news you should know about

newsmongering 07/12 (…technically 07/13) (oops) (deal with it)

with one comment

> I was watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and got distracted. Don’t hate.

> I almost didn’t report this, because I quite frankly don’t believe anything will come of it, but Human Rights Watch says that it has “overwhelming evidence” of torture ordered by former President George W. Bush and urges the Obama administration to order an investigation into these allegations.

The former president, vice-president, defence secretary and head of the CIA should all be investigated, the group says.

“There are solid grounds to investigate [George] Bush, [former vice-president Dick] Cheney, [former defence secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, and [former CIA director George] Tenet for authorising torture and war crimes,” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director. President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime. His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly re-established.”

You can read HRW’s full report, which totals 107 pages, here.

> So the Knesset (Israeli legislature, for those playing along at home) has adopted a piece of legislation making it illegal to support any boycott protesting the West Bank occupations. It’s mostly a symbolic gesture (are they learning from the GOP in the House here?), and will likely be overturned, but as symbolic gestures go, it’s still pretty ill-advised.

The campaign against Israeli settlements is real, but this new law will almost certainly backfire. By crudely conflating Israel — which is almost universally regarded as a legitimate member state of the United Nations — with its occupation and settlements in the West Bank — which are almost universally regarded as illegitimate and indeed illegal, as well as a threat to peace — the Knesset has yet again provided an official Israeli argument for those who would extend the boycott campaign to include all Israeli institutions and not just aspects of the occupation.

> Having denied that they were in direct talks with Libyan sort-of-presently-dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the French are reporting that Qaddafi would agree to leave Libya under certain conditions. It’s incredibly unclear what those conditions would be, but one imagines that cessation of air strikes and guaranteed protection in a somewhat neighboring (but not bordering) country would be required.

> So apparently some radioactive cattle made it to Japan’s meat markets and have been consumed. Whoopsies? Also involving Japan and meat, Japan’s whaling fleet is heading out to the Antarctic, despite heavy opposition from environmental groups, as well as pesky financial issues and some international laws. Last year, activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society successfully dropped the fleet’s total haul to 170, down from its intended target of 850 whales.

> Hey, so in Swaziland, one in five adults is HIV positive. For women in their twenties and men in their thirties, it’s one in every two. Read that again. Want to guess how many orphans there are in Swaziland? Hint: a lot. Go read more here.

> The US has backed out of an arms deal with Taiwan five years in the making out of fear of upsetting China. Hmmm.

> So, um, not so good for Rupert Murdoch lately, eh? The elder Murdoch, his son James, and former executive officer Rebekah Brooks have been called upon to testify before Parliament regarding charges of – oh, let’s call them gross misconduct by now-defunct tabloid News of the World. Aside from the phone hacking issues and general lack of class, it appears that Brooks may have (attempted to?) blackmailed former Prime Minister Gordon Brown with information regarding his son’s health.

(I kind of love that in discussing Murdoch’s bid to acquire British Sky Broadcasting, the New York Times feels it necessary to specify that News Corp. does not actually already own it)


The growing phone hacking scandal has sent News Corp’s shares down 13% since the story first broke. The share price collapse had wiped more than $5bn off the market value of News Corp. The drop was most painfully felt by the Murdoch family, which with a 39.7% shareholding, saw its paper fortune reduced by more than $2bn.

> In news that really shouldn’t surprise anyone, a new study indicates that “Most Irish people drink in a harmful manner and…per capita consumption of alcohol is among the highest in Europe.” There were 170 alcohol-related deaths in Ireland last year, two-thirds of which occurred in males under the age of 50.

> Should you be enough of a masochist to be following the GOP field fifteen months away from the 2012 elections (It’s cool! We can form a club!), Autostraddle has a handy roundup of some of the top contenders, as well as an approximate Death Eater comparison for each candidate discussed. Full disclosure: Bellatrix Lestrange just became substantially less cool now that I associate her with  Michelle Bachmann. Ugh. (More on that comparison here; discussing Bachmann’s husband’s comment that “We have a responsibility as parents not to encourage such [homosexual] thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps…” Autostraddle notes, with a touch of wonder, “…it sounds like perfectly reasonable, commonplace advice for protecting kids from real dangers, like drugs or alcohol. And yet, he is applying this to people of the same sex falling in love and forming relationships.” [emphasis theirs])

> So, uh, speaking of Bellatrix becoming less interesting, the Vatican has apparently decided that Harry Potter is cool! (Only about fifteen years too late!)

