Friday, May 22, 2015


Starring: Ray Liotta, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Rodriguez, Kathleen Robertson, Polly Walker, Stephen Rea

Friday, May 15, 2015


Starring: Stuart Townsend, Sylvester Stallone, Melanie Griffith, Jamie Foxx, Thandie Newton,
Gabriel Byrne, Roger Guenveur Smith, Bo Hopkins

Friday, May 08, 2015

Green Street Hooligans

Starring: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani

Friday, May 01, 2015


Starring: Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Nigel Green

Friday, April 24, 2015

Raising Helen

Starring: Kate Hudson, John Corbett, Joan Cusack, Hayden Panettiere, Spencer Breslin, Abigail Breslin, Helen Mirren, Felicity Huffman

Friday, April 17, 2015


Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant, Reese Witherspoon.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Secret Agent

Starring: David Suchet, Cheryl Campbell, Peter Capaldi

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Four Feathers

Starring: Beau Bridges, Jane Seymour

Friday, March 27, 2015

David Copperfield

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Sally Field, Michael Richards, Eileen Atkins, Anthony Andrews

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Count Of Monte Cristo

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain, Dagmara Dominczyk, Luis Guzmán

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Tale Of Two Cities

Starring: Chris Sarandon, Alice Krige

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Brotherhood Of The Bell

Starring: Glenn Ford, Will Geer, Robert Pine, Dabney Coleman.

Friday, February 27, 2015


Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter, Kirsten Dunst

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Red Baron

Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer, Joseph Fiennes, Til Schweiger, Lena Headey

Friday, February 13, 2015


Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Cost Of US Wars Since 9/11: $1.6 Trillion

Marine Infantry Officer Course students stand by before a helicopter drill in Arizona. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Marchetti

The cost of US war-making in the 13 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks reached a whopping $1.6 trillion in 2014, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
The $1.6 trillion in war spending over that time span includes the cost of military operations, the training of security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, weapons maintenance, base support, reconstruction, embassy maintenance, foreign aid, and veterans' medical care, as well as war-related intelligence operations not tracked by the Pentagon. The report tracks expenses through September, the end of the government's 2014 fiscal year. 
The key factor determining the cost of war during a given period over the last 13 years has been the number of US troops deployed, according to the report. The number of troops in Afghanistan peaked in 2011, when 100,000 Americans were stationed there. The number of US armed forces in Iraq reached a high of about 170,000 in 2007.
Although Congress enacted across-the-board spending cuts in March 2013, the Pentagon's war-making money was left untouched. The minimal cuts, known as sequestration, came from the Defense Department's regular peacetime budget. The Pentagon gets a separate budget for fighting wars.
In the spending bill that Congress approved earlier this month, lawmakers doled out $73.7 billion for war-related activities in 2015—$2.3 billion more than President Barack Obama had requested. As Mother Jones' Dave Gilson reported last year, US military spending is on pace to taper far less dramatically in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than it did after the end of the Vietnam War or the Cold War.
Other reports have estimated the cost of US wars since 9/11 to be far higher than $1.6 trillion. A report by Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, estimated the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as post-2001 assistance to Pakistan—to be roughly $4.4 trillion. The CRS estimate is lower because it does not include additional costs including the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt.
Chart by AJ Vicens.
Source: MotherJones

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,”examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.
“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks, the groups found. But many others have targeted people who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them. And many of the cases involve due process violations and abusive conditions of confinement that have resulted in excessively long prison sentences.

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, who were accused of planning to blow up synagogues and attack a US military base, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent. The government, often acting through informants, then actively developed the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the targets to participate, and provided the resources to carry it out.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

Rezwan Ferdaus, for example, pled guilty to attempting to blow up a federal building and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Although an FBI agent even told Ferdaus’ father that his son “obviously” had mental health problems, the FBI targeted him for a sting operation, sending an informant into Ferdaus’ mosque. Together, the FBI informant and Ferdaus devised a plan to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol, with the FBI providing fake weaponry and funding Ferdaus’ travel. Yet Ferdaus was mentally and physically deteriorating as the fake plot unfolded, suffering depression and seizures so bad his father quit his job to care for him.

The US has also made overly broad use of material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. The courts have accepted prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part – and asserting government secrecy claims to limit challenges to surveillance warrants.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is a US citizen who alleged that he was whipped and threatened with amputation while detained without charge in Saudi Arabia – after a roundup following the 2003 bombings of Western compounds in the Saudi capital of Riyadh – until he provided a confession to Saudi interrogators that he says was false. Later, when Ali went to trial in Virginia, the judge rejected Ali’s claims of torture and admitted his confession into evidence. He was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to assassinate the president. He received a life sentence, which he is serving in solitary confinement at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

The US has in terrorism cases used harsh and at times abusive conditions of confinement, which often appear excessive in relation to the security risk posed. This includes prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on communicating in pretrial detention, possibly impeding defendants’ ability to assist in their own defense and contributing to their decisions to plead guilty. Judges have imposed excessively lengthy sentences, and some prisoners suffer draconian conditions post-conviction, including prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on contact with families or others, sometimes without explanation or recourse.

