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May 10 2011

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Saudis Rely on Pakistan's Military

Muhammad Junaid: Saudi Security Council Chief asks Pakistan's support to suppress dissent
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Leak of C.I.A. Officer Name Is Sign of Rift With Pakistan

NYT 2011-05-09


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For the second time in five months, the Pakistani authorities have angered the Central Intelligence Agency by tipping the Pakistani news media to the identity of the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad, a deliberate effort to complicate the work of the American spy agency in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, American officials said

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[via:  bothandeach - Leak of #CIA Officer’s Name Is Sign of Rift With #Pakistan - NYTimes.com: http://nyti.ms/l0Xq4q ]

May 06 2011

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Osama bin Laden before Bin Laden | Jonathan Jones

At 14 he seemed so innocent. Yet these gentle, beatific looks are what made him so charismatic – and dangerous – in later life

Of all the known photographs of Osama bin Laden it is a happy, innocent, sociable picture of a group of teenagers, taken in Sweden in 1971, that has haunted news reports of his death this week. The 14-year-old Osama, smiling in a young, vulnerable way, stands second from right. The photograph in all its brittle colour glory is genuinely fascinating. In the green jumper stands Bin Laden before Bin Laden, a boy whose destiny you cannot conceivably read in his face. Next to the images in our imaginations of falling towers, of lower Manhattan swallowed in deathly dust, of flames in the sky eating away so many lives – the images of the new reality he made – it is eerily ordinary, perversely promising.

Perhaps it suggests the innocence of the world before 9/11, as well as the enigmatic life of Osama bin Laden himself. The pink Cadillac, the flares, the hair and a hat all place it unmistakably in the world of 1971. Who knows, perhaps this scene will soon be recreated in a darkly ironic biopic, for the Boogie Nights look is so flavoursome. I was five when it was taken. My generation was lucky enough to see the last years of what the historian Eric Hobsbawm called the "golden age" of peace and prosperity for westerners after 1945. Better still, we saw the end of the cold war and a brief moment when a Democratic president and a New Labour government led a society whose main problem in the future looked like it might be choosing whether to lounge in Starbucks or visit an art gallery.

Any idea of a golden age, a bright new century, or the simple certainty that our democracies will survive was destroyed on that day in September 2001, by the insecurely smiling boy in the photograph.

But if this is the appeal of the image, it is illusory. The fascination of the picture relies on a contrast between the "ordinary" youth we seem to see here and the monster who was responsible for al-Qaida. Yet that would imply that later images of Bin Laden show him as a scary, deranged, inhuman terrorist. I have yet to see a photo that makes him look like that. Perhaps the CIA will find repulsive pictures of him doing bad things now that he is dead, but all the currently available photographs are of a man soft and almost feminine in his features, with gentle, even mystical, eyes. "The child is father of the man" – Wordsworth's lines apply. For there is no contrast between this photograph of the teenage Bin Laden and pictures of him as an adult. No sickness, no break in his life, no withdrawal from reality – he seems as natural in later portraits as he does here, with insecurity replaced by beatific calm.

It was a saint, not a devil, who killed so many. To his followers around the world "the Sheikh" was a guru, a sage, a man of wisdom. He called for megadeaths with the charisma of a benevolent visionary. Why else did doctors heed his call in Britain? This photograph in fact gives the lie to those who belittle Bin Laden's influence, or see him as some postmodern construct of western narratives of good and evil. For in its ordinariness it shows what made him extraordinary – out of this promising young man grew the illusion of moral authority that contradicted every stereotype of the terrorist as a pitiful, unattractive outsider. Osama bin Laden was the real thing, a leader, and that is why his death is such a necessary murder.


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May 04 2011

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The gentle hopes of Hamid Karzai and Hillary Clinton – that the Taliban will be so cowed by the killing of Bin Laden that they will want to become pleasant democrats and humbly join the Western-supported and utterly corrupt leadership of Afghanistan – shows just how out of touch they are with the blood-soaked reality of the country. Some of the Taliban admired Bin Laden, but they did not love him and he had been no part of their campaign against Nato. Mullah Omar is more dangerous to the West in Afghanistan than Bin Laden. And we haven't killed Omar.

