August 28, 2013
The chemical weapons of Syria


Chlorine (CI)

Purpose: Choking agent

History: On April 22, 1915, a German regiment released 168 tons of chlorine, a chemical choking agent, against Allied forces situated in the town of Ypres in western Belgium. This initial use of chlorine revealed that exposure to sufficient quantities precipitates death by asphyxiation. Use of masks quickly rendered the choking agent obsolete for military use. Terrorist use of chlorine, to date largely ineffective, remains a threat.

Was it used in Syria? A defector with past links to Syria’s chemical weapons program first alleged that chlorine had been used in the Syrian civil war. Chlorine was also suspected as the agent in a second attack, on March 19, 2013, in the village of Khan al-Assal in northern Syria. Both claims are doubtful. The first is likely a misuse of words by the defector; the second is better explained as unburnt fuel and oxidizer from a conventionally-armed Scud missile.


3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate (BZ)

Purpose: Incapacitating agent

History: Derived from the toxic belladonna plant, the incapacitating agent BZ is not intended to kill, but to impair cognitive performance due to its anticholinergic effects (i.e., the blocking of neurotransmitters). Intoxication via BZ results in altered states of situational awareness and counterfactual perceptions of visual and other sensory realities. Invented in 1951, the US Army standardized BZ for military use in 1961. BZ has rarely, if ever, been used in state warfare. The incapacitant was tested widely on human volunteers in the United States, but due to its unpredictable nature, the Army phased it out in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Was it used in Syria? Widely held to be apocryphal, claims of BZ use in Syria either come from dubious sources or contradict known effects of the agent. One of those dubious sources claimed BZ was used in Western Syria, in the Bab Arm district of Homs in 2012. In another instance, the claim was that “Agent 15,” an agent supposedly akin to BZ, had been used. But Agent 15 is not a real chemical weapon, but an odd bit of fiction—a sort of urban myth—associated with UN investigations in Iraq in the late 1990s. Also, none of the victims of the attack exhibited symptoms of BZ exposure.


o-Chlorobenzylidene malononitrile(CS)
1-Chloroacetophenone (CN)

Purpose: Riot-control agents

History: Developed in 1928 by American scientists Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton (hence its name), CS is the most commonly used riot-control agent today. Perhaps the most famous and controversial mass use of CS came in 1993 during a standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that ended with the death of more than 70 members of the religious group. The chemical effects of CS were not implicated in those deaths; the wisdom of its use inside a building in the compound was widely questioned, and some experts believe that use may have been a factor in the uncontrollable fire that killed the Branch Davidians.

For a chemical to be effective and safe for use in riot control, two criteria must apply: The chemical must be non-lethal, creating great discomfort while disabling human targets and inflicting damage that is short-lasting and treatable without hospital care. Judged by this criteria, the long-standing use of CS as a riot-control agent is justified. In sufficient quantities, CS stings exposed skin, creates tightness in the chest and shortness of breath, and produces intense tearing and burning of the eyes. Moreover, exposure to adequate CS removes the victim’s ability to communicate and control physical actions. CN is more toxic and more dangerous than CS; its use has resulted in five deaths, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Were they used in Syria? CS is used globally by domestic security forces for crowd dispersal. Syria uses riot-control agents widely. Reports of such use in Syria frequently conflate CS with CN. By the late 1950s, CN had lost favor around the world to the safer CS, but CN is still used in some countries—one likely being Syria.  


White phosphorous (WP)

Purpose: Incendiary weapon

History: White phosphorus possesses intense incendiary properties, creating temperatures that allow the agent to penetrate human skin and even burrow into organs. But in a puzzle to many international observers, WP has eluded classification as a chemical weapon, and no international treaty bans its use. Traditionally, WP was used to create smoke screens that conceal military forces and to illuminate targets. During fighting for control of Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, however, US forces used WP as a psychological weapon and a means of driving entrenched opposition forces from positions. Israel used WP to flush out opposition forces during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 2006 and in the Gaza War (2008 and 2009).

Was it used in Syria? The most notable report of Syrian government use of WP occurred in Homs on December 6, 2012; another alleged use occurred on December, 23, 2012. No definitive evidence has been made public to confirm either incident. Victims of the latter attack exhibited behaviors—seizures and paralysis—that are clearly unrelated to WP. In early 2013, an unnamed State Department official said that the December 23 attack generated casualties via a “riot control agent.” Suspicions exist that the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group, may have used WP in mid-2013.


