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19401  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins on: January 13, 2007, 06:10:57 PM
nope.  Grin

no joke, ...but it might be a pretty good indicator of what some powers on high think of the intelligence of the population to whom they're feeding this story.

What I haven't figured out is if the paranoia is so high that they're actually stupid enough to believe this,
...or if it's a case of them thinking the public is stupid enough to believe this. That I haven't quite figured out yet.

From everything I've heard in the past, it's USA currency that has the capability of inserting tracking tags... in the strip that runs through every USA bill. I've seen experiments where those bills have been placed in a microwave, ...and there is definitely something in that strip that doesn't like getting nuked.  Tongue
19402  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: Ya think the 80 billion spent in Iraq would do wonders in New Orleans? on: January 13, 2007, 06:05:10 PM
seriously, why is it you dont have free healthcare in the US? In the UK we have the National health Scheme (NHS) which provides EVERYONE in the UK to unlimited free healthcare. We dont need insurance, we dont pay for vital operations etc. I just cant fathom why the worlds biggest economy cant afford to treat its people with a little courtesy

Most every developed 1st world country has heathcare for it's citizens, ...and even some dirt poor backwater $#|Tholes.

Some countries including those with 3rd world status, even provide free education from pre-school to university, unless of course they have received funding from World Bank & IMF sources, in which case, those institutions dictate funds are not to be spent on educating the citizens, but in the transfer of national resources into private hands.
19403  Getbig Womens Area / Open Talk for Girl Discussion / Re: Must not have been a wall near by on: January 13, 2007, 08:45:44 AM
STella, what are nasal strips used for again? I think you might have told me once, ...but I forgot.  Embarrassed
19404  Getbig Main Boards / General Topics / Re: I think I'm in love . . . . on: January 13, 2007, 08:36:17 AM
I thought you didn't believe in infidelity?   Shocked
19405  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins on: January 13, 2007, 08:16:40 AM
Complete rubbish

Well whaddya expect? The old standyby scare tactics are losing their value. Gotta come up with new threats.
And what's skeerier than a pocketful of Canadian coins? Shocked Loonies have weaned me off eel-skin wallets Cheesy
19406  Getbig Misc Discussion Boards / Religious Debates & Threads / Re: The Devotionals Thread on: January 13, 2007, 08:09:40 AM
On Concentration

"Concentration is an accumulation of forces and materials within a given space, with regard to a certain work, a future creation, and it manifests first of all as a limitation. Even God limited himself in order to create the world, which is expressed symbolically in this verse from the book of Proverbs: ‘…when he drew a circle on the face of the deep...’ Concentration is necessary for formation; we cannot create anything without first gathering elements and uniting them.

At a higher level, we can say that a brotherhood between men and women can also be called a form of concentration. It actually represents the highest expression of spirituality, for here the elements are souls which come together around an idea and collaborate in its realization. In a spiritual brotherhood, people are the elements that unite in order to realize the highest ideal: the kingdom of God on earth."

Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov
19407  Getbig Misc Discussion Boards / Religious Debates & Threads / Re: The Devotionals Thread on: January 13, 2007, 08:08:07 AM
 Smiley
19408  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins on: January 13, 2007, 07:55:14 AM
U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins
By TED BRIDIS,
Associated Press Writer
Thu Jan 11, 4:16 AM ET
 

AP Photo: This photo released by the
Central Intelligence Agency shows a
hollow container, fashioned to look like
an Eisenhower silver dollar.


WASHINGTON - Money talks, but can it also follow your movements?

In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

Intelligence and technology experts said such transmitters, if they exist, could be used to surreptitiously track the movements of people carrying the spy coins.

The U.S. report doesn't suggest who might be tracking American defense contractors or why. It also doesn't describe how the Pentagon discovered the ruse, how the transmitters might function or even which Canadian currency contained them.

Further details were secret, according to the U.S. Defense Security Service, which issued the warning to the Pentagon's classified contractors. The government insists the incidents happened, and the risk was genuine.

"What's in the report is true," said Martha Deutscher, a spokeswoman for the security service. "This is indeed a sanitized version, which leaves a lot of questions."

Top suspects, according to outside experts: China, Russia or even France — all said to actively run espionage operations inside Canada with enough sophistication to produce such technology.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it knew nothing about the coins.

