Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sheik Zayed Book Awards nominations end Sept. 15

Sheikh Zayed Book Award’ fourth year witnesses record number of nominations to date

Abu Dhabi, July 29, 2009 – The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, one of the world's most prestigious and well-funded prizes, has received a record number of nominations to date for its fourth session of 2009/2010. The Award has received a major 230 nominations that met the initial conditions, according to Mr. Rashed Al Oraimi, The Secretary General of Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

Mr. Al Oraimi elaborated that the nominations were distributed among all of the Award’s nine categories. The category of “Best Contribution to the Development of the Country” came first with 26.3% of the total nominations received to date, while the categories of “Literature” and “The Young Author” followed closely with 25.4% and 22.5% of total respectively. The Award also received varying number of nominations in the rest of its categories, including Children’s Literature, Translation, Literature, Fine Arts, Best Technology in the Field of Culture, Best Publishing and Distribution House, and Cultural Personality of the Year.

Commenting on the results, Mr. Al Oraimi said: “ We hope that this massive flow of nominations continue until the closing date - September 15th,2009- and we are definite that such contributions will heat up the race towards winning the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards 2010.”

A total of 20 countries contributed to this year’s session of Award so far, of which are 17 Arab countries, including UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan and Somalia. In addition, the Award received nominations from the United States of America, Germany and Turkey.


Notes to the Editor

About the Award
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is an independent cultural award established under the patronage and support of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. The award was established in memory of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, who served as the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE for more than 30 years. The award comprises a total monetary prize value of seven million UAE dirhams. Each prize consists of a gold medal bearing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award logo, a certificate of merit and a cash reward.

The award recognizes cultural achievement across one of the broadest and most diverse areas of any cultural awards internationally, including:

1. Contribution to the Development of the Country Award
Open to works in the fields of economics, sociology, management, politics, law and theology that contribute to the country’s advancement

2. Children’s Literature Award
Open to literary and cultural works addressing various children’s groups.

3. Young Author Award
Open to scientific, literary or cultural works produced by authors younger than 40 years

4. Translation Award
Open to translated works, either to or from Arabic

5. Literature Award
Open to works across various categories of literature including poetry, stories, novels and plays, research addressing literary theories, creative writings or works of criticism

6. Fine Arts Award
Open to books about various forms of art such as music, cinema, architecture, plastic art, calligraphy, painting, sculpture, photography and digital arts

7. Best Technology in the Field of Culture Award
Recognizes written or digital works and researches which promote the Arabic language.

8. Publishing and Distribution Award
Open to publishers, distributors, agents and research institutions which produce a diverse range of texts printed to the highest standard in the Arabic language.

9. Cultural Personality of the Year Award
Honors a prominent Arab or international figure who has contributed to the advancement of the Arabic culture, embodies through his/her work tolerance and promotes peaceful coexistence

For further information please contact:
Karin Aghadjanian
Communication and press
Mobile +971 508343823


Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Book details secrets of overcoming mainstream news media bias

Secrets of New Media Networking; New book released by award winning journalist and author

July 26, 2009

Book details insider tips on using the Internet to
side step the biased Mainstream American News Media

(Chicago) Veteran Journalist and award winning columnist Ray Hanania has been battling bias in the mainstream news media since the day he picked up his first newspaper in the suburbs of Chicago.

An American Arab, Hanania believed that the media was unfairly covering the Middle east conflict and was intentionally portraying American Arabs as terrorists, always ignoring their positive contributions to American society.

That battle has become his lifelong avocation and this week he announced the release of his latest book, a battlefield manual to fight against the inherent bias in the mainstream American news media using Internet networking strategies.

“Too often people in my community blame media bias on another race or religion but this is mistaken stereotyping to excuse away their lack of understanding of how the mainstream news media really works,” says Hanania who entered professional journalism in the early 1970s.

“In the past, the only way to battle mainstream media bias was to enter journalism as a profession and balance the two goals of journalism professionalism against activism. But with the rise of the Internet and the collapsing mainstream news media, you do not need to go to the mainstream news media to reach the public.

“You can do it on your own. ‘Secrets of New Media Networking’ helps you understand not only how to set up an effective Internet Media Network to promote your community, views, activities, opinions and more. But it also walks you through a real understanding of communications in America and the principles that make message compelling.”

Hanania manages a network of four major web sites, 11 blogs, writes for more than two dozen newspapers in print and online, manages several online news organizations, hosts his own morning radio show and weekly cable TV show, and uploads his radio and video broadcasts to the Internet. Merging in social networking strategies and other online assets, his network reaches millions of people every year.

“The mainstream news media is biased and they won’t change. That bias more than any other factor is what is helping to undermine the media and force many mainstream newspapers to close,” Hanania says.

“You can still use the mainstream news media, but you do not need them to get your message out. You can create your own media and my book helps you do it in a professional and effective manner.”

For more information on Secrets of New Media Networking, visit

Contact Ray Hanania at

236 Pages, $34.95. Published by Hanania Enterprises Ltd., and

# # #

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bloggers held in Egypt without charges

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465 1004 Fax: (212) 465 9568 Web: E-Mail:

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator
Phone: (212) 465-1004, x103; E-mail:

Mariwan Hama-Saeed, research associate
Phone: (212) 465-1004, x104; E-mail:

Bloggers held in Egypt without charge

New York, July 24, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Egyptian authorities today to explain why they have detained three bloggers this week without charge.

