Gentlemen…Start Your Engines!

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

“Automobiles are not ferocious…. it is man who is to be feared.”

~Robbins B. Stoeckel

lewis-karting_32_m-680x454As further evidence that the global economic turndown has not affected most wealthy Arab nations, give or take a couple of debt-riddled locales, a new endurance motoring activity will be taking place in Kuwait City at the end of this month (November 24-26). Courtesy of “Gulf Run”, who has brought some of the most mind-jarring motor races to the region, the newest moto-sport is called “The 26 Hour Endurance Gulf Run Karting” Race. Basically, it pits man against machine in a breathtaking 26 hours around the track to see who can withstand the endless circling, keep up pace with other drivers without crashing and go on to claim that checkered flag.

With a $4,300 price tag per team, the karting race is neither for the financially challenged nor the faint hearted. Registration is currently open for teams and the ticket price includes the use of a twin engine Honda Pro Kart for the duration of the race, spare parts, pit crew area, gas and other fluids, use of the track and access to a full-equipped medical team on site as well as the fire brigade just in case of any mishaps on the track. Teams can be made up of up to 12 drivers with a minimum of 4 drivers per team. Each team is allowed to wear their own logo emblazoned t-shirts and can even cover the car with sponsor’s decals, however such marketing efforts count as “out of pocket” costs.

Safety during the course of the event is of the utmost importance to Gulf Run organizers. The rules stipulate that all drivers must be 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Each driver will also be given special instructions regarding safety features, the rules and proper conduct expected during the race.  The UK Marshalls will oversee the event in accordance with current FIA regulations. Teams who ignore safety rules or intentionally interfere with the course of the race will be disqualified.

The course will be set up at the Mishref fairgrounds and a special village will be ready by race day to tend to the needs of both drivers and spectators alike. According to the Gulf Run website the 26 hour endurance race will require, “… mental and physical preparation and of course a good strategy within your team is the key to success. If you join to have fun, to do something new, or to compete professionally, it will be an amazing adventure you will never forget. See you at the track.”  Blogs and local media outlets will be covering the event, which is the first of its kind in Kuwait.

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For the Birds

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

racing pigeon

The hobby of pigeon raising in the Middle East goes back several years. Enthusiasts spend a great deal of time and money acquiring rare and beautiful birds. The supplies for housing pigeons are also very expensive. Pigeon owners often build elaborate cages on their rooftops or in their gardens. Each cage typically holds around thirty birds. A devout pigeon master often pays more attention to his birds than he does to his own children, because one sick bird can destroy the entire lot. For many enthusiasts, they have turned a mere hobby into an exact science.

There are so many rare varieties of pigeons, each varying in color, sheen and ability. The most popular in the Gulf region include the Sherazi, Sudani and Baljiki. However, the favorite pigeon amongst enthusiasts is known as the ‘flipper’. The reason it is so popular is because of its mid-flight aerobics that it performs at great heights, flipping full circle without losing speed. Exquisite and unique pigeons are much sought after by wealthy hobbyists who are often willing to pay thousands of dollars to acquire a prized bird for their collection. It is not uncommon for buyers to trade their expensive luxury cars and watches for a single bird. Most of the time, however, a lump of cash is enough to seal the deal.

Pigeon raising is also a lucrative sport. Enthusiasts gather to race their pigeons in competition with other birds. Most competitors will select their top five pigeons to perform in endurance races against the wind. The competitions are primarily held during the months of September and October when winds in the open desert often exceed 60 kilometers per hour. Each bird’s flight is measured in terms of resistance.

Come March, prize-winning pigeons are tucked away into their cages with equally alluring mates. The offspring of award winning pigeons can fetch even more money than the ‘contender’ bird himself. Newly hatched birds are also very easy to train for an optimum life span of racing and bringing joy to his master’s eyes. 

In Saudi Arabia, where pigeon raising is a part of local traditions, there is a special pigeon market held every Friday in the city of Medina. The market opens right after the dawn prayers and bustles for several hours to around mid-morning when the heat of the desert sun becomes unbearable. Bidding wars are common during the auctions held for the most sought-after birds and often get heated as the passion for pigeon rearing usually defies all reason.