"This issue has just come to our attention," CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said. "At this point, we don't know of any basis for these claims." She said Canada's intelligence service works closely with its U.S. counterparts and will seek more information if necessary.

Experts were astonished about the disclosure and the novel tracking technique, but they rejected suggestions Canada's government might be spying on American contractors. The intelligence services of the two countries are extraordinarily close and routinely share sensitive secrets.

"It would seem unthinkable," said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "I wouldn't expect to see any offensive operation against the Americans."

Harris said likely candidates include foreign spies who targeted Americans abroad or businesses engaged in corporate espionage. "There are certainly a lot of mysterious aspects to this," Harris said.

Experts said such tiny transmitters would almost certainly have limited range to communicate with sensors no more than a few feet away, such as ones hidden inside a doorway. The metal in the coins also could interfere with any signals emitted.

"I'm not aware of any (transmitter) that would fit inside a coin and broadcast for kilometers," said Katherine Albrecht, an activist who believes such technology carries serious privacy risks. "Whoever did this obviously has access to some pretty advanced technology."

Experts said hiding tracking technology inside coins is fraught with risks because the spy's target might inadvertently give away the coin or spend it buying coffee or a newspaper. They agreed, however, that a coin with a hidden tracking device might not arouse suspicion if it were discovered in a pocket or briefcase.

"It wouldn't seem to be the best place to put something like that; you'd want to put it in something that wouldn't be left behind or spent," said Jeff Richelson, a researcher and author of books about the        CIA and its gadgets. "It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense."

Canada's largest coins include its $2 "Toonie," which is more than 1-inch across and thick enough to hide a tiny transmitter. The CIA has acknowledged its own spies have used hollow, U.S. silver-dollar coins to hide messages and film.

The government's 29-page report was filled with other espionage warnings. It described unrelated hacker attacks, eavesdropping with miniature pen recorders and the case of a female foreign spy who seduced her American boyfriend to steal his computer passwords.

In another case, a film processing company called the FBI after it developed pictures for a contractor that contained classified images of U.S. satellites and their blueprints. The photo was taken from an adjoining office window.

___

On the Web:

CIA hollow coin: http://www.cia.gov/cia/information/artifacts/dollar.htm

==================

OH MY GOODNESS!!! What's next?

19409  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: I'm starting to think the terrorist threat is.......... on: January 13, 2007, 07:47:17 AM
240, which way do you see the wind blowing? Sailors use the wind to unfurl their sails.
A good stiff wind has been known to carry sailors very far, ...provided they set their sails right.   Wink
19410  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: I'm starting to think the terrorist threat is.......... on: January 13, 2007, 07:30:24 AM
If we invade Iran unprovoked we will have become Nazi GErmany.   (Just my feeling at the moment)

"will have become", psssst - wrong tense.

I think 911, coupled with the subsequent invasions of both Afhanistan & Iraq require use of the past tense.  Cry
19411  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: Did the Bush speech last night make it clear - IRAN IS NEXT? on: January 13, 2007, 07:16:01 AM
Hey Rockyfortune, I love your sig line!  Smiley
19412  Getbig Main Boards / General Topics / Re: Hey Blinky on: January 13, 2007, 06:51:42 AM
Oh ok, ...I thought you were in Winnepeg. Anyway, hang in there... this is supposed to be the warmest winter
19413  Getbig Womens Area / Open Talk for Girl Discussion / L.A. man sues to take wife's last name on: January 13, 2007, 06:42:51 AM
L.A. man sues to take wife's last name
By Martin Kasindorf
, USA TODAY
Updated 1/12/2007 10:24 AM


Mike Buday & Diana Bijon outside their
home in Marina del Rey in December.


LOS ANGELES — Michael Buday is petitioning a federal judge for the right to take Diana Bijon's last name in marriage as easily as she could take his last name.

Bijon, 28, an emergency room nurse, asked her fiancé to change his last name to preserve her father's family name because there are no sons. Buday, 29, a technical manager at an advertising firm, promised he would.

"I had a rough childhood with my father," he says. "We never really got along. Diana's father stepped up, gave me career advice. He's family."

Keeping his promise has been more onerous than Buday expected. A woman can choose her husband's name or her maiden name on a California marriage-license form after the couple pays a county application fee that ranges from $50 to $97. California and 43 other states provide no place on a marriage-license application for the groom to choose the bride's surname.

