Archive for  February 2009

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May I take your order?

It was a night like any other – people inviting us out to a steakhouse. We get there, we are seated in a private room. All was well. Niceties aside, we prepare to order. I ask my wife what I should get. She says, “Go ahead and look at the menu – it’s in English.”

“Oh Really?”

I started out chuckling, then got progressively louder each time.

Yeah, that sounds like a bargain item.

“I think I’ll have the cowboy pick, or maybe the cowboy LEG?!?! I really wish I could shit you.”

What’s in a rurality salad? Country Music and buckshot?

I was so stunned by the English blunders herein, I had to buy the menu from them. Can you imagine the scene when that happened? I’ll never forget it. They couldn’t decide whether to be flattered or confused.

The Bcabe’s connected to the… um…

Can I get Retchup on the side?

I’m not quite that hungry, thanks.

Um… Is this vegetarian, then?

I didn’t know cucumbers had feet, let alone hooves.

what’s with all the verbs? But man, you had me at sweet and sour bone.

Bartender, I’ll have the usual!

wow, they love their cowboy meat here.

hold the foliage please.

Am I the only one turned on now? Guys? Anyone?

1 article pot: hometown? what the shit?

the scorn adds that little extra kick.

Nah, I think I’ll just have a Papsi.

maybe they should eat more words plum.

I’m starting to get nauseous at this point, but I’m still laughing. It gets better.

Wow – glad to know there are three “ignedients,” but what ARE THEY?

Aren’t these kung fu moves?

Is this like supersizing or what?

Do French Crips do drive-bys as well?

Do I order this or agree with it?

Does anyone order the “Strange Flavour of inside Freasure?”

man fruit? is that a euphemism?

Double boiled frog for dessert? does that come ala commode?

mordacity: a disposition to biting. Well, I should hope so. It’s a PIZZA – does it come in suppository form?

well, then, what the hell is it?

black bowel and cowboy leg? Add candlelight and you have yourself a date.

Isn’t this a show on CBS?

I passed on this.

lol. just pure lol.

how do you numb vegetables? and what’s fuck silk? satin?

What happens if I get that to go?

and with that, I’m stuffed. Duck Bukkake always makes me feel full.

This is an excellent example of how pathetic and stupid the New Media are these days.
The title of the news says “Pullout by Aug. 2010” but then they say, 35 000 to 50 000 troops will remain in Iraq.


All these BS propaganda about ending the war and pulling out means nothing if 50 000 “advisors” stay in Iraq indefinitely.
This is even worse than the agreement between Bush and the Iraqi government that called for “all American forces out of the country by the end of 2011“.
So much for the promiss of pulling ALL the troops out of Iraq.

Officials: Obama says Iraq pullout by Aug 2010

Officials: Obama says Iraq pullout by Aug 2010

Officials: Obama says Iraq pullout by Aug 2010
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer Anne Flaherty, Associated Press Writer Thu Feb 26, 11:09 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama told lawmakers on Thursday he plans to withdraw most American troops from Iraq by August 2010 but leave tens of thousands behind to advise Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests, congressional officials said.

Obama is expected to announce the new strategy on Friday during a trip to the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In a closed-door meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders, Obama and his top advisers estimated that 35,000 to 50,000 troops would remain in Iraq after the bulk of troops are withdrawn.

Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war and pledged to do so in 16 months. The withdrawal timetable he is expected to approve stretches over 19 months from his inauguration in January. That means some 100,000 troops would leave over the coming 18 months.

Rep. John McHugh, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama promised him to reconsider the new strategy if violence rises. McHugh said he was worried the situation in Iraq remained fragile, especially as it approaches elections in December.

“Our commanders must have the flexibility they need in order to respond to these challenges, and President Obama assured me that there is a ‘Plan B,'” McHugh, R-N.Y., said in a statement.

According to one congressional official, lawmakers were told that Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Baghdad, believed the plan presented moderate risk but supported the 50,000 figure.

Some Democrats are skeptical but because they say it would leave too many troops behind.

“I have been one for a long time that’s called for significant cutbacks in Iraq, and I am happy to listen to the secretary of defense and the president,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters before the briefing. “But when they talk about 50,000, that’s a little higher number than I had anticipated.”