Nine months after his arrest on charges of material support for terrorism and while he was refusing a plea deal, Uzair Paracha was moved to a harsh regime of solitary confinement. Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) – national security restrictions on his contact with others – permitted Paracha to speak only to prison guards.

“You could spend days to weeks without uttering anything significant beyond ‘Please cut my lights,’ ‘Can I get a legal call/toilet paper/a razor,’ etc., or just thanking them for shutting our light,” he wrote to the report’s researchers. After he was convicted, the SAMs were modified to permit him to communicate with other inmates. “I faced the harshest part of the SAMs while I was innocent in the eyes of American law,” he wrote.

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

Source: Human Rights Watch

Terrorist Plots Hatched By The F.B.I.

THE United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.
When an Oregon college student, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, thought of using a car bomb to attack a festive Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the F.B.I. provided a van loaded with six 55-gallon drums of “inert material,” harmless blasting caps, a detonator cord and a gallon of diesel fuel to make the van smell flammable. An undercover F.B.I. agent even did the driving, with Mr. Mohamud in the passenger seat. To trigger the bomb the student punched a number into a cellphone and got no boom, only a bust.
This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps.
Carefully orchestrated sting operations usually hold up in court. Defendants invariably claim entrapment and almost always lose, because the law requires that they show no predisposition to commit the crime, even when induced by government agents. To underscore their predisposition, many suspects are “warned about the seriousness of their plots and given opportunities to back out,” said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. But not always, recorded conversations show. Sometimes they are coaxed to continue.
Undercover operations, long practiced by the F.B.I., have become a mainstay of counterterrorism, and they have changed in response to the post-9/11 focus on prevention. “Prior to 9/11 it would be very unusual for the F.B.I. to present a crime opportunity that wasn’t in the scope of the activities that a person was already involved in,” said Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer and former F.B.I. agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups. An alleged drug dealer would be set up to sell drugs to an undercover agent, an arms trafficker to sell weapons. That still happens routinely, but less so in counterterrorism, and for good reason.
“There isn’t a business of terrorism in the United States, thank God,” a former federal prosecutor, David Raskin, explained.
“You’re not going to be able to go to a street corner and find somebody who’s already blown something up,” he said. Therefore, the usual goal is not “to find somebody who’s already engaged in terrorism but find somebody who would jump at the opportunity if a real terrorist showed up in town.”
And that’s the gray area. Who is susceptible? Anyone who plays along with the agents, apparently. Once the snare is set, law enforcement sees no choice. “Ignoring such threats is not an option,” Mr. Boyd argued, “given the possibility that the suspect could act alone at any time or find someone else willing to help him.”
Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech — comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas — then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups.
Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk: for example, Waad Ramadan Alwan, an Iraqi in Kentucky, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded roadside bomb near Bayji, Iraq, and Raja Khan of Chicago, who had sent funds to an Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan.
But others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find. Take the Stinger missile defendant James Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer with a criminal record that included no violence or hate crime, despite his rants against Jews. “He was searching for answers within his Islamic faith,” said his lawyer, Clinton W. Calhoun III, who has appealed his conviction. “And this informant, I think, twisted that search in a really pretty awful way, sort of misdirected Cromitie in his search and turned him towards violence.”
THE informer, Shahed Hussain, had been charged with fraud, but avoided prison and deportation by working undercover in another investigation. He was being paid by the F.B.I. to pose as a wealthy Pakistani with ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group that Mr. Cromitie apparently had never heard of before they met by chance in the parking lot of a mosque.
“Brother, did you ever try to do anything for the cause of Islam?” Mr. Hussain asked at one point.
“O.K., brother,” Mr. Cromitie replied warily, “where you going with this, brother?”
Two days later, the informer told him, “Allah has more work for you to do,” and added, “Revelation is going to come in your dreams that you have to do this thing, O.K.?” About 15 minutes later, Mr. Hussain proposed the idea of using missiles, saying he could get them in a container from China. Mr. Cromitie laughed.
Reading hundreds of pages of transcripts of the recorded conversations is like looking at the inkblots of a Rorschach test. Patterns of willingness and hesitation overlap and merge. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Mr. Cromitie said, and then explained that he meant women and children. “I don’t care if it’s a whole synagogue of men.” It took 11 months of meandering discussion and a promise of $250,000 to lead him, with three co-conspirators he recruited, to plant fake bombs at two Riverdale synagogues.
“Only the government could have made a ‘terrorist’ out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope,” said Judge Colleen McMahon, sentencing him to 25 years. She branded it a “fantasy terror operation” but called his attempt “beyond despicable” and rejected his claim of entrapment.
The judge’s statement was unusual, but Mr. Cromitie’s characteristics were not. His incompetence and ambivalence could be found among other aspiring terrorists whose grandiose plans were nurtured by law enforcement. They included men who wanted to attack fuel lines at Kennedy International Airport; destroy the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago; carry out a suicide bombing near Tampa Bay, Fla., and bomb subways in New York and Washington. Of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.
Another New York City subway plot, which recently went to trial, needed no help from government. Nor did a bombing attempt in Times Square, the abortive underwear bombing in a jetliner over Detroit, a planned attack on Fort Dix, N.J., and several smaller efforts. Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it’s not easy to tell the difference.
David K. Shipler is the author of “Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America.”