…the saga championed values that Christians and non-Christians share and provided opportunities for Christian parents to talk to their children about how those values are presented in a special way in the Bible.

Potter’s archenemy, Lord Voldemort, “does not represent Satan, as it would be easy to think, but is a man who has made bad choices in his life,” Carriero said.

Voldemort has chosen not to love others and sees himself as the center of the universe, he said.

Well, that’s certainly one way of putting it.

I seem to recall a reviewer once describing Harry Potter as the greatest opportunity the Catholic Church ever missed; it’s hard for me to say that I agree, because so much of my opinion of the Church is colored by its whiplash condemnation of things like Harry Potter. I disagree with parts of the review – quelle surprise – but this part gets it just about right:

The film also teaches that “it’s possible to change the world. It is Harry, with his inseparable friends, who demonstrates that it is possible to vanquish evil and establish peace. Power, success and an easy life do not bring the truest and deepest joys. For that we need friendship, self-giving, sacrifice and attachment to a truth that is not formed in man’s image,” the review said

Okay, so that last bit is contentious, but the primary stuff’s there. And that’s more than I can typically say about the Church.

> Speaking of which: JULY 15 JULY 15 JULY 15. I expect to continue my usual tradition of missing the midnight showing and seeing at a matinee on the weekend, but, um, yeah. Psyched. I’m not going all “my childhood is over” yet (although there will be tears), but just come and find me after the second installment of The Hobbit hits theaters. I’ll be a mess. Just warning you.

Where was I? Oh, right. Anyway, apparently Deathly Hallows 2 is pretty fantastic; it’s “satisfying and glorious,” “one of the finest closing chapters to a franchise in movie history,” “amazing…outstanding,” “heart-pounding cinema,” “propulsive,” and finally…oh, just go read Time‘s entire review. I’ve argued for years – Lee can back me up on this – that Harry Potter is at its core a tragedy; the tragedy of growing up.

I restarted the first book for about the twentieth time last night, and had to put it down. Imagine if any of us had know that the series that began with “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much” (can I do that from memory? Yes, I can) or “You’re lucky it’s dark. I haven’t blushed so much since Madam Pomfrey told me she liked my new earmuffs” (ditto, and how were any of us surprised when Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay? Or were we just surprised that she said it?) would end with “Quicker and easier than falling asleep”? Time notes that:

DH2 is, essentially, a war movie, a prolonged siege of Hogwarts, a children’s crusade against the Dark Lord and his overwhelming forces. The martial damage wreaked on the school is reminiscent of a blitzed London, a cratered Munich, in World War II — a good-vs.-evil face-off that Rowling surely had in mind as clearly if not as immediately as J.R.R. Tolkien did when he sent the Fellowship of the Ring trudging toward Mount Doom. It is a war for which Harry feels desperately underarmed, physically and intellectually. As he asks Hermione, “When have any of our plans actually worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose.”

Relatedly, the ever-excellent Racheline Maltese was quoted in a Time article on transformative works (aka fanfiction, fanart, etc.) (also, if you’ve read Paradise Lost or any part of The Divine Comedy, you’ve read fanfiction. Just sayin’.) aptly called “The Boy Who Lived Forever” and has a truly fascinating discussion of Severus Snape as a representation of female heroism here. It makes me want to go reread the whole series again just to experience it from that angle.  One of the best things I’ve read all year. Think I’m joking? Go read it yourself.

Also, apparently Emma Watson cried on the red carpet during the premiere of Deathly Hallows 2.

Here, have a trailer.

And a really, really excellent retrospective.

(Go watch her edit of Fight Club, too.)

> Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was, I kid thee not, playing on three different radio stations simultaneously at work today.

Oh, and John Legend’s cover is decent, too.

Written by whackanarwhal

July 13, 2011 at 1:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Bunches of news, but I feel I need to say AARGH ISRAEL AARGH
    Constricting free speech in the name of something we shouldn’t be doing anyway? Sounds awesome you guys! I’m aware of the security concerns of easing off the Palestinians completely, but in a world that’s at least TRYING to be post-Imperialist this is NOT the way to be going about things.


    July 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm

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