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'self-censorship and excessive zeal'

by the stormy present Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 04:25:07 AM EST

Well, it escaped my notice at the time, but apparently several days ago The New York Times discovered that Sarkozy's ties to almost all major French media owners just might have influenced the election:

Free Press in France: The Right to Say What Politicians Want

The debate is an old one in a country where politics, the press and big business have long been intertwined. But the issue of self-censorship has come into sharp relief of late because of declining circulation in the print media and the concentration of media ownership among the new president's close allies

From over there to the right - afew

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'I was limited to a box.'

by the stormy present Sun Jun 17th, 2007 at 10:23:39 AM EST

Sy Hersh strikes again.

The General's Report
How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties.

Hersh's story, while ostensibly about Gen. Taguba, is actually about the wider efforts to not just cover up the systematic abuse and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere, but also the deliberate implementation of the system of abuse and torture.

In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were "only Iraqis." Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.
Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, "I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting."

All emphasis in the excerpts is mine.

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Yes, Mr. Ban, It's All Connected

by the stormy present Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 08:57:57 AM EST

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has an op-ed in the Washington Post today about climate change and Darfur:

It would be natural to view these as distinct developments. In fact, they are linked. Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand -- an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.

I guess it's good to know that the UN secretary general realizes this, and truthfully I have long wished that more people did.  The war in Darfur started as a dispute over resources -- water and land -- which were strained because of a drought.  Our warming world led to war.  I'm sure it's not the first time it's happened.

Most wars are resource wars.  Countries don't fight over ideas, not usually.  They fight over stuff.  Stuff like land, and water, and oil.

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Jazeera does 'Jesus Camp'

by the stormy present Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 10:01:24 AM EST

Yesterday, I happened to flip on Al-Jazeera -- the Arabic station, not the English one -- and find that it was broadcasting the the chilling brainwashing documentary Jesus Camp.  (Official film site here.)

My initial reaction included this:

You know, it's maybe weirder for me seeing it in this context than it would be seeing it in a US movie theater or a "western" TV channel.

Oh my.  Now this lady's talking about "our enemies" and how "they're focusing on the kids."  And then she starts talking about Muslims and "training camps in Palestine", so it's pretty sure who she thinks the "enemies" are.

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by the stormy present Tue Jun 12th, 2007 at 06:49:08 AM EST


Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

The most fascinating photo essay I've seen in a long time.  I wish I'd thought of doing it.

Read more... (25 comments, 308 words in story)

Another meaningless Egyptian election

by the stormy present Mon Jun 11th, 2007 at 09:36:38 AM EST

Egyptians are going to the polls today for Shura Council elections.  That's the upper house of parliament.

Whoop-de-doo.  Can I go back to bed now?

For more than you ever wanted to know about Egyptian elections, including why they mean largely nothing and nobody bothers to vote, follow me past the jump...

Read more... (16 comments, 964 words in story)

one woman, remembering june

by the stormy present Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 10:32:16 AM EST

The TV is full of old video today.  They are marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Over and over, we're seeing old battle footage, and over and over we hear Nasser's booming voice.

It can get a bit over-the-top; Al Jazeera English has been doing live reports from various cities and borders all day, panning from their correspondents over to the horizon as if they expect to see Arab and Israeli tanks still fighting it out over there.  At one point, they said something like this:  "We'll be right back with more of our ongoing coverage of the 1967 War."

As if it were a live event.  As if it were still happening.

Well, in a way, it never stopped happening.  The Arab world has never really gotten over it.

One of my friends, who was a young girl in 1967, was describing to me today the shock and humiliation that the whole nation felt at losing so much territory in five days, and the lingering effects of that loss that are apparent even today.

Arabs call the Six-Day War "the June War," or just naksa, which means "setback."  And it was, a tremendous one, but not just for the military.  In many ways, it set back Arab society, or froze it and stagnated it.  Or opened the door to its freezing and stagnation.

A newspaper columnist, Abdullah Iskander in Al-Hayat, this morning wrote that the military loss had been used as an excuse by Arab regimes to justify despotism and authoritarianism, and choking off Arab civil society.

"Forty years ago," he wrote, "our options were a military regime or a pluralistic, democratic one.  Now, the options have become a despotic ruler, fundamentalism, or civil wars."

I won't write much more.  I'll just share this blog post, which the writer posted this time last year.

Read more... (14 comments, 370 words in story)

three torturers

by the stormy present Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 08:00:43 AM EST

Just wanting to draw your attention to a particularly disturbing piece in the Washington Post:

The Tortured Lives of Interrogators
Veterans of Iraq, N. Ireland and Mideast Share Stark Memories

(All emphasis in the following excerpts is mine.)