Monday, February 09, 2015

Terrorism and The Other Religions

Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions. Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States.
As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church. Spain? Was it really unconnected to Catholicism? Did the Church and Francisco Franco’s feelings toward it play no role in the Civil War? And what’s sauce for the goose: much Muslim violence is driven by forms of modern nationalism, too.
I don’t figure that Muslims killed more than a 2 million people or so in political violence in the entire twentieth century, and that mainly in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 and the Soviet and post-Soviet wars in Afghanistan, for which Europeans bear some blame.
Compare that to the Christian European tally of, oh, lets say 100 million (16 million in WW I, 60 million in WW II– though some of those were attributable to Buddhists in Asia– and millions more in colonial wars.)
Belgium– yes, the Belgium of strawberry beer and quaint Gravensteen castle– conquered the Congo and is estimated to have killed off half of its inhabitants over time, some 8 million people at least.
Or, between 1916-1930 Tsarist Russian and then Soviet forces — facing the revolt of Central Asians trying to throw off Christian (and then Marxist), European rule — Russian forces killed an estimated 1.5 million people. Two boys brought up in or born in one of those territories (Kyrgyzstan) just killed 4 people and wounded others critically. That is horrible, but no one, whether in Russia or in Europe or in North America has the slightest idea that Central Asians were mass-murdered during WW I and before and after, and looted of much of their wealth. Russia when it brutally conquered and ruled the Caucasus and Central Asia was an Eastern Orthodox, Christian empire (and seems to be reemerging as one!).
Then, between half a million and a million Algerians died in that country’s war of independence from France, 1954-1962, at a time when the population was only 11 million!
I could go on and on. Everywhere you dig in European colonialism in Afro-Asia, there are bodies. Lots of bodies.
Now that I think of it, maybe 100 million people killed by people of European Christian heritage in the twentieth century is an underestimate.
As for religious terrorism, that too is universal. Admittedly, some groups deploy terrorism as a tactic more at some times than others. Zionists in British Mandate Palestine were active terrorists in the 1940s, from a British point of view, and in the period 1965-1980, the FBI considered the Jewish Defense League among the most active US terrorist groups. (Members at one point plotted to assassinate Rep. Dareell Issa (R-CA) because of his Lebanese heritage.) Now that Jewish nationalsts are largely getting their way, terrorism has declined among them. But it would likely reemerge if they stopped getting their way. In fact, one of the arguments Israeli politicians give for allowing Israeli squatters to keep the Palestinian land in the West Bank that they have usurped is that attempting to move them back out would produce violence. I.e., the settlers not only actually terrorize the Palestinians, but they form a terrorism threat for Israel proper (as the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin discovered).
Even more recently, it is difficult for me to see much of a difference between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the Hebron massacre.
Or there was the cold-blooded bombing of the Ajmer shrine in India by Bhavesh Patel and a gang of Hindu nationalists. Chillingly, they were disturbed when a second bomb they had set did not go off, so that they did not wreak as much havoc as they would have liked. Ajmer is an ecumenical Sufi shrine also visited by Hindus, and these bigots wanted to stop such open-minded sharing of spiritual spaces because they hate Muslims.
Buddhists have committed a lot of terrorism and other violence as well. Many in the Zen orders in Japan supported militarism in the first half of the twentieth century, for which their leaders later apologized. And, you had Inoue Shiro’s assassination campaign in 1930s Japan. Nowadays militant Buddhist monks in Burma/ Myanmar are urging on an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.
As for Christianity, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda initiated hostilitiesthat displaced two million people. Although it is an African cult, it is Christian in origin and the result of Western Christian missionaries preaching in Africa. If Saudi Wahhabi preachers can be in part blamed for the Taliban, why do Christian missionaries skate when we consider the blowback from their pupils?
Terrorism is a tactic of extremists within each religion, and within secular religions of Marxism or nationalism. No religion, including Islam, preaches indiscriminate violence against innocents.
It takes a peculiar sort of blindness to see Christians of European heritage as “nice” and Muslims and inherently violent, given the twentieth century death toll I mentioned above. Human beings are human beings and the species is too young and too interconnected to have differentiated much from group to group. People resort to violence out of ambition or grievance, and the more powerful they are, the more violence they seem to commit. The good news is that the number of wars is declining over time, and World War II, the biggest charnel house in history, hasn’t been repeated.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Comparing Israel To ISIS

