news you should know about

newsmongering 06/09 (part deux)

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> About 2,400 people crossed the Syria-Turkey border last night ahead of government troops making their (apparently leisurely way) to the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour; about 30,000 Syrian troops have allegedly amassed in a nearby town, and thirteen or fourteen tanks are allegedly surrounding the city. Turkish border guards have been ordered to allow Syrians to pass through freely. The Syrian information ministry is denying the exodus, but then they’ve been denying practically everything else that’s occurred in the last three months, so no surprises there.

The crossing is occurring in Antakya, the single claw foot on the bathtub that is Turkey. That border’s been in dispute since the 1930’s; the rest of the world says it’s Turkish, but Syrian maps, I’ve been told, still show it as part of Syria. Relations between the two countries have been mostly cordial lately; I wonder if this will change anything.

Also, I just realized that I’ve been to that border. Wow.

> A UN nuclear watchdog group has referred Syria to the Security Council. After Syria supposedly built an undeclared nuclear reactor. Which the Israelis bombed into powder. In 2006. I’m sure Syria is mightily cowed.

> A Libyan rebel group has sold its first oil – and they’ve sold it to the US: “The rebel government in control of the eastern part of Libya has made its first sale of oil from territory it controls, the State Department confirmed Wednesday.” Wonder if this will accelerate the US’s recognition of the rebel government?

> The International Criminal Courts claim to have evidence the Qaddafi has ordered troops to use rape as a weapon (more here and here).There’s a lot of disbelief in internet discussion of this, and a notable lack of awareness of rape as a war crime. From the Odyssey to Serbia to now, none of this is new. And in 1998, an LA prosecutor named Pierre Prosper successfully argued that Hutu Jean-Paul Akayesu had committed genocide by attempting to annihilate the Tutsi community by destroying – through rape – any emotional means by which the community could recover. Furthermore, Libya is part of a region where sexual violation is tantamount to death (whether or not it should be is not up for discussion now; what matters at this juncture is the reality on the ground). Rape can, has, and will be used to destroy communities.

Furthermore, journalists have been documenting rapes committed against Libyan civilians by loyalist militias for months; see here, here, here, here (warning: video starts immediately), and here. Eman al-Obeidy was hardly an isolated incident.

I don’t doubt that some of this is being inflated; I don’t doubt that this is being used to push an agenda. But I also don’t doubt that this is real.

> Hungary is freaking me out a little. The country’s taking a significant swing to the right recently (as I’ve discussed here). Now, in the town of Tiszavasvari, the capital of the radical right-wing Jobbik party, the local mayor has dealt with allegations of “Gypsy crime” (his words, not mine) by forming “a uniformed vigilante group” known as gendarmerie. Gendarmes, a local police spokesperson emphasizes, are not affiliated with local police forces, and “are unarmed but have the right to detain any suspected wrong-doer until the police arrive.” The issues surrounding Roma – and European response to them – are obviously complicated and manifold, but perhaps we can agree that creating a task force specifically to deal with a particular ethnic group is…questionable? Why couldn’t the same resources have been applied to Tiszavasvari’s police force?

> Estonia is apparently the world capital of cybersecurity. I would be curious to hear what a few of you who actually know something about this sort of thing think. All I know about Estonia is that the bread’s really good and Skype was invented there. Also, I don’t believe I’ve seen “cyber-” used as a prefix at this rate since 1998.

> So right about a week after a panel of the people arguably the most qualified in the world do so declared that the war on drugs was a unilateral failure, Russia has launched a “total war” on drugs. This sort of thing is why, as a rule of thumb, I tend to regard Russia as the Titanic of policy. Drug dealers are to be treated “like serial killers” and could possibly be sent to forced labor camps. Users could be offered a choice between imprisonment or treatment, although in this instance treatment can include practices such as “coding,” “a controversial therapy in which patients are scared into thinking terrible consequences (such as their testicles falling off) will result if they mix drugs with medicines which are actually placebos.”

And yeah, drug use/addiction is a massive problem in Russia; one in twenty-five people are addicts, drugs kill 100,000 people a year, and unsafe needle use is accelerating rates of HIV infection. But if memory serves, rates of infection of TB, HIV, and other diseases are higher in Russia’s prisons than in any other population group in the country, and Russia’s prison population (while not as high as the US’s!) is massive, and whether the infrastructure exists to actually – for instance – stop trafficking in prisons is questionable. Or the massive corruption in Russian bureaucracies, which could easily lead to “cannon fodder” (small-time users, their families, minor dealers) bearing the brunt of enforcement, while kingpins go free.

Also the part where the rest of the world says “wars on drugs” don’t work; that, too.

> Speaking of which, a Senate subcomittee has examined Pentagon spending in Latin America from 2005 to 2009 and “couldn’t find any evidence that the billions of dollars spent on fighting the war on drugs was actually reducing the amount of illegal narcotics that found their way into the United States” and “has a corrosive effect on every country touched.” The White House, unsurprisingly if irritatingly, does not agree.

> Rick Santorum, GOP 2012 candidate, claims that climate change is liberal conspiracy based on junk science.

> We seem to be in the middle of a jellyfish bloom. Seriously, these little suckers can be the size of refrigerators and sink ten-ton fishing trawlers. This is not helping my issues with water. Also, isn’t the water off the coast of Japan a tad radioactive at the moment? These things are going to mutate into jellyfish-velociraptor-pterodactyl hybrids. Say au revoir to the Korean peninsula.


Written by whackanarwhal

June 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] the Russian government has recently launched a “war on drugs” (I discussed it briefly here) in hopes of dealing with the problem. An estimated one in 100 Russians are HIV positive, and over […]

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