Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Council in the Palace [Part 20]; Assyrian

The seers on silver couches round the throne;
The hangings of the carved lintel thrown
Aside; the heralds cried: “The Sar! The Sar!
The council opens our King Izdubar!”
The Sar walked o’er the velvets to his throne
Of gold inlaid with gems. A vassal prone
Before the Sar now placed the stool of gold,
Arranged his royal robes with glittering fold
Of laces, fringes rich inwove with pearls,
Embroidered with quaint figures, curious twirls.
Behind the throne a prince of royal blood
Arrayed in courtly splendor, waiting stood,
And gently waved a jewelled fan aloft
Above the Sar’s tiara; carpets soft
From Accad’s looms the varied tilings bright,
In tasteful order, part conceal from sight.

The glittering pillars stand with gold o’erlaid
In rows throughout the room to the arcade,
Within the entrance from a columned hall.
The ivory-graven panels on the wall
On every side are set in solid gold.
The canopy chased golden pillars hold
Above the throne, and emeralds and gems
Flash from the counsellor’s rich diadems.
In silence all await the monarch’s sign:
“This council hath been called, the hour is thine
To counsel with thy King upon a plan
Of conquest of our foes, who ride this plain,
Unchecked around; these Suti should be driven
From Sumir’s plain. Have ye our wrongs forgiven?
Khumbaba hath enjoyed great Accad’s spoils
Too long; with him we end these long turmoils.
What sayest thou, Heabani?–all my seers?
Hath Accad not her chariots and spears?”

Then one among the wisest seers arose
“To save our precious tune which hourly flows,
He should our seer, Rab-sak-i[1] first invite
To lay his plans before the Sar, and light
May break across our vision. I confess
Great obstacles I see, but acquiesce
In any plan you deem may bring success.
The gods, I feel our cause will gladly bless.”
Another spoke, and all agree at last
To hear the seer whose wisdom all surpassed.

Heabani modestly arose and said,
And gracefully to all inclined his head:
“O Sar! thy seer will gladly counsel give
To thee, and all our seers; my thanks receive
For thy great confidence in my poor skill
To crush our foes who every country fill.
I with the Sar agree that we should strike
A blow against the rival king, who like
Our Sar, is a great giant king, and lives
Within a mountain castle, whence he grieves
All nations by his tyranny, and reigns
With haughty power from Kharsak to these plains.
I’ll lead the way, my Sar, to his wild home;
‘Tis twenty “kas-pu”[2] hence, if you will come.
A wall surrounds his castle in a wood,
With brazen gates strong fastened. I have stood
Beneath the lofty pines which dwindle these
To shrubs that grow in parks as ornate trees.

The mighty walls will reach six “gars”[3] in height,
And two in breadth, like Nipur’s[4] to the sight.
And when you go, take with you many mules;
With men to bring the spoils, and needed tools
To break the gates, his castle overthrow:
To lose no time, to-morrow we should go.
To Erech, pines and cedars we can bring
With all the wealth of Elam’s giant king,
And Erech fill with glorious parks and halls,
Remove these “man-u-bani,”[5] ruined walls.
Take to your hearts, ye seers, poor Erech’s wrongs!
Her fall, the bards of Elam sing in songs.

I love dear Erech, may her towers shine!”
He seized his harp, thus sung the seer divine:

“O Erech! thy bright plains I love;
Although from thee thy seer did rove,
My heart remained with thee!
The foe destroyed thy beauteous towers,
Sa-mu forgot to rain her showers,
And could I happy be?

Mine eyes beheld thy fallen gates,
Thy blood warm flowing in thy streets,
My heart was broken then.
I raised mine eyes and saw thy Sar
In glory on his steed of war,
And joy returned again!

I saw the foe in wild dismay
Before him flee that glorious day.
With joy I heard the cry
Of victory resound afar,
Saw Elam crushed ‘neath Accad’s car:
I shouted, Victory!

