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newsmongering 06/10

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> State television is reporting that the Syrian army has entered the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur, beginning the crackdown widely anticipated after between dozens and a hundred security agents were killed there last week. It appears that Jisr al-Shughur is receiving the heaviest end of a nation-wide operation; deaths were reported across the country after Friday evening’s prayers. An estimated 2,500 refugees have crossed the nearby Turkish border ahead of the assault. In a strongly-worded statement, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the Syrian actions, describing them as “inhumane” and “unacceptable,” and stated that Turkey would support unspecified UN sanctions against Damascus. More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and an estimated 10,000 have been arrested since protests began on March 15.

> Anonymous appears to have attacked Turkish government websites in protest of Turkey’s new Internet filtering packages. The Turkish government has also accused the group of planning to disrupt voting systems during Sunday’s elections. Anonymous has denied any plans of doing so.

> Der Spiegel discusses the rise of  Turkey (“the China of Europe”) (which is fundamentally quite accurate if a bit funny, because the vast majority of the country is in Asia). It’s a fascinating article, although the authors seem a bit unconcerned with Erdoğan’s cheerful willingness to overextend his authority, and it never discusses Ergenekon, the Kurds, or the Armenian question, let alone Turkey’s sort-of bid to join the EU – all of which are major factors in how Turkey comports itself and presents itself to the world.

Erdogan has achieved a lot. He has taken the fight out of Turkey’s powerful military brass, demoralized the secular elites and straightened out the cotton kings and concrete tycoons who once amicably divided up the country with the generals. He has built up Turkey, traditionally a country of coups and crises, into a regional power. He is taken seriously as an important player in London and Washington, just as he is in Riyadh and Beijing. And even Israel — with whom he has picked fights, much to the delight of Arabs — follows his every step with great attention. Erdogan has provided the Turks, even those who can’t stand him, with a self-confidence they lacked before.

I have some host families – they uniformly hated Erdoğan – who would argue that last statement, but fundamentally, that paragraph is spot-on accurate.

> The UN has passed a resolution making Qaddafi a legitimate target for NATO forces.

Asked by CNN whether Gadhafi was being targeted, the NATO official declined to give a direct answer. The resolution applies to Gadhafi because, as head of the military, he is part of the control and command structure and therefore a legitimate target, the official said.

> Israel really, really doesn’t want the Arab Spring to extend to Palestine. I wonder what will happen when Freedom Flotilla 2 enters the picture.

> Egypt’s economy has not recovered since the February revolution; “The 18-day revolt stopped new foreign investment and decimated the pivotal tourist industry. The annual growth slowed to less than 2 percent from a projected 5 percent, and Egypt’s hard currency reserves plunged 25 percent.” Another revolution – a “hunger revolution” – may be in the works. I hope not; more unrest is not going to make the situation any better.

> In the wake of the economic crisis, Iceland is overhauling its constitution, and they’re using social media to get its citizens’ input. A review of the constitution has been planned for years – when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark in 1944, it adopted the Danish constitution pretty much pro forma, with a few minor edits (ie, substituting “president” for “king”).

Iceland’s population of 320,000 is among the world’s most computer-literate. Two-thirds of Icelanders are on Facebook, so the constitutional council’s weekly meetings are broadcast live on the social networking site as well as on the council’s website.

“It is possible to register through other means, but most of the discussion takes place via Facebook,” said Berghildur Bernhardsdottir, spokesman for the constitutional review project.

…”To me, it has long been clear that a comprehensive review of the constitution would only be carried out with the direct participation of the Icelandic people,” said Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, one of the champions of the constitutional review since taking office in 2009.

> Spain has arrested three people it believes to be members of Anonymous. I suspect this isn’t nearly a big a deal as the media would like it to be.

> The Economist calls Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi “the man who screwed over an entire country.” And they have a point, although I’d like to point out that Berlusconi hasn’t invaded Afghanistan. Yet.

> The fledgling Russian antiabortion movement is taking its cues from the US. Well. Crap.

Russia’s anti-abortion movement is as yet small despite its influential backing and thus has not provoked a major outcry from weakly organized women’s groups. But it has created strange bedfellows.

