Monday, March 31, 2003

Probably the biggest development on the aid front was written up by Felicity Barringer on page B7 of the Saturday, March 29, NY Times : "Security Council Votes to Revive Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq."

"Fifteen hands were raised in unanimous assent today as the Security Council gave Secretary General Kofi Annan temporary authority to provide food and medicine to Iraq through a seven-year-old program that was suspended on the eve of the war.

"The passage of the resolution renewing the oil-for-food program for 45 days under the temporary control of the United Nations represented a brittle truce between Council members after a week of feuding over the scope and intent of the authorization. But it did not resolve the larger question of who would control a postwar Iraqi administration.

Barringer further notes: "The resolution had gone through at least seven separate drafts in the past week, diplomats said, as Russia and Syria argued that the original language effectively condoned the war and anticipated the replacement of Saddam Hussein's government.

"Tonight [March 28] the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the resolution represented a 'technical decision of a temporary character' that 'does not mean the legitimization of the military action' of the American and British forces.

"The resolution had become a battleground in part because the countries that had opposed the resort to military force were suspicious that the resolution on aid would be a Trojan horse setting out the preconditions for an American-led reconstruction period in Iraq." [see Stickfinger below: "Bechtel Top Contender in Bidding Over Iraq"; also Rumsfeld's quote of last Thursday: "I don't believe the United States has the responsibility for reconstruction" of Iraq after the war.]

In addition to "$2.4 billion worth of food, medicine and other emergency essentials," Barringer writes that the program is prepared to deliver "$6.5 billion in other goods." But: "It is unclear how much of that material is positioned close enough to Iraq to be available for use in the next few weeks, or whether the military situation will be secure enough for it to be distributed."

Also, "a group of United Nations agencies, including the World Food Program, opened an appeal for $2.2 billion in emergency relief supplies to cover a six-month period.

"The food program is appealing for $1.3 billion of the total, which, its officials said, could represent the largest aid effort undertaken to date.

The deputy secretary general of the U.N. told a news conference on Friday [again, March 28] that while all of the U.N.'s non-Iraqi workers had been pulled out when the war started, "at least 3,000 Iraqi workers remain to distribute supplies." [quote from the article, not the dep sec gen]

And last, but not least, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte is quoted as saying the U.S. "will facilitate the necessary coordination on the ground in Iraq between coalition authorities and the United Nations and associated relief agency staff as oil-for-food supplies and other humanitarian assistance arrive and are distributed, as circumstances on the ground permit." We'll see about that.
Still not done with Saturday's Times. "Bechtel has emerged as one of the top two contenders for the major contract to reconstruct Iraq, people involved in the bidding said." The article is titled "Bechtel Top Contender in Bidding Over Iraq" and is given pretty low-level play, running the height of page B6. But this is *exactly* the kind of thing that *everyone* should follow. Sorry to get on my high horse. But read it.
David Rohde (see Stickfinger, Friday, March 28, 2003) is on the chemical weapons path, it seems: "Chemical-Warfare School Is Found in Iraqi Barracks."

And I just found a nifty-looking site called The Rohde to Srebrenica: A Case Study of Human Rights Reporting. Awesome. I'm adding this one to my links section.
One other, minor, mention of the relief effort in Saturday's Times: "Odd Vessel Serving Allies as Truck Stop That Floats," on page B4, is about the "HSV-X1 Joint Venture, a 315-foot-long, aluminum-hull catamaran that has been modified to carry gunboats, amphibious landing craft, helicopters and marine platoons, [and] has become a seaborne forward operating base for Navy special operations forces, which are helping to clear southern Iraqi waterways of Iraqi ships and mines."

"The work of these small-boat units and commandos was critical to securing the port so that a British cargo ship, the Sir Galahad, could begin bringing food, water and medicine for Iraqi civilians into Umm Qasr's container port."

Moving to the Nation at War section of March 29, the top story, on page B1, by Jane Perlez with Marc Santora, is "British Cargo Vessel Carrying Relief Supplies Docks in a Southern Iraqi Port." (Great photo by Ian Waldie.) The Sir Galahad brought 650 tons of food and medical supplies, the article says.

According to British soldiers, write Perlez and Santora, people in the port town of Umm Qasr, where the aid ship docked, "had enough food for the next several months."

"The hospital in town, and the medical clinic, also had enough supplies. The big problem was a shortage of water, caused largely because electricity to drive the pumps, was cut. The town's electricity supply comes from Basra, they said.

"A team of United States government aid experts traveled to Umm Qasr from Kuwait City Wednesday and Thursday to assess the humanitarian situation. They concurred with the British military: there was not an immediate crisis."

In Basra, too, the article says, the biggest concern is water, rather than food or medicine.

Press and TV reporters with cameras were not invited by Britain's Royal Marines to observe the aid being handed out. "The reporters, escorted to the port from Kuwait City by the British military to witness the arrival of the aid, were kept at the dockside and not allowed to talk to people in the town.

" 'People don't want to be treated as museum pieces, or to be in a goldfish bowl,' said Col. Steve Cox, deputy commander of the Third Commando Brigade. 'When I talk to people, the word dignity comes up a lot. They don't want aid thrown at them.' "

Earlier, Perlez and Santora note, "The Kuwaiti Red Crescent has trucked food into Safwan, just across the border in Iraq, twice now. And twice the Kuwaitis have been met by crowds that quickly turned into mobs desperately trying to get whatever they could while they could — but still deeply ambivalent about whether to side with Saddam Hussein or the United States."

The top story on page 1 in the New York Times of Saturday, March 29, 2003 ("White House Says War Is 'On Track'; Show of Support: Bush Assails Hussein — Syria and Iran Warned Not to Interfere") makes just a single mention of aid to Iraq: "Mr. Bush said on Sunday that relief aid would begin flowing into Iraq within 36 hours — only to have that schedule delayed by days as British and American forces struggled to secure control of the port of Umm Qasr, and to ensure that the waters through which aid ships would pass were free of mines."

A piece on the Kurds in northern Iraq, by the way, "Kurds and G.I.'s Rout Militants in North," also page 1, still offers no translation of pesh merga.

