Thursday, October 1, 2009

OCEZ leader disappeared in Chiapas

Neighbors Suspect Police Kidnapped "El Chema" and Will Kill Him

Kristin Bricker reports for The Narcosphere:

September 30 -- Early this morning, people dressed as members of the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) kidnapped Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, aka "El Chema."  El Chema is one of the leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ).  His whereabouts remain unknown, and fellow OCEZ members fear that he will be killed.  Members of the organization believe that police kidnapped El Chema, although the kidnappers never identified themselves other than as CFE employees.

According to information that OCEZ member Jose Manuel de la Torre provided to Narco News, the OCEZ believes that El Chema's kidnapping is in retaliation for a successful land occupation and hunger strike that 13 OCEZ members held this past July.  As a result of the hunger strike, the Chiapan government agreed to legalize 215 hectares of the occupied lands.  The government handed the legalized lands over to OCEZ members two weeks ago.

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The picture awaits: The birth of modern counterinsurgency

Ann Marlowe writes for World Affairs:

At the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, counterinsurgency theory was about as popular in American military circles as tank warfare is today. An early study by the chief war planner for the 101st Airborne Division during its first deployment to Iraq reported “a collective cognitive dissonance on the part of the U.S. Army to recognize a war of rebellion, a people's war, even when they were fighting it.” There was a reason for this. Eager to forget the most painful experience in its history, the army had all but banished counterinsurgency from the lexicon of American military affairs after Vietnam. As a result, the army relied on a flawed strategy in Iraq for a period that lasted, according to author Thomas Ricks, at least “twenty months or more.”

As U.S. Army Colonel Gian Gentile has summarized this line of argument, there was a “bad war” in Iraq fought by officers who ignored the theory and practice of counterinsurgency, followed by a “good war” fought by its champions. In Vietnam, however, even the “bad” war was fought by commanders deeply versed in the tactics, techniques, and procedures of counterinsurgency (COIN)—much more, in any case, than their counterparts were on September 11, 2001. The United States may have gone, in James Fallows's memorable phrase, “Blind into Baghdad.” It did not march blindly into Vietnam. On the contrary, counterinsurgency theory enjoyed a special vogue in the 1960s: it was certainly more fashionable and better understood by an educated public than it is today. Especially among military officers, COIN was more roundly known during this era than at any time up until the release of Field Manual 3-24 in December 2006.

A May 1964 article in Harper's magazine, “Books on Guerrilla Warfare—Fifteen Years Overdue,” mocks what it presumes to be a shallow and fleeting interest in COIN among the power elite. “Already we are suffering an over-production of doctrine,” Eric Larrabee laments, even though doctrine is “relatively useless without the fine-grain detail.” He places David Galula's now canonical Counterinsurgency Warfare in the category of “High Policy,” and counterinsurgency experts Charles T. R. Bohannan and Napoleon D. Valeriano in the “For the Professional” group. Larrabee reserved the “Recommended” designation for the highly specialized 1956 volume Guerrilla Communism in Malaya, by Lucian Pye, a prolific Sinologist and advisor to President Kennedy. He mentions in passing Viet Minh General Võ Nguyên Giap's People's War, People's Army, along with an anthology of Marine Corps Gazette articles, The Guerrilla and How to Fight Him.

There were very good reasons for this popular interest. The great success of Mao Zedong in China and the proliferation of Communist guerrilla warfare were deemed to be second only to the Soviet nuclear arsenal as threats to America's national security. Counterinsurgency theory emerged in response to Mao's doctrines of revolutionary warfare, and it was studied in the postwar period with an urgency that still has no corollary today. That the accumulation of all this knowledge generated so few results in Vietnam—certainly fewer than it has generated lately—is one of the great puzzles of American military history.

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Tracing the history of a religious divide that still haunts the world

From Fateful Schism by Eric Ormsby:

When the Prophet ­Muhammad died ­unexpectedly after a brief illness in ­Medina, in present-day Saudi Arabia, on June 8, 632, his followers were stunned. A contemporary called it "the greatest of calamities." Their grief was not only for the loss of an irreplaceable leader. ­Muhammad was "the seal of the prophets," the last in a line that stretched back to Adam. He had ­received revelations as "God's emissary" for some 20 years—revelations that he had communicated to the ­embattled community of his followers, first in Mecca and then, after the hijra, or emigration, in 622, in Medina—but now they came to an end. It was as though God, who revealed Himself through the Prophet, had suddenly fallen silent.