Islamist blogger Abdel Rahman Ayyash, who writes for Al-Ghareeb (The Stranger), was arrested at the Cairo airport on Tuesday on his return from Turkey where he attended a youth conference, according to multiple news reports. Muslim Brotherhood member Magdi Saad, who used to blog at Yalla Mesh Mohem (Who Cares), was also arrested at the airport the same night after returning from a business trip, according to local news reports. Another Islamist blogger, Ahmad Abu Khalil, who blogs at Bayarek (The Lanterns), was arrested when security forces raided his home at dawn on Wednesday, according to local news reports.

On Thursday, Ayyash was transferred into the custody of State Security Police in the city of Mansoura, where he lives, while Saad was taken to State Security Police headquarters in Cairo, Daily News Egypt reported. Abu Khalil is being held at an unknown location.

“We are concerned about the well-being of these bloggers,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We call on the authorities to explain why Abdel Rahman Ayyash, Magdi Saad, and Ahmad Abu Khalil are being detained. These arrests are but the latest in an ongoing attempt to silence online journalism in Egypt.”

Wael Abbas, a prominent blogger who writes at al-Wa’i al-Masri (Egyptian Conscience), was held for several hours at the airport when he was returning from Sweden on June 30, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported. ANHRI said that the blogger’s laptop was confiscated and has not been returned since.

In March, CPJ wrote a letter to President Hosni Mubarak to protest Egypt’s campaign of harassment and prosecutions of bloggers. Egypt is among the worst places in the world to be a blogger‎, according to CPJ's special report, "10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger." The report found that Egyptian authorities regularly monitor Web sites and detain critical blogggers.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, has been officially banned since 1954.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world.


ADC Legal Scholarship competition available

ADC to Host Second Annual Ibn Rushd Moot Court Competition

Washington, DC | July 24, 2009 | | On Tuesday July 28, 2009, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will host the Second Annual Ibn Rushd Moot Court Competition. The event, which concludes the legal advocacy component of the ADC summer legal internship program, will be held at the ADC National Headquarters and Heritage Center in Washington, DC.

Each year, ADC receives hundreds of applications from highly qualified law students from across the United States for the Summer Legal Associate positions. This summer, ADC welcomed four law students who have spent 10 weeks addressing all aspects of ADC's legal work. This year's class of legal associates included: Ms. Salua V. Baida from the American University Washington College of Law; Ms. Jordan Lane from the University of Virginia School of Law; Mr. Fadil Mamoun Bayyari from Washington and Lee University School of Law; and Mr. David Moreno from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

In addition to oral arguments, each student is required to write an appellate brief with a minimum of 15-pages on the Moot Court problem. The fact pattern for this year's competition, which includes written briefs and oral arguments, addresses the First Amendment and the level of constitutional protections afforded a Muslim woman wearing the Hijab; the religious veil of modesty, in a court of law.

This year's competition will be judged by Tefft Smith, Esq., Senior Litigation Partner with Kirkland & Ellis, LLP; Eric Treene, Esq., Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination at the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division; and Timothy Edgar, Esq., Deputy Civil Liberties Protection Officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The competition was named after the renowned jurist Ibn Rushd better known as Averroes. Ibn Rushd was a Muslim Andalusian philosopher, jurist, and physician born in 1126 in Cordoba, Spain. He came from a family of legal scholars and was judge in Seville and later served in many court appointments in Cordoba and Morocco. His most famous work, The Decisive Treatise, which spans three decades, stresses the importance of analytical thinking in contrast to the more orthodox theological approach where the emphasis on extensive knowledge of sources. He is often labeled as the father of modern secularism.

Hebrew translations of his work also had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy. In the Christian world, his ideas were assimilated by Thomas Aquinas and others, especially at the University of Paris, which valued Aristotelian logic. Famous scholastics such as Aquinas believed him to be so important they did not refer to him by name, simply calling him "The Commentator" and calling Aristotle "The Philosopher."

What: ADC Second Annual Ibn Rushd Moot Court Competition.

Where: ADC National Headquarters and Heritage Center, 1728 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007.

When: 4:00 pm ET, Tuesday July 28, 2009.


NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.
Contact: Yousef Munayyer

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee |
1732 Wisconsin Ave., NW | Washington, DC | 20007
Tel: 202-244-2990 | Fax: 202-244-7968 | E-mail:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chicago 2016 Olympic bid jeopardized by Mayor Daley's failure to seriously address needs of American Arabs

Commentary on Mayor Daley and the 2016 Olympic Bid

Discrimination against Arabs in Chicago could jeopardize the Chicago bid and Mayor Daley has the ability to change it. But will he?

-- Ray Hanania

David Axelrod on President Obama's health care initiative

Dear Friend,

Last night, President Obama addressed the nation in a primetime press conference about health insurance reform.

The President made crystal clear what's at stake in this debate: the fiscal well-being of our nation and the health of our families and small businesses.

In case you missed it, take a look at what he had to say:
Click this link

Truth be told — with each passing day, more and more Americans are unable to get the health care they need, when they need it. Skyrocketing co-pays and deductibles and soaring insurance premiums are crushing our family budgets and small businesses. Unless we act now, these problems are guaranteed to get worse and worse.

