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newsmongering 04/30

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> So Stephen King is pretty righteously pissed that he’s not taxed more. It’s a great editorial (there’s some nasty fatphobia in the first page, though; an unnecessary cheap shot); I might have to actually read his books now.

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share.

> Remember that proposed Egyptian necrophilia law thing that was floating a week or so ago? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky). In the words of the Christian Science Monitor’s Dan Murphy, this rumor is “hooey, utter hooey.”

> Some of you may be aware of my complete and utter dislike of the TSA. I have yet to read anything that convincingly legitimizes the extent of their budget and authority (the closest anything’s come has been Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgement Inside the Bush Administration, which is an interesting conservative legal perspective on the Bush presidency, but still: “we can’t tell the public why, it’s just too dangerous!” does not justify prolonged extensions of that magnitude). So I was thoroughly delighted by Bruce Schneier’s discussion of post-9/11 airport security:

Increased fear is the final harm, and its effects are both emotional and physical. By sowing mistrust, by stripping us of our privacy—and in many cases our dignity—by taking away our rights, by subjecting us to arbitrary and irrational rules, and by constantly reminding us that this is the only thing between us and death by the hands of terrorists, the TSA and its ilk are sowing fear. And by doing so, they are playing directly into the terrorists’ hands.

Cory Doctorow’s comments – linked at the end of the piece – are pretty great, too.

> Speaking of fear and the problem of fear in society, danah boyd has a great rough draft titled “The Power of Fear in Networked Publics” – she quite interestingly links the concept of radical transparency with the outing of LGBTetc. public figures, and has a great comment on the concept of ‘progress’:

In Germany, the 1920s were an extraordinarily gay time. In all senses of the word.  Fear squelched that.  I don’t want to get all Godwin’s Law on you here, but it’s important to realize that social forces are not linear.  There’s no universal narrative of “progress” where we continue to march forward to ever-increasing levels of enlightenment.  Hell, there are radically divergent ideas of what constitutes progress and enlightenment in the first place.

It’s a relatively quick read, and well worth your time.

> I occasionally (…often) get yelled at for not posting enough (…any) cheerful stuff, so: here’s Tufts’s Daniel Drezner (he of the international theory of zombies) with a roundup of a pretty good foreign policy news week (excepting a gaff by Joe Biden, which is either ho-hum or cringe-worthy depending on your tolerance for “that’s what she said” jokes).

> Speaking of good news, the same guy who directed the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is on board to direct an adaptation of The Graveyard Book, which is one of my favorite books of all time ever. (My parents and I read it aloud on a car trip and had to pull over to cry, and then we weren’t even mad at it for breaking our hearts. It’s that kind of book.)

 

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Written by whackanarwhal

April 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Dear America: We need to talk.

with 4 comments

Dear America,

I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’m a little concerned about where this relationship is headed. I’m not saying that I want to break up; I’d suggest some time apart, but I’ve spent ample time away from you and I don’t think that’s really fixed anything (those brief feelings of elation inspired by being back in the only land that understands the joy of cold pizza for breakfast notwithstanding). In short: we need to talk, and I need you to listen to me, because I’m serious.

America, sometimes I can’t figure you out anymore. I just don’t know what you’re thinking sometimes. Ninety-nine percent of your women have been on birth control at some point in their lives, and yet we have serious presidential candidates endorsing its eradication and movements aimed to defund its providers, the places women turn to when they don’t have anywhere else. When your congress convenes a panel to discuss the religious implications of mandatory insurance coverage of birth control, women are deemed unfit to participate. The one woman who is eventually allowed to testify discusses its health benefits and is branded a slut by one of the country’s most controversial commentators, which isn’t necessarily a surprise – but the aforementioned presidential candidates condemn his choice of words, not his sentiment. God forbid a woman who actually wanted access to birth control in order to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with her chosen partner(s) be allowed to speak. Women are barely allowed to suggest that they take the Pill for ovarian cysts, let alone indicate that actually want to have non-procreative sex ever.

America, your maternal death rate has doubled in the last 20 years. Statistically speaking, I actually had a better chance of surviving childbirth in the era of hot pants than I do now. In thirty-six states, if I am in prison, I can legally be shackled to a hospital bed during childbirth, apparently for fear that I’ll run away midway through labor. There’s a slight chance that you’d actually be chaining me to the bed in order to shame me for having sex and being a criminal, but that might be too radical an idea for you to accept.

