whackanarwhal

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newsmongering 03/30 (for real this time)

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> Libya’s foreign minister has defected to England; Libyan government officials insist he is on a diplomatic mission (to Alderaan) (just kidding).

> Syrian president Bashar Assad has announced that the unrest in his country is caused by conspirators. At least 100 people have been killed so far in protests; that’s a heck of a determined conspiracy. Foreign Policy talks here about why Syria should be watched very, very carefully. We were somewhat lucky with Libya in that, oil aside, Libya was not much of a exactly a regional player; despite European leaders’ recent and unfortunately timed interest in courting Qaddafi, there was not a lot of power balanced on the internal political situation. Syria, on the other hand, is a regional player with a lot of pull, and unrest there can cause shock waves that we really, really can’t deal with at the moment.

> The UN has hit Cote d’Ivoire with sanctions following more violence there – the prime minister has announced that President Gbagbo, who has refused to relinquish power to his opponent following recent elections has “a few hours” to step down (“the time for ceasefires is over”). I’m not as up on this as I should be, so I don’t know how common that level of rhetoric is (you’ll recall how we were instructed to not retreat but reload not long ago, for example), but Foreign Policy mag has stuff worth reading on the “responsibility to protect” reiterated in Obama’s speech recently; in short:

Why Libya and not the Ivory Coast? Because in Libya, we had the ability, the opportunity, and the interests — a critical triumverate that made it both logistically feasible and politically palatable to intervene. In the Ivory Coast, almost none of these things are true. This is not a case in which our urge to “do something” is matched by a clear answer for what “something” is.

I agree with his assertion that given military intervention is off the table, it means the global community (specifically, in this article, the US) is not limited to doing nothing; it calls for political creativity. He suggests “political engagement, financial sanctions and pressure, regional advocacy, humanitarian aid” as well as pushing more UN peacekeepers into the region. Again, I’m not informed enough on the situation to make any calls, but my general impression has been that none of what he suggests has a reputation for being terribly effective. But absent any other suggestions – what else can we do?

> From the strange squishy world of technology – Google has announced the China is tampering with its citizens access to Gmail by routing traffic through invisible intermediary servers. I ran this by Ben, my go-to for tech stuff (“This is alarming…what does it actually mean?) on Facebook, and he responded that the government “can monitor anything your reading/sending, inject malicious code into pages that you’re viewing, and hijack most online accounts you have”. Tunisia did this during the protests this winter, using invisible proxies to hijack users’ accounts and post positive things about the government. So that’s alarming.

> German politician Malte Spitz sued his telecommunications company to gain access to the file compiled based on the company’s tracking of his cell phone. What he found was that his movements were tracked 78% of the time that his phone was turned on, and that his file was augmented with his blog posts and Tweets. Near as I can tell from the article, Spitz’s high-profile status as a politician has nothing to do with the depth of information gathered – apparently it’s policy. The article is focused on the implications for German law, but kindly bear in mind that it’s just as easy to do it here as it is in Germany – and  I have no idea what kind of rules are in place here regarding data retention (Ben? Anyone else? Want to share with the class?).

> What North Africa (and possibly Syria and Yemen in the next few months) can learn from post-dictator eastern Europe.

> In a fascinating display of logic, Rick Santorum has decided that Social Security is in trouble because of too many abortions, because if those millions of aborted fetuses has been born and joined the job force, social security would be better-funded. Possibly it has not occurred to him that opening up the apparently gaping job market to all the illegal immigrants looking for jobs would have the same effect, possibly because those jobs don’t exist; what’s unemployment at these days? Just under 10%? Really, the best insight to come out of this has been over at /r/TwoXChromosomes, where user noflyzone commented, “I am not a huge reader of news and political commentaries-I’ll admit. With that said, I had no idea abortions were ruining almost everything in America until this year.”

> The Maine GOP is pushing to relax child labor laws, allowing students to work more hours for less pay. Dems are arguing that while working students probably can handle working an hour later on school nights, that translates to 14- or 15-hour days to students for whom education is a priority. My favorite part:

The sponsor of LD 1346, Rep. David Burns (R), did not return a request for comment. But co-sponsor Rep. Bruce Bickford (R) said that the government should stop standing in the way on child labor issues.

“This is in no way an attempt to abuse child labor, which some may look at and say, ‘We’ve fought hard for kids and we’ve done this or that,'” he said. “Kids have parents. Let the parents be responsible for the kids. It’s not up to the government to regulate everybody’s life and lifestyle. Take the government away. Let the parents take care of their kids.”

Because, historically, that’s always worked really well, particularly where labor is concerned.

[@ 10:09 pm] I sent this link off to a a professor here who specializes in labor history. She responded: “Oh, good lord–it is 1923 again!!  Florence Kelley is doing the proverbial coffin roll.”

> Eman al-Obeidy, whose story I’ve discussed here and here, is being charged with slander by the men she named as attackers. A government spokesman would like us to know that “it is a grave offense to accuse someone of a sexual offense.” Speaking of grave offenses, Eman al-Obeidy has not been seen since she was was disappeared Saturday. Government spokesmen claim she is with her family; her family has denied these reports.

> An editorial from The Guardian debunking the myth that rape is tied to attractiveness. A sample:

Now, one might think that Grant’s victims [who were uniformly elderly – ed.] had suffered enough without the British press gasping that it’s a marvel anyone would want to have sex with them, even a rapist, and especially a seemingly normal “family man”. But this response is borne out of the still all-too prevalent belief – sometimes subconscious, sometimes less so – that sexual attacks are the expression of untrammelled desire and, ergo, the victim in some way has to be desirable, which brings us back to ye olde hoary chestnut of the victim being in some way at fault.

> American University has derailed a $300,000 grant aimed at bolstering its sexual assault prevention program because it would put holds on students’ ability to register for classes in the following semester if they didn’t complete mandatory training sessions or surveys; the Vice President of Campus Life questioned whether it was “appropriate” to enforce such draconian measures on students who failed to comply. At American University, holds can be placed on students for such staggering misdemeanors as owing a debt to the campus library. (I don’t know about American University, but at my college, library debts can usually be cleared by bringing the book back to the circulation desk and apologizing. I’ve never paid a late fee. Point is, at least here, late fees are not financial hardships. Although – like American – they’ll put a hold on your account if you don’t return the book)

> Speaking of libraries, L.A.’s Newport Beach Library is considering ditching the books aspect of its mandate. While the article’s reasoning makes sense – people don’t actually use libraries for books much anymore, at least not as much as they used to – I find it a bit odd that we’d still call it a library. Civic center? Rec center? Community-supported coffeehouse? (I believe the term the article used was ‘community center,’ although it was unclear if that’s what it’d officially be called.) (That said, libraries are awesome – free books, people! Free books! – and it’s sad that they’re declining.)

> NPR reports that female farmers are on the rise, up to 14% of farmers (up from 5% in 1980). If the statistic I reported for my exam this morning is correct, farmers make up 1% of all legally-moneymaking persons in the US, so it’s not as if that’s a massive number – but it’s something. Yesterday undertakers, today farmers – what will the ladies do next?

> When I grow up, I want to be a ‘medical clown’! (No, I don’t, I really, really don’t). An Israeli study suggests that women who are entertained by professional medical clown following IVF are more likely to conceive. I…I don’t even know what to do with that. Apparently this says something about laughter as anti-stress mechanism, but – dude. Clowns. Except not clowns with red noses. Kids, I can’t make this stuff up.

[content added slightly after posting because I am a chump and hit ‘post’ early by accident. Um]

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Written by whackanarwhal

March 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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