news you should know about

newsmongering 05/19

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> After her arrest in Syria and extradition to Iran, Al Jazeera reporter Dorothy Parvaz writes about her experience here:

[My cellmate] returned an hour later, with no apparent resolution to her problem. She still looked out the window and cried, worrying about her parents, wondering if or when she’d see them again.

I couldn’t help but wonder: what sort of threat does this girl pose to the Syrian state that they have to keep her in this rotting room? What are they so afraid of?

> IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned his position and has been released on bail. He will wear an electronic anklet and be under house arrest with an armed guard. After Ben Stein published an editorial (do take a look; some of Reddit wondered if it was intended to be satire) suggesting Strauss-Kahn seemed unlikely to be a culprit because (among other things, “People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?” and “I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics,” XKCD’s Randall Monroe responded  by pointing out that serial killer Paul Bernardo, who was known as “The Schoolgirl Killer,” happened to hold a degree in economics. Over on Facebook, Michael published a note:

As you all are no doubt aware, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was recently arrested on charges of sexual assault. The nature and high profile of the charges quite predictably brought about some denialism from the usual quarters. Some of that denialism was based on a flawed interpretation of the concept of presumption of innocence (additionally, in Ben Stein’s immortal words, “People who commit crimes tend to be criminals,” a claim demonstrating levels of wisdom and erudition unseen since the beginning of time itself). The argument, so it goes, is that we cannot claim that Strauss-Kahn is guilty because we don’t know this for certain, and that therefore in order to presume his innocence we must presume that the slutty b*tch is lying.

Stein also wanted to know:

The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn “forced” the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He’s a short fat old man. They were in a hotel with people passing by the room constantly, if it’s anything like the many hotels I am in. How did he intimidate her in that situation? And if he was so intimidating, why did she immediately feel un-intimidated enough to alert the authorities as to her story?

I’m curious as to how Mr. Stein thinks most rapes are reported; apparently all rapes are violent and not “intimidating.” What an interesting world Mr. Stein must live in.

> Following the earthquake and tsunami earlier this spring, Japan’s economy has moved into a recession. Also in Japan, a group of pensioners in their seventies have chosen to work in the contaminated area building a new cooling system, arguing, “So why not us? Since we don’t have such a long future ahead?”

Yamada and his friends have now contacted 2,500 people in Tokyo and the surroundings. Some 450 people have already offered their help and 90 of them – all in their 60s – have agreed to work in the plant itself. He says they are “worried about what’s coming. But should we not do anything just because we are worried?”

>Philippine president Benigno Aquino has said that he is prepared to face excommunication from the Roman Catholic church for advocating free access to condoms. The number of people infected with AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region has doubled to 1.4 million in the past decade. Additionally, an estimated 650,000 Filipino women seek illegal abortions every year in the Catholic nation, with about 90,000 suffering complications and about 1,000 dying every year. “Influential bishops have blocked family planning bills in the past by arguing that they would erode moral values and encourage promiscuity and early pregnancies” and calling for abstinence. Offhand, I’d say “promiscuity and early pregnancies” are happening anyway.

“I have been taught in school, which was a Catholic institution, that the final arbiter really is our conscience,” Aquino told reporters Wednesday. “We are not looking for a fight with the church. This is on the record. I have invited them many times so that we can have discussions, and we have focused on areas where we can agree on.”

> A whistleblower in the Russian military claims that Russian troops in Vladivostok were fed dog food last year to save money. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has cited corruption as one of the largest issues facing Russia’s security forces.

> Computer scientist Fang Binxing, the architect of China’s “Great Firewall,” was allegedly pelted by eggs and shoes while lecturing at Wuhan University.

> I missed Obama’s foreign policy speech this morning, which I happen to be kicking myself over (although I was in the car when NPR mentioned it before Talk of the Nation and apparently he called the Syrian crackdown murder? Now that’s interesting). And chances are that I won’t be able to devote nearly as much time to it as I want to. But here’s what I have: Obama called for Israel to return to the 1967 borders, which I believe would involve rescinding claims to the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the West Bank, and to accept a Palestinian state; however,

Hamas called Obama’s remarks “empty of concrete significance” and promised not to recognize “the Israeli occupation.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated that Washington should stand by previous U.S. commitments relating “to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers … beyond those lines.”

From The New York Times:

At one level, by putting the United States on record as supporting the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, Mr. Obama was simply endorsing reality: Middle East analysts say a new state would inevitably be drawn on the basis of Israel’s boundaries before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which created the contours of today’s Middle East.

Israel’s victory over Egypt and other Arab neighbors in that war expanded its control over territory in the West Bank and Gaza inhabited by millions of Palestinians, creating a greater Israel — including all of the capital, Jerusalem — but one that oversees a resentful occupied population.

…He also made several other gestures to Mr. Netanyahu, highlighting the security threats to Israel. Mr. Obama’s reference to a “nonmilitarized” Palestinian state is likely to dismay Palestinians, who have long said that such matters should be decided in negotiations. The president also said that the recent unity agreement between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, raised “profound and legitimate questions for Israel.”

“How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” he said, referring to Hamas, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization. “In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

Gestures or no, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is not amused:

Netanyahu said he expected “to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004” — an allusion to a letter by then-President George W. Bush suggesting the Jewish state may keep big settlement blocs as part of any peace pact with the Palestinians.