America, a lawmaker in Georgia has suggested that women should be forced to carry stillborn infants to term, because that’s what pigs and cows do in the barnyard. America, I think you can understand why I resent being compared to livestock, and I think you should also consider that pigs and cows spend quite amount of time standing in their own shit before they’re eventually slaughtered. In short, I don’t aspire to be a cow or a pig, and I’m a little disturbed by the implication that I should.

America, even though studies have shown that sex education in schools delays sexual activity in students and makes them more likely to have safer sex when they eventually do get down to it, many of your politicians say that sex education should be taken out of schools entirely. The thought is that parents can teach their children better than the state. Which makes me wonder if the Georgia lawmaker is a parent, because if so, he probably tells his kids that they go into heat a span before foaling season. (This…is not true. Fyi.)

America, in Oklahoma (and soon possibly Kansas and Arizona), if I or the fetus I carry show indications of complications that could possibly cause me to consider aborting the pregnancy for whatever reason, my doctor can choose not to tell me. Women could die because a doctor didn’t tell her something that could have saved her life, America. I think you understand why I might be uncomfortable with that. The doctor gets to choose if I get the information that might allow me to make the choice to continue the pregnancy and to prepare (medically, financially, emotionally) for the baby. Apparently my doctor is qualified to be my pastor/priest, family/friends, and counselor/therapist (not to mention spouse/partner) without my consent; that’s a decision I would prefer to discuss with them. They know me, my abilities, my finances – my life. My doctor, as a rule, doesn’t. My doctor has to look a chart to remember my name.

America, in Arizona, a proposed bill could make it legal for employers to fire women who use their employer-provided health care to pay for birth control. (The bill’s original text allowed employers to fire women for purchasing birth control at all.) No comment on if they’ll be checking male employee’s wallets for condoms or firing them for having vasectomies. America, it’s like men aren’t involved in heterosexual sex at all! Or rather, that they can’t be shamed for it.

America, in multiple states, if I should for whatever reason require an abortion, lawmakers want to require doctors to rape me with an eight to ten-inch ultrasound wand beforehand and show me the image. And then describe to me the image. Apparently, what with the lack of comprehensive sex ed in schools (barnyards don’t often come with sonograms, after all), lawmakers are very concerned that I don’t know what a fetus looks like. Their concern is touching, but it’s also horrifically invasive, emotionally rending, not likely to change my decision, and also none of their damn business.

America, if I’m not supposed to have access to good sex ed, if  I don’t have ready access to birth control, if I don’t know that my doctor is telling me the truth about my health, if I have a pretty high likelihood of dying in childbirth, if there’s not a hell of a lot of guarantee that  I’ll get my job back afterward (and that I can be fired for using a breast pump at work even if I am)…

America, I think you can see where I’m going with this.

America, I have some pretty great capabilities. I can do some pretty great stuff. All of your women are full to the brim with amazing potential! There is so much that we can do, and America, I know sometimes you get tired of us yammering at you to keep out of our ladyparts. Believe me, we’re tired of yammering at you to keep out of our ladyparts. And that’s one of the things that sucks about this! We can be way, way more than potential babymakers. Babymaking is awesome! But limiting us only to that kind of sucks. America, I’m so much more than a uterus with attached entrails. Please stop trying to reduce me to that.

America, I have some friends who have been in some pretty skeevy relationships. Sometimes they feel like they don’t matter as much as they used to. Sometimes they feel controlled, like their choices just keep diminishing. Sometimes they feel unsafe. America, I don’t know that I feel too safe here anymore. It’s like you view me as something to use, rather than as a collaborative partner. You and me could do great things, America. We’ve had some great moments, and I’ve really enjoyed those. But America, if this doesn’t get better real soon, I think we might have to consider some alternatives.

I hope you want this as much as I do. Stay in touch, and take care of yourself.

