Migrant caravan an invasion?


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In this Oct. 27, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Ill. Eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Trump on Oct. 29 escalated his threats against a migrant caravan trudging slowly toward the U.S. border as the Pentagon prepared to deploy thousands of U.S. troops to support the border patrol. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this Oct. 27, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Ill. Eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Trump on Oct. 29 escalated his threats against a migrant caravan trudging slowly toward the U.S. border as the Pentagon prepared to deploy thousands of U.S. troops to support the border patrol. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


Central American migrants reach the shore on the Mexican side of the Suchiate River after wading across, on the the border between Guatemala and Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Among the thousands of mostly Honduran migrants in the caravan walking through southern Mexico, there are also Guatemalans. Though not as big a group, they too have plenty of reasons to leave home. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)


Trump escalates threats against migrant caravan

By ROBERT BURNS, COLLEEN LONG and JILL COLVIN

Associated Press

Monday, October 29

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, President Donald Trump on Monday escalated his threats against a migrant caravan trudging slowly toward the U.S. border as the Pentagon prepared to deploy thousands of U.S. troops to support the border patrol.

Trump tweeted: “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

His warning came as the Pentagon began executing a support mission dubbed Operation Faithful Patriot to provide military assistance requested by the Customs and Border Patrol. Two U.S. officials said the troop total was likely to be slightly above 5,000, with troops coming mainly from major Army bases from coast to coast. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a troop plan that was not yet publicly announced.

The Customs and Border Patrol is pushing a surge in personnel in response to the caravan of Central American immigrants, which was still hundreds of miles from the U.S. border, three administration officials said. The military troops are intended to assist the border patrol, not engage directly with migrants, several officials said.

The White House is also weighing additional border security measures, including blocking those traveling in the caravan from seeking legal asylum and keeping them from entering the U.S.

The escalating rhetoric and expected deployments come as the president has been trying to turn the caravan into a key election issue with just days to go before the midterm elections that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of Congress.

“This will be the election of the caravans, the Kavanaughs, law and order, tax cuts, and you know what else? It’s going to be the election of common sense,” Trump said at a rally in Illinois on Saturday night.

He continued his threats on Monday, tweeting, without providing evidence, that, “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border.”

“Please go back,” he urged them, “you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

A possible announcement by Trump on the other border measures had been tentatively slated for Tuesday, administration officials had said, but he is instead traveling to Pittsburgh, where a gunman massacred 11 people at a synagogue Saturday in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday pushed off questions about the caravan and possible border measures.

“We have a number of options on the table,” she said, adding she’d let the public know of any upcoming immigration speeches but she was unaware of any right now.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the planned deployment, first announced late last week, was likely to be much larger than the preliminary figures of 800 to 1,000 troops. The Journal reported that the Pentagon plans to deploy 5,000 troops, mainly military police and engineers.

The troops are expected to perform a wide variety of functions such as transporting supplies for the Border Patrol, but not engage directly with migrants seeking to cross the border from Mexico, officials said. One U.S. official said the troops will be sent initially to staging bases in California, Texas and Arizona while the CBP works out precisely where it wants the troops positioned. U.S. Transportation Command posted a video on its Facebook page Monday of a C-17 transport plane that it said was delivering Army equipment to the Southwest Border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

National Guard troops routinely perform those same functions, so it remains unclear clear why active duty forces would be used. The National Guard is often used by states to help with border security. But active duty troops are rarely deployed within the United States except for domestic emergencies like hurricanes or floods.

The U.S. military has already begun delivering jersey barriers to the southern border in conjunction with the deployment plans.

Mattis told reporters traveling with him Sunday that the deployment was still being worked out, but that the additional troops would provide logistical and other support to the Border Patrol and bolster the efforts of the approximately 2,000 National Guard forces already there. That includes functions such as air support and equipment, including vehicles and tents.

Trump has spent the last week trying to call attention to the caravan traveling by foot through Mexico. It remains hundreds of miles from U.S. soil.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Prague contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Pittsburgh’s lesson: Hatred does not emerge in a vacuum

October 30, 2018

Author: Leonard Saxe, Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and Social Policy, Brandeis University

Disclosure statement: Leonard Saxe does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Fueled by virulent anti-Semitism, the Sabbath peace was shattered this past weekend when 11 members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community were murdered in a synagogue where they had gathered to celebrate a birth, to pray and to study.