Sarin (GB)

Purpose: Nerve agent

History: Developed by Germany in 1938, the nerve agent sarin inhibits the action of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, which deactivates signals that cause human nerve cells to fire. This blockage pushes nerves into a continual “on” state; heart and other muscles—including those involved in breathing—spasm. Sufficient exposure leads to death via asphyxiation. Iraq used sarin weapons against its Kurdish citizens in the 1980s; the worst and most infamous attack came in the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, during which sarin and mustard gas reportedly killed 5,000 peopleand injured tens of thousands more. The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo used sarin in terror attacks in 1994 and 1995.

Was it used in Syria? Sarin use during the Syrian civil war is suspected but unconfirmed. Human tissue samples that purport to confirm sarin use may have been compromised. The chain of custody of those samples as they traveled from their original locations in Syria to laboratories in outside countries apparently was not properly documented. Many experts dismiss video footage of alleged victims and interviews with survivors—promoted as proof of sarin use by some states—as inadequate evidence.


August 12, 2013
"In conclusion, I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband. I also conclude that the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution. One NYPD official has even suggested that it is permissible to stop racially defined groups just to instill fear in them that they are subject to being stopped at any time for any reason — in the hope that this fear will deter them from carrying guns in the streets. The goal of deterring crime is laudable, but this method of doing so is unconstitutional."

A District Court judge has ruled this morning that the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy is unconstitutional — violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of those they target.  (via thepoliticalnotebook)

that only took how many years with an 86% black and latino stop rate tho

(via crackerhell)

(via warcrimenancydrew)

August 10, 2013
Letters of discontent


During the reign of Jahangir, a religious scholar, Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1624) wanted to convince Jahangir to change Akbar’s policy towards non-Muslims. He tried to influence the nobles to help fulfil his ambitions and wrote letters to them, expressing his fanatical ideas.

In a letter to Shaikh Farid, a devout Muslim who had supported Jahangir’s succession to the throne against his eldest son Khusrau, Sirhindi wrote that Islam was in critical condition, and insisted that as a man of faith, it was Shaikh Farid’s responsibility to take action to revive the glory of Islam. In the same letter he expressed his pleasure on the assassination of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru, regarding it an admirable step. He further explained that the government should adopt a policy to humiliate Hindus and that the imposition of jizya rightly kept the infidels in a state of subordination. According to Sirhindi, this was the right time to convince the emperor to eliminate un-Islamic practices which had become a part of the Muslim culture and to eliminate the influence of the infidels. He appealed to Shaikh Farid to play a role in reviving the purity of Islam. If no action was taken and idolatry continued to flourish, the emperor and his nobles would be responsible for damaging the cause of Islam by not creating a consciousness about sharia among the Muslims.

However, the majority of the ulema and people remained estranged from his movement. Jahangir continued with Akbar’s policy and was a great admirer of his father. In Tuzk-i-Jahangiri, he praised Akbar’s wisdom and sagacity.

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi was not popular among the Muslims because of his extremist religious views. When Jahangir summoned him to his court, he found him arrogant and rude and did not hesitate to send him to the fort of Gwalior for a brief period of imprisonment.

During the emergence of communalisn in the 1930s, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi was resurrected by some ulema and projected as the champion of Islam. In Pakistani historiography, I.H. Qureshi and S.M. Ikram eulogised him as the defender of Islam and the man who saved it and protected it from the heretical views of Akbar.

Writers of history textbooks portrayed the same image. As a result, Akbar and his policy of sulh-i-kul, multi-cultural unity and secularism were condemned while Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi’s orthodoxy and religious extremism were appreciated. Sadly, his anti-Hindu, and anti-Shia views are also accepted without criticism, totally negating their dire impact on society today. Today, Pakistani society is paying a heavy price for these misdemeanours.


July 30, 2013
"The picture of Lynndie England, dubbed ‘Lynndie the Leasher,’ leading a naked Iraqi on a leash (also referred to as a ‘pussy whipping’) has now become a surface on which fundamentalism and modernization, apparently dialectically opposed, can wage war. The image is about both the victories of liberal feminism, which argues that women should have equal opportunities within the military, and its failures to adequately theorize power and gender beyond male-female dichotomies that situate women as less prone to violence and as morally superior to men. Writes Zillah Eisenstein, ‘When I first saw the pictures of the torture at Abu Ghraib I felt destroyed. Simply heart-broken. I thought ‘we’ are the fanatics, the extremists; not them. By the next day as I continued to think about Abu Ghraib I wondered how there could be so many women involved in the atrocities?’ Why is this kind of affective response to the failures of Euro-American feminisms, feminisms neither able to theorize gender and violence nor able to account for racism within its ranks, appropriate to vent at this particular moment—especially when it works to center the (white) Euro-American feminist as victim, her feminism having fallen apart?"

— Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, p. 89, 2007.  (via warcrimenancydrew)

July 12, 2013


Girls go to school in Pakistan in their hundreds of thousands. When the Taliban were evicted from Swat in 2009, girls flocked back to schools with great enthusiasm. They were fully supported by the community which showed great resilience after two-years of the bloody reign of the Taliban. Hundreds of schools were re-constructed within no time. Malala was not alone in her determination to overcome all the odds which stood against the education of the girls there and elsewhere in the areas which had fallen prey to Taliban domination not due to the public support but due to the weakness and complaisance of the state authorities.

Although on country-wide scale their proportion in schools is far below than that of boys, but in cities and especially in the middle classes they go to school as much as boys do. As they go up the ladder their proportion increases and most often they do better at school than their male counterparts. In universities and professional colleges their numbers are catching up with those of men, while in some medical colleges they are edging ahead of them. By their sheer example, they inspire other girls in all areas of the country to pursue education.

Malala has become a symbol that the society was long searching to resolve its own contradictions. On previous occasion, similar incidents have been ignored and the calls to look at the problems of Pakistan were repelled. Such was the case when a video showing the whipping of a 16 year old girl in Swat by Taliban was circulated. The apologists of the Taliban ideology salvaged the day for themselves by casting doubts on the authenticity of the video. When suicide attacks targeted the shrines of the most revered Sufis of the country like Data Darbar in Lahore and Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, the indignation was there but the disbelief was too deep to allow the anger to spill out. When the Sri Lankan cricket team was targeted in Lahore, eyes were opened but the tongues accustomed to some other vocabulary hesitated in calling the beast by its name.  A society fed on a delirious rhetoric right from childhood that all that is wrong with this country is the result of the machinations of its enemies (Hindus, Jews and Christians) found it hard to come to terms with the naked reality. Confronted with the suicide attacks in crowded markets, mosques, and destruction of schools (thousands of them in the tribal areas), they were left dumb-struck but there was no one in the media, on the public forums and in the mainstream political parties to explain to them that what was happening was not emanating from the faith but was the result of its perversion, and that the destruction of the Pakistani society was not to be attributed to a reaction against American drone strikes. The target was the Pakistani society itself, the people of Pakistan in all its diversity and the social attainments like the education of the girls and the ever increasing place occupied by the women in the society. Apologists of the Pakistan ideology who dominate the media, apprehensive of the collapsing of the entire ideological edifice which props up the Pakistani state, went on damage control and through some improbable intellectual acrobatics tried to convince an ever incredulous audience that what was happening was due to a foreign conspiracy. The attack on Malala, however, while not the straw that breaks the camel’s back, was not to be brushed under the carpet so easily.

The present indignation is also, in a wider context, a protest against the inability of the rulers to check and counter the elements that are imposing themselves on the society due to the sheer ineffectiveness of the state. To be carried to its logical end, the present indignation needs to be supported by an alternate ideological and political discourse explaining the present crisis by putting into question all which has been injected into the society as the Truth: Pakistan is the country of Pure, which is encircled by enemies all around, that the Other is to be hated, that all that is dispensed by the dominant discourse in the name of Islam is the quintessence of Islam, that if the reality does not concord with our beliefs the reality is to be denied and not vice-versa.

(Source:, via jahanzebjz)

June 28, 2013
The Rise of Narendra Modi


Modi showed a fondness for the Hindu right wing group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a child. The RSS was started in 1925 as a Hindu nationalist movement and reached infamy in 1948 when one of its members, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Gandhi. It was declared a terrorist group immediately after by the Indian government and banned for two years. But today it remains as strong—and hardline—as ever.

There are an estimated 40,000 RSS camps, or shakhas, across the country where Hindu men and young boys gather each morning to chant slogans and perform a series of exercises, often using a long stick. In the landmark report on the 2002 Gujarat riots, “We Have No Orders to Save You,” Human Rights Watch said it was the RSS that was responsible for passing out lists of Muslim-owned business and homes to mobs at the start of the violence.

It was at these camps that Modi’s ideas about the world were formed. His childhood friend, who like almost everyone in this book choses not to be identified, tells Mukhopadhyay that “[Modi] was always greatly impressed by the fact that only one person gave all the orders in the [RSS camp] and everyone followed the command.”

In 1985, Hindu-Muslim violence erupted in Gujarat in response to agitations among Hindus that the Congress party was appeasing Muslims to win votes. Modi saw a chance to mobilize Hindu voters and for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), often called the political wing of the RSS, came to power in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s most populous city, after the 1986 municipal elections.

