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Aphrodisiac Gum???

A Tale of Two Paradigms

Knowing the world's largest special forces training center just opened in Jordan doesn't make me feel any safer.  Sometimes I really have to question how my taxpayer dollars are being used and why the mainstream media aren't doing a better job of laying it out for us.

Amman Revoking Palestinians' Citizenship

The comments following this article are every bit as interesting as the article itself.

For those who may not be aware, Palestinians constitute about two thirds of the population of Jordan.  The king's wife is Palestinian, and their son, the Crown Prince, is half Palestinian, one-quarter British, and one-quarter Hashemite (from Mecca, Saudi Arabia).  The monarchy gets most of its support from the Bedouin tribes, which constitute most of the remaining third of the population of Jordan.  When the Palestinians tried to overthrow the late King Hussein in 1970, the historical event known as Black September was the bloody result.  It was a civil war resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.

While disputes between Arabs and Israelis garner most of the attention in the Western media, there are also plenty of intra-Arab disputes.  This is surely one of them.  But I am so weary of the Palestinians always getting the shaft.  How can anyone take away citizenship from people who have lived on those lands longer than their Hashemite rulers?  And where are they supposed to go?  The neighbors don't want them.

And is this event entirely separate from the opening of the new special forces training center that is funded mostly (entirely?) by the Americans?  Do we really know what the hell we are doing with our foreign policy in the region?  (Rhetorical question. . .I think I know the answer.)

Princess Facing Saudi Death Penalty Given Secret UK Asylum

Well, I guess it's not a secret any more.  She was married to an elderly Saudi prince.  Traveled to London.  Met and had an affair with a non-Muslim Englishman.  Conceived and bore a child.  Claimed to the UK courts that if she returned to Saudi Arabia she and her baby would be subject to death sentences under Sharia law. . .that's if she didn't become a victim of dishonor killing first.  She can remain in the UK.  I think this is the humane, right decision.  The U.S. should do the same in similar cases.

That was two days ago.  Today there are reports that 10 more Saudis are seeking asylum in the UK.  The article states, "The princess's case is one of a small number of claims for asylum brought by citizens of Saudi Arabia which are not openly acknowledged by either government.  British diplomats believe that to do so would in effect highlight the persecution of women in Saudi Arabia, which would be viewed as open criticism of the House of Saud and lead to embarrassing publicity for both governments."  Some things deserve to be criticized.

I like this Martin Luther King, Jr., quote from one of the commenters to this article:

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?'  Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?'  Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?'  But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?'  And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right.

Arab Human Development Report 2009

The dishonor killings section begins on p. 85 of the document, p. 103 of the pdf file.  UN statistics show 25-30 dishonor killings in Jordan in 2007.  Official statistics are, of course, much lower.  Frankly, I think even the UN's data are conservative.  The true number is unknowable, since so many of these crimes are never reported or disguised as accidents or suicides.

Hamas Accuses Israel of Dumping 'Aphrodisiac' Gum on Gaza

This one's just for giggles.  Wrigley, as a marketer, allow me to point you toward your next product line expansion cash cow.

20 Comment count
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Much to think about

Ellen, I'm trying to wrap myself around everything you've said and I believe your Martin Luther King, Jr. quote sums it up. But we first must know what is going on in the world before having the courage to act. In the end, maybe we can all pull together yet. That was his dream. And an honorable dream it was.

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It was, Dorraine, and I am

It was, Dorraine, and I am at a point in life where I am really questioning the lack of true leadership in this world.  Think of the current crop of leaders--wherever they might be--and measure them against King's statement.  I can think of only a few who are taking actions mainly (not even solely, just mainly) because they are the right things to do.  The Dalai Lama.  Aung San Suu Kyi.  Maybe Bernard Kouchner (Foreign Minister of France and founder of Medecins San Frontieres).  Probably I have missed some.

But my point is that the people leading don't seem to have a true north, nor are they carrying a compass.  I find that really troubling.