However, not everyone has the bankroll to fund an elaborate pigeon pen plus fill it with expensive birds, then feed and pay for the medicines often needed to keep the birds healthy. In the state of Kuwait, the love for pigeons is a public affair. Right in the center of Kuwait City is what has come to be known as ‘Pigeon Square’.  Hundreds of pigeons descend upon the square around the clock, often mingling with shoppers and spectators alike. The area is lined with small grocery stores and meat shops.

It has long been a Kuwaiti tradition during the Holy Month of Ramadan to take the children of the family to visit the pigeons of Pigeon Square right before the Iftar meal. The grocery stores often see a rise in business as visitors often buy bread to feed the pigeons. In return, the pigeons ‘dot’ the landscape with their droppings, which the very same shop owners must clean up. Many locals have longed for the square to be turned into a tourist destination complete with refurbished structures, restaurants and cafes.

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Saddam’s WMD Strategy

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Monterey–August 21st –Ibrahim Al-Marashi from the IE University of Spain currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies here in Central California talked about his research from the so-far retrievable Iraqi archives on what was accurate and inaccurate about their accused WMDs.  Many myths were exposed and some truths were confirmed by his study on these papers on why we and Britain went to war against Baghdad in 2003.

What he found in the Arabic documents was ambiguous language to disguise any possible WMDs.  The first documents were captured in 1991 by the Kurdish opposition in the North.  They were handed over to Human Rights Watch, an organization close to the US government, for propaganda purposes.   Others were seized in Kuwait during the 1991 War.  Most of the previous documents were produced in the 1990s by the Iraqi governments.  One of the primary causes of this were that Hussein held back his best troops, the elite Republican Guard on the Iraqi side of the border, and the lesser trained troops were thrust toward Kuwait City. 

During the Second Iraq War, the various international forces were under joint command, and retrieval of documents was done by several various armies.   The secondary-primary source was the interrogation of Saddam Hussein himself after his capture.

During the blockade before the second war, there was a lack of paper to record the archives.   Yet they were documented in detail on alternative materials. 
Ibrahim went into the history of Iraq, starting with the first king installed by the British after World War I. 

Between the World War periods, the Army stayed out of politics,  but after the second war, began to intervene in the body politic.  Coups and counter-coups  ruled the period.  The Leftist Baath Party finally took power in ‘68, and  ideologized the Army.  The Baath Party led, and their Military Establishment followed.  

Saddam Hussein came to command in an internal coup in ‘79.

In the 1970s the Iraqis began their WMD program.  The Weapons were never named directly but in a disguised manner.  Chemical weapons became special armaments.  Their Chemical “Mace” became a special resource that led to the 1987 attacks against  their Iraqi Kurdish citizens.  Many of the assailed residents of Kurdistan suffered excruciating blinding.

Although Baghdad utilized chemicals in their eight year War with their eastern neighbors, Iraq urged their former enemy, Iran, to join them to exploit their mutual chemical capabilities against Israel, but there were no documents that specially alluded to the scud attacks upon Israel. 

In 1991 the Iraqi forces did not use Weapons of Mass Destruction against the Coalition.  Saddam was not willing to use his WMDs (basically chemical) against the US Army for fear that the Americans would retaliate with their own overwhelming gas and / or nuclear capacity.  Curiously, though, the Iraqi Army was not even issued gas masks, but the Baathists felt the United States was deterred by their (potential) Weapons of Mass Destruction during 1991, but, on the other hand, during the 2003 assault, the Allies were prepared for WMDs to be applied against them.     

The American military objective in Iraq was to achieve (Iraqi) State security.  The rumor of Weapons of Mass Destruction impacted Civilian-(U.S) Military relations.  The ethnic conflicts made political communications difficult, too.

Dr. Al-Marashsi studied docs that were written between 1990 through 2003.  He started on his project in 2002.  It took him seven years to go through 100,000 transcripts so far.  Yet his team has not had a chance to index the papers!

High ranking Baghdadi Generals forged manuscripts for personal gain selling them to Western scandal tabloids.  Ibrahim Al’Marashi was able to debunk most of them, but an academic paper of his was plagiarized, and was used as “proof” for the British Government to attack Baghdad in 2003.  A discussion of the relation between academia – honestly and dishonestly—and security policy is a tight one.  Ibrahim ended his presentation with his conclusion that the U.S. and the U.K. should have done more research before they attacked the Middle East!

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