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  • Blogging at WordPress again

    Blogging cartoon

    I can blog again now at my main blog at WordPress after a half day interruption. Some freakish WordPress computer had stopped me from blogging “because of my blog content”. Fortunately, WordPress staff has corrected that now. Thanks!

  • Occupy London fights on

    London Drama School students performing ‘Don’t Stop me Occupying 2012’ on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral last Friday

    From daily News Line in London, England:

    Monday, 23 January 2012

    St Paul’s occupiers determined to fight on – despite eviction attempts

    ANTI-CAPITALIST St Paul’s occupiers were defiant and determined to stay despite attempts to evict them through the courts.

    Ev Emanon from Anonymous UK camped at St Paul’s told News Line: ‘Our appeal is next Friday at the Royal Courts of Justice, that is when we find out whether our appeal has been a success.

    ‘We are here on the front line; you cannot evict an idea. The international movement is going to pick up speed and gain momentum from the spring. This is just the beginning!’

    Fellow occupier Dom said: ‘’They cannot get rid of us. The courts ruled that they can get rid of the structures, but they cannot get rid of us. Whatever happens next Friday we are not going anywhere.

    ‘We are prepared to sleep at the top of the stairs at St Paul’s if it comes to it. We are in solidarity with the struggle at Chase Farm Hospital and we are in support of the picket at Chase Farm and of your plans to occupy the hospital to stop the closure.’

    Arthur, a young Polish worker occupying the St Paul’s site said: ‘We must fight for a better life, for our families, for our future!

    ‘No matter what they decide in the courts, we are going to stay. I will stay that is for sure.

    ‘I am really interested in coming down to Enfield and joining in the daily pickets of Chase Farm hospital. It must stay open.

    ‘They have no right closing any hospital. We must keep the NHS intact and develop it.’

    Javier Freiria and Adolfo Castro from Casdiz in Spain said: ‘We support the occupy movement in Spain, “the Indignados” which means “the angry”.

    ‘We are part of the movement called “Valcarcel Recuperado”. We occupied the building for six months, but the police took us out of the building.

    ‘We have come down here to support Occupy London. The banks are the germ of the problem. The state does not support the people, the state supports the banks.

    ‘This problem continues; it has not been resolved. Now in Spain there is a big movement to occupy buildings, all the old buildings are occupied.

    ‘There is a lot of jobless youth in Spain. Capitalism is the trash of the world.’

    Occupier Alphonso Lister said: ‘It is truly wonderful the international solidarity of the occupy movement.

    ‘Every day we get visitors who have come from occupy movements from countries in every part of the world. It was a special surprise to welcome our friends from Spain and hear their stories.

    ‘That is why we will not budge an inch here at Occupy London. We will not be intimidated by their courts, their judges and their system. This is the very system we are here opposing so why should we respect their judgements.

    ‘Their judgements are based on their interests and they are the interests of making money of private property, of the Corporation of London, of the church and state, they are a billion miles away from the people and we are very close to what everyone is feeling. The 99% have risen up and want a life!'

    ‘Is it too much to ask for the basic things in life? Why can we not have a home or electricity, water, a job, an education and such. This system stinks, it reeks of something rotten to the core!’

    There was then a extremely powerful piece of drama entitled ‘Don’t Stop me Occupying 2012’ performed by The London Drama School students on the steps of St Paul’s. To the music of Queen ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ the students performed the piece showing the people rising up against the system.

    Natasha Langridge, who directed the play, said: ‘We have produced an anti-capitalist, pro-occupy piece of physical theatre.

    ‘We have fourteen international students aged 18-25 who are participating in the production.

    ‘This system does not benefit the majority of the people and it does not work.

    ‘It is about time we acknowledge that, and use our knowledge and experience to create something better which is what occupy is trying to do and we support them 100%.’

    The London Drama School student Peri Linklater-Johnson who was in the performance said: ‘We have created this together under the direction of Natasha Langridge. We support occupy, it is giving everyone a chance to say what they want to say.