Best,

me

It’s been radio silent around here for a while; I’ve been trying to process my reactions to various headlines (mostly unsuccessfully) and this is the result. I’m pretty sure someone’s going to tell me that I’m being hysterical (which is funny, because wandering uteruses!), and obviously this isn’t happening everywhere across America; we’re not in the Republic of Gilead. But the rhetoric is growing, and bills that I believed were going to die unceramoniously years ago (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma) haven’t, and have in fact spawned similar bills in other states. Comments that would have been political suicide…aren’t. The war on women’s health is incredibly out of touch with the actual lives and wants of American men and women, and yet increasingly it feels like that doesn’t matter anymore. Forgive me for being angry. It’s better than being scared.

Also, I apparently shouldn’t listen to Allen Ginsberg on repeat during road trips anymore.

Written by whackanarwhal

March 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

newsmongering 02/29 (the leap year edition)

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> As you’ve probably heard (if not, consider yourself chastised), Romney took both Arizona and Michigan in the primaries last night. Michigan was a fairly close race betwixt Romney and Santorum, with Romeny taking 41 points to Santorum’s 38. Apparently Michiganders agreed with Romney’s comments regarding the state’s pleasing foliage. Romney’s margin in Arizona was substantially higher; he beat Santorum 48 to 26.

> Syria! Foreign Policy’s Passport has quite a good briefing here, but in short: China and Russia, who have adamantly opposed any UN resolutions regarding the current violence, appear to be willing to support a resolution focused on humanitarian aid with little/no comment regarding Syria’s political circumstances. The blog also notes:

As Syrian troops launch a ground attack on the flashpoint city of Homs, the United Nations estimates that 7,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict and that the death toll now exceeds 100 civilians a day. The Syrian government says around 2,500 civilians have died and that “armed gangs and terrorists” have killed more than 1,000 members of the security forces, according to the BBC.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be classified as a war criminal.

Thirteen members of the Syrian opposition are reported to have died yesterday attempting to transport four journalists out of a besieged neighborhood in the city of Homs. One journalists successfully escaped and crossed the border into Lebanon; the other four appear to have remained in Homs. This article vaguely implies that one of the journalists attempting to escape was wounded French journalist Edith Bouvier.

> A French bill that would have criminalized denying the somewhat contentious Armenian genocide was struck down in courts yesterday on the grounds that it violated the right to free speech.

> North Korea has agreed to suspend its nuclear program and allow IAEA inspectors into nuclear facilities in exchange for an American pledge of food aid. North Korea relies on food aid to feed its population. A US aid ship arrived in the country yesterday.

North Korea has agreed in the past to halt its nuclear program, only to back out, demanding more concessions or accusing the United States of reneging on its obligations. And the statement Tuesday from the North’s official Korean Central News Agency appeared to give the country’s leaders wiggle room again this time, saying that Pyongyang would carry out the agreement “as long as talks proceed fruitfully.”

Still, North Korea’s agreement to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to the country appeared to be a significant concession. After years of negotiations, North Korea expelled inspectors and went on to test nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. American intelligence officials believe the country has enough fuel already for six to eight weapons.

If the North lives up to its agreement to stop uranium enrichment, it could help ease some anxieties in the administration over the program at a time when the administration, in an election year, is consumed with halting Iran’s nuclear program before Israel decides to stage an attack.

> Studies indicate that recess is good for you. Well. Yeah.

> A Field Poll indicates that support for gay marriage in California has increased substantially since 2008:

59% of respondents favored gay marriage while 34% opposed it. Three years ago, the poll found that 52.3% favored same-sex unions while 47.7% opposed them.

Written by whackanarwhal

February 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

newsmongering 02/28

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> There was no newsmongering yesterday because I went to go see The Phantom Menace in 3D instead. I hadn’t actually watched it all the way through since I was too young to know better, and I thought there was a slight chance that it might have improved with age, or at least that the 3D would be pretty enough to make up for the film’s weaknesses. In short: it didn’t and it wasn’t, although I did leave with a nice headache. Part of it was probably the 2D to 3D conversion (not terribly successful). Part of it might have been that the movie sucks.

> I keep fiddling with the idea of making this blog a Santorum-free zone, because I honestly think (/desperately hope) that the man doesn’t actually have a snowball’s hope of landing the nomination (although the debates with Obama would have enormous comic potential. I would make popcorn. I don’t even like popcorn), and right now, for all practical purposes, he’s kind of a distraction from the men who could potentially be the actual Republican hopefuls. But then he goes and does things that basically demand attention, and because he’s being somehow taken seriously as a potential candidate at the moment, I feel like I sort of have to respond.