The word pacification crops up again, as Patrick E. Tyler writes, in "Airstrikes Continue as Allies Consider Timing of a Thrust," again page 1: "A successful pacification in Najaf could radiate out to other cities in the south, most notably Basra, where residents have shown signs of willingness to revolt against well-armed Baath Party loyalists still in charge."

Tyler also reports that "the long-delayed aid ship, Sir Galahad, docked at the port of Umm Qasr at the head of the Persian Gulf and began unloading food and medical supplies. Aid workers said the aid could not yet be distributed in much of the Basra region because of the daily firefights and skirmishing that have prevented British forces from rendering the area safe.

"At the United Nations, the Security Council voted unanimously to free billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenues to purchase relief supplies, chiefly food and medicine, but also desperately needed drinking water supplies. The resolution gives the secretary general, Kofi Annan, supervisory authority over the oil-for-food program for the next 45 days.

"Aid workers have said that while many Iraqis have adequate food stocks, the population lives in poverty and 60 percent of the country's 26 million people depend on government or United Nations food handouts.

"The situation for the population of Basra remains the greatest worry for coalition forces."
Czech-made! Czechophiles may be interested to note that the current issue of The New Yorker (March 24, 2003) makes mention of "a Brno rifle made under license in Persia" allegedly used in 1920 to assassinate Colonel Gerard Leachman, "a British officer who spent the First World War in the deserts of what was then Mesopotamia, leading Bedouins in skirmishes against the Ottoman Turks. By 1920, after the League of Nations gave the British a 'mandate' to govern what was now referred to as Iraq, Leachman was trying to subdue restive Arab tribesmen. He advocated 'wholesale slaughter' as the only really effective method, and in present-day Iraq his assassin, Sheikh Dhari, is remembered as a hero and a patriot. The Sheikh's descendants gave his gun to Saddam [Hussein] as a birthday present a few years ago."

Too bad, as usual, that the story isn't posted online.
My friend Lou, who works for Reuters in Vienna, has drawn my attention to a piece he wrote that ran on the wire March 25, about the U.S. and Britain's lame attempt to prove Iraq had reinstated its nuclear-weapons program by using fake documents: "U.N. Official: Fake Iraq Nuke Papers Were Crude."
Meanwhile Robert Mugabe rages on in Zimbabwe. Ginger Thompson, writing out of Johannesburg for the Times on Friday, reported that Mugabe "boasted that he could be a 'black Hitler, tenfold.'" Allegedly he made the comment in a speech on Friday, March 21. For more comprehensive coverage of what's happening in Zimbabwe, though, I usually read the Economist. You just can't count on the Times to give it regular coverage.

Thompson writes that Zimbabwe now has inflation of "more than 150 percent, with unemployment at 70 percent, severe shortages of gasoline and more than 60 percent of its population — estimated at 11.6 million — [is] in need of food aid."

Jeez, I almost forgot. On Thursday, Rumsfeld, in the "War to Keep Going Until Regime Ends" article cited below, told a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill that there was "no intelligence to suggest that the combat had created a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and he caught the senators by surprise when he declared, 'I don't believe the United States has the responsibility for reconstruction' of Iraq after the war.

"But Mr. Rumsfeld quickly added, 'We want to participate in reconstruction,' saying that other nations would be encouraged to join the effort, and that much of the money would come from seized Iraqi assets and Iraq's oil revenues."

That does it for Friday.
Still on Friday, March 28's New York Times. A longish piece, written out of the U.N. by Felicity Barringer, ran on page B10 under the hed "Blair and Annan Confer on U.N. Role in Getting Food and Water to Iraqis."

The oil-for-food program, last mentioned in the March 27 Stickfinger, was still being held hostage to politics as John D. Negroponte, the U.S. delegate to the Security Council, walked out on a session last Thursday when "the Iraqi ambassador, Mohammed Adouri, launched into a speech criticizing the United States."

The Security Council is trying to reach agreement to reinstate the oil-for-food program, which "has been the primary source of food for 14.5 million Iraqis." [An AP article from today, March 31, "U.N. Plans Major Food Aid for Iraq," reports the population of Iraq as being 22 million. The CIA World Factbook puts it at "24,001,816."]

A page 1 story by Thom Shanker and Elisabeth Bumiller, "War to Keep Going Until Regime Ends, Bush and Blair Says," quoted Bush as saying the oil-for-food program "must not be politicized," a surefire guarantee that his administration is doing just that. Bush of course is referring to Russia and France's positions on the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.

Felicity Barringer's piece notes that the oil-for-food program currently "has $2.4 billion worth of food and medical supplies in the pipeline for Iraq" and that "United Nations officials estimate that they will have to assist at least 350,000 refugees with everything from tents to food, and will have to spend more than $60 million restoring electricity to urban areas or providing spare generators."

God, this one is chock-full of information. "Refugees International estimates that Iraq will need 80,000 metric tons of wheat immediately and 410,000 tons each month thereafter to provide full rations to the Iraqi civilian population. Its officials warn that 'nowhere near this quantity of food is ready to be shipped into Iraq.'"

"Thirteen leading private aid groups sent a letter to President Bush urging him 'to ask the United Nations to serve as the humanitarian coordinator for Iraq,' instead of having United States government aid agencies take the lead in the care of the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the homeless." The letter was signed by the CEOs of Refugees International, CARE, the Campaign for UN Reform, Mercy Corps, the United Nations Association of the U.S.A., Save the Children, Oxfam America, the Christian Children's Fund, the International Rescue Committee, the International Crisis Group, World Vision, Operation USA, and the United Nations Foundation.

The Web site of Refugees International includes a link that lets you send an e-mail to President Bush calling on him to "push for UN humanitarian role in Iraq."

Clean water, at the moment, is the top priority. One of two photos that ran with the "Blair and Annan" piece shows "British and American soldiers handing out bottles of water to Iraqi civilians." (The brand of water is clearly visible in the photo as Hatta. A Googling of the brand name yielded a reference to the Hatta water pools of the United Arab Emirates. Are they one and the same?)

A page B5 piece by James Dao, datelined "Along the Khawr az Zubayr" and titled "Seals Clear Mines in Vital Harbor," reported that "Naval Special Warfare forces declared today [Thu, March 27] that they had secured the waterways surrounding Iraq's lone deep-sea port at Umm Qasr, paving the way for a British cargo ship to deliver aid as early as Friday.

