PARIS IS BURNING

We are entering Day Eight of the underclass, mainly Muslim, unrest.

A TALE FROM A FAT FARM: You’d think a Brit would love a diet made up entirely of tea, but noooo.

A FORMER SOVIET CAMP? You have to hand it to the Bush administration. They get their symbolism right. In Iraq, they chose to commit some of their worst abuses at Abu Ghraib, Saddam’s former torture hell-hole, and at former Baathist Secret Police headquarters in Basra. Witnesses attest to the sound of screams coming from the Basra facility as the United States continued its diplomatic offensive to win over the Mulsim world to democratic values. And when needing a secret site to torture other detainees, where else but the former Soviet Union? How else to demonstrate how far conservatism has gone from the days when it represented Reagan’s embrace of human rights? Two readers respond:

As an American of East German descent I can imagine few things more offensive than the notion that people are being tortured today by the CIA not only in Eastern Europe, but perhaps in the very same facilities where democratic, pro-western dissidents may have been detained and tortured and murdered during the cold war.

And from another:

As an ex-pat Yank living in Prague I was shocked to learn that the CIA had set up a “center” in the former Eastern Bloc. Happily, it doesn’t appear to be in the Czech Republic. This news item appeared in the press here today:

“Interior Minister Bublan confirmed that the CIA wanted to hold foreigners in the Czech Republic. The Washington Post reported that there were suspected terrorists from Guantanamo and that a site in Eastern Europe was found for about 100 of them. Bublan said the Czech Republic turned down the request.”

It seems I’ve chosen the right country to escape to.

I can’t believe I’m reading this.

THE EIGHT-YEAR-OLD IRANIAN: I asked if anyone could add context or analysis to interpret gruesome photos of a young Iranian having his arm rolled over by a car. The website suggested it was punishment for stealing. A reader believes otherwise:

I think if you look at the photos again, and analysis of it on the forums, you will realize that this is not a punishment, but some kind of street-performance stunt. The man has a microphone and a smile on his face; there is a soft towel underneath his arm; spectators have gathered to watch. I have seen people perform similar stunts to raise a few bucks. I once saw a man have a car run over his abdomen – and I live in Canada! It’s not entirely uncommon. Sure, the kid is 8 years old and shouldn’t be subjected to this kind of humiliation and pain. But the issue here is not Islam or culture – it’s poverty, and the depths to which people will sink to make a living, including what they will subject their children to.

That’s certainly a plausible explanation, and, however repugnant, less horrifying than the alternative. I weighed whether to link to the photos. But sometimes, the image of something so apparently horrifying makes it impossible simply to walk away or avert one’s eyes. Hence my inquiry. I sure hope the reader’s interpretation is correct. If anyone has any further light to shed, I’d be grateful.

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