In addition to Reid, congressional leaders attending the meeting included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had also been expected to attend as well.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N.’s Security Council on Thursday that the U.S. would move “responsibly and safely” to reduce the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

She said the process of redeploying American combat troops will be carried out in consultation with the Iraqi government “and with its support.”

An existing U.S-Iraq agreement, negotiated under President George W. Bush, calls for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Baghdad and other cities by the end of June, with all American forces out of the country by the end of 2011.

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Iran: the friendliest people in the world | Middle East – Times Online

Iran: the friendliest people in the world

Beaming smiles, gel and a joke about lavatory brushes and weapons of mass destruction – Iran overturns all expectations

Young Iranian women in Tehran

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The metal door to the synagogue swung open and a small boy skipped across the courtyard. He looked puzzled at the three people who stood before him, two of whom were clearly not Iranian. He led us up some steps to the temple, where I slipped a skullcap on to my head. A lady came towards us, smiling. “Are you Jewish?” she asked.

“No,” I replied. “Sorry.”

My friend Annette and I went inside anyway, past a table of food laid out for Passover, and sat at the back as an elderly man read from the Torah in front of eight others.

I’d never have guessed that my first time inside a synagogue would be in Tehran, but Iran is full of surprises. It has a fundamentalist leadership that many in the West believe to be as nutty as a box of pistachios. But it also has a population of 65 million, most born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution (which culminated in the return from exile of Ayatollah Khomeini 30 years ago this month), and far removed from the dour and menacing stereotype often portrayed on the 10 o’clock news. The ordinary Iranian people are by far the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve met in more than 20 years of travelling.

Our ten-day trip took us from traffic-snarled Tehran 600km (370 miles) south across the Zagros Mountains to Shiraz and the magnificent ruins at Persepolis, started by Darius I in 515BC and destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330BC. (I have never been to a historical site where the past felt so approachable.)

Then we headed back north to the capital via Esfahan and the holy city of Qom, passing near the controversial nuclear facility at Natanz, which looked more like a car assembly plant. I assume, though, that most car factories aren’t protected by banks of anti-aircraft guns.

Our guide for the journey was the ever-smiling Mr Sassan, a font of knowledge and always ready with a new story. At the start of the trip I believed all he told me, but as the week got longer his tales got decidedly taller.

We learnt that it paid to sit down when he started to talk, for with Mr Sassan there was no such thing as a quick skip through 3,000 years of history and the conspiratorial goings-on as empires rose and fell, invaders came and went.

“Now this is a sad one,” he’d say before recounting a tale of humble beginnings, love, jealousy, power, betrayal, exile and death. And when we seemed incredulous he’d look slightly hurt. “No, it’s true, I’m telling you,” he’d reply. He was also adept at scooping handfuls of nuts and fruit for us from displays in open-fronted shops, walking away waving his cane shouting “Free samples, they don’t mind,” as we scurried off. He was also a Mr Fixit.

In Shiraz, after guiding us to the tombs of the classical poets Sa’di and Hafez – as Shakespeare is to us, so are these to Iranians – he tracked down the best local faludeh, a wonderful frozen dessert flavoured with rose water.

The Mausoleum of Shah-e Cheragh has supposedly been closed to non-Muslims for the past three years, since a mullah objected to the revealing outfits of some Spaniards, so we headed through a winding, covered bazaar to its back entrance for a peek through the gates.

Yet, rather than shooing us away, a young caretaker welcomed us inside on the proviso that Annette put on a chador (an enormous cloth that covered her from top to toe) and that we didn’t go inside the main shrine.

The large courtyard was busy with worshippers paying their respects to the remains of Sayyed Mir Ahmad, who died in the city in AD835. The caretaker asked where we were from. Inglistan? “Ah, welcome to Iran,” he beamed. Could he, though, ask us a few questions? What is the difference between England and Britain, he wondered, and whereabouts was Charles Dickens buried?

Another gracious encounter was with Mr Abbas and his wife in the dusty, backwater village of Imamzadeh Bazm.

We had planned to camp for two nights with Qashqai nomads, but a drought had delayed their 500km migration from the Gulf. Instead of 1,700 families on the grassy plain, we found just one; the women making crisp, thin bread over a stove, the men smoking opium in a tent next door and then coming back to fiddle, glassy-eyed, with a gun that they use to scare away wolves.