In fact, the calamity was greater than Muhammad's mourners could have foreseen. Muhammad had not unambiguously named his successor. The question of succession would haunt Islam for centuries to come. The wrangling began within hours of Muhammad's death; it would quickly lead to a momentous rift between two implacable factions, Shia and Sunni. It is a divide that continues to this day, often with horrific consequences. In "After the Prophet," ­veteran Middle East journalist Lesley Hazleton tells with great flair this "epic story of the Shia-Sunni split in Islam," as she rightly calls it.

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'In short, a view of the world tailor-made for conspiracy theories'

From False friends - Alliance of Leftist and Islamist leaders by Wolf-Dieter Vogel:

The stoning of adulteresses; torture carried out in the name of Allah – is this the "better world" that Hugo Chavez dreams of? The alleged election victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is, in any case, in the opinion of the Venezuelan leader, "very important for the peoples who are fighting for a better world." In the struggle against the "attacks of global capitalism" – by which he means the dissidents on the streets of Tehran – he has promised full solidarity with the Iranian president.

Nicaraguan head of state Daniel Ortega was also happy. By electing Ahmadinejad, he said, "the Iranian people" had chosen to "reject imperialism in all its forms."

Islamist-socialist axis

It comes as no surprise to learn that the Nicaraguan counts the Iranian amongst his friends. At the latest with their decision to ally themselves with the clergy on banning abortion, Ortega and his Sandinista Liberation Front relinquished any claim to representing emancipatory politics.

Chavez's support for Ahmadinejad has, however, caused some uncertainty in leftist circles. His "Bolivarian Revolution" has, after all, been firmly on the side of all those – women, homosexuals, lesbians – whose rights have been violated by the mullah regime.

But Chavez's friendly overtures are not really surprising. Though it has tended to be disregarded, and sometimes even had the support of his followers, the Venezuelan leader has been maintaining friendly relations with the Iranian regime for years. And this is about more than just maintaining economic cooperation or his country's membership of Opec.

Chavez, like his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales, is regularly at pains to stress the closeness of the ties between his country and the Islamic government. During a visit to Tehran in 2005, he emphasised the "common anti-imperialist and revolutionary" virtues, and later praised Iran's struggle against "colonialism, servility and compliance."

Black and white analysis

It is, of course, their common enmity towards the USA that is unifying leftist and Islamist anti-imperialists. Their world view requires a black and white analysis that has little to do with any real and necessary criticism of the imperialistic behaviour of the major powers: for them it is about the "good" oppressed peoples' fight against their enemies, the "outsiders", who attack "their" culture, however that may be defined; the "good people" who are lied to and cheated by propaganda or other influences from "outside".

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'Ignoble pirate motives generated ‘enlightened’ outcomes'

From Bootylicious - What do the pirates of yore tell us about their modern counterparts? by Caleb Crain (The New Yorker):

Snelgrave spent a month in the company of the pirates, as they looted his vessel, and he was able to solve at least one puzzle. The night the ship was taken, his first mate, keen to join a pirate ship, had quietly countermanded his orders, even telling the crew, a quarter of whom defected after the surrender, that Snelgrave himself wanted to join the pirates. New mysteries unfolded with the opportunity to study pirate character at first hand. The pirates indulged themselves immoderately—literally washing the decks with claret and brandy—yet they declined to take luxury seriously; one called Snelgrave's gold watch “a pretty Foot-ball” and gave it a kick. They insisted that their true motive was not greed but justice. One pirate captain asserted that “their Reasons for going a pirating were to revenge themselves on base Merchants, and cruel Commanders of Ships.” Moreover, the pirate captains had almost no special privileges, and slept on deck like their men, not in beds. Pirate life seemed a medley of indulgence and strict equity, mockery and idealism, anarchy and discipline. Snelgrave regretted that his observations of them were “not so coherent as I could wish,” and could not decide what they added up to.