"But Navy officials cautioned that they might still have to clear a few more mines in the area before the ship, the Sir Galahad — which is moored in the Persian Gulf — could deliver its cargo of food and other supplies.

"The British hope to open 12 aid distribution centers in southern Iraq once the ship unloads its cargo at the sprawling container port."

Those seals, by the way, are Sea-Air-Land units; not the marine mammals.
Other coverage of humanitarian aid in Friday's New York Times:

In a jump from a Page 1 story titled "Iraqis Abandon Post and Kurds Advance," on page B4 of the "Nation at War" section, Hania Mufti, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, declares that the northern Iraqi oil town of Kirkuk "is a disaster waiting to happen." HRW, Pulitzer Prize-winning C.J. Chivers reports, has warned that a coordinated plan is needed for Kirkuk to avoid interethnic violence and reprisal killings against Iraqi officials.

Kirkuk lies just south and west of the border with the part of the Kurdish Controlled Region run by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

From the HRW site, linked above as well:

"Since the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi government has systematically expelled an estimated 120,000 Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from Kirkuk and other towns and villages in this oil-rich region. Most have settled in the Kurdish-controlled northern provinces. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has resettled Arab families in their place in an attempt to reduce the political power and presence of ethnic minorities, a process known as 'Arabization.'

"Those who were displaced were forced to abandon their homes, were stripped of most of their possessions, and were deprived of any means of livelihood. Scores of expelled Kurds and Turkomans interviewed by Human Rights Watch during a September 2002 mission to Iraqi Kurdistan described the relentless pressure by the state to drive them from their homes by making their daily lives intolerable.

"Human Rights Watch researchers now based in Iraqi Kurdistan said the United States has not prepared for returning displaced residents of Kirkuk.

" 'We have found no evidence that U.S. political and military leaders have prepared for the consequences of a massive influx of returnees with grievances against those who forced them from their homes, as well as those who now live in their homes,' said Mufti."
A random observation: Why is it that I have yet to read in the NY Times what the word peshmerga means? (TheTimes spells it as two words: pesh merga.) I happen to know, since the Kurdish fighters whose name means either "one who faces death" or "one who seeks death" made a cameo appearance in a certain insanely wide-ranging post-Cold War Czech novel titled City Sister Silver (see "my links" at left). But it would be nice if the Times would mention that, at least every once in a while.
Back to my coverage of the New York Times' coverage of humanitarian relief in Iraq.

Page 1, Friday, March 28: "Baghdad Bombed; Desert Skirmishes Stretch 350 Miles: Heavy Strikes on Iraqi Capital — No 'Timetable,' Says Bush," by Patrick E. Tyler, notes the delay in the arrival of "the first humanitarian aid ship at the port of Umm Qasr."

"After a week of mine-clearing operations, military officials, who had declared the channel cleared, belatedly discovered additional mines that lay on the bottom and that are programmed to float to the surface after a preset number of ships pass over them.

"General Brooks [Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks of the Central Command] said the aid ship, Sir Galahad, was expected to be able to steam up the channel to Umm Qasr on Friday."

This story also includes another Rumsfeldian quotable regarding the war: "We're still closer to the beginning than we are to the end."

Galahad, by the way, was "the son of Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic. [He] was conceived when Elaine tricked Lancelot into thinking he was meeting and sleeping with Guinevere. Galahad is best known as the knight who achieves the quest for the Holy Grail. As the chosen knight he is allowed to sit in the Siege Perilous, the seat at the Round Table that is reserved for the Grail Knight. The first appearance of Galahad in medieval romance is in the thirteenth-century Vulgate Cycle. His coming is predicted in the first romance in the cycle, the Estoire del saint Graal, where he is said to be the ninth in the line of Nascien, who was baptized by Josephus, son of Joseph of Arimathea, and who was one of those who is said to have brought Christianity to Britain. Galahad remains the pre-eminent Grail Knight in Malory's Morte d'Arthur and in Tennyson's Idylls of the King. A shorter poem by Tennyson, 'Sir Galahad,' presented the popular image of the perfect knight whose 'strength was as the strength of ten' because his 'heart is pure.' The popular painting Sir Galahad (1862) by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) also presents Galahad as an idealized figure."
I'm sure everyone's been on pins and needles, waiting for my next entry.

Waiting for Kdo? Jesse McKinley, younger brother of Molly, whom some of my readers may know, writes for the New York Times, and had a piece in the Weekend section on Friday (March 28) about the long-ass lines to get in to the big art shows now on in New York. Art Is Long? So Are the Lines has the intrepid Mr. McKinley break away from his theater beat to cover the waits to see such greats as Da Vinci, Matissse, and Picasso. This weekend was the last for the Da Vinci drawings at the Met.

Clare got up early Saturday morning to try and "beat the lines" and still ended up in a crowd overflowing with old women wielding magnifying glasses in order to get up-close and personal with the drafting techniques of the prototype Renaissance Man. (The show's now gone, ergo no link.)

Friday, March 28, 2003

Does anyone else know what the number-one song in the American Top 40 was in 1973, thirty years ago? "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree." Released in February 1973. Last revived during the 1981 hostage crisis in . . . Iran. It's back: "Yellow Ribbons Make Reappearance."

It's so convenient that everyone ignores the fact that the song was written about a man coming home from prison, not from the army. Here's one site with the lyrics.

I wonder if that means Tony Orlando and Dawn will be making a comeback too.
Yes! My man in the field Matt has dug me up a piece with some background on the war dolphins: "Dolphins go to front lines in Iraq war."

"For decades, dolphins as well as sea lions and even beluga whales have been trained to perform a variety of military tasks. In the 1970s, dolphins were used as marine watchdogs for ships off the coast of Vietnam. In 1987, dolphins played a role in underwater surveillance as well as mine detection for U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf region during the latter days of the Iran-Iraq war."

The sea lions are part of the coalition of the willing: They've been "deployed around coalition ships in Bahrain for 'force protection,' Frey [Lt. j.g. Josh Frey, spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain] said.

“ 'What they are trained to do is detect and locate threat swimmers or divers who might be trying to cause harm to a coalition vessel, port or harbor,' he said. 'They would do this by attaching a restraining device to the swimmer or diver, and a line floats to the surface that marks their location, so they can be immediately apprehended by human security force personnel and questioned.' ”

"If the intruders happen to climb onto the shore, the trained sea lions could run after them as fast as a human could."

