Cosmo or Coma: al Qaeda Offers Women Both

Literature is rife with stories of people who made deals with the devil for youth, beauty, riches, or success in exchange for their soul. Usually the devil seeks them out in a moment of weakness, like he did Faust or Joe Boyd in the Broadway hit, “Damn Yankees”. Today, the always adaptable Lucifer entered the communication age with a new way to seduce his victims; a glossy magazine complete with assault rifle on the cover.

al Qaede mag cover When I first read the story that al Qaeda had launched Al-Shamikha, loosely translated to “The Majestic Woman”, aimed at recruiting women jihadists, I thought it was funny: I actually laughed at story lines like how to have a lovely complexion by “not going out more than necessary and always wearing your niqab as protection against the sun”. This had to be a spoof…a parody worthy of Stephen Colbert . But the story kept popping up on MSM sites throughout the day. The laughing stopped when I realized there was no joke.

According to the UK newspaper, “The Independent”, this new version of how to be a mid-east Cosmo girl includes advice on finding the right man ("marrying a mujahideen"), and provides tips on first aid and etiquette, along side interviews with martyr’s wives and praises those who give their lives in the name of a twisted interpretation of Islam. "From martyrdom, the believer will gain security, safety and happiness".

For those readers not quite ready for such a drastic step, it argues the pros and cons of honey facemasks and lobbies against "toweling too forcibly": My goodness we wouldn’t want to damage that lovely skin of yours before we convince you to splatter it in little pieces all over a street or cafe.

In full “media launch” mode, the editors of Al-Shamikha, when asked why they started the magazine, replied, “"Because women constitute half of the population – and one might even say that they are the population since they give birth to the next generation – the enemies of Islam are bent on preventing the Muslim woman from knowing the truth about her religion and her role, since they know all too well what would happen if women entered the field of jihad… The nation of Islam needs women to know what is expected of them."

Media analysts say the idea is to market global jihad with the same slick feel as Cosmopolitan Western culture to young women. So there you have it girls: Launch in to spring with a new lipstick or a new Kalashnikov. Either way you’re bound to make a splash.

Courage vs. Polarization

We’ve seen two demonstrations of extraordinary courage by two ordinary women in the past month.

In December, Ginger LIttleton, who had escaped, put herself back in to harm’s way to try to save her colleagues. With a purse as her only weapon, she attempted to knock the gun out of the hand of a man who was threatening the Panama City School Board of which Littleton is a member. That scenario ended without the loss of any innocent life.

This past Saturday in Tucson, the outcome was not so positive, although the bravery demonstrated by Patricia Maisch was no less admirable, in fact perhaps more so because people around her had already been shot and killed when she took a fresh ammunition clip from the hands of shooter, Jared Loughner.

Unfortunately, Patricia Maisch used the ensuing publicity and media attention to go on a rant about how she believes the rhetoric of the Republican Party was responsible for Loughner’s murderous spree. How disappointing that someone who showed such courage would use that moment to do exactly what she’s accusing the “other side” of doing…ratcheting up the dialog by making accusations at each other.

I wish Ms. Maisch well and hope that she recovers quickly from what will undoubtedly be reactions of post traumatic stress. I also hope that when she comes out on the other side of this experience, she will not find it necessary to polarize or politicize the event, which was clearly the act of a mentally unbalanced person and not of a rhetoric-driven ideologue.

My expanded thoughts about this issue are on The Daily Caller

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Saving Sakineh

While the east coast of the United States enjoyed idyllic weather (before the heat wave set in) and celebrated one of our most festive national holidays, a woman has been languishing for almost six years in an Iranian prison. Charged and convicted of “adultery” with what appears to be no proof, Sakineh received 99 lashes as her punishment. A barbaric act that her children were forced to watch. She has remained in prison ever since.