To officially change his name to hers — and for future Social Security benefits, Buday says — a man must pay a $320 court fee, advertise his intention in a newspaper for four weeks and get a judge's approval.

"The law makes it burdensome, if not close to impossible, to adopt the wife's name," says Mark Rosenbaum, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "It reflects the archaic notion of a woman's subordinate place in the partnership."

The ACLU sued California and Los Angeles County on Dec. 15 to have the separate treatment of Buday and Bijon outlawed as gender discrimination and a denial of equal protection. The couple were married in August 2005 under their separate names after state and county agencies rebuffed them.

Six states — Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota — give either spouse the right to choose the other's last name.

A marrying couple that wants a combined or hyphenated name in California and most other states must go through the red tape of a court petition. That's the route Antonio Villar of Los Angeles took in 1987 when he and his wife, Corina Raigosa, combined their names as Villaraigosa. He's now mayor of the city.

A groom seldom asks to adopt his bride's name, says Myleta Miller, a clerk at Atlanta's Probate Court. No national statistics are kept, but Miller says she's seen "no more than five" such applications in six years on the job.

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Conny McCormack, named in the lawsuit, says her office uses a state-dictated form and will comply with any change judges or legislators might order.

"I certainly am in favor of the law … being clarified," McCormack says.
 
19414  Getbig Womens Area / Open Talk for Girl Discussion / Re: girly clothes... on: January 13, 2007, 06:37:38 AM
Wow Toxie,
Thanks for that link. Some of that stuff is just gorgeous! I'm bookmarking this site for sure! I love Indian jewelry.
It's hard to find really gorgeous sari's and lehengas here, except maybe at the South Asian bridal shows.
19415  Getbig Womens Area / Open Talk for Girl Discussion / Toxie, you missed the premiere of 'Guru' on: January 13, 2007, 06:08:38 AM
Toxie,
You should have been here in Toronto last night. (Thursday) Downtown Toronto was a madhouse.
Thousands upon thousands of Bollywood fans lined the street. Yonge street had to be shut down.

It was the first Bollywood premier to be held outside of India, and it was an incredible success!

Bollywood's "Guru" makes its premiere in Toronto
Fri Jan 12, 1:41 PM ET
 
TORONTO (Reuters) - Two of India's hottest movie stars took Canada by storm on Thursday night with the launch of "Guru" the first Bollywood film to premiere outside India.
 
Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai were greeted by about 1,000 giddy, shrieking fans amid a blaze of camera flashes and TV lights at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theater Center in downtown Toronto.

Top Bollywood director Mani Ratnam and composer A.R. Rahman were also on the red carpet.

Before being whisked into the screening, Bollywood's royalty -- nicknamed "India's Brangelina" after Hollywood royalty Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie -- stopped to wave and blow kisses to fans, many of whom had waited for hours waiting for a glimpse of the pair.

"The Indian film industry, as you know, is the largest film industry in the world. And we want to reach out to the audience overseas," Bachchan told TV reporters outside the theater.

"So it's wonderful to come here in person and actually premiere a movie -- you know, mainstream," said Rai.

"Guru" is a rags-to-riches love story starring Bachchan as a man who becomes a major force in the business community. Rai, a former Miss World who is rumored to be Bachchan's fiancé plays his wife.

While there is speculation the film was inspired by the story of Dhirubhai Ambani, one of India's leading industrialists, organizers say it's really a story about any Indian who started from scratch and made it in the world.

Organizers said Toronto was chosen for the premiere because it is cosmopolitan and because "Never Say Goodbye," another Bollywood film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, got a stellar reception.

The gala crowd reportedly far outnumbered that for Brad Pitt's film "Babel," which has been nominated for an Oscar.

"We have been watching Mani Ratnam's films for a long, long time," said Roger Nair, the film's Canadian distributor. "It's time every body could watch it now."

BOLLYWOOD WEST

Premiering the film in Toronto also made sense because South Asians comprise the city's second largest visible minority group behind ethnic Chinese.

For fans like Angelica Gupta it was a way to link South Asian communities in Canada and India.

"It's a really big deal, and everyone cares," said Gupta.

Official statistics are scant, but it has been reported the Bollywood film industry is the biggest in the world in terms of viewers, with an audience of more than 3 billion, compared with Hollywood's 2.6 billion in global ticket sales.