    ‘There is no elitism in occupy. There is the top rungs of the ladder and everyone else gets meshed in together. The people with the most money have the most power.’

    Fellow student and performer Agui Bouba added: ‘The tuition fees are making university elitist, they are favouring the rich and they are heading towards an American-style system.

    ‘This is a big mistake, education is the key to making a really powerful society. I believe university must be free like it is in Belgium.’

    Andrew, who also performed in the anti-capitalist physical theatre piece said: ‘We should certainly defend the NHS. They want 49% of the NHS farmed out to the private sector.

    ‘This means that there is the temptation to make money and it is an infringement on the NHS. Once you have something that is free like the NHS that is a great thing.

    ‘They are trying to exert elitist control over it and I do not know why that is necessary.

    ‘In World War I they sent all the young people off to die.

    ‘They are always targeting youth. The children are the future.’

  • Blogging here again

    Internet cartoon

    As I told, I was doing my main blogging at WordPress.

    I was happy at my WordPress blog.

    Until I received a cryptic message that my WordPress blogging was stopped, and I should click to re-enable posting. So far, it has not been restored (yet). I have not the slightest idea why that happened to me. Some software freakish issue? Kafka-esque!

    For the moment, new blog posts will be here.

  • I will continue blogging at http://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/

    Blogging cartoon

    Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

    After I heard that my blog, and all other blogs at Blogsome, would close down on 7 December 2011, I frantically tried to save as much as possible from my big Blogsome blog to my blogs at dearkitty.blog.co.uk and at dearkitty1.wordpress.com.

    As things stand now, on 23 December 2011, my Blogsome blog is still up. However, no one seems to know till when. So, I have to decide where my new main blog site should be.

    After some thinking, I have decided for dearkitty1.wordpress.com, as it seems to have the best possibilities. My backup for my Blogsome blog posts of 2005-2007 is on my WordPress blog now. There is still a possibility that the rest of my backup file (too big for usual WordPress practice) will arrive there as well. I have also copied manually many (not all, that is impossible) Blogsome blog posts of 2007-November 2011 to my WordPress blog.

    And I plan to put my new posts on WordPress as well.

    So, please, everyone change your bookmarks, rss readers, etc. to my new blog dearkitty1.wordpress.com.

    If there should be technical problems with my Blogsome blogs, I plan to use dearkitty.blog.co.uk and/or dearkittybackup.blogspot.com/ as reserve blogs.

  • Continuing blogging at WordPress, or at blog.co.uk?

    Blogging cartoon

    When I heard that Blogsome would close down on 7 December 2011, I frantically started copying valuable blog posts to my backup blog at blog.co.uk (where I made some new blog posts as well).

    Blogsome offered a possibility of exporting a Blogsome backup to WordPress. That did not work at first.

    However, a few days later, I did manage to export my Blogsome backup to WordPress. Well, not all of it ... only the oldest posts, 2005-2007; as WordPress has a maximum import size, and my Blogsome blog is/was really big.

    I then started to copy valuable posts manually to my new WordPress blog, dearkitty1.wordpress.com. Going forward in time from early 2008 on.

    Should I make my WordPress blog, or my blog.co.uk blog, my main blog now? As far as I can see now, WordPress has some advantages, like one can embed new YouTube videos (rejected by blog.co.uk for having the iframe html tag).

    I have not made a final decision on this yet. As long as my Blogsome blog still exists, as it does now, I will continue copying to my new WordPress blog.

  • US Air Force dumped more soldiers' dead bodies at landfill

    King George County landfill

    From the Washington Post in the USA:

    Air Force dumped ashes of more troops’ remains in Va. landfill than acknowledged

    By Craig Whitlock and Mary Pat Flaherty, Thursday, December 8, 2:01 AM

    The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 American troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show.

    The landfill dumping was concealed from families who had authorized the military to dispose of the remains in a dignified and respectful manner, Air Force officials said. There are no plans, they said, to alert those families now.