Now, for some unknown, or at least publicly unstated reason, the case has been reopened, and Sakineh has been sentenced to death by stoning. An international effort is being mounted to bring pressure to bear on the Iranian government to commute the sentence.


Several weeks ago, before this case gained world-wide attention, I rented a movie which I had heard about through my Afghan friends. The movie, titled “The Stoning of Soraya M” was the true story of another Iranian woman who had met this horrible fate. The film left me with images that I still cannot remove from my mind, which is why I am so horrified at the prospect of Sakineh meeting the same fate.

It is difficult to believe that in the 21st century, this barbarism is still practiced. This is not about cultural sensitivity or respecting another religion; this is about inhumane and murderous acts.

If you are on Facebook, please go to the “Save Sakineh” page and sign the petition that will hopefully be presented to the Iranian government. It will only take a minute and it just might help save her life.

The Woman Effect…from Kagan to Palin on The Daily Caller

The DC logo For a writer it’s all about having a voice; most of us write because we want to engage in the collective dialog, especially those of us who write columns and commentary. Today, the people with whom I can have a conversation just increased exponentially: My first opinion piece has been published on The Daily Caller.

“The DC” as it’s known, was founded by Tucker Carlson, a 20-year veteran of print and broadcast media, and a partner who worked in the Bush White House. Its website states that “The Daily Caller is a 24-hour news site providing original reporting from an experienced team of professional reporters, thought-provoking commentary and breaking news”…along with a blog and various regular features.

My slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the current class of 2010 women in politics, “The woman effect…from Kagan to Palin”, is also meant to make a point: We’ve waited a long time and paid a lot of dues to get to where we are today.

There are good examples of how far we’ve come baby on both ends of the spectrum. Politics aside, it looks like we’re going to get a historic third woman on the Supreme Court. Personally, I wish Elena Kagan had more of a track record. The release of the papers and emails from her years with Clinton have shown her to be a very savvy “operative”. But let’s face it, we know she’s a liberal replacing another liberal, so hopefully, no harm, no foul.

Nikki Haley’s win last night in the face of one of the worse smear campaigns I’ve ever seen, was worth the wait. She has conducted herself with class and dignity. Maybe she’s a great actress, but in the face of no hard evidence of the infidelity charges against her, I choose to believe she’s who she says she is. I heard Haley speak this morning on Morning Joe…one of my favorite shows, and she was impressive. Very intelligent, thoughtful, and smooth. Let’s hope there’s a lot of substance behind that attractive exterior package.

As I said in The DC op-ed…

Here we are, almost four decades after the start of the modern women’s movement, finally having a political impact from coast to coast and across the political spectrum. What we’ve always wanted is coming to pass: Women of all political persuasions are duking it out in the public arena, taking on each other…and the boys. They’re paying their dues, spending their own fortunes, and setting their own agendas.

I love the smell of estrogen in the morning.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2010/06/23/the-woman-effect-from-kagan-to-palin/#ixzz0rhKGFkhN

The Oil Spill: Good news for Elena Kagan

Kagan Some eastern religions believe in the yin and yang of life: Every action or event has a positive and negative energy. By not letting the negative overwhelm you, and tapping in to the positive side, you can benefit from even the worse disaster.

Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, hasn’t needed to chant any mantras to benefit from the Gulf oil spill. The disaster knocked her right off the front pages and the 6:00 news. Even the release of the documents from the Clinton Library, reflecting her time in the While House, has barely received a mention. According to The Washington Post’s email blast wrap-up of the Sunday morning talk shows, “Sunday Roundup”, only CSPAN’s “Newsmakers” program had any discussion of the upcoming Kagan hearing which is scheduled to begin in one week. 

The Post reported that, “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was unsure if Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan would serve as a consensus builder on the high court, but he said he would "like to see us go back to more consensus decisions." He said Kagan’s hearings, which are scheduled to begin June 28, "will last until we finish. I would hope they don’t last more than a week." He expects a vote on her nomination sometime in July.”

