Blogs

The Rape of Sabrine

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 4:57 PM PST

In the southern part of Baghdad, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman was taken from her home by security forces -- the ones Bush and Rice love to talk about -- who proceeded to gang rape her. From shame and fear, many Iraqi women would remain silent. But Sabrine went on Al Jazeera and in a hoarse voice, with only her eyes visible, told what happened. What follows is a translation of what she said provided by Riverbend, who writes the girl blog from Baghdad. You can read it at riverbendblog.blogspot.com.

"…I told him, 'I don't have anything [I did not do anything].' He said, 'You don't have anything?' One of them threw me on the ground and my head hit the tiles. He did what he did -- I mean he raped me. The second one came and raped me. The third one also raped me. [Pause- sobbing] I begged them and cried, and one of them covered my mouth. [Unclear, crying] Another one of them came and said, 'Are you finished? We also want our turn.' So they answered, 'No, an American committee came.' They took me to the judge."
Anchorwoman: Sabrine Al Janabi said that one of the security forces videotaped/photographed her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the rape. Another officer raped her after she saw the investigative judge.
Sabrine continuing:
"One of them, he said… I told him, 'Please -- by your father and mother -- let me go.' He said, 'No, no -- by my mother's soul I'll let you go -- but on one condition, you give me one single thing.' I said, 'What?' He said, '[I want] to rape you.' I told him, 'No- I can't.' So he took me to a room with a weapon… It had a weapon, a Klashnikov, a small bed [Unclear], he sat me on it. So [the officer came] and told him, 'Leave her to me.' I swore to him on the Quran, I told him, 'By the light of the Prophet I don't do such things…' He said, 'You don't do such things?' I said, 'Yes'."
[Crying] "He picked up a black hose, like a pipe. He hit me on the thigh. [Crying] I told him, 'What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you rape me? But I can't… I'm not one of those ***** [Prostitutes] I don't do such things.' So he said to me, 'We take what we want and what we don't want we kill. That's that.' [Sobbing] I can't anymore… please, I can't finish."

What more do the members of Congress need for a war crimes investigation? How many more war crimes are we going to sluff off, claiming we had nothing to do with them? These are our people. We put them there. Will McCain read Sabrine? What about Hillary? What about the brave new members of the so-called progressive Democratic party? Where is Speaker Pelosi? Levin of the Armed Services Committee? Biden? Warner and all those genteel Republicans whose consciences are stricken by the war?

Stand up ladies and gentlemen of the Congress. Let us for once hear from you.

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Columnist, Tired Of Doing the Woman Beat, Resigns From Chicago Paper

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 4:46 PM PST

In The China Syndrome, Jane Fonda's character, Kimberly Wells, is sick and tired of getting stupid assignments like covering the birthday parties of animals at the local zoo, but those are the only assignments she can get because she is a woman. Yet even Kimberly would be shocked by Debra Pickett's assignment from the Chicago Sun-Times: Her editor told her to breast-feed her son in public places and write about it.

Pickett said she didn't take the assignment seriously, and that she seen other assignments that began with "an outrageous premise" get negotiated into something workable. But this time, the situation was different for Pickett, who was close to returning to her job after taking a maternity leave. She tried to contact the managing editor, with whom she expected to negotiate the story, but she could not. Pickett says she felt the "ground had shifted" under her feet while she was gone, and her inability to reach the managing editor didn't help.

Pickett had written about her family in her column, and says that "that was fine, a lot of fun, but it's not necessarily who you want to be your entire life." She wanted to write about Africa and the AIDS problem, but says the newspaper staff kept pushing back into her husband-and-child niche. "The Sun-Times," Pickett says, "has a great staff writing about politics; an assignment to go forth and breast-feed is a pretty blunt way of being told your services won't be required for that coverage."

Kimberly Wells had her epiphany in 1979. Funny how little things have changed, despite what I hear from younger feminists.

It's Time to Point Something Out About Newsweek Covers

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 3:00 PM PST

Namely, that they are all the same.

The most recent cover of Newsweek has a single figure on a white background, with a coverline in heavy black text and a single word printed in red for emphasis. Don't think that this stark look -- with its solitary figure and harsh colors -- was chosen because it makes sense for a story on depression amongst American men. It was chosen because Newsweek has used the same look on roughly 50% of its covers in the last three months.

Take a look below. They clearly have research that tells them exactly how to sell magazines.

 newsweek_cover_1.jpg  newsweek_cover_2.jpg  newsweek_cover_3.jpg  newsweek_cover_4.jpg

John Schellnhuber's Third Industrial Revolution, a New Approach to Addressing the Hazards of Global Warming

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 12:22 PM PST

One of the topical lectures offered at this year's annual meeting of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), wrapping today in San Francisco, sees John Schellnhuber expanding on his 12 global warming tipping points (Mother Jones Nov/Dec 2006).