"I tortured people," said Lagouranis, 37, who was a military intelligence specialist in Iraq from January 2004 until January 2005. "You have to twist your mind up so much to justify doing that."

Being an interrogator, Lagouranis discovered, can be torture. At first, he was eager to try coercive techniques. In training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., instructors stressed the Geneva Conventions, he recalled, while classmates privately admired Israeli and British methods. "The British were tough," Lagouranis said. "They seemed like real interrogators."

But interrogators for countries that pride themselves on adhering to the rule of law, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, operate in a moral war zone. They are on the front lines in fighting terrorism, crucial for intelligence-gathering. Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies' values.

Do tell.

promoted by whataboutbob

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'The politics of fear'

by the stormy present Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:38:34 AM EST

Amnesty International's 2007 annual report is out.

Today far too many leaders are trampling freedom and trumpeting an ever-widening range of fears: fear of being swamped by migrants; fear of "the other" and of losing one's identity; fear of being blown up by terrorists; fear of "rogue states" with weapons of mass destruction.

Fear thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership. There are indeed many real causes of fear but the approach being taken by many world leaders is short-sighted, promulgating policies and strategies that erode the rule of law and human rights, increase inequalities, feed racism and xenophobia, divide and damage communities, and sow the seeds for violence and more conflict.

What, you were expecting good news?

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'The worst is coming.' - The Flight from Iraq

by the stormy present Tue May 15th, 2007 at 03:38:09 AM EST

Nir Rosen has a long, detailed and exceedingly bleak assessment of Iraq's refugee crisis -- and the way the "international community" and especially the United States are failing to cope with it -- in today's New York Times Magazine.

He writes that the outflow of refugees from Iraq has now reached up to 50,000 people a month:

At a meeting in mid-April in Geneva, held by António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, the numbers presented confirmed what had long been suspected: the collapse of Iraq had created a refugee crisis, and that crisis was threatening to precipitate the collapse of the region. The numbers dwarfed anything that the Middle East had seen since the dislocations brought on by the establishment of Israel in 1948. In Syria, there were estimated to be 1.2 million Iraqi refugees. There were another 750,000 in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, 40,000 in Lebanon and 10,000 in Turkey. The overall estimate for the number of Iraqis who had fled Iraq was put at two million by Guterres. The number of displaced Iraqis still inside Iraq's borders was given as 1.9 million. This would mean about 15 percent of Iraqis have left their homes.

Much more after the jump.

Front-paged on DKos, time it was front-paged here! - afew

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Us and Them -- Europe and the US. And the Media. Sort Of.

by the stormy present Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:30:01 AM EST

Spiegel Online asks, can't we all just get along? And answers:  Maybe not.  And maybe it's the media's fault.  Or maybe we're just too different.

The Role of the Media in the Trans-Atlantic Relationship

By Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gerhard Spörl

The trans-Atlantic rift of the past few years has been accentuated, in part, by anti-Americanism and anti-Europeanism in the media when covering "the other side." But although there are real cultural differences, the time has come for both sides to ditch the easy clichés and stereotypes and foster some cultural understanding.

I really, really wanted this to be a better article.  It's an important topic, one we've dealt with (for better or worse) repeatedly here at ET, and one that still hasn't been talked about enough in the mainstream press on either side of the Atlantic.

So I really tried to like this article, but unfortunately I think the authors sort of missed their mark.  At the risk of setting off another trans-Atlantic ET battle, there's much, much, much more after the jump.

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Yeltsin's dead

by the stormy present Mon Apr 23rd, 2007 at 10:16:02 AM EST

CNN and BBC are both flashing an urgent report from Interfax that Boris Yeltsin has died.

It has not to my knowledge been confirmed, but both channels are now playing Yeltsin obituaries with lots of archival footage.

Read more... (26 comments, 238 words in story)

Where Easter is illegal.

by the stormy present Sun Apr 8th, 2007 at 05:28:17 AM EST

This chocolate bunny is subversive.

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EU and Egypt

by the stormy present Mon Mar 5th, 2007 at 10:04:41 AM EST

So Timothy Garton Ash came to town recently, and it seems that he thinks Europe needs to do something about Egypt.

Condi's rock'n'roll approach has been and gone. Let's try Benita's slow waltz

In Egypt the US has retreated from its push for democracy in the Arab world. Europe should step into the breach

In a poor quarter of Cairo, down narrow dirt roads in which goats feed on scraps, I am taken to the bare, crowded but carefully kept apartment of a friendly greengrocer, whose extended family sleeps four or five to a room. He introduces me to his numerous nieces and nephews, and finally to a grinning tousle-haired boy called Usama. Usama is three years old, so our conversation is not extensive, but he has stuck in my mind ever since.

