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newsmongering 02/14 (the “happy singles’ awareness day!” edition)

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> If it is presently February 14 where you are right now (sorry, Australia), Neil Gaiman has a poem for you!

Small Valentine’s Day Poem

Roses are red,
Violets are purple,
Which is a very hard word to rhyme
And makes me happy that on February the 14th we don’t traditionally have to give each other oranges.

Also, if so compelled, you can go to Last.fm and listen to (and download!) his audiobook short story “Harlequin Valentine”. Also, the ebook of “Neverwhere” (which is fantastic) is on sale for $2.99.

/shameless plug

> Today marks the 67th anniversary of the firebombing of Dresden, an Allied-led bombing mission that killed over 25,000 people in the German city. Dresden has traditionally experienced tensions between neo-Nazi groups who come to the city on a “funeral march” for those they see as their fallen comrades, and other mourners in the city; last year, confrontations turned violent when more than 6,000 right-wing demonstrators clashed with counter-demonstrators, with anti-riot police caught in the middle. This year, however, the remembrance was a largely peaceful affair.

> So after Israel accused Iran of attacks on Israeli diplomats in Georgia and India yesterday, a man believed to be Iranian managed to blow his own legs off with a grenade while trying to throw said grenade at police in Bangkok today (an eyewitness quoted on NPR this afternoon suggested that the man threw the grenade and that it bounced off a tree and landed in front of him). Another Iranian man was detained at the airport, and a third suspect remains at large.

> Remember that time Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) was like, “Abortions are well over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s services!” and then it turned out he didn’t mean it, because the actual number is something like three percent, and it turned out Kyl had rounded to the nearest 90%? Ladies and gentlemen and other-identifying beings, here’s Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) with a repeat performance:

In a chat with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Hatch said taxpayers are financing abortions, adding that while Planned Parenthood officials claim public funds aren’t used to terminate unwanted pregnancies, “about 95 percent of all they do, from what I understand, is abortions.”

Um.

> Speaking of rounding way, way up, Foreign Policy’s ever-excellent Joshua Keating has a hilarious piece on incumbent Turkmenistani President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s win of 97% of the vote in his country’s “elections,” and what Keating refers to as “the dictator’s dilemma”: when fixing an election, what fabricated percentages should be reported?

The 90 percent mark seems to be a useful line to distinguish between the authoritarian governments that care about the international perception of their elections and want to present the appearance of having an  opposition, and those that care only about demonstrating their absolute control to their own citizens.

While neither is a democratic contest, there is a difference — in intended effect at least — between Hosni Mubarak getting 88.6 percent of the vote in 2005 and Bashar al-Assad getting 97.62 percent in a “presidential referendum,” with no opposition candidates, as he did in 2007. Then there’s the 99 percent club, which includes the Castro brothers, and Kim Jong Il. Saddam Hussein went for the full 100 percent in 2002, but then again, he was overthrown a year later. (Why a dictator decides between winning by 97 percent or 99 percent isn’t quite clear.)

> Rick Santorum, father of all that is sensical in this strange, liberal world, would like you to know that  God’s law trumps civil law, and that he is a warrior on the road for religious freedom. Relatedly, Jon Stewart would like evangelical leadership on the far right in this country to please better distinguish between a genocidal war on the foundation of one’s faith and simply not getting what you want all the time.

I mean, seriously.

> Oh hey, speaking of which, if you’ve ever wondered what happens in a hospital when a woman bleeding out from a backalley abortion comes in, this is pretty much it.

> Also, sixteenth-century Spain has totally endorsed Mr. Santorum.

Rick Santorum scored a major coup for his come-from-behind Presidential campaign, when he received the endorsement of 16th-Century Spain, where is he is widely admired.

“We really like his strict stands against gays, abortion, condoms and premarital sex and of course, his staunch opposition to Obama the Moor,” said Friar Sebastian de Montoya, an assistant torturer for the Inquisition in Seville. “We all wish we could vote for him but alas, there are no elections here.”

> So the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has come up for renewal every few years since it was ratified in 1994, and that renewal is usually pretty easy, because it’s sort of a no-brainer. Except this year, for the first time, the bill received no Republican support in committee – in other words, for the first time, it’s not a bipartisan operation. Why, you may ask? Well, new provisions drafted this year include protections for LGBTetc. victims of domestic violence, undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse, and the authority of Native American tribes to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence; it also expands the number of visas available for undocumented immigrants who are the victims of domestic violence, and forbids discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender by VAWA grantees. The GOP…is not comfortable with this. Apparently.

