Friday, June 26, 2009


Museum of Islamic Ceramics

This museum is located in an impressive building, example of Islamic architecture and decoration. The museum has a priceless collection of Islamic ceramics from Egypt, Iran, Turkey and southern Spain. -->
Address: Shar'a Bur Sa'id at Maydan Ahmad MaherCairo, Egypt
Web Site:
Opening Hours: Daily 9:30am-1:30am and 17:30-22


Third of open ocean sharks face extinction: study

Paris (AFP) June 25, 2009A third of the world's open water sharks -- including the great white and hammerhead -- face extinction, according to a major conservation survey released Thursday.
Species hunted on the high seas are particularly at risk, with more than half in danger of dying out, reported the Shark Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The main culprit is overfishing. Sharks are prized for their meat, and in Asia especially for their fins, a prestige food thought to convey health benefits.
The survey of 64 species of open water, or pelagic, sharks -- the most comprehensive ever done -- comes days before an international meeting on high-seas tuna fisheries that could potentially play a role in shark conservation.
For decades, significant numbers of sharks -- including blue and mako -- have perished as "by-catch" in commercial tuna and swordfish operations.
More recently, the soaring value of shark meat has prompted some of these fisheries to target sharks as a lucrative sideline, said Sonja Forham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance, and co-author of the study.
The Spanish fleet of so-called surface longline fishing boats ostensibly targets swordfish, but 70 percent of its catch, by weight, from 2000 to 2004 were pelagic sharks.
"There are currently no restrictions on the number of sharks that these fisheries can harvest," Fordham told AFP by phone. "Despite mounting threats, sharks remain virtually unprotected on the high seas."
Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because most species take many years to mature and have relatively few young.
Scientists are also set to meet in Denmark to issue recommendations on the Atlantic porbeagle which, despite dwindling numbers, failed to earn protection at the last meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in 2007.
Canada led the charge to block the protective measure, supported by Argentina, New Zealand and some Asian countries.
Europe is the fastest growing market for meat from the porbeagle and another species, the spiny dogfish.
The demand for shark fins, a traditional Chinese delicacy, has soared along with income levels in China over the last decade. Shark carcasses are often tossed back into the sea by fishermen after the fins are cut off.
Despite bans in international waters, this practice -- known as "finning" -- is largely unregulated, experts say.
The report identified the great hammerhead and scalloped hammerhead sharks, as well as giant devil rays as globally endangered.
The smooth hammerhead, great white, basking, and oceanic whitetip sharks are listed as globally vulnerable to extinction, along with two species of makos and three types of threshers.
Some 100 million sharks are caught in commercial and sports fishing every year, and several species have declined by more than 80 percent in the past decade alone, according the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
The IUCN issues the Red List of Threatened Species, the most comprehensive and authoritative conservation inventory of the world's plants and animals species