What if they added up to a picture of working-class heroes? In 1980, the Marxist historian Christopher Hill, wondering what became of the king-beheading spirit of the English Civil War, noted that when the monarchy was restored, in 1660, many radicals emigrated to the Caribbean. Their revolutionary idealism may have fallen like a lit match into the islands' population of paupers, heretics, and transported felons. Elaborating Hill's suggestion, the historian Marcus Rediker spent the following decades researching pirate life and came to believe that pirate society “built a better world”—one with vigorous democracy, economic fairness, considerable racial tolerance, and even health care—in many ways more praiseworthy than, say, the one that Snelgrave supported by slave trading. True, pirates were thieves and torturers, but there was something promising about their alternative to capitalism. Other scholars claimed pirates as precursors of gay liberation and feminism. But, as pirate scholarship flourished, so did dissent. In 1996, David Cordingly dismissed the idea of black equality aboard pirate ships, pointing out that a number of pirates owned black slaves, and warned against glamorizing criminals renowned among their contemporaries for “their casual brutality.” Before long, the contending voices of pirate studies had become a “cacophony,” according to one academic. Meanwhile, the idea that pirates are in some way dissident, rather than merely criminal, entered the mainstream. During the recent spate of pirate activity off the coast of Somalia, one pirate told the Times, “We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas.”

A brisk, clever new book, “The Invisible Hook” (Princeton; $24.95), by Peter T. Leeson, an economist who claims to have owned a pirate skull ring as a child and to have had supply-and-demand curves tattooed on his right biceps when he was seventeen, offers a different approach. Rather than directly challenging pirates' leftist credentials, Leeson says that their apparent espousal of liberty, equality, and fraternity derived not from idealism but from a desire for profit. “Ignoble pirate motives generated 'enlightened' outcomes,” Leeson writes. Whether this should comfort politicians on the left or on the right turns out to be a subtle question.

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Plato vs. Grand Theft Auto

Roger Sandall writes:

...Aristotle looked concerned but not alarmed. He was an early adopter himself, he told Plato, adding that his well-known remarks about theatre were not meant to legitimate coke dealing or running folks over or robbing vulnerable women. Nothing nasty like that. Theatre had a noble heritage, and would doubtless survive the deliriously fun straight-up thugs of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Plato said nothing — but his face said “told you so”. It was now more than 2,300 years since he warned about the likely effects of Showbiz Athenian style; by 2009, with millions of youngsters playing straight bad dudes as virtual criminals in a world of virtual crime, the new entertainment confirmed his prediction; this could be long-range forecasting's greatest coup.

And perhaps he's right, or partly right anyway: but to come to the point of our argument, do Plato's views in The Republic have anything to tell us about Showbiz today? About games like Grand Theft Auto IV, or movies like The Dark Knight, and the moral universe these puerile pyrotechnic shoot-'em-ups endlessly come from? Or perhaps more immediately the movie Anti-Christ and its director Lars Von Trier, a man (if Charlotte Gainsbourg is to be believed, and I think she should be) who is plainly deeply disturbed. Who first identified theatrical outrageousness as the classical artistic faiblesse?

Plato's teaching

Used judiciously and with a suitably grim humour I think Plato can be a help. On the one hand he suggests that the issues raised by the relation of Showbiz to the rest of society have changed little over more than two thousand years. On the other, that the myriad effects of high-tech modern illusionism, both social and political, should not be too casually brushed aside.

Plato's disquiet starts with the idea of 'mimesis'. Is it a good thing or a bad? The term translates as copying, imitation, mimicry, and impersonation — things known or done indirectly and at second hand — with overtones of dishonesty and inauthenticity. And for Plato (unlike Aristotle later) those moral overtones were more important than anything else...

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The Memory That Will Not Die - Exhuming the Spanish Civil War

...Last September Spain's homegrown “super-judge” Baltasar Garzón—best-known for his dramatic 1998 effort to arrest the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London— announced that he was investigating not only the whereabouts of the remains of the “disappeared” of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), but also the huge numbers of defeated Republicans executed by General Francisco Franco in the grim postwar years. His goal was to try to amass enough evidence to charge Franco's regime posthumously with crimes against humanity. Could it be that, after so long, “help” and “pardon” were finally coming to the descendants of those who died defending the Spanish Republic?

According to the great Hispanist Hugh Thomas, the three-year Civil War claimed the lives of 365,000 Spaniards, a toll that includes both those loyal to the fascist rebel Franco and those who opposed him. Some historians put the figure higher. Both sides carried out brutal executions, the bodies of victims often ending up in unmarked mass graves.

When the Civil War ended in 1939, the victorious Franco regime executed an additional one hundred thousand-plus Republican prisoners, many of whose corpses were flung into yet more mass-burial pits. These unmarked mounds, visited stealthily by the families of the “defeated” during the dictatorship, are scattered the length and breadth of Spain.

