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newsmongering 04/24

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> Happy Easter to those observing! According to tradition, I should be gnawing the ears off a chocolate rabbit at the moment. I feel bereft.

> Syria continues to settle up, with security forces raiding homes and arresting dozens of  alleged dissidents. More than 300 people have been killed in  Syria the last five weeks. Here, an Al Jazeera editorial describes inadvertently driving into a kill zone outside the flashpoint town of Deraa:

As we passed through the army checkpoint the soldiers were smoking and laughing; looking at each other; smiling, waving us through various barriers. I can only describe it like what it felt to me: an evil grimace of enjoyment was on their faces. We were maybe, at the most, 3km from where I had just seen people cut down, bullets tearing their bodies into pieces. It was disgusting.

Human Rights Watch is estimating 94 deaths in Syria since Friday. Here, have a summary.

Protests began five weeks ago, with small crowds inspired by events elsewhere in the region gathering to demand modest reforms.

The authorities have reacted erratically – sometimes promising to allow more democracy and freedoms, and other times opening fire on demonstrators.

Witnesses say the protesters’ goals have become much more radical, with many now demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down.

The past two days have been the bloodiest since the protests began.

Activists say at least 82 people were killed during protests on Friday, and 12 people were shot and killed the next day as they attended funerals for those protesters.

Security forces opened fire on mourners gathering in parts of the capital Damascus and near the flash-point southern town of Deraa, according to witnesses.

> Yemen’s president Saleh has agreed conditionally to step down within thirty days, state-run TV announced yesterday. His resignation is predicated on immunity from prosecution and the freedom to choose his successor, with Saleh stating in interviews that to do otherwise would result in a coup. Activists are concerned that the window will allow him time to change his mind or rig the transfer process; presidential promises have been convenient forgotten before. The presidential family has allegedly fled to the UAE. Assuming Saleh does in fact step down, this would make him the third head of state deposed in the Arab region since February.

> In Tunisia’s July elections, parties must present an equal number of male and female candidates. Islamist groups within the country support the measure.

> Thousands are expected to take part in demonstrations across Morocco today, demanding democratic reforms and protesting widespread corruption:

Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, dozens of Moroccan youth groups and human rights and civil society organizations came together in mass rallies on February 20, 2011. They called for amendment of the constitution, dissolution of the government and parliament, recognition of the Amazigh (Berber) language as an official language, and an end to corruption. Defying boycotts by almost all political parties and an intensive smear campaign, the coalition of groups went ahead with their rallies with thousands participating.

> For the third year in a row, President Obama has ducked using the word ‘genocide’ in commemorating ‘the Armenian incident.’ However, his remarks did include the Armenian term for the slaughter – “Meds Yeghern” – and described it as “one of the worst atrocities of the twentieth century.” The Turkish government has demanded an apology.

> Protesters in Turkey held a “kiss-in” on city buses following an altercation last week between a bus driver and a couple he accused of being “too intimate.”

> Belarusian President (and I use that term loosely) Lukashenko has identified a culprit in last week’s subway bombing in Minsk: “too much democracy.” In the protests following fabricated presidential election results in December, hundreds were arrested and dozens face up to fifteen-year prison sentences for organizing the demonstrations. As Foreign Policy blogger Joshua Keating points out, “If this is his idea of democracy, I’d hate to see what dictatorship looks like.”

> The African Union has lifted its four-month sanctions on Cote d’Ivoire, and the EU appears to be following suit. Although ousted president Gbagbo was arrested a week and a half ago and talks between rival groups are allegedly underway, the capital Abidjan remains highly violent. Al Jazeera discusses the oversimplified good guy/bad guy reporting on the Ivorian civil war here:

Although the few media organisations that have not ignored the crisis have consistently reported the violence from day one, there has been little interrogation of Ouattara and his rebel forces in the same forensic manner as critiques on Gbagbo and his Young Patriots. Both sides have burnt and butchered hundreds of non-combatants. And both sides have, at different times, rejected African Union (AU) efforts at mediation.

Before the massacres in Duékoué, which shifted international opinion on Ouattara’s forces, the greater violence was rightly attributed to Gbagbo. But the atrocities committed by pro-Ouattara forces have not received the same attention as those committed by pro-Gbagbo troops. Compare the wide coverage of the fatal shooting of six women protesters in Abidjan on March 6, with the minimal reports of violence in Attecoube, a suburb of Abidjan, or the displacement of 700 people in the village of Anokua-Koute by pro-Ouattara forces, a few days later.

Zuckerman cites the lack of attention to the Ivorian crisis as one of the main reasons for the absence of critical perspective. “It’s unfortunate for the Ivory Coast that there’s been so many other high profile international stories demanding attention, from the Arab Spring revolutions and protests to the tragedies in Japan. It’s possible that, if Ivory Coast were the major international story unfolding, we might have gotten more subtlety in reporting,” he says.

There is discussion of Cote d’Ivoire’s economic and agricultural potential, as well as its present status as a failed state, here, and a fascinating look at imperialist attitudes in international rules of conflict here.

> Salon has a moving memorial to war photographer Chris Hondros here; as an undercurrent, it also quietly discusses the risk and responsibilities of being a combat photographer.

He believed entirely in the power of photojournalism to change the world, to enlighten hearts and minds, and to bring justice and possibly comfort to those who are suffering the most. His deepest commitment, from the very beginning, was to honor those he photographed and bear witness to their struggles. He achieved that time and again, with a degree of humanity and humility I’ve never found in anyone else.

Interestingly, a combat photographer remix (more or less) of The Hurt Locker called The Bang Bang Club opened at Tribeca Thursday.

> Jon Kyl’s lie unfactual statement that abortions make up 90% of Planned Parenthood’s services have been stricken from the Congressional record. Thank goodness for the Internet, and alas that no matter how much editing happens behind the scenes, it is forever branded in the minds of all of us that Jon Kyl is quite frankly an idiot. #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement

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Written by whackanarwhal

April 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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