Whaling ban holds as conference ends in disarray

Funchal, Portugal (AFP) The International Whaling Commission's annual conference ended in disarray Thursday, keeping in place a ban on commercial whaling amid deep rifts between hunters and conservationists.
The commission's new chairman said the IWC should now question its role as the conference on the Portuguese island of Madeira wrapped up a day early with delegates agreeing only to extend negotiations on whaling for another year.
"We have to re-establish a consensus on what the IWC is and should do, and there are at least two contradictory perceptions to answer that question," said Cristian Maquieira, who was elected chairman during the talks this week.
Joji Morishita, a senior official with the Japanese delegation, said the commission should approve limited commercial whaling by next year, adding: "Without that... the future of the IWC is seriously in doubt."
Convervation groups were also angry, with Greenpeace saying: "After 12 months of talking... all the IWC has achieved is another 12 months of talking."
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said it "deeply laments the fact that not a single of the important whaling topics was resolved."
The IWC was set up in 1946 by 15 whale-hunting nations in order to manage a whale population that was being threatened by the fishing industry. The body now has 85 members and has taken an increasingly conservationist approach.
In 1986, it instituted a ban on commercial whaling that still stands today.
The commission has been deadlocked in recent years by divisions between countries such as Japan that say the dangers of whaling are exaggerated and other nations like Australia which want the whaling ban to be kept in place.
Maquieira said a compromise was "not impossible" but would be very tough.
In a further sign of divisions, delegates failed to agree Thursday on whether Denmark could resume limited hunting of humpback whales off the coast of Greenland as part of "aboriginal" subsistence hunting by local communities.
"As it has not been possible to reach a consensus on Denmark's request, an extraordinary meeting will be organised to discuss the matter again," Portuguese commissioner Jorge Palmeirim told AFP.
"There is no other option but to postpone the matter," he said.
Denmark had proposed to hunt 10 humpbacks a year off Greenland, a semi-autonomous Danish territory.
Environmental campaigners, who are against Denmark's proposal, were angered by the failure of the countries present to vote on the issue.
Commercial hunting of humpbacks has been banned since 1966 but Greenland continued to capture the marine mammals until 1987, when the moratorium was extended to "aboriginal" subsistence hunting.
Some European delegates at the IWC conference had deemed the proposal unacceptable, arguing that Denmark had failed to prove that Greenland's native Inuit populations had greater need of whale meat.
related reportIWC delays ruling on Danish whale-hunting proposalDenmark must wait to find out whether it can resume hunting humpback whales off Greenland, after a meeting of international delegates failed Thursday to reach agreement.
The Danish proposal to hunt 10 humpbacks a year off Greenland, a semi-autonomous Danish territory, was put to the annual conference of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
But delegates at the key meeting, held this year on the Portuguese island of Madeira, could not agree on the matter.
"As it has not been possible to reach a consensus on Denmark's request, an extraordinary meeting will be organised to discuss the matter again," Portuguese commissioner Jorge Palmeirim told AFP.
"There is no other option but to postpone the matter," he added.
No date had yet been fixed for the new meeting, Palmeirim said
Environmental campaigners, who are against Denmark's proposal, were angered by the failure of the countries present to vote on the issue.
"We're pleased that the proposal from Denmark to kill 10 humpback whales in west Greenland has not been adopted," said Nicolas Entrup, spokesman for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
"But the decision to have no vote at this meeting is outrageous."
Denmark has proposed to hunt humpbacks in the framework of "aboriginal" subsistence hunting, whereby the whales are caught to support local communities.
Commercial hunting of humpbacks has been banned since 1966 but Greenland continued to capture the marine mammals until 1987, when the moratorium was extended to "aboriginal" subsistence hunting.
Denmark put its request to delegates on Tuesday, asking to hunt an annual quota of 10 humpbacks from 2010-2012.
As compensation, Danish commissioner Ole Samsing said the number of minke whales hunted would be reduced from 200 to 178.
Some European delegates at the IWC conference had deemed the proposal unacceptable.
They said it would increase the amount of whale meat brought it, but it had not been demonstrated that Greenland's Inuits had greater need of the meat.
There are 85 countries in the IWC, which has for some years been trying to come to a new compromise on whale hunting and conservation