So  apparently American universities are secular “indoctrination mills.” I’m going to take a quiet moment here to point out that the first time I understood conservatism at all was when I had to read Burke for a uni class – an Honor’s class, no less (I still disagree with quite a lot of conservative philosophy, but I at least generally get where it’s coming from). Anyway, Mr. Santorum followed up with a jab at President Obama, calling him a “snob” for wanting all American kids to go to college. It is worth noting at this juncture that Mr. Santorum holds more degrees than Obama – Santorum has a BA, MBA, and JD; Obama has a BA and JD but not an MBA – and that Mr. Santorum’s two children attend university, although they’re taking time off for the campaign. Mr. Santorum’s father held a  Ph.D. So when Mr. Santorum suggests that university degrees aren’t necessary (which is a valid enough point, but not for the reasons Mr. Santorum seems to be suggesting, which is mainly that Jesus has a lot less clout the higher you get up the educational ladder), he means for those other people. Not his children. So mostly this feels like a wacky remix of ye olde “the only moral abortion is my abortion,” but in this iteration, it’s other people’s children who are worshipping the idol of an undergraduate degree. His kids are there for the right reasons.So was his father. So was he.

Because the American educational system is in such great shape that really, it can afford to discourage college enrollment – not on the grounds that a lot of jobs shouldn’t require university degrees, that there are other branches of training and education (trade school! Apprenticeship systems!) for which book-larnin’ won’t do you a lot of good, but simply because educated = bad.

I mentioned up above that I’m looking forward to the (highly unlikely) Obama-Santorum debates (please, let them be highly unlikely). Much as I may occasionally disagree with President Obama’s positions and policies, I will never deny that the man is intelligent and incredibly well educated. He was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He taught constitutional law at University of Chicago. In short, he knows his shit, and so when Santorum gets behind the podium and announces – for example – that church and state aren’t intended to be absolutely separate, I kind of expect Obama to wipe the floor with him.

And Santorum is insane if he doesn’t see that coming. Not that I’m arguing he’s in touch with reality – he’s not – but surely enough people on his campaign staff have whispered in his ear while he’s slept that he has an inkling by now. So I suspect this is him laying the groundwork for the can of whoop-ass Obama will open on him at the (please, please, no) debates. The spin will be that it’s not that Mr. Santorum is wrong; it’s that his opponent is a snob. So there. It’s playground politics at the national level, and it should disgust you.

Remember how I said up above that I disagree with some of Obama’s policies? I do. Frustrating newsdays aren’t always frustrating because the GOP has gone off the deep end (although they’re often an easier target). But I have a high level of respect for both the man and the office he holds. And I have a sneaking suspicion that, in some weird alternate universe where I would get to walk into the Oval Office every second Wednesday and demand that Obama explain himself (which would be kind of cool, actually), he would respect my positions despite our disagreements. I can’t begin to imagine Mr. Santorum – or any of the current GOP frontrunners – respecting opinions in opposition to their own.

Mr. Santorum announced that a Kennedy speech reinforcing the separation of church and state makes him want to “throw up” (linked above). Call me sensitive, say I watched too much The West Wing as a kid (that one’s probably true), but – aside from Santorum’s interpretation of the speech, which is that “people of faith have no role in the public square,” and that’s funny ’cause Kennedy was Catholic, but it’s not like Santorum and I see eye to eye anyway – does it seem a little…inappropriate to anyone else? I understand if Mr. Santorum disagrees with President Kennedy’s position, and it’s well within his rights to say so. But that specific language? I think kids in my elementary school used to use similar language when decrying opposing teams in kickball. In, like, fifth grade gym class. To say not that you disagree with a former US President’s position but to say that that position makes you want to vomit is a tremendous disrespect to the man and the office he held.

I might be making too much of this; I’m good at that. But it feels to me like there’s been a fundamental disrespect for the opponent in this election, primarily on the GOP side, although the Dems haven’t really started campaigning yet, so we’ll see how this goes. I get that the GOP candidates don’t agree with Obama. I get that they probably don’t like him a whole hell of a lot, either. But the disrespect they seem to have for him is kind of staggering.

