Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

August 21, 2008

A Secular Israeli Encounters China

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:52 pm

Anyone who is aware of, and interested in, the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel, should find this worth reading:

Thank God we’re Jewish

Adi Dvir says her time in China changed her perception regarding Israel’s Jewish identity

Adi Dvir

As I have never been religious, and have always supported the separation of religion and state, I always wondered what it would be like to live in a land with no religious tendencies whatsoever. In my mind, such land had all the makings of a utopia: There would be no religious fanatics dressed in 19th century garb, no holy wars, and gender equality would reign supreme.

This utopian dream was shattered, however, after I recently had the opportunity to live in such country: China. I soon found myself thanking God we have religion in Israel.

Click here to read the rest!

October 9, 2006

Nuclear Test, or Earthquake?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:33 am

Around 11:00pm Eastern (U.S.) Time on Sunday Oct. 8, the North Korean news agency reported that North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test. Stay with me for a second, and pay attention to the times.

According to the Associated Press report, the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. Monday Oct. 9 local time, which corresponds to 9:36 pm Sunday Eastern (U.S.) Time, or 01:36 Monday UTC (GMT). The AP report was stamped “11:25 PM US/Eastern,” or a bit less than two hours after the reported time of the test.

Now, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is reporting they detected an earthquake centered in North Korea, occuring at “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 10:35:27 AM” local time, or “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 01:35:27 (UTC)” — which is to say, and pretty much the exact same time as the reported nuclear test.

Incidentally, the AP quoted the North Korean news agency as saying, “there was no radioactive leakage from the site.”

Now I don’t know all that much about earthquakes, or all that much about underground nuclear weapons tests, but it seems to me that a good question to ask would be whether they look the same to seismographs (earthquake-detection equipment).

Now there has been a lot of speculation that the purported nuclear program of North Korea is all a bunch of lies, and according to this theory, the reason why Bush hasn’t attacked them (yet) is that he knows they are lies. So if we allow for that, there are three possibilities here:

  1. This was a nuclear test that “looked” like an earthquake and was detected as such.
  2. This was an earthquake, which the North Koreans opportunistically claimed to be a nuclear test.
  3. This was a nuclear test, and the U.S. is trying to make it look like an earthquake to buy time to figure out what to do.
  4. This one heckuva coincidence!

Now, the first possibility is unlikely if in fact there was no radioactive leakage. But so far we only have the work of the North Korean news agency on this, and I don’t trust them much. I’m pretty sure the U.S. and perhaps other governments can monitor radioactivity from a distance, and perhaps they’ll tell us what they find. Maybe. Because, ya’ know, an earthquake doesn’t have any readioactive leakage, either.

The third possibliity seems really unlikely — there would have to a contingency plan in advance to set something like that up, and if there’s a contingency plan, it would probably involve some more substantial response.

The second possibility seems more likely — I can actually believe that the North Korean regime would announce for several years that there is an imminent nuclear test, and wait for an earthquake they know the West will detect to claim to test occured. It is completely in character for them.

In fact, it’s even possible that the North Korean people charged with developing the nuclear weapon have done this to deceive their leader, Kim Jong Il. I’m imagining something like this: he orders them to build a nuclear weapon or be tortured to death, they either don’t know how to do it or don’t want to, so they decide the Dear Leader could be fooled by the next earthquake, so they wait for the next earthquake and tell him it’s the nuclear weapon.

The only trouble with this theory: According to the USGS “Historic Seismicity” map, most of the earthquakes in this region, at least since 1990, have been along a line that passes well to the east of the site detected today.

And oh yes, one other thing — the reported depth of the “earthquake” is “0 km” — which is pretty darn close to the surface for an earthquake, but well within the digging capabilities of North Korea.

March 7, 2006

China’s Oscar Censorship

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:26 pm

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I wonder if anyone in Hollywood cares:

Chinese TV cuts Ang Lee’s speech

The Chinese media praised Taiwan-born Ang Lee for his best director Oscar win but state TV cut part of his speech mentioning China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Lee thanked everyone in all three regions. Beijing regards Taiwan as sovereign territory and Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Ang Lee is the pride of Chinese people,” said the China Daily.

Brokeback Mountain will not be released in Chinese cinemas and can only been seen on pirate DVD.

The Chinese government refused to include it on a list of foreign films approved for domestic cinemas, a move that stops just short of an outright ban.

Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper contrasted Lee’s success with China’s controls on popular culture.

“China cannot produce a director like Ang Lee,” it claimed.

The paper praised the US for allowing creative freedom.

It would be nice if Variety would note that as well.

AFTERTHOUGHT (5:24pm): I wonder if the PRC government can really get away with having it both ways on this — bragging that a Chinese director won an Oscar, and at the same time refusing to allow the film to be shown. It may seem odd to many in China that the government will not approve a movie that produced the Oscar they seem to be so proud of.

February 28, 2006

Intel in Vietnam

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:35 pm

When Intel was founded by Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove in 1968 — that is, during the height of the Vietnam War — I’m sure they did not imagine that this would happen:

Intel Invests $300M in Vietnam Facility

Online staff — Electronic News, 2/28/2006

Intel Corp. today confirmed plans for a semiconductor assembly and test facility in Vietnam, saying it will invest $300 million for the plant in the city of Ho Chi Minh.

That would be the city formerly known as Saigon.

While the $300 million was less than expected, it is significant and the move by Intel represents the first such investment by the semiconductor industry in Vietnam, according to the company.

“Less than expected” two months ago maybe — but not less than expected two decades ago. It’s a different world.

Synagogue Destroyed; No Riots; No One Cares

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:40 pm

On February 22 — the same day the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq was bombed — the only synagogue in Tajikistan was destroyed by the Tajik government.

There have been no Jewish riots. There has been no international condemnation. In fact, it seems that nobody cares except the few Jews who know about it, which is a very small number of people since it has not been reported in the mainstream media. As Shelomo Alfassa writes:

According to “Google News,” 2,930 news articles appear for the mosque destruction, while only six exist on the synagogue destruction — and those six are really just one brief mention that has been repeated through syndication in American newspapers.

Here’s what happenned, according to a press release from the International Sephardic Leadership Council:

Destruction of the synagogue has started. (ISLC)

[T]he city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan has started to destroy an active and functioning synagogue-the only synagogue in the entire country. The 150 members of the Jewish community, mainly made up of Bukharian Jews, is elderly and poor and cannot afford to build a new synagogue.

The synagogue was built by the Jewish community a century ago. It was earmarked for demolition under plans for construction of a “Palace of Nations” (the Tajik president’s new residence). Between February 7-20, 2006 the city authorities demolished the mikva (ritual bathhouse), classroom and kosher butchery of the synagogue.

While the government claims the synagogue technically belongs to the state, Rabbi Mikhail Abdurakhmanov of Dushanbe told a human rights group, “By rights the synagogue ought to belong to the Jews who paid for its construction about 100 years ago.” He reported then that the authorities had offered a plot of land some distance from central Dushanbe, where the community could build a new synagogue. Yet, there was no way the mainly elderly congregation could afford to build a new synagogue.

Forum18 News reported Shamsuddin Nuriddinov, head of the Dushanbe Religious Affairs Department indicated the governement had no intention of offering financial compensation for the demolition of the synagogue. “Religion is separate from the state here in Tajikistan…If the Jews want to have a synagogue, let them pay for it out of their own funds.”

Never mind that they paid to build it in the first place. So the Jews pay to build a synagogue, the state declares it state property (without giving compensation), then the state destroys it and says that since it’s state property, they can’t compensate the community.

And by the way, if “Religion is separate from the state here in Tajikistan” why do they even have a “Religious Affairs Department” in the government?

Not that by destroying the mikvah, the school, and the kosher butchery, in addition to the synagogue, they are basically saying that they want there to be no Jewish life whatsoever. (For those of you who know what a mikvah is, you’ll realize that by destroying it, they are basically prohibiting Jews from reproducing, as well as from accepting converts.) Without those institutions, Jews not only can’t pray — they also can’t have children, can’t educate them, and can’t eat meat. The community is mainly “elderly and poor” and the government wants to make them more elderly, if not dead, and more poor.

And they are also trying — nearly successfully — from allowing the word to get out:

A local citizen reported that when a Jewish member of the synagogue filmed the destruction, officials threatened to break his video-camera. Reports have circulated that members of the community indicate that they have been threatened by government officials for raising their voices.

Shelomo Alfassa further writes:

Decent people of the world were horrified by the destruction of the gold-domed mosque last week, but on the same day, the destruction of an active synagogue — by a progressive government, supposedly based on civil law — was hardly even noted.