Under reform, American families will get the stability and security they deserve. They'll no longer have to fear losing health care coverage if they lose or switch jobs, going bankrupt if they become seriously ill, or being denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition. Reform will ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable insurance.

We all have a stake in this and for the 14,000 Americans who are losing their health insurance each day — reform can't wait.

Make sure everyone you know understands the importance and urgency of health insurance reform: Watch the President's remarks and forward this email to your friends and family.

Thank you,
David Axelrod

P.S. Health insurance reform is a complex issue and many of you have questions about what it means for you and your family. To help get you the answers you need, White House Health Reform Director, Nancy-Ann DeParle, is holding a live video chat through Facebook and Join the chat today at 3pm ET.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New documentary premiers on images and perceptions of ethnics in the news

With race and gender as her main interests of study, Geri Alumit Zeldes , an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University, is in the process of completing her first documentary on these very topics.

Called “Arabs, Jews, and the News,” the 30-minute film explores the often times tense relationship between the Arab and Jewish communities of both the Middle East and metro Detroit since the July 2006 war in Lebanon, and how the media have represented them.

“I’ve always been interested in how the media portrays people of color, because the media, as we know, is very powerful,” she said.

After almost two and a half years of working on the documentary, she recently entered it into several film festivals. It will premiere on MSU’s campus at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 21 in Room 147 of the Communication Arts and Sciences building.

“It’s always exciting to work so hard on something and it’s so exciting to share it with other people,” she said.

Alumit Zeldes will teach a new course this fall called “Reporting on Islam,” and will launch a Web site this spring called IMAJE, which stands for Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education.

For more information on the documentary “Arabs, Jews, and the News,”


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Take your 2010 U.S. Census form and shove it!

Take your US Census form and shove-it!

By Ray Hanania

The first question I always get from “Americans” is, “Why do you keep calling yourself ‘Arab-American?’ You are American!”

It represents the rock and the hard place where American Arabs have been pushed by the lack of education among most Americans.

It’s aggravated by what I also call the U.S. Government’s split personality when it comes to Americans Arabs. On one hand, they want to know us. On the other, they don’t. Here’s what I mean.

The only time the United States Government wants to know about Americans Arabs is when they are “profiling” us at airport and border security to “protect” the country from “the terrorist threat.”

But when it comes to counting people in the U.S. Census (so they can participate and share in government programs like grant funding awards, defining the borders of election districts like for congress, state legislatures or municipal councils) the U.S. Government pretends American Arabs don’t exist.

That is exactly what’s happening now in the massive 2010 U.S. Census drive.

The Government isn’t completely stupid, nor are they na├»ve. They are dishing out just enough money to American Arab organizations and PR agencies to do the outreach to the American Arab community.

The Government could do it but they don’t have a positive file on who we are. The Government only has “the negative file,” the one were American Arabs have been historically followed, investigated and probed by FBI agents repeatedly over the past 75 years.

The FBI investigated me over a two year period beginning in August 1975, right after I completed my active duty military service for this country during the Vietnam War. They said I must be a terrorist, because I was Arab; but they concluded the 45 page report by saying in small type, I’m just an American who is concerned about advancing his ethnic community.

During the two years, they talked to banks, employers, neighbors friends and anyone who had anything to do with me. It was all in the report, most of it blacked out with marker. When I finally received a copy in 1979, it pretty much explained the dismissal from jobs, why some neighbors and some friends had stopped talking with me or associating with me, and why several prospective employers had refused to hire me.

Hey, when the U.S. Government puts its attention on American Arabs, it’s usually not for a good reason.

That’s why I am upset -- no angry -- that the Government is pretending that they care for us American Arabs by reaching out and asking us to complete our Federal Census form for 2010.

There are these benefits that we will get from participating. Yea? Like what? What benefits do we as American Arabs actually get from supporting anything this government does?

For example, when I go through an airport, I am immediately identified as an “Arab.” I’m pulled aside and my bags and possessions are thoroughly searched. The friends I am with who are not Arab are made to feel like they are traveling with Osama Bin Laden. And strangers who pass through normal levels of security look at me like I’m going to cut their throats or blow myself up when I get on the plane.

It’s humiliating. But no one really cares. Better to be safe than sorry. If we have to make Arabs go through embarrassing and humiliating procedures that single them out solely because of their “look” or their “profile,” so be it.

Meanwhile, Caucasian murderers and killers walk through security thankful that the government is doing at least part of their job to remove the Arab scourge. More than 95 percent of serial killers are Caucasian. Some of the biggest terrorists in the United States historically have been White supremicists and members of hillbilly militias and Neo-Nazi organizations based in the so-called “American Heartland.”

But if you have Olive skin and look Middle Eastern – a profile that fits more than 200 nationalities and ethnicities mainly from Middle East and Asian countries -- you are the person they have to stop.

This is the “Negative Attention” we get from our government.

Then, this same government that spends a fortune screwing us as American Arabs, spends a fortune trying to convince us that if we participate in the 2010 Census this year, we’re going to benefit?

I ask again, what benefit? There is no benefit. And there is no benefit for a reason. Arabs are NOT included on the Census forms anyway.

The census form asks for your Race, listing Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin. And they ask if you are Mexican, Mexican American (I didn’t know there were two categories of Mexicans), or Chicano? What kind of race is “Chicano?” What country do “Chicanos” come from? “Chicano-stan?”