Throughout the 1950s the Franco regime excavated and re-interred with full honors as many as possible of “their” mass graves—those containing the 60-70,000 soldiers and pro-Franco civilians murdered in the Republican zone during the war itself. The same efforts have never been extended to the Republican defeated. And here is the emotional crux of the debate, without which it is impossible to understand the passion and anger that the graves generate today.

There have been some gestures to honor the Republicans' memory. In 2007 the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero—himself the grandson of an executed Republican army captain—passed the Historical Memory Law. Facing a backlash from conservatives, the new law was a much-amended version of the sweeping measures some had hoped for, backing down on earlier promises to grant full posthumous pardons to those executed in the postwar period. The new bill merely promised support to the historical memory associations—the loose network of volunteer groups whose members include descendants of executed Republicans—without providing much in the way of state-led initiatives.

Thus, many welcomed Judge Garzón's announcement last September. For the first time, the judiciary was taking the lead. The historical memory associations were the most fervent supporters of Garzón's initiative. While the ruling Socialist Workers' Party gave the judge's actions its cautious respect, other parties on the left were more enthusiastic.

The right, though, railed against the judge for his reckless “opening of old wounds.” The country's opposition People's Party, some of whose senior members have fathers and grandfathers who served in Franco's 40-year dictatorship, came out strongly against the judge. The Spanish bishops, whose predecessors had endorsed Franco's authoritarian national-Catholocism, also made their disapproval plain.

Within months Garzón's ill-fated process had the Spanish judiciary up in arms; a church- and conservative-led opposition fulminating against any attempt to shine a light on the country's past; and a socialist government, once proud of its policy of historical memory, effectively in retreat. Garzón was forced to drop the investigation in November...

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Crisis and Hope,Theirs and ours by Noam Chomsky

From an article in the Boston Review:

It may be instructive to recall that when they landed in what today is Bangladesh, the British invaders were stunned by its wealth and splendor. It was soon on its way to becoming the very symbol of misery, and not by an act of God.

As the fate of Bangladesh illustrates, the terrible food crisis is not just a result of “lack of true concern” in the centers of wealth and power. In large part it results from very definite concerns of global managers: for their own welfare. It is always well to keep in mind Adam Smith's astute observation about policy formation in England. He recognized that the “principal architects” of policy—in his day the “merchants and manufacturers”—made sure that their own interests had “been most peculiarly attended to” however “grievous” the effect on others, including the people of England and, far more so, those who were subjected to “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” particularly in conquered India, Smith's own prime concern in the domains of European conquest.

Smith was referring specifically to the mercantilist system, but his observation generalizes, and as such, stands as one of the few solid and enduring principles of both international relations and domestic affairs. It should not, however, be over-generalized. There are interesting cases where state interests, including long-term strategic and economic interests, overwhelm the parochial concerns of the concentrations of economic power that largely shape state policy. Iran and Cuba are instructive cases, but I will have to put these topics aside here.

The food crisis erupted first and most dramatically in Haiti in early 2008. Like Bangladesh, Haiti today is a symbol of misery and despair. And, like Bangladesh, when European explorers arrived, the island was remarkably rich in resources, with a large and flourishing population. It later became the source of much of France's wealth. I will not run through the sordid history, but the current food crisis can be traced directly to 1915, Woodrow Wilson's invasion: murderous, brutal, and destructive. Among Wilson's many crimes was dissolving the Haitian Parliament at gunpoint because it refused to pass “progressive legislation” that would have allowed U.S. businesses to take over Haitian lands. Wilson's Marines then ran a free election, in which the legislation was passed by 99.9 percent of the 5 percent of the public permitted to vote. All of this comes down through history as “Wilsonian idealism.”

Later, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) instituted programs to turn Haiti into the “Taiwan of the Caribbean,” by adhering to the sacred principle of comparative advantage: Haiti must import food and other commodities from the United States, while working people, mostly women, toil under miserable conditions in U.S.-owned assembly plants. Haiti's first free election, in 1990, threatened these economically rational programs. The poor majority entered the political arena for the first time and elected their own candidate, a populist priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Washington adopted the standard operating procedures for such a case, moving at once to undermine the regime. A few months later came the anticipated military coup, and the resulting junta instituted a reign of terror, which was backed by Bush senior and even more fully by Clinton, despite pretenses. By 1994 Clinton decided that the population was sufficiently intimidated and sent U.S. forces to restore the elected president, but on the strict condition that he accept a harsh neoliberal regime. In particular, there must be no protection for the economy. Haitian rice farmers are efficient, but cannot compete with U.S. agribusiness that relies on huge government subsidies, thanks largely to Reagan, anointed High Priest of free trade with little regard to his record of extreme protectionism and state intervention in the economy.

