A History of Disaster: Land and Religion in Israel and Palestine

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
When the sun sets on the holy city of Jerusalem, the thick limestone buildings are cast in a shimmering gold light. The ancient Old City contains the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian Quarters, and the religious mood is palpable in every alleyway. On Friday nights the air is thick with Hebrew singing welcoming in the Sabbath, mingling with the Arabic call to prayer from the mosques, and church bells peal through the dusk. The interconnection between land conflict and religious conflict is clearest in the Old City of Jerusalem where the Western Wall borders the Dome of the Rock. The Western Wall which stands today is part of the second temple complex which was gradually rebuilt by the Jews upon the ruins of the first temple when they returned from exile. After a period of rule by the Greeks, Jerusalem was incorporated into Roman-occupied Palestine in 63 BC, and when the Jews revolted against the Romans in 70 AD the second temple was destroyed. The part of the Western wall which remains standing is believed to be the closest place to the Holy of Holies that Jews are allowed to go.

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The Iraq War: Planting the Seeds of Al Qaeda’s Second Generation

The American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has provided Al Qaeda with a new lease on life, a second generation of recruits and fighters, and a powerful outlet to expand its ideological outreach activities to Muslims worldwide. Statements by Al Qaeda top chiefs, including bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, and Seif al-Adl, portray the unfolding confrontation in Iraq as a "golden and unique opportunity" for the global jihad movement to engage and defeat the United States and spread the conflict into neighboring Arab states in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestine-Israeli theater. The global war is not going well for bin Laden, and Iraq enabled him to convince his jihadist followers that Al Qaeda is still alive and kicking despite suffering crippling operational setbacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere.

Auntie Boon at work

AIDS, Orphans and Grannies in Thailand

They call her Auntie Boon. She is a 73-year old retired Red Cross nurse and public health researcher and she is boundless in her energy and commitment when it comes to the growing number of AIDS-infected women in Northern Thailand and their children. Many of these children become orphaned as a result of the pandemic. If at all possible, their grandmothers, and sometimes their grandfathers, take care of them, raising new families just when they thought they could relax a little in their old age. Auntie Boon, or Somboon Suprasert, spent many of her professional years researching HIV/AIDS in Thailand on behalf of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. Through that work, she realized that women her age were becoming caregivers to their orphaned grandchildren. She wrote a "Six Country Report to the United Nations" about the phenomenon. Then she set about doing something to help. As its charter president, Auntie Boon, who holds a master's degree in public health, presented an idea to the Chiang Mai chapter of Zonta International, a service organization dedicated to helping women and children. The idea was a program called "Grandma Cares." It is designed to help HIV/AIDS victims and their families in Northern Thailand, and train grandparents to take care of their grandchildren.

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UN to tackle Internet governance

GENEVA – A growing number of nations are calling for UN oversight of the main computers that direct traffic on the Internet, arguing that no single country should be the ultimate authority over such a vital part of the global economy. To the surprise of the United States, even European Union negotiators have proposed “stripping the Americans of their effective control of the Internet,” as the International Herald Tribune put it.

The European decision to back the rest of the world in demanding the creation of a new international body to govern the Internet caught the U.S. negotiating team off balance and left them largely isolated at talks designed to come up with a new way of regulating the digital traffic of the 21st century. read more

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Iran pipeline sparks nuclear deal

SAKHALIN, Russia – Gazprom, the world’s largest gas firm, is eager to participate in the construction of a $7.4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that would bring gas from the gigantic South Pars fields in Iran to the two South Asian countries, the Press Trust of India reports.

The Russian energy giant has previously held talks with authorities in Iran and India to become involved in a consortium, to include also Indian Oil Corp and Gail (India) Ltd. that would lay the 2,000-mile pipeline. read more

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Darfur crimes could go to international court

LONDON – Amid renewed violence in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur, the UN has warned of possible war crimes prosecutions. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an end to attacks, and for those responsible to be tried. The UN Security Council has ruled that the International Criminal Court can prosecute human rights violations in Darfur.

In one recent incident, pro-government Arab militias at a refugee camp reportedly killed 34 people. According to the BBC, the attackers are believed to be Janjaweed Arab militiamen, described as criminals by the Sudanese government. The government called it the first direct assault on a refugee camp since the conflict began more than two years ago. read more