Look, I’m not perfect. I have belittled various elected officials, often including Mr. Santorum, quite frequently. But language reflects position. I’m a twentysomething college kid living in her parents’ basement and working a minimum-wage job at a Stop ‘n Rob, and I admit that I could stand to clean up my language from time to time. I’m also not running for the highest elected office in this country. I am not positioning myself to be one of the most powerful people in the world.  Mr. Santorum is, and it’s time he started behaving like it. November’s not going to get any further away.

In other news…

> Saudi Arabia is arming the Syrian opposition. There’s no way this can possibly end badly. Foreign Policy notes:

Referring to the bloodshed, [King Abdullah] ominously warned Medvedev that Saudi Arabia “will never abandon its religious and moral obligations towards what’s happening.” The last time the Saudis decided they had a moral obligation to scuttle Russian policies, they gave birth to a generation of jihadi fighters in Afghanistan who are still wreaking havoc three decades later.

> Iran has called nuclear arms production “a great sin” while refusing to allow inspectors into military facilities linked with its nuclear program? Does this seem inconsistent to anyone else? Good, it’s not just me then.  (I would note, in point of interest, that the spokesperson quoted by The New York Times is Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, whom I seem to recall reading is one of the cooler heads in the upper echelons of the Iranian government.) Also, Iran won an Oscar! Read the spin  here.

> Speaking of which, Israel has allegedly made it quite clear to US officials during upper-level talks that it will not be giving the US a heads-up should Israel launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

…you know what, it’s cool. I was sleeping too well at night anyway.

> The British Treasury has ordered Barclays Bank to pay 500 million pounds in “aggressively avoided” taxes.

> Speaking of staggering sums of money, Google is offering prizes totaling a million dollars to hackers who, uh, exploit Chrome at a conference next week.

“While we’re proud of Chrome’s leading track record in past competitions, the fact is that not receiving exploits means that it’s harder to learn and improve,” wrote Chris Evans and Justin Schuh, members of the Google Chrome security team. “To maximize our chances of receiving exploits this year, we’ve upped the ante. We will directly sponsor up to $1 million worth of rewards.”

> So you know that thing where gay people who want to celebrate their love and commit to each other for the rest of their lives can do so legally in New Hampshire? Yeah, it might be going away. Well, probably not. But. Maybe.

> In good news (I TRY, OKAY), NPR has announced that it’s abandoning its “he said/she said” policy of fairness in favor of “fairness to the truth.”

At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.

There’s a “truthiness” joke in there somewhere, but this is actually kind of awesome, so I’m going to let it go.

Written by whackanarwhal

February 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

newsmongering 02/24

with one comment

> The number of people living in slums worldwide is believed to have hit the one billion mark, and that number is expected to double by 2030.

> Representatives from between 50 and 60 nations (I’ve seen both) calling themselves “Friends of Syria” met in Tunis today to talk options and basically warn Assad & Co. (*cough*China/Russia/Iran*cough*) that, you know, the world is watching, and to urge Assad to allow a cease-fire so that humanitarian aid can get to civilians. Various factions, including Price Faroud of Saudi Arabia, have also spoken favorably of arming the rebels. Diplomatic sources have allegedly told CNN that various Arab nations are already arming opposition, and Hamas has publicly withdrawn its support from Assad:

Leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas turned publicly against their long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, endorsing the revolt aimed at overthrowing his dynastic rule. The policy shift deprives Assad of one of his few remaining Sunni Muslim supporters in the Arab world and deepens his international isolation. It was announced in Hamas speeches at Friday prayers in Cairo and a rally in the Gaza Strip.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to ask his predecessor, Nobel laureate Kofi Annan, to serve as UN envoy to Syria; meanwhile, the Syrian envoy to the UN, Bashar al-Jafaari, lashed out at Google in a speech at the UN, apparently blaming other nations for Google’s insidious policy of apparently renaming streets in the towns of Homs and Idlib:

“This is a flagrant violation of United Nations General Assembly, the resolution of the Arab League pertaining to the standardization of the geographic nomenclature… What does Google have to do with the names of streets in Syrian cities?” he asked. “What is this web site doing changing the names of streets in small Syrian cities and villages? Is this also an attempt to stem the shedding of Syrian blood or is this not part of the war [that foreign powers have been waging against Syria]?” asked Jaafari.