Away! till birds of prey shall rend
His flesh and haughty Elam bend
Before our mighty Sar!
Beneath his forest of pine-trees
The battle-cry then loudly raise,
We follow Izdubar!

And may the birds of prey surround
Khumbaba stretched upon the ground,
Destroy his body there!
And Izdubar alone be king,
And all his people joyful sing,
With glory crown him here!

All hail! All hail! our giant King,
The “amaranti”[6] for him bring,
To crown him, crown him here,
As King of Accad and Sutu,
And all the land of Subar-tu!
So sayeth Hea’s seer!”

The counsellors and chieftains wildly cry
Around the throne, “All hail “izzu sar-ri”
Of Su-bar-tu!” and shouting leave the halls
To summon Accad’s soldiers from the walls
To hear the war proclaimed against their foes,
And Accad’s war-cry from them loud arose.

King Izdubar Heabani warmly prest
Within his arms upon his throbbing breast,
And said, “Let us to the war temple go,
That all the gods their favor may bestow.”
The seer replied, “Tis well! then let us wend
Our way, and at the altar we will bend,–
To Ishtar’s temple, where our goddess queen
Doth reign, seek her propitious favor, then
In Samas’ holy temple pray for aid
To crush our foe;–with glory on each blade,
Our hands will carry victory in war.”
The chiefs, without the temple, join their Sar.

[Footnote 1: “Rab-sak-i,” chief of the high ones, chief of the seers and counsellors; prime minister.]—[Footnote 2: “Twenty kaspu,” 140 miles; each kaspu was seven miles, or two hours’ journey.]—[Footnote 3: “Six gars,” 120 feet; each gar was a twenty-foot measure. Khumbaba’s walls were thus 120 feet high and forty feet thick–much like the walls of Babylon.]—[Footnote 4: “Nipur” was one of the cities of Izdubar’s kingdom, from whence he came to the rescue of Erech.]—[Footnote 5: “Man-u-ban-i,” a tree or shrub of unpleasant odor mentioned by Heabani. See Sayce’s revised edition Smith’s “Chald. Acc. of Genesis,” p. 254. The fragment translated by Mr. Sayce should be placed in another position in the epic.]—[Footnote 6: “Amaranti,” amaranth. “Immortal amaranth.”–“Par. Lost.”]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

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World News Headlines: 12-14-2018

GERMANY (DW)

EU rules out Brexit renegotiation, vows to avoid Irish backstop with free trade deal before 2021; British Prime Minister Theresa May wants reassurances that a section of the Brexit withdrawal agreement known as the Irish backstop is temporary. EU leaders say they will at least try to avoid triggering it.European Union leaders on Friday once again ruled out changes to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal agreement. But they reassured British Prime Minister Theresa May that they would try to finalize a new UK-EU free trade deal before 2021. In a joint statement, the leaders of 27 EU member states said it was their “firm determination” to finish the free trade deal as quickly as possible to avoid triggering a controversial “backstop” arrangement in the withdrawal agreement. The backstop, which is legally binding, would maintain an open border between Northern Ireland, a British territory, and EU-member Ireland if London and Brussels fail to agree on a new free trade deal by December 2020.

Strasbourg terror suspect shot dead by police; The Strasbourg Christmas market shooting suspect Cherif Chekatt has been shot dead by French police. The jihadi “Islamic State” group says he was one of its militants. French police have shot dead Cherif Chekatt , who police believe was behind the Strasbourg Christmas market attack that killed three people on Tuesday. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner confirmed Thursday evening that police shot Cherif Chekatt after he fired at them in a street in Strasbourg’s Neudorf neighborhood. Authorities said the suspect was armed with a knife and pistol. Hours after the incident took place, the news agency of the terrorist organization “Islamic State” (IS) said Cherif Chekatt was an IS miltant, but provided no evidence for the claim.