Don't think that animal-rights advocates aren't saying something about it: "Animal lovers up in arms over US use of dolphin deminers in Iraq."

" 'We are strongly opposed to keeping these mammals in captivity, and we're not happy with this exploitation,' Cathy Williamson of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, a British-based agency, told AFP.

" 'The animals could get hurt, and that's not justified,' Williamson said.

"Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist at the US campaign group PETA (People for the Ethical Treaty of Animals), slammed the US military for 'absolutely' exploiting animals.

" 'It is very cruel to put an animal in harm's way,' she told AFP. 'But our concern isn't just for the animals, it's also for the troops.'

" 'These animals are being taught basically to do tricks and animals, especially animals as intelligent as sealions and dolphins, have minds of their own, and the chance of their failing to fulfill a mission when life and death are at stake is quite possible,' Boyles said."

The AFP story also gives more background on the military use of dolphins: "The programme was launched in 1960 when US researchers began studying dolphins to get clues as to how to design new streamline torpedoes to strike Soviet submarines at the height of the Cold War."

It continues: "The animals are acquired from sea parks and are born in captivity, their trainers told AFP earlier this month. The programme has funding of between 10 and 20 million dollars a year (9.39-18.78 million euros).

"The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said it could not comment on the use of dolphins in demining.

" 'We work on conservation issues. These are dolphins that have been bred in captivity, so it does not come within our remit,' a spokesman said at the agency's headquarters in Britain said."

I'd just like to point out a couple of mistakes in the AFP's piece, by the way. PETA, of course, is not People for the Ethical *Treaty* of Animals, but People for the Ethical *Treatment* of Animals. The WWF is now officially known solely by its acronym. In any case, though, its former name was the World Wildlife Fund, not the Worldwide Fund for Nature. After poking around online a little, though, I think it may be possible that Worldwide Fund for Nature is the name the organization goes by outside of the States. (See, for instance, this Australian site.)

"British Staff Sgt. Steve Hoyle of the 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC), 16 Air Assault Brigade, takes aim alongside a pigeon nicknamed 'Harry', in southern Iraq, Wednesday, March 26, 2003. The pigeon was accidentaly shipped to Iraq in a consignment of ration packs, and was liberated by the Quartermasters of 3 reg AAC when they opened their latest supplies."
Now that's my kind of terror (thanks, Alice): "Police shut down an East River Bridge for about 2 1/2 hours Friday morning after workers spotted men in a restricted area. Turns out they weren't terrorists, the mayor said, just three 'stupid' men who were 'sitting around drinking.' "

Says Bloomberg of the dudes who were drinking up on the bridge to Willy B: ". . . breaking into someplace you shouldn't be, and drinking. How stupid can you be?''

Happens every day, I'm sure.
Now they're even drafting dolphins. Thanks, Brad.
That actually does it for yesterday's coverage of humanitarian relief in the NY Times. ("Thank God," you two are saying.)

Yesterday's Times also had a story about a country that is so out of control, some relief groups don't want to go there. You want bad, visit the Ivory Coast. What is the war there about? Ask Romeo. "You get big in war. If there's another war, you will not go there? You will go there. In a war, what we chasing? Isn't it money?"

Doctors Without Borders runs the hospital in Man, the town where Somini Sengupta filed this piece from. An aid worker, probably from DWB, describes the place as "very volatile," saying "It's difficult for us to know who is doing what, who is responsible for what." And the International Rescue Committee "decided on a recent visit that the area was simply too dangerous" for them to send anyone there.

Finally, on a lighter note, if you want to see something really *cool*, check this out: a raincoat that makes its wearer invisible!

"Basically, a camera films a scene behind the raincoat, and a projector projects it on the garment's front, which is covered with tiny reflective beads called retroreflectors. The process creates an illusion of invisibility." GO LOOK AT THE PHOTO!

Here's the homepage of Susumu Tachi, the man who designed the thing. And here's the page on his Optical Camouflage project, including movies of the invisibility raincoat in action. Wow!
"Bottom mines are very difficult to detect, and to help with ensuring that none were still around Umm Qasr, the U.S. Navy flew in two of their mine hunting dolphins. The only problem they expect to encounter with the dolphins is hostility from local dolphins. Like wolves and bears, dolphins are territorial and will try and chase away any strange dolphin they find in their normal feeding territory." (The story, dated today, is titled "SURFACE WARSHIPS: Iraqi Bottom Mines and Dolphin Turf Battles.")
Spetz, a Bottle Nose dolphin, is beached up on a transfer mat before going out on a training mission from the deck of the USS Gunston Hall operating in the Arabian Gulf Monday, March 17, 2003. Coalition forces have brought in two specially trained bottle-nosed Atlantic dolphins like Spetz, named Makai and Tacoma, to help ferret out mines in the approaches of the port of Umm Qasr, Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart of the Central Command said. The dolphins will help clear the way for the shipment of humanitarianaid to allied-held southern Iraq, Renuart said.
I have to finish up with yesterday's Humanitarian Relief Update.

Other mentions of the relief effort in the March 27 NY Times included three grafs in *the* lead story, on page A1, titled "1,000 U.S. Paratroopers Open Northern Front; A Nighttime Drop; Iraqi Forces Head South Toward Allied Units Near the Capital" (the hed online is different: "1,000 Troops Swoop Down on Kurdish Region").

In the jump, on page B3: "In southern Iraq today, the first aid convoy crossed the border from Kuwait to chaotic scenes of food distribution in the border town of Safwan.

"Mine-clearing operations were completed in the channel leading to the port of Umm Qasr, where an aid ship, the Sir Galahad, was due to be unloaded on Thursday.

"American and Kuwaiti engineers raced to construct a pipeline to Umm Qasr from Kuwait to relieve the desperate shortages of drinking water."

On page B6, a story by Charlie LeDuff with David Rohde, titled "Troops Won't Be Sent to Kurdish Areas, Turkish Military Chief Says," reports that General Hilmi Ozkok, chief of staff of Turkey's armed forces, "did not say when the border between Turkey and Iraq will be open to international aid agencies trying to reach Iraqi refugees."