In political speak I think that means Kagan is going to get a pass and the hearings are a mere formality.

There is a case to be made for the fact that her appointment to the Court will not shift the balance; perhaps with so much else requiring our attention, from the Gulf to Afghanistan to the deterioration in Iraq, putting Elena Kagan through her paces is not a priority.

However I like to have a little bit of yin with my yang. At her age she could well sit on the Supreme Court for 30 years.

As much as I would like to see a historic third woman on the Supreme Court, I would also like for the person who is going to have that much influence over our future to have a known track record, a public airing of her record, and a very thorough Senate hearing.

Looks like the oil in the Gulf is covering up more than just birds, marshes and beaches.

Weaving Silken Dreams…Here in Allentown

Anne Hills I’m in the process of writing my first column for the Morning Call in almost a year. The topic will be the stress our military is under due to so many multiple deployments and how the new Veteran’s Sanctuary, opening this fall in Allentown, is a much needed resource. The story will appear on Memorial Day.

As part of my research for the article, I attending a benefit concert held in the partially restored building that will house the Sanctuary. Standing in the auditorium of the former St. John’s Lutheran School on 5th St., the more than the one hundred people and I that were in the audience, were carried back in time not only by our surroundings, but by another local treasure, singer and songwriter Anne Hills.

What a wonderful voice singing so many beautiful songs that spoke to the human condition. There were of course many veterans in the audience, and when Anne sang, “Your new companion” about the loneliness of alcoholism, often an early symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you could have heard a pin drop.

And in a poke-in-the-eye to Billy Joel and his awful song about Allentown, Anne wrote a beautiful ode to all the workers who made the Queen City just that…the Queen of the silk mills. “Silken Dreams” tells the story of a retired weaver and her friend who came here as young women from Austria and spent their lives at their looms. “On a hot summer night, you could hear those looms; they never shut them down. Weaving and spinning the silken dreams of the workers in Anne Hills w-banjo Allentown”.  

It’s no wonder Tom Paxton, Anne Hills’ friend, fellow songwriter, and folk legend, said the following about her..

“Anne Hills is such an exquisite singer that it’s understandable that people might be swept up in the pure beauty of her voice and thereby overlook her writing. That would be a mistake. For me, Anne’s writing, in songs like ‘Follow That Road’ and many others, is as direct, melodic and deep as any work being done today. She is quite simply one of my absolute favorite songwriters.”
                    — Tom Paxton

Anne, who volunteered to entertain at the benefit, lives in Bethlehem with her husband and daughter. Her career takes her around the country, but she does occasionally appear locally. Her concert dates are listed on her website.

It was a very special afternoon filled with beautiful music and heartfelt sentiments…all for a very good cause. If you believe that our Veterans deserve your support, please consider donating to the Veteran’s Sanctuary.

Blogger’s Note: My thanks to Christopher Scappaticci for the generous use of his photographs. I tried to download Anne’s song, “Silken Dreams” to accompany this post, but being the techno wizard that I am, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. There’s a beautiful version on Rhapsody.

A Different Kind Of Conversation…

Blogging is a very unique, personal, form of communication. We bloggers get to sit in front of our computer screens at all hours of the night and day, in all forms of dress or undress, and pontificate about anything that interests us, in the hope that someone will read our pearls of wisdom, and even better, post a comment.  

WGPA studio Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 14, I get to up the ante by being part of WGPA’s morning program, “Daybreak” from approx. 8:15 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The show is streamed  live online at http://www.wgpasunny1100.com and the call-in number is 610-866-8074. 

We won’t be discussing politics, at least not local politics. We will be discussing the status of women in the developing world and the economic impact women are beginning to have on the global economy…from America to Afghanistan.

I hope you’ll be listening, and most of all, I hope you’ll call in to say hello, share your thoughts, and join the conversation, because after 9:00 a.m., this radio Cinderella turns back in to a blogger pumpkin, stuck behind her computer screen once again.