As a scholar who studies the Jewish community and has close ties to Pittsburgh, the tragedy feels very personal. But it is not just a personal or Jewish tragedy, nor is it an issue solely for those who are part of religious communities.

As a society, we are at risk of becoming inured to a particular kind of violence – the mass shootings and bombings that are occurring with increasing frequency.

From schools and houses of worship to restaurants and nightclubs, this kind of violence is now so frequent that it is no longer surprising. That it could happen in Squirrel Hill, the vibrant center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and a neighborhood fully integrated with the rest of the city, is a signal that it could happen anywhere.

Getting to the root

Many explanations for American society’s penchant for violence exist, but they are clearly inadequate.

Most explanations exemplify what we social psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error.” They focus blame on individuals, not on the situation.

These incidents are seen as the work of psychologically disturbed individuals who can only be constrained by physical force and threats of punishment.

To be sure, those who commit heinous crimes of violence are disturbed individuals. But to overlook how our society has allowed violence to become unexceptional, and hateful ideas acceptable, is to ignore a root cause.

The murderous rampage that took place in Pittsburgh is not the first incident of violent anti-Semitism in America but appears to be the worst. For Jews, it is a painful reminder that physical violence ignited by anti-Jewish hatred – which we thought had been eradicated in the wake of the Holocaust – is still a threat to Jewish life.

Like a virus that mutates, contemporary anti-Semitism has assumed new forms, including efforts to equate Jewish Israelis with Nazis. But recognizable tropes resurface, in particular, lies about Jewish control of the media and economy.

What we hold in common

In the case of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, the motivation seems to have been hatred of a Jewish-founded organization called HIAS now but which was founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Established in the late 19th century to help Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, in recent years, HIAS has turned its attention to helping immigrants from around the world.

To be sure, only a deranged individual would murder innocent Jews because of the work of a Jewish-founded organization. At the same time, we are at a moment in U.S. history when the policy debate about immigration has become ugly and divisive.

A toxic environment fueled by hate speech has emerged, where individuals and groups are blamed for our social ills. Examples include sending troops to the border to block entry of the migrants from Central America, who are called “illegals” by anti-immigrant activists and who the president says bring crime and illegal drugs and will commit sexual assault.

Emphasizing our commonality is both an American ideal and the essence of Judaism. In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting, vigils attended and addressed by people of many religions were popping up in public spaces around the country, giving form to our country’s original motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” which translates to “out of many, one.”

In Judaism, the idea that we are responsible for one another is central to how Jews are supposed to think about themselves.

This moment of grief over the lives lost, and concern for the recovery of those who were injured, should be an opportunity for us to think about how we look at one another.

It is too easy to blame other individuals and groups for the problems we experience. It is more difficult, and perhaps unnatural, to see ourselves as part of the problem. We need to create an environment where acts of violence are not accepted and hatred is not tolerated.

Different ways of talking

As a social scientist who studies the relationship among religious and ethnic groups, and issues such as anti-Semitism, it is clear that along with accepting responsibility for our fellow citizens, we need to find different ways to talk with others. There are ways to debate and elucidate rather than negate.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, there were heated discussions between two schools of thought, Hillel and Shamai, about how to interpret Jewish law. The disciples of Hillel were, for their time, liberal, and Shamai’s followers, conservative.

After a heavenly intervention to resolve their disputes, it was decided that Hillel would be followed. Both positions were regarded as correct, but the followers of Hillel acknowledged Shamai, even as they came to a different conclusion.

The practitioners of current political rhetoric could take heed of this ancient lesson.

As the Pittsburgh Jewish community mourns the loss of their family members and friends, it is tempting to consider these murders as something distant. Because it appears as the rage of a misguided individual, it seems to be something Americans are near-powerless to address.

But hatred does not emerge in a vacuum, nor does violence gain acceptance absent social consensus.

Undoubtedly, Americans will need to find new ways to respond to individuals who break laws and social taboos. The larger task is to create a culture that values our differences, but recognizes our responsibility for caring for one another.

Opinion: FDA Commissioner Wants to Have It Both Ways on Vaping

By Abby W. Schachter

InsideSources.com

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has rightly set out to get more people — particularly teens — to quit smoking cigarettes. However, recent FDA activity strongly suggests that the agency plans to take steps that will make it harder for people to do just that.