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The intra-Arab conflict is

The intra-Arab conflict is rarely paid attention to, and that is quite sad because it ignores the very premise of basing conflicts on religion. Thanks Ellen for some of these updates.

The Aphrodisiac gum may or may not work, but it sure will subdue hunger pangs during the blockades...


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Yes, Farzana, for all the

Yes, Farzana, for all the Arab crocodile tears shed for the Palestinians, it's hard to overlook how manipulated this "cause" has been by the Arab rulers.  When they visit the West, they complain about the plight of the Palestinians (and rightly so, I think), but then hypocritically exploit the Palestinian situation for their own purposes back at home.  If they whip their own people into a frenzy over the plight of the Palestinians and how the rich countries of the world have failed them, then that makes a really convenient distraction from their own leadership failures and from internal problems that could result in their being ousted.  I think, in general and in my lifetime, the Arabs have been crueler to themselves than any outsiders have been.  Even during this global recession, the GCC are flooded with petro dollars.  But you don't see their riches being used to help their poorer Arab brethern.  Most of the bilateral aid in the region comes from the U.S., the EU, Japan, and the non-Arab wealthy countries.  It puzzles me.  Isn't zakat one of the five pillars of Islam? 

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This last headline would be

This last headline would be funny if it weren´t so hypocritical. Oh boy, "corrupt the young"??? Give me a break. Why do militias and even armies around the world, including the ones in question, recruit young boys to turn them into killers? Fourteen-year-olds, sixteen-year-olds... Easy preys of manipulation.
I´ll never forget when the magazines started to publish the letters from the Argentinian soldiers in the Falklands/Malvinas war. I remember one of them was from a sixteen-year-old, who was eventually killed in the war, telling his mom how much he missed candy and how cold he was.

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Well after seeing the Child

Well after seeing the Child Soldier photo journalism exhibition I am none the wiser to your question Luciana. From looking at the photographs it seems to me that most of these children live in dire poverty and giving them a gun, sometimes almost too big for them to carry, gives them an immediate sense of power. I wonder where the money is coming from for all these weapons? Who is funding this? Most of the homes in the pictures resemble ramshackle huts. One picture showed a young girl wearing a Britney Spears t.shirt and the girl was carrying what looked like a machine gun of some sort. BTW her nails were beautifully manicured. I am really confused.

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A friend of mine who's

A friend of mine who's married to a Saudi man is always saying to me, "The Arabs take hypocrisy to entirely unheard-of levels."  Sex-->bad.  Killing people-->honorable.

I was too young to be a hippie in the 1960s, but I think the hippies had their heads screwed on straighter than some.  Their attitude was, "Make love, not war."  Love>hate.

There is something beyond grotesque about a soldier writing to his mom that he misses candy.  Next thing you know, they'll be writing home asking for a care package that includes replacement Pampers and pacifiers.  :-( 

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Ellen, he was not asking for

Ellen, he was not asking for candy. He was just a teenager snatched from school, given a gun and sent to the South Pole to fight for something he didn´t understand very well, trying to tell his family he missed them. Military service is mandatory in Argentina (as in Brazil), and in times of war even school kids like that one have to go.  The Falklands (the Argentinians call them Malvinas) war was one of the most stupid and horrendous things the dictators in Argentina did. They took unprepared, untrained very young boys and sent them to the Falkland Islands to fight Britain, but what happened was that lots of them died either of hunger or of cold, since supplies were scarce and they didn´t have the appropriate clothing to be so near the Pole and bear those extreme temperatures. In my A to Z list of despicable historical figures, Galtieri, the General/President of Argentina at that time would certainly occupy letter G.

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Yikes!  Maybe I wasn't

Yikes!  Maybe I wasn't clear (wouldn't be the first time!), but I was banging on the adults who send these kids into war, not the kids themselves.  And my twisted cynicism about babies in diapers requesting fresh ones and a new pacifier was just another attempt at a dig at the adults who separate children from parents and send them into war zones.

