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Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes on Yemen kill civilians, help ISIS


This video says about itself:

26 March 2015

Saudi-led air strikes against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. Anti-aircraft fire over Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Heavy destruction in a civilian neighborhood of Sanaa. Some pictures are too graphic to show.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 29 March 2015

Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf’s fire

World View: Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis

Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.

In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.

The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.

Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.

The US position becomes even more convoluted. Washington had sought to portray its campaign in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a success. Drone attacks were supposedly wiping out important AQAP operatives, but the humiliating end result of America’s covert war in Yemen came last week when US Special Operations personnel blew up their heavy equipment and fled the country for the US base at Djibouti. AQAP is becoming a stronger force as the shock troops of the Sunni.

US policy across the Middle East looks contradictory. It is supporting Sunni powers and opposing Iranian allies in Yemen but doing the reverse in Iraq. On Thursday US aircraft for the first time started pounding Islamic State (Isis) positions in Tikrit, 87 miles north of Baghdad. The city has been under assault for four weeks, with 20,000 Shia militia and 3,000 Iraqi soldiers pitted against a few hundred Isis fighters. The Shia militiamen are now reported to have withdrawn but they do not appear to have gone far. Effectively, the battle for Tikrit is being waged by Iranian-directed Shia militia backed by US air power, even if the two sides are rivals as well as allies.

Ultimately, the US may not have much choice. If it refuses to back anti-Islamic State combatants for whatever reason it will be to the benefit of Isis. The numbers tell the story: there are between 100,000 and 120,000 Shia militiamen in Iraq compared with only 12 brigades in the Iraqi army capable of fighting, about 48,000 soldiers, although this total may be inflated. Isis has been conscripting young men across its self-declared caliphate since last October and may have over 100,000 fighters. If the US relies on Iraqi government and Kurdish Peshmerga ground forces alone to put Isis out of business, it will be difficult.

Why did the US finally use its air power at Tikrit, formerly a city of 200,000? First, it was the only help the Baghdad government formally asked for this week. The US may have concluded, as it did with the 134-day siege of the town of Kobani last year, that it could not allow Isis to succeed in Tikrit. Second, if the city did fall, Washington did not want Iran and the Shia militia to get all the credit.

A further motive is that both the US and Iran want to restore some credibility to the Iraqi government and army after their crushing defeats by Isis forces last year. So far the Iraqi army has not recaptured a single city or substantial town from Isis since the fall of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad in January 2014. Such limited military successes as there have been were won by the militias in the provinces neighbouring Baghdad.

The US-led international coalition opposing Isis also needs to do something to bolster its own credibility. Despite some 2,500 coalition air strike launched against it since last August, the Islamic State has lost little territory. Isis may be battered but it shows no signs of being anywhere near to defeat.

The Independent conducted a series of interviews in February and March with people who had recently left Isis and, while none were sympathetic to it, there was nobody who believed it was going to be destroyed by mounting internal discontent or external military pressure. A prime reason for this is that the Sunni Arab communities in Iraq and Syria are not being offered an acceptable alternative to Isis rule. They are all terrified of becoming the victims of a pogrom that does not distinguish between Isis supporters and ordinary Sunni.

A further feature of life in the Isis caliphate that emerged from these interviews is that it is well organised: it taxes salaries and sales, it conscripts young men of military age, controls education and mercilessly strikes down any opponents. Its stability might be shaken if it suffered a string of military defeats but so far this has not happened.

Air strikes have made it revert to semi-guerrilla tactics, not holding ground against superior forces backed by airpower but counter-attacking briskly when they have moved on or their lines of communication have become longer and more vulnerable. Given the difficulty in capturing Tikrit, it does not look as if an assault on Mosul will be possible for a long time. There seems to be no enthusiasm on the government side [to] retake Fallujah, although it is so much closer to the capital.

Whatever happens in Iraq and Yemen, the political temperature of the region is getting hotter by the day. Looked at from a Saudi and Gulf monarchy point of view, Iran and the Shia are on the advance, becoming either the dominant or the most powerful influence in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria have linked their futures inextricably and fatally to Isis and other al-Qaeda type organisations. These have military strength, but they make many powerful enemies.