It was unclear precisely what the Syrian envoy was talking about. Google did not respond to an emailed request to its press office for comment.

The ICRC has started a medical evacuation of women and children out of the Baba Amro district of Homs, but they still can’t access large sections of the city.

A French reporter wounded in the Syrian government’s bombardment of Homs made a video appeal on Thursday for a cease-fire and evacuation for urgent medical attention. “My leg is broken at the level of the femur, along its length and also horizontally,” said the reporter, Edith Bouvier, in a video posted by antigovernment activists. “I need to be operated upon as soon as possible.”

Ms. Bouvier, 31, on assignment for the French newspaper Le Figaro, was wounded Wednesday in the same shelling attack that killed two Western journalists, Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times of London and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer. Late Wednesday, Syrian activists posted video of a rally in Homs in honor of the two.

And a blogger for the New York Times notes that coverage of the Syrian uprising looks remarkably different on Russian and Iranian TV, and journalist Nir Rosen talks with Al Jazeera about his predictions for Syria’s future:

US and European officials who would like to intervene in Syria complain that there is no “silver bullet” or easy option for them. They don’t even know who to support inside Syria. The exiled opposition, such as the Syrian National Council, are too busy fighting among themselves and too disconnected from events on the ground, so the outside powers do not even have a convenient local collaborator or proxy to deal with. They also complain that the SNC has completely failed to reach out to minorities, especially Alawites. They agree that opponents of the regime will have to pry Alawite community from the administration. The Alawite pillar must be removed, they say. The United States, like the United Kingdom, reportedly has envoys among the Syrian opposition. It is only a question of time, in my opinion, before the SNC is officially recognised by them as the main interlocutor, but they are pressuring the SNC to get its act together first.

> Nationalism is on the rise in Iran! So that’s great!

After the apparent assassination in January of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist and a professor at Tehran’s highly-regarded Sharif University, more than 100 students signed a petition requesting to change their majors to fields related to nuclear studies. Although some cast the move aside as nothing more than propaganda, it was nonetheless a sign that younger Iranians — with bright futures — are still willing to go to bat for their country.

…Also stirring for Iranians this year has been the success of the film “A Separation,” which won a Golden Globe and is up for two Academy Awards, including best foreign film. While the film deals with domestic issues of a husband and wife in Tehran, Iranians everywhere are gushing over the film’s success, and its prospects of winning an Oscar.

> Remember that rioting in Afghanistan? Twelve people died as riots continued there today.

Twelve people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest day yet in protests that have raged across Afghanistan over the desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO military base with riot police and soldiers on high alert braced for more violence.

Germany is closing a military base there ahead of schedule as a result.

Germany’s military announced Friday they have closed a base in Talokan in northern Afghanistan several weeks earlier than planned in response to deadly protests sparked after members of the NATO-led stability force burned copies of the Koran earlier this week at a US military base. Originally, the German base had been slated for closure in March.

Protests have also spread to Pakistan, and have caught the attention of Iran.

In neighboring U.S. ally Pakistan, about 400 members of a hardline Islamist group staged protests. “If you burn the Koran, we will burn you,” they shouted.

To Afghanistan’s west, Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami said the U.S. had purposely burned the Korans. “These apologies are fake. The world should know that America is against Islam,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio. “It (the Koran burning) was not a mistake. It was an intentional move, done on purpose.”

> Speaking of unrest, it’s almost election season in Senegal, and at present, it’s a bit…rocky.

At the center of the storm is President Abdoulaye Wade, who is officially 85 but probably older, as proper birth records were not kept by the French colonial authorities. Mr. Wade, a French-trained lawyer with degrees in economics and mathematics, is among the world’s oldest leaders, and he is determined not to retire anytime soon. Seeking what his opponents consider an illegal third term, Mr. Wade mocks the critics as lacking the vigor he displays, while regularly haranguing diplomats and other visitors for hours about the finer points of the country’s laws, principles of economics and his aesthetic theories.

That last part sounds like a few professors I have known… Just sayin’.

> A bill that would legalize same-sex marraige in Maryland has been approved 25-22 by the Maryland Senate. Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, bless his alliterative name, has said that he will sign it into law. And here, courtesy of the LA Times, you can read the heartwarming story of how Maryland House Republican Wade Kach discovered that gay people aren’t scary after he accidentally sat next to a gay couple at a legislative hearing over the bill.