Back in the village, Mr Abbas’s B&B was basic but clean and comfortable, and his wife’s cooking was the hit of the holiday: aubergines mixed with yoghurt and mint; mushroom and barley soup; pickles; lettuce dipped in vinegar; and, for breakfast, tea and fruit followed by cheese with chopped walnuts.

But, above all, it was the people we met who made this trip for us. Groups of teenage lads – many in trendy T-shirts and elaborately gelled (and, in theory, illegal) hairstyles – always offered us big smiles and a “Salaam” (Hello). After establishing our nationality, there would be an invitation to pose for a photo with someone’s mobile phone. Annette and I would beam away while everyone else adopted an authoritative stare into the lens.

“How-are-you-I’m-fine?” was the standard opener from laughing students. What did we think of Iranians, they all asked. Did we think Iran was dirty? What about the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad? Was it right that Iran shouldn’t be allowed nuclear power? (No mention of nuclear weapons.)

And what about America? “They think we’re all terrorists,” said a laughing, leather-skinned loo-brush seller from his kiosk outside Tehran’s main bazaar. He waved several of his products towards us: “Look! Weapons of mass destruction!”

Their simple acts of hospitality were a continual delight – women offering tea as they tended a relative’s grave by a mosque, a man inviting us for dinner after we asked to photograph him on a bridge, several people giving us their phone numbers in case we ever needed translation help.

The women didn’t shy away from us. Far from it. Yes, they wore drab, shapeless overcoats and headscarves, the latter often pushed back to show plenty of hair.

And tourists must cover up too, although Italian tour groups we encountered had their own fashionista definition of what was acceptable. Annette found wearing a headscarf in 35C heat thoroughly annoying and couldn’t wait to remove it the moment she stepped on the London-bound plane.

Our experience in the Tehran synagogue came on our last day in the country. Annette and I said goodbye to the tiny congregation, then returned outside to Simi Alley and bought sweet lemons from a fruit shop. We went to the swankier north of the city for pizza and carrot juice, then explored the Shah’s former palaces alongside dozens of picnicking families.

“Stop and have some tea with us,” we were asked more than once. “Please take some almonds. Tell people in Britain how we really are.” I promised I would.

Need to know

Getting there

Magic Carpet Travel (01344 622832, www.magiccarpet offers tailor-made and group journeys to Iran. A fully inclusive eight-day trip taking in Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and Persepolis costs from £1,545pp including flights. Two-week itineraries, including a visit to the Qashqai nomads, are from £2,395pp.

Bmi (0870 6070555, flies daily from Heathrow to Tehran from £501 return.


Iran (Bradt Guides, £14.99)
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Vintage, £7.99).

Also see:


Shah Abbas – the Remaking of Iran opened this week and runs until June 14 at the British Museum (020-7323 8181, Tickets £12).


One of my favourite areas of Iran is around Shiraz. In addition to the wonderful gardens, the tomb of the poet Hafez is a must. Iranians recite his poems by heart around the tomb and you can begin to appreciate their love and reverence for their poets. The awe-inspiring site of Persepolis is near by, and around Firuzabad you can watch Qashqai nomads moving their flocks south – Neil McGregor, director, British Museum

Esfahan is a gem of the Islamic world: sitting in a café on Naghsh-e Jahan Square, looking out at the Safavid architecture, puffing on a hubble pipe, is to inhale centuries of civilisation. I once saw an old man sheltering from the sun under one of the famous stone bridges and singing a haunting mystic song that reverberated under the arches and sent shivers up the spine – Damian Whitworth, Times Feature Writer

One day when I was a child my father drove us through a crack in the mountain wall and around the back of Tochal, the 3,900m peak overlooking Tehran. The valley was flanked by steep mountains. Because we were nearer the Caspian Sea to the north, it was an ocean of blossom: pink, white, yellow – cherry, apple and apricot. The valley opened into a meadow with a couple of makeshift cafés. We got out of the car and smelt the view, taking in the ancient, sweet perfume of the valley. You could hear the cool wind, a subliminal hum of bees, and nothing else save distant waterfalls, high up the mountainside, where snowfields were melting. “This,” my father said, “is spring.” I hope to make it back to that valley to eat the cherries, apples or apricots one day – Darius Sanai, magazine writer who spent childhood in Iran