On February 22, 2006, an active synagogue, much beloved by its Jewish congregation, was destroyed after heavy construction equipment tore off the roof, crushed its concrete walls and drove through its sanctuary. This was the only active synagogue in the country of Tajikistan, a country north of Afghanistan and south of Russia. The synagogue was destroyed so the government can build a grand palace for its president. “If the Jews want to have [rebuild] a synagogue, let them pay for it out of their own funds,” said Shamsuddin Nuriddinov, head of the City of Dushanbe, Religious Affairs Department.

In regard to the mosque destruction, statements were issued from leaders around the world. President Bush stated, “I extend my deepest condolences to the people of Iraq for the brutal bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra…. The American people pledge to work with the people of Iraq to rebuild and restore the Golden Mosque of Samarra to its former glory.” He added: “The United States stands ready to do all in its power to assist the Government of Iraq to identify and bring to justice those responsible for this terrible act.”

There are some 150 Jews in Tajikistan, mostly elderly Bukharian Jews. When news of the destruction of the Tajikistan synagogue reached the Bukharian community in the United States, the news was met with shock; people whose children were brought up in that synagogue reacted in tears. Members of the Bukharian community in Atlanta, Georgia stated they worry about the Jewish cemeteries that are near the synagogue, what will happen to them?

In regard to the synagogue destruction, not one statement was made by any government of any country around the world. The only Jewish organization to speak up on this was the International Sephardic Leadership Council, of which this writer is executive director of. While the media covered some 1,000 Israeli fans of a Tel Aviv basketball team demonstrating on Saturday night against the destruction of the team’s historic arena, not one person in the main stream media has come out to address the destruction of the center of Jewish life in Tajikistan. First the government destroyed the mikvah (ritual bath), then the kosher butcher shop, now the entire synagogue.

While Iraq is 97% Islamic, Tajikistan comes in at 85% Islamic and growing. And while the Iraqi Muslims claim say the community near the gold domed mosque was there for 1000 years, the Jewish community has been in the area surrounding Tajikistan for 2000 years. And while the gold domed mosque in Iraq was built in 1905 — a little over 100 years ago — the synagogue in Tajikistan was built 100 years ago as well. Yet, everyone is quiet about this. Including Jewish organizations — this must change.

The destruction of the Tajikistan synagogue is the most disgraceful act committed by a sovereign state toward its Jewish population since the end of WWII. The Soviet Union and its successor states may have oppressed and harassed their Jewish communities, but even at the height of Stalin’s anti-Semitic purges they did not seek to wipe every element of Jewish existence like the Tajikistan government.

It is an ominous message for a Jewish community, that while living under a government that is attempting to rebuild its economic, political and social image — it starts by wiping out the only synagogue in its country.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Jews don’t riot.

January 26, 2006

In case you thought all Jews were white Europeans…

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:12 pm

Arutz-7 headline: Translation of Torah for India’s Bnei Menashe Nearly Complete

December 28, 2005

Update from The Religion of Peace

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:30 pm

AP reports this story from the dar al-Islam:

Pakistan – Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family’s “honor” — a crime that shocked Pakistan.

Ahmed’s killing spree — witnessed by his wife Rehmat Bibi as she cradled their 3 month-old baby son — happened Friday night at their home in the cotton-growing village of Gago Mandi in eastern Punjab province.

Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helplessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls — Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 — pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise alarm.

“I was shivering with fear. I did not know how to save my daughters,” Bibi, sobbing, told AP by phone from the village. “I begged my husband to spare my daughters but he said, ‘If you make a noise, I will kill you.’”

“The whole night the bodies of my daughters lay in front of me,” she said.

But he had a reason, you see:

Speaking to AP in the back of police pickup truck late Tuesday as he was shifted to a prison in the city of Multan, Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had [allegedly] committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn’t want them to do the same when they grew up.

“I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated,” he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven.

Read that last paragraph again. He killed his own 8-, 7-, and 4-year-old daughters, because they might, someday in the distant future, commit adultery.

This is utter insanity — in the name of the “religion of peace,” no less!

Even in case of the older daugher — the one who was actually married and therefore theoretically capable of committing adultery — the adultery accusation sounds like a hoax:

Despite Ahmed’s contention that Muqadas had committed adultery — a claim made by her husband — the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.

Police have said they do not know the identity or whereabouts of Muqadas’ alleged lover.

