Reuters has an absolutely fascinating profile of Zabulon Simintov, the last known Jewish person living in the entire country of Afghanistan. There were several thousand Jewish people in Afghanistan at the turn of the 20th century, but most of them (including Simintov's wife and daughters) eventually moved to Israel.
A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.
The Taliban's critique, below, in full:
Drone strike survivors from Pakistan speak to Congress; only five lawmakers bother to show up (video)
In the video above, Rafiq ur Rahman, a drone strike survivor from Pakistan, speaks at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC convened by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09). The primary school teacher spoke with his daughter Nabila (9) and son Zubair (13). One year ago, they were injured in the same drone strike that killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Rafiq's mother, as she was tending crops in her garden.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedog lake attended the briefing, and writes: "It is heart-wrenching to hear a 13-year-old boy say, 'Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,' because this is one of the few times he is not afraid he will be targeted by a drone."
From Kevin's report:
"Death of a Prisoner: The Tragic Return Home of a Guantánamo Bay Detainee" follows a journey to Yemen, to return the body of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif to his family. In 2012, he "died in solitary confinement at Guantánamo at age 36, after nearly 11 years of imprisonment there, despite never having been charged with a crime."
Longtime Boing Boing reader Jethro Stamps, a freelance photographer based in the middle east, shares a wonderful set of photographs he shot in Qatar at Film City, an old abandoned film set in the heart of the desert. "It's a very odd place indeed," he says, "made stranger by the fact no-one seems to know what any of it was ever used for."
More images and Jethro's story about the visit, below.
Update: The whole thing sounds like a weird disinfo job. But, by whom and to what end? The AP has outed "Sam Bacile" as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian who claims the film supports the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims. On The Media notes that there's something fishy about the film dialogue. And Gawker has spoken to one of the actresses in the film, who says she had no idea what the film was really about.
The Associated Press identifies Sam Bacile as an Israeli filmmaker based in California who made an independently produced and financed anti-Muslim movie that's sort of "Birth of a Nation" meets "Bed Intruder." The YouTube trailer is embedded above, and it unapologetically attacks Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Bacile has no known prior history as a filmmaker.
His D-grade web trailer inspired (or, alternately, was used as cover for) attacks by ultra-conservative Muslims on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya. J Christopher Stevens, America's ambassador to Libya, and three American members of his staff were killed today in resulting violence.
Speaking by phone Tuesday from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion. Protesters angered over Bacile’s film opened fire on and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Libyan officials said Wednesday that Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob firing machine guns and rocket propelled grenades.
Bacile is a real estate developer in California who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew. “Islam is a cancer, period,” he told the AP. The video above is a trailer for his two-hour movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” which cost $5 million to produce and was, according to the director, backed by funding from 100 Jewish donors. There's an English version and an Arabic-dubbed version of the trailer here. Bacile reports that the entire film has been shown "once, to a mostly empty theater in Hollywood earlier this year."
Pizza Hut Middle East is pushing the envelope of edibility with their "royal" Crown Crust Pizza, which is a kind of hub-and-spoke bread-thing with cheeseburgers or chicken-cheeseburgers studded around a central, pizza-like wheel. A pair of suitably horrific TV ads round out the chimeric, what-hath-man-wrought motif.
Habibi is set in an atemporal Middle Eastern country that seems at times to be caught in classical times, but whose landscape is dotted with derelict jeeps, poisoned water awash in rotting consumer goods and other elements from out of time. Dodola, a child bride, is captured by slavers who murder her older husband, a scribe who had reared her on the stories, sutras and legends he was paid to calligraph. On the run, she rescues a younger slave boy, Zam, and the two become refugees together. They find a new home in the desert, a strangely out of place wrecked ship amid the sands, which they make into a snug home. Dodola raises Zam as her son, and to feed them both, she must prostitute herself to the caravans that pass by their hiding place.
When violence comes again -- when Dodala is enslaved to a capricious sultan's harem -- Zam is on his own, and is also soon in trouble. The story veers into Scheherazade territory as Dodola tries to charm the sultan into releasing her, but with the dark threat that usually lurks in the background in Scheherazade brought to the foreground. Zam is battered by life and circumstance, mutilated and enslaved, and still the two pine for each other.
Habibi is told in a dreamlike, non-linear, dense style, with asides for swirling Islamic legends, the theory and practice of magic squares, the hidden meanings in Arabic calligraphy, jumping from time to time and place to place, giving the book a deep, mythic resonance. The tale is epic and often horrific, but so well told that it grips you right through it's 670-odd pages.
I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this, and I expect I'll be thinking about it for a long, long time.
Update: Mike from Mother Jones sez, " we just posted (on Monday) a cool interview I did with Thompson about Habibi."