India's film industry, valued at about $1.75 billion in 2006, is forecast to nearly double to $3.4 billion by 2010, according to estimates by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In Canada, Bollywood's profile has been boosted by the work of Indo-Canadian filmmakers like Deepa Mehta, whose latest movie ,"Water," has been selected as the official foreign-language entry from Canada at this year's Academy Awards.

Thursday's premiere is expected to help bolster Bollywood's profile in North America, as well as that of the film's stars.

Rai, 33, has already achieved fame outside India by starring in films like "Bride and Prejudice," a Bollywood version of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

Bachchan, 30, is the son of Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and his wife, Jaya, who is also an actress.
19416  Getbig Womens Area / Open Talk for Girl Discussion / Re: Your chinese sign on: January 13, 2007, 05:40:15 AM
Note to self: Spectacular foot-loving is mandatory from now on.I can be short on this one: NO.

Faust GO FOR IT!!! You'll love it!

My very first truly FABULOUSLY SPECTACULAR foot massage was by a lesbian girlfriend of mine.
We'd gone out one night after work, and I was gonna miss the last train back, so I spent the night at her place.
I was all freaked out & nervous because all night, she'd been giving me hints that she was a lesbian, and I was terrified that she wanted to take our platonic friendship to a whole new level.  Shocked

I already knew she was a lesbian, but it made no difference to me because I felt who she sleeps with is none of my business, but her constant hinting all night was freaking me out, coupled with the fact that I was gonna be spending the night at her place, ...and now she wants to give me a foot massage?  Shocked yikes

I was torn. My feet were killing me! I had been in 4½" stilettos ALL DAY!
I finally bit the bullet, decided to take her up on the offer for the foot massage, and try to tactfully deal with any uncomfortable awkwardness that might occur if she tried to take it beyond a foot massage. Turns out, she didn't know I already knew she was a lesbian, and all her hinting was simply her way of trying to come out of the closet to me. She didn't want to hide who she was, and but she was trying to take my temperature because she was afraid I wouldn't like her anymore if I knew she was a lesbian.

There was no come ons, ...just a truly fabulous foot massage, and I breathed a sigh of relief about not having to hurt a friend. To this day, I still haven't found a pedicurist who can give as good a foot massage as I got that night.  Cry
19417  Getbig Womens Area / Open Talk for Girl Discussion / Re: Your chinese sign on: January 13, 2007, 05:19:45 AM
I never really noticed, but do men go for pedicures the way we do?

No, they don't go for pedicures the way we do, ...they order IN, and rarely admit to it. {lol}  Tongue

My highschool boyfriend was the stereotypical, homophobic, ultra-macho guy, who hated doing anything that smacked of feminine. He'd even feel disgusted if his father helped his mother wash dishes. Anyway, one summer while he was in New York City, he and his uncle had a meeting with a real important guy with a real "Marlon Brando / Tony Soprano" kind of presence about him. They were both there in this guy's office, when in walks a team of 3 women to give this guy his manicure and pedicure. My boyfriend who was 25 at the time, was like WTF? Of course he didn't say anything. The guy they were meeting insisted they have manicures too. Not wanting to be disrespectful, or to offend the guy, ...they too also indulged in the manicures. At first they were a bit uptight, ...and they gave each other those looks that essentially communicated "This doesn't leave the room". {lol} Then, to both their surprise, ...they started to like it. After the hand massage, it didn't take much to co-erce them into getting the pedicures too while they discussed business with this guy. Anyway... long story short... when my boyfriend got back to Toronto, he was raving about how good they felt. He was like "I can't believe I've never done this before!" I guess having the wise-guy seal of approval, made it ok for him to indulge without his sexuality being called into question. We even starting doing our nails together.  Grin
19418  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: Ya think the 80 billion spent in Iraq would do wonders in New Orleans? on: January 13, 2007, 04:39:31 AM
  Would the money we're spending in Iraq be better-spent elsewhere?

  Guess we'll never know.

If you can find footage from President Clinton's State of the Union address from 2000, you'll find plenty of places within the USA infrastructure where those billions could have been better spent. It'll giva ya the warm fuzzies.  Smiley
19419  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: Iraqi director gives voice to his nation on: January 13, 2007, 04:32:28 AM
Weird that the kidnappers wouldn't have trashed his film...That is the first thing i thought they would do..