I don't pretend to understand war.  But any time there's a massive power imbalance like the one in the Falklands or that time in the early 1980s the U.S. went into Grenada, I think it is largely just to display power.  It is the political equivalent of the rooster's strut, only a lot of money is spent and people get hurt and killed.  And most young people who experience this are forever changed by it.

OK, so we'll add Galtieri to the Tyrant's Hall of Fame.

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Mary, a lot of those

Mary, a lot of those children are also drugged. . .either sniffing glue or chewing on the local version of qat or drunk out of their minds on rot-gut booze.  Even when the photograph captions don't say so, you can see the effects in their eyes.

Most child soldiers come from impoverished backgrounds.  If they are street kids and already addicted to something to keep their starving bellies quiet, probably the offer of drugs is enough to recruit them.  If not, the parents might be offered money for the child.  The Britney Spears t-shirt probably came from some middle class American family that donated clothes to charity, and the charity goods ended up in that country.  (When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa, I once saw a really "dapper" young man all decked out in--drumroll please--a cast-off McDonald's uniform.  At the time, there was no McDo's in the country.)  The guns are black market.  Probably from drug lords.  From caches that Western armies don't keep good enough accounting of.  From outside states that have an interest in keeping a country unstable.

The manicure?  Dunno.  Rather incongruous.  Maybe Generous Auntie who lives and works in the UK or somewhere and sends part of her income back home included nail polish in a care package.  It's small and light and wouldn't cost much to ship.

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Palestinians and the Princess



I didn't know that about two thirds of the population of Jordan is Palestinians.  That sounds like their country.  And I'm impressed that Jordanians accepted so many immigrants.  So how people take advantage of the situations must be very complex issues.   

About the princess, I wonder if she was forced into her marriage in the first place.  I hope she writes a novel as Princess Akako of the 12th century did.  Akako was forced to marry at the age of 14 for her father's political ambition.  I thought about writing a blog about "Not asked, but tell you," written by her, but after I finished the volume one of two, I couldn't go on reading the kind of mental abuses she suffered.  The end of the volume one was already very dark in a slimy way.     


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Well, Keiko, there aren't

Well, Keiko, there aren't really democratic elections in Jordan.  There's a Parliament, with upper and lower houses.  The upper house is appointed by the king.  The lower house is kinda/sorta elected (but not really).  By that I mean the districts are rigged against the Palestinians, so the Bedouins win more of the seats and are, thus, overrepresented in the lower house.

Until the Six-Day War in the late 1960s, the West Bank and Jerusalem belonged to Jordan.  Both were lost to the Israelis who now would like the Palestinians out.  Jordan took a lot of them in during the upheavals of 1948 and 1967, but it is a small country with limited resources and limited capacity.  Refugee camps were built with the idea that this would be temporary.  But now generations of families have lived in those camps and they are restless and want full rights and full citizenship.  So this recent move to strip citizenship from some of them seems risky to me.  I see what the king is doing.  He's trying to secure his grip on the country.  But the Palestinians have already been through a lot.

As for the Saudi princess, reading between the lines, my guess is that it was an arranged marriage.  It's still quite common in the region.  She comes from a wealthy family, and the prince she married is significantly older than her.  So she may have been married off quite young.  I've met quite a few Palestinians in the West Bank who got married at the age of 13 or 14, so marriage is still performed for girls that young.  Perhaps the princess just wanted out of her situation and fell for someone more progressive and closer to her age.  There were probably better ways of making that happen but, still, I think the decision to grant her asylum was probably life saving for her.

Keiko, how's Princess Masako doing these days?  Have the succession issues in Japan been solved? 

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Sorry. . .double post.

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Thank you for taking time to explain the situation. I read it with much interest. There is similarity between Japanese and the people of the Middle East. Of course, I have to consider the time period and the level of badness when I compare the two. But there is some connection.

“Oshin,” a Japanese drama series was a hit in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and other developing nations. The drama is about an impoverished Japanese woman trying to make living through hard times. In the fiction, Osin was born in 1901. That is in the Meiji period. I guess many people like to see a woman persevere any abuses and hardships for years, but still come out smiling. Oshin is a super woman, but most Meiji-period women persevered like her, and many had worse situations. Most died young because of their harsh condition.