Libyan rebel leaders have allegedly pronounced the speech, which reassured democratic movements in the Middle East of US support (good vibes, apparently), “good enough.”

CNN’s Elise Labott has a comparison between today’s speech and the 2009 Cairo speech here; she refers to today’s speech as a “do-over” and calls the 2009 speech “an attempt to seduce the region” – which went over like a pregnant pole vaulter when, months later, the Obama administration did not intervene in the violent post-election crackdown in Libya (for what it’s worth, I was in Istanbul during the speech; the average Turkish reaction was pretty lukewarm, if I recall). I’ve excerpted the parts that struck me:

But after a shaky start in Egypt, the administration eventually supported the democratic forces that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak. And Obama’s support for military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi sent a message to other Arab tyrants that killing thousands of your own people is a line not to be crossed.

…”The Khalifas [Bahrain’s royal family] got a pass because they are our friends. [Yemeni president] Saleh got a pass because counterterrorism efforts are king,” Miller said. “But there is no reason why Syria should get a pass. Maybe before he was killing his people, but not now.”

…”You can’t say to Egyptians fighting for freedom, ‘We are with you’ and to Palestinians fighting for freedom ‘It is complicated,” said Muasher. “That is not going to win you and hearts and minds in the Middle East.”

The GOP is not digging Obama’s suggestions towards Israel and Palestine; I believe the phrase “thrown under a bus” was used. My personal favorite comes from Florida Republican Allen West:

Today’s endorsement by President Barack Obama of the creation of a Hamas-led Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, signals the most egregious foreign policy decision his administration has made to date, and could be the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state.

But we wouldn’t want to hyperbolize or anything.

> Also, Netanyahu and Obama have a meeting scheduled for early next week. Sounds like it might be a bit tense; the Foreign Policy editorial on it is titled “President ‘Yes, I Can’ Meets Prime Minister ‘No, You Won’t’.” So that should be fun.

> Congressional leaders have reached a “tentative” deal on the Patriot Act that will extend it for four years; “The move would largely take the issue off the table for the next election by extending the law well beyond November 2012.”

> Republican Senators are allegedly ppressuring the White House on the War Powers Act, which requires Congress to authorize foreign military actions lasting more than sixty days. This would possibly be the first time the GOP has balked at shooting people in deserts overseas in the past decade. The sixty-day mark of US involvement in Libya hits Friday. I will not be surprised if a last-minute backroom deal moving the vote back is announced.

The GOP senators said they believe the president already violated part of the War Powers Act – which says the president’s constitutional powers allow him to only deploy troops into “hostilities” with a declaration of war, specific authorization from Congress or a national emergency caused by an attack on the U.S.

But the president did follow the provision in the 1973 law requiring him to provide information to Congress about committing U.S. forces. Now the question is whether he will abide by the part of the War Powers Act which says he must get Congressional permission within 60 days.

> Although he has not formally declared his intention to run, Indiana governor Scott Walker appears to be the Republican darling for 2012, although it should be noted that the pickins in that area are looking mighty slim these days (I’m still peeved that Huckabee and Trump dropped. That was going to be so much fun).

[ed. 5/20 – The governor of Indiana is Mitch Daniels, not Scott Walker, although Daniels is the golden child for the GOP at present. Not sure how Walker made his way into this. Thanks to Brad for the catch!]

> Also, I haven’t seen the segment yet or investigated this at all, but apparently Donald Trump has (had?) an ABBA ringtone? Best news ever!

> Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is moving to ban hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples. And here you can read about a Florida woman who died alone in an ICU because the hospital refused to allow her partner of eighteen years and their children to see her:

On Monday February 19, 2007 at 10:45am, Lisa was officially declared Brain Dead. It was then that individuals from the Organ Donation Agency became involved (who I must point out are completely separate professionals from Jackson Memorial Hospital) that I finally was validated as Lisa’s spouse. They asked me which organs she wanted donated.

> In the Kansas House, Rep. Pete DeGraaf suggested that women should “plan ahead” and purchase abortion-covering insurance because it is analogous to traveling with a spare tire. Apparently the comment “drew groans” in the House. Women: plan ahead. It’s only responsible! Like having OnStar! But for rape!

> Today I found Politico 44, which bills itself as “a living diary of the Obama presidency.” It has a blow-by-blow schedule of the President’s day. Man, I did not need to know this existed.

> Speaking of Kansas, the town of Manhattan has repealed a law forbidding discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The law had been passed three months ago.

> I’m just copying this whole article from The New Zealand Herald:

Hungary’s disaster management agency is testing the country’s emergency broadcast system with warnings of severe storms in Middle-earth, the fictional setting of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Messages broadcast Wednesday mostly on state radio and television are warning Hungarians about floods and catastrophic weather in Gondor, Rohan, Rivendell, Helm’s Deep and other locations inhabited by Hobbits, Orcs, Elves, Ents and Dwarves.

Officials say they chose Tolkien’s fantasy world because they don’t want to alarm people by mentioning real locations in the test and want to gauge how effectively the emergency messages reach Hungary’s youth.


Written by whackanarwhal

May 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Just letting you know that the Indiana governor is Daniels and not Walker. I was confused about how one dude was governor of two states xD


    May 19, 2011 at 11:44 pm

  2. Well…dang. That’s what I get for multitasking. I’ll make a correction. Thank you!


    May 20, 2011 at 7:41 am

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