Water key element in Mideast peace

by Staff WritersRamallah, West Bank (UPI)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must address the vital issue of water in the West Bank if meaningful peace talks are to take place.
Israel's leaders said nothing, but Abbas had touched on one of the most sensitive issues in the seemingly endless negotiations, which have been in abeyance for the last few years, and one on which any expectation of a comprehensive settlement will probably ultimately rest.
Israel's unilateral control over rivers and aquifers meant scarce water resources were not being shared equitably "as required by international law," he declared.
"It is with dismay that I see 9,000 Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley utilize one-quarter of the water that the entire Palestinian population in the West Bank utilizes," he told the World War Forum in Istanbul.
In the largely arid Middle East, water is more valuable than oil and has been a source of conflict since time immemorial.
As the world's resources, from oil to timber and minerals, dwindle, the prospect of more water wars in the Middle East in the decades ahead increase with each passing day.
The crisis is deepened by rapidly expanding populations across the Arab world. This, coupled with industrial growth and a relentless drive for food self-sufficiency, is draining water supplies faster than they can be replenished.
Global warming accelerates the damage. Climate experts warn that one-third of the Earth's surface may be at risk of extreme drought by the end of the century, triggering mass migrations of "environmental refugees." Many of those will be in the Middle East and North Africa.
The region has been hit by a severe drought for the last five years, making the water issue all that more critical, aggravating a dispute between the Israelis, whose own water resources are dwindling, and the Palestinians, who sit on a major aquifer under the West Bank that Israel covets as much as its ever-expanding archipelago of settlements.
Israel views the water from the West Bank -- as it did the water it siphoned off from the Litani River in Lebanon during its 1978-2000 occupation of that country's southern zone -- as vital to its national security. The Palestinians will not be able to sustain a viable independent state without water.
In April, the World Bank placed the contentious water issue firmly in the forefront of efforts to secure a settlement by accusing Israel of taking four times as much water as the Palestinians from the aquifer they have shared since Israel conquered the West Bank in the 1967 war.
Under the 1995 Oslo II Accords, Israel was given rights to 75 percent to 80 percent of the water supply from the three aquifers that straddle the Green Line, the June 1967 border between Israel and the West Bank.
At that time, the estimated drain on the aquifers was an estimated 679 million cubic meters a year. Israel was supposed to take about 540 cubic meters but in fact has been using 871 million a year.
That is just one example of how the Oslo Accords have been ignored or systematically eroded over the years as the peace process lurched from crisis to crisis.
Israeli officials disputed the World Bank's findings and argued that the water problem should be solved by finding new sources through desalination and water treatment. "There isn't enough water in this area," said Yossi Dreisen, an adviser to the Israeli Water Authority. "Something must be done. The solution where one is giving water to the other is not acceptable to us."
The policy of successive Israeli governments to continue settlement expansion in the West Bank, in defiance of international law and United Nations resolutions, worsens the water crisis.
"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as much about resources as it is about land," The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates commented in April.
"It is no coincidence, for example, that West Bank settlements are located on top or near groundwater wells, a strategy that dates back to the earliest days of the settler movement. But the situation has worsened in the past decade