Iran, for once, spoke for millions of Arabs in its response to Bin Laden's death. "An excuse for alien countries to deploy troops in this region under the pretext of fighting terrorism has been eliminated," its foreign ministry spokesman has said. "We hope this development will end war, conflict, unrest and the death of innocent people, and help to establish peace and tranquility in the region."

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Robert Fisk: If this is a US victory, does that mean its forces should go home now? | Commentators - The Independent - 2011-05-04
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Robert Fisk on Bin Laden Death | Al Jazeera 2011-05-03
Al Jazeera interviews Robert Fisk, British author and journalist for the Independent

May 03 2011

April 21 2011

Tim Hetherington obituary

An outstanding photojournalist and film-maker, he defined a generation of reportage

The photographer and film-maker Tim Hetherington, who has been killed at the age of 40 while covering the escalating violence in Misrata, Libya, was a leading light of his profession. The canon of work he bequeaths defines a generation of reportage.

His eye and ability for capturing on film some of the most disturbing events of the past decade was as relentless as it was unsurpassed. With a great sense of self-deprecation and humanity, Hetherington was driven repeatedly to explore the ragged, violent margins of society to bring back portraits of people profoundly affected by conflict.

Never an end in itself, for Hetherington the purpose of working in war was to understand better the lives of the civilians and soldiers caught up in it. Fundamentally a humanitarian, he worked not only for news organisations and magazines, but for human rights organisations, and undertook extensive projects for the US-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

In Misrata he wanted to record the plight of civilians. He died with them: an explosion on the town's mortally dangerous Tripoli highway – the frontline in the battle between forces loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the rebels trying to unseat him – killed him and his friend, the US photographer Chris Hondros. At least eight other civilians were killed in fighting that day, a fact Hetherington would have been at pains to ensure was not forgotten.

Careful not to be pigeonholed as a photographer or a film-maker, Hetherington worked across different, mixed visual media. His interest lay in creating diverse forms of visual communication and his work ranged from multi-screen installations, to fly-poster exhibitions, to handheld device downloads. Known for his long-term documentary work, Tim lived and worked in west Africa for eight years, reporting on social and political issues worldwide.

As a film-maker, he worked as both a cameraman and as a director and producer. Liberia: An Uncivil War (2004), the first documentary he worked on – as an assistant producer and cameraman – was also his first experience of filming warfare. Surviving repeated firefights and close-quarter combat, Hetherington captured iconic images of the Liberian rebels fighting to overthrow then-President Charles Taylor. When a rebel commander threatened to execute a doctor tending to injured rebel soldiers, suspecting him of espionage, Hetherington put himself in front of the condemned man and pleaded for his life, physically grabbing the pistol from the incensed commander. On that occasion humanity prevailed, and the doctor's life was saved.

An assistant producer and cameraman on the BBC's Violent Coast series (2004), about west Africa, cameraman on The Devil Came On Horseback (2007), about attacks across the border with Chad by Sudanese militia, and a producer/director on Channel 4's Unreported World – Nigeria: Fire in the Delta (2006), he made his debut as director of a documentary feature film with Restrepo (2010) – a cinematic release made with his fellow director Sebastian Junger about a platoon of forward-deployed US soldiers over the course of a year in Afghanistan's isolated Korengal Valley.

At times almost constantly in combat, and deeply affected by his time in Afghanistan, Hetherington said of his experience there: "When I'm filming, I'm very focused … You don't really have time to start examining your emotions when you're in the middle of this kind of situation. You kind of push them to a deeper place in your mind and examine them later. But war is traumatic. I've seen a lot of traumatic things happen in the Korengal Valley when we were there … I was with people who got killed and that was a very sad and upsetting thing to go through."

