Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Being As Is - A Dharma talk


World media attention and inattention regarding Israel

With another ceasefire in the war between Hamas and Israel, and hopefully an end to these hostilities, there appeared an interesting and lengthy analysis of the nature and biases of media attention to Israel and the results in terms of attitudes regarding Israel, the Palestinians and other states in the region.

Below is an extended excerpt. If you are interested, the full article is linked to at the end.

"...How Important Is the Israel Story?

Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.

The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.

News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year       (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet       by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo       (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic      , and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000      ), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India       or Thailand      . They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.

What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.

Corruption, for example, is a pressing concern for many Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but when I and another reporter once suggested an article on the subject, we were informed by the bureau chief that Palestinian corruption was “not the story.” (Israeli corruption was, and we covered it at length.)....."

Here is the full article:


Saturday, August 23, 2014


We often forget how much history, historical trends that are manifested in culture of peoples, in the nature of the relationship between land, culture and tradition, and historical attachments and enmities, continue to dominate the political, economic and military relations and conflicts that we see. This is true in the current conflicts in Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe, in the Middle East and in China and East Asia, to name just a few areas. Below is a very interesting exploration of these themes in an article titled, "From the Ashes of Iraq: Mesopotamia Rises Again."

"The dissolution of the colonial creation named "Iraq"   is now almost complete. Perhaps what comes next is a return to the past; not a brutal Islamic "caliphate," but something more basic.
Today, Mesopotamia is reappearing. The term is a Greek word meaning "the land between the two rivers."

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers   are the defining features, each arising in mountains far to the north of Baghdad. The rivers and their annual floods defined the landscape, the cycle of life and the worldview of civilizations. The deserts to the west and the mountains to the east and far north provided rough boundaries and were liminal spaces related to the center, but yet separate and apart, sunbaked and dangerous. Inside Mesopotamia was a cauldron.

From the Sumerians of the third millennium BCE through the Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations of the second and first millennia BCE, to the Abbasids of the eighth century CE and until the arrival of the British in the early twentieth century, the space called Mesopotamia   was the container for civilizations that rose and collapsed. Cultures invented writing and built the first cities, growing and shrinking in response to changing river courses and global climate. They conquered and were conquered, traded with surrounding regions, and formed a baggy but recognizable whole—what we call Mesopotamian civilization."

For the rest of this article see:


Friday, August 22, 2014

Not only does California face drought but there are more problems!

What are the consequences of tectonic uplift?

"Drought Is Causing the Western U.S. to Rise Like an Uncoiling Spring"

"File under apocalyptic imagery: The western United States' worst drought in possibly 500 years     is causing the ground to rise up like an uncoiling spring.

A new report     in Science from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego found that the massive loss of groundwater associated with the drought has caused a tectonic "uplift" of more than half an inch in California's mountains, with an average 0.15 of an inch across the west.
Sifting through ground-positioning data from GPS stations throughout the region, the researchers had discovered those stations had been moving upwards in recent years, coinciding with the current drought. Duncan Agnew, a geophysicist specializing in earthquakes and an author of the study, told Scripps     that the data can only be explained by a rapid uplift of the tectonic plate underlying the western U.S. (which, he stressed, has virtually no effect on the San Andreas fault and does not increase risk of earthquakes). "



More on journalism in Gaza

Here are the introductory sentences of a first-hand exploration of the nature journalism in Gaza and the middle-east (and the consequences for the actual reporting of the structural and functional aspects). If it tempts you, read the article.

"You’re seeing civilians dying and suffering in Gaza. You’re seeing the destruction Israel’s military operation against Hamas has caused.
You’re hearing from Israel that Hamas is firing rockets from crowded neighborhoods, using helpless Gaza civilians as human shields, forcing them to stay in their neighborhoods in defiance of Israeli warnings to leave.

Why aren’t you hearing that from Gaza? Often, it’s because reporters are afraid to tell you.
True, in some cases, it’s anti-Israel bias. In others, it’s bad journalism—covering the story you can easily see above ground, like destruction, misery, death and funerals, instead of digging for the real story: Why this is happening and how the powerful are operating behind the scenes or underground—again, literally. It’s the scourge of 21st century “journalism,” with its instant deadlines, the demands to tweet and blog constantly, the need to get something out there that’s more spectacular than the competition, and check the facts later, if at all. Add to that the cruel cutbacks by news organizations around the world. It all means that fewer and fewer reporters have to file more and more stories, and file partial reports while they’re working. It’s impossible. I allow myself the quotation marks around “journalism” because I’ve been a journalist for half a century (I started young), covering the region since 1972, and I fear my profession is not what it used to be, and not for the better."


A question Israelis ask

The following is an extended quote from an interesting analysis by Daniel Gordis regarding US - Israeli relations.

"When Islamic State executes an innocent American -- befuddled Israelis noticed -- Obama has the capacity for outrage and moral clarity. But in Israel’s conflict, even though Hamas is sworn on Israel’s destruction and has been killing innocent Israelis for years, the best that Obama has been able to utter is the standard 'Israel has a right to defend itself... (Israelis ask) "Why is Islamic State a 'cancer' while Hamas is a legitimate partner in a Palestinian unity-government, about which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, 'We will work with it as we need to'?...  To use the language of the Talmud, they’re essentially asking, 'Why was James Foley’s blood any redder than ours?'"


Thursday, August 21, 2014

New research suggests air travel may present more risks to infants than you thought.

This is a fascinating article and a must-read for anyone with very young children who will fly.

Though the research focuses on international travel, the information in the article is important for any flights. And there are valuable tips and precautions which may save the life of an infant. Please take the time to read it or pass it on to others to whom it might be useful if there is any possibility that an infant will be flying soon.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/new-study-focuses-on-in-flight-risk-to-infants-1408574702?tesla=y&mg=reno64-ws    j