Stonehenge, and the A303, really need that tunnel

Indigo Jo Blogs - 13 January, 2017 - 22:26

A picture of Stonehenge, a collection of standing stones, some with stone lintels on top, on a plain with a path leading behind it to a car park.Stonehenge Tunnel plan finalised by government — BBC News

So, the government have finally agreed on plans to build a tunnel to the south of the ancient stone circle, Stonehenge, outside Amesbury in Wiltshire. The site is currently one of several bottlenecks on a major route from London to the south west of England, a two-lane stretch in between two sections of good-quality dual carriageway, one of which links to the M3 motorway from London; however, a lot of the delays are caused by people slowing down to look at the stones as they drive past. The scheme will also include a by-pass around the village of Winterbourne Stoke, also affected by the slow and heavy traffic along the A303.

Stonehenge is not the only famous landmark to fade from public view as a result of a bypass. When I was a child, we went to Portsmouth for the day, and the main road there, until 2011, ran past a formation called the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a “natural amphitheatre” overlooking Hindhead Common in Surrey. On the way out, you drove out of the village of Milford, along one of the A3’s many “silly little bits of dual carriageway”, as my Mum called them (all now either by-passed or linked together), which soon ended, the road climbing for several miles through thick woods which then opened to show this dramatic hollow on the right-hand side. As an adult when I started driving lorries, I relished trips to Portsmouth because — despite the inevitable traffic jams — I got a glimpse of the Devil’s Punch Bowl. That ended when the Hindhead Tunnel was opened in 2011 (there was a serious proposal to simply by-pass it through the common, but the landmarks’s Site of Special Scientific Interest status, as well as public opposition, scuppered that plan) and the original road was mostly removed. The upshot is that you can explore and see all the areas of the landscape in peace now, but few people get to see it on their way past and so it is probably less well-known now than it was until 2011.

Stonehenge had no such effect on me; we stopped there once on the way back from Devon, and I remember being bored to tears, especially as I had not been expecting to stop anywhere other than perhaps a service station. I still find it rather underwhelming, but those who want to enjoy the stones will be able to do so in peace once the passing traffic has been re-routed underground, while those who just need to get to and from the south-west will be able to do so without getting stuck behind farm tractors or people slowing down to have a look at the stones — although, it has to be said, the traffic delays have eased considerably since the A344, which ran to the north of Stonehenge, was demolished (people wanting to visit Stonehenge now have to turn off at the roundabout to the west and approach it from the Salisbury-Devizes road). I suspect they will rebuild that, and remove the existing A303 (or at least whatever of it isn’t required for farm access).

Building the tunnel will be good for Stonehenge. Not only will the noise of the passing traffic be gone; the pollution it emits, which no doubt has discoloured the stones as traffic pollution once discoloured Buckingham Palace in London, will also disappear. A place doesn’t have to be right on a major highway for people to appreciate it; when we went to the Lake District or North Wales on holiday, we would stop at Stratford or Ironbridge on the way there or back, neither of which are right by the motorway, and Stratford has prospered since being taken off the A34 trunk road from Birmingham to Southampton, which used to choke it with heavy goods traffic. Stonehenge is still quite well-known, people know what it looks like, and people who are interested and have time will still visit it.

I’m not in favour of building huge new roads for the sake of it, but there are places where they need to get built, because bottlenecks cause not only inconvenience but also extra pollution. The Hindhead tunnel needed to get built, the Tonbridge-Pembury upgrade on the A21 (in progress) needed to get built, and so does this. Stonehenge will be all the better for it, and I’ll be admiring the scenery further down.

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Montana: One-man Protest With Rifle Outside Montana Mosque

Loon Watch - 13 January, 2017 - 19:37 | Great Falls, Montana

(h/t: Frank S.)

By Jennifer Cruz,

A one-man protest Monday outside of a mosque in Bozeman, Montana, led to a brief lockdown at a nearby school until police determined the protester wasn’t a threat.

The protester, who was not shy about showing his face but did not want to he identified, showed up at the Islamic Center of Bozeman that morning carrying an American flag with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

“I’m responding to the message of hate that’s being shown here,” he told reporters.

But the gun the protester was carrying prompted a response from the police department. Authorities said the man was compliant and, although he wasn’t breaking any laws by doing so, agreed to put his rifle away.

He continued the protest while carrying an American flag and by the afternoon, a counter-protester, Andy Boyd, could also be found outside of the place of worship. Boyd said he was there to show support for the country’s religious freedom, a right which he said the nation was founded upon.

Then, a little later, a woman who said she was a Muslim, walked out to the snow-covered sidewalk and offered the protester a cup of coffee. The woman said the protester had every right to do what he was doing and there was no reason for them to fear one another. But the woman said she was glad to see the man put the rifle away, citing the close proximity to the school, which she said made people nervous.