Schellnhuber's impeccable credentials (founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, James Martin Fellow at Oxford University, Chief Government Adviser on climate for the German G8 and European Union twin presidency in 2007) underscore his brilliant and impassioned message: we need a Third Industrial Revolution to achieve a sustainable future on planet Earth.

"We've lost almost a decade in my field debating the climate change models," he says. There's no time to waste. He describes the "2-degree guardrail" (3.6 degrees F). If we can keep global warming at or below 2 degrees C, we may prevent the 12 tipping points from tipping. Whereas even minute increases above 2-degree C are likely to initiate cascades of catastrophe impossible to reverse.

The only way to hold to the 2-degree line is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Currently the world is still accelerating its production of greenhouse emissions. You do the math.

"Eternity," says Schellnhuber, "lasts a very long time, especially towards the end."

He shows an animation of the 12 tipping points tipping each other one after another and then swirling around in a vortex of chaos. "I can stop it," he says, "but only in virtual reality."

To stop it in reality, he argues we must induce innovation. "People think innovation is manna from heaven and will simply happen," he says. Not true—though we know what's encouraged it in the past. "World War II was the biggest inducer of innovation on this planet," he says, and an example of how we need to pour our collective resources into a new war, a new fight for our survival.

Nicholas Stern's report to the British government said that the only way to hold the 2-degree C line is to induce innovation. Meanwhile, says Schellnhuber, the past two decades have seen a dramatic decline in research and development in energy, exactly the reverse of what's needed.

We need to reinvent the way we live on the land and in cities, Schellnhuber says—including breaking the urbanization mold. Our cities have been built to maximize automobile traffic. But urban life as we know it is not sustainable: it's nonadaptive to global warming, as well as being a major contributor to global warming.

As for security, Schellnhuber refers to a global analysis of a future where the tipping points have already tipped. The results are wars, civil wars, and an overall "climate of violence."

As for the solution, "it's the portfolio, stupid." We need to mix it up with all the renewables—hydrothermal, wind, solar, biofuels—with solar being our best bet since it's evenly distributed across the spectrum of rich and poor nations, thereby minimizing the tendency to horde with all its geopolitical consequences. The European Union is already talking about linking a renewable energy grid across the continent.

Schellnhuber's PowerPoint presentation and lecture should be required listening for all presidents, prime ministers, members of congresses and parliaments, CEOs, CFOs, state legislatures, middle and high school students, parents and prospective parents.

On the average-joe level, why not include its message in driver's ed? We're taught the dangers of drunk driving and other forms of recklessness. Why not the hazards of our own fossil-fuel consumption? It's arguably more dangerous to more of us that we'll never meet than any other activity we engage in. Why not start the Third Industrial Revolution with a question on the driving exam: "What's the single biggest thing you can do behind the wheel to save the lives of your children and grandchildren not even in the car?"

Breaking News: Britney Shaves Head, Gets Tattoo

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 11:17 AM PST

Was she just drunk, or, after dispatching Fed-Ex, has she decided to bat for the other team?

More likely the former than the latter, but no one knows for sure. Britney is reported to have grabbed the clippers from the aghast stylist's hands and chopped off her girly locks herself. And a series of sketchy reports places Brit in and out of rehab.

Maybe she's making a statement about how little she has to do to be mobbed by the press. Or how absurd conventional notions of beauty are? (One fan who stood outside the tattoo parlor while Britney got inked told the camera crews also on the spot, "Her head is completely shaved. It looks terrible.") Or maybe Brit's just gone from imitating Madonna to imitating Sinéad O'Connor. Congress, watch out!

Americans Vote on Top Presidents

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 9:22 AM PST

Happy Presidents' Day, everybody. Remember to get your apostrophe after the "s"!

In time for the holiday, Gallup has polled Americans on who they think are the top presidents in history. Results:

1. Abraham Lincoln (18%)
2. Ronald Reagan (16%)
3. John F. Kennedy (14%)
4. Bill Clinton (13%)
5. Franklin Roosevelt (9%)

Those five are followed by George Washington, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Thomas Jefferson, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that those last two are a recency effect. Your thoughts?

Oh, and PS - From The Nation via Alternet, a discussion of the worst presidents of all time.

