More Tales of Bombs and Buildings

Kim Fay is a travel writer and photographer. She is the editor of the guidebook To Asia With Love, dubbed "the ultimate insider's guide to Southeast Asia." The following is an excerpt from "The Kindness of Strangers," an article she wrote (the entire piece can be found on her website: www.kimfay.com) in which she describes being in Luang Prabang, Laos when she first heard the news about the 9-11 terrorist attacks:

"Disoriented, we find our way to a TV in a new café. Surrounded by Australians, New Zealanders and Europeans hunkered down on a rough timber floor, we watch the small fuzzy image of our President as he addresses the nation. It's nearing midnight, and we're exhausted. And then, whispered under the breath: 'What did they expect?'

Not once this night do we hear how terrible or how sad or how tragic. Instead, we learn that somehow we might have deserved this assault, and that our president is a "wanker." I have never felt lonelier in my life than I do now in this room, but although we want to leave, we also need to know what's happening back home.

Finally, around one a.m., CNN cuts out and everyone drifts away. No one expresses a word of sympathy, and we return to the hotel, wounded. We lie in the dark silence of our hotel room, so tired we find it impossible to sleep. Another storm will come and go before the night is over, and when we wake it will be to a world irreversibly changed."

I find it quite ironic that she was in Laos on 9-11. The tiny landlocked country once held the distinction of being the "most bombed country on earth." Courtesy of - you guessed it - the American military during the Vietnam War.


Terminal Compassion

Death, however cruel and unfair, sometimes brings out the best in people. I was just sent a link to an online article about Beth Goldring - a New York native who quit her university teaching job to become a Buddhist nun - and the AIDS hospice that she runs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

What Beth and her dedicated staff at Brahma Vihara are doing to help those who are suffering is nothing short of incredible. Beth is an amazing woman, and I can’t begin to fathom how she summons up the energy and strength to do what she does each and every day.

Please take some time to click on the link and read the article by Bennett Stevens, starkly illustrated by his superb photographs. This story makes my cry - but it also inspires me.



Towel Flicking Diplomacy

"I don't think he wants to hear anything outside the box of his prejudices. He's one of nature's towel flickers and he has turned American international policy into towel flicking. Polarism and neo-conservatism has seriously weakened the United States."

British diplomat Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong (1992-1997), commenting on George W. Bush and his lack of foreign policy expertise. The outspoken Patten is also the author of two political memoirs: East and West and Not Quite the Diplomat.


Twenty signs that you might be a Bush Supporter

1. You think that liberals are to blame for the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and not the people actually killing them or sending them to be killed.

2. You find the death of unborn children abhorrent only when it is the result of a woman's choice and not when it is the result of environmental contamination, malnutrition, lack of prenatal healthcare, or the bombing of civilians.

3. You draw no conclusion whatsoever from the fact that prescription drug prices have risen for senior citizens since President Bush enacted the Medicare prescription drug plan.

4. You think liberals hate U.S. soldiers and want them to die.

5. You support the philosophy of checks and balances in government, but cannot think of any instance in which the Bush administration should be subject to checks or balances in this "time of war."

6. You think President Bush is fighting to protect your freedoms from terrorists, but are willing to give up your freedoms in order to fight terrorists.

7. You think that knowledge of Valerie Plame's status as Joseph Wilson's wife is the same as knowledge of her status as a CIA agent.

8. You believe that as a Christian in the United States, you are a persecuted minority.

9. The death of Israeli civilians at the hands of Palestinian militants or terrorists causes you to rage against the attackers, while the death of Palestinian civilians at the hands of the Israeli military causes you to rage against the liberal media for its anti-Semitic news coverage.

10. You believe that corporate executives care more about the condition of the working class than labor unions.

11. You don't understand the difference between being accused of terrorism and being guilty of terrorism, and therefore do not understand the need for due process in terrorism cases or the outcry against the torture of people who have never been convicted or charged of a crime.

12. You don't think the subjects discussed and the conclusions drawn at Dick Cheney's secret meetings with Enron and other energy industry representatives to form our nation's energy policy are any of your business.

13. You've never heard of the Office of Special Plans or the Project for the New American Century.

14. The name "Hillary Clinton" sends you into a vitriolic diatribe against the senator, yet you cannot identify any of her policy positions.

15. You despise Bill Clinton for not catching or killing Osama Bin Laden prior to the attacks of 9/11, but excuse George W. Bush for not catching or killing Osama Bin Laden prior to or after the attacks of 9/11.

16. In the Bible, you find no exception to the proclamation in the Book of Leviticus that it is an abomination for a man to lie with a man, but find a vast number of exceptions to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill."

17. You find yourself willing to devote yourself to protecting the well-being of unborn children, but uninterested in the well-being of children after they're born or their mothers at any stage.

18. You do not believe that falling middle class income and rising corporate executive compensation is class warfare against the working class, but do believe that mentioning this fact is class warfare against the rich.

19. You despise the liberal media for its constant lies and distortions, but believe any and all reports from the media that sets President Bush in a positive light.

20. You proudly display a bumper sticker to "support the troops," but consider discussions of inadequate body armour, strategy, veteran's benefits and soldier pay to be nothing more than liberal whining.



"No doubt exercise helps clear his brain, but if it were any clearer, it'd be a patch of blue sky. He needs to unclear his brain, and let a little reality intrude, and wipe that barbecue grin off his face."

James Wolcott, writing about President Bush's "passive-aggressive approach" to the Israeli-Lebanon crisis in a column titled "Exercise Nut" on his website (www.jameswolcott.com) .


Iran Awakening

Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Her "efforts for democracy and human rights" in her native Iran, particularly those directed towards women and children, were cited by the Nobel committe. Ebadi was the first ever female judge in Iran and became the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel.

Her memoir, Iran Awakening, was recently published. In a review of the book, James Eckardt of The Nation newspaper had this to say:

In writing her book, Shirin has gone a long way towards dispelling the popular image of Iranians as angry bearded fanatics chanting and shaking their fists. She is representative of a 2,500-year-old civilization with a rich literature, art, music and cuisine. In her epilogue she points out that 65 percent of Iranian university students are women, and 43 percent are salaried workers. And, in contrast to US President George W. Bush's overheated rhetoric about an Axis of Evil, they vote.

"I wanted to write a book that would help correct Western stereotypes of Islam, especially the image of Muslim women as docile, forlorn creatures," she concludes.

She has succeeded brilliantly.


Fox News Kills

"When I was covering the war in Iraq, we reporters would sometimes tune to Fox News and watch, mystified, as it purported to describe how Iraqis loved Americans. Such coverage (backed by delusional Journal editorials baffling to anyone who was actually in Iraq) misled conservatives about Iraq from the beginning. In retrospect, the real victims of Fox News weren't the liberals it attacked but the conservatives who believed it."

Nicholas D. Kristof, writing in a New York Times column this week.