I had only grandfathers when I was young, but no grandmother. Both of my grandfathers remarried because their wives died young. Their second wives also died young. And the situation was the same for my great grandfathers. I used to think I was just unlucky for not having even one grandmother. But it has reasons. That’s the theme of my memoir.

About Princess Masako, I don’t know much. A little while ago, I saw her on the television with her family, and heard the stupid news a month or so ago that the Imperial household agency denied the news that she made many visits to her sisters, and the agency sued the publishing company that reported it. Why do the publishing company and even the Imperial Household Agency care that? What’s wrong with meeting own sisters and how many times? I surfed a little on the internet because of your question, but all I saw was garbage. I don’t think she wishes her daughter to be a queen.

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Keiko, you are the first

Keiko, you are the first person to point out for me these similarities between Japanese and Middle Eastern culture and, now that you have, I will try to pay closer attention.

I'm trying to imagine why you didn't even have one grandmother in your life.  All I can think is that some of the women in your family suffered from what, in infants, is known as failure to thrive.

I worry about Princess Masako.  Her husband seems to love her, and her daughter is beautiful.  But the princess seems to be suffering so under the confinements of royal life.  I know some people in Jordan who know her, and they told me that, when she visited Jordan some years ago, she seemed so happy to be given a longer leash there than she usually gets.  Some people are just not meant for that kind of life, and it seems like poor Princess Masako might be one of them.  It's tough to see someone suffer so.

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Ellen, Probably many


Probably many Japanese would disagree with my view because we are proud of our heritage. I read in the past in a Japanese newspaper that someone compared the kamikaze pilots of WWII with the self-bombers of the Middle-East. It seemed Japanese public were angry about the comparison. Well, isn’t it obvious why whoever did a comparison? I don’t blame the person. He or she is logical. So, from this point of view, I say the two cultures are similar.

To me, we should throw away “being proud” when we talk about comparing cultures. In the past, I have said something like “I’m proud of something” relating to Japanese.” I think I tried to conform by other people’s reality. So I thought the statement was a lie. I happened to be born from my Japanese father and mother, and my parents also. Those things are beyond our control. We didn’t work for it.

It’s very tough for Princess Masako to live and enjoy her life in Japan, but I’m sure she thought of it before she got into it. Everyone’s life is tough.

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I was just chatting on the

I was just chatting on the telephone to a friend of mine whose family is from the subcontinent. And we were talking about how scary nationalism and too much national pride can be. I think it blinds people to realities and drives a wedge where no wedge need be. Pride comes before the fall, someone once said. I believe it.

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Ellen, That’s a good


That’s a good quote: Pride comes before the fall. The quote hits right into my heart for big and even personal issues. Once I threw the issue of the quote at my mother when we were talking about the kamikaze pilots. Each pilot has a very very sad story. Her face turned dark. She looked away. Afterward, we didn’t discuss about it anymore, but I knew she had courage to think beyond that.

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Keiko, I just did a little

Keiko, I just did a little digging, and it seems the full quote is from the King James version of the Bible, Proverbs 16:18:  "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."  I like that part about the haughty spirit. . .I know a few haughties, and I like to believe in karma, if only to help me through my dealings with them!  :-)

I do see your point about the kamikaze pilots--though I'd never before made that connection myself--but I also see some differences between them and suicide bombers.  Be glad that Japan has moved beyond that in such a relatively short time, has taken the lessons from that time to heart, and extended the olive branch to so many of its former enemies.  And the country does have a very refined culture, a productive and wealthy population that values education and learning, and other strong points.

I think your mother, in her heart of hearts, probably sees the connection, too.  It's just that it is painful for someone of her generation and heritage to contemplate it for long.

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The Proverb


I like the proverb. I like this because it sounds strong and classic: Pride goeth before destruction. It makes sense. I hope we never forget it even during the time of richness like now.
Thank you for your kind comments.