A news release on September 18 declares the FDA’s latest attack on e-cigarettes by announcing that the agency will revisit its “compliance policy that extended the compliance dates for manufacturers of certain e-cigarettes, including flavored e-cigarettes, to submit applications for premarket authorization.” In other words, makers of vaping products are warned that flavored pods might no longer be acceptable.

With its latest move, the FDA is specifically targeting flavored pods. As Gottlieb stated on the eve of the news release, “We know that the flavors play an important role in driving the youth appeal” and, in light of this trend, the FDA “may take steps to curtail the marketing and selling of flavored products.”

This announcement comes on the heels of a letter that the FDA sent to 1,300 online and brick-and-mortar e-cigarette retailers threatening — and in some cases exacting — fines for sales to underage consumers. At the same time, the agency demanded that Juul Labs and other major e-cigarette manufacturers either produce plans to discourage teen use or face severe consequences.

The stated purpose of these combined attacks is to reduce the number of teenage vapers. This would be a laudable goal if it were not for two troublesome facts. The first is that the alleged “epidemic” of teen vaping is nonexistent. In fact, vaping rates have dropped among middle-school students and remained low among high-school students. The other major problem is that the campaign against vaping is conducted by those who refuse to acknowledge what the empirical data show — namely, that there is little evidence of serious harm from e-cigarettes.

Significant data point to the positive role e-cigarettes have played in reducing the number of smokers.

Earlier this year, investors were warned about e-cigarettes’ looming competitive threat to traditional cigarettes. Researchers at Citigroup and Morgan Stanley explained that e-cigarette products were disrupting what was previously a predictably steady tobacco market, and that individual stocks like those of Altria — the parent company of Philip Morris International and Marlboro — were likely to experience a challenging earnings environment. Sales trends vary by state, but the data clearly support the analysts’ conclusions: Where e-cigarette sales are strongest, cigarette sales are weaker. And with the news that Gottlieb and company are going after e-cigarette manufacturers, Altria stocks gained $8.5 billion in value.

Gottlieb’s moves against e-cigarettes are understandable given the media attention surrounding e-cigarettes, which almost invariably warns that the country is facing a disastrous health epidemic — especially among teens. This has triggered lobbying efforts aimed at persuading the FDA to do something about teen vaping. Hence, we have Gottlieb’s response: enforcing harsh rules against makers of e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the loudest voices pushing for extreme regulations of e-cigarettes are groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, which is funded by big tobacco through the 1998 tobacco settlement, and Michael Bloomberg’s Truth Initiative, which wants e-cigarettes regulated out of existence.

As oral pathologist Brad Rodu — who specializes in tobacco harm reduction research — told City Journal’s John Tierney, these prohibitionists have lost their common sense. “Like alcohol and cigarettes, most e-cigarettes used by teens are obtained from social sources, not directly from stores, so it makes no sense to go to war against retailers,” Rodu explained to Tierney. “We don’t want kids to use e-cigarettes, but many more are using marijuana and (alcohol), which are much more dangerous. We have to put these behaviors in perspective.”

Gottlieb and company at the FDA have been trying to do just that since 2016 by setting a reasonable public health goal. As Gottlieb explained in August, the FDA plans to focus on “minimizing addiction to the most harmful products while encouraging innovation in those products that could provide adult smokers access to nicotine without the harmful consequences of combustion and cigarettes.” But in this political environment, adhering to such an objective is harder that it looks.

And unfortunately, as the FDA’s imminent crackdown on what is perhaps the most effective smoking-cessation product available shows, Gottlieb seems more interested in placating prohibitionists than sticking to a common-sense regulatory standard.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Abby W. Schachter, the Pittsburgh-based author of “No Child Left Alone: Getting the Government Out of Parenting,” is an associate fellow at the R Street Institute. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.

THEIR VIEW: The American Taliban

By Bob Topper

If you believe in the separation of church and state, then you probably think that evangelicals exert far too much influence on American life, our politics and culture. When I remarked to a friend that evangelicals are the America’s answer to the Taliban, he thought the comparison was too harsh. After all, he said, “Evangelicals don’t go around killing people.”

