news you should know about

newsmongering 04/15 (friiiiiday, friiiiiday!)

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> I just got that song stuck in your head, didn’t I? My work here is done.

> Also, kudos to Brad, Kateri, and Doug [et al – ed. (sorry, guys!)] for having waaaay too much fun with #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement over on Facebook (“John Kyl paints his toenails neon pink. #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement,” among other gems).

> NATO allies & partners have released a statement announcing that Qaddafi must be deposed (and this leaves me two articles viewable at the New York Times for the rest of the month, kids – be grateful). It’s actually pretty cool, if only because it’s not often that you see “By BARACK OBAMA, DAVID CAMERON, and NICOLAS SARKOZY” under a headline. A few thoughts:

It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government. The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.

Well, it’s nice to see that we’ve learned something. Or are at least aware that we should have learned something. Relatedly, what’s our position on Syria’s President Assad right now? I’m just curious.


Furthermore, it would condemn Libya to being not only a pariah state, but a failed state too. Qaddafi has promised to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian ships and airliners. And because he has lost the consent of his people any deal that leaves him in power would lead to further chaos and lawlessness. We know from bitter experience what that would mean.

…yes. Yes, we do, and I’m glad we can admit that. But Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t failing states because we left crazy leaders in power. I believe we took those people out (hanged one!), mucked around for a bit….and are still mucking around, actually. And I’m not seeing a lot of specifics in the op-ed that suggest that we won’t be following that same dubious “roadmap” (I believe that’s the term they used) in Libya, although I will admit that the part where it’s more than the US and a couple countries the US managed to con into it is refreshing.

And then at the bottom of the article, in case you were unaware:

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. David Cameron is prime minister of Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy is president of France.

I’m glad they cleared that up, although the phrasing does make it look a bit like Cameron and Sarkozy are the first heads of state in their respective fiefdoms.

Anyway, Al Jazeera seems to think it’s a decent idea, and that’s heartening, although Russia is making noises about limiting “excessive military force” in Libya and is calling for political solutions. I suspect this will be a) ignored, and b) possibly come back to bite someone following the BRICS meeting happening in China today (I know, I know, the BRICS are important, but I can’t help thinking that their meetings mostly consist of world leaders sitting around and plotting ways to disrupt the plans of other world leaders, and occasionally stealing pens on camera).

(Man, statements like that are why I am never going to be able to run for public office.)

> Speaking of Assad, Syria continues to settle up! Thousands were allegedly in the streets of Damascus today before they were violently dispersed by security forces (protests took place other cities as well, but clashes and violence were not reported). One of the primary demands involves the lifting of the “emergency law,” which has been in place since 1963; as a concession, the law is scheduled to be lifted on 25 April, but given that swaths of the country are close to being a war zone at the moment, I doubt there will be many noticeable effects. Arrested protesters are reportedly being tortured by state security. Additionally, a leaked Syrian intelligence document allegedly indicates that security forces were advised to kill no more than twenty protesters per day in order to limit international anger and reprisals (on the other hand, this is coming out of an Israeli newspaper and Israel is no friend of Syria; take some grains of salt).

> Following the arrest of former Ivorian president Gbagbo, the International Red Cross has reported that bodies are still in the streets in Abidjan, and is calling urgently for aid.

> China’s gettin’ twitchy. It is not a good time to be an opposition leader  (or blogger. Or delivery boy. Or relative):

Dozens have been detained and now face criminal charges in relation to these inchoate calls. Others have faced different kinds of harassment, including beatings and house arrest. But the freeze runs deeper. Since February some of the country’s top defence lawyers have vanished. Activists for villagers’ rights and the environment have faced repression. Bloggers have been rounded up. Members of a big underground (ie, non-state) church in Beijing, stopped from meeting in their usual building, were arrested as they tried to worship outside.

> Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been hospitalized following a heart attack during interrogation. Rawstory is reporting that he could face the death penalty if convicted of ordering the killing of protestors, but I’m not seeing that elsewhere and therefore don’t  know how credible it is. Rawstory appears to be quoting the head of Cairo’s appeals court in Egyptian state-owned news paper Al-Ahram. Additionally, Tunisia allegedly wishes to try former president Ben Ali on charges ranging from voluntary manslaughter to drug trafficking, but seeing as he’s in Saudi right now, making no noise and pretending he doesn’t exist, they might be in for a bit of a wait.

> In Yemen, President Saleh is calling for talks with the opposition; I seem to remember reading that he’d significantly reshuffled his cabinet as well, but I’m not finding a link for that.

> And today, in “I Think You Missed Some Parts,” this headline from CNN: “Pakistan’s transgender tribe of tax collectors.” I believe the point of the article is meant to be that the Pakistani government is hiring mtf transgendered people to harass debtors into relinquishing income tax, because it freaks the debtors out enough that they cave. And there are a lot of interesting directions you could do with this, from agency in reclaiming identity to exploitation and the history of sideshow. None of which this article does, possibly because it’s too busy tripping over some really lousy language, preconceptions, and some stuff that’s quite frankly just wrong. For example:

Miss your tax deadline in the United States this weekend, and you might get a nasty letter at your door. In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, you might get Riffee and the gang. They are “transgender” tax collectors — whose weapons include flamboyancy, surprise — and a little lipstick.

I am not entirely sure why “transgender” had to be in quotes there. If they aren’t trans – if it’s convenient genderbend for a job – then that’s not transgender, and it’s a crucial distinction to make. Or are those scare quotes? Is that the part in the broadcast where the anchor blinks, pauses, and carefully emphasizes the term in her phrasing?

And then let’s compare these two paragraphs:

“Their appearance causes great embarrassment amongst the people,” said Sajid Hussein Bhatti, the tax superintendent who gives Riffee her orders every morning.

When Riffee was a 10-year-old boy, she decided she wanted to be a woman. Since then, she says, she’s endured plenty of prejudice. “We’re trying to educate society and show them how we like ourselves, but if your parents don’t understand you or give you respect, how can you expect other people to?”

Okay, so Riffee is trying to educate society, proving (which she emphatically shouldn’t have to do) that she has every right to be treated as she wants to be treated, but her boss thinks it’s handy that identity embarrasses people. And that’s something that’s definitely worth discussing, but apparently the article’s author doesn’t think so. On the other hand, he also claims that “when Riffee was a 10-year-old boy, she decided she wanted to be a woman.” That’s not how transgender works. On the other hand, this article is quite a good look at how transphobia works, so at least it was educational in some sense!

Oh, and ‘tribe’? Really? Are they actually a society based mostly on kinship relations? …no, you were just trying to be alliterative. I see. Well, I’m glad you were happy to jettison journalistic integrity in order to be cute.

> I’m just going to quote this, it’s too good to paraphrase:

A few members of Norway’s elite military unit known as the King’s Guards had some explaining to do this week, after they hid during an emergency drill to avoid reporting for duty. They have since apologized to both the king and the country.

They were literally hiding under their beds. Clearly we should invade Norway next.  It would be quick and clean, and it’s not a desert.

> Russia has outlawed polar bear hunting for the next year. Heavens knows what Putin’s going to do in the meantime.

Run for president again, possibly.


Written by whackanarwhal

April 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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