"{ISIS'] quest for an ethnically pure Sunni state mirrors the quest for a Jewish state eventually carved out of Palestine in 1948. Its tactics are much like those of the Jewish guerrillas who used violence, terrorism, foreign fighters, clandestine arms shipments and foreign money, along with horrific ethnic cleansing and the massacre of hundreds of Arab civilians, to create Israel," 

[Chris Hedges]

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Sisi Plotted Army Rule Even While Mubarak Was In Power

Egypt's new leader Abdulfattah el-Sisi

Egypt’s new strongman drew up a blueprint for the army to seize power in case of a revolution against ex-president Hosni Mubarak as long ago as 2010, senior advisers have revealed.
The advisers have told The Telegraph he had already been identified by the army’s top brass before the 2011 revolution as its coming man, at a time when splits were growing between the military and the family of the 82-year-old Mr Mubarak.
In late 2010, when the then General Sisi was head of military intelligence, he was asked by his then bosses, who had already decided he should be the next minister of defence under any political settlement, to prepare a study of Egypt's political future.
He predicted that Mr Mubarak would try to pass on the country’s leadership to his son, Gamal, possibly as early as the following May, and that this could cause popular unrest. The report recommended the army should be prepared to move in to ensure stability - and preserve its own central role in the state.
As it turned out, events moved faster than anyone expected, with the uprising in Tunisia triggering street protests in Cairo in January 2011. Within a week, the army had enacted the plan Mr Sisi recommended, putting troops on the streets and saying it stood with the Egyptian people - making clear that Mr Mubarak and his sons were expendable, but the army was not.
Mr Mubarak was duly forced to resign on February 11.
The revelations about the army’s role at the time of his downfall are causing many of the revolutionaries to question whether the Tahrir Square protests brought down anything more than the figurehead of the old regime.
“When the revolution of January 25 exploded, the army already had plans to deploy,” said Hassan Nafaa, a prominent political scientist who was briefed personally on his report by the then General Sisi.
“I came to the conclusion that the army took advantage of the revolution to get rid of Mr Mubarak’s scheme of succession - maybe also that they had to sacrifice Mubarak, rather than the regime itself.”
Mr Sisi was seen as Mr Morsi’s choice because of his well-documented religious piety. No Brotherhood supporter could have risen so high in the army, but a thesis that Mr Sisi wrote in 2006 while on secondment to the US War College contained strongly Islamist themes, arguing that the ideal state was a pan-Islamic Caliphate, rather than a Western-style democracy.
Hassan Nafaa wondered whether Mr Sisi realised that the revolution had given people, particularly the young, a voice that they would not now give up. Mr Sisi would be mistaken if he thought that he could simply restore an unquestioned old-style regime. 
“If he doesn’t take this into consideration, he isn’t convinced that Egypt has absolutely changed - that it will never be the same as it was before - he will fail,” said Mr Nafaa.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Night That Panicked America

The Night That Panicked America is an American made-for-television movie that was originally broadcast on the ABC network on October 31, 1975. The movie dramatizes events surrounding Orson Welles' famous - and infamous - War of the Worlds radio broadcast (based on the novel of the same name by English author H.G. Wells) of October 30, 1938, which had led some Americans to believe that an invasion of Martians was occurring in New Jersey.

The Night That Panicked America tells the story of the 1938 broadcast from the point of view of Welles and his associates as they create the broadcast live, as well as from the points of view of a number of different fictional American families, in a variety of locations and from a variety of social classes, who listened to the broadcast and believed the imaginary Martian invasion was actually occurring, with some people even committing suicide.

The movie starred, among others, Michael Constantine, Meredith Baxter-Birney, Tom Bosley, Eileen Brennan, Vic Morrow, Will Geer, and John Ritter. Paul Shenar played Orson Welles.

Some local stations in various areas of the United States have annually rebroadcast this made-for-TV movie on October 30, the anniversary of the original radio broadcast or on October 31, which is Halloween. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction praised the film's recreation of events in the radio studio, but was unimpressed by its depiction of the resulting panic, calling it "a routine disaster movie with hackneyed characters reacting in predictable ways."

The film has never been issued on home video in any format.