They might very well have done that... who knows? But films are shot over long periods of time.
I highly doubt they would have been carrying their entire reams of raw footage, most would have been in processing or elsewhere. 1 four minute music video will normally take 4 - 7 days to shoot, so, if they did trash any footage, I doubt it would have seriously affected them. They could also simply re-shoot. But talk about being between a rock and a hard place. I seriously doubt the AK-47 was loaded with blanks. I know mine wouldn't be.  Tongue But then again, I doubt I'd have the stones to embark on such a journey in the midst of a war. 
19420  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: Someone, please defend the 21,500 troop number on: January 13, 2007, 04:22:01 AM
That's ok bro, I'll be 80 than... so no worries

Ever seen how the elderly fare in a wild, chaotic, dog eat dog, every man for himself, state of anarchy?
You should be skeeered, ...very skeered.   Shocked
19421  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Re: Someone, please defend the 21,500 troop number on: January 13, 2007, 04:19:52 AM
Again, lets define the "enemy".  Crush whom?  Overwhelm whom?

Victory in Iraq is an empowered Iraqi military and police and stabilized government.

Brilliantly insightful Jeff.
19422  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Environmental rules waived for fence on: January 13, 2007, 04:14:39 AM
Environmental rules waived for fence
By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN,
Associated Press Writer
Sat Jan 13, 12:29 AM ET
 
TUCSON, Ariz. - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff waived environmental rules Friday to clear the way for a border fence to be constructed along the Mexican border.

The move circumvented a series of laws, from the Endangered Species Act to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, outraging environmentalists.

Dr. Robin Silver, board chair of the environmental organization Center for Biological Diversity, called Chertoff's move "a historic travesty."

"Because they refuse to deal head-on with the economics of the immigration challenge, they're now taking a step to destroy the integrity of the central part of southern Arizona's desert," Silver said. "There's not a wall on earth that's going to stop a human in search of a minimum-wage job to feed his hungry family."

It was unclear when construction on 37 miles of traditional and virtual fencing would begin at the Air Force's training range in southwestern Arizona. The project also includes radar and other infrastructure, lighting, all-weather and drag roads, expected to cost in the neighborhood of $64 million.

Chertoff voided "environmental requirements and other legalities that have impeded the department's ability to construct fencing and deploy detection technology on the range," spokesman Russell Knocke said in Washington.

Knocke said small openings will be made in fencing to allow the flat-tailed horned lizard to continue crossing into Mexico.

The construction will be part of the Bush administration's overall Secure Border Initiative that calls for adding a mix of fencing, cameras and high-tech surveillance and communications, vehicle barriers and other features to diminish and deter illegal crossings along the Mexican border.

Arizona has been the epicenter for crossings by illegal immigrants for several years and authorities said last year nearly 8,600 people trying to enter the country illegally were apprehended in the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
19423  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Iraqi director gives voice to his nation on: January 13, 2007, 04:12:31 AM
Iraqi director gives voice to his nation
By CHARLES J. GANS
, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jan 12, 2:57 PM ET


Film maker Mohamed Al-Daradji

NEW YORK - If the Oscar for best foreign-language film were awarded to the filmmaker who overcame the greatest hardships and faced the biggest risks to bring his vision to the screen, then Iraqi director Mohamed Al-Daradji would be the odds-on favorite to take home the golden statuette for his debut feature film, "Ahlaam."
 
It's hard to imagine that any director ever faced more adverse conditions than Al-Daradji, who shot his film over four months in late 2004 in and around Baghdad, where blackouts, shootings and bombings were everyday occurrences.

When the power went out, he used car headlights, flashlights and candles to light his sets. Al-Daradji not only carried a camera but sometimes an AK-47 automatic rifle loaded with blanks as a deterrent. An Iraqi policeman assigned to protect the film crew was killed in a shootout with insurgents.

As he neared the end of filming, Al-Daradji says, he and three of his crew were kidnapped and narrowly escaped being killed by insurgent supporters of  Saddam Hussein, who accused them of making a propaganda film supporting the U.S.-backed Iraqi government. He says their captors were preparing to shoot them before fleeing at the sound of an approaching police siren. Later that same day, he says, Al-Daradji and his crew members were abducted from a Baghdad hospital by another group of gunmen who roughed them up before turning them over to the U.S. military, who held them in harsh conditions for six days on suspicion they were filming insurgent attacks for al-Qaida.

Al-Daradji is a dual Dutch-Iraqi citizen. The Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed that its diplomats helped secure the filmmaker's release from U.S. custody.