Awarded the Rory Peck award for features (2008) and the grand jury prize at the 2010 Sundance film festival, Restrepo was subsequently nominated for an Academy award. The film gave an unprecedented insight into the lives of US soldiers fighting and dying on that war's least reported frontline. Originally conceived as a short news piece for ABC News Nightline, it ultimately served, perhaps more than any other film from Afghanistan, to create an enduring connection between the US public and the experience of the US soldier. His most recent film, Diary, is a highly personal experimental short currently playing at film festivals.

Born in Liverpool, into what he described as a "normal, working-class family", Hetherington moved around the country, attending both state and private schools – including Stonyhurst college, a Catholic boarding school run on Jesuit principles, near Clitheroe, in Lancashire, before going to Oxford. He graduated from Lady Margaret Hall in classics and English in 1992, broke. But then, in a final gift to her grandson and, inadvertently to the wider world, Hetherington's grandmother left him £5,000 in her will with which to escape Britain's economic recession and travel for two years in India, China and Tibet, feeding his curiosity for the lives of others in unfamiliar circumstances. Particularly impressed by Mount Kailash, the Himalayan peak in Tibet that has religious significance for several faiths, he went on to Dharamsala, in northern India, where he met the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan exiles. Though brought up as a Catholic, Hetherington developed a Buddhist sensibility: his friend Piers Dunn recalls that, without any specific sense of mission, he took a thoughtful, considered view of everything he saw.

Of his desire to become a photographer, Hetherington wrote: "I had the epiphany when I came back [from India] and realised I wanted to make images. I then worked for three to four years, going to night school in photography before eventually going back to college." Returning to full-time education under his own steam when he was 26 to study photojournalism at Cardiff (1996-97) paid off: he found immediate employment as a staff photographer with the Big Issue, the magazine produced for sale by London's homeless. Its editor Becky Gardiner was soon impressed by the way he captured a church service for blind-deaf people, conducted by signing into each other's hands.

The Snapshot page of the magazine showcased street-based photography: Hetherington and his colleague Lena Corner wandered round London, stopping people to ask them for their photo – for which Hetherington showed real flair. Corner recalls him talking endlessly about "imagery, technology and how he had managed to rig up some sort of screen or other contraption in his flat, in his eternal search for new ways to present his pictures. He was really ahead of his time. Back then, he recognised the power of the moving image as well as the still. I remember him telling me he simply couldn't understand photographers who didn't want to capture the things they were witness to without a movie camera as well." From the Big Issue he moved to the Independent as a regular freelance photographer.

Soon a member of the photographic agency Network, he joined a small, dedicated, group of photojournalists often reporting on the world's trouble spots. In 1999 he went to Liberia – his first assignment in Africa. By 2002, he had also worked in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Sierra Leone – developing a project about young men and political conflict in west Africa. Awards followed – including World Press photo of the year 2007 for his portrait of an exhausted US soldier in Korengal while working on assignment for Vanity Fair.

His project Healing Sport was published as part of the group project Tales from a Globalizing World (2003). Long Story Bit By Bit: Liberia Retold (2009) narrates recent history by drawing on images and interviews made over a five-year period. Infidel (2010), about a group of US soldiers in Afghanistan, continued his career-long examination of young men and conflict.

His work with the Milton Margai school for the blind in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was very important to him, and he was fascinated by the possibilities of braille photos. He was also a member of the UN panel of experts on Liberia.

Hetherington had recently moved to Brooklyn, New York. He is survived by his partner, Idil Ibrahim; his siblings, Guy and Victoria; and his parents, Alistair and Judith. The troubled corners of the world into which he shed the light of his lens are brighter because of him; the work he leaves is a candle by which those who choose to look, might see.

• Timothy Alistair Hetherington, photographer and film-maker, born 5 December 1970; died 20 April 2011


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Tim Hetherington: a brilliant journalist and a courageous, radical film-maker

In Restrepo and in his photography, Tim Hetherington put himself in harm's way to help convey the realities of a warzone

The question of the exact cause, and exact number, of non-combatant casualties in Libya has been put into sharp focus. One of the latest civilian victims is the award-winning photojournalist and Oscar-nominated film-maker Tim Hetherington, who was killed in Misrata just after tweeting that the attacks on the city were coming from Muammar Gaddafi and not Nato.

