#OpFOQ: A Campaign to Free Two Dozen Hostages

A group of human rights activists and members of Anonymous launched an operation directed at Iran on March 24, #OpFOQ, to focus attention on a mass kidnapping in Iraq, to force the government of Iran to divulge what it knows about the whereabouts and health of two dozen Qatari hostages, to bring this case to forefront of the world’s consciousness, and to earn the freedom of the hostages.

The men were kidnapped in December 2015, and since April 2016, when two of the hostages were freed, the missing men have been absent from the world’s headlines and attention as well, despite the fact that a handful of the hostages are members of the royal family of Qatar. Families are missing sons, brothers, husbands, fathers. The men were not taken by an official government entity, so groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been bystanders as the mystery deepens each day.

The men were sportsmen—falconers—who crossed the Saudi Arabian-Iraqi border with government-issued permits and their birds, and they set up camp in Iraq’s remote southern province, Al Muthanna. December is training season for the falcons because December is the breeding season for the houbara bustard, a turkey-like bird found in Central Asia that the falcons hunt.
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Lauri Love Banned from Twitter

Lauri Love, the British hacktivist who the United Kingdom has agreed to send to the United States to face charges despite pleas from over 100 MPs that he not be extradited, was permanently banned from Twitter this week. His account was @LauriLoveX.

The reasons are unclear, as no specific charges were fully explained to Love. It is understood that the reasons are related to an “alleged violent threat.” He wrote a few hours ago, “Being an actual Nazi on twitter: fine and dandy. Advocating punching Nazis on twitter: permanently banned for violent threats. This is why we can’t have nice things… (Only told I will never get my account back for obscure probably made-up reasons after starting a dozen support threads.)”
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ICE Arrests Green Card Holder; Community Responds

UPDATED, March 11: Eight days after a GoFundMe page was established to help the family of Joel and Jessica Guerrero of New Paltz, New York, 394 people have donated more than $16,140. The amount requested to assist Jessica, a new wife who is six months pregnant with the couple’s first child, is $15,000, so the campaign, which will continue to accept donations, will go forward and help the family. The GoFundMe page website is here: “Support Jessica Guerrero.”

With Joel Guerrero arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at his regularly scheduled biannual appointment on March 1 in New York City, the Guerrero family (Mr. Guerrero serves as primary caregiver for his fifteen-year-old nephew) has lost its primary income. Mrs. Guerrero was suddenly thrust into a life in which she now needs assistance with rent, groceries, basic living expenses. Mr. Guerrro is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who is a green card holder, which entitles him to legal residency in the U.S.

WABC News in New York City featured the story on March 6.

In a post on Facebook, Jessica wrote yesterday: “I visited Joel today and he is so grateful for the outpouring of support and love from our community. He sends his gratitude to each and everyone one of you for taking care of his family through this—whether it has been through kind words, prayers, donations, offers to help, etc. He (and I) want to again express our love and gratitude.”
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Thank You to The Public

The Public, a Buffalo, New York, alternative newspaper and web site with a circulation of 35,000, published my article about José Coyote Pérez, an immigrant laborer and labor activist in upstate New York, who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), earlier today.

The article, with the headline “Labor Activist Detained by ICE,” which is a far superior headline to the one that I slapped on it in a rush, appears here: “Labor Activist Detained by ICE.”
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Carnival vs. Lent

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Kampf zwischen Fasching und Fasten (The Fight Between Carnival and Lent) depicts today, the day before Lent. Today is an important enough day in the Christian calendar to go by a few nicknames: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” “Pancake Day.”

Any day that is associated with food, whether because restrictions are about to be imposed or restrictions are to be erased for one special day, by rights ought to have as many nicknames as it can bear.
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Chaucer and Valentine’s Day

The Invention of Love …

* * * *
Because of the rampant commercialism associated with the holiday, Valentine’s Day is considered a “Hallmark holiday,” a day selected by a blindfolded intern at Hallmark HQ and pegged as one we consumers are told to celebrate by spending. It isn’t.

In the grocery store last week, the center of which is holiday-red right now and overstuffed with heart-shaped balloons and streamers, as if the store manager himself demanded a ticket-tape parade for Cupid, I walked past a fellow shopper who, shaking her head, declared out loud, “Valentine’s Day! Already?” because that is what we say when we view holiday decorations in stores nowadays. (Each reminder of time’s passage is responded to as a newly experienced emotional trauma in our culture, each time we encounter it.) It was February 10, the decorations had been up in this particular store since January 2, and there was no hint of irony in the person’s exclamation.

Starting in the late 1700s, publishers started to print and sell Valentine’s Day-oriented books, usually guides for young men to use in composing their love notes. On this much, most cultural historians seem to agree. The disagreements begin with who Valentine might have been and why February 14 is his feast day and extend to the question about what any of this has to do with chalky heart-shaped candies and smooching.
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Snow Falling on Everything

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.—James Joyce, the conclusion of “The Dead,” Dubliners

Cemeteries are cram-packed full with people who had other plans that day. Reservations for dinner, a movie ticket in the pocket. A refrigerator with new groceries. A sink with dirty dishes.

We all know this deep down, but the occasional reminders can nonetheless surprise. “Always wear clean underwear,” a cliché cartoon version of a mother tells a cliché cartoon version of ourselves in a cliché cartoon version of a conversation that never happens in real life. But the end comes in a moment, and it is always dramatic, even when it is mundane.

(I suppose it is never mundane for the person who experiences it, but I have not yet been there, not even been near it, and no one who has had the end moment has made a verifiable report about it. Tsk-tsk. Where are their priorities?)
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Farewell, ‘Prof.’ Irwin Corey

“However.” Sometimes he spoke the word as an exclamation, sometimes as a half-question. He never connected it to anything that preceded it. It was not a reply, or it was a reply to everything the world had offered him up to the moment he encountered the audience on the other side of the footlights.

“Professor” Irwin Corey would shamble up to the microphone in an over sized suit, his shoelace necktie askew, his hair combed by a blender, and his first word to the audience in his role as “The World’s Foremost Authority” (topic always TBA) was always: “However.” What followed was always a stream of words that bore a relationship to English sentences that could be diagrammed, but the relationship appeared to be closer to a divorce than a marriage.

However one remembers “Professor” Irwin Corey, who died on Monday at the age of 102 and a half, one should remember that he and his act were embraced by activists, by anti-authoritarians, and by those who always take sides against pompous twits and those blowhards who love bureaucracy.
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