They ask the same question again on the long form: Are you White? Black, African American or Negro? Are you American Indian or Alaskan Native and they even give you a place to write in your tribe name.

That’s not all. The form asks are you Asian Indian? Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Guamanian or Chamorro, Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan or Other Asian where they give you a space so you can print your “race” like Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian “and so on.”

Oh, they don’t stop there. They ask are you “Pacific Islander” and ask you to print your race like Fijian, Tongan “and so on.”

Way at the bottom, in case they missed someone, someone not so important, they have the throw away line, to check here if you are “Some Other Race – Print Race.”

That is where I have to hand-write that I am “Arab.” And proud of it too, by the way.

Now, the U.S. Government argues “Arabs” are not a race. So they can’t be counted. They consider us “Caucasian,” although the last time I looked it was the Caucasian hate groups in this country like the former Bush Administration that singled out Arabs for special mistreatment, harassment and discrimination.

Arabs are “not” a race, but we are a “people” that must be profiled at airports, security centers, thrown out of buildings in New York City, expelled from seats on Airplanes, and denied jobs and government grants and rejected by voters on election day.

“Not” a race, the Government insists? Really? Wow. Is that why they have taken the other “races” and broken them down into so many miscellaneous categories? It is not enough to know that someone is Asian. They want to know what kind of Asian? What kind of Native American? What kind of Mexican. Is “Chicano” a race? Are “Latino” or “Hispanic” races?

But not “Arabs.”

We’re not a race.

We’re just a bunch of people that ignorant Americans can step all over and use us as punching bags when the times get rough or some nut job we’ve never heard of before decides to declare himself the spokesman for all Arabs and Muslims.

So here’s the bottom line, U.S. Government. You don’t put “Arab” on the form, I don’t fill it out.

Either add the category “Arab” to the form or throw out all of the categories and stop lying to us American Arabs about how much you care.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American Arab columnist, author and Chicago Radio Talk Show host. He can be reached at

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Convoy enters Gaza despite delays from Egypt

viva palestina convoy arrives in gaza

(PALOS HILLS, IL 07/15/2009) - To chants of ‘Viva! Viva! Palestina!’ more than 200 members of the Viva Palestina convoy made it into the Gaza Strip Wednesday after spending about six hours at the Rafah border processing paperwork.

American Muslim for Palestine officials listened to the celebration via the cell phone of a Viva Palestina volunteer.

Before a crowd of Gazans, convoy organizer British MP George Galloway said, “We are saying to President Obama, the world is looking. The situation in Palestine is intolerable. You have to stop this. That means you have to take action because actions speak louder than words.

“I’m really proud to say that Viva Palestine USA helped to break the siege. We will cry out against the world … We will continue to bring convoys until the siege is finally ended.”

Israel’s two-year siege of the Gaza Strip has plunged the tiny area of 1.5 million people into a humanitarian crisis. And Israel’s three-week assault further devastated the area when the military bombed homes, schools, mosques, hospitals and universities. The attack killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, wounded more than 5,300 and left more than 50,000 people homeless.

From the ground a Gaza resident said this convoy as well as others like it are essential tools not only in fighting the effects of the siege but to also raise awareness around the world about the plight of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

The Viva Palestina volunteers will go to Gaza City today, where they will spend the night. On Thursday, they will meet with victims of Israel’s January assault before heading back to Cairo, Kevin Ovenden, Viva Palestina director told an AMP official by phone.

The current convoy, which first tried to cross into Gaza on July 11, faced numerous obstacles, according Ovenden.

The convoy left Cairo early Wednesday morning to make the 10-hour trek to Rafah. The convoy is taking two ambulances and 11 truckloads of medical supplies but has left behind hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicles earmarked for hospitals and nongovernmental organizations. Egyptian authorities have refused to allow the vehicles to enter Gaza through its Rafah border. Currently, the sedans and pick-up trucks are in a secure location in Alexandria, Ovenden said.

After he returns from Gaza, Ovenden said he would remain in Egypt for several days to try to get the vehicles released. Israel wants the cars and trucks to be transported to Gaza through Israel, something Viva Palestina refuses to do, Ovenden said. Viva Palestina will take into account the desires of the thousands of individuals and organizations who generously donated to the convoy, he added.

“We are missing more than one-half (of the convoy),” Galloway told the crowd about the impounded sedans and pick-up trucks. “These vehicles are desperately needed. And I’m here to tell you they will be delivered one way or another.”

The American Muslims for Palestine calls on its supporters to continue to pressure the Egyptian government to release the vehicles by calling the Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S., Sameh Shoukry, at 202.895.5400. Ask for the vehicles to be released and to be exported to Gaza through the Rafah border.

AMP is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public about the issues pertaining to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage. For more information, contact Kristin Szremski, director of media and communications, at 708.717.4180.

MUSIC: JPF Awards cite Arab song in award nominations

World's Largest Music Awards Announces 2009 Nominations

Indianapolis, IN, USA -The song "Jayee La'Enna", from the album ‘Talj el Milad' of the Los Angeles based Lebanese-American artist Wafic Khalil, was nominated for best Traditional Holiday Song at the 2009 edition of the Music Organization Just Plain Folks (JPF) Awards.

The 2009 Just Plain Folks Music Awards show will take place in Nashville, TN on Saturday, August 29, 2009. Winners will be announced live at the show.