The piece goes on: "Kurdish officials say there is no refugee crisis in northern Iraq and no need for Turkish intervention. Relief groups are split over the issue. Human Rights Watch warned on Friday that the Kurdish government and international aid groups did not have enough food, tents and other supplies to handle a refugee crisis. But some aid groups said the situation was not so dire.

" 'There are not many tents,' said Dr. Giorgio Francia, a manager for Relief International, a Los Angeles-based health aid organization. 'But there are also not that many refugees.'

"The exact number of displaced people in northern Iraq is unclear, but hundreds of thousands of Kurds fearing chemical attack by Saddam Hussein are believed to have fled major cities in Iraq. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of those people are living in the open in caves, tents, trucks and buses."

Note also the interesting if ominous comments of Gen. Ozkok -- described by LeDuff and Rohde as "the most powerful man in Turkey, the supreme commander of a semi-autonomous military and a man who is not used to having to explain himself" -- regarding the pressure put on him by U.S. diplomats "not to intervene militarily in northern Iraq." (I trust readers are aware of Turkey's longstanding "issues" with its own Kurdish population; if not read the article.)

Said Ozkok: "I have difficulty understanding those who claim there is a threat to them across the ocean. And when Turkey says the same threat exists on the other side of its border, this is found to be unbelievable. If things get out of control, I hope our friends will not ask us [to] take action that they oppose now."

In other words, Ozkok is saying, when the Kurds start shooting their guns and making noises about independence and U.S. forces are all tied up in the Battle of Baghdad, don't come running to *us* to straighten it out up north. Not to be too pessimistic, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up happening *exactly* as the general says.

(Here, as an aside, I'd like to put in a plug for David Rohde, the former Christian Science Monitor reporter who wrote Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe's Worst Massacre Since World War II (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997), a stunning account of how the U.N., along with Clinton and Europe's leaders, dropped the ball, to put it mildly, in protecting Bosnian Muslims in the "safe" enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.

Rohde won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his reporting from Bosnia. He was 28 years old. After he left the Christian Science Monitor, he went to the New York Times and put in the obligatory time on the street, so to speak. (Here I'm going strictly by my recollection, so don't anyone go screaming "Fact checker!" on me.) His first foreign assignment for the Times that I know of was Afghanistan, around the time the U.S. started bombing it. His stories were always less burdened with ideology and grandiose language than the other Times writers, I thought. Less agitation. Then he was in Pakistan, and back and forth, and now it seems he's in Turkey. Give him a read.
I'm back. Don't know whether this will work or not, but my friend Matt's been pulling some late hours on the Animals in War watch, and these are his latest results: "Marine mammal handlers play with Navy dolphins Katrina (L) and Kona (R) at a warehouse in the old port of Umm Qasr. Navy-trained dolphins have aided the clearing of mines in the southern Iraqi city" (a photo). (N.B.: You have to click through the slideshow to find the photo of Katrina and Kona. It comes right after the one of Filipino Catholic priests holding a peace march through Manila's financial district.)

And then there's this wire story, from March 14, titled "U.S. Marines Enlist Pigeons to Detect Iraqi Gas." You've probably seen photos of the pigeons by now. As Staff Sergeant Dan Wallace points out, "I got sensors that cost $12,000 and birds that cost $60 each and I place just as much trust in the bird as the sensor. Anything mechanical can fail or give us wrong readings."

Thanks, Matt. Next!

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Today's Humanitarian Relief Update:

Courtesy of the New York Times. Because it is still considered important in the world of print, which is to say the "old world," which is to say not the world in which "Old Europe" no longer matters in the calculi of U.S. foreign-policy planners. Also because it is my hometown paper and its Web site is easy to use. Also because old habits die hard. Also because this is an experiment in media monitoring. Also because I don't know anyone else who is doing it. If you are still reading this, you are *my kind* of reader.

The overview on the front page of March 27's "Nation at War" section notes: "The first delivery of aid to Iraq — five trucks loaded with 20 tons of food and water — crossed the border from Kuwait to the small Iraqi town of Safwan. Residents of the town swarmed over the trucks, which had been sent by the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, grabbing at the boxes, tearing them apart and fighting over the food they contained. The American military drove another convoy of seven supply trucks from Kuwait to the outskirts of Umm Qasr, a southern port city that has seen sustained fighting over the last few days."

By the way, the map on the last page of the section, B16, says *seven* trucks. But that's a mistake. There was *also* a convoy of seven trucks, but that one, the overview says, only made it as far as the port of Umm Qasr.

The story the blurb above links to online, which ran in the real world on page B11, is titled "Food Arrives, but Water Supplies Cause Worry." This piece comes with a photograph of "crowds in Safwan . . . [fighting] over boxes of food and water brought by the Kuwaiti Red Crescent."

(I visited the Kuwaiti Red Crescent's Web site to see what the aid packages consisted of. And you know, I don't mean to sound suspicious, but the Kuwaiti Red Crescent site, as you can tell from the URL, is physically part of the site of -- not just linked to -- the Palestine Red Crescent Society . Anyway, the only info on the Kuwaiti site is about the aid parcels for Palestinians in Hebron. And that's a whole 'nother bag of onions.)

Anyway, U.N. officials, the Times' Marc Santora writes out of Kuwait, say the U.N. will be asking for "more than $2 billion for assistance later this week." President Bush, too, Santora notes, asked for $2.4 billion for aid and reconstruction in his budget proposal to Congress.

On the ground in Iraq, Santora continues, "The most immediate concern remains the water shortage in Basra, Iraq's second largest city and home to 1.5 million people.

"The city's main water treatment plant stopped working last Friday when power was knocked out. It remains unclear what caused the damage. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been working to repair the facility, but it remains severely damaged, working at about 50 percent capacity."

Santara writes that there are "reports that the people in Basra are so desperate that they have begun drinking out of the rivers. Around 500,000 tons of raw sewage is dumped into Iraqi waterways every day, according to the United Nations. When allied bombing during the first Gulf war knocked out power in large sections of the country for months, the lack of clean water led to an outbreak of cholera."

In Safwan, a town of 5,000 people, "the Kuwaitis were met with swarming masses of people grabbing at boxes and tearing them apart, fighting each other for anything they could grab. While accepting the food, they expressed disdain for those who brought it, chanting that they would bleed for Saddam Hussein."

