news you should know about

newsmongering 02/24

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> The number of people living in slums worldwide is believed to have hit the one billion mark, and that number is expected to double by 2030.

> Representatives from between 50 and 60 nations (I’ve seen both) calling themselves “Friends of Syria” met in Tunis today to talk options and basically warn Assad & Co. (*cough*China/Russia/Iran*cough*) that, you know, the world is watching, and to urge Assad to allow a cease-fire so that humanitarian aid can get to civilians. Various factions, including Price Faroud of Saudi Arabia, have also spoken favorably of arming the rebels. Diplomatic sources have allegedly told CNN that various Arab nations are already arming opposition, and Hamas has publicly withdrawn its support from Assad:

Leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas turned publicly against their long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, endorsing the revolt aimed at overthrowing his dynastic rule. The policy shift deprives Assad of one of his few remaining Sunni Muslim supporters in the Arab world and deepens his international isolation. It was announced in Hamas speeches at Friday prayers in Cairo and a rally in the Gaza Strip.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to ask his predecessor, Nobel laureate Kofi Annan, to serve as UN envoy to Syria; meanwhile, the Syrian envoy to the UN, Bashar al-Jafaari, lashed out at Google in a speech at the UN, apparently blaming other nations for Google’s insidious policy of apparently renaming streets in the towns of Homs and Idlib:

“This is a flagrant violation of United Nations General Assembly, the resolution of the Arab League pertaining to the standardization of the geographic nomenclature… What does Google have to do with the names of streets in Syrian cities?” he asked. “What is this web site doing changing the names of streets in small Syrian cities and villages? Is this also an attempt to stem the shedding of Syrian blood or is this not part of the war [that foreign powers have been waging against Syria]?” asked Jaafari.

It was unclear precisely what the Syrian envoy was talking about. Google did not respond to an emailed request to its press office for comment.

The ICRC has started a medical evacuation of women and children out of the Baba Amro district of Homs, but they still can’t access large sections of the city.

A French reporter wounded in the Syrian government’s bombardment of Homs made a video appeal on Thursday for a cease-fire and evacuation for urgent medical attention. “My leg is broken at the level of the femur, along its length and also horizontally,” said the reporter, Edith Bouvier, in a video posted by antigovernment activists. “I need to be operated upon as soon as possible.”

Ms. Bouvier, 31, on assignment for the French newspaper Le Figaro, was wounded Wednesday in the same shelling attack that killed two Western journalists, Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times of London and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer. Late Wednesday, Syrian activists posted video of a rally in Homs in honor of the two.

And a blogger for the New York Times notes that coverage of the Syrian uprising looks remarkably different on Russian and Iranian TV, and journalist Nir Rosen talks with Al Jazeera about his predictions for Syria’s future:

US and European officials who would like to intervene in Syria complain that there is no “silver bullet” or easy option for them. They don’t even know who to support inside Syria. The exiled opposition, such as the Syrian National Council, are too busy fighting among themselves and too disconnected from events on the ground, so the outside powers do not even have a convenient local collaborator or proxy to deal with. They also complain that the SNC has completely failed to reach out to minorities, especially Alawites. They agree that opponents of the regime will have to pry Alawite community from the administration. The Alawite pillar must be removed, they say. The United States, like the United Kingdom, reportedly has envoys among the Syrian opposition. It is only a question of time, in my opinion, before the SNC is officially recognised by them as the main interlocutor, but they are pressuring the SNC to get its act together first.

> Nationalism is on the rise in Iran! So that’s great!

After the apparent assassination in January of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist and a professor at Tehran’s highly-regarded Sharif University, more than 100 students signed a petition requesting to change their majors to fields related to nuclear studies. Although some cast the move aside as nothing more than propaganda, it was nonetheless a sign that younger Iranians — with bright futures — are still willing to go to bat for their country.

…Also stirring for Iranians this year has been the success of the film “A Separation,” which won a Golden Globe and is up for two Academy Awards, including best foreign film. While the film deals with domestic issues of a husband and wife in Tehran, Iranians everywhere are gushing over the film’s success, and its prospects of winning an Oscar.

> Remember that rioting in Afghanistan? Twelve people died as riots continued there today.

Twelve people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest day yet in protests that have raged across Afghanistan over the desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO military base with riot police and soldiers on high alert braced for more violence.

Germany is closing a military base there ahead of schedule as a result.

Germany’s military announced Friday they have closed a base in Talokan in northern Afghanistan several weeks earlier than planned in response to deadly protests sparked after members of the NATO-led stability force burned copies of the Koran earlier this week at a US military base. Originally, the German base had been slated for closure in March.

Protests have also spread to Pakistan, and have caught the attention of Iran.

In neighboring U.S. ally Pakistan, about 400 members of a hardline Islamist group staged protests. “If you burn the Koran, we will burn you,” they shouted.

To Afghanistan’s west, Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami said the U.S. had purposely burned the Korans. “These apologies are fake. The world should know that America is against Islam,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio. “It (the Koran burning) was not a mistake. It was an intentional move, done on purpose.”

> Speaking of unrest, it’s almost election season in Senegal, and at present, it’s a bit…rocky.

At the center of the storm is President Abdoulaye Wade, who is officially 85 but probably older, as proper birth records were not kept by the French colonial authorities. Mr. Wade, a French-trained lawyer with degrees in economics and mathematics, is among the world’s oldest leaders, and he is determined not to retire anytime soon. Seeking what his opponents consider an illegal third term, Mr. Wade mocks the critics as lacking the vigor he displays, while regularly haranguing diplomats and other visitors for hours about the finer points of the country’s laws, principles of economics and his aesthetic theories.

That last part sounds like a few professors I have known… Just sayin’.

> A bill that would legalize same-sex marraige in Maryland has been approved 25-22 by the Maryland Senate. Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, bless his alliterative name, has said that he will sign it into law. And here, courtesy of the LA Times, you can read the heartwarming story of how Maryland House Republican Wade Kach discovered that gay people aren’t scary after he accidentally sat next to a gay couple at a legislative hearing over the bill.

In an effort to get the bill to the House floor, a special joint committee was formed and legislators were left scrambling for seats. Kach, who had previously backed attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman, found a space right next to the witness table. “I saw with so many of the gay couples, they were so devoted to another. I saw so much love,” he said. “When this hearing was over, I was a changed person in regard to this issue. I felt that I understood what same sex couples were looking for.”

Apparently he’d never seen Glee?


Written by whackanarwhal

February 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] Thirteen members of the Syrian opposition are reported to have died yesterday attempting to transport four journalists out of a besieged neighborhood in the city of Homs. One journalists successfully escaped and crossed the border into Lebanon; the other four appear to have remained in Homs. This article vaguely implies that one of the journalists attempting to escape was wounded French journalist Edith Bouvier. […]

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