Modi was given credit as the man who delivered the BJP its first victory in Gujarat, but he also earned a reputation as someone unwilling to take orders from his nominal superiors. Mukhopadhyay says Modi failed to understand that the RSS—not the individual—is the priority in the hierarchy of Hindu nationalist groups. One person who did not share this view of Modi wasLK Advani, then the president of the BJP. It was Advani who articulated the ideology ofHindutva, the idea that India is and should always be a nation that places Hindus and Hinduism first. As  Mukhopadhyay writes, “The secondary position of Muslims in Gujarat stems from the campaign that there is a need to restore to Hindu past glory that was taken away by Muslim invaders and their supporters.”

In the early 1990s, Advani mounted a chariot and rode across India rallying support to destroy the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, which supporters of the right wing Hindutva movement argued was built over the birthplace of Hindu deity Lord Ram. Advani’s rath yatra, or procession, began in the Gujarat city of Somnath, where a Hindu temple was destroyed by Muslim raiders in the 11th century. Advani selected a then-nationally unknown young man named Narendra Modi to ride next to him, as sort of his Arjun, the person who was disciple to Lord Krishna in the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita. On December 6, 1992, tens of thousands of Hindu extremists, many from the RSS, razed the mosque—built in the 16th century by Babur, India’s first Mughal emperor—sparking riots across India, including in Gujarat. It was Advani’s and Modi’s way of evening out the balance sheet—of saying, Muslims destroyed our temple, we will destroy theirs.

One Hindu nationalist in Gujarat told the authors, “Muslims will never dare to raise their heads in Surat now. They will have to learn to live in an inferior position as befits a minority.” This, Mukhopadhyay argues, is how Modi defines the Hindutva ideology that is still the core of his worldview. It is not that non-Hindus cannot and should not live in India. But if non-Hindus want to live in peace, they should adhere to Hindu traditions.

The 1992 riots catapulted the BJP to national power for the first in India’s history. Brown University Professor Ashutosh Varshney, one of the world’s leading experts on Hindu-Muslim violence, wrote in a recent op-ed that, “The Ayodhya movement, led by Advani … brought the BJP to India’s centerstage. In 1989, the BJP got 11.5 per cent of the national vote; in 1991, 20.1 per cent; in 1996, 20.3 per cent; and in 1998, garnering 25.6 per cent of the national vote, it nearly equaled the vote share of the Congress party, something entirely inconceivable even in the late 1980s.”

Riots are, however, not new to Gujarat and Modi’s supporters are fond of saying that more riots have occurred under Congress’ rule than the BJP’s. But the 2002 violence, as Human Rights Watch reported, appeared to be pre-planned. Meticulous lists of Muslim business and homes were passed out, dozens of Muslim religious sites were destroyed, and many Muslim women have spoken about being gang raped during the riots.

It was not the failure of the state to intervene that makes Gujarat’s violence so unusual. It was that there is evidence to suggest the Gujarat state government encouraged the violence. As Varshney writes, “Unless later research disconfirms the proposition, the existing press reports give us every reason to conclude that the riots in Gujarat were the first full-blooded pogrom in independent India.”

Sanjiv Bhatt, a Gujarat police officer, filed an affidavit in India’s Supreme Court stating that on the evening of February 27, 2002, Modi summoned his top police officers and told them not to intervene to save the lives of Muslims during the violence. In his affidavit, Bhatt claimed that Modi told them to let “Hindus to vent out their anger against Muslims.”

Ashis Nandy, one of the leading academics in India, met Modi in the 1980s, before Modi was known nationally. In a moving essay, he writes of meeting Modi: “I came out of the interview shaken and told Yagnik that, for the first time, I had met a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer.”

(Source:, via jahanzebjz)

June 17, 2013
Turkey’s False Nostalgia


But Mr. Erdogan isn’t the first Turkish leader to have flirted with authoritarianism and social engineering. This is important to remember, since many of his opponents tend to hark back to a nostalgic past, best illustrated by the profusion of Turkish flags and images of the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Before claiming that Mr. Erdogan’s moves can be countered by returning to the foundations of the secular republic, we should recall that Turkey was not a democracy until 1950; that it was ruled consecutively from 1923 to 1946 by two unchallenged leaders, Ataturk and Ismet Inonu, each invested with dictatorial powers; and that its democracy was “interrupted” three times by military coups or interventions, in 1960, 1971 and 1980, not to mention a failed one in 1997. Moreover, Turkish “secularism” often marginalized and oppressed those who openly displayed their beliefs; head-scarf-wearing women were banned from universities, and few protections were given to religious minorities.