In a Feb. 2 hearing, Grassley said he backs VAWA reauthorization, but he could not support the Leahy-Crapo version, in part because of the aforementioned provisions on LGBT individuals, immigration and tribal authority.

“The substitute creates so many new programs for underserved populations that it risks losing focus on helping victims, period,” he said of the new LGBT protections, adding, “If every group is a priority, no group is a priority.”

Grassley also objected to the tribal language, saying it was the first time the committee would “extend tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians.”

On the immigration front, Grassley said, “VAWA is meant to protect victims of violence. It shouldn’t be an avenue to expand immigration law or give additional benefits to people here unlawfully.”

The New York Times finds this kind of unacceptable:

Mustering the 60 votes needed to get the bill through the full Senate will not be easy, even though previous reauthorizations were approved by unanimous consent. Recalcitrant Republicans should be made to explain to voters why they refuse to get behind the federal fight against domestic violence and sexual assaults.

> Come October, China’s looking at a carefully-orchestrated shakeup of party leadership, and current President Hu Jintao’s heir apparent, Xi (pronounced “she”) Jinping will be in DC early next week. Foreign Policy (in an article titled “Will Xi or Won’t Xi?” on their homepage) characterizes Xi as “the cleanest, least offensive, most loyal politician the party could find” and predicts,

For the next six months, like Hu prior to his ascension to party chairman in 2002, Xi will lay low, producing at most a screed of accepted formula that won’t leave him vulnerable to attack within the party. In January, Xi gave a grindingly orthodox talk on the need for cultural wholesomeness and the need for more “ideological control” over students. He parrots Hu in his quest not to offend his predecessor, talking of the need to preserve harmony, guard against forces of instability, and push “core socialist values,” all Hu buzzwords. Nothing he has said publicly prefigures any radical departure from the previous decade. In the U.S. presidential campaign, surprise, grandiose declarations, and the daily clash among contenders form part of the testing process of possible candidates. The Chinese keep contention well out of sight; the less Xi looks like he is actually chasing the top slot, the better it is for him.

Der Spiegel notes:

…The man visiting the White House this week will be the watchdog over the world’s largest foreign currency reserves, worth about $3.2 trillion (€2.4 trillion), and he will play a key role in determining how China can most effectively take advantage of the current weaknesses of the United States and the Europeans. At the same time, the future president and party leader will have to come to terms with Asian neighbors like Vietnam, countries that, fearing a militarily strengthened Beijing, are increasingly seeking protection with China’s Pacific rival, the United States. Xi will also have to grapple with the biggest challenge to Chinese society, the growing social unrest in a country that produces a large share of the world’s goods and whose economic miracle could be seriously threatened as a result.

So, you know, good times. Or at least fun to watch.

> China’s been in the news in other interesting ways lately. Although American-led intervention in Syria looks unlikely (and ill-advised) at this juncture (see here for more), China has publicly announced that it won’t take any sides militarily should the Syrian situation, um, expand. Which doesn’t actually mean all that much in any actuality – China pretty much doesn’t interfere militarily anytime ever in recent history – but it could potentially send a message to Syrian leadership. I think. China has also called on Iran to pipe down and play nice with the international community regarding the country’s nuclear ambitions.

> Following singer Whitney Houston’s death this weekend, Sony and Apple appear to have both hiked prices of her albums and singles in their digital stores and now stand accused of profiteering by righteously pissy fans. All surprised, please raise your hands.

> The Economist has a groundbreaking piece with the hold-onto-your-hats thesis that workplaces accepting of LGBTetc. employees will probably see better productivity and better attitudes from those employees, to the greater benefit of the company. Ye gods! What an idea!

Still, the gay revolution in the workplace is remarkable. In most places, companies are more liberal than governments. In America, for example, until last year soldiers could be kicked out of the army for being gay, and 29 states still allow discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. In the coming years, the revolution is likely to gather pace. Younger workers are far more relaxed about homosexuality than their parents were. Indeed, many young heterosexuals would feel uncomfortable working for a firm that failed to treat gays decently. Companies vying to recruit them will bear this in mind.

> For Valentine’s Day, have Andrea Gibson performing “How It Ends.” It’s one of my favorites.

 

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Written by whackanarwhal

February 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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