Monday, February 14, 2005

From blog member Samer al-Batal
New AIDS super bug
The superstrain was dubbed "3-DCR HIV" because it's resistant to three of the four HIV drug classes that are currently in use, which amounts to 19 of 20 drugs that are rendered useless.
The first known case: New Yorker and gay - and stricken with the full onset of symptoms within four months after contracting the virus.

Shi‘ites win in Iraq
S al-B: The Sistani list, in the form of the United Iraq Alliance, naturally secured victory in these elections, with the Kurds coming in after. The UIA had originally won 133 seats, almost 50%, but that has now increased to above that figure - 141 seats and 51% - due to the redistribution of wasted votes for small parties. These guys have won. What the Iraqis basically have now is majority power in the hands of non-secular Shi‘ites, which indicates strong potential relations with Iran and a threateningly strong Islamic element in this new government. Due to Sunnis boycotting the elections and their disadvantage in numbers as a minority, they haven't done well. The US's choice of parliamentary victors suffered a heavy loss, against the expectations it held after it installed Allawi.

Added Rami Khouri, Arab analyst and editor of Beirut's Daily Star: "The idea that the United States would get a quick, stable, prosperous, pro-American and pro-Israel Iraq has not happened. Most of the neoconservative assumptions about what would happen have proven false."
Juan Cole provides Al-Hayat's breakdown of winners and the number of seats won by each political party and group (these are prior to the adjustments mentioned in the first paragraph of the blog entry). The distribution of seats that has just resulted impacts the results of two primary state functions: the formation of a new government, which requires a 2/3s majority, and matters of legislation. What is required for the latter in terms of requirements and numbers in the Assembly apparently is not clear. The answer determines who has the advantage in leverage: the majority or the coalition partners who forge alliances with the former. At any rate, what is clear is that coalition politics will come into play, but to what degree such politics will prove turbulent and how precarious a hold on a cemented unity of future coalitions with the UIA will exist remain to be seen.

Assessments of how much power is wielded by the majority based on the 2/3s rule and the present face of the National Assembly vary amongst commentators. Justin Raimondo's analysis sees the Shi‘ites as powerful but faced with obstacles such as veto power wielded by the Kurds; Raimondo also believes that Iraq's political fragmentation bears a noteworthy resemblance to the chaotic dynamics on the Israeli stage, and that hence by threatening the integrity of a government and the passing of legislation, small parties could prove capable of 'hold[ing] the entire nation for ransom'. His verdict is that these elections have provided all the ingredients necessary for a civil war.

Juan Cole on the other hand appears to believe that easy access and a swift arrival to full power for the Shi‘ites is more guaranteed, and is more optimistic about the chances they have as the UIA of forming and solidifying a coalition with other parties (some of which, he mentions, are more theocratic) - including the Kurds themselves. His analysis, supplemented with facts culled from a few other sources, provides some solid information.

From Baghdad Burning:

And life goes on...
S al-B: An entry made shortly before the election results were announced.

The parties that have power in colleges today are actually the Iranian inclined Shia parties like Da’awa and SCIRI. Student representatives in colleges and universities these days mainly come from the abovementioned parties. They harass Christian and Muslim girls about what they should and shouldn’t wear. They invite students to attend “latmiyas” (mainly Shia religious festivities where the participants cry and beat themselves in sorrow over the killing of the Prophet’s family) and bully the cafeteria or canteen guy into not playing music during Ramadhan and instead showing the aforementioned latmiyas and Shia religious lectures by Ayatollah So-and-So and Sayid Something-or-Another.


Last week my cousin needed to visit the current Ministry of Higher Education...“Please dress appropriately next time you come here.” The man said to me. I looked down at what I was wearing- black pants, a beige high-necked sweater and a knee-length black coat. Huh? I blushed furiously. He meant my head should be covered and I should be wearing a skirt. I don’t like being told what to wear and what not to wear by strange men. “I don’t work here- I don’t have to follow a dress code.” I answered coldly. The cousin didn’t like where the conversation was going, he angrily interceded, “We’re only here for an hour and it really isn’t your business.”

“It is my business.” Came the answer, “She should have some respect for the people who work here.” And the conversation ended. I looked around for the people I should be respecting. There were three or four women who were apparently ministry employees. Two of them were wearing long skirts, loose sweaters and headscarves and the third had gone all out and was wearing a complete “jubba” or robe-like garb topped with a black head scarf. My cousin and I turned to enter the room the receptionist had indicated and my eyes were stinging. No one could talk that way before the war and if they did, you didn’t have to listen. You could answer back. Now, you only answer back and make it an issue if you have some sort of death wish or just really, really like trouble.

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