Al-Daradji persevered to complete "Ahlaam" — the title is an Arabic female name meaning "Dreams" — which is Iraq's official entry for this year's Academy Awards foreign-language film competition. It's only the second Iraqi film ever submitted in the category's 50-year history. The first, last year's Kurdish-language "Requiem of Snow," was filmed in Iraq's more secure northern provinces.

For the 28-year-old Al-Daradji, just representing his country in the Oscar competition is a source of pride. His film portrays in often graphic images how the dreams of ordinary Iraqis "just to live as normal people, to study, get married and have children" are shattered, first by the brutality of Saddam's regime and later by the destruction brought on by the U.S. invasion in 2003.

"It's a great feeling because as an Iraqi you need to bring the voice of your nation and your people to the international audience," said Al-Daradji, interviewed by telephone recently from his home in Leeds, Britain. "I always dreamed about doing something for my country and thinking ... how can I rebuild Iraq in my way.

"But at the same time you feel for what your country is going through at this difficult time," he added. "It's very sad to say the human being in Iraq has become a number — the number of people dead, the number of people kidnapped, the number of people tortured and the number of people becoming refugees. ... It's like we lost the human element on these people and how they live and what they do and how they suffer. ... I feel it is quite important to tell the human story of the Iraqi people."

Without any support from his hard-pressed government and only a minuscule Oscar campaign budget, Al-Daradji concedes that "Ahlaam" has little chance of being selected as one of the five foreign-language film nominees to be announced on Jan. 23 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This year the Academy's foreign-language film committee is screening entries from a record 61 countries, including such favorites as Spain's "Volver" and Mexico's "Pan's Labyrinth."

"Ahlaam" had its world premiere in December 2005 at the Cairo International Film Festival. Since then, Al-Daradji has shown his film at some 45 festivals in 25 countries, everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh.

"`Ahlaam' is significant for not only being one of the first fiction films to be completed ... in post-Saddam Iraq, but more importantly for being a work that is a visually stunning, blisteringly acted film that doesn't shy away from the harsh brutality of war, and also somehow manages to convey the basic humanity of a people pushed past breaking," said Carl Spence, artistic director of the Seattle International Film Festival, which presented the official U.S. premiere of "Ahlaam" in May.

As a 17-year-old theater student, Al-Daradji fled Iraq in 1995 after his cousin was hanged by Saddam's regime for opposition activities. He received asylum in Holland, where he studied filmmaking and worked as a television cameraman. He earned his master's degree in cinematography in 2003 at Leeds Metropolitan University in Britain. He directed short films and commercials, dreaming of someday making his first feature film.

That chance came after Saddam's fall when Al-Daradji returned to Baghdad in August 2003 to see his family for the first time in eight years. His "Ahlaam" screenplay took shape after he volunteered at a psychiatric hospital and heard the stories told by staff about their patients' experiences wandering the chaotic streets of Baghdad after U.S. bombs destroyed their ward.

Al-Daradji never considered shooting the film in a neighboring country because he wanted to use the skills he had acquired in exile to help revive Iraq's once thriving film industry.

"When the film camera was turned on and I was working in Baghdad, for me and my crew that was like we exist as a nation," said Al-Daradji, in an earlier interview last year. "We are occupied by the American army ... but as people we are making something for ourselves."

"Sometimes we were close to being killed. I was crying because I was afraid. ... But for me, this was more than making a film. `Ahlaam' is symbolic of ... a new Iraq," said the filmmaker, who has an unkempt mane of curly black hair and a slight stubble.

Al-Daradji could not have made the film on its shoestring $300,000 budget without the help of ordinary Iraqis. His cast included both professional actors and amateurs who worked without pay — including Bashir Al-Majid, a journalist who spent 12 years in Saddam's jails, in the role of Ali. Tribal desert sheiks and imams in their mosques offered free food and lodging, black marketeers provided U.S. Army uniforms and hundreds of people volunteered as extras.

Al-Daradji says his experience shooting "Ahlaam" has not deterred him from returning to Iraq to make his next film, which is about a mother's search for her son's remains among the mass graves uncovered after Saddam's fall.

"It's encouraged me more," said Al-Daradji. "I saw the death very close to me, so I'm not scared because God wanted me to live."