The Welles broadcast and the reaction to it had earlier been dramatized in The Night America Trembled, a live presentation that aired on Studio One (September 9, 1957). The cast of this top-rated TV recreation of Welles' radio broadcast included Alexander Scourby, Ed Asner and Warren Oates. James Coburn made his television debut, and John Astin appeared uncredited as a reporter. In one of his earliest acting roles, Warren Beatty appeared in the bit part of a card-playing college student.

Starring: Paul Shenar

Muslims Who Sacrificed Themselves To Save WWII Jews

Noor Inayat Khan was recruited by Churchill’s elite Special Operations Executive (SOE) to work in Paris as a wireless operator. Her clandestine efforts supported the French Underground as England prepared for the D-Day invasions. Among SOE agents, the wireless operator had the most dangerous job of all, because the occupation authorities were skilled at tracking their signals. The average survival time for a Resistance telegrapher in Paris was about six weeks.
Khan’s service continued from June 1943 until her capture and arrest by the Gestapo in October. Her amazing life and eventual murder in Germany’s Dachau prison camp in September 1944 are the focus of a PBS film I co-produced that is airing this week. In researching her story, I came across quite a number of other Muslims who bravely served the Allied cause — and sometimes made the ultimate sacrifice. History is rich with examples of their daring heroism and split-second decisions that helped defeat the Nazis.
Behic Erkin, the Turkish ambassador in Paris, provided citizenship papers and passports to thousands of Jews (many with only distant claims to Turkish connections) and arranged their evacuation by rail across Europe. One fateful day, Necdet Kent, the Turkish consul-general in Marseille, stymied the shipment of 80 Turkish Jews to Germany by forcing his way onto a train bearing them to their likely death and arranging for their return, unharmed, to France.
Abdol-Hossein Sardari used his position at the Iranian consulate in Paris to help thousands of Jews evade Nazi capture. Later dubbed the Iranian Schindler, he convinced the occupying Germans that Iranians were Aryans and that the Jews of Iran had been Iranian since the days of Cyrus the Great — and, therefore, should not be persecuted. Then he issued hundreds of Iranian passports to non-Iranian Jews and saved their lives.
Ahmed Somia, the Tunisian co-director of the French Muslim Hospital outside Paris, organized weapon caches, facilitated Resistance radio transmissions, treated wounded Resistance fighters, and helped save many downed U.S. and British pilots by hiding them in fake T.B. wards where Gestapo and French gendarmes feared to go.
Khan was posthumously decorated with the highest British and French civilian and military honors, but so were other Muslims, including standout heroes among the 2.5 million British Indian troops fighting Axis forces around the globe. In this largest volunteer army in recorded history, Muslims (roughly one-third of the force) played prominent roles. 
In a letter to President Roosevelt during the war, Churchill pointed out that Muslim soldiers were providing “the main army elements on which we [the British] must rely for the immediate fighting.” 
In 1944-45, the French Army of Africa, joined to de Gaulle’s Free French Forces, was expanded to 260,000 men, of whom 50 percent were North African, the great majority being Muslim, while another substantial group were Senegalese Muslim riflemen. These forces invaded Italy and helped liberate southern France.
 Eastern Europe offered more examples: 
In the Balkans, for instance, only 200 Jews lived in Albania before WWII. Yet by war’s end, almost 2,000 Jews lived in the country, because so many had fled Greece, Austria and other locations in Europe to take shelter there among the predominantly Muslim population, which hid and protected them.
As Cole wrote elsewhere, commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day: 
“While a few Muslims did support the Axis, out of resentment of Western colonialism and hopes that the rise of an alternative power center would aid their quest for independence, they were tiny in their numbers compared to the Muslims who not just supported the Allies… but actively fought on their behalf.”
Arab Rescue Efforts During The Holocaust

Si Ali Sakkat

During his career Si Ali Sakkat held positions of a government minister and mayor of Tunis. By 1940 Si Ali Sakkat was enjoying retirement on his farm at the base of Jebel Zaghouan. There was a forced labor camp for the Jews not far away from Sakkat's farm. Jews from the camp were put to work repairing an airfield, which was regularly bombed by Allies. Arabs saw how Germans who ran the camp beat Jews on a regular basis. One night, during an especially heavy battle, sixty Jewish laborers were able to escape. The first structure they encountered was the wall of Sakkat's farm. They knocked on the gate, and were allowed shelter and food. They were also allowed to stay until the liberation of Tunisia by Allied forces.

Khaled Abdul-Wahab

Main article: Khaled Abdul-Wahab
Abdul-Wahab was a son of a well-known Tunisian historian. He was 32 years old when the Germans occupied Tunisia. He was an interlocutor between the Nazis and the population of the coastal town of Mahdia. When he overheard German officers planning to rape a local Jewish woman, Odette Boukhris, he hid the woman and her family, along with about two dozen more Jewish families, at his farm outside of town. The families stayed there for four months, until the occupation ended. Abdul-Wahab is sometimes called the Arab Oskar Schindler. In 2009 two trees were dedicated to honor his bravery. One tree was planted in Adas Israel Garden of the Righteous in Washington, D.C., the other was planted in the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide. His daughter Faiza attended the ceremony in Milan.