After receiving a record setting 42,000 albums and 560,000 songs from 163 countries around the world, the organization's staff and team of volunteers filtered the music down to both song and album nominees in 95 genres of music. This year's nominees come from over 80 different countries around the world.

The organization spent 14 months from the initial entry date to screen all the music and narrow down the field. JPF uses a unique mix of judges that come from the music industry, fellow artist and songwriter peers and music fans.

About Just Plain Folks: JPF was founded in 1998 and has grown to over 50,000 members worldwide. The organization supports grassroots songwriters and musicians through networking, education, promotional support and a friendly nudge when needed. Visit their site for more information:

About Wafic Khalil: Wafic Khalil is a Lebanese-American artist currently living in the Greater Los Angeles area. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Filmmaking from Massachusetts College of the Arts and obtained a Master's Degree in Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts. Wafic is an accomplished singer, songwriter, musician and a filmmaker. His previous productions include a Christmas album in 1999 and a documentary in 2003. Later on, in the year 2007, he released another Christmas album titled "Talj el Milad" which was distributed all over the U.S. and was completely sold out on In 2009, the album "Jayee Papa Noel" marked his latest Arabic Christmas recording. Wafic is currently working on recording an Easter album. He is also in pre-production of his latest movie tentatively titled "Strike". Moreover, an Arabic pop music album is due to be released in the spring of 2010. For more information you may visit his website:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Egyptian Government halts aid shipment to civilians in Gaza, Halts Viva Palestina convoy

Egyptians halt Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza;
Former U.S. Congresswoman McKinney in Cairo

(PALOS HILLS, IL 07/13/2009) – Egyptian authorities have stopped a massive aid shipment from reaching the Gaza Strip, while United States officials further complicated matters by requiring 50 American volunteers to sign an affidavit waiving their right to be protected on foreign soil.

Egyptian authorities will allow the Viva Palestina convoy to take two ambulances and an unspecified amount of medical supplies into the Strip, organizer George Galloway told the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Monday. Convoy organizers and the American volunteers currently are in Cairo waiting for the issue to be resolved. The convoy was to have reached Gaza on July 11.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney arrived in Cairo Sunday. Galloway invited her to join the convoy after learning Israeli naval officials arrested McKinney and 20 others aboard a Free Gaza Movement boat two weeks ago.

McKinney told AMP Monday she was particularly frustrated at the seeming complicity of the U.S. government in Egyptians’ and Israeli actions.

“The American government has put in a requirement that we pay $30 and sign an affidavit that we understand the circumstances of the situation and we won’t have consular services,” McKinney said. “This was not required in the first Gaza convoy nor was such an item required in the Free Gaza Movement.”

McKinney was referring to Galloway’s first convoy, which took truckloads of aid into Gaza in February.

Out of a shipment of 43 vehicles, four ambulances, 25 refrigerators, 50 generators and medical supplies, authorities will only allow an unspecified amount of medical supplies and two ambulances to be taken into the Gaza Strip, which is suffering a humanitarian crisis as the result of Israel’s two-year blockade.

“This is a blatant attempt to stop future convoys of aid,” Viva Palestina director Kevin Ovenden told AMP. “We are resisting it all the way and we will set foot in Gaza. If we cannot bring everything we want this time, then we have unfinished business in Egypt. We will respond by doubling our efforts in the U.S. and around the world.”

This is McKinney’s third attempt to reach Gaza with a humanitarian organization. Her first two attempts with the Free Gaza Movement were thwarted when the Israeli navy prevented Free Gaza boats from reaching Gaza. Two weeks ago, Israeli police arrested McKinney and 20 other volunteers and held them in custody for about one week.

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that U.S. policy – both foreign and domestic – ought to be grounded in human rights,” McKinney told AMP Monday from Cairo. “When I see a deviation from that position, I get involved.”

McKinney represented Atlanta, Georgia in Congress for six terms before being defeated in 2006. She ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2008.

Viva Palestina organizer Galloway is frustrated with the recent turn of events but remains undaunted in his quest to break the siege on Gaza, he said.

“We are outraged at the difficulties being placed on the U.S. aid convoy to Gaza,” Galloway told AMP. “The president of the United States spoke eloquently here in Cairo about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, throughout Palestine and beyond. It is now time to for him to match his eloquent words with action. The American citizens here are demanding their president intervenes to insure that the entire U.S. convoy enters Gaza without any further hindrances. The medical aid, the vehicles in which it is carried and the citizens themselves are all needed in Gaza now. Without further delay we hope to enter Gaza with all our aid tomorrow.”

Israel’s two-year blockade on Gaza has plunged the 1.5 million people into a humanitarian crisis, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Israel’s three-week assault on the Strip in January killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,300.

American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public about issues pertaining to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage.

-- 30 --

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Egyptian Government joins Israelis in starving Palestinians to death in gaza Strip

Press Release



(PALOS HILLS, IL 07/11/2009) — The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) has just learned Egyptian authorities have stopped four busloads of American citizens and are preventing them from entering the Gaza Strip with the Viva Palestina convoy, headed by British MP George Galloway.

Kevin Ovenden, director of Viva Palestina – US, told AMP at about 6:15 p.m. EST the Egyptian authorities stopped the buses on the Mubarek Peace Bridge at the Suez Canal and have confiscated the keys from each bus driver.

“The people on this convoy should be praised for their steadfastness, their patience and their dedication in the face of the obstacles posed by the Egyptian authorities,” Ovenden told AMP. “They are going to sleep on the buses overnight and proceed to Gaza tomorrow.”