In an effort to get the bill to the House floor, a special joint committee was formed and legislators were left scrambling for seats. Kach, who had previously backed attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman, found a space right next to the witness table. “I saw with so many of the gay couples, they were so devoted to another. I saw so much love,” he said. “When this hearing was over, I was a changed person in regard to this issue. I felt that I understood what same sex couples were looking for.”

Apparently he’d never seen Glee?

Written by whackanarwhal

February 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

newsmongering 02/23

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> Foreign Policy’s Passport blog has an exasperated review of last night’s Arizona debates. Over at HuffPo, Bill Maher quipped:

My favorite moment of the debate was the last question, when they all were asked to summarize themselves in one word: Ron Paul said “consistency,” and you know what? I have no argument with that. It’s true, and he’s earned it. The other ones however, I think I could find a more honest word. Mitt Romney said “resolute.” I would have gone with “shapeshifter.” Or perhaps “irresolute.” Rick Santorum said “courage” , whereas I would have said “Bellevue.” And Newt Gingrich said “cheerful.” I was thinking “pus.”

> Protests in Afghanistan have hit their third day after some number of Korans (I’ve seen anywhere from four to fifteen) were damaged in a “accidental burning” on Tuesday (apparently they were inadvertently placed in an incinerator? What is this I don’t even…). Anyway, at least something like six Afghans have been killed and fiftysomething have been wounded, and at least one NATO officer has been killed. Members of the Afghan parliament have called for military action against American forces, referring to them as “invaders” (which…is kind of true?), and the Taliban has called on Afghans to take up arms against foreign troops and Afghan security forces. President Obama issued an apology today, following the one released by NATO commanding general in Afghanistan John R. Allen, who vowed to make sure every NATO soldier is trained in the proper handling of religious texts. Which I’m sure will help.

> A wave of violence in Iraq has killed 55 people in predominantly Shia areas.

> Tanks entered the Syrian city of Homs today on the twentieth day of heavy artillery shelling of the city. Eighty people were killed in the siege yesterday. Foreign Policy has a somewhat surreal piece on Homs’ status as the longtime butt of Syrian jokes and a photo diary of the siege.

> The “somewhat official” Iranian news agency Fars is reporting that the wife of a slain nuclear scientist has announced that her husband’s goal was the eradication of Israel. So that’s great.

> The President of Abkhazia, Aleksandr Ankvab, survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday. (For those of you who were wondering, Abkhazia is not in Oz; it’s a little Russia-backed breakaway enclave about the size of a high school gymnasium sandwiched between Georgia and the Black Sea recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu).

> An estimated 130,000 people took part in a combination march/stadium rally in support of Vladimir Putin yesterday.

Speaking just over a week before a presidential election he is expected to win, Putin called on people “not to betray the motherland” and repeated his by now familiar promise of pledging to protect Russia from foreign interference.

“We are the defenders of our homeland,” Putin told the crowd. “We will not let anyone interfere in our internal affairs … We are a nation that wins. This is in our genes.”

There’s some evidence that participation might have been purchased, but. Well. Russia.

“I came here with friends. They said they would pay each of us 2,000 roubles (43 pounds),” said a 21-year-old man who gave his name only as Alexander and said he and his friends had been bussed into Moscow from outside the city.

“If I had a choice I would vote for (nationalist Vladimir) Zhirinovsky, but our voices don’t count.”

> The former leader of the Catholic church in the UK, Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, has suggested that perhaps Christians should stop claiming that they’re being persecuted.

> A federal judge has ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.

A judge on Wednesday declared the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to ignore the statute and provide health benefits to the wife of a lesbian federal court employee.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White was the first since the Obama administration announced a year ago that it would no longer defend a law it considers discriminatory and reflective of a long history of denying equal rights to gays and lesbians.