    The Air Force had maintained that it could not estimate how many troops might have had their remains sent to a landfill. The practice was revealed last month by The Washington Post, which was able to document a single case of a soldier whose partial remains were sent to the King George County landfill in Virginia. The new data, for the first time, show the scope of what has become an embarrassing episode for vaunted Dover Air Base, the main port of entry for America’s war dead.

    The landfill disposals were never formally authorized under military policies or regulations. They also were not disclosed to senior Pentagon officials who conducted a high-level review of cremation policies at the Dover mortuary in 2008, records show.

    Air Force and Pentagon officials said last month that determining how many remains went to the landfill would require searching through the records of more than 6,300 troops whose remains have passed through the mortuary since 2001.

    “It would require a massive effort and time to recall records and research individually,” Jo Ann Rooney, the Pentagon’s acting undersecretary for personnel, wrote in a Nov. 22 letter to Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.).

    Holt, who has pressed the Pentagon for answers on behalf of a constituent whose husband was killed in Iraq, accused the Air Force and Defense Department of hiding the truth.

    “What the hell?” Holt said in a phone interview. “We spent millions, tens of millions, to find any trace of soldiers killed, and they’re concerned about a ‘massive’ effort to go back and pull out the files and find out how many soldiers were disrespected this way?” He added: “They just don’t want to ask questions or look very hard.”

    Senior Air Force leaders said there was no intent to deceive. “Absolutely not,” said Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for personnel.

    This week, after The Post pressed for information contained in the Dover mortuary’s electronic database, the Air Force produced a tally based on those records. It showed that 976 fragments from 274 military personnel were cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill between 2004 and 2008.

    An additional group of 1,762 unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the same manner, the Air Force said. Those fragments could not undergo DNA testing because they had been badly burned or damaged in explosions. The total number of incinerated fragments dumped in the landfill exceeded 2,700.

    A separate federal investigation of the mortuary last month, prompted by whistleblower complaints, uncovered “gross mismanagement” and documented how body parts recovered from bomb blasts stacked up in the morgue’s coolers for months or years before they were identified and disposed of.

    The problems also transpired at a time when the mortuary was shielded from public scrutiny. News coverage of the return of fallen troops to Dover was banned by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 before the first Persian Gulf War. The ban remained until April 2009, when the Obama administration lifted it.

    The Air Force said it first cremated the remains and then included those ashes in larger loads of mortuary medical waste that were burned in an incinerator and taken to a landfill. Incinerating medical waste is a common disposal practice but including cremated human ashes is not, according to funeral home directors, regulators and waste haulers.

    Air Force officials said they do not know when the landfill disposals began. They said their first record of it is Feb. 23, 2004. The mortuary database became operational in late 2003.

    The Air Force said mortuary leaders decided to end the practice in May 2008 because “there was a better way to do it,” Jones said. The military now cremates unclaimed and unidentified body parts and buries the ashes at sea.

    Jones said the Air Force did not need to inform relatives of troops whose remains ended up in the landfill because they had signed forms stipulating that they did not wish to be notified if additional remains were identified. The forms authorized the military to make “appropriate disposition” of those subsequent remains.

    Asked if the landfill was a dignified final resting place, Jones said: “The way we’re doing it today is much better.”

    Gari-Lynn Smith, the widow of an Army sergeant killed in Iraq, said she received an e-mail in July from Trevor Dean, the mortuary director, saying that incinerated remains had been taken to landfills at least since he began working at Dover in 1996. Dean is one of the officials facing discipline for his role in the reported mismanagement at the mortuary.

    Smith’s husband, Sgt. 1st Class Scott R. Smith, a member of a bomb-disposal unit, was killed on July 17, 2006. In 2007, she began asking the military what happened to some of his remains that were identified after his funeral.

    After four years of letters, phone calls and records requests, she received a letter from the mortuary in April stating that the military cremated and incinerated those partial remains and disposed of them in the King George landfill.