The confrontations between Sunni and Shia, and between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Iran and its allies, is becoming deeper and more militarised. Conflicts cross-infect and exacerbate each other, preventing solutions to individual issues. Thus Saudi intervention in Yemen reduces the chance of a US-Iranian agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme and sanctions. As these conflicts and divisions spread, the chances of creating a common front that is capable of destroying the Islamic State are getting fewer by the day.

Snipe video


This video shows a Gallinago gallinago, a snipe, in nature reserve De Wilck in the Netherlands, 24 March 2015.

Adri de Groot made this video.

Iraq at war, new film


This video from the USA says about itself:

The Iraq War From The Frontline

Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq (2004) – The definitive grassroots view of the Iraqi invasion.

Seven months after war was declared over, journalist Sean Langan arrived in Iraq. He spent three months living in the notorious Sunni triangle, deftly moving between resistance fighters and the American troops. Travelling where few journalists dare to go and filming alone, the producer has captured a rare grassroots view of the war still raging across Iraq.

From The BRussells Tribunal in Belgium:

LIGHT IN TIME TO COME???

In cooperation with the BRussells Tribunal, film production company the Wizard is working on a documentary about Iraq for a large audience.

We are interested in the question what the future of Iraq will look like.

On the TV screen and in the mainstream media, Iraq is a country that is only known as being embroiled in never-ending wars. For most Western people, Iraq – and the Middle East in general – is a place where backward religious wars are being waged between belligerent ethnic and religious fractions – such as Shia and Sunnis -, where fundamentalists are trying hard to push us back to the Middle Ages.

Thanks to the propaganda of the corporate media, many people don’t realize that the so-called highly developed Western world has been trying to dominate and occupy the region for hundreds of years. Remember the Crusades, remember the illegal war of aggression in 2003 and the bombing of Libya.

In this documentary we question Iraqis and Westerners about their perspectives and how they see the future for Iraq and the Middle East. We also ask them what kind of support Westerners could offer to the people of Iraq and the Middle-East.

In our next newsletter you will read more about the project.

Osama Abdulrasol concert

The music score for the film is composed by Iraqi musician Osama Abdulrasol. During his concert on April 21 in Brussels, the music score will be played before a live audience. You can attend this event yourself and meet with the director of the documentary, Luc Pien, who will present the first fragments of the documentary.

20:00 Welcome by Lieven De Cauter, president of the BRussells Tribunal

20:10 Concert part 1

20:45 The documentary by Luc Pien

21:00 Concert part 2

21:30 Drink + meeting with the musicians and the filmdirector

We highly recommend this concert, especially when you live in Belgium. The cast of musicians Osama Abdulrasol brings with him is outstanding. Here you can buy tickets for this event.

This music video says about itself:

Sumerian harp القيثارة السومرية -Osama Abdulrasol

28 March 2013

Osama Abdulrasol, Qanun/ kanun player, composer & producer. playing solo Qanun

New book about owls


This video is called True Facts About The Owl.

From The Sound Approach site:

Undiscovered owls – Magnus Robb and the Sound Approach invite you into the mysterious, magical and twilight world of owls.

Undiscovered owls will be available to purchase in April 2015, however you can PRE-PURCHASE your copy NOW and have it delivered the moment it arrives at Sound Approach HQ.

Explore the twilight world of owls that you can hear in your garden, the park or woods with this lyrical investigation into their sounds. Listen to previously unpublished digital stereo recordings of the owls of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, illustrated with annotated sonograms. Enjoy paintings and photographs, often of the individuals recorded. Learn how to research into evolution, behaviour and sounds invite us to recognise a dozen new owl species.

Share the thrill of closing in on a huge fish owl found only a handful of times before, the rarest owl in our region. Travel to rugged desert mountains, where the authors chanced upon a previously undiscovered owl, the first new Arabian bird species for nearly 80 years. Learn to listen like an owl and maybe you could find the next one.

Brought to you by the team of obsessives that produced Petrels night and day.

