Focal Points Blog

Buddhism and Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar

Rohingya Muslims: object of Myanmar Buddhists’ enmity. (Photo: EU-ECHO / Flickr)

Rohingya Muslims: object of Myanmar Buddhists’ enmity. (Photo: EU-ECHO / Flickr)

Myanmar is undergoing a state of upheaval and transformation. As of now, the country is experiencing changes on the political, economic and social frontiers.

Amidst such transitions, Myanmar is also witnessing increased cases of religious intolerance. In spite of its rich cultural heritage and legacy of socio-religious harmony, present-day Myanmar is surely not the best place for its religious minorities.

Recently, the government of Myanmar proposed a law that seeks to impose a virtual ban on religious conversions (any case of religious conversion will need prior approval of the state). This proposed law is just one of the many recent ones that are being put into effect to target the country’s religious minorities: there are plans to outlaw interfaith marriages, and also to limit the birth rate among non-Buddhist families residing in Myanmar.
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We All Have Nuclear Stories of Our Own

 

Nuclear Test for FPIF

Today “the Bomb” is only one of a number of existential threats. (Photo: Public domain)

While on vacation, the editor is re-running old posts that have retained their timeliness.

“Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details. … almost everyone seems to feel adequately informed by reading one book about nuclear war.”
– Paul Brians, chronicler of nuclear imagery in literature and pop culture

Some of us are oblivious to the threat of nuclear war; others shrink from it in fear. Many operate under the assumption that there’s no longer anything to worry about because we survived the Cold War intact. Besides, there’s always deterrence. Like a trusty old shotgun in the corner, we try to reassure ourselves, it’s served us well for 50 years.
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The Hungarian Horseradish

 

According to Bob Foster,  to Hungarians who live in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish. (Dennis Jarvis / Flickr)

According to Bob Foster, to Hungarians who live in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish. (Photo: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

In East-Central Europe, the Hungarians are something of an anomaly. They are not Slavic. They don’t speak a Slavic language. Even their origins are hotly contested, as some Hungarian nationalists have challenged the conventional “Finno-Ugric” explanation that present day Hungarians and Finns both derive from older Eurasian tribes. Instead, they argue that the Magyars derive from the ancient Scythians or even the more ancient Sumerians.

The physicists on the Manhattan project had an equally unlikely theory: Hungarians came from Mars. The sheer number of Hungarian scientists with otherworldly capacities – Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, John von Neumann – perplexed the envious non-Hungarians. That they found the Hungarian language impenetrable only reinforced their belief in heavenly origins. Even more strangely, this particular argument reappeared in a 2000 statement of a leading member of the current ruling party in Hungary when he said that “While human DNA has two or three spirals within a given length, the DNA of the Hungarian race has nine … which is identical to the number of rotations of light from the planet Sirius when it reaches the Earth. The cosmic origin of Hungarian intelligence, the Hungarian soul and the Hungarian minds is a result of this fact.”
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Rise of ISIS Downfall of Maliki

Maliki: just another ruler done in by paranoia and corruption. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Maliki: just another ruler done in by paranoia and corruption. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Looks like we’ll finally see the back of Nuri al-Maliki — One of the Wrongest Horses the U.S. Ever Backed. Haider al-Abadi may replace him if he can win a majority vote in Iraq’s parliament. At Politico Magazine, James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, writes:

This is an extraordinary turn of events for a leader who did better than ever in the March 2014 elections, garnering a personal vote tally of 700,000, far more than any rival.

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ISIS Leader a Product of Zarqawi and US Detention

ISIS leader Baghdadi was interned at Camp Bucca in Iraq for five years. (Photo: Tyler Lasure / Flickr)

ISIS leader Baghdadi was interned at Camp Bucca in Iraq for five years. (Photo: Tyler Lasure / Flickr)

In 2004, current Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a member of uber-thug Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (then also known as Al Qaeda in Iraq). He was picked up in a U.S. raid on a home in Fallujah and detained in U.S-run Camp Bucca in Iraq for five years.
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Sending Weapons to Syria Is a Tried and True Mistake

Supporters of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi at a Muslim Brotherhood rally. (Photo: Yuli Weeks, VOA / Wikimedia Commons)

Supporters of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi at a Muslim Brotherhood rally. (Photo: Yuli Weeks, VOA / Wikimedia Commons)

On November 29, 1981, an ordinary day in the bustling Damascus neighborhood of Azbakiyah, droves of Syrian pedestrians on Baghdad Street moved in and out of their apartments and offices. Some were children visiting their friends. Many were high-ranking intelligence functionaries working to foil subversive plots against the state.