    “I hope this information brings some comfort to you during your time of loss,” read the letter, signed by Dean.

    Smith was infuriated. “They have known that they were doing something disgusting, and they were doing everything they could to keep it from us,” she said in a phone interview.

    In May 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered a detailed review of policies at Dover after an Army officer complained that the mortuary had cremated a fallen comrade at a nearby funeral home that also cremated pets in a separate chamber.

    The review team ordered changes, emphasizing the need to ensure the highest levels of dignity and honor.

    The Pentagon would not release the report, which was overseen by David Chu, who was undersecretary of defense for personnel. A copy obtained by The Post, however, shows that the landfill disposal practice was never reviewed or mentioned. Chu, now president of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, declined to comment.

    Private contractors hired by the Air Force to handle the remains’ incineration and disposal of the residue said they were unaware that they were transporting the ashes of dead troops. Records show that the Air Force hired the contractors to dispose of medical waste and did not specify that cremated body parts were included.

    MedTrace Inc. of North East, Md., had Air Force disposal contracts between 2004 and 2007, records show. Don Holland, a manager for the company, said his employees picked up boxes of sealed containers from the Dover mortuary.

    “They were certified as medical waste that had been properly treated — that’s it,” Holland said. “We don’t go looking at what’s in there. It’s sealed.”

    MedTrace took the items to an incinerator in Baltimore, according to state records in Delaware, where the mortuary is located. Holland declined to discuss the incineration and which landfill his company used.

    Lisa Kardell, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, which operates the King George landfill, said the firm has no record of a contract with MedTrace for the years 2003 through 2008.

    She said that Air Force officials have not returned calls over the past two weeks from her company’s attorneys, asking which haulers would have been handling the Dover materials and the disposition of the ashes.

    “Obviously, we would be opposed to taking cremated remains of our servicemen and servicewomen and putting them in our landfill,” Kardell said. “But it sounds like a lot of us were pulled in unknowingly to this unfortunate situation with the Air Force,” she added.

    “It’s a moral thing,” said Jeff Jenkins, the manager of the King George landfill. “Someone killed overseas fighting for our country, I wouldn’t want them buried — any part of them — in the landfill.”

    See also here. And here.

  • Even conservatives have enough of ‘Mad Mel’ Phillips

    June 24, 2011.

    Cartoon about another Mad Mel, Gibson

    From the New Statesman in Britain:

    Goodbye, Melanie!

    Posted by Mehdi Hasan - 24 June 2011 13:35

    Phillips leaves the Spectator as the complaints pile up.

    Poor ol' Melanie Phillips. In today's Guardian, the Conservative Party chair Sayeeda Warsi goes on the offensive:

    ""I don't read her, actually. I call her Mad Mel," Lady Warsi says of Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, who has denounced her as "stupid"."

    Last week, Phillips announced her departure from the Spectator, where she has been blogging for the past few years.

    On 16 June, under the headline, '"My blog's new home", she wrote:

    "This is my last blog-post for the Spectator. I have decided to expand and develop my own website over the coming months, and so if you would like to continue to read my blog you can find it at melaniephillips.com."

    But was this a voluntary or enforced departure? The blogger Guido Staines beat me to it, but I can't help but notice how the Spectator has had to apologise to Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum, on its website this week, after a blogpost by Phillips made "false" allegations about Crooke's past. Phillips's decision to move on might just be a coincidence but a well-connected source tells me that the payout to Crooke cost the Spectator "tens of thousands of pounds" and left Fraser Nelson and Andrew Neil "furious" with her.

    Here's the full text of the apology on the front page of the Spectator website:

    "An apology to Alastair Crooke

    A blog by Melanie Phillips posted on 28 January 2011 reported an allegation that Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum, had been expelled from Israel and dismissed for misconduct from Government service or the EU after threatening a journalist whose email he had unlawfully intercepted. We accept that this allegation is completely false and we apologise to Mr Crooke."