Another aid convoy, this one of seven trucks from the U.S. military, according to Santora only made it as far as the port of Umm Qasr before being put into storage. And a ship with relief supplies from the U.K. was slated to arrive in the same port today.
Words of wisdom issued from New York governor George Pataki recently, documented in a NY Times article of March 26 titled "Pataki Has Shifted Focus From Budget to All War, All the Time." Written by James C. McKinley Jr., who covers politics in the state capital, the piece details how since the war on Iraq started ". . . the governor's public agenda has been devoted almost entirely to the war and his administration's steps to prevent terrorist attacks." Clearly Pataki is riding the tide of political opportunism. It hardly even needs to be said, but: "Like the president, Mr. Pataki has repeatedly linked the war to the Sept. 11 attacks, despite scant evidence that Saddam Hussein was directly involved."

Yes, yes. Blah blah blah. Business as usual. Tell me something new. Pataki did get one thing right, though. The man said: "Don't allow those who would take away our freedom to do that by the use of fear."
"Animals in War" update, courtesy of my friend Matt, who has no monkeys: "Air Marshal Brian Burridge, commander of British forces in the Persian Gulf, said two mines were discovered in the Umm Qasr shipping channel and detonated Wednesday during a sweep by Royal Navy divers and specially trained, mine-detecting dolphins." The article, titled "Mine Discovery Delays Iraq Aid Arrival," is available on any site that subscribes to AP. For instance . . .
I couldn't stay away.

Things are happening on the home front too, of course. By which I mean here in New York City. Yesterday the New York State legislature in Albany adopted "a tough antismoking law that would ban smoking in nearly every restaurant, bar and workplace" statewide. New York, according to the article in today's New York Times, is only the third state in the U.S. to have passed such a law. The ban -- voted in by a vote of 97 to 44 in the Assembly, and 57 to 4 in the Senate -- is due to take effect in 120 days.

New York City's own ban on smoking, initiated by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and enacted by the City Council, takes effect Sunday, March 30. Till then, though, nightlife continues on a "smoke 'em if you got 'em" basis.

In an article that asks "Can nicotine lovers look to food for their fix?" the Times suggested in yesterday's "Dining In" section -- "When Smoke Gets in Your Pies (and Other Delectables)" -- that dishes made with other members of the nightshade family, to which tobacoo belongs, could "appease the monkey without violating the ban [on smoking]." Shady substitutes for the devil weed include "potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and red peppers." Good luck eating enough of them to satisfy your nic fit, though. "You'd have to eat well over 100 pounds of eggplant or tomatoes to get a meaningful dose," Dr. Jack Henningfield, an addiction expert at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, told the Times' John Leland.

Maybe potential weed-eaters ought to look elsewhere for culinary inspiration. What if smokers took a page out of the potheads' playbook and tried cooking the stuff? How about Grandma's Green Cookbooks? Her recipes are designed to "lead you into a world of culinary delights with boiling, baking, sautéing, frying and seasoning psychoactive main courses, drinks, desserts and snacks"! Eat up!

Or, for hungry smokers who learn better from videos, there's this page, from (motto: "books to get you f***ed"), which offers Cooking with Marijuana: The Gourmet Menu and Cooking with Marijuana: The Sweets and Treats Menu. Recipes performed by the masked and behatted Chef "Hans."

Get creative!
What are the relief agencies themselves saying about the humanitarian effort in Iraq so far?

The International Rescue Committee, founded in the early 1930s to help Jews escape Nazi Germany, now operates in more than 30 countries, including the United States, "working with people uprooted by war, civil conflict or ethnic persecution." The hed on the IRC's top press release about Iraq (granted, it's a mouthful): American Aid Groups Are Being Shut Out of Iraq by U.S. Sanctions, Says International Rescue Committee; President Bush Could Fix Problem with Stroke of a Pen.

The piece, dated March 20, 2003, states that the U.S. government is hindering the efforts of American aid organizations to provide humanitarian assistance in Iraq. IRC president George Rupp is quoted as saying, "We are effectively being shut out of central and southern Iraq, and the rules are still restrictive for Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. . . . Even in the middle of a looming humanitarian crisis, aid organizations are subject to rules that rival the IRS Code in complexity and that require licenses and permissions from separate government agencies that take days or even weeks to obtain. The amount of red tape is completely counterproductive."

Here I think it's worth remembering that sanctions against Iraq have also prevented relief groups from working in the country, and those sanctions remain in force. Thus Rupp's claim: "President Bush can resolve the problem with the stroke of a pen."

For more info on the IRC's plans to aid Iraqis, visit here.

Doctors Without Borders, "founded in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders," carries a press release on its Web site saying the organization sent two truckloads of medical supplies yesterday, March 26, to Baghdad from Amman, Jordan. I quote: "The 10 tons of supplies include materials for 300 surgeries, post-operative medicines, water and sanitation supplies, and some nutritional material."

MSF (the group is known by its French acronym) also has a six-person team in Baghdad -- "volunteers from Italy, France, Austria, Norway, Sudan, and Algeria" -- working "at the 250-bed al-Kindi General Hospital."

The piece makes no mention of U.S. policy, except to note that "MSF has notified the relevant coalition and Iraqi officials about this convoy."

The homepage of Doctors Without Borders also offers a link to a transcript of an online chat with MSF's executive director, Nicholas de Torrente, published yesterday in the Washington Post. I recommend it.

Clearly the organization takes pains not to criticize directly any government. Take, for instance, this exchange, in which de Torrente dodges the question of Saddam Hussein's hindrance of relief efforts for his own political gain:

Wheaton, Md.: Is it true that Saddam Hussein has resisted assistance from organizations like yours in order to allow civilians' conditions to deteriorate and blame the UN sanctions?

Nicolas de Torrente: We attempted, over the last ten years, to establish humanitarian programs in Iraq, but until very recently we were frustrated in our attempts to get approval from the authorities to carry out humanitarian aid based on the principles we always apply: we want to be able to directly assess the needs, we want to directly work alongside the population and monitor that assistance is actually reaching them. This yardstick we apply is of course to prevent manipulation of our aid. With the onset of the conflict however, anticipating the emergency needs, Iraqi medical personnel were very interesting in receiving support from an international emergency medical organization, and our working relations with our medical colleagues in the hospital has been good.