It was a tense time. The Muslim Brotherhood was at war with the Syrian government and had been detonating car bombs all over Damascus. In August, Brotherhood agents leveled an attack near the Prime Minister’s office and, in September, leveled another one near a government agency. Indoctrinated in Islamist dogma and trained at camps in the region, these terrorist bandits were slick, ruthless, and determined to wreak havoc. At the time, their jihad was against the non-believers of Hafez Al-Assad’s Ba’ath Party and its military cronies spread throughout the country.
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Emergency Airstrikes on ISIS Immediately Blossom Into Long-term Strategy

A Kurd temple of the Yazidi, many of whom have fled to Mount Sinjar. (Photo: Jan Sefti / Flickr)

A Kurd temple of the Yazidi, many of whom have fled to Mount Sinjar. (Photo: Jan Sefti / Flickr)

“Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq’s human rights minister told Reuters,” reported the New York Times yesterday (Aug. 10, 2014). “Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.”

ISIS obviously needs to be stopped. On Saturday, President Obama said that humanitarian assistance airdrops for those trapped in ISIS, such as the Yazidi who sought refuge on Mount Sinjar, would be an ongoing project. Not only that ― the United States would continue to mount airstrikes against ISIS for months. In the New York Times, Michael Shear and Tim Arango report:

When he announced the airstrikes on Thursday night, Mr. Obama emphasized the immediate goals of protecting Americans in Baghdad and in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, and helping to rescue the Iraqis trapped by ISIS fighters on the mountain.

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A Sad Country Full of Humor

Writer Mircea Tuglea says that all Romanians are in the “same ciorba, as we say in Romanian: the same soup.” (Photo: John Feffer)

Writer Mircea Tuglea says that all Romanians are in the “same ciorba, as we say in Romanian: the same soup.” (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

Constanta, the Romanian city on the Black Sea coast, is perhaps best known for being the place of Ovid’s exile in the first century AD when it was known as the Roman port of Tomis. The poet, having fallen afoul of Emperor Augustus for some mysterious offense, found himself at age 50 on the edge of the Roman Empire in a place where no one spoke Latin. This was no doubt a sad country for Ovid, a poet of sly good humor judging from his famous Art of Love. When I visited Constanta last year, I paid my respects to Ovid’s statue, which stands outside the history and archaeology museum in a square full of rubble from construction projects in various stages of non-completion.
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Still No Smoking Gun That Proves Ukrainian Rebels Shot Down MH17

Forensic evidence doesn’t support the case against the Syrian rebels. (Photo: Edwin Tee / Flickr)

Forensic evidence doesn’t support the case against the Syrian rebels. (Photo: Edwin Tee / Flickr)

At Consortium News, Robert Parry writes that “since the Ukrainian air disaster, there have been notable gaps between the more measured approach taken by U.S. intelligence analysts” and the approach taken by “U.S. politicians and media personalities who quickly rushed to … judgment blaming the rebels and Russia.”

It seems that

… some U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appears Ukrainian government forces were to blame, according to a source briefed on these findings.

This judgment … is based largely on the absence of U.S. government evidence that Russia supplied the rebels with a Buk anti-aircraft missile system that would be needed to hit a civilian jetliner flying at 33,000 feet, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Apathy and Denial Won’t Make ISIS Go Away

Caliphate

The Caliphate that ISIS envisions. (Photo: Flickr)

In the London Review of Books, Patrick Cockburn writes:

As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland.

“The birth of the new state,” he continues, “is the most radical change to the political geography of the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was implemented in the aftermath of the First World War.”
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