With Sebastian Junger he created the extraordinarily powerful documentary Restrepo, about a US platoon's mission to build and defend a forward outpost in the terrifyingly dangerous Korengal valley in Afghanistan. The outpost was named after an army medic, Juan Restrepo – killed on the first day of their tour of duty.

Hetherington and Junger show how this naming was an act of defiance as well as remembrance – a way in which a bunch of very scared young men could impose their identities on an alien, hostile landscape. It was also a way of containing and controlling their fear of death.

Hetherington's own terrible fate shows that the fear and danger with which his film was saturated was not a Hollywood device or a journalist's macho rhetoric. They were actually present.

Hetherington began his career as a stills photographer – though he and Junger appear genuinely to have shared the filming and directing responsibilities on Restrepo. It was an inspired collaboration, but Junger must surely have relied greatly on Hetherington's razor-sharp visual sense. The images in Restrepo are viscerally powerful. There's an incredible moment when the film, having shown us these soldiers getting aboard a helicopter, switches to their point-of-view as they look down into the valley from hundreds of metres above. It is a moment of pure vertigo: you can feel your heart plunge into your boots.

When these men were under fire, Hetherington was under fire, too, and arguably in more danger: he was armed only with a camera. But perhaps the film's most extraordinary scene was one that was (ostensibly) calm. One of the soldiers is being interviewed afterwards about his experiences. Mid-sentence, he stops; he can't carry on. It is not simply that he is emotional – he is in the middle of a flashback, actually caught on camera remembering horrifying events he had clearly suppressed until that moment.

To understand the realities of a warzone, to transmit those realities back to us, Hetherington put himself in harm's way: a brilliant journalist and a courageous, radical film-maker.


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Tim Hetherington: one of the finest photojournalists on the planet

Always at the heart of a story, even when made to photograph celebrities, this bold film-maker was a truly generous spirit

Tim Hetherington arrived at the Big Issue in the late 1990s, fresh out of college and landing in an editorial office that often felt like a dysfunctional college campus itself. We were a small crew – young and green and making the job up as we went along. If Tim thought he was joining the ranks of some idealistic guerrilla army (and I think, initially, that is exactly what he thought), he was too good natured – too abidingly generous of spirit – to let his disappointment show.

He was our staff reporter, rolling into the office with his big voice booming and his camera bags clattering. He had been living in squats and sported clotted dreadlocks and comfort clothes (sweatshirts, tracky bottoms) that he wore until they literally rotted off his body. Some of my colleagues were dismayed by this. "He sat opposite me on the tube," one reported in a scandalised whisper. "Legs apart, trousers all torn at the crotch. And he wasn't wearing any pants!"

Tim's pictures were extraordinary: rigorous, alive and shot on the fly. We sent him to snap homeless shelters and demonstrations, dockers' strikes and boxing gyms. Sometimes we would send him to photograph celebrities, too – an indignity he weathered with pained good humour. He couldn't quite see the point of it. Why photograph celebrities when there were so many proper stories playing out right now, under our very noses?

Tim Hetherington finally moved on from the Big Issue. He cut his dreads and bought a suit. He went to war zones, outraged then Liberian president Charles Taylor and found himself recognised as one of the finest photojournalists on the planet. But when I last saw him, in October, he was reassuringly just the same. His intense professionalism always went hand-in-hand with a childlike wonder at a world that never ceased to spark his interest.

It is perhaps the fate of all great photographers that they will eventually cross the camera line and start being photographed themselves. Prior to that last, gut-wrenching image that reared up on BBC News last night, the final photo I saw of Tim was taken at the annual Oscar nominees' lunch in February. Tim had been shortlisted for his devastating war documentary Restrepo, and this involved him rubbing shoulders with 150-odd Hollywood stars and industry players. Having once had to suffer photographing film celebrities, he had somehow conspired to become one himself.