    Good riddance to this gay-basher and Iraq war-monger, 'Mad Mel' Phillips.

    Poll says Muslims are 'proud' of Britain's gay rights: here.

    British gay policeman victim of homophobic attack in Slovenia: here.

    Britain: David Cameron is pushing through cuts that will destroy the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people: here.

    USA: Gay Marriage Equality passed in New York Senate - 33 - 29: here.

    Tens of thousands turned out for Gay Pride across the world on Saturday buoyed by news that same-sex marriage had become legal in New York state: here.

  • Violent homophobes stop theatre play

    30 March 2010.

    From the news today:

    A classroom exercise that was to have featured the controversial play Body of Mohamed, which depicts the prophet of Islam as a gay man, was cancelled in Baghdad, Iraq, this weekend, following a flood of threats to the university.
    I can already imagine the Pawlow's dog style reactions from Western conservatives and "liberal" hawks to this: "Those f*** Muslims don't understand Western values like free speech!" "Nuke Iraq; nuke Afghanistan; make Somalia a parking lot!" "Expel all immigrants from Muslim countries [even if they are Christian, atheist, or whatever]!" "Down with dhimmitude!" And, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali Magan [her real name]: "Muslims will never stop being homophobes. So, convert them to Christianity, so they will become sweet and nice to gay people like Christians."

    But ... wait a moment. The Rightist Pawlow's dogs have salivated and barked too soon. I made mistakes in quoting that news item.

    The real item is; from CBC in Canada; about the USA:

    Gay Jesus drama workshop scuttled by threats

    Texas university cites 'security concerns' for cancellation

    Last Updated: Monday, March 29, 2010 | 12:59 PM ET

    A classroom exercise that was to have featured Terrence McNally's controversial play Corpus Christi, which depicts Jesus as a gay man, was cancelled in Stephenville, Texas, this weekend, following a flood of threats to the university.

    Late Friday evening, Tarleton State University announced it was cancelling the student-directed productions — including an excerpt from Corpus Christi — which had been slated to be staged on Saturday.

    The productions, part of a workshop assignment for an advanced theatre directing class, were not to have been open to the public or media.

    The restricted audience was to have included only instructors, class members and invited family.

    In a terse statement issued Friday night, officials at the school cited "safety and security concerns for the students as well as the need to maintain an orderly academic environment" as reasons for the cancellation.

    The performances will not be rescheduled, according to the statement.

    An assistant professor later told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the school had received a barrage of threatening telephone calls and more than 800 emails.

    President defended staging

    Earlier Friday, Tarleton University president F. Dominic Dottavio had posted an open letter saying that the school did not endorse the play and had not paid any costs associated with the student productions.

    Though he admitted that he personally found the work "offensive, crude and irreverent," Dottavio nevertheless defended student John Otte's right to present the McNally work as part of his assignment.

    "Like every citizen of the country, the student who chose to direct excerpts from the play enjoys his right to free speech," Dottavio wrote.

    "The play is a project for a class. It is not intended for the public any more than a student's math assignment."

    News first emerged earlier this month that a student was planning to stage the controversial work at the university. Otte, 26, told campus journalism outlet Texan TV News that his choice of project was not meant to offend.

    "I am both a Christian and gay," Otte said in the interview. "This play deals with that subject matter, I believe, in a tasteful way."

    Award-winning playwright

    Acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and librettist McNally, whose credits include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, premiered Corpus Christi in 1997.

    The play explores intolerance and gay teenagers in its retelling of the story of Jesus, which he modernized by depicting Christ and his disciples as gay men living in Texas in the 1960s.

    The one-act work from the Corpus Christi-raised writer was contentious from its debut, with death threats initially forcing the Manhattan Theatre Club's board to cancel the production.

    After a storm of protest from other noted playwrights, the board reconsidered its decision and staged the production, which drew hundreds of religious protesters. Subsequent productions of the play in the U.K. and Australia also drew strong criticism and protest from religious groups.

