A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘religion

[LINK] “Saudi-Iran Spat Grows as Arms Intercept Follows Hajj Crush”

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Bloomberg’s Alaa Shahine and Glen Carey report on the intensification of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

The confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalated on Wednesday, as the kingdom said it foiled an Iranian arms shipment to Yemeni rebels and the Islamic Republic again hit out over last week’s fatal Hajj stampede in Mecca.

The Saudi-led military coalition said it seized an Iranian boat carrying weapons bound for Yemen. The boat was held in the Arabian Sea with a cargo that included anti-tank weapons as well as missile launchers, the coalition said in a statement. There was no comment from Iranian officials.

Hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continued Iran’s attacks on Saudi Arabia over its handling of the stampede near the holy city of Mecca, in which hundreds of pilgrims were killed. Failure to return the bodies of Iranian victims, he said, would be met with a “tough and severe” response from his country.

The two nations are on the opposite ends of some of the Middle East’s bloodiest conflicts from Syria to Yemen. The confrontation between Shiite power Iran and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia dims hopes that Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers sealed in July could help resolve other crises.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 1, 2015 at 9:51 pm

[LINK] “A visit to the underworld: the unsolved mystery of the tunnels at Baiae”

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Mike Dash’s account of a remarkable Roman complex at the seaside resort of Baiae is superb. What was going on?

Two thousand years ago, Baiæ was a flourishing spa, noted both for its mineral cures and for the scandalous immorality that flourished there. Today, it is little more than a collection of picturesque ruins–but it was there, in the 1950s, that the entrance to a hitherto unknown antrum was discovered by the Italian archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri. It had been concealed for years beneath a vineyard; Maiuri’s workers had to clear a 15-foot-thick accumulation of earth and vines.

The narrow entrance to the tunnel complex at Baiae is easy to miss amid the ruins of a Greek temple and a large Roman bath complex.

The antrum at Baiæ proved difficult to explore. A sliver of tunnel, obviously ancient and manmade, disappeared into a hillside close to the ruins of a temple. The first curious onlookers who pressed their heads into its cramped entrance discovered a pitch-black passageway that was uncomfortably hot and wreathed in fumes; they penetrated only a few feet into the interior before beating a hasty retreat. There the mystery rested, and it was not revived until the site came to the attention of Robert Paget in the early 1960s.

Paget was not a professional archaeologist. He was a Briton who worked at a nearby NATO airbase, lived in Baiæ, and excavated mostly as a hobby. As such, his theories need to be viewed with caution, and it is worth noting that when the academic Papers of the British School at Rome agreed to publish the results of the decade or more that he and an American colleague named Keith Jones spent digging in the tunnel, a firm distinction was drawn between the School’s endorsement of a straightforward description of the findings and its refusal to pass comment on the theories Paget had come up with to explain his perplexing discoveries. These theories eventually made their appearance in book form but attracted little attention–surprisingly, because the pair claimed to have stumbled across nothing less than a real-life “entrance to the underworld.”

Paget was one of the handful of men who still hoped to locate the “cave of the sibyl” described by Virgil, and it was this obsession that made him willing to risk the inhospitable interior. He and Jones pressed their way though the narrow opening and found themselves inside a high but narrow tunnel, eight feet tall but just 21 inches wide. The temperature inside was uncomfortable but bearable, and although the airless interior was still tinged with volcanic fumes, the two men pressed on into a passage that, they claimed, had probably not been entered for 2,000 years.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2015 at 3:57 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO notes that Toronto’s old City Hall may yet become a shopping mall once the courts move out.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that worlds without plate tectonics are doomed to stop being habitable, and looks at different kinds of cosmic ray environments.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the Iranian buildup in Syria.
  • A Fistful of Euros has a reading list for Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Otto Pohl talks about the historic role of German minorities in Africa and Asia.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map of the Middle East’s Kurdish populations.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at campus safety in the age of threatening tweets.
  • Towleroad notes Michael Sam stating he could have had a better NFL career had he not come out.
  • Transit Toronto notes the TTC has taken its tenth new streetcar into service.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at intersections between assisted suicide and religious liberty.
  • Window on Eurasia notes controversy in Belarus over a Russian military base and looks at Circassians in Syria.