As for the Oscars, Al-Daradji can only dream of what he might say if he got a chance to deliver his acceptance speech. He would, of course, thank all the people who "suffered" with him to make "Ahlaam," especially his mother in Baghdad who worried herself sick during filming.

And he would add: "As an Iraqi, of course, I wish that the American troops leave Iraq and Iraq becomes a free country. And at that time, I will invite all the American people to come visit Iraq as guests of honor."

___

On the Net:

Human Film: http://www.humanfilm.org
19424  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / Mali film puts West's blueprint for Africa on trial on: January 13, 2007, 04:09:31 AM
Mali film puts West's blueprint for Africa on trial
By Nick Tattersall

Fri Jan 12, 8:29 AM ET
 
DAKAR (Reuters) - Africa's poorest are even worse off than they were a quarter of a century ago and despite years of debt relief, humanitarian aid and the goodwill of fund-raising rock stars, the West is to blame.
 
So say the witnesses who line up to testify against Western financial institutions in "Bamako," a scathing film by Mauritanian-born director Abderrahmane Sissako, due to be released in Britain and the United States next month.

The plot is simple. Mostly poor Africans who have had no say in how their economies are run plead their case against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, accusing them of imposing rules that have kept their nations mired in misery.

Set in the dusty courtyard of his father's family compound in Mali's capital Bamako, Sissako's fantasy trial gives a voice to the voiceless, those who have felt the effects of measures imposed by Western economists but have had no easy way to reply.

"It's not so much about identifying who is guilty as denouncing the fact that the fate of hundreds of millions of people has been sealed by policies decided outside their universe," Sissako says on the Website http://www.bamako-film.com.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a theatrical gesture by an intellectual blaming his continent's ills on outsiders.

But what makes Sissako's film compelling is that his roll-call of witnesses are not actors but real local people, including a would-be illegal migrant, an elderly villager and a former minister.

One of the first, Madou Keita, is among thousands of young Africans who have undertaken epic journeys across desert and sea to try to get into "fortress Europe" and find work. Keita's bid failed when he was shot at by Algerian guards in the Sahara.

Former Malian culture minister Aminata Traore also takes the stand, a local hero in Bamako after she employed Malian craftsmen to renovate one of the sprawling city's dirt-strewn neighborhoods in a bid to demonstrate Africa could help itself.

"The world is certainly open to whites but it is not open to blacks," she says in her impassioned, unscripted testimony.

WHO'S TO BLAME?

The film, which opened in West Africa this month after premiering at the 2006 Cannes film festival, takes its broadest swipe at the "structural adjustment programmes" championed by the World Bank and IMF during the world recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The programmes set conditions such as cutting social expenditure and privatising state-owned enterprises in return for more loans.

Critics say such measures cost badly needed jobs, profited only Western companies and left education and public health sorely underfunded.

It may only be a fictional trial, but the arguments highlight a fatalistic sense felt by many Africans that the continent is a perpetual victim, once of the slave trade and colonisation, then of the Cold War and now globalisation.

It is a debate which arouses strong emotions.

Robert Calderisi, a development expert who spent much of his 30-year career at the World Bank and professes a passion for Africa, argues that a "spiral of pride, anger, poverty and self pity" has kept it behind the rest of the world.

"Africa has been making its own history since independence and has been largely free of foreign domination since the end of the Cold War," he wrote in his 2006 book, "The Trouble With Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working."

"Adjustment did not fail in Africa; it was never given a fighting chance. Africa was bleeding to death, but instead of worrying about the haemorrhaging, African leaders complained about the pain from the tourniquet," Calderisi wrote.

DIALOGUE OF THE DEAF

"Bamako" steers clear of self pity and its criticism is often good-humoured. The trial is punctuated by wry snippets of Malian daily life: at one point a French lawyer defending the West is ripped off as he buys a pair of fake Gucci sunglasses from a street vendor.

In another scene, the family sits around the TV in their compound to watch the evening film. It is a Western and one of the most ruthless cowboys is black, an attempt to show that "the West alone is not responsible for Africa's ills," Sissako says.

The IMF has taken the criticism on the chin, inviting some of those involved in the film to a recent reception in Bamako when its deputy head, John Lipsky, was in town.

"The movie does give us a strong appreciation of the communication challenges the IMF faces," spokeswoman Gita Bhatt said, adding the Fund was now backing programmes in many African nations designed around their own poverty-reduction strategies.