Shaykh Taieb el-Okbi

Taieb el-Okbi was a member of Algerian Islah (Reform) Party, and a friend of the prominent Algerian reformist Abdelhamid Ben Badis, who was tolerant to different religions and cultures. Ben Badis founded and directed the Algerian League of Muslims and Jews. He died before Vichy forces occupied Algeria, but Taieb el-Okbi took his place. Taieb el-Okbi discovered that the leaders of the pro-fascist group the Légion Français des Combattants were planning a Jewish pogrom. He did everything he could to prevent it and ordered Muslims not to attack Jews. His actions were compared to French archbishops Jules-Géraud Saliège and Pierre-Marie Gerlier, both of whom saved some Jews in France.
Muslim Rescue Efforts In Europe

Refik Veseli

Most of the 2,000 Jews of Albania were sheltered by the mostly Muslim population. Refik Veseli, a 17 year old Muslim boy, took in the family of Mosa and Gabriela Mandil, including their five year old son Gavra and his sister Irena, then refugees from Belgrade but originally from Novi Sad, for whom he had been working as an apprentice in their Tirana photographic shop. When the Germans took over from the Italians, he took them, and another Jewish family by night on long journey to his family village at Kruja, where they were protected by his parents for the war's duration, some 9 months later, even against Enver Hoxha's partisans. His example inspired his whole village to risk their lives in order to protect Jews. On receiving Gavra Mandil's request for them to be recognized as righteous, the authorities of Yad Vashem inscribed both Refka and Drita Veseli in 1988 among the Righteous. The story became better know after Albania's surviving Jewish community was allowed to perform aliyah in the 1990s, and many survivors told how their Albanian hosts vied for the privilege of offering sanctuary, on the grounds that it was an Islamic ethical obligation. Since that date, a further 50 Albanians have been registered among the ranks of the Righteous.
Source: Wikipedia

“Les Hommes Libres” (“Free Men”)

An unlikely savior of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France: the rector of a Paris mosque.
Muslims, it seems, rescued Jews from the Nazis.
“Les Hommes Libres” (“Free Men”) is a tale of courage not found in French textbooks. 
According to the story, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the founder and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, provided refuge and certificates of Muslim identity to a small number of Jews to allow them to evade arrest and deportation.
In the early 1940s France was home to a large population of North Africans, including thousands of Sephardic Jews. The Jews spoke Arabic and shared many of the same traditions and everyday habits as the Arabs. Neither Muslims nor Jews ate pork. Both Muslim and Jewish men were circumcised. Muslim and Jewish names were often similar.
The most graphic account was given by Albert Assouline, a North African Jew who escaped from a German prison camp. He claimed that: 
more than 1,700 resistance fighters — including Jews but also a lesser number of Muslims and Christians — found refuge in the mosque’s underground caverns, and that the rector provided many Jews with certificates of Muslim identity.
In his 2006 book, “Among the Righteous,” Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, uncovered stories of Arabs who saved Jews during the Holocaust, and included a chapter on the Grand Mosque. 
Dalil Boubakeur, the current rector, confirmed to him that: 
some Jews — up to 100 perhaps — were given Muslim identity papers by the mosque, without specifying a number. Mr. Boubakeur said individual Muslims brought Jews they knew to the mosque for help.
Mr. Boubakeur showed Mr. Satloff a copy of a typewritten 1940 Foreign Ministry document from the French Archives. It stated that:
the occupation authorities suspected mosque personnel of delivering false Muslim identity papers to Jews. “The imam was summoned, in a threatening manner, to put an end to all such practices,” the document said.
Mr. Satloff said in a telephone interview: “One has to separate the myth from the fact. The number of Jews protected by the mosque was probably in the dozens, not the hundreds. But it is a story that carries a powerful political message and deserves to be told.”
A 1991 television documentary “Une Résistance Oubliée: La Mosquée de Paris” (“A Forgotten Resistance: The Mosque of Paris”) by Derri Berkani , and a children’s book “The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust,” published in 2007, also explore the events.
Albanian Muslims Rescued Jewish Lives From Nazis
In 1934, American Ambassador to Albania Herman Bernstein proclaimed, “There is no trace of any discrimination against Jews in Albania, because Albania happens to be one of the rare lands in Europe today where religious prejudice and hate do not exist, even though Albanians are divided into three faiths.” Indeed, as Jews across Europe were being massacred en masse as part of the Nazi final solution, one country in Europe didn’t have a negative Jewish growth rate and that country, Albania, had a Muslim majority.
Prior to WWII, only 200 Jews lived in Albania, yet by the end of the war, about 2,000 Jews lived within the country because so many Jews fled Greece, Austria, and other locations in Europe to take shelter there. Other Jews, such as Albert Einstein, used Albania in order to pass on to other countries. Immigration officials in Albania permitted Jews to enter even if they didn’t have the proper paperwork and when the Nazis took over, the local inhabitants protected the Jews who lived within their country, providing them with paperwork stating that the Jews were Albanian Muslims. As a result, the Jews who fled to Albania were spared the horrors that the rest of the Jews of Europe endured.
Indeed, the Albanian Muslims have an honor code known as besa, meaning to keep the promise, which mandates hospitality and protection of guests as if they are members of ones own family. Because of this Albanian honor code, many of the Albanians who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust often don’t feel that what they did was particularly extraordinary, for they assert that any one in their culture would do the same. Yet, the reality is that other peoples in Europe did not live by the besa code, thus preventing what happened in Albania from happening elsewhere. The Albanian Muslims truly live by the Quranic principle, which is also cited in the Talmud, “If one saved a life, it would be as if he saved all humanity.”
Yet, Albanian Muslims living within Albania were not the only Albanians to help save Jewish lives. Dervis and Servet Korkut, who were Albanian Muslims that hid the Sarajevo Hagaddah from the Nazis, also saved the life of Mira Papos. When Mira’s parents were murdered by the Nazis, Mira escaped to the forests and joined the partisans. After the partisans suffered some horrendous defeats, they ordered Mira and the other young children to return to Sarajevo, which Mira viewed to be a death sentence. However, she also understood that remaining in the forests without assistance would also lead to death.
So, when she returned to Sarajevo, she met someone who worked with her father and begged him for help. He brought her to Dervis Korkut, who immediately took her into his home. Even though Nazis lived nearby, no one suspected them because they dressed Mira in traditional Muslim clothes, gave her a Muslim name, and told people that she was hired to take care of their baby. She was instructed not to speak to people outside the family, so she wouldn’t be detected as non-Albanian. Thanks to them, she survived the war. The Korkut family lived by the besa code and thus took it upon themselves to save Mira, in addition to one of the oldest Hagaddah prayer books in Europe. This demonstrates the marvelous ethics demonstrated by the Albanian people.
To watch a documentary on Albanians saving Jews during the Holocaust, see below!

