Bashar al-Assad has some thoughts on the English language

WikiLeaks' document dump of emails from Syrian government officials has so far been light on scandalous details about either the Assad family or the opposition. But today's release did provide one unexpected revelation: Bashar al-Assad appears to be an avid student, and critic, of English. It's not exactly George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," but the Syrian president forwarded the following Internet joke to his translator with the subject line "ENGLISH IS A STUPID LANGUAGE!"

Let's face it. English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant,
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England.

We sometimes take English for granted,
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is nighther from Guinea nor is it aa pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don't fing?
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn't the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?
If the teacher taught,
Why didn't the preacher praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What the heck does a humanitarian eat?

Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways,
And drive on parkways?
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day,
And cold as hell on another?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down.
And in which you fill IN a form
By filling it OUT.
And a bell is only heard once it GOES!

English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn't a race at all)
That is why when the stars are out they are visible
But when the lights are out they are invisible.
And why is it that when I wind up my watch, it starts,
But when I wind up this poem,
It ends!!!!

Assad also seems to have a fascination with American idioms (admittedly tricky devils). In another email to his translator, he includes a multiple-choice quiz with such questions as:  "My friend likes hardcore trance music but it's not (my preference)." A) my cup of tea B) a fine kettle of fish C) the icing on the cake D) the cream of the crop.

Assad appears to be a very good student -- there are reportedly more than 800 emails between him and his translator in the WikiLeaks files.


Israel plans for naval buildup

Energy resources are a hot commodity in the Levant Basin days, and with 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil, 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, and 5 billion barrels of natural gas liquids at stake, the Israeli defense ministry is asking for a "one-time budget increase" of about $760 million to boost its naval capacity in the Mediterranean Sea so it can better protect the country's offshore natural gas platforms. Though Israel purchased its fourth Dolphin-class diesel-electric submarine from Germany earlier this year to the tune of over $500 million, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Benny Gantz are on board with the plan, which "calls for adding four new warships to Israel's naval fleet and deploying hundreds of soldiers in the area."

Natural gas discoveries in the early twenty-first century have created a military debacle for Israel, which does not have demarcated maritime boundary with Lebanon.  All of the multinational gas platforms are privately owned and fall within Israel's exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles from the coast, but they are located beyond Israel's territorial waters, which only stretch 12 nautical miles from land.  

Israel's first offshore natural gas discovery, Tamar, is not slated to come online until 2013, but the defense institution fears that the platforms are already targets for terrorist attacks from Hezbollah, which receives long-range missiles from Syria. The Israeli navy does not traditionally get the lion's share of the defense budget, and top officials are worrying. As one anonymous senior Israeli military planner told Reuters, "We will do our best, but not without a major boost to our capabilities." In May, senior naval officer Capt. Sassi Hodeda told the Los Angeles Times that the navy wants to improve its radar systems and use unmanned surface vehicles to patrol, but added that they require "special technology" the navy does not have.

If the navy does receive the extra funding, the vessels it purchases "will have to accommodate an advanced radar system, a helicopter and a launch system capable of firing long-range air defense and surface-to-surface missiles." According to the Jerusalem Post, the options include designing the ships in the U.S. using foreign military aid, and building them in South Korea, but if Israel is really looking for international help, maybe it should consider ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty first.

AFP/Getty Images