The nominees had been arranged in rows and gathered around an oversized Oscar statue. Helena Bonham Carter sat far out on the wings. Colin Firth and Mark Ruffalo perched up in the gods. And there, bang in the centre, right by the statue stood our old staff photographer – a winner before the envelope was opened. It was a position that seemed to reflect how Hetherington lived his life: in the thick of things, at the heart of the matter, honouring the Robert Capa dictum that "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough". He was never one to sit out on the sidelines.


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Tim Hetherington – a retrospective in pictures

British photojournalist and documentary maker Tim Hetherington has been killed in Misrata, Libya. The Oscar-nominee won numerous awards for his coverage of conflict zones around the world



Tim Hetherington remembered

David Batty recalls studying and working alongside the British photographer, who has died in Libya

I first met Tim while doing a postgrad in journalism at Cardiff University. He was the star student on the photojournalism course – everyone on the print courses wanted to work with him as he fast gained a reputation as a creative photographer with a knack of getting access to interesting people and situations. Back then he was a gangly but striking figure with thick dreads, who always seemed to have a roll–up to hand.

We later worked together on a series of articles on Gulf War Syndrome at the Big Issue in London, where he was their first trainee photojournalist and I was a reporter. I remember trawling the streets and hostels near Waterloo – where cardboard city used to be – with him, tracking down a veteran who claimed to have information of an MoD cover up. The guy clearly suffered from post-traumatic stress but Tim's frank but calm manner soon put him at ease, and we got a great colour feature.

That mix of charm and compassion was a great attribute in a job where you were often dealing with vulnerable, distressed, if not traumatised, individuals: young runaways, victims of abuse, the mentally ill and addicts. Whenever he accompanied you on a story there was little need to persuade interviewees to open up - people just dropped their guard.

I lost touch with Tim when he subsequently moved to CNN and I went to the BBC. But I always took an interest in his success, which came as no surprise.

David Batty


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April 13 2011

Syria Comment » Archives » SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD: WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED?” by Brian J. Davis, Canadian Ambassador to Syria, 2003-2006uesd | 2011-04-12

Something that is sometimes forgotten is that neither Assad nor any of his closest confidantes (other than his wife) have real experience living in open, successful societies. They are a very inward group, interested in their own survival, in enjoying a luxurious and quasi-feudal lifestyle, and in furthering their wealth and power. They are not equipped to provide Assad with advice based on true understanding of how open economies and societies work or how to succeed in a global economy. One way or another, virtually every close advisor brought on board with international knowledge and experience has been undermined by the clique and fallen by the way side. I can remember long personal discussions with three such people, who were themselves often bewildered by the close-minded responses they got to suggestions and advice they put forward. Thus, while Assad genuinely wishes to see the Syrian economy grow, he does not really know how to make it happen.

As an example, in meetings with Assad and some of his senior advisors and ministers, I had discussions about the importance of the “rule of law“ to economic development. I often asked: what company will invest millions of dollars to establish operations in Syria, if it cannot be confident that the legal system will treat it fairly when the inevitable disputes arise? It was obvious in those kinds of discussions that while everyone nodded their heads in agreement, there was little true understanding of the implications. Nor was there any serious effort to consider how the legal system, as just one example of an area badly in need of reform, might be revamped to create a key underpinning for attracting foreign investment.

part 2/2 - excerpts

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Syria Comment » Archives » SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD: WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED?” by Brian J. Davis, Canadian Ambassador to Syria, 2003-2006uesd | 2011-04-12

Assad is a cautious, conservative leader. While he has slowly acquired the knowledge and skills of a President since assuming that mantle upon the death of his father in 2000, he lacks the natural instinctive talents of a leader. He is not the kind of person who will take risks or be creative. He likes to take his time to study an issue and he is particularly fond of placing these into a logical framework of cause and effect.