Maybe not, but the beliefs they hold and the positions they take can have deadly consequences. Take the evangelical position on abortion, which has had a major effect on national foreign policy. The Helms Amendment, first enacted in 1973, provides that no US funds “may be used to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” What a strange dichotomy. Abortion is legal in the US and available to all our citizens, yet we will not allow its practice in developing countries. And what is the consequence? According to Sneha Barot of the Guttmacher Institute, every year, millions of women suffer serious injuries from unsafe abortion, and 47,000 of them die—almost all in the Global South.

I don’t know anyone who likes the idea of abortion, but most objections to it seem based on a religious belief that the soul enters the body at conception, something for which there is simply no proof. And because there is no evidence, it should have no bearing on our laws or national policy. People everywhere must be free to make their own decisions on abortion, decisions based on personal beliefs. If one’s religious convictions tell her or him that abortion is wrong, then it is clearly wrong for that person, but it does not follow that it is wrong for anyone else.

Evangelicals have a right to think abortion is wrong and to try to persuade others. But if we live in a society that is truly free, that belief cannot be imposed on others, including non-believers. Doing so necessarily infringes on others’ rights. We have lived in a culture that encourages honest debate. Perhaps through debate, the pro-life faction can convince the pro-choice side that they are right, and abortion clinics will cease to exist for lack of interest, or perhaps not, but our laws need to be silent, structured to neither require nor prevent abortion. Yet today evangelicals rejoice at placing Brett Kavanaugh on our Supreme Court, trusting that Roe v Wade will at long last be overturned, while others fear that personal freedom will become constrained by a religious belief.

Evangelicals claim that the constitution was inspired by Christ, and is based on Judeo-Christian principles. But not all of the founding fathers were Christian. Many, like Jefferson, were deists, and some, like Franklin appear to have been atheists. But all of the founding fathers realized and understood the dangers posed by both monarchy and theocracy and wisely chose to separate religious belief from our government and to base our laws on reason, not scripture. The words Christ and Christian do not appear in our founding documents.

Nonetheless, theocratic government is an area where evangelicals and the Taliban have something in common. For the Taliban government and religion are one and the same. While here in the US they are separated, there are many in our government who would set aside the Constitution in favor of biblical teaching. Most recently attorney general Jeff Sessions quoted from the bible to justify separating children from their parents, and Judge Roy Moore was sanctioned twice by our court system for basing judgments on the ten commandments and displaying the commandments in his court house. No, we are not a theocracy, but can anyone doubt that if the Judge Roy Moores had their way we would become a Christian theocracy?

Roy Moore is not an aberration. Our equally extreme evangelical vice president Mike Pence also believes our laws should be based on the bible. And he opposes abortion, Planned Parenthood, gay rights and stem cell research. Moreover, he denies climate change, and promotes the false equivalence of creationism and evolution. Religious belief blinds him to the mountains of evidence that have shown us how truly fascinating and marvelous our real world is. A closed mind one step away from the presidency is truly alarming.

Evangelicals believe the bible, as the Taliban believe the Koran, to be the true word of their one god. And evangelicals point to the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies and miracles as proof, a circular logic that does could not meet any scientific standard. And while there is no scientific proof of ancient miracles, the ancient writers would consider many things that are commonplace today as miraculous—cancer cures by radiation or chemo treatment for example. Far more “miracles” have been produced by modern science and medicine than were ever conceived in the bible or produced by prayer. What is certain is that the rejection of science in favor of ancient scripture already inhibits research and the development of new drugs and medical procedures, which have dire consequences, as it has in the Islamic states.

The philosopher Spinoza, one of the most brilliant minds of the seventeenth century, was raised in the Jewish faith. He recognized inconsistencies in the bible, and became a critic of Judaism, and in fact all organized religions, for which he was labeled a heretic. Nonetheless, he believed in a god and that the one true, consistent and important message of the bible was “love thy neighbor.”

Spinoza also understood the danger posed by theocracy and explained that theocratic governments fail because their leaders are motivated by personal interpretations of scripture, rather than doing what is in the public interest. Such subjectivity inevitably leads to disagreement. The thousand-year violent and bloody struggle between the Sunnis and Shiites is the most glaring example, but there are many examples of similar conflict between Christian sects, the Church of England and the Catholic Church during the reign of Henry the Eighth for instance.

Spinoza also believed that a democratic society, with laws based on reason and evidence, like the society we enjoy in the United States, offers the greatest potential to serve the public good. But we live in a time when our American democracy is threatened. Evangelical support of national leaders who choose to ignore evidence, refuse to reason and attack our democratic institutions should alarm every American. Blind adherence to the bible promises to be as damaging to our way of life as the Taliban’s blind adherence to the Koran has devastated Afghanistan’s once thriving culture. The vision of Spinoza and our inspired American way of life are at stake.