The "Righteous Muslim" Exhibition
The Righteous Muslim Exhibition, launched at the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Bloomsbury, will feature photographs of 70 Muslims who hid Jews from the Nazis, alongside their stories and detailing their acts of heroism.

These 70 Muslims were recently added to Yad Vashem's list of "righteous among the nations" detailing those who risked their lives to protect Jews.
Among those listed in the Righteous Among the Nations are Muslims from Albania, Bosnia and Turkey.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

What Is Behind Europe's Rising Islamophobia?

Recent arson attacks on mosques in Germany and Sweden, along with the emergence of a movement called the "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident," prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to deliver a "never again" New Year's message to her compatriots in anticipation of Monday's demonstrations in Dresden. Warning against supporting PEGIDA, she said "their hearts are cold, often full of prejudice and even hate."
What is behind this most recent aggressive burst of anti-Islamic sentiment? How should we view it?
The landmass of the Occident spans the territory of many countries; its meaning becomes apparent only in juxtaposition to its counterpart, the Orient. It has more frequently perished in countless texts, speeches and films than all actually existing empires throughout human history combined. In short: The Occident is a fiction -- and that quality has always made it a powerful canvas for the projection of human fears and desires.
The Occident lies towards the Western sunset. Its lands are those of nightfall: heavy, full of melancholy, straining for the final rays of daylight, and hesitantly expecting the pale light of the rising moon. During the Middle Ages, stone-carved creatures of the imagination flanked the walls of Europe's cathedrals and conjured up images of nightly evils: When night falls, darkness envelops the souls of men and threatens them with extinction. The hour of sunset signals the advent of corporeal and spiritual danger. It takes tremendous power to hold demons at bay and to weather the temptations of the night. Two paradigms thus help to map the terrain of the Occident: the fear of darkness, and the belief in the divine light.
Christian churches are built with East-facing chancel windows; on Easter Sunday, the first daylight enters through the colored glass and bathes the barren nave in celebratory light. The organ intones, and the church bells ring out: He Has Risen. Indeed, the liturgy of Easter Sunday presents us with the most condensed enactment of the Occidental yearning for light, for another day, and for triumph over the demons of darkness. Ex oriente lux -- the sun rises in the East. That's why Europeans have always looked longingly beyond their horizon: Towards the East, towards Jerusalem.
The Occident became conscious of itself as a unified entity when Jerusalem fell to Islamic conquest. The longing for Jerusalem was thus also a longing for order and unity at home: One emperor, one pope, one center and one horizon that provided order to the world. At that time, the Occident was still being formed from the rubble of the Roman Empire, and forged during the tumultuous centuries of the migration of the peoples. "Alemannic" -- which is the etymological ancestor of the term "German" in romance languages -- simply means "all men." The longing for Jerusalem unified the Occident's diverse cultures for the first time.
Once again, we can look towards medieval cathedrals for architectural indicators of shared cultural sentiments: The domes of Europe's great cathedrals were shaped to resemble the imagined cityscape of worldly Jerusalem; their spires pointed towards heavenly Jerusalem. Christianity became the unifying identity of the Occident.
But unity remained fragile. New dangers lurked nearby, especially at the borders. From the South, Muslim armies threatened the continent. From the North, Normans invaded. Later came the Huns, then the Turks (whose conquest was only stopped at the gates of Vienna). Southern Spain remained in Muslim hands for centuries. Rome, the caput mundi, continued to be an attractive target for invaders from the Orient. The Occidental fears became manifest -- sometimes obsessively so -- in fears of Islam. For centuries, the religious competitor to the East robbed European emperors and popes of their sleep. Over time, Islamophobia became part of the collective consciousness of the Occident.