[LINK] Michael Petrou on the stampede in Mecca

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In MacLean’s, Michael Petrou explains the import of the recent disaster in Saudi Arabia.

The scale of the disaster, shocking as it is, is not unprecedented. More than 1,400 pilgrims were killed during a Hajj stampede in 1990. In fact, multiple-fatality incidents were a semi-regular occurrence until 2006, when more than 350 people died.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars in safety measures and upgrading infrastructure around pilgrimage sites. The measures seemed to have worked for a time, restoring some prestige that Saudi Arabia had lost by presiding over an almost predictable annual tragedy.

That’s all shattered now. The exact reasons for the deaths today are unknown. A Saudi minister reportedly blamed pilgrims he said did not “respect timetables.” Saudi Arabia has promised an investigation. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed Saudi “mismanagement,” adding a potential layer of sectarian and geopolitical belligerency to the deaths. Iran considers itself the champion of Shia Muslims, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the world’s leading Sunni power.

Undoubtedly, the enormous crowds and heat played a role. Survivors of past stampedes speak of individuals collapsing and fainting, and then panic gripping a crowd as people scramble for air and space.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2015 at 7:39 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes the report that the CBC might sell its holdings.
  • Centauri Dreams observes another search for a Kardashev III civilization that ended in failure.
  • Crooked Timber is fed up with Rod Dreher.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze and Centauri Dreams report on new orbital parameters for Beta Pictoris b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports the Permian extinction lasted sixty thousand years.</li
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the dynamics of British inequality.
  • pollotenchegg maps Russification in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes reports of a brain drain from Russia.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at the iconography of city signage.
  • Torontoist reports on a documentary regarding Toronto’s gun culture.
  • Window on Eurasia warns of a crackdown on Crimean Tatar institutions, notes the opening of a new mosque in Moscow, reports on inter-Muslim violence in Russia, and suggests Belarus now is in the position of the Baltic States in 1940.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes that the Toronto Eaton Centre is set to be subtly renamed.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the absence of evidence for extragalactic supercivilizations.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze observes a new observatory that should be able to detect Earth-like worlds around red dwarfs and links to a paper describing how dwarf planets can heat Kuiper belts.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence suggesting the solar system could have ejected a gas giant, notes Canada is on the verge of buying French Mistrals, and looks at a blockade of Crimea by Crimean Tatars and right-wing Ukrainian nationalists.
  • Language Hat links to John McWhorter’s history of Aramaic.
  • Language Log looks at the controversy in South Korea on using Chinese characters in education.
  • Languages of the World looks at how different languages address god.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the current state of our knowledge and planning for Uranus and Neptune.
  • pollotenchegg maps language identity in early Soviet Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money speculates as to why Russia is in Syria, and comes up with little that is reassuring.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes statistics on Muslim pilgrimages to Mecca.
  • Spacing Toronto suggests that an answer to the Gardiner East can be found in the rail corridor.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at the Russian deployment in Syria, speculates about future intentions in Central Asia and actual issues with Belarus, and suggests a turn to China will not help Asian Russia.
  • Zero Geogrpahy maps the generation of academic knowledge.

[LINK] “Oklahoma Pre-K teacher allegedly calls being left-handed ‘evil’ and ‘sinister’”

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This news item is remarkable. That such stupidity can persist!

Alisha asked [her son Zayde] why he was writing with his right hand, not his left.

“I just asked ‘Is there anything his teachers ever asked about his hands?’ And he raises this one and says this one’s bad,” Sands said.

Alisha sent the teacher a note and got a strong response.

It was an article calling left-handedness “unlucky,” “evil,” and “sinister.”

It even says “for example, the devil is often portrayed as left-handed.”

Alisha couldn’t believe it.

“It breaks my heart for him because someone actually believes that, believes my child is evil because he’s left handed, it’s crazy,” Sands said.

She went to the superintendent with the article.

“There was no suspension of any kind. There was basically nothing done to this teacher,” Sands says, “She told them she thought I needed literature on it.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2015 at 6:13 pm


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