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November 17, 2001: This message was distributed by Papyrus News. Feel free to forward this message to others, preferably with this introduction. For info on Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see <>.

Some miscellaneous comments and links below. The beginning of Ramadan brings back fond memories of Cairo. To all my Muslim friends, Ramadan Karim!


Al Jazeera

One of the most interesting media phenomena in today's world is the rise of Al Jazeera, the free-wheeling, pro-Islamist, Arabic-language satellite television station that has caught the attention of much of the Arab world, and has now risen to international prominence during the current war. The US government seems caught in a bind, not knowing whether to send its representatives to appear on it or to bomb it (both of which it has done). Most analysis of Al Jazeera in the US press, and even in scholarly journals, has been remarkably shallow. A deeper analysis of Al Jazeera--its genesis, content, and role, together with some recommendations for US policy makers--has appeared in the magazine section of the New York Times, available online with free registration at


Divided We Stand?

How can countries best defend themselves in the age of "netwar" -- and by netwar I'm not referring to attacks on the Internet, but rather war waged by distributed networks such as Al Qaeda. One way is through not putting all their own eggs in one basket--distributing their population centers, communications systems, transportation systems, etc., to leave themselves less vulnerable to attack. The latest issue of Wired has a good article on the topic (available now at [And how do we protect our communications systems? See: To Forestall a 'Digital Pearl Harbor,' U.S. Looks to System Separate From Internet


We Can't Squander Language Skills

Another element of defense is our nation's language skills, which we have been shamelessly squandering, especially through the lack of heritage language programs to help immigrant groups maintain their native tongues. For a comment on the topic, by long-time colleague Joy Kreeft Peyton and her associate at the Center for Applied Linguistics, Donald A. Randard, see


Education, Modernization, and the Darkness of Caves

A Pakistani writer: "Oxford and Cambridge were the `madrasas' of Christendom in the 13th century. Look where they are today - among the leading institutions of education in the world. Where are our institutions of learning? ...True Jihad today is not in the hijacking of planes, but in the making of planes...The last things Muslims need is the growing darkness of [Bin Laden's] caves...." See


Liberation of Kabul

When I suggested that military action was justified in Afghanistan, I heard and read things like "this is anti-Muslim," and "this will cause a humanitarian disaster" and "why should Afghans suffer for the actions of Al Queda". Well, let's look at the situation now. A humanitarian disaster has been going on for years in Afghanistan, with one out of four children dying of malnutrition and disease, due to the horrific policies of the Taliban and their interference with socio-economic development and humanitarian relief. Far from causing a humanitarian disaster, the US military intervention has likely helped avert one, by helping create conditions allowing for massive shipments of food aid, which are now beginning. As for this being an action that is "anti-Afghani" or "anti-Muslim", it's pretty clear that the Afghan people (including the mostly Pashtun population of Kabul) don't feel that way. They are out in the streets celebrating, putting up posters, getting out their TV sets, listening to music, and, for women, going back to work and school for the first time in years. (And most of Afghan's neighbors, themselves Muslim countries such as Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikstan, are also feeling relieved, with the notable exception of the other neighbor that foisted the Taliban on Afghanistan in the first place.) Of course the credit for this goes not only to US military action, but also the active resistance of the Afghan people, led by the military forces of the Northern Alliance. For an alternative perspective on the often-criticized Northern Alliance, see:


Democracy, Shefocracy!

I received a catalogue today from University Press of America (, a press that seems to offer a way for people to publish their academic monographs without any review. As they say on their Website, "Newspapers and academic journals around the country have reported extensively on the difficulties facing scholars seeking publications for academic books...University Press of America offers a bright alternative to this grim scenario, with innovative publishing programs designed for scholarly monographs." I suppose that meets a need, but some of the titles that they advertise are truly bizarre. How about this for a book: "DEMOCRACY--a failure, SHEFOCRACY--the solution for human welfare". (And no, I'm not making it up :-)).

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Last updated: November 21, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0