August 5, 2007

Revelation of the Day: Mark Steyn on Saudi Book Suppression

Once again, something important breaks into Old Media, in this case the Orange County Register, only because a “mere” columnist decides it is:

Who funds the mosques and Islamic centers that in the past 30 years have set up shop on just about every Main Street around the planet?

For the answer, let us turn to a fascinating book called “Alms for Jihad: Charity And Terrorism in the Islamic World,” by J. Millard Burr, a former USAID relief coordinator, and the scholar Robert O Collins.

….. Unfortunately, (at Amazon) if you then try to buy “Alms for Jihad,” you discover that the book is “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” Hang on, it was only published last year. At Amazon, items are either shipped within 24 hours or, if a little more specialized, within four to six weeks, but not many books from 2006 are entirely unavailable with no restock in sight.

As of the time of this post, the hardback version of the book is not even listed at Amazon. While the eBook can be “purchased,” there is nothing available to download after purchase (Grrr).

Put on a sweater, because you’ll feel a chill as Steyn explains why (bold is mine):

Well, let us cross the ocean, thousands of miles from the Amazon warehouse, to the High Court in London. Last week, the Cambridge University Press agreed to recall all unsold copies of “Alms for Jihad” and pulp them. In addition, it has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove the volume from their shelves.

So why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?

Because English libel law overwhelmingly favors the plaintiff. And like many other big-shot Saudis, Sheikh Mahfouz has become very adept at using foreign courts to silence American authors – in effect, using distant jurisdictions to nullify the First Amendment. He may be a wronged man, but his use of what the British call “libel chill” is designed not to vindicate his good name but to shut down the discussion, which is why Cambridge University Press made no serious attempt to mount a defense.

To paraphrase Instapundit Glenn Reynolds: “Well, they said in 2004 that if George Bush was re-elected, books would be banned. And they were right” (previous analogous Reynolds examples are cited here).

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the coverage? Well, there is some good work being done at publications like The New York Sun and WorldNetDaily, as well as blogs like Michelle Malkin, Hot Air (here and here), and the Counterterrorism Blog.

But it’s Day 5 (the Sun report is dated August 1), and Old Media beat reporting is nowhere to be found, as shown in this Google News search on “alms for Jihad” (not in quotes), and this separate New York Times search on the same words. Most people believe that book suppression like this is impossible in the US. They need to know that it is happening.

Along those lines, you would hope that “Alms for Jihad” makes the American Library Association’s next (mostly mischaracterized) “banned books” list. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Cross-posted at

Positivity: Cancer Survivor’s Story Inspires Others

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:05 am

From Kansas City:

Sat, Jul. 28, 200

They’ve taken her left kidney. They’ve taken part of the bone in her left leg. They’ve taken the hair on her head — nine times.

It began with a skin condition: redness and discoloration on her chest. There were tests, then the words that have shaped her life ever since: inflammatory breast cancer.

That was in 1996. At the time of her diagnosis, the average survival rate for women with inflammatory breast cancer was three years.

Karen Spengler isn’t supposed to be here.

A skeleton hovers in the air, not far from Karen Spengler’s head. Skulls grin from shelves. Tombstones loom. A door that leads from the bookstore into the staff kitchen reads, “Samuel Spade, Private Investigator.”

“We call it ‘Victorian library with a twist,’ ” Spengler says.

Spengler, 55, owns I Love a Mystery, 6114 Johnson Drive in Mission. On the awning are the words “Books to Die For.” It’s one of the few independent booksellers left in the area. I Love a Mystery sells only suspense — thrillers — or at least that’s the focus. It has some true crime, some kids’ books — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys.

Spengler’s presence in the store today is an event; her cancer doesn’t allow her to be here much. Today, though, the sharp aromas of coffee and tea scent the air, and she sits at a table where browsers are encouraged to relax and read.

Her customers sometimes bring her “ghoulish things” that fit the macabre decor. And mystery books, by definition, must have a dead body. This could weigh on a person who battles a disease that almost surely will kill her.

Spengler smiles. “I never thought about the connection till you brought it up.”

And that, say those who know her, is Karen Spengler.

Carol Nichols of Overland Park attends Spengler’s support group at Turning Point, a resource center for cancer survivors. Nichols, too, had inflammatory breast cancer, then a second breast cancer in 2002. Unlike Spengler, who has been in treatment almost constantly for a decade, Nichols has been cancer-free for five years.

Yet it’s Spengler, Nichols says, who is the group’s emotional spark plug. She has boosted the group’s social aspect, starting card games, encouraging weekend getaways.

Becci West, manager at I Love a Mystery and Spengler’s friend for more than three decades, says cancer hasn’t changed her.

“She has always been a strong, intelligent, caring person,” West says. “She’s never wavered. I’m telling you, she should be a poster child for getting through adversity. She never complains.”

Spengler, who lives in Kansas City, has plenty to complain about. Instead, words like “lucky” come up.

Go here for the rest of the story.