The problem with the concept of the word evil, is that it resembles a black hole, a field that stretches toward infinity. The world is short of many things, but the supply of evil-doers and their willingness to act is endless. And they are everywhere, from crowded prisons, to corporate offices to government, and there is no adequate explanation for such pervasiveness that cuts across income and social class. A dark subject indeed and one which historically we are accustomed to depictions of villainy from a Western, mainly Christian point of view. This is no discourtesy to the Muslims which until half a century ago were on the periphery of the radar and to which is now apparent should not be offended by their omission.
What entered god’s mind when he put the serpent, then apparently a four legged, volubile individual into the Garden of Eden, he alone knows, but hopefully has not forgotten. The existence of evil in a world under divine supervision is a question which has long troubled humanity though there has been no shortage of answers from St. Augustine to Chris Hitchens. In terms of the media world, the serpent’s presence and the follow up has been an unmixed blessing, as well as to the industry of government and war. And sadly, most efforts to make a whole new world have been dismal failures. If evil hadn’t existed, it would have been necessary for multiple industries to have created it.God, as Malcolm Muggeridge once suggested, is the great dramatist, in that he knew that the serpent and his descendants were essential characters, and the cast list would be incomplete without them. It is easier to focus on villains rather than saints, or the ordinary good and heroic, as the aura of the devil is what gives them their enormous vitality and interest and sometimes appeal. Better an entertaining villain than a dull hero. Evil villains have always been the great entertainers, making everyone else feel safe in their comparative decency, enthralled and grateful that nothing that bad is happening to them. And, as we know, the connection between law and morality is always tenuous and much villainy is perfectly legal…
KABUL, Afghanistan — For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency…
All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.
“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”
The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.
Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”
The United States was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Mr. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.
At the time, in 2010, American officials jumped on the payments as evidence of an aggressive Iranian campaign to buy influence and poison Afghanistan’s relations with the United States. What they did not say was that the C.I.A. was also plying the presidential palace with cash — and unlike the Iranians, it still is.
American and Afghan officials familiar with the payments said the agency’s main goal in providing the cash has been to maintain access to Mr. Karzai and his inner circle and to guarantee the agency’s influence at the presidential palace, which wields tremendous power in Afghanistan’s highly centralized government. The officials spoke about the money only on the condition of anonymity.
It is not clear that the United States is getting what it pays for. Mr. Karzai’s willingness to defy the United States — and the Iranians, for that matter — on an array of issues seems to have only grown as the cash has piled up. Instead of securing his good graces, the payments may well illustrate the opposite: Mr. Karzai is seemingly unable to be bought.
Over Iran’s objections, he signed a strategic partnership deal with the United States last year, directly leading the Iranians to halt their payments, two senior Afghan officials said. Now, Mr. Karzai is seeking control over the Afghan militias raised by the C.I.A. to target operatives of Al Qaeda and insurgent commanders, potentially upending a critical part of the Obama administration’s plans for fighting militants as conventional military forces pull back this year.
But the C.I.A. has continued to pay, believing it needs Mr. Karzai’s ear to run its clandestine war against Al Qaeda and its allies, according to American and Afghan officials.
Like the Iranian cash, much of the C.I.A.’s money goes to paying off warlords and politicians, many of whom have ties to the drug trade and, in some cases, the Taliban. The result, American and Afghan officials said, is that the agency has greased the wheels of the same patronage networks that American diplomats and law enforcement agents have struggled unsuccessfully to dismantle, leaving the government in the grips of what are basically organized crime syndicates. Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/world/asia/cia-delivers-cash-to-afghan-leaders-office.html?_r=0
(see link at end)…April 28, 2013 |
With a new Pope at the helm, the Catholic hierarchy has set about to polish its tarnished image. Can an increased focus on the poor make up for the Church’s opposition to contraception and marriage equality or its sordid financial and sexual affairs? The Bishops can only hope. And pray. And perhaps accelerate the sainthood of Agnes Gonxha, better known as Mother Teresa.
In the last century, no one icon has improved the Catholic brand as much as the small woman who founded the Missionaries of Charity, whose image aligns beautifully with that of the new pope. In March a team of Canadian researchers noted the opportunity: “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of [Mother Teresa] to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful, especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?”
The question, however, was more than a little ironic. The team of academics from the Universities of Montreal and Ottawa set out to do research on altruism. In the process, they reviewed over 500 documents about Mother Teresa’s life and compiled an array of disturbing details about the soon-to-be saint, including dubious political connections and questionable management of funds—and, in particular, an attitude toward suffering that could give pause to even her biggest fans.
Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance ofavoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she put it, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.” Or consider thisanecdote from her life:
One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”…Read More:http://www.alternet.org/belief/mother-theresas-masochism-does-religion-demand-suffering-keep-people-passive?paging=off
(see link at end)…Boiling and refining a tank takes them about four hours, and they estimate they make a 50-60 percent profit on each barrel, selling the products to locals. “Business is good,” Ahmad says smiling, his face and hands blackened by the smoke.
The brothers are unlikely to win any health and safety awards. Neither wears gloves nor protective gear, and Abdullah smokes a cigarette on the job. “It’s OK as long as you are not right next to the benzene [petrol],” he says matter-of-factly. “We haven’t had any [health] problem, nothing will happen to us,” he adds with a grin.
The brothers get their raw material from the Deir al-Zor countryside, driving two and a half hours in their truck to purchase oil barrels from middlemen or those in control of the oil fields: local tribes and the jihadist Nusra Front.
Nusra got involved in the oil business about six months ago, they say. “Nusra are operating in both lines, business and fighting,” Ahmad says.
… Ahmad says he’s not a fan of the Nusra Front, buying from them only out of necessity. Rebel brigades “Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, they are very good guys, but we don’t like Nusra,” he says.
The brothers buy crude about three times a week, picking up nine barrels a time. “Each well has a different price, depending on the quality of its oil,” Ahmad says. One 2,200-liter barrel runs from 500 to 10,000 Syrian pounds, approximately $5-$1000, but the cheapest barrels only yield about 50 liters of refined products, they say.
Local tribes first began controlling oil fields in the Deir al-Zor countryside about a year ago. … “When these tribes discovered the oil wells, the revolution in Deir al-Zor was over, they used to be poor and it went from revolution to oil industry.”
Deir al-Zor contains the largest energy reserves in Syria, which produced some 420,000 barrels of oil a day before the United States and the European Union banned the import of Syrian petroleum in 2011. Read More:http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/oil-wars-nusras-expanding-reach-syrian-taliban/