Australian priest blames victim for her murder


Jill Meagher, who was murdered in Melbourne. Photograph: Facebook/PR Image/AAP

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Jill Meagher‘s family criticise Catholic priest over ‘disgusting’ claim

Priest reportedly told students at a Melbourne primary school that if Meagher had been more ‘faith filled’ she would have been home and ‘not walking down Sydney Road at 3am’

This victim blaming is even worse for being part of a sermon to primary school children.

Merran Hitchick

Sunday 29 March 2015 06.36 BST

A Catholic priest in Melbourne has reportedly been criticised for a speech in which he said Jill Meagher would have been at home instead of out on the night she was raped and killed if she was more “faith filled”.

Meagher was murdered by Adrian Bayley after a night out Melbourne in September 2012. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The priest delivered his homily at an end-of-term service for a Catholic primary school in Melbourne on Friday and radio station 3AW reported he held up a newspaper article with a picture of Bayley on it to make his point. The report says he told a crowd of about 100 that if Meagher had been more “faith filled” she would have been home and “not walking down Sydney Road at 3am”.

Meagher’s family were outraged by the report and said it was a “stupid thing to say”.

“Adrian Bayley was out there that night looking for a victim and found her,” Joan Meagher, Jill Meagher’s mother-in-law told the Irish Independent. “He was looking for anyone, it didn’t matter to him who the person was.

Thomas Meagher, Jill’s husband, put a statement on Facebook calling the comments “disgusting”.

“What a truly abhorrent lesson to teach a child,” he wrote. “How a human being with such dangerous and misogynistic views can be allowed pass those messages onto children is depressing. Shameful.”

The Catholic Church has apologised for the comments, the Age reports, with one official saying the church did not support the “totally inappropriate” and offensive” comments.

Monsignor Greg Bennett, vicar-general of the archdiocese of Melbourne, went on radio to apologise.

“I’ve spoken with the priest; he acknowledges that the homily wasn’t appropriate and apologises for the offence and upset it has caused,” he told 3AW.

“The reference to Jill Meagher in particular was offensive and inappropriate and the people of Victoria and Ireland mourn her sad and tragic death.

See also here.

Giant manta ray at play, video


This video, recorded off Peru, says about itself:

Curious giant manta ray surprises manta researcher! The manta researcher was collecting a photo ID, used to monitor population trends that can help identify the effects of fishing pressure on this population of manta rays.

Full story here.

See also here.

Gingko biloba trees and chemistry


This video is called Ginkgo biloba: A Tree that Conquers Time.

From the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis:

Advancement in the chemical analysis and quality control of flavonoid in Ginkgo biloba

14 March 2015

Highlights

• The ginkgo flavonoid related articles (from 2009 to 2014) were reviewed.

• Chemical composition and routine analysis of ginkgo flavonoid were summarized.

• Evaluation criterion of ginkgo flavonoid purification was discussed.

• Direct and indirect quantitative methods of ginkgo flavonoid were compared.

Abstract

Flavonoids are the main active constituents in Ginkgo biloba L., which have been suggested to have broad-spectrum free-radical scavenging activities. This review summarizes the recent advances in the chemical analysis of the flavonoids in G. biloba and its finished products (from 2009 to 2014), including chemical composition, sample preparation, separation, detection and different quality criteria.

More than 70 kinds of flavonoids have been identified in this plant. In this review, various analytical approaches as well as their chromatographic conditions have been described, and their advantages/disadvantages are also compared. Quantitative analyses of Ginkgo flavonoids applied by most pharmacopeias start with an acidic hydrolysis followed by determination of the resulting aglycones using HPLC.

But increasing direct assay of individual flavonol glycosides found that many adulterated products were still qualified by the present tests. To obtain an authentic and applicable analytical approach for quality evaluation of Ginkgo and its finished products, related suggestions and opinions in the recent publications are mainly discussed in this review. This discussion on chemical analyses of Ginkgo flavonoids will also be found as a significant guide for widely varied natural flavonoids.

This video from Harvard University in the USA says about itself:

The Ginkgo’s Secrets

Gingko expert Peter Del Tredici shares highlights about his favorite “living fossil” at the Arnold Arboretum.