Turkey’s past has little to offer in terms of democratic inspiration. Ironically, there is hardly any difference between the nostalgia for Ataturk-era secularism and the A.K.P.’s glorification of the Ottoman imperial past. Both rest on the reinvention of an imagined golden age — the former with a secularist emphasis, and the latter with a focus on Islamic identity. And both look back fondly on authoritarian regimes, which makes them all the less credible as political models for a democratic present and future.

The current protest movement isn’t about the past; it is about today and tomorrow. It started because a new generation wanted to defend Gezi Park, a public green space, against the violent, abusive manner in which the government sought to sacrifice it to the gods of neo-liberalism and neo-Ottomanism with a plan to build a replica of Ottoman barracks, a shopping mall and apartments.

The real challenge for the protesters, therefore, is to ensure that this movement is not hijacked by a Kemalist backlash that seeks to reduce Turkey’s complex social problems to a simplistic dichotomy between Islam and secularism.

What Mr. Erdogan is currently undermining and destroying isn’t an imagined golden age of a secular and democratic Turkey, which never really existed, but rather the “état de grâce” that followed his party’s first electoral victory in 2002. For five or six years, the A.K.P. used democracy as its only defense against the authoritarian ways of the old guard — the coalition formed by the secular political parties and the army, long considered the guarantor of secularism.

It is disturbing that Mr. Erdogan, after years of successfully fighting the legacy of military control, has now chosen to revive precisely the same methods and strategies that characterized his predecessors’ rule. Banking on the combined power of religion and nationalism in a country whose population is known for its conservative attitudes on both counts, he is seeking to do with the help of the police what previous governments did with the help of the army.

A.K.P. leaders need to understand that true secular democracy is the only viable way to guarantee the rights and freedoms of all citizens, including Muslims. And Mr. Erdogan’s opponents must grasp that true secularism, contrary to its earlier Kemalist incarnation, requires that the principles of democracy be applied to all members of society. Unfortunately, the new egalitarian discourses rising from Gezi Park risk being drowned out in the clamor of an outdated political struggle.

(Source: The New York Times, via jahanzebjz)

June 15, 2013
Seven Surprising Facts About Asian-American and Middle Eastern Boys


-Racial profiling is a routine part of life for Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander boys. In 2006 in Oakland, Calif., those of Samoan descent had the highest arrest rate of any racial or ethnic group, coming out to 140 arrests for every 1,000 Samoans in Oakland.  

-Asian-American, Pacific Islander and AMEMSA youth are the most frequent targets of school bullying. More than half of Asian-American teens are bullied in school. At 54 percent, the rate far exceeds the rates reported by white teens (31 percent), Latino teens (34 percent) and black teens (38 pecent). And yet, youth rarely report the incidents of harassment, fearing retaliation or because they lack the linguistic capability to voice their needs.

-The rates of bullying are higher for turbaned boys. For South Asian boys who wear turbans, nearly three-quarters, or 74 percent, report facing some religious or racial bullying. It’s common for turbaned youth to be called terrorists.

-Asian-American LGBTQ youth in particular deal with homophobia, transphobia and racism in school. Nearly one-third of Asian-American LGBTQ youth reported dealing with harassment based on their race. And in a California report of LGBTQ youth, Asian-American youth reported the highest incidence of bullying of any group of students of color.

-More than 40 percent of Hmong youth live in poverty. Rates for other Southeast Asian youth are similarly high. Thirty-one percent of Cambodian youth live in poverty, compared to 27 percent of black youth and 26 percent of Latino youth. Almost half of Bangladeshis too (44 percent) are considered low-income, along with 31 percent of Pakistanis.

-Many Asian-Americans are undereducated. Among the broader U.S. population, 19 percent of people in the U.S. lack a high school degree or GED, but more than 40 percent of Cambodians, Laotians and Hmongs, do not have a high school degree. 

-One in four Koreans in the U.S. is undocumented. And one in six Filipinos is undocumented. And between 2000 and 2009 the undocumented Asian Indian population grew 40 percent. The nation’s immigrant community is broad and multifaceted; these statistics attest to that.


(via warcrimenancydrew)

12:47pm  |   URL:
Filed under: asian AAPI AMEMSA 
June 15, 2013
Quetta blasts: Live updates – The Express Tribune

Two blasts in Quetta have left over 10 dead and more than 20 injured.

“It was an improvised explosive device placed in the women university bus” in Quetta, city police chief Zubair Mahmood told AFP.

“The dead were all women students,” he said.

June 3, 2013
In pictures: Indian Africans


“The Sidis are a small community of Indians of African descent. Photographer Ketaki Sheth has documented their lives for a new book, A Certain Grace: The Sidi - Indians of African Descent, published by Delhi-based gallery Photoink.”

many siddis also live in karachi, pakistan.