Indian court rejects graft probe into French jet deal; India’s top court has dismissed calls for an investigation into a fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced accusations of corruption over the deal.ndia’s Supreme Court on Friday rejected petitions calling for an investigation into a fighter plane contract worth an estimated $8.7 billion (roughly €7.6 billion), amid accusations of financial irregularities. The court heard a series of petitions that questioned the deal involving 36 Rafale jets, finalized in 2016. The arrangement attracted controversy over its spiraling price tag — and the suspicion that officials granted favors to an Indian partner company. However, the New Delhi court ruled that it was not in a position to decide on the matter.

Irish parliament passes bill to legalize abortion; Following a landmark referendum earlier this year, abortions will be allowed in Ireland for the first time. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar described the passing of the bill as a ‘historic moment for Irish women.’The Irish parliament on Thursday passed legislation allowing abortions for the first time. The new legislation allows terminations to be carried out up to 12 weeks of pregnancy or in conditions where there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant person.

EU extends sanctions on Russia over Ukraine; The six-month sanctions extension hits Russia’s financial, energy and defense industries and comes amid heightened tensions with Ukraine. NATO has also pledged its support for Ukraine.European Council President Donald Tusk announced Thursday that EU leaders had agreed to extend comprehensive sanctions against Russia. Tweeting from the EU summit in Brussels, Tusk wrote, “Decision: EU unanimously prolongs economic sanctions against Russia given zero progress in implementation of Minsk agreements.”

Jordan: Hundreds protest revised IMF-backed tax law; Jordan’s government almost collapsed in the summer after it tried to pass a deeply unpopular tax bill. It has been facing fresh protests since it passed a similar law in mid-November. Hundreds of Jordanians gathered in front of the Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s office in the capital Amman to protest a tax law backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government scrapped a very similar bill in the summer after massive protests against the measure forced the resignation of former Prime Minister Hani Mulki. The new law, which was passed in November, included a tax hike for employees of at least five percent and on companies of between 20 and 40 percent. The tax threshold for households was also raised to 20,000 Jordanian dinars ($28,000, €24,650) and exemptions for education and health expenses were introduced. Demonstrators also called for democratic reforms and accused Razza of failing to fight corruption and improve public services. Many called for the release of at least 24 people who had taken part in protests in the past two weeks, according to local media.

Venezuela’s anti-government newspaper, El Nacional, forced to stop the presses;
El Nacional, the last major anti-government newspaper in Venezuela has ceased its print edition after 75 years amid pressure from the Maduro regime. The state controls imports of printing paper used by the outlet.Venezuela’s daily El Nacional will completely halt its print edition on Thursday, its editors said, blaming the move on pressure from the government. El Nacional was the last opposition newspaper still maintaining a nationwide circulation in Venezuela. “We’ve endured longer than the others,” El Nacional’s president and CEO Miguel Otero told the Spanish newspaper ABC. “But in the end we could not persist.” The popular daily would continue publishing news online.

Hungarians protest changes to labor laws and the creation of government-controlled courts; Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets in a second day of protests in the capital Budapest. They are furious about the government’s decision to allow employers to demand up to 400 hours of overtime from workers.Some 3,000 angry demonstrators took to the streets of Budapest on Thursday to protest laws passed in a tumultuous parliamentary session a day earlier. Many of the protesters gathered in front of parliament, while others blocked streets and bridges in the city. Protesters could be heard shouting “Dirty Fidesz” and “Orban go to hell,” references to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party.

Julian Assange facing embassy exit and uncertain fate; Julian Assange is fighting to stay at Ecuador’s embassy in London, but his hosts don’t want him anymore. The WikiLeaks founder accused the embassy of carrying out a surveillance operation on behalf of the FBI. WikiLeaks founder and transparency activist Julian Assange is locked in a legal battle with Ecuador over the new stringent conditions imposed in October on his embassy stay. This week, he has threatened to take his case to the International Court of Justice if a second appeal against the Ecuadorian government fails. The new rules by the Ecuadorian Embassy have resulted in the tightening of privileges he is allowed and put financial demands on his remaining in the building. It also introduced the option for Quito to expel the Australian if he breaks the new rules. Assange sought to challenge the new house rules in court in November, saying they violated his fundamental rights, but judges ruled against him. He has appealed the decision and should receive a verdict on in eight days.