Larry Jacobs, president of the World Congress of Families, based in Rockford, Illinois, attended the Sanctity of Motherhood forum and praised Russia’s new activists as allies. He has met with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow patriarchate’s department of external church relations. On a tour of the United States, where he was invited by Jerry Fullinwider, an oil executive who has done business in Russia since the 1980s, Hilarion highlighted a vocal anti-abortion stance as a uniting factor between Russian Orthodoxy and Protestant evangelicals. He has said they should form a “strategic alliance” with Roman Catholics.

In terms of American religious interferences, we really don’t need Russia to become another Africa.

> Croatia has been cleared to join the EU in 2013.

> Obama has extended Medicaid protections to gay couples!

> In Brussles, in his last policy speech as Pentagon chief, defense secretary Robert Gates indicated that the US wasn’t entirely down with NATO members behavior toward the organization as of late, suggesting that the US no longer sees the organization as a viable investment; when European member states (excepting Belgium and Canada) refuse to fulfill personnel and financial obligations, it’s often left to the US to make up the difference. On one hand, this means that the US more or less controls what NATO does and where it goes; on the other, it’s a not insignificant drain on American resources.

> Rachel Maddow and Larry Flynt (yes, that Larry Flynt) discuss Anthony Weiner and David Vitter, the junior senator from Louisiana, who in 2007 was found to have been a repeat customer of at least one DC brothel. Vitter was never seriously called upon to resign, despite having campaigned on a “family values” platform. Maddow and Flynt argue in the segment that the GOP’s easily willingness to forgive Vitter (possibly because his resignation likely would have resulted in a Democrat replacement) while calling for Weiner’s resignation (and possible crucifixion) means that Republicans are holding Democrats to different standards than themselves (which in turn is interesting because Republicans make such a huge deal about “protecting” those very standards). Anyway, it’s a good segment. Go watch it.

> And apparently at least one of the recipients of Weiner’s pictures had no prior connection to the congressman and had no idea why he’d sent them to her. Weiner’s trying to call it a joke. Looks like harassment from over here. Seriously, guys, just don’t do that.

> Polling suggests that most of Weiner’s constituents don’t particularly care about his personal life and would probably reelect him again. Which I’m pretty down with if this scenario actually involved his personal life, but he made it part of someone else’s personal life, too, without their request or consent, and I’m kind of not down with that.

> The majority of Newt Gingrich’s senior staff appears to have quit, citing strategic differences. In a statement released on Facebook, Gingrich sounds unconcerned, saying “I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.” However, some commentators are speculating that this could knock him out of the race entirely. Gingrich is (you may have noticed) a contentious figure, politically; evidence that he was involved in an affair while trying to impeach then-President Clinton for having an affair did little to endear him to evangelical voters, and his tendency to make barely-veiled racist statements regarding Obama is similarly not helping him.

> Rick Perry’s prayerapalooza is drawing some criticism, mostly because of that thing where he’s openly endorsing a hate group, not to mention that his “day of prayer” apparently only means Christian prayer (because everyone knows that Muslims and Jews don’t pray, sillies! Because it only counts if you’re praying to Jesus!). A spokesperson for Perry is denying that the event is politically motivated, although I’m pretty sure that if a major political figure creates an event and asks other political figures to accompany him, it’s kind of automatically a political event. Also, there’s some speculation that Perry will run for president in 2012, and this could be an opening salvo in that campaign. So that’s fun.

> This self-described “smartass trannyboy” from Canada met up with some bigoted/ignorant/transphobic border security, who called him a “gender-bending identity thief” and threatened to forcibly strip-search him.

I appreciate that the agents probably had no prior understand of transgenderism and were a little freaked out by some anomalous body scans, and that’s at topic that desperately needs to be addressed by training in the future. But can we all agree that deciding someone’s automatically a terrorist because a scan comes back a little weird is…you know, bad?

> Writing for Salon, David Sirota discusses the idiocy of American energy policy in the wake of Fukushima:

It all adds up to a frightening divergence: As the world increasingly embraces “do no harm,” we’re doubling down on “do, regardless of harm” — and as most physicians will tell you, that kind of attitude often ends in tragedy.

It’s an excellent, articulate, understandably angry article. Take a look.

> Given 100 artists a Darth Vader helmet and tell them to go to town with it? Here’s the results.

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Written by whackanarwhal

June 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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