Bob Topper is a retired engineer and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

The Conversation

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a priceless link to the Bible’s past

October 30, 2018

Author: Daniel Falk, Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Disclosure statement: Daniel Falk does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., has removed five Dead Sea Scrolls from exhibits after tests confirmed these fragments were not from ancient biblical scrolls but forgeries.

Over the last decade, the Green family, owners of the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby, has paid millions of dollars for fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls to be the crown jewels in the museum’s exhibition showcasing the history and heritage of the Bible.

Why would the Green family spend so much on small scraps of parchment?

Dead Sea Scrolls’ discovery

From the first accidental discovery, the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a dramatic one.

In 1947, Bedouin men herding goats in the hills to the west of the Dead Sea entered a cave near Wadi Qumran in the West Bank and stumbled on clay jars filled with leather scrolls. Ten more caves were discovered over the next decade that contained tens of thousands of fragments belonging to over 900 scrolls. Most of the finds were made by the Bedouin.

Some of these scrolls were later acquired by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities through complicated transactions and a few by the state of Israel. The bulk of the scrolls came under the control of the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1967.

Included among the scrolls are the oldest copies of books in the Hebrew Bible and many other ancient Jewish writings: prayers, commentaries, religious laws, magical and mystical texts. They have shed much new light on the origins of the Bible, Judaism and even Christianity.

The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible dated to the 10th century A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls include over 225 copies of biblical books that date up to 1,200 years earlier.

These range from small fragments to a complete scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther and Nehemiah. They show that the books of the Jewish Bible were known and treated as sacred writings before the time of Jesus, with essentially the same content.

On the other hand, there was no “Bible” as such but a loose assortment of writings sacred to various Jews including numerous books not in the modern Jewish Bible.

Two men stand on the foundations of the ancient Khirbet Qumran ruins, which lie on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan, in 1957. The ruins are above the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. AP Photo

Moreover, the Dead Sea Scrolls show that in the first century B.C. there were different versions of books that became part of the Hebrew canon, especially Exodus, Samuel, Jeremiah, Psalms and Daniel.

This evidence has helped scholars understand how the Bible came to be, but it neither proves nor disproves its religious message.

Judaism and Christianity

The Dead Sea Scrolls are unique in representing a sort of library of a particular Jewish group that lived at Qumran in the first century B.C. to about 68 A.D. They probably belonged to the Essenes, a strict Jewish movement described by several writers from the first century A.D.

The scrolls provide a rich trove of Jewish religious texts previously unknown. Some of these were written by Essenes and give insights into their views, as well as their conflict with other Jews including the Pharisees.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain nothing about Jesus or the early Christians, but indirectly they help to understand the Jewish world in which Jesus lived and why his message drew followers and opponents. Both the Essenes and the early Christians believed they were living at the time foretold by prophets when God would establish a kingdom of peace and that their teacher revealed the true meaning of Scripture.

Fame and forgeries

The fame of the Dead Sea Scrolls is what has encouraged both forgeries and the shadow market in antiquities. They are often called the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century because of their importance to understanding the Bible and the Jewish world at the time of Jesus.

Religious artifacts especially attract forgeries, because people want a physical connection to their faith. The so-called James Ossuary, a limestone box, that was claimed to be the burial box of the brother of Jesus, attracted much attention in 2002. A few years later, it was found that it was indeed an authentic burial box for a person named James from the first century A.D., but by adding “brother of Jesus” the forger made it seem priceless.

Scholars eager to publish and discuss new texts are partly responsible for this shady market.

The recent confirmation of forged scrolls at the Museum of Bible only confirms that artifacts should be viewed with highest suspicion unless the source is fully known.

The Conversation

Inside the world of million-dollar beauty pageants – for camels

October 25, 2018

Authors

Jaime Gongora

Associate Professor, Animal and Wildlife Genetics and Genomics, University of Sydney

Mahmood Alamri

PhD student, University of Sydney

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: University of Sydney provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

When you hear “beauty pageants” you probably think of human women (and men) competing. However, a series of pageants on the Arabian Peninsula celebrate the beauty of the dromedary, or one-humped camel.