The busloads are part of the Viva Palestina – US convoy, which departed on July 4, for Gaza with Galloway and Vietnam Vet Ron Kovic, whose story inspired the movie “Born on the Fourth of July.”

The buses were to meet up with truck loads of medical supplies to distribute to hospitals in Gaza, which are facing severe shortages because of Israel's two-year blockade against the Gaza Strip. Gaza's hospitals have been running mainly on generators since Israel has cut electricity to Gaza and medicines and other supplies are in high demand. Many of Gaza's hospitals sustained major damage during Israel's three-week assault in January.

American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public about the issues pertaining to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Horrors unearthed at historic African American grave site in southwest suburban Chicago

Macabre burial practices uncovered in heartland of America

By Ray Hanania

(Alsip, Illinois July 11, 2009) A cemetery that is the resting place for many famous African Americans was turned into a recycling center for bodies that operators allegedly used to generate profits and police have declared “a major crime scene.”

Four of the operators of Burr Oak Cemetery, located in Alsip, a suburb 12 miles southwest of Chicago, have been jailed and are awaiting charges involving the horrific crime of improperly disposing of dead bodies and theft of funds.

Thousands of families whose relatives are buried in the historic cemetery have been flocking there to determine if the remains of their loved ones were improperly disposed of in mass graves, garbage piles or stacked on top and under other bodies.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said that most families may never know if their relatives are in fact buried under tombstones that bear their names, or if they were moved to make room for newly dead in a scheme the four suspects are charged with using for increased profits.

Witnesses report that bones are strewn throughout dirt piles, old buildings, and fields. A section set aside for the burial of babies who died either just after birth or in their infancy cannot be located, officials said.

“I found bones out there, I found individuals wandering aimlessly around” who

also found bones and other things, Dart told reporters. Dart declared the cemetery a crime scene and police and members of the local and state coroner’s offices have been sifting through remains at the site.

“I want to know where my mother, my father, my grandfather and my grandmother are buried,” one distraught woman screamed as relatives and friends tried to comfort her. “Where are they?”

The four suspects are being held without bond. It is believed they stacked bodies, burying newly dead atop others that had long been buried at the cemetery. Among the dead buried at the cemetery include blues singer Dinah Washington and Emmitt Till, the young boy whose lynching in the 1950s sparked the American civil rights movement.

Till, who was only 14, was murdered in 1955 after he reportedly “whistled” at a white woman while visiting a relative in Mississippi. He was originally from Chicago where his remains were returned and buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. More than 100,000 people visited Till’s open, glass-covered casket during a four-day public funeral. His death helped spark the civil rights movement to win freedoms for African Americans who were victimized by slavery, segregation and dual laws that denied them equal rights.

In 2005, Till’s body was exhumed as a part of an effort to finally bring his killers to justice more than a half century later. His casket was replaced with a new one. The old casket, which was to be put in a museum recognizing civil rights history, was found strewn in a pile of rubble in a broken-down shack filled with feces and a small family of possums.

Three former gravediggers and the cemetery’s manager made about $300,000 in the scheme that stretched back at least four years, officials said. The four sold existing deeds and burial plots and then allegedly dug up hundreds of corpses and either dumped them in a weeded, vacant area of the cemetery, which authorities labeled a crime scene, or double-stacked them in graves.

The four suspects are former cemetery manager Carolyn Towns, 49; Keith Nicks, 45; Terrence Nicks, 39; and Maurice Dailey, 61. All are African American.

Dart was joined by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, a civil rights leader who was at the side of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Jackson called the horror scene and scene “a heartless act.”

“This is a scam of depth and breadth that must be dealt with,” said Jackson, who noted he is concerned that money raised for a memorial to Emmitt Till is unaccounted for and cannot be found.

“A man was here who had 75 family members buried here. Another has 65 family members here. The investigation cannot stop with the four or five people who are involved. … It is difficult to get one’s arms around the depth and breadth of the pain here. When someone dies it has its own trauma. Then buried and attempt to get closer. Double closure in this graveyard thievery in this magnitude is very difficult for us to grapple with.”

Jackson added, “How did the people who did this sleep at night. They scoped the territory. When the families left they would at night go to work. These people actually planned and plotted the scene. The investigation must leave no stone unturned.”

Dart said that record keeping on where bodies were originally buried was either incomplete or non-existent, adding he believes records were destroyed. He said more than 2,000 families have come to the cemetery reporting head stones have been replaced or moved, the ground at their relative’s grave sites moved or changed. Headstones from past burials were found strewn in nearby fields on the cemetery grounds.

“This is a long process and we are telling people do not despair,” Dart said. “This is an ongoing criminal investigation. I don’t know what to say about the families. They are going through horrific grief. I can’t tell you how difficult this has been for everyone.”

Dart said two burials were planned even as police were at the scene investigating. They discovered that those burials were being planned in the wrong locations.

Dart and Jackson said they are unsure how many bodies may or may not be missing, but they said that they believe that money was taken for services not rendered. Burials were not delivered as promised.

“We cannot rule out any area of the cemetery as being definitely clear and outside of criminal activity. But, we are coming across areas of the cemetery where we did not think there were issues and we find there are issues,” Dart said. He said the suspects are either being dishonest or can’t remember details that might help police define the scope of the crimes,” Dart said.