But don’t worry! Like any good leftist, Ahmed endorses the standard liberal line on the “root causes” of crime:

“We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor.”

Now all he has to do is write a childrens’ book about “honor,” and the Tookie-supporters will set up a legal defense fund and demonstrate for his release.

(Hat tip: Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, who blames President Bush and his “Religion of Peace” rhetoric.)

July 19, 2005

The Gulag of North Korea

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:47 pm

I think the story of the horrible torture and deliberate starvation of North Koreans by the government of North Korea is not getting enough attention here in the U.S. — or anywhere else where this blog is readable, for that matter.

As a reminder, consider this story:

A North Korean defector who survived 10 years in a prison labor camp said he told President Bush last month that the United States should do more to help those who flee the communist regime.

‘The people who are at the camps, the [North Korean] government wants to kill them all,’ Kang Chol-hwan said in an interview with The Washington Times. ‘Instead of executing them, they kill them slowly, making them work in forced labor. That was the hardest part.’
Mr. Kang, 37, said prisoners are fed very small portions of corn and salt that make it ‘impossible to survive’ without additional food. As a result, prisoners survive by eating cooked rats and snakes, and live lizards, he said.

And these are the lucky ones.

(Hat tip: The Amateur Economist)

March 14, 2005

China’s NPC authorizes force against Taiwan

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:00 pm

CNN is reporting that the (People’s Republic of) China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) has passed a resolution authorizing Beijing to use force against Taiwan to prevent it from formally declaring its independence. (Taiwan has, of course, been independent in practice since 1949, but the Beijing regime is very much against anyone saying so, and saying so is rather controversial in Taiwan as well, since this would implicitly recognize (legitimize?) Communist control of the mainland.)

Now given the form of government in Beijing, the fact that the National People’s Congress (all of whose members are appointed by said government) does not really change anything legally. From the standpoint of legality in use there, they could have used force just as easily last week as this week.

However, the fact that they bothered to have the NPC pass this, and that they announced it, shows that they really want to remind everyone that they reserve the “right” to use force against Taiwan. And this is rather worrisome, especially in light of the fact that they are increasing the number of missiles aimed at Taiwan. And the fact that much of the U.S. military is presently occupied elsewhere (Iraq, Afghanistan, probably standing by for North Korea, Syria, etc.).

(Hat tip: Matt Drudge for both links.)

Iwo Jima (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:30 am

Following up on this post: Veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima returned to the island recently to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 36-day battle. Here’s an interesting article by James Brooke in the New York Times. Brooke includes some discussion of the Japanese point of view, which is not particlarly flattering, from my perspective. (Though the article makes no judgements, really — for the NYT, it’s suprisingly evenhanded.) He also points out that, “In the 35-day fight for this eight-square-mile volcanic island, 6,821 marines and Navy personnel were killed, more than four times the number of American troops killed in two years in Iraq.” And in the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9-10, 1945, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 were killed — more than by either atomic bomb, a point also made here. (I’m not sure I completely agree with that article, but it definitely makes some good points.)

War is hell. And it was even more hell then than it is now.

February 23, 2005

Iwo Jima

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:34 pm

Flag over Iwo Jima

PowerLine notes that it was sixty years ago today — February 23, 1945 — that six Marines raised the American Flag on Iwo Jima, on day five of a 36-day battle.

The flag raisers: Three of those Marines were killed later in the battle: Mike Strank, Harlon Block, and Franklin Sousley. The others were uniform in denying their own heroism and paying tribute to their buddies, especially those who didn’t make it back.

The battle: Out of a force of 110,000 American Marines, 6,825 were killed (twice as many as the number of people killed on 9/11/01), and 19,026 were wounded. The Japanese defended the island with 22,000 soldiers. The Japanese strategy was “no Japanese survivors” and the goal was for each Japanese to kill 10 Americans before being killed himself. They didn’t achieve that goal, but the did achieve, or nearly achieve, the goal of “no Japanese survivors.” A description of the battle is here.

Marine Corps Memorial

The aftermath: “The Marines’ effort provided a vital link in the U.S.chain of bomber bases. By war’s end, 2,400 B-29 bombers carrying 27,000 crewman had made emergency landings on Iwo Jima.

There is a fascinating story about a sermon given at the memorial service held for fallen Marines on the island immediately after the battle.

And of course, the famous photo above became the model for the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial and other similar memorials around the country.

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