What is feared today is not the loss of any particular country to foreign conquest, but the loss of an imagined entity that binds us together. The Occident is a central piece of our mental maps and our cultural inventory. That's one reason why seemingly everyone from "the Old World" has at least an instinctual opinion about it. People harbor within themselves a sense of shared meaning -- the semantic sediments of the Occident.
When those opinions are voiced, they often fall short by the standards of reason and academic science. They are instead informed, in a very visceral sense, by fears of decline and by memories of cultural blossoming. Those fears culminate in the belief that our cathedrals will eventually turn into mosques, that their bells will fall silent and will be replaced by the cries of the muezzin. But fears lead to hyperbole. Let us remember that foreign conquests have failed for many centuries (and not for lack of trying!), and thus proclaim with conviction that danger can be averted again.
Fear of decline, and the celebration of an imagined unity: Those are the parameters that govern contemporary discourses about the Occident -- not as arguments but as discursive foundations. 
Indeed, the Occident is as much a fiction as the Orient. Both terms reflect the wishes, dreams and aspirations of our forefathers. They were shaped in earlier epochs over the course of generations and centuries.
The history of the Occident is not unlike the history of a cathedral: Every generation has tinkered with the structure and amended it. The foundations were set down during the time of Charlemagne, the aisles were added during Romanticism, a new spire was built during the Gothic period, ornate chapels appeared during the Baroque era. When fire struck, it was rebuilt. It had to be: How could a city exist without its central reference point?
The time of dusk: Fever, madness, gloriole, hyperbole. Death appears imminent until the rise of dawn. In old hymns, sleep is recast as the antechamber of death. No wonder, then, that religious pathologies and political and religious ideologies have repeatedly swept across the continent. Their danger remains acute. But to the arsonists I say: The Occident has never been able to sustain itself. It always required the light of the Orient as inspiration and external reference point.
"The Occident has never been able to sustain itself. It always required the light of the Orient as inspiration and external reference point."

During the Middle Ages, a veritable cult developed around the "three wise men" who came from the Orient and whose earthly remains are said to be contained in relics at the cathedral in Cologne. Ex oriente lux -- or, as the gospel of Matthew puts it: "We have His star when it rose, and have come to worship Him." In old paintings, the three wise men resemble representatives from late antiquity's three known continents: One European, one African, one Asian.
Thinkers like Erasmus of Rotterdam turned Christian traditions into undogmatic humanism, bent on eradicating the denominational borders within Christianity. Their effort proved to be a quick flicker: The fanaticism of the Reformation and fights over the correct interpretation of Christian dogma put an end to it. The Occident descended into centuries of spiritual and intellectual darkness. At the end of the 20th century, and after two World Wars, it is in the process of reinventing itself.
As Christianity teaches us, the dead have a way of rising again. Today's discussions remind us that the Occident is not finished yet. 
But we must not fool ourselves: The legacy of the term is a double-edged sword that can mean nothing and everything at the same time. It was born of emotion and shaped by the highs and lows of history. It is useless as an analytical reference point and cannot supply answers to concrete political questions.
Both the community of Christendom and the unity of the Occident were political ideas. The cost of their realization was paid in blood. But what is the Occident today? It is the community of peoples who have sustained the term in their collective consciousness and have continually amended its meaning.
The Occident extends beyond Christendom and beyond Europe. The term only works if avoids self-enclosure and remains perpetually open towards the outside -- towards the Orient, Africa and Asia -- as indeed it used to be. Its contemporary potential lies in continuing the work of Erasmus of Rotterdam: The formulation of global, humanistic and inclusive ethics.
Founder and publisher of The European