"We've listened to what donors and NGOs have said. And above all we've listened to what the governments and populations of our low-income member countries have said," IMF managing director Rodrigo Rato said in a visit to Gabon this month.

The film's collaborators do not expect "Bamako" to bring about immediate change. But they hope audiences will realize the world's poor are not blind to what they see as the malign hand the West has dealt them.

"At least they will know we know," one of the witnesses told Sissako during filming.
19425  Getbig Main Boards / Politics and Political Issues Board / The US in Baghdad: surge or scourge? on: January 13, 2007, 04:06:29 AM
The US in Baghdad: surge or scourge?
By Rami G. Khouri

Daily Star staff
Saturday, January 13, 2007

US President George W. Bush is working hard to achieve a wholesale transformation of Iraq and the Middle East into something more stable, productive and democratic, or so American officials tell us. Bush enjoys reading American history, but he would do well to check out some historical narratives from our own region, especially if he is sending more than 20,000 fresh American soldiers to Iraq. He would especially benefit from reading about another Western leader who towered over the world and similarly tried to rearrange the Middle East - the Roman emperor Diocletian.

Bush, like Diocletian (who ruled from 245 to 312), speaks in the sweeping vocabulary of those who think in terms of fundamental rearrangements, describing his challenges as the defining battle of a generation. He acts with equal boldness, on the same grand scale. In the late 4th century, Diocletian ordered a major military and administrative reorganization of Rome's eastern frontier provinces, centered - not coincidentally - on Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq.

Diocletian undertook a major program of building forts and highways throughout the Arabian provinces, after he had imposed a humiliating treaty on his defeated Sassanian, or Persian, foes. Around the same time the Sassanians also launched a significant fortification program, in order - no surprise - to protect themselves against their militarily powerful Roman neighbors. For three centuries to follow, Rome and Persia fought intermittent wars separated by brief periods of uneasy peace, temporary conquest and subjugation, and occasional mutual exhaustion.

By the early 7th century, Rome and Persia were both battered by their perpetual wars, domestic civil strife and border clashes with third parties, and were unable to resist the militant Arabs who emerged from Arabia under the banner of the new religion called Islam. In 636, at Yarmouq in Jordan and Qadisiyya in modern Iraq, the Arabs defeated both the Byzantine Romans and the Persians. The Middle Eastern lands of eastern Rome and Persia were eventually conquered and united in the new Islamic realm. The Roman and Persian forts can still be seen today, tourist sites mainly attesting to the futility of military conquest.

The new strategy for Iraq announced by Bush on Wednesday night will continue to generate great debate for some time to come. We will soon see if his is a feasible, rational approach to the dilemmas that Washington has largely created for itself in the Middle East, or if it proves to be a new form of imperial self-assertion. It would only add to the already rich debate on this issue a cautionary note on imperial tendencies and dangers.

One of the historic developments during Diocletian's rule was the expanded role and status of the imperial court, and the explicit linking of the emperor's rule with the realm of the gods. Diocletian even declared himself the son of Jupiter - becoming increasingly detached from the day-to-day affairs of ordinary people and more focused on implementing the divine will on earth, including in Mesopotamia. People in his presence had to prostrate themselves. Diocletian emasculated the republican institutions of Rome, turning the fabled Senate into little more than a local council, thus removing most political checks and balances and opening the way to autocratic governance. His persecution of Christians almost certainly prompted the faith to spread more rapidly.

Some of this may be relevant to events today, or it may just be intrinsically fascinating, as stories of tragic mortals usually are. George W. Bush speaks of Iraq and the Arab world in the language of imperial disdain, and acts with an exaggerated sense of divine proximity, emboldened by a fearlessness anchored in military might and certitude of the nobility of his mission. Yet he makes repeated mistakes - as he admitted this week while changing policy - and the consequences of his policy in the Middle East appear to bring about the opposite of his stated intentions: more terrorism, less stable states, the spread of Islamism, weaker central governments, and more intense anti-Americanism.

This is a very unusual combination of confidence and confusion that we do not normally find, say, in domestic politics or local neighborhood relationships. This is the unique manifestation of the deadly allure of imperium - the sense that one has the absolute power to rule over distant, foreign lands and people who are considered vital for the well-being of one's nation or state. What Bush sees as a sensible surge seems to many in the Middle East as a more familiar scourge of imperial history.


Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
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