FRANCE (France24)

Turkish soldier killed in clashes with Kurdish militia in Syria’s Afrin; The soldier was shot by members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia from the nearby city of Tal Rifaat, east of Afrin, the ministry said in a statement. The Turkish army responded with “heavy fire” against YPG targets, the ministry added. The city of Afrin was captured in March this year from the US-backed militia by Turkish armed forces and Syrian rebels supported by Ankara.

Strasbourg Christmas market shooting suspect killed by police; The suspect, identified as 29-year-old French national Chérif Chekatt, was killed in Strasbourg’s Neudorf/Meinau district on Thursday evening. Chekatt is suspected to have killed three people and injured more than a dozen others in an attack on Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market on Tuesday. He is believed to have acted alone. According to French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, three police officers stumbled across the suspect while on routine patrol. Chekatt then opened fire on them, prompting them to return the gunfire and kill him. More than 700 French security forces had been searching for Chekatt since Tuesday’s attack. Police in several other countries, including Germany and Italy, had also joined in the manhunt. The propaganda wing of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, but offered no supporting evidence.

JAPAN (NHK)

Govt. starts landfill work in Okinawa; Japan’s central government is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to relocate an American military base within the southern prefecture of Okinawa. They’ve started full-scale land reclamation work despite strong local opposition.Crews have begun pouring sand and dirt into the coastal area of Henoko so the base can be moved there. The reclamation had been suspended due to legal battles between the central and local governments.The US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station currently sits in a densely populated area and poses a safety concern because of the volume of military air traffic.Both Tokyo and Washington maintain the planned move is the only solution.Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “With the security environment surrounding Japan becoming increasingly serious, we want to maintain deterrence under the Japan-US alliance. And bearing in mind we also need to eliminate the risks posed by the Futenma base, relocating to Henoko is the only viable option.”

China data disappoints; Fresh data out of China suggest that the ongoing trade dispute is creating uncertainties for businesses and consumers. Chinese officials will likely step up support efforts as the economy faces increasing downward pressure. The National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday retail sales rose 8.1 percent in November from a year before. That’s the slowest pace in more than 15 years. A sharp drop in sales of new cars was a major factor. Consumers also bought fewer smartphones. And industrial output in the same month grew 5.4 percent from a year earlier. That was down from 5.9 percent in October. Spokesperson of the Bureau of Statistics, Mao Shengyong told reporters, “We need to make sure the economy is on a stable growth path by stimulating the market, and drawing out potential demand.”

Cambodia’s new law could relax politician ban; Cambodia’s parliament has passed legislation that could pave the way for lifting a ban on political activity by opposition politicians. The National Assembly unanimously passed an amendment to the Political Party Law on Thursday. It will allow people to resume political activity after requests are sent to the prime minister for approval from the king. But the leader of the main opposition party remains under house arrest, and it is unclear to what extent the changes will apply to opposition party members. Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition party in November last year. More than 100 people were banned from politics for 5 years. Many senior members of the party were forced to flee the country. Then in July, Prime Minister Hun Sen extended his decades-long grip on power. His party won all of the parliamentary seats in the general election that was widely criticized in the west as being a sham.

Sri Lankan president’s order ‘unconstitutional’; Sri Lanka’s supreme court has ruled that a presidential order to dissolve parliament is unconstitutional. The ruling is just the latest development in a political crisis that’s gripped the country for weeks. The top court’s Thursday ruling means a proposed January election will not take place. Political turmoil reached a boiling point in Parliament last month over the legitimacy of the newly appointed prime minister. It all started when President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe back in October, accusing him of corruption. He then appointed former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. Local media say China and India are engaged in a proxy political tug-of-war between pro-China Rajapaksa and pro-India Wickremesinghe. With both men claiming legitimacy, there is some speculation the court ruling could lead to Wickremesinghe’s reinstatement.

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