There is nothing surprising about what followed: a 1995 USAID report observed that the “export-driven trade and investment policy”—that Washington mandated—will “relentlessly squeeze the domestic rice farmer.” Neoliberal policies dismantled what was left of economic sovereignty and drove the country into chaos, accelerated by Bush junior's blocking of international aid on cynical grounds. In February 2004 the two traditional torturers of Haiti, France and the United States, backed a military coup and spirited President Aristide off to Africa. Haiti had, by then, lost the capacity to feed itself, leaving it highly vulnerable to food price fluctuation, the immediate cause of the 2008 food crisis.

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Is the Internet melting our brains?

Vincent Rossmeier interviews Dennis Baron for Salon:

Your book is about the digital communications revolution, so why did you decide to call it "A Better Pencil"?

OK, I can't answer that very well because the publisher came up with the title. I had a different title, and they decided it wouldn't sell. "A Better Pencil" is a line I use in the book, but I had called it "From Pencils to Pixels." I think they wanted something shorter and, pardon the expression, pointed.

But what I'm dealing with is the way technology affects readers and writers when they communicate. And also how readers and writers help direct the way technology develops. So, what I'm trying to do is put the computer revolution into historical context to see how it fits with previous innovations in communication like pencils, like the printing press, like the clay tablet, like writing itself. A new communication technology does what old technology was able to do – sometimes better, sometimes in a little different way -- and I'm looking at how we make sense of all of this.

How is the criticism directed at computers, instant messaging and Facebook similar to the negative reaction directed at previous communication advances, from pencils to typewriters?

Historically, when the new communication device comes out, the reaction tends to be divided. Some people think it's the best thing since sliced bread; other people fear it as the end of civilization as we know it. And most people take a wait and see attitude. And if it does something that they're interested in, they pick up on it, if it doesn't, they don't buy into it.

I start with Plato's critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They're not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down -- the ultimate irony.

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."

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The politics of the veil

Robert Fulford writes for the National Post:

Lazreg's fascinating book, Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women (Princeton University Press), tells us that the veil comes and goes, according to the rise and fall of ideologies and the change in male perceptions of women and women's beliefs about themselves. Algeria illustrates the point. After women helped achieve independence from France in 1962, many ceased to wear the veil. It lost its political force as a form of rebellion and became an archaic custom of an older generation. Lazreg remembers her mother discarding it.

The revival of the veil among Algerians in recent years coincides with economic failure, a regional cultural identity movement and the war between Islamists and the Algerian government. Today's Islamists often coerce women to wear the veil. (Surprisingly, Lazreg doesn't mention the physical harm involved: Women who hide every inch of their skin from the sun often suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency and develop early osteoporosis, a syndrome noted by doctors in several countries.)

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Indigenous Native American Prophecy

From an overseas show, spliced to view the message from one elder (Floyd Red Crow Westerman) america has come and is destined to go.

Oren R. Lyons ... talks about the 7th generation and america's forgotten responciblity.

In front of the Capitol Building Washington D.C. on July 2008: Nowa Cuming (Dennis Banks)

Co-Founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM)

Message from the Hopi Elders

Music video by Majbritte Ulrikkeholm & Søren Frieboe of Message from the Hopi Elders( from the album Songs of the Earth).

Art Gallery of Ontario acquires acclaimed Sarah Anne Johnson installation

The Art Gallery of Ontario has acquired a major new installation by Winnipeg based artist Sarah Anne Johnson, supported by a generous donation from art collector Michael F. B. Nesbitt. House on Fire explores the story of Johnson’s maternal grandmother’s unwitting participation in CIA-funded brainwashing experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute at McGill University in the mid-1950s.

As in her previous work, The Galapagos Project (2007) and Tree Planting (2005), Johnson works in series, switching between media to comprehensively explore her subject matter. House on Fire consists of 13 works on paper (paintings and drawings on photographs and newsprint); 9 bronze sculptures; and a major sculpture in the form of a surreal dollhouse, from which the series takes its title. The AGO is acquiring all of the works listed above.

“House on Fire is a tremendous achievement, significant both in its broad artistic scope and intimate personal vision that grapples with unsettling subject matter,” says David Moos, the AGO’s curator of contemporary art. “The installation joins David Altmejd’s monumental work The Index as a symbol of the AGO’s ongoing commitment to featuring works of defining importance by Canadian contemporary artists.”