Interest in camel beauty competitions has grown since the boom of oil production during the 20th century, as camels became associated with status and wealth.

These pageants have become massive. In 2017, some 30,000 camels competed in the King Abul Aziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia, which has a prize pool of around AU$45 million. The winners in six categories each get roughly AU$7.5 million, along with the crown of “Miss Camel”.

The lure of these glittering prizes has also led to cheating. Earlier this year 12 camels were disqualified from a camel beauty pageant in Saudi Arabia after receiving Botox injections to improve the look of their lips and noses.

So what constitutes a prize-winning camel?

Omani camel contests

Many breeds of camels compete in pageants across the Arabian Peninsula, so they are all assessed differently. I have worked with the Omani Camel Racing Federation to help develop a new scoring system, which aims to improve transparency and fairness.

A requirement of Omani beauty contests is that only pure-bred camels from Oman may participate. Camel owners must testify under oath to the authenticity of their animals’ pedigree, or they are banned from taking part.

Local committees of experts assess and rank the camels, which are categorised by age after a teeth examination. They look for:

  • Coat: a natural appearance with shiny hair of a clearly definable colour. The brighter the hair, the more beautiful the pageant entrant is considered to be. No hair-colouring, tattooing or other cosmetic modification is allowed.
  • Judges look for light, evenly coloured hair. Mahmood Al amri and Jaime Gongora, Author provided
  • Neck: must be long, wide, and elegant and lean, neither overly full nor skinny. The area between the neck and the hump should be long and strong.
  • Head: should be large and upright as well as proportioned to the rest of the body. Lips are pouty and pendulous, with the upper lip being cleft, chin is visible from the front and side, and eyes are wide with long, dark lashes. Ears are long, furrowed and pricked up, and also keep the sand out.
  • Hump: large and shapely, in the usual position close to the back – a good posture and a large hump may increase a camel’s chance of winning.

How competitions happen

Pageant contestants are housed away from the sun and fed milk, wheat, honey and dates before the competition. During the contest itself, a handful of judges appointed by Omani Camel Racing Federation inspect the camels, consult with each other, and rank the animals. The whole scoring process is qualitative, and at no point do the judges write a score or explain the reasoning behind their decisions.

The increasing popularity of camel beauty contests has caused some dissatisfaction over the absence of a formal scoring system.

While studying the genetics of a range of animals as diverse as crocodiles, platypuses, oryxes, wild pigs and peccaries, I agreed to take on a project to define criteria for competitions, based on the traditional judging system.

We began with a simple question: “What features make a camel beautiful from an Omani perspective?” We then developed a numerical scoring card to help judges explain their decisions.

We identified 22 body measurements across the head, upper body, front and rear, as well as general appearance and colour. Each of these is scored to give a maximum total of 100 points. The judges we have consulted are happy with the outcome and are looking forward to validating the system in upcoming major contests across Oman.

We are also assessing overall genetic patterns of the pageant contestants and their association with beauty traits. We will be extending our genetic studies to camels used for racing, milk and meat in Oman.

The scoring and ranking of camels during beauty contests can be a challenging business. We hope giving judges a numerical system will lend support to their decisions and help keep the owners and the general public, and consequently the pageant contestants, happy.

In this Oct. 27, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Ill. Eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Trump on Oct. 29 escalated his threats against a migrant caravan trudging slowly toward the U.S. border as the Pentagon prepared to deploy thousands of U.S. troops to support the border patrol. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121668052-d65c90dd10654675a8826ae3f6a0f167.jpgIn this Oct. 27, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Ill. Eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Trump on Oct. 29 escalated his threats against a migrant caravan trudging slowly toward the U.S. border as the Pentagon prepared to deploy thousands of U.S. troops to support the border patrol. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Central American migrants reach the shore on the Mexican side of the Suchiate River after wading across, on the the border between Guatemala and Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Among the thousands of mostly Honduran migrants in the caravan walking through southern Mexico, there are also Guatemalans. Though not as big a group, they too have plenty of reasons to leave home. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121668052-d157f2d2806341da86c339948966cb9e.jpgCentral American migrants reach the shore on the Mexican side of the Suchiate River after wading across, on the the border between Guatemala and Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Among the thousands of mostly Honduran migrants in the caravan walking through southern Mexico, there are also Guatemalans. Though not as big a group, they too have plenty of reasons to leave home. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
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