As for being a “reformer”, too much is made of his time as a student in the UK. He was there for a very short time and was cocooned in the expatriate Arab community. He did not immerse himself in genuine every day British or European life that would have exposed him to democracy, freedoms and the exercise of civil rights. Indeed, his formative years were spent under the family tree. Using a tired but, in this case, appropriate aphorism, he is an apple who has not fallen far from that tree. Assad is not a cosmopolite and expectations that he would be the “reformer” are simply misplaced.

Bashar Assad is a decent, intelligent man but without particular charisma or strategic brilliance. I believe he genuinely wants to be a popular president. He and his wife have made strides in this regard. They have been far more visible to the common Syrian, trying to demonstrate a human touch by dining publicly in restaurants, driving their own cars, and making more public appearances than his father. He took a lively interest in information technology even before becoming president and has continued to nurture this sector, striking a responsive chord with the Syrian youth.

Because he is perceived to have stood up to the U.S. (with regard to Iraq) and to Israel (through his support for Hezbollah and Hamas), he has achieved considerable popularity on the “Arab street” across the region. This distinguishes him from President Mubarak of Egypt and President Ben Ali of Tunisia, who were seen to have aligned themselves with western powers, rather than fighting for the rights of Arabs, especially those of Palestinians. It remains to be seen if that popularity will endure, given his efforts to smother the current wave of demands for more freedoms being made to him.

part 1/2 - excerpts

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YouTube - The Jenin Freedom Theatre Today!

yt-account donkeysaddle | Erstellt: 11.11.2010

Produced by the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre in NYC, this video provides an overview of the work being done at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, West Bank, Palestine. The Freedom Theatre grew out of the documentary film, "Arna's Children." For more information: www.thefreedomtheatre.org

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Remembering Juliano Mer-Khamis | www.3quarksdaily.com 2011-04-12

Ismail Khalidi and Jen Marlowe in The Nation:

Mer%20Khamis

In 2006, the new Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp held an art competition.

“Don’t just go for the tanks,” Juliano Mer-Khamis, the co-founder of the theater, told the children-artists. “Hope. Where is the hope?”

A 12-year-old girl named Wafaa painted a mother pulling her son out of the ruins of a demolished home. Juliano gently admonished the young student, reminding her that the painting should represent hope.

“But there’s this red flower,” the girl said, pointing to a splash of color next to the rubble. “There.”

“I almost cried,” Juliano recounted. “So…hope is there. We have to pour water, pour water, pour water. And that’s what we do here.”

That hope was badly shattered on Monday, April 4, when Juliano was shot dead by a masked gunman outside the Freedom Theatre.

Juliano, the child of a Jewish Israeli mother and Palestinian Christian father, both communists, co-founded the Freedom Theatre as an outgrowth of his 2004 documentary film, Arna’s Children. The film depicts the art and theater program that his mother, Arna, established for children in the Jenin Refugee Camp during the first intifada. Juliano returns to the camp after the massive Israeli invasion of 2002, during the second intifada, when large swaths of it were bulldozed by the Israeli army. He wants to know: what became of the children from his mother’s program? Nearly all of them, he discovers, are dead.

More here.  The Jenin Freedom Theatre Today:

Posted by Abbas Raza at 07:29 AM


April 07 2011

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The Libyan Intervention: Humanitarian or an Aggression?
Hamid Dabashi and Nader Hashemi debate the US/NATO intervention in Libya
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Time: 24:24 More in News & Politics

April 05 2011

02mydafsoup-01
Thanks for your kind lines.

It's a tragedy, and for the still imperilled progresses in the Middle East a bitter setback. It will depend a lot how the reactions inside the civil societies in the Arab countries as in Israel will be articulated - in fact as hard this assassination is as personal loss to accept , it may in a longer term also strengthen the arab protest mouvement and cause even closer ties between the Israel and Arab world; let's hope, that things will develop in this sense.

Greetings from Munich - oanth./ on twitter 

April 04 2011

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March 31 2011

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Syria's President Offers Future Reforms, Blames Conspiracy for Protests
Joshua Landis: Most Syrians want deep political and economic reform but fear ethnic civil war

Time: 14:12 More in News & Politics
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