    See also here. And here.

    This video from the USA says about itself:

    Interview with the student at the center of the gay Jesus "Corpus Christi" - plus other news and interviews from Texas TV news.
    "Hurray" for the oh so "peaceful" Christian Right in the USA. Not just killing people for being pro evolution instead of creationist; killing doctors for helping women; threatening to kill Muslims for being Muslims, threatening to kill the President of the USA for not being white. And now threatening to kill Christians for being gay.

    By the way, it is very hard to imagine anything like this happening in Iraq now. Quite apart from the subjects of plays: about 90% of the artists living in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime have been killed or have fled from Iraq since Bush's 2003 invasion. People don't dare to go to plays, whatever the subject. Iraqi film makers have fled to Syria. In 2003, just before Bush's invaion, there basically was dancing on stage for the last time in Baghdad.

    Iraq is the most murderous country in the world for LGBT people now. Because of George W. Bush's local allies; backed up by US armed forces presence.

  • Islamic-Christian co-operation in Iraqi medieval art

    Fan from the Deir al-Surian monastery in Egypt. Although it is a Christian liturgical object, with an image of Mary and Christ and a Syrian inscription, it comes from a collection classified as ‘Islamic metalwork’. Photo: Demet Varli

    31 August 2010.

    From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

    Art links Christians and Muslims in Medieval Middle East

    The relationship between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East during the Middle Ages is often typified in terms such as conflict and violent opposition. Bas Snelders shows in his dissertation that this image is not true. Analysis of art from the period demonstrates that the two communities intermingled rather than living completely separately.

    Christian and Muslim artists

    Based on art historical and written sources, Snelders addresses the role played by art within the Syrian Orthodox community of Mosul. Christian art flourished in the 13th century in what is now Northern Iraq, and Muslims were very active as artists and patrons. Snelders' dissertation explores the relationship between Christian and Islamic art.

    Preserving identity

    Snelders' detailed comparative analysis sketches a nuanced image of the intensive cultural interaction that was typical of the time. Christians were completely integrated in their environment, and preserved their religious and social identity.

    PIONIER research

    Snelders' research is part of the PIONIER research project on The Formation of a Communal Identity among West Syrian Christians (451–1300) at the Faculty of Humanities. NWO is funding the study.

    21st century Western Islamophobes pretend that all Muslims have always been violently anti-Christian. Not true. In the Islamic Cordoba khalifate in Spain the relationship between Muslims, Jews, and Christians was good. In Iraq, good relations between Muslims and Christians were certainly not limited to the Middle Ages. Eg, the Saddam Hussein dictatorship was a terrible time in many respects. Even so, there was much Muslim-Christian cooperation, in daily life, also in the government and armed forces. However, after George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, a horrible time of violent persecution of Christians started.

    On Dutch TV today, an Iraqi refugee, Amin, now living in a cellar in Jordan, was interviewed. He said: "My brother and my father were killed by the Saddam Hussein regime. So, I never expected I would have to say this: 'Things under this occupation are even worse than then'. In 2005, I was a candidate for parliament. However, the situation became so bad that I had to flee the country".

    Life in Baghdad's Slums: Fighting to Survive in Sadr City: here.

    USA: Iraq withdrawal: here.

    Iraq's High Criminal Court sentenced former foreign minister Tariq Aziz to die by hanging today for persecuting Islamist parties opposed to the former Ba'athist regime: here.

  • Poetry amidst war in Somalia

    This video says about itself:

    Poetic Protest by Somali Women

    Somali women voice their anger and opposition to the Ethiopian Invasion of their country in Baraanbur, a very stylish, rich and unique poetry. They also raised money for the Mogadishu Massacre victims.