Jackson said he is touched personally by this as he was the same age as Emmitt Till and that the Till murder moved African Americans and others around the country to stand-up to the racist policies of the 1940s and 1950s.

Jackson said everyone was moved by the Till murder to stand up and refuse to obey segregation laws. Among those, he said, was Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit on the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama several months after the Till killing, sparked the protests that spread throughout the south and the nation.

“This is very painful for everyone,” Jackson said. “We have to find the truth.”

(Ray Hanania is the 2009 recipient of the M.T. Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award and a morning Chicago radio talk show host. he can be reached at

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hidden Beauty short film by Olga Sapozhnikova

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hello from Steve Thompson / Thompson Communications!

Dubai filmmaker Olga Sapozhnikova's short film "Hidden Beauty" is the story of four of her "heroes." Her first heroine is Jamilya, who is the only woman in United Arab Emirates who works with four hundred men in an ambulance service, and who has saved many people from fires, accidents and collapsed buildings.

Her story was so inspiring, that the ruler of Dubai: His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, came to her home to personally express his gratitude for her service to their country. (An event depicted in the film.) As the single mother of five children, in "Hidden Beauty" Jamilya shares her opinions on the beauty of women, especially Arabian women.

You can see Olga explain in her own words why she made this film at:

You can download a copy of our current press release at:

Olga Sapozhnikova is currently available for interview by telephone from Dubai, and will be in the Los Angeles area next week and is available for telephone interview by request.

(As always, thanks for receiving these notices. To be removed from my list for this film just return this e-mail with "Remove" in the subject line.)

Best Regards,
Steve Thompson

Thompson Communications
580 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108


For Immediate Release

Press Contact:
Stephen C. Thompson
Thompson Communications

"Hidden Beauty" Profiles Four Fascinating, Determined Women:
Their Beauty, Their Accomplishments, and Their Aspirations
Within the Constraints of Contemporary Arab Society

June, 2009 -- Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- For anyone seeking genuine, first-hand insight into the role of women in today's Arab society, and what Arabic women can truly accomplish within Arabic society, "Hidden Beauty"is a powerful, must-see film.

The film begins by portraying the outward beauty of Arab women, but then transcends their physical beauty and enters the very soul of today's Arabic women.

In only twenty-six minutes, filmmaker Olga Sapozhnikova profiles the lives of four beautiful, strong, resilient women who have proven themselves on their own terms within the traditionally male dominated Arab society. Shot in Dubai, the film reveals the lives of Sapozhnikova's "heroes." The first three women profiled are Arab women who have created impressive lives for themselves. The story of the fourth woman begins with her reasons for her decision to leave her native Finland, and move to the Gulf to find an Arabic man to marry, adopting and embracing Arabic culture in the process.

Many Arab women are hesitant to discuss personal issues with anyone, much less a documentary filmmaker, but Sapozhnikova earned each woman’s trust, and helped them to open up and share their true, inner feelings. In the West, women have re-examined and questioned the role that marriage plays in their lives. But in traditional Arab culture, it is still most important for a woman to be married and have children. One of Sapozhnikova’s “heroes” has five children, yet she is recognized as one of the most respected people in the country in her field. Sapozhnikova notes “Being a mother does not stop her from being successful. On the contrary, she receives extraordinary career and personal support from her children.”

Hailing from Russia, Olga Sapozhnikova served as a Russian diplomat in Japan. After a six year stint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia, she developed an interest in filmmaking.

Her first film "Harem"was about famous UAE women and has been telecast on Russian television.

Sapozhnikova is intrigued by the roles of both men and women in contemporary Arab culture. "It is a privilege to be a woman in a society where the man assumes the responsibility of protecting the woman. So no matter how successful she becomes, she still knows she can fall back on someone."

"Hidden Beauty" is a story she was compelled to tell. "My movie is an inspiration to those who feel they lack opportunities. My film will show them that anything is possible."

"Hidden Beauty" is an engaging film on many levels, one which will enlighten both men and women, providing viewers with a truly extraordinary experience.

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Olga Sapozhnikova is available for interview by telephone

and will be in the Los Angeles area next week

from Suncay June 28th through Friday July 3.

Steve Thompson / Thompson Communications
580 Haddon Avenue; Collingswood, NJ 08108

Ski Dubai among Steppenwolf Theater productions

Steppenwolf Presents

5th Annual First Look Repertory of New Work:

Honest, Sex with Strangers & Ski Dubai

July 22 – August 9, 2009

CHICAGO (July 1, 2009) – Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents the 5th annual First Look Repertory of New Work, featuring three developmental productions of new plays presented in rotation and accompanied by a series of events around the development of new work. First Look Repertory of New Work runs July 22 – August 9, 2009 in The Merle Reskin Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted St. All tickets are $20.

The First Look Repertory of New Work 2009 productions are:


Written and directed by ensemble member Eric Simonson

Wednesday, July 22 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring Martin McClendon, Katherine Cunningham, Erik Hellman, Lucas Neff and Kelly O’Sullivan.

Guy, author of a best-selling memoir about his downward spiral into drug addiction and homelessness, comes face-to-face with a prying reporter, snooping for a scandal. Their tense showdown over truth versus creative license leads to shocking revelations that could jeopardize both their livelihoods.

Sex with Strangers

By Laura Eason

Directed by associate artist Jessica Thebus

Thursday, July 23 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring Amy J. Carle and Stephen Louis Grush.