Crimes Of Israel

I keep getting mail saying I should write about the crimes of Israel, so Mossad will assassinate me and I can be a footnote in history books. OK. Here goes.
Crimes, as best I can understand them: I’m not too good at understanding things, I know, but I’ll try.
Israel took the land of the Palestinians by force of arms and proceeded to occupy it. True enough. To do this they had to pry out the British, who also had taken Palestine by force of arms and occupied it, along with, at various times, the United States, Canada, Australia, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, and Ireland. (Generic Christians took Palestine starting in 1099, and it worked about as well for them. If I were wiser I might see a lesson here. But I’m not.)
We have all seen pictures of Israel bombing cities full of Moslems, as for example Beirut. This is clearly a bad thing to do. The United States of course would never bomb cities full of Moslems. Or Vietnamese. Rumors to the contrary are preposterous and need not be considered. It just isn’t the American way, some years.
But if the US did bomb Moslems it would be a good thing to do, because it would be to bring democracy, peace, and love to the benighted ragheads. (Personally I’ve always wanted to be bombed into a higher moral state.) The Israelis have no ennobling excuse of bringing betterment. They are just defending themselves. Or think they are. It sure doesn’t seem to work very well.
Nor would the United States torture prisoners as the Israelis do. In the unlikely event that Americans did engage in torture, it would be the work of a few rogue soldiers, specifically the entire military intelligence apparatus using techniques taught to them by the CIA, the whole business being condoned up to the level of the Secretary of Defense.
So, you see, the Israelis belong to a small sordid group of torturers consisting only of themselves and every other country on earth. Except maybe Andorra. (Is Sark a country?)
Everybody gets mad when some Israeli helicopter blows up a Palestinian leader with a missile, like when the US bombed Ghadaffi’s palace but missed, because it’s murder and you aren’t supposed to do that. By contrast the American CIA doesn’t assassinate people, which is why an executive order was needed to make them stop it, if they did. Actually the CIA is a humanitarian group and for years carried stretchers around foreign cities to give aid to people shot by Mossad. Sometimes they were mistaken for Mormon missionaries.
But it’s just a few rogues. The United States would never, ever have a systematic campaign of assassination, as the Phoenix Program wasn’t. Never.
Now, if I were a Palestinian, I believe I’d do just what the Palestinians are doing. Thing is, if I were an Israeli, I believe I’d do just what they are doing. (You don’t suppose that’s the problem, do you?) It reminds me of Northern Ireland. I like Irish Catholics just fine. I like Irish Protestants just fine. I can’t tell’em apart. But they’re always blowing each other up. Or were.
Whenever I say the following, everybody gets riled and sends threatening email. Still, I’ll say it: Hideous barbarism is what we do. Just about all of us. The elegant Belgians, Inspector Poirot and all that? Read about the Congo. The gentle Dutch? Check Indonesia. After WWII, I don’t quite see how the British, Germans, or Americans can be too huffy because someone else bombs cities.
Anyway, I’m willing to grant that Israelis are uniquely terrible folk, ‘bout like everybody else, and no end monstrous, and eat babies. Being as I am a simple-minded country boy, though, I keep thinking of simple-minded questions. Like, what exactly do we expect the Israelis to do? I mean, I know they’re terrible and all, but they’re there. Maybe a better question is what would you do if you were where they are. It’s easy to solve problems you don’t have from Cleveland.
Now, any discussion of what the Israelis ought to do bogs down in about three seconds into arguments about whether Israel should ever have been allowed to exist. That’s easy. No. Things would have been lots easier for almost everybody. But then, maybe the Apaches don’t think the United States should exist. Maybe the Dravidians think the Aryans should high-tail it back to Iran. The Mexicans want California back, which they stole by force of arms from the Indians, who probably want it back too.
Thing is, Israel does exist. Should and ought to have don’t matter. It’s like saying Aunt Penelope shouldn’t have married a drunk and had seven feeble-minded kids. But she did. You gotta deal with it.
Best I can tell, the Israelis have these choices:
1 March into the sea and drown. It would be a solution of sorts, but the smart money doesn’t like it.
2 Emigrate to Brighton Beach. If they had wanted to, they would have already, so they probably won’t. Leaving isn’t really a choice. Who would take more than some of them?
3 Give the land back and retreat to the borders of 1967. This sounds like a nice idea, from Cleveland. You know, like Mikey grabbed Billy’s ball on the playground, and he should give it back and learn to share and be all friends with Billy.
Maybe it would have worked, once. This isn’t once. There is too much bad blood. It doesn’t follow that because the Israelis do bad things, the Palestinians don’t. They blow up shopping malls.
Leaving aside territorial ambitions, which exist, returning the land would be dangerous on military grounds. For example, look at where the West Bank fits into what is today Israel, note the shape of what remains when they are removed, and reflect on the range of a .105 howitzer. If returning the land would guarantee that the Palestinians would live peacefully with the Israelis, and grow olives, and invite them to drumming circles, OK. But it ain’t likely. Everybody hates everybody else too much. If I were an Israeli, I wouldn’t risk it.
4 Kill all the Palestinians or, in the less brutal school of ethnic cleansing of, say, 1493, shove them into Jordan. I’ll get email disagreeing, but I don’t think, despite Sharon and Kahane and such, that the Israelis would go for the former, even if they could get away with it, which they in all likelihood couldn’t. Expulsion would be a lesser but a huge gamble. I wouldn’t do it.
5 Build that fool wall. I guess that’s what I would do. It’s a bad idea and probably won’t work, which distinguishes it slightly from bad ideas that certainly won’t work.