    From daily The Independent in Britain:
    Somalia's last poets sing of a country on the brink

    In last of a series of dispatches from Mogadishu, Daniel Howden reports on the artists fighting to keep a tradition alive

    Thursday, 2 December 2010

    The Mogadishu poets' club seldom meets these days. Sugaal Abdulle Omar is one of only a handful of survivors who have stayed on in the Somali capital despite what has become of the once beautiful coastal city. "The poet is always trying to talk about peace," he says. "But there is nowhere to talk about peace here and no one who wants to listen."

    Taking a folded sheet of paper from his breast pocket he starts to read in a voice that's halfway between speaking and singing. Despite his peaceful protestations the maanso, or epic poem, he recites is savagely angry: "Anyone who committed atrocities against my people; anyone who dragged my people through the streets; one day they will be hanging from a rope."

    Poetry is central to Somali culture. An oral culture where an officially recognised written form of the language only appeared in 1972, poetry has been the foundation of all artistic expression.

    Historically Somalia's nomadic clans would have their own poet, and in some cases be led by them. The Dervish leader Sayyid Muhammad Hasan, remembered in British colonial literature as the "Mad Mullah", was a poet and mystic. "I would not have withheld anything from them, if they desired peace," he said of the British, who employed poets from their own clan collaborators to attack Sayyid during his rebellion. "But when they acted disdainfully, death marched straight at them."

    When the British romantic and explorer Richard Burton travelled to the Horn of Africa more than 100 years ago, he found a place that "teems with poets", where "every man has his recognised position in literature". He also found the Somalis to be a "fierce and turbulent race". Both observations still hold true.

    The Somali intellectual Said Sheikh Samatar used an essay on poetry to best explain that turbulence: "My brother and I against my half-brother, my brother and I against my father, my father's household against my uncle's household, our two households (my uncle's and mine) against the rest of the immediate kin, the immediate kin against non-immediate members of the clan, my clan against other clans and, finally my nation and I against the world!"

    His Politics of Poetry was written in 1993, the year that the US mission to Somalia ended in the Black Hawk Down fiasco with 18 American soldiers dead. Since then Sheikh Samatar's description of a system of shifting alliances with no permanent friends and an abundance of enemies has been pushed to its logical extreme. Somalia has become the world's most failed state, sending most of its poets into exile in a vast Somali diaspora with communities from Minnesota to Stockholm.

    This has meant that a tradition largely passed on orally – in which plagiarism was anathema and the original poet would be credited by the performer – has been written down and translated.

    But poetry is still listened to rather than read by Somalis and the cassette tapes of old have given way to digital clips watched over the internet.

    Only a few bards such as the folk hero Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame, known to everyone as "Hadraawi" and famous for his peace marches, have stayed in Somalia. Almost none have remained in Mogadishu.

    The "endless war" means the poets' club now comprises only nine regulars, says Sugaal. These days his largest audiences are online. Many people download clips of the 56-year-old's performances from YouTube. To make his point he leans forward, flips open his mobile phone and plays a maanso that's been set to music. Wanting to join in, he mimes the words in time to the tinny wail of the phone. This one is about love: "why does every woman who I try to seduce become my enemy?" it asks.

    "When there was peace we used to write about love affairs," the poet laments. "But things have changed so much. Now there is war and we write about restoring peace." ...

    Those left behind like Sugaal admit that Mogadishu's current poets are a pale imitation of past greats: "The young poets are few and while hundreds would come before to listen, now they no longer do." Just as he refuses to leave the shattered city, he's unwilling to see the demise of Somali poetry.

    "I'm not afraid, as long as there is Somali spoken in Somalia the poetry will not die. But if the war goes on there will be fewer and fewer people to hear it."

    Civilian casualties of fighting between government forces, backed by African Union peacekeepers, and Islamist insurgents are rising in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, with civil society sources accusing the peacekeeping mission of being responsible for the bulk of them: here.

    Mogadishu — The traditional elders of Hawiye clans have called for the African Union troops AMISOM to halt shelling falling into the civilian populated areas out of the Somali capital Mogadishu, chairperson said on Monday: here.

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