Ethan Strange is a hot young scenester whose online journal of sexscapades have turned him into the “it” boy of the blogosphere. Olivia is an attractive 30-something whose own writing career has crapped out. After they hook up, sex turns into dating and dating into something more—but their online exploits threaten to destroy their real-life connection.

Ski Dubai

By Laura Jacqmin

Directed by Lisa Portes

Friday, July 24 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring ensemble member James Vincent Meredith with Cliff Chamberlain, Hillary Clemens, Jennifer Coombs, Sadieh Rifai and Rani Waterman.

Rachel, a young Environmental Friendliness Consultant, moves from New York to steamy Dubai to work on a man-made island teeming with skyscrapers and luxury hotels. Trying to uphold her “green” principles in a hotbed of capitalism, she navigates a stream of quirky displaced internationals battling loneliness and isolation in a flashy, modern pseudo-city.

The First Look 2009 Playwrights

Laura Eason is the author of more than 15 plays, both original works and adaptations. Previous productions at Steppenwolf include When the Messenger is Hot (also at 59E59, NYC), A Tale of Two Cities and Huck Finn. Her plays have been produced and developed in New York at New York Theatre Workshop, WET, New Georges, MCC, Andhow and Vital Theatre and produced regionally at Lookingglass, Walkabout, Two River Theater and Theatre Schmeater. Laura is an Affiliated Artist of New Georges and a playwright member of the Women’s Project Lab in New York and an Ensemble Member and the former Artistic Director of Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago.

Laura Jacqmin is the winner of the 2008 Wasserstein Prize, a $25,000 award for emerging female playwrights. Her plays have been produced and developed with Ars Nova, 2econd Stage Theatre, Aurora Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater and The 24 Hour Plays Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater. Jacqmin will be the artist-in-residence at the Center on Age and Community in Milwaukee this fall and is an adjunct faculty member at Carthage College.

Eric Simonson, a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1993, recently completed a documentary on the late Studs Terkel for HBO. He received a Tony® nomination for his direction of Steppenwolf's The Song of Jacob Zulu with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and directed an Oscar®-nominated documentary about the acclaimed South African singing group. Simonson received an Oscar® for Best Documentary Short for his film A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin in 2006. Other directing credits at Steppenwolf include Carter’s Way (also playwright), Slaughterhouse-Five (also adaptor) and Nomathemba (Hope). His new play Fake will be presented during Steppenwolf’s 2009-2010 Season.

The designers for First Look 2009 are: Kevin Depinet (sets), Myron Elliott (costumes), J.R. Lederle (lights) and Joseph Fosco (sound). Jonathan Templeton is the Lead Stage Manager, Jonathan Nook and Lauren Hickman are the Stage Managers, Kimberly Senior and Ed Sobel are the Program Directors and Whitney Dibo is the Program Assistant.

The First Look Repertory of New Work also includes First Look 101, a unique three-month experience that takes enrolled participants on a backstage journey through all aspects of the new play development process – from the first rehearsal to the final performance. The program is limited to 101 members and is open to anyone interested in, and wanting to know more about, creating new plays. First Look 101 runs June 1, 2009 – August 9, 2009. This year’s First Look 101 is SOLD OUT.

First Look Repertory of New Work is a developmental process that culminates in performance before an audience, rather than in a staged reading or workshop presentation. Scripts undergo significant revision during the workshop/rehearsal process and may be revised even after being publicly presented during First Look. They are presented with full, if minimal, design support because in Steppenwolf’s view, the design process is an integral aspect of play development. The intent is to prime the plays for future production at other theaters across the country.

First Look has gained both local and national recognition since its inception in 2005. Seven of the twelve plays presented during First Look’s first four seasons have enjoyed subsequent world premieres at other theaters, including: Jason Wells’ Perfect Mendacity produced at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida; Wells’ Men of Tortuga also at Asolo (followed by a second production at Profiles Theater in Chicago); Butcher of Baraboo by Marisa Wegrzyn produced by 2econd Stage Theatre in New York; 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor produced by Playwrights Horizons in New York; Spare Change by Mia McCullough produced by Stage Left Theatre in Chicago; Gary by Melinda Lopez produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in Massachusetts; and When The Messenger is Hot by Laura Eason produced by 59E59 Theaters in New York.

Individual tickets to First Look Repertory of New Work cost $20. A First Look Pass to all three plays is available for $45. Tickets are available at or by calling Audience Services at 312-335-1650. First Look 101 costs $75 ($45 for students with valid ID) and includes access to all First Look 101 events, plus tickets to all three First Look Repertory productions. This year’s First Look 101 is SOLD OUT.

Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Street and lot parking are available. Assistive listening devices are available for every performance.

Special thanks to The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for supporting new American plays at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and for their sponsorship of the First Look Repertory of New Work.

Committed to the principle of ensemble performance through the collaboration of a company of actors, directors and playwrights, Steppenwolf Theatre Company's mission is to advance the vitality and diversity of American theater by nurturing artists, encouraging repeatable creative relationships and contributing new works to the national canon. The company, formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, is dedicated to perpetuating an ethic of mutual respect and the development of artists through on-going group work. Steppenwolf has grown into an internationally renowned company of 42 artists whose talents include acting, directing, playwriting, filmmaking and textual adaptation.

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