One way of thinking about the future of the Arab world, and what we in more fortunate parts might do to influence it, is to ask where the little bright-eyed Usama of Rod el-Farag will be in 20 years' time. Will he have enough to eat? An education? A job? Will he have become a militant activist of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned, shadowy but popular rival to the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak? And if he has, what will it mean by then to be a Muslim Brother? Or will he, despairing of his prospects at home in Egypt, be trying to smuggle himself across the Mediterranean as an illegal immigrant to Italy, in one of many waves of boat people met with hostility by radicalised, increasingly xenophobic and anti-Muslim European societies?

More after the jump.

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Torture - fiction and reality

by the stormy present Wed Feb 28th, 2007 at 08:39:02 AM EST

If it's on TV, then it must be true, right?

MillMan pointed this article out in the Salon:

Jack Bauer, the fictional federal agent in the hit American TV show "24," gets what he wants--and does whatever it takes to get it. Whether he must beat, suffocate, electrocute, drug or engage in psychological abuse, he will unravel whatever terror plot imperils the United States. He's even used torture on his own brother. Less well known, however, is how TV series like these have captured the imagination of American soldiers in Iraq.

According to the New York-based group Human Rights First, the vivid depiction of these tactics in primetime shows like "24" are influencing U.S. troops abroad -- and presenting a major challenge for military training academies. "It's become clear that this show has unintended consequences in that it informs young soldiers about these techniques, and it gives the false impression that they work," says David Danzig, a torture expert at the nonprofit organization, which has just launched a campaign called Primetime Torture to change the way abusive interrogation tactics are shown on TV. "That's a real problem because there are young soldiers out in the field who are imitating this stuff."


Hollywood wants you to think torture's OK?

It's not.

Read more... (20 comments, 1507 words in story)

Egypt jails blogger. (And thousands of other people.)

by the stormy present Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 06:54:02 AM EST

Yesterday, a court in Alexandria sentenced 23-year-old Egyptian blogger Abdulkareem Nabil Suleiman to four years in prison.  His crimes?  Insulting Islam got him three years.  Insulting the Egyptian president got him one.

This is really not as simple as it looks.  Yes, it's a free speech issue.  Yes, it's a freedom of religion issue.  Yes, it's more evidence that Egypt is not as "moderate" as our ("Western") governments (who give Egypt vast amounts of money) like to pretend it is.

But yes, there are thousands of other people in Egyptian prisons, held indefinitely on spurious charges and mysterious, scant or non-existant evience.  The fact that Kareem's case has garnered so much attention also says something about the double standards that so many in the so-called "West" apply to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

To wit:  when we talk about freedom of speech in the Middle East, a lot of people here could be forgiven for thinking we don't really mean it.

Read more... (25 comments, 1087 words in story)

Shame, shame, shame

by the stormy present Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 04:22:15 AM EST

Found this on Al Jazeera English...

Fifty-seven countries signed a treaty on Tuesday banning forced disappearances but the US, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy were notably absent among the signatories.

I know.  I know.  I know.  This is no surprise to anyone, and we know why they didn't sign.  These are our governments (well, some of ours) and they have no interest in this treaty because they engage in practices that blatently violate it, practices they do not plan to stop.

This story is no surprise to anyone.  It did not appear in most papers or on most TV stations.  A Google News search yields less than 75 results, most of them versions of the same AP story.  

This story is no surprise to anyone, but I couldn't let it pass without comment.  Shame, shame, shame on my government, and shame on all governments who fail to sign this treaty.  Shame.


(Now updated with a full list of countries that signed....)

Read more... (51 comments, 669 words in story)

Want to understand Lebanon?

by the stormy present Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 04:32:20 AM EST

Read this.

The protests are being portrayed in much of the Western media as a sectarian battle, or a coup attempt--engineered by Hezbollah's two main allies, Syria and Iran--against a US-backed Lebanese government. Those are indeed factors underlying the complex and dangerous political dance happening in Beirut. But the biggest motivator driving many of those camped out in downtown isn't Iran or Syria, or Sunni versus Shiite. It's the economic inequality that has haunted Lebanese Shiites for decades. It's a poor and working-class people's revolt.

An important article from the diaries -- whataboutbob

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Pie Fight Central

by the stormy present Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 06:29:46 AM EST

Welcome to the official Home of the Pie Fight®.  If you have something nasty to say about each other, do it here and stop derailing otherwise productive conversations in real diaries.

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HRW gives up on USA, says EU undermining torture ban

by the stormy present Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 04:56:19 AM EST

A quick post-and-run this morning.... I thought I'd draw your attention to a few recent statements by Human Rights Watch concerning the EU.

Today, HRW put out a new statement and briefing paper on the role of EU states in CIA renditions, and it ain't pretty.

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

Read more... (34 comments, 810 words in story)
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