clay Mazing and Molly Rose for being an amazing team.

Sabine Choucair's photo.
Sabine Choucair's photo.
Sabine Choucair's photo.
Sabine Choucair's photo.
Sabine Choucair's photo.

Clown Me In Clowns Without Borders Molly Rose Luz Gaxiola Clay Mazing




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