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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Oh what a strange week

If a year ago you have gone around telling the Iraqis that it will snow in their country, the Sunnis, Shiites and US troops would probably put aside their religious and political differences and unite in laughing at the absurdity of your claims. Not to mention uniting in raining bullets onto you after the disbelief wears off. Well, snow did indeed make an appearance this past week in Iraq...

Snow Day in the Sands of Baghdad

By CHRISTOPHER CHESTER,Associated Press Writer AP - Saturday, January 12

BAGHDAD - The flakes melted quickly. But the smiles, wonder and excited story-swapping went on throughout the day: It snowed in Baghdad.

The morning flurry Friday was the first in memory in the heart of the Iraqi capital. Perhaps more significant, however, was the rare ripple of delight through a city snarled by army checkpoints, divided by concrete walls and ravaged by sectarian killings.

"For the first time in my life I saw a snow-rain like this falling in Baghdad," said Mohammed Abdul-Hussein, a 63-year-old retiree from the New Baghdad area.

"When I was young, I heard from my father that such rain had fallen in the early '40s on the outskirts of northern Baghdad," Abdul-Hussein said, referring to snow as a type of rain. "But snow falling in Baghdad in such a magnificent scene was beyond my imagination."

After weathering nearly five years of war, Baghdad residents thought they'd pretty much seen it all. But as muezzins were calling the faithful to prayer, the people here awoke to something certifiably new.

Snow is common in the mountainous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but residents of the capital and surrounding areas could remember just hail. And that, only very occasionally.

Summer temperatures in Baghdad are routinely a sweltering 120 degrees and winters generally mild.

But this week has been unusually cold and blustery, with overnight temperatures more than 10 degrees below normal. On Thursday morning, the thermometer hovered around freezing after a low of 27, and the Baghdad airport closed because of low visibility.

"I asked my mother, who is 80, whether she'd ever seen snow in Iraq before, and her answer was no," said Fawzi Karim, a 40-year-old father of five who runs a small restaurant in Hawr Rajab, a village six miles southeast of Baghdad.

"This is so unusual, and I don't know whether or not it's a lesson from God," Karim said.

Some said they'd seen snow only in movies.

Talib Haider, a 19-year-old college student, said "a friend of mine called me at 8 a.m. to wake me up and tell me that the sky is raining snow."

"I rushed quickly to the balcony to see a very beautiful scene," he said. "I tried to film it with my cell phone camera. This scene has really brought me joy. I called my other friends and the morning turned out to be a very happy one in my life."

An Iraqi who works for The Associated Press said he woke his wife and children shortly after 7 a.m. to "have a look at this strange thing." He then called his brother and sister and found them awake, also watching the "cotton-like snow drops covering the trees."

For a couple of hours anyway, a city where mortar shells routinely zoom across the Tigris River to the Green Zone became united as one big White Zone. There were no reports of bloodshed during the snowstorm. The snow showed no favoritism as it dusted neighborhoods Shiite and Sunni alike, faintly falling (with apologies to James Joyce) upon all the living and the dead.

Copyright © 2008 Yahoo! Singapore Pte. Ltd. (Co. Reg. No. 199700735D). All Rights Reserved.

So all of a sudden, Iraq seems to be a good destination to partake in some extreme snowboarding.


Closer to the local front, another strange news item has been making its round. The days of ordering Oyster Omelette without the oysters without having a ladle swung in your direction is finally here.

Jan 11, 2008
Shortage of oysters, so hawkers turn to prawns
By Tara Tan
OYSTERS are in short supply - so short that some hawkers are thinking of using prawns instead in their dishes.

'I now ask my customers if they are happy to have prawns instead of oysters,' says Mr Li, 50, who sells oyster omelette, 'I only have two-week supply left, if I run out, I will have to close the shop earlier.'

Last year, only 21 per cent of molluscs passed the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA)'s stringent health and safety requirements, compared to 93 per cent in 2006.

Currently, China is the major exporter of frozen raw oysters.

The 139.5 tonnes of frozen oysters were rejected because they contained novoviruses, which cause gastrointestinal illnesses and are spread by eating food contaminated with faeces from an infected person, or from polluted waters.

The virus has been linked to food poisoning outbreaks in December 2003 to January 2004 in Singapore.

'The viruses started appearing in the molluscs farmed in China since 2004.' said the AVA spokesperson.

Hawkers have been relying on their frozen stock, but as more consignments were rejected, importers' stocks have dried up and the trickle-down effect is being felt at the hawker centres.

Supplies would last for at most a week or two, according to the six hawkers in food centres at Newton, Bedok and Old Airport Road that The Straits Times spoke to.

Mr Chen Heng Xin, 46, hawker, has had no choice but to pay for pricier imports from Japan, which costs nearly 67 per cent more than those from China.

Suppliers like Mr Lee Tak Seng, an importer from TS Frozen Foods, says that this is the worst shortage in the 10 years he has been in the trade.

'I had to raise prices. I used to charge $7 to $8 per kg, but it is now about $14,' laments Mr Lee, 'I also had to dump 10,000 kg of goods because they were contaminated.'

TS Frozen Foods is one of the two main importers of frozen oysters.

AVA is currently assessing the pasteurisation process to deactivate the novovirus - that is, to heat the molluscs to a certain temperature which will kill the viruses.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement & Condition of Access

Fairly soon, you can also order Fried Rice without rice or Fishball noodle without fishballs without being whisk off to the mental institution with the guy who says it will snow in Iraq Singapore will reach the World Cup in 2010.

Random Picture of the Day


四眼仔's 鸭脚包. The best food in KL.

posted by Stormtrooper's Lackey at 11:39 PM


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