Asked by a chatter in Dallas, Texas, "whether coalition forces have disrupted the flow of food distributed by the oil-for-food program," de Torrente simply notes that the oil-for-food program was suspended when U.N. staff pulled out of Iraq [in mid-March] and that "there is nothing new coming into the pipeline."

One pesky New Yorker asks: "Are you worried about confusion between independent humanitarian aid and U.S. military aid in Iraq?"

De Torrente replies: "The US, as an occupying power, has the responsibility to provide for the needs of the population in the areas it controls. Distribution of relief supplies therefore have to be organized, and they should be equitable and cover needs, and we expect this to happen for the benefit of the population. Of course, there are also public-relations gains that the US expects from this provision of relief to the Iraqi population, and we should be watchful to make sure that the reality of aid matches the discourse. Humanitarian aid is distinct from any attempt to win over 'hearts and minds' by providing aid in that it does not have any other agenda than helping people, whoever they are and wherever they may be, on the basis of need alone. The danger is that, if independent humanitarian aid efforts, and independent aid organizations, are seen as part of the military-led relief effort, it can have serious consequences in terms of security and access to people in need. Aid workers can become a target, particularly in a war zone that is tense, volatile and politically charged. Our protection is our humanitarian identity, and it cannot be compromised. What we need from the military is a clear distinction (military always wearing uniforms while carrying out relief for instance). The military should also allow for independent access. For our part, we should also operate distinctly and independently (no participation in armed convoys for instance). As a clear sign of our operational independence we take no money from any belligerant in any conflict, in this case the US, UK, and other coalition partners."

Asked about the current situation in Baghdad, de Torrente says, in part: "So far, hospitals have been able to cope with the needs. But, if they increase, and if insecurity rises, we can anticipate shortages of supplies and possibly the fact that Iraqi medical personnel would no longer come to work, as happens in other conflicts."

I wanted to visit a few more organizations involved in aid for Iraq, but it seems that time has overtaken me. So I'll conclude with this story filed two days ago by a reporter in northern Kuwait for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, titled "Iraq: Desert Dispatch -- First Shipments Of Humanitarian Aid Trickling In" -- not very edifying, I realize. But hey, I had to end it sometime. I've got work to do. See you later.
All right. Back to the oil thing. Let's see how fights over the stuff are connected to relief efforts: "War Fails to Halt Iraqi Oil Production, but Prompts a Debate About the Future," page B15, again yesterday's NY Times (last one, I promise).

Guess what? ". . . a dispute in the United Nations Security Council . . . could be the beginning of a protracted fight over the future of Iraq's oil wealth, diplomats and oil industry experts say.

"On one side are the United States and Great Britain; on the other are Russia and Syria. The debate focuses on the seven-year-old oil-for-food program, under which the United Nations established Iraq's oil export quota and authorized that the oil revenues be used for relief. The debate stems from suspicions that resolution drafted by Secretary General Kofi Annan, reauthorizing the program, might be a backdoor way of legitimizing the war and bypassing the existing Iraqi government. It could also lead to the cancellation of billions of dollars in existing contracts, as contracts for food and medicine are given priority over those for other goods on the way to Iraq from places like Russia.

[skipping down two grafs] "Yesterday [March 25] the administration pushed a demand that revenues from the oil-for-food program be made available to the United States to buy supplies for Iraq.

"Andrew S. Natsios, the director of the United States Agency for International Development, said the administration needed the United Nations Security Council to 'make a decision in the next few days' that would give the United States access to as much as $8 billion held in a United Nations escrow account. Security Council ambassadors are scheduled to consult on the oil-for-food issue today.

[skipping down six grafs] "The anger over oil-for-food boiled over in an experts' meeting Monday, when the United States representative, Andrew Hillman, complained to his Russian counterpart that the Russian arguments were delaying aid shipments to suffering people.

"The Russian, Sergey Khazilov, shot back that the suffering was being caused by American bombs, said a diplomat who was present. A spokesman for the United States mission denied that the exchange took place.

"For the United States and Britain, the legal objections being made by Russia and Syria mean a frustrating delay in reauthorizing a program which, even before the war, provided for the basic needs of about 60 percent of the Iraqi population of 24 million people.

"But for Russia and Syria, both members of the Security Council, legal issues involved are just as crucial. The draft resolution allows for the secretary general's representatives to do their relief work 'in coordination with the relevant authorities,' a phrase that seems to anticipate the fall of the current government.

"Mr. Lavrov [Russia's ambassador to the U.N.] said, 'The legal consequences and political consequences' of a resolution could be to circumvent international law, which requires 'occupying belligerents' to make reparations for the damages caused in the conflict.

"To use funds generated by Iraqi oil for relief after an American-led war, the Russians and Syrians say, is equivalent to making Iraqis pay for their own aid.

"But one Security Council diplomat argued that the Russians failed to see the point: 'It does seem that they don't feel any particular urgency about taking measures that would improve the situation.'" End of story.

So at this point, the relief money is being held hostage, as it were, to the competing economic interests of the U.S. and Britain on one side, and Russia and Syria on the other. Now *that's* a SNAFU.
Back to my friend Matt and his monkeys: I was telling Clare about this last night, and as I did I remembered a movie called The Day of the Dolphin. 1973, starring George C. Scott. Written by Buck Henry, directed by Mike Nichols. The plot summary on goes like this: "Dr. Jake Terrell, who has been training a pair of dolphins for many years, has had a breakthrough. He has taught his dolphins to speak and understand English, although they do have a limited vocabulary. When the dolphins are stolen, he discovers they're to be used in an assassination attempt. Now he is in a race to discover who is the target, and where the dolphins are, before the attempt is carried out."

So you see, Matt? Things have been weird, bending-animals-to-our-will-wise, for at least 30 years! (And though I'm not going to go scouring back through the paper again, I'm pretty sure I remember reading something yesterday about dolphins being used in the current war on Iraq as well.)
Now, I don't plan to do this every day. I'm not a media pundit, nor do I want to be one. But I am an avid consumer of several mass media outlets, and a few that are not so mass, and one of the reasons I started this log was so that I wouldn't have to send out so many e-mails about funny or interesting things I read, and instead I can post them here. So let me start today by pointing out that in yesterday's New York Times, I did not find a *single* article about humanitarian aid for Iraq.