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Brit Hume, Hatchetman

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 9:14 AM PST

I couldn't agree more with this post by Glenn Greenwald at Salon. It's high time someone pointed out that Brit Hume is a vicious partisan hack, and should not be treated like a legitimate member of the objective news media.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out Hume's angry diatribe about John Murtha from over the weekend. It's petulant, pissy, and almost completely personal -- Murtha is senile, Murtha is pathetic -- and yet after Hume leaves the bloviator's realm of the Sunday morning talk show, he is welcomed back into the journalistic fold during the work week. Amazing.

It Gets Readers, So Why Not: Senator Bill Clinton

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 8:49 AM PST

"Current rank: #1 of 13,714 articles"

That's one of the first things you see when you go to this story on Examiner.com called, "Some mull idea of Sen. Bill Clinton," and it goes a long way to explaining why the story was written at all.

There are three reasons why this story would be written: (1) There is genuine interest among Democratic activists and party insiders in seeing Bill Clinton appointed to Hillary Clinton's open Senate seat should she be elected president. (2) The political campaigns are really gearing up and political reporters are looking for any angle at all in order to find new stories. (3) The story is guaranteed to get read -- a lot.

The answer is some combination of the three, of course, but one can't help but wonder if (2) and (3) are more prevalent, considering all the Democratic activists and party insiders quoted in the article are old Clinton hands. Witness:

"As a senator, he'd be a knockout... He knows issues, he loves public policy and he's a good politician." -- Harold Ickes. Ickes was deputy White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton.

"President Clinton would excel in the Senate... He excelled as attorney general and governor of Arkansas, he excelled as president and he's been a model of the modern Senate spouse." -- Paul Begala. Begala was one of the top consultants in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and served as an aide in the White House.

"Clinton is a natural for the Senate... He loves to talk and schmooze. He could be a great vote-organizer. Majority Leader Clinton?" -- Larry Sabato. Sabato has no ties to Clinton that I can see, but he was once called "the most quoted college professor in the land" by the Wall Street Journal because of his readiness to give quotes to reporters.

There is some legitimate analysis here: as a senator Bill Clinton would have a real role to play in Washington, and as a result the Clinton-Clinton team wouldn't have to figure out Bill's "First Husband" role in the White House. Would the American people be okay with Bill meddling in Hillary's presidential business? The reverse situation was awfully touchy ten years ago; Senator Bill Clinton avoids the question.

The Examiner article doesn't mention the plain fact that Americans do not like dynastic politics, but really, that minor oversight is not the issue. The issue is that a reporter called a bunch of ardent Clinton supporters and asked about something that is likely to excite them and -- surprise! -- got the quotes he wanted. The story, in a word, feels manufactured. We'll see if it goes anywhere.

Update: Newsweek has a short article on the power dynamics of the various husband-wife teams aiming for the White House. It notes that none of the major Democrats seeking nomination have gone through divorces and all have powerful, intelligent, charismatic spouses, whereas all of the Republicans -- with the exception of Mitt Romney -- have gone through more wives than a member of the Saudi royal family.

Dog Parts Deemed Too Hot for School Libraries

| Sun Feb. 18, 2007 3:55 PM PST

hpol.jpg
Susan Patron's book, The Higher Power of Lucky, won the prestigious Newberry Award—meaning, it's a really good children's book.

No matter, librarians across the country are refusing to put it on the shelves.

That's because one of its thousands of words is "scrotum." Which is weird, but not worthy of a ban. The protagonist of the book overhears a conversation about a dog being bitten on the scrotum by a rattlesnake. She then endeavors to understand the meaning of this strange word. After all, she's 10 and naturally curious about things adults won't explain to her.

But librarians are refusing to stock the book because they don't want to have to explain the word to students.

Let me help: when boy dogs aren't fixed, it's the thingy that hangs down between their back legs.

We're not even talking about human parts, here—we're talking about dog parts that are out in the open for the world to see. Kids might see dog scrotums at such time-honored kid hangouts as the park. Do they not ask there what they are? I mean, isn't talking about body parts in an utterly non-sexual way the best way to introduce soon-to-be sex ed-aged students to the strange ways of nature? Or should we banish all anatomical words from the language since, clearly, it's the words not the parts themselves that inspire young people to have sex?

A Detainee's Story: NYT and MoJo

| Sun Feb. 18, 2007 11:05 AM PST

The Times has an excellent article today about a man named Laith al-Ani who was held for two years by the Americans in Iraq even though he was never accused of any wrong doing. It's a fascinating look at his personal saga and the state of the detention system in Iraq more generally. The use of Tasers plays a big role. Well worth a read.

In our September/October issue of last year, Mother Jones wrote a similar article, titled "A Detainee's Story: The Man Who Has Been to America." The detainee in our story had been through quite an experience -- "four prisons, three countries, two years," including a trip to Guantanamo. Check it out as well.