Sunday, March 30, 2003

And not only "Visit Mongolia 2003" is scheduled for this year. This summer the Enlightenment Experience Celebration IV is supposed to take place in Ulaan Baatar from June 1 to July 7. This is an immense Buddhist wingding featuring teachings and initiations by numerous Buddhist notables, including Lama Zopa and the Dalai Lama, although of course the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Mongolia is always problematic. His proposed visit last September was thwarted by the Chinese and Russian authorities, although he finally did manage to Sneak in Later in November. The EEC IV event is billed an international gathering of Buddhists from all over the world. How many will run the gamut of Killer Viruses and war-related travel fears remains to be seen.

Of course the war may be over by June and the Killer Virus may have gone back to wherever Killer Viruses come from, but then again maybe not. I may have to consult the soothsayers at Gandan on this. They did pretty well on the Iraq war, missing the starting date by only two days.
Well, the Mongolian government has launched a big Visit Mongolia 2003 program to lure visitors to Mongolia in 2003. Apparently they did not consult the soothsayers at Gandan Monastery before choosing the year 2003. As if the war with Iraq is not enough to deter many travelers now there's the Killer Virus Thing. See US set to curtail official travel to Asia over SARS, which says in part: “Under the new guidelines, all non-essential travel by US government employees to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan will be suspended until further notice. The travel warnings will also urge US citizens to defer travel to the four places and suggest that those already there consider leaving.”

Since a good portion of the people coming to Mongolia transit through Beijing this can’t be good news. And the fact that many people even at this late date think Mongolia is somehow part of China will only add to the confusion. And the Killer Virus seems to be getting Worse.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Now the US Envoy to Mongolia has resigned in protest over the US's Iraq and Korea policies. "Ann Wright, the embassy's deputy chief of mission, also criticised the 'unnecessary curtailment of civil rights' in the United States since September 11," says the article.
For the story behind this photo see Iraq Blog: Hubbub Over a Headlock
No! No! It's the Killer Flu!
For a good book on the Assassins, who Chingis Khan's grandson Hulegu pretty much wiped out in the 1250s see The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma'ilis by Farhad Daftary. For an on-line history see "The Assassins of Alamut". For what motivated the Isma'ilis see their Secret Doctrines. Although their castles were destroyed by the Mongols the Isma'ilis have survived to the present day, most notably in India but with enclaves all over the world. Their current leader is the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam and a noted philanthropist.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The Bloghdad was back on line on the 24th after a two-day hiatus, but now he has gone silent again. Apparently they are having some trouble with the phone lines in Baghdad. There has been a lot of dispute on the net about whether this guy is for real or not (see the links in the blog itself for more info), but for the moment he appears to be real and actually in Baghdad.
More on the Killer Virus in Beijing. One doctor says there may be 100 cases . . .

Now it is official: the Killer Virus Has Hit Beijing. And there are - what? - five or six planes a week to Ulaan Baatar from Beijing. This thing could jump the Gobi real quick. As if Mongolia doesn't have enough problems already. . .
Would you belief that Chingis Khan has 16 million descendants in China and Central Asia? See Chingis's Genes. According to this study "half of one percent of the world's male population can probably claim descent" from Chingis Khan. True, The Washington Post had named Chingis the "Man of the Millennium", but I don't think this is what they had in mind.

Al Qaeda

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Now Mongolia appears to be part of the "Coalition" fighting with the USA in Iraq. Maureen Dowd pointed this out in the NYTimes, but I thought she was just being her usual facetious self. But see the White House Web Page, which lists Mongolia among its Allies, right along with other M-powers Macedonia, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Speaking of Mongolians, and since US forces are at the moment approaching Baghdad, this seems to be a good time to re-post Saddam's January 17th Speech in which he called Americans "The New Mongols" and implied that George Bush was the New Hulegu. Hulegu you will recall was Chingis Khan's grandson who sacked Baghdad in 1258.

Friday, March 21, 2003

For a blog out of Baghdad see Bloghdad. It is unclear who this guy is and how much longer he will be able to post but for the moment it is interesting. Even with cruise missiles whipping around you still got to go out and buy a loaf of bread. I can just hear the wife hollering, “And get a liter of milk too! And don't stop at the tea house on the way back!" I wonder if they are stilll selling lottery tickets.
Back on February 28 (see post below) I consulted a Mongolian fortune teller who told me that the war would start on March 18. Well, the first attack on Baghdad was on the morning of March 19, so this person missed it by a day. But hey, even Mongolian fortune-tellers aren't perfect.
Well, it has finally arrived. No, not the war (of course that has arrived too). I mean Spring. Here in Mongolia Spring officially starts at 9:00 am sharp. It is just a coincidence that this year the spring equinox falls right on the hour. Also, for all of you who tried to balance eggs at the moment of the equinox, forget it. As Sky and Telescope, says, "Eggs do not balance on end more easily at the equinox than at other times! Actual tests have demolished this bit of New Age goofiness; the ability of eggs to balance depends on tiny irregularities on their shells (and the persistence of the would-be balancer!), not on what day it is. This perennial silly-season story has nothing to do with how eggs balance."

At 9:00 am here in Mongolia it is a balmy 24 degrees F. As far as I can tell that has been no reaction whatsoever here about the start of the war in Iraq. This is of course of Buddhist country so the religion factor doesn't much enter into the picture - no one is calling for either Crusades or Jihads - and the local media doesn't seem to be making a big deal out of it. Of course it is still early . . .

Monday, March 10, 2003

From one of our far-flung correspondents, who is apparently trying to make us feel bad about being mired in the frozen wastes of Mongolia: this is the beach in Cornwall, England.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Was I heralding the arrival of Spring a few posts back? This morning it's back down to 20 below 0 F (that's 29 below 0 C for you Europeans who insist on being different). Bad news for the street people, of whom there seems to be more and more of everyday in Ulaan Baatar. Totally destitute people are migrating here from the countryside, which has been experiencing horrific droughts and huge die-offs of livestock. And it probably isn't going to get better. See Extreme Weather on the Rise!

Monday, March 03, 2003

As noted below my Mongolian soothsayer says the war with Iraq will start on March 18. London bookies, who are taking bets on when the war will start, are giving the odds for the war starting the weekend of March 8-9 at 3 to 2. For the following weekend, March 15-16 the odds are 7 to 4. For the whole story see You Can Bet on It: Playing the Odds on War. The odds on Saddam being dead by June 30th are 3 to 2. If you want to place your own bets go Here or Here. Both of these are sports betting sites so it now appears that war is a sport. I am tempted to say that this whole thing is starting to look like a remake of Apocalypse Now but clearly we are moving into new, uncharted territory here.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

You may have noticed in the news that has been bought out by If you haven't see Blogger Gets Googled. Apparently now we will all have to start bloogling. Is this progress?