(By the way, those of you who do not have access to the Times in print may be interested to know that the paper has added a new section, "A Nation at War," as it did after the 9/11 attacks. Like then, too, the Sports section is now slapped back-to-back onto another section -- yesterday it was Metro -- so that when you get halfway through it, you have to flip the paper upside down and turn to the back page to read the rest of the section, which is really not the rest of the section but a different section. If you've seen it, you know what I mine; if you haven't, forget it: It's not *that* interesting.)

Of course there were *mentions* of humanitarian aid. A page-one story titled "U.S. Shifting Focus of Land Campaign to Fight in South" noted, in the jump on page B5, "The American military has considerable combat power, but it also has a multitude of tasks. These included moving to win the battle of Baghdad [by the way, how soon after that battle do you think people will start capitalizing the b in battle?], protecting long supply lines, searching for Scud and other surface-to-surface missiles and caches of weapons of mass destruction, ensuring that civilians have food and water and preventing the breakup of the country." [my emphasis]

A story on page B11, titled "U.S. Officials Say Iraqis May Have Killed Some American Prisoners," pointed out that disputes over the operation of the U.N.-run oil-for-food program, suspended on March 17, have "delayed the authorization of new mechanisms for the distribution of relief aid, including about $2.4 billion worth of food and other supplies being sent to Iraq." (Those disputes in themselves, by the way, are also very interesting. Perhaps more on them later.)

"Saudis Send Proposals to End War to Both Sides," on page B12, mentions that apart from "running its air war from a high-tech command center on Prince Sultan Air Force Base, just 50 miles southeast of Riyadh," the U.S. "is also using two other northern Saudi air force bases, though the Saudi government says that use of those bases is restricted to humanitarian relief efforts."

The most prominent mention of humanitarian relief in yesterday's Times, though, was in a story titled "Decade of Plans to Topple Hussein Yield [sic] Mixed Results," on page B1, the front page of the "Nation at War" section. In the jump on page B12 is a subsection titled "Plans for Aid: A Flood of Relief Has Been Delayed," which reports: "In the weeks before the invasion, White House officials built a strategy that relied on an intelligence assessment that suggested that pacification would come quickly in southern Iraq. Just behind the 'liberation troops,' officials said, would come a flood of humanitarian relief. When the residents of Baghdad saw or heard of how American forces were bringing in aid, providing medical care and turning basic government functions over to an interim government, the thinking went, they would know that a new era had arrived. [new graf] "But that plan has suffered delays. Because the military bypassed the cities, and because the fedayeen Saddam -- the guerrilla units operating in cities and town [sic] across the country -- are still active, American forces have not secured the areas where the occupation was supposed to begin. As a result, the millions of meals and the aid that was supposed to win popular support remain locked in cargo containers. President Bush's declaration on Sunday that the aid would begin flowing within 36 hours now looks optimistic. [new graf] " 'The expectations were wrong,' said Judith Kipper, the director of the Middle East forum here [Washington, DC]. 'This image that the Iraqis would be dancing in the streets, presenting troops with cookies and flowers, was a bit misguided. We need to get a sense of reality about this.' [new graf] "A senior administration official said more than a month ago that one of the great mysteries of the early days of the war was whether 'we will be greeted with cheers, jeers or shouts.' At the end of the first week, the answer seems to be all three." [last graf included only for completeness' sake.]

Not to get carried away with "by the ways," by the way, but does anyone else find it unsettling to see the word pacification used in the story above? What, is this Vietnam?

Given how much weight was and is being attached to the good intentions of the U.S. going into Iraq, why isn't the Times running a story about the humanitarian relief effort *every day*? They've got the people. They could do it. And they should.

Next posting please.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Had to add one more for today. My friend Matt writes in to say: "Things are getting weird . . . as we bend more of the animal kingdom to our will." The headline on this wire story just about says it all: Morocco offers US monkeys to detonate mine.
Okay. Enough for now. I've got the thing up and running. I need to do some *work* today -- it's quarter after four and I haven't even eaten lunch yet! More on the Russian Army in Grozny next time then. On my plate at the moment is a short story called "The Mailbox" from Cervene boticky ("Little Red Shoes"), a book of short stories by a Czech writer named Anna Zonová, who is from northern Bohemia. It's for a Web site on European literature in translation. I don't know yet when it will be launched or what it will be called. But I'm being paid to translate it, and for the moment, that's all that matters.
Last Thursday night, the day after the U.S. started bombing Iraq, I attended a presentation of the Czech relief group Clovek v tisni, or People in Need. The two reps of PINF, as the organization is known, brought with them two short documentaries, made for TV: The Valley of the Last Mujahedeen, shot in the region of Dara-i-Suf, in northern Afghanistan; and Dark Side of the World, shot during the Russian Army's siege of Grozny, Chechnya's capital, in 2000.

The first film documented People in Need's efforts to build a school in an Afghan village. When you see how many obstacles they overcome in order to do so, you can't help but be amazed. And when you find out that they've already managed to build 61 schools, well, you have to admit there are at least *some* people on this earth who are doing something right.
The New Yorker has a long and illuminating profile of Noam Chomsky this week. Too bad it's not available in the online version. I can't comment on his work in linguistics, but I think he's important in that he is the only person (at least whom I know of) who has undertaken such an exhaustive study of the press on individual issues. As the New Yorker article makes clear, though, his main weakness -- at least in his role as gadfly -- is that he has never offered any real solutions to the issues he raises. I don't think he actually believes in change. And that's a hard sell.
Yes, even the war on terrorism can be laughed at, especially when the source of the humor is the Department of Homeland Security. A jokester's take on the department's warning signs.
I know serious things are going on in the world, but still, one needs to laugh. This fish story is a special treat for anyone who is familiar with the carp's special place in Czech cuisine. Or, as one of my Czech friends said, "Isaac Bashevis Singer must be spinning in his grave." The link was selected at random.
Welcome to my Web log. Before I do anything else, here is a link to the war log (I hate the word *blog*) of fellow ex-Prognosisite Matt Welch, whose gargantuan presence in cyberspace is sure to win me many hits in the days, weeks, and months to come. Bookmark 'em, Dano!