The woman said there has been Muslims in the Bozeman area since the 70’s and there has never before been a problem.

“Most of us just want a place to pray in peace,” she said.

Iran's Syria project: pushing population shifts to increase influence

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 January, 2017 - 13:23

Iran seeks arch of control from Tehran to Israel’s border by moving Shia communities into areas where Sunnis have fled or been forced out

In the valleys between Damascus and Lebanon, where whole communities had abandoned their lives to war, a change is taking place. For the first time since the conflict broke out, people are starting to return.

But the people settling in are not the same as those who fled during the past six years.

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Austin: Mosque Under Construction Burned To The Ground

Loon Watch - 12 January, 2017 - 19:49

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating a fire that destroyed a mosque under construction near Lake Travis.

Authorities say no injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

The Islamic Center of Lake Travis is collecting donations to help rebuild the mosque. To donate, click here.

South Africa: ‘Islamophobia’ Behind Mosque Desecrations

Loon Watch - 12 January, 2017 - 19:39

The community of West Cape, South Africa has experienced two incidents of desecration against mosques. Authorities are saying that the incidents bear the hallmark of a “calculated use of Islamophobic methods.”


Achmat Sity, the imam of the 110-year-old Kalk Bay Mosque, urged Muslims to remain calm and called for unity.

“This mosque has been here for over 100 years and this is the first time an incident like this has happened,” he told Al Jazeera.

“There have been burglaries in the past, but this was despicable.”

The local branch of the ruling ANC party condemned the attacks as “disgusting” and called on South Africans “to stand united in protecting the culture of coexistence”.

Pigs are an animal considered ritually unclean in Islam and believers are prohibited from consuming them.

The desecrations came less than a week after a white Western Cape resident posted a message on a community Facebook page calling for mosques to be burned down. The post has since been deleted.

Farid Sayed, the editor of Muslim Views, a national newspaper, said that while the attacks may be isolated in nature, they indicated a failure of some segments of post-apartheid South Africa to fully integrate.

“Racist attitudes are still very deeply embedded in post-apartheid South Africa, all it took was a simple Facebook post to spark this,” he said.

“People living in white-only communities believe they have to fight to keep Muslims out, they think they don’t have the state’s backing.

“This anger – from these racists and bigots – has been heightened by right-wing media outlets that continue to demonise and insult Muslims,” he added.

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President’s Obama’s Farewell Speech – Science and Reason Matter

Inayat's Corner - 11 January, 2017 - 21:26

President Barack Obama’s farewell speech last night in Chicago took a look at some of his positive achievements in the past eight years – and there have admittedly been quite a few. In his own words, his Presidency helped:

…reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history — if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11 — if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens…we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil; we’ve doubled our renewable energy …

Those are impressive achievements particularly when one remembers that there were many influential players, not least the Israel lobby, who were eagerly pushing for war against Iran. Who can forget the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who said “the day the United States finishes with Iraq, it should start with Iran” or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comical antics at the UN where he shrieked about the imminent danger of a nuclear capable Iran? Little wonder that Netanyahu has so warmly welcomed the election of Donald Trump.

Obama praised the spirit of the Enlightenment, the spirit that insists that “science and reason matter”, the spirit that:

… made us an economic powerhouse — the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

He urged people to value their democracy and its values and be vigilant in protecting them:

I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it…we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing…If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

He added that these Enlightenment values deserve to be spread around the world and that it was necessary to make the world a better and more safer place:

That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans…That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights — to expand democracy, and human rights, and women’s rights, and LGBT rights. No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

And he mentioned some of the dangers that continue to face America:

…violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets and open democracies and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Obama will have disappointed many Muslims around the world with his failure to make progress on the key issue of securing a just settlement for the Palestinians, yet it is fair to say – and perhaps particularly so given the impending handover of power to Donald Trump – that the world will miss him.

Yuna on hijab style: 'I feel like the world is catching up'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 January, 2017 - 12:16

The Malaysian pop star talks about moving to LA at 24, her mother’s style and how her refusal to compromise on modesty led to success as the face of Uniqlo

“When I started out, people were like: ‘Oh just take it off, it’s no big deal.’ But I like wearing a headscarf,” says Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, better known as Yuna, the Malaysian-born pop star who is the face of Uniqlo’s first hijab line in the UK.

“Muslim girls, we love fashion! Whether we wear the hijab or not – it’s our choice – and it’s time the industry took note. Finally, fashion stores are open to that idea,” says the 30-year-old, who has bossed the US Billboard charts as well as those in south-east Asia.

Related: D&G’s hijab range is aimed at people like me – so why do I feel excluded? | Ruqaiya Haris

Related: London show reflects global boom in Islamic fashion

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