…”The court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law … without substantial justification or rational basis,” wrote White, who was named to the federal bench a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

> JK Rowling has announced that she’s publishing a novel for grown-ups! (Which is hilarious, because by most measures, I think I theoretically qualify as a grown-up by this point, and I reread Harry Potter all the time.) (Also, did anyone else’s brains trick them into thinking that Rowling was publishing an adult novel? …No? Okay, just me, then)

Written by whackanarwhal

February 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

newsmongering 02/23

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So I was out of town for a few days (hello, Iowa!) and then I got the plague (hello, NyQuil!) and actually I still have a cold, and as those of you who know me at all may have noted, when I am sick, most functions involing anything more complicated than sprawling on the couch like a beached whale and sniffling pathetically just sort of clear out for a few days.

Except then I get bored.

So this may not be terribly coherent, is what I’m saying, but today’s been a steady string of The Today Show, NCIS, NCIS:LA, Dr. Strangelove, and The Longest Day (also known as The Longest Movie; I dozed off for a good chunk of the middle and it still felt longer than The Return of the King) and almost every cracked.com article since 2009 (except the ones that looked stupid),

So here goes the blog.

> Apparently there’s a Republican debate tonight? So that should be fun. I’m sure there will be a pile of outraged headlines waiting tomorrow morning.

> Speaking of things that are fun, Vladimir Putin continues his “Remember the Soviet Union? Remember how it was Awesome?” campaign by praising the efficiency of old spy networks in the US during the Cold War. Putin also has an op-ed for Foreign Policy about the need fora strong (read: big) Russian military that basically boils down to, “We need to be able to scare the pants off people.” (Meanwhile, Belarus, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are sort of staring at the rest of the world accusingly right now.)  (Also, Putin seems to think that a strong military is what will keep other countries from invading Russia, when in reality, the parts where Russia is a. bloody huge and b. bloody cold are more what keep other countries from invading Russia.)

> Also, Russia is apparently warning the world to “not be hasty” regarding Iran (show if hands if you read that in Treebeard’s voice).

Russia says the world should not draw “hasty conclusions” over Iran’s most recent rebuff of U.N. attempts to probe suspicions that it is working on nuclear arms. But Western powers are criticizing Tehran. The reactions Wednesday came after the International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged renewed failure in trying to investigate suspicions of covert Iranian nuclear weapons work

> Speaking of Iran, since when did “intervention” (and I use that term loosely) become a serious option? Why are we pretending this is a real possibility? There’s no way – in any scenario – that that works out well. Here, read about polling.

Take the latest controversy over Iran’s nuclear buildup. Americans said by nearly 2 to 1 in a Pew survey this month that it is more important to “prevent Iran from developing weapons, even if it means taking military action” than to “avoid military conflict, even if Iran may develop nuclear weapons.” One could read this result as an implicit call to arms.

But a contemporaneous CNN/ORC poll found just 17 percent supporting “military action right now.” Some 60 percent of those polled favored “economic and diplomatic efforts” and an additional 22 percent supported “no action at all. This poll, then, gives the sense that an invasion is remarkably unpopular.

Also, read a former UN weapon inspector’s piece about how said war would be a really bad move.

> France is phasing out the term “mademoiselle” as an official designation; shortly, all French women will be “madame,” regardless of marital status.

> You know how I rant a lot about contraception and why access is important? Decent article about it here.

Women who don’t get pregnant unintentionally have much less need to turn to abortion as a possible solution to that problem. The former Soviet republic of Georgia had the highest rate of abortions in the world at the turn of the millennium — an annual rate of one abortion for every five married women of childbearing age in 1999. But that rate declined 15 percent over the next six years as contraceptive prevalence increased by nearly a quarter, according to an analysis by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, a 46 percent decline in abortions in Turkey between 1988 and 1998 was associated with more widespread use of modern contraceptives and more effective use of traditional methods. Again, research from a decade ago in areas of Matlab in Bangladesh where high-quality contraception services were available found that about one in 50 pregnancies ended in abortion. Compare that with a national average in Bangladesh of around one in 10.

> Hey, so if you’re in Virginia and need an abortion, the state government no longer wants to rape you with an ultrasound wand before letting you in. So that’s cool! (Well, whether they want to or not is immaterial, the point is that now they can’t.)

> Something about how a briefcase full of confidential documents regarding drones was lifted off a French military contractor executive in a train station in Paris? I don’t even know.

> And I apparently need to go read up on Iran, so… I’m out. Good night.

*achoo*

 

Written by whackanarwhal

February 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized