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Free minds, not hair.

by the stormy present Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 05:04:59 AM EST

from the diaries. -- Jérôme

OK, object lesson time.


... is not the problem.

This, however, is part of the problem.  And this is about both part of the problem and part of the solution.

(photo from tolerance.org)

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Service Delivery - the South African challenge

by the stormy present Sat Jan 13th, 2007 at 07:31:37 AM EST

In 1994, South Africa's first truly democratic, non-racial government took power in what was celebrated around the world as a triumph for human rights, equality, democracy.  A people long oppressed were now in charge of their own destinies, their own nation, for the first time.

The ANC-led government had inherited from apartheid South Africa one of the most developed economies in Africa, one of the continent's most solid infrastructures.

But lurking under the surface, away from the celebrations, was a massive task.  The apartheid government had done an excellent job providing services to the 10 percent or so of the population who were white.  The new government would be expected to provide services to all -- "a better life for all."

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

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by the stormy present Thu Jan 11th, 2007 at 10:01:48 AM EST

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Step Pyramid of Djoser
Saqqara, Egypt
25 December 2006

Another excellent ET photo-journalism diary -- whataboutbob

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Rock 'n' Roll

by the stormy present Fri Jan 5th, 2007 at 08:35:20 AM EST

Prague.  1971.

Max:  There's something which keeps happening to me.  More and more now that I'm getting to be half-famous for not leaving the Communist Party. I meet somebody, it could be a visiting professor or someone fixing my car, anyone... and what they all want to know, though they don't know how to ask, because they don't want to be rude, is -- how come, when it's obvious even to them, how come I don't get it? And it's the same here. I meet some apparatchik working the system, and he's fascinated by me. He's never met a Communist before. I'm like the last white rhino. Why don't I get it?

-- Rock 'n' Roll, by Tom Stoppard

I saw Tom Stoppard's latest play, Rock 'n' Roll,  at the Duke of York Theatre on a recent visit to London.  It's a play about a lot of things:  Communism, Stoppard's native Czechoslovakia, and England, which has been his home for most of his life.  And, well, it's about Rock 'n' Roll.

Read this diary. You will not regret it - afew

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Approaching Eid

by the stormy present Sat Dec 30th, 2006 at 08:30:30 AM EST

The streets of Cairo are alive.  And not in the usual way.  No, this time of year, the streets are packed with livestock, the (for now) living, breathing, bleating kind.

On my way home from work yesterday, at a traffic circle a few blocks from my office, I passed an entire flock of sheep.  A man was handing a wad of cash over in exchange for his family's holiday offering.

Sometime in the next few days, the Eid Al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, will begin.

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

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one pissed-off poet

by the stormy present Thu Dec 21st, 2006 at 06:47:24 AM EST

This was going to be a Christmas diary, but I'm afraid I'm just not feeling very festive.  Or even wry and ironic.  I'm just grumpy.

And so the Christmas poem I went in search of led me somewhere else.  Somewhere angry.  And ranting.  In verse.

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Sports Nationalism

by the stormy present Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 10:19:33 AM EST

I am fascinated by sports nationalism.  Truly mezmerized.

As we've discussed at great length, the country of my birth is a nationalist place -- always has been, but more so now.

Flags everywhere these days.  Pledges of allegiance in school.  National anthems at sporting events, right down to my summer swim meets at the local pool when I was 13, all those gangly kids in their blue-and-white Speedo suits and goggles and swim caps standing to attention and singing along, warbly and not hitting the high notes, while a scratchy recording of The Star Spangled Banner blares from the loudspeaker.

So given all that, it might seem surprising to hear me say that I had almost no experience with sporting nationalism until I left the United States.

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

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Beirut afternoon (LONG!!!)

by the stormy present Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 07:40:30 AM EST

I've been here in Beirut so long that the autumn clothes I brought with me are no longer quite warm enough.  I needed a sweater or two, and I had a few hours to kill this afternoon.  Where better to go than Verdun, the posh district of wall-to-wall malls?

But rather than hop in a cab, I squinted at a map, determined that it wasn't that far away, and set off on foot.

Follow me on a stroll through West Beirut.

Follow, follow! -- afew

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Pamuk's Prize

by the stormy present Thu Oct 12th, 2006 at 09:20:13 AM EST

He won.

Orhan Pamuk, "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures," has won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature

As we all know, Pamuk was put on trial earlier this year for "insulting Turkishness," because of a reference to the Armenian genocide (which he didn't even call a genocide).   He has now become the first Turkish writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  There will probably be some debate about whether he deserved it.  Like the awarding of the Prize itself, that debate will be only part literary in nature, and part political.

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Big Brother is Watching Us. No, I Mean Really.

by the stormy present Wed Oct 4th, 2006 at 06:13:19 AM EST

My first (admittedly snarky) response to this NYT headline was, "Oh, hell, that'd solve our funding problems...  We here at ET would be happy to tell the US government what the world thinks of it... for half the price!  No new software required!"

But then I read on... and got totally freaked out.

Software Being Developed to Monitor Opinions of U.S.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 -- A consortium of major universities, using Homeland Security Department money, is developing software that would let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas.

Such a "sentiment analysis" is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said.

Wait... foreign newspapers are threats against the nation?

A $2.4 million grant will finance the research over three years.

Mmmmm.  My tax dollars at work.

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Bush Rethinking Anti-Terror Tactics -- Wishful Thinking?

by the stormy present Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 08:28:10 AM EST

I awoke to find this rather optimistic headline splashed across the front page of WashingtonPost.com:

Rethinking Embattled Tactics in Terror War
Courts, Hill and Allies Press Administration

Inside, the intrepid Dana Priest brings us this (alleged) good news...

Five years after the attacks on the United States, the Bush administration faces the prospect of reworking key elements of its anti-terrorism effort in light of challenges from the courts, Congress and European allies crucial to counterterrorism operations.

My response:  half "Thank God, it's about time," and half "Pffft, yeah, right... thinking of ways to get around the challenges is more like it."

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Thou Shalt Not Fly Teebah

by the stormy present Wed Mar 22nd, 2006 at 12:06:54 PM EST

Years ago, on a flight from Abuja to Lagos aboard the now-defunct state carrier, Nigeria Airways, I realized that the seat I was sitting in was not actually bolted to the floor of the plane.

Later the same year, my flight from Luanda to Windhoek aboard Angola's state-owned Taag airline made an unannounced stop in Lubango, a small town in southern Angola with one of the Angolan military's main air bases.  We passengers were herded off the plane and escorted not into the transit lounge, from which we would have been able to see the plane, but into the arrivals lounge on the other side of the small, dingy building, from where we had no clear view of our aircraft.  This was during the civil war, and I'm 90 percent sure they were offloading military hardware that had been illegally transported aboard a civilian plane.

And those are the safe airlines.  No Nigerian carriers have been banned from Europe, and Taag still flies to Lisbon and London.  (And, weirdly, wikipedia says it's adding Houston this year....)

But today the EU announced the names of 92 air carriers (.pdf) that will henceforth be barred from operating in Europe, plus another three who will fly with restrictions.

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Sugar cane - not so sweet?

by the stormy present Mon Mar 20th, 2006 at 08:25:48 AM EST

I don't like sugar.  I mean, sure, I love a chocolate bar or a cup of ice cream as much as the next girl, but I don't put sugar itself in anything.  I drink my coffee with a splash of skim milk, and I sweeten my tea with honey, if at all.  The only reason I ever even buy sugar is because visitors seem to expect it with their coffee or tea.

Here in the Arab world, most people put vast amounts of sugar in everything.  When I'm visiting someone's home or office, they offer me trays of tiny sweet pastries, and little cups of tea or Turkish coffee, sweetened beyond recognition.  It's especially stark in the glass teacups, where I can see the little layer of sugar sitting at the bottom, mocking me.

Yes, they have a bit of a diabetes problem here, but that's a subject for another diary.

We think about sugar's effects on our teeth, on our health, on our waistlines... but how often does anyone think about what sugar does to the environment?

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Football (soccer) madness in Egypt!

by the stormy present Sat Jan 28th, 2006 at 04:45:57 PM EST

Egypt         3
Cote d'Ivoire  1

Egypt qualifies for the quarterfinal of the African Cup of Nations.

Cairo goes mad!

Image hosting by Photobucket

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(not) speaking the language

by the stormy present Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 12:23:35 PM EST

Promoted and intro moved around by Colman

South Africa has 11 official languages, and I only speak one of them. I've worked all over Africa, but pretty much had to do it in English. I studied Spanish in school, and that helped a little in Angola and Mozambique. I did try to study Portuguese for a while, but all I succeeded in doing was corrupting my Spanish, so now I come up with words from one language when I'm trying to speak the other. Sigh.

Everyone in South Africa is more multi-lingual than me: my maid spoke five languages. I often wished I could learn a South African language, and I did learn how to greet people in three of them. But was it really practical for me to learn Xhosa? Would it help me that much? Where else could I use it?

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