Says Johnson, “It is such a thrill to know that the works will remain together and in context as part of the collection of one of Canada’s most important art institutions. I couldn’t be more excited.”

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Tate Modern removes naked Brooke Shields picture after police visit

A display due to go on show to the public at Tate Modern tomorrow has been withdrawn after a warning from Scotland Yard that the naked image of actor Brooke Shields aged 10 and heavily made up could break obscenity laws.

The work, by American artist Richard Prince and entitled Spiritual America, was due to be part of the London gallery's new Pop Life exhibition . It has been removed from display after a visit to Tate Modern by officers from the obscene publications unit of the Metropolitan police.

The exhibition had been open to members of the Tate today before opening to the public tomorrow. A Tate spokeswoman confirmed that the display had been "temporarily closed down" and the catalogue for the exhibition withdrawn from sale. The work had been accompanied by a warning, and the Tate had sought legal advice before displaying it.

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Five Queen’s Road: (The Pakistan Selection)

From Penguin Books India:

"Lahore, 1947. Dina Lal, a true-blue Lahori, refuses to leave, staying put in Five Queen's Road, a house he bought, in spite of his wife's greatest misgivings, from an Englishman who was deeply reluctant to part with it. To insulate his family from the mayhem on the streets, Dina Lal converts to Islam and as added protection invites Amir Shah, a Muslim colleague, and his children, Javid and Rubina, to share the house with him. But the events that unfold over the next few months make a mockery of Dina Lal's plans. While Dina Lal and Amir Shah cross swords with each other at every given opportunity—though unexpectedly and in spite of themselves rushing to the other's defence in moments of crisis—a furtive friendship blossoms between Dina Lal and Javid.
Ten years later Javid's European wife, Irene, still struggling with her World War II memories, joins the tumultuous household. Inexplicably, the lines of the house are redrawn, and the new border is no less arbitrary and contentious than the one that sundered the subcontinent.  While the house is steadily encroached upon by a car shop settlement and a sweepers' colony, the occupants' long-standing feud reaches new heights. But the family sees an unexpected alliance develop and loyalties, to person and nation, are scrutinized.
In this stunning novel that weaves family saga and national history, Sorayya Khan writes deftly of characters who battle memories and each other alike."

'The sordid tale of a GOP lobbyist's casino deal gone bad'

From Money, Mobsters, Murder by Matthew Continetti

The murder in question occurred over four years ago, on February 6, 2001, in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. The victim was Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, a 51-year-old Greek immigrant who had made a fortune as a restaurateur, real estate developer, and casino operator. Boulis was a legend in South Florida and, in his own way, a pioneer. It was Boulis who in 1994 bought a luxury yacht, turned its interior into a casino, and began to operate "cruises to nowhere" in which passengers would ride the refitted vessels into international waters where Florida state gambling prohibitions did not apply. There, out on the sea, passengers would spend millions at poker and blackjack and slots. Boulis called his fleet of 11 ships the SunCruz Casino line. By the time he sold the company in 2000 SunCruz Casinos was earning tens of millions of dollars in annual profits and employed over 1,000 people. What Boulis probably did not know when he was shot was that those who allegedly plotted and executed his murder were on his company's payroll.

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Musical Innerlube: Wild Beasts - Treacle Tin

Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US’

From Tim Teeman's interview in The Times Online:

"...Vidal now believes, as he did originally, Clinton would be the better president. “Hillary knows more about the world and what to do with the generals. History has proven when the girls get involved, they're good at it. Elizabeth I knew Raleigh would be a good man to give a ship to.”The Republicans will win the next election, Vidal believes; though for him there is little difference between the parties. “Remember the coup d'etat of 2000 when the Supreme Court fixed the selection, not election, of the stupidest man in the country, Mr Bush.”

[ ... ]

Today religious mania has infected the political bloodstream and America has become corrosively isolationist, he says. “Ask an American what they know about Sweden and they'd say 'They live well but they're all alcoholics'. In fact a Scandinavian system could have benefited us many times over.” Instead, America has “no intellectual class” and is “rotting away at a funereal pace. We'll have a military dictatorship fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together. Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn't realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is. Benjamin Franklin said that the system would fail because of the corruption of the people and that happened under Bush.”

Vidal adds menacingly: “Don't ever make the mistake with people like me thinking we are looking for heroes. There aren't any and if there were, they would be killed immediately. I'm never surprised by bad behaviour. I expect it.”..."

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