The Mighty Oak Has Fallen….Acorn Closes It’s Doors

Lots going on in Varkonyland right now so will be brief, but I just had to post about the demise of Acorn.

Every once in a while, the bad guys get caught in their own web. And although I do not approve of the entrapment that was used to bring Acorn down, I’m glad they are finished…well, kind of finished.

As reported by the AP, two of their largest affiliates, New York and California, have changed their names and are still operating. But by and large, local chapters and field offices have closed for good. We will shed no tears at their passing. Hopefully, legitimate community organizations will take their place.

And while we’re on the subject, lest we have short memories, it would be good to be reminded who ran the Acorn field operation here in the Lehigh Valley in its heyday: That would be Siobhan Bennett. 

One Evening…Many Stories

Thread_Postcard-1On Wednesday, March 31, in a little over two weeks, a very special event will take place here in the Lehigh Valley. It’s not a glamorous society outing, although there will be wine and hors d’oeuvres, it doesn’t cost very much money to attend, and what cost there is is a tax deductible contribution to a very worthy cause. Rather it is a one-of-a-kind celebration of love, loss, courage, and most of all the indefatigable strength of the human spirit.

The reason the Benefit Screening of the documentary “Thread”, and the panel discussion that will follow, is so unique is because until now, you would have had to travel to New York or San Francisco to share this experience. But now, the many people and their stories whose lives have intersected a half a world away, will come together, here, at our own Cedar Crest College, for one common cause; to support the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the Afghan women associates of the Business Council for Peace. .

The evening will include members of the Pennsylvania National Guard; heroes who have served in Afghanistan. There will also be well known members of the community whose generosity have helped to support the event; Bob & Sandy Lovett, Vic & Jody Mazziotti, Joe & Judy Kaminski, and Sally Gammon. The producer and director of the film, who took their lives in their hands to make this movie will be there, as well as the founder of Bpeace, who started the organization after witnessing the events of 9-11, firsthand. Palwasha

And there will be Palwasha; young, beautiful, smart and determined to help save her country. Palwasha is one of the Afghan women featured in “Thread”. Out of all the stories that will come together that night; all the “Threads” that will weave the tapestry that is “their” Afghanistan, few will be more moving than hers. Pursued by a village elder for marriage at a young age, her parents refused him and encouraged her to get an education. What was done to save one daughter could not save the other. Palwasha’s younger sister disappeared on her way to school and has never been seen again.

If you would like to hear these stories first hand, to share in this evening that will be like no other, if you would like to help the very brave women of Afghanistan, you can purchase tickets or make a donation, here.

The Women of the Greatest Generation: WASPS Honored

What a relief to read the story about the Women Air Service Pilots of World War II being honored in Washington with Congressional Gold Medals: Long overdue, but better late than never. After the insanity and betrayal of the past 24 hours involving “Jihad Jane”, the lives well lived of Lillian Yonally, and her fellow pilots, was refreshing and inspiring.

What I found particularly moving about the story was that she never mentioned her wartime service to her family. According to a story in The Morning Call, Yonally’s son, Jack, said that while he was growing up, his father was the important military man in the family and his mother was ”just mom”. How typical of women from that time.

Rosie RiveterWhen you think about the self-absorbed, self-promotional culture that surrounds us now, it’s hard to imagine someone who had performed such dangerous, heroic work, not telling everyone who would listen what they were doing. Today, they’d have a reality TV show and a book deal.

I remember my mother recounting tales of friends who went to work in factories, Rosie the Riveters , doing heavy dangerous work. And how even women who remained in more traditional roles, did “something”, rolled bandages, wrote letters, volunteered at the USO, because the country needed everyone to pull together.

I hope before they’re all gone, our parents and grandparents know how grateful we are for their service and sacrifice and that they will always be recognized as our “Greatest Generation”.

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