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From today's New York Times:

BAGHDAD, March 5 — The book market along Mutanabi Street was a throwback to the Baghdad of old, the days of students browsing for texts, turbaned clerics hunting down religious tomes and cafe intellectuals debating politics over backgammon.

Somehow it survived the war, until Monday, when a powerful suicide car bomb hit the market, slicing through the heart of the capital’s intellectual scene. It killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 65.

In the hours after the noontime explosion, books and stationery, some tied in charred bundles, littered the block. Plumes of black smoke billowed above ornate buildings dating to the Ottoman Empire. The storied Shahbandar cafe, where elderly writers puffed away the afternoon on water pipes, lay in ruins.

Firefighters unleashed powerful sprays of water, only to have flames reignite because the paper had been transformed into kindling.

This part of Baghdad dates back centuries, to the era when the Abbasid caliphate ruled over the Islamic world. On Monday, victims lacerated by shrapnel were carried over shards of glass to waiting ambulances.

“There are no Americans or Iraqi politicians here — there are only Iraqi intellectuals who represent themselves and their homeland, plus stationery and book dealers,” said Abdul Baqi Faidhullah, 61, a poet who frequently visits the street. “Those who did this are like savage machines intent on harvesting souls and killing all bright minds.”

Background, from a 2005 salon.com article.
Further background, from a 2006 Washington Post article.
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I understand that the following incident (from November 2006) has been well-publicized in the Jewish blogosphere since December, but I only discovered it this morning at Apikorsus Online. A large proportion of my friendslist does not read Jewish blogs, so I feel justified in reposting here.

An Orthodox Jewish woman was beaten for refusing to sit at the back of the bus to the Kotel (the holiest site for Jews in Israel). Also, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz has reported on the case.

I am sick to my stomach thinking about this. Miriam Shear got up before 4 AM to go and pray. She took a bus that was officially unsegregated (and apparently there are gender-segregated public buses in Israel, much to my horror) and sat in the front, near chareidi* men. A man spat on her. Shear, being a brave woman, spat back, at which point the man and four others started physically attacking her. (Please note that, given their observance level, these men should not have been touching a woman who was not married to them at all!) Shear fought back, but no one else came to her defense. Most bystanders seem to have said things on the order of "She had it coming." There was an eyewitness willing to speak, who will testify in Shear's upcoming suit.

What kind of Jewish country is it when a Jew going to pray can be attacked by other Jews who are also going to pray? What does it mean for there to be a Jewish people at all? What kind of civilized nation thinks segregation is remotely acceptable? I simply don't understand. I don't.

One more note: Since seeing Elf's links and the Ha'aretz article, I've looked around other blogs to see what they had to say. I am not going to link to the last blog I read, nor am I going to try to engage with the virulent idiocy of some of the comments there, but I do want to say that I am literally crying and pounding the sofa with rage and disgust. God help us all.

*The word is usually translated "ultra-Orthodox", but the English term is fairly useless as description goes.
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Hello, everyone! I may not have posted lately, but I live and I have computer access. I've been meaning to finish and post a review of Snicket's The End, as well as a few stories about fabulous things I have found in libraries over the last weeks. In the meantime, I'll provide links.

The world is a depressing place, both inside and outside Lemony Snicket novels.

From the AP: Bartlett: White House Flexible on Iraq.

This news would be so much better if the figure being quoted were Jed Bartlet, president of the United States, rather than Dan Bartlett, senior White House counselor for the Shrub administration.

The Jewish Daily Forward places the Military Commissions Act in its historical context and explains what's actually wrong with it:

What is egregious about the new anti-terrorism law is not the way in which it departs from America’s legal traditions, but the way in which it continues them. It is, in fact, the latest — and by no means the worst — in a long line of assaults on the Constitution that have been enacted by Congress and various administrations during times of foreign threat. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Abraham Lincoln’s nationwide suspension of habeas corpus in 1862, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans — each of these acts entailed a massive assault on the Bill of Rights, endangering the rights of thousands of American citizens whom the government was sworn to protect from danger.

Does anyone have some good news?
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From the New York Times, here:

The convictions of dozens of death-row inmates in California are coming under legal scrutiny because of accusations that Jews and black women were excluded from juries in capital trials in Alameda County as "standard practice."

I will never consider skipping my jury duty again.
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Instead of cleaning in panic for my parents' arrival in two hours, instead of hunting for lost objects and prepping for class, I have been reading the news online.

What in hell is this?

The Kansas attorney general has requested the full medical records of women who had abortions in abortion clinics, and I quote Attorney General Phill Kline, in order "to investigate and prosecute child rape and other crimes in order to protect Kansas children." Yes. Because the way to protect Kansas survivors of child rape is to terrify them out of getting abortions.

The clinics, of course, refused the request and brought their case to the Kansas Supreme Court.

I really hope the Kansas Supreme Court sees reason.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Somewhere there is laughter,
And somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville...

unless the legal challenges get us somewhere, that is, and at the moment I doubt it.

Oh yes, and folks, remind me not to get married in Arkansas. Or Georgia. Or Michigan -- [livejournal.com profile] the_paper_nun, darling, WTF is wrong with Michigan? I thought it was cooler than that.

A poem

Nov. 2nd, 2004 12:10 am
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Because I find myself without words, I'll borrow someone else's.

Desolate Light

We turn to history looking
for vicious certainties through which
voices edged into song,

engorged fringes of anemone swaying
dreamily through deluge,

gray Lazarus bearing
the exquisite itch and ache of blood returning.

Reason has brought us
more dread than ignorance did.
Into the open
well of centuries

we gaze, and see gleaming,
deep in the black broth at the bottom,
chains of hope by which our forebears
hoisted themselves
hand over hand towards light.

But we
stand at the edge looking back in and knowing
too much to reasonably hope. Their desired light
burns us.

O dread,
drought that dries
the ground of joy till it cracks and
caves in,

O dread,
wind that sweeps up the offal of lies,
sweep my knowledge, too, into oblivion,

drop me back in the well.

No avail.

~Denise Levertov


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January 2017



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