I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Assorted Links

My Twitter feed and morning email have produced more good links than I can follow. All of these caught my attention this morning and I can't bear to toss them aside and keep surfing.
They have little in common but I need to stash them some place in case they are needed later. Like Halloween candle, take what you want...

Report: $800 million is snuck out of Iraq each week 
There is no question that huge amounts of Iraq's oil revenue and related contracting are flowing into the pockets of senior politicians and their political parties. Contracts related to government work and the oil business are frequently inflated and awarded without competition to the friends and relatives of Iraqi leaders. Still, taking an $800 million bite every week out of national revenue is an astonishing accomplishment that points to far more than inflated contracts. It's hard to see how this could happen without revenue from oil exports being more or less directly diverted to personal, rather than government, accounts.
And corruption is a sport played by every political faction within Iraq. Some parties are just more successful than others, with their loyalists stuffed into the ministries with the largest budgets. Junior party members at, say, the oil ministry, are placed there with the expectation they'll direct revenue to the party and its senior members. Failure to do so means they are replaced by bureaucrats willing to play ball. It's basically the same system as under Saddam Hussein, except atomized. Multiple parties competing for the biggest piece of the pie they can get rather than the Baath eating the whole meal.
There is very, very little interest among Iraq's senior leaders to stop the music and bring the national, oil-fueled corruptathon to an end. Popular agitation for political change that briefly flared last year in both Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Libya, was successfully crushed, so pressure for change from below seems unlikely. 
 ►Take The AQ Test
Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge's Autism Research Centre have created the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, as a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults. In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger's report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives.
The Making Of Romney's Storm Relief Event
The plan was for supporters to bring hurricane relief supplies to the event and then deliver the bags of canned goods, packages of diapers, and cases of water bottles to the candidate, who would be perched behind a table along with a slew of volunteers and his Ohio right-hand man, Senator Rob Portman. To complete the project and photo op, Romney would lead his crew in carrying the goods out of the gymnasium and into the Penske rental truck parked outside
But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal-Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it "did donate supplies to the relief effort," but would not specify how much it spent.)
Aleppo field hospital reveals grim reality of war in once-vibrant city 
The city shakes from the blasts of artillery, tank shelling and mortar rounds. The scream of aircraft engines sends many scurrying for cover. In rebel-held areas, entire streets are deserted, with mounds of rubble blocking the roads. Scores of people wait in line outside bakeries to buy bread.
The stench of rubbish fills the air, with a mound of trash sitting at almost every corner. Men and teenage boys scavenge the waste looking for anything that they can sell. Most stores are shuttered. Those open have little to offer.
But some men, women and children walk the streets seemingly unmoved by the thuds of shells impacting nearby or the crackle of gunfire.
After more than three months of street-to-street fighting, neither side has been able to deal the other a decisive blow and take full control of the city.
 Rebels drive their cars, mostly covered with a coat of dust and without number plates, at breakneck speed, ferrying their wounded to the field hospital, Dar Al Shifa. Occasionally, rebels who are struck by grief over the loss of their comrades shoot into the air, which terrorises residents and infuriates hospital staff.
Fuel is sold on the pavement by black market hawkers taking advantage of shortages to make a hefty profit. Lengthy power and water cuts are a daily occurrence. The city is blanketed in darkness after nightfall with only rebels roaming the streets.
It is the Dar Al Shifa hospital though that speaks the most about what has befallen this city that was once vibrant with commerce and culture.
Practising apartheid -- and proud of it
One-third of the Jews in Israel want a law that would prevent Arab citizens from participating in elections for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament; 59% want Jews to be given preference for jobs in government ministries; 49% want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arabs; 42% do not want an Arab neighbour in their building or an Arab pupil in their children's class at school; 58% believe that Israel already discriminates against Arabs (although the occupied West Bank has not been annexed to Israel); 39% think there is apartheid in a "few issues" and 19% in "many issues"; only 31% think that there is no apartheid in Israel at all.
Thirty-six percent think that the boycott of South Africa brought an end to the apartheid regime, whereas 34% think that the boycott had no influence on it. Only 38% of Israelis support the annexation of the occupied West Bank, but a very large majority, 69%, object to giving the 2.5-million Palestinians in the West Bank the right to vote if Israel annexes the territory
Only 19% are in favour of the Palestinians voting as equal citizens in the case of an annexation. Finally, 74% of the Jewish citizens of Israel support the separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank – one-third think that this is "a good situation" and 50% believe it is "a necessary situation". Only 17% want the separation to be brought to an end.
Related link ==► Middle East: Forest green screens a history denied 
With the sponsorship of a [South African] organisation, the Bedouin villages of Umm al-Hiran and Al-Arakib in Israel's will soon be wiped off the map. 
Activists and rights groups assert that the forced relocation of the Bedouin is an indication of Israel's apartheid practices. There is another South African link: the South African branch of the Jewish National Fund lists Blueprint Negev as one of its projects, done in conjunction with the Israeli state.
The South African Jewish National Fund has long been complicit in human rights crimes against Palestinians. The South Africa Forest in the Galilee, where South African Jews sponsor trees, was planted to hide the remains of the village of Lubya, destroyed in 1947.
The goal of the fund's South African arm is to bring 250 000 new residents to the Negev. Farmsteads will be built on sites in the Negev that are neither protected nature reserves nor army training areas. Most of the sites have been chosen for their scenic location and, in many cases, have been built on previously disturbed sites - previously disturbed by Palestinians who have lived there for centuries.

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