Monday, January 31, 2011

News Nuggets 534

A fascinating portrait of the city of London.  From the Guardian of London.

'Mega Protest' Planned in Egypt from Al Jazeera English
"Opposition movement calls for one "million people demonstration" on Tuesday in a bid to topple president Hosni Mubarak."

The New Rules: War-Gaming Egypt's Future (Thomas Barnett) from World Politics Review

"Our goal was to work up four feasible pathway trees along which events could develop -- two favorable to the Egyptian people, two favorable to the Egyptian regime … Here are the four scenarios we came up with:"

Arab World Transfixed by Egyptian Protests from the Washington Post

"The Egyptian protests have ignited hopes as well as fears that the spark ignited by Tunisians' overthrow of their dictatorial regime three weeks ago will now spread, irrevocably, across a region that has long yearned for change."

Yearning for Respect, Arabs Find a Voice (Anthony Shadid) from the New York Times

"Last week, as more protests erupted in Yemen, Jordan and Egypt and as the United States remained largely on the sidelines, the struggle in the Middle East became firmly about “us.”"

White House Quietly Prepares for a Post-Mubarak Era in Egypt from the Los Angeles Times
"The White House stance has been even-handed as officials have suggested President Hosni Mubarak might stay in power if freedoms, competitive elections are allowed. But an insider says the U.S. is not ready to keep Mubarak in power at all costs."

When Bush Caved to Egypt (Matt Latimer) from the Daily Beast

"Obama isn’t the only president who struggled in dealing with Cairo’s dictator and longtime U.S. ally. Ex-Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer on how 43’s challenge to Mubarak got watered down."

Israel Urges World to Curb Criticism of Egypt's Mubarak from Al Haaretz [of Israel in English]
"Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime."
Wow.  This strikes me as sooo desperate.  I know it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that any post-Mubarak gov't will be remotely "friendly" to Israel -- but these kind of out-of-touch pronouncements will only further alienate any incoming gov't.

A new quarter heard from:
Sudanese Police Clash with Students in Khartoum from the Washington Post
"Sudanese police beat and arrested students Sunday as hundreds protested throughout the capital demanding the government resign, inspired by a popular uprising in neighboring Egypt."

And another:
Syria Strongman: Time for 'Reform' from the Wall Street Journal
"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who inherited a regime that has held power for four decades, said he will push for more political reforms in his country, in a sign of how Egypt's violent revolt is forcing leaders across the region to rethink their approaches."

And even one more:
Beijing Blocks Protest Reports from the Wall Street Journal
"Chinese authorities have blocked the word "Egypt" from searches on Twitter-like microblogging sites in an indication of concern among Communist Party leaders that the unrest there could encourage similar calls for political reform in China.  Internet censors also appeared Sunday to have deleted almost all of the comments posted beneath the few limited reports on the unrest—mostly from the state-run Xinhua news agency—that have been published on Chinese news sites in the past few days"

What is the Next Egypt: China? (Gordon Chang) from Forbes Magazine
"Now that Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution has inspired Egyptians, autocrats in the region nervously watch for signs of unrest in their own countries.  Most observers assume that the next Egypt is Yemen, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia.  Yet as the Global Times editorial indicates, Middle Eastern despots are not the only ones worried.  Beijing’s leaders are concerned that 1.3 billion enraged souls will rise up and tear down the People’s Republic of China."

China Actually Hooked on the Dollar from the Korea JoongAng Daily [of South Korea in English]
"The U.S. one day might even peg the dollar to the yuan. First, China must make it through the current decade without a major crisis."

Cyber Raids ‘Threaten British, US Stock Markets’ from Agence France-Presse via Raw Story
"Stock exchanges in Britain and the United States have enlisted the help of the security services after finding out they were the victims of cyber attacks, The Times newspaper reported on Monday. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is investigating a terrorist cyber-attack on its headquarters last year while US officials have traced an attack on one of its exchanges to Russia, according to the British newspaper. Officials suspect the attacks were designed to spread panic among markets and destabilise western financial institutions."

Worker Burnout Warnings Spread Across World Economic Forum from Agence France-Presse via Raw Story
"Economic turmoil, round-the-clock communication and constant social pressure to succeed have led to a costly increase in stress-related illness and burnout, a panel of experts told a packed session in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. "In the future, the greatest challenge to the global health system will be stress-related diseases," said Heinz Schuepbach, director of the school of applied psychology at the University of Northwestern Switzerland."
I can totally get this.

Presidential Polling and Political Wrap Up from Daily Kos

"Obama is in a better position now than he has been in over a year."

Tea Party Gets Early Start on G.O.P. Targets for 2012 from the New York Times
"Just three months after the midterm elections, Tea Party organizers are preparing to challenge some of the longest-serving Republican incumbents in 2012."

Among the GOP's 2012 Contenders, Nobody's Perfect (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"Mitt Romney … signed health-care legislation that has considerable similarities to the proposal President Obama championed - the one Republicans have fought tooth and nail.  That's an emerging bit of conventional wisdom about the slow-forming GOP race. And it's right - except that it omits one very important fact: All - that's A-L-L - of the Republicans considering runs for the nomination carry at least one major flaw that could keep them from victory."

Barack Obama Braces for Jon Huntsman 2012 Bid from Politico
"The White House expects Jon Huntsman, the U.S. Ambassador to China, to resign his post this spring to explore a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, top Democrats said. GOP allies of Huntsman have already begun laying plans for a quick-start campaign should the former Utah governor decide to enter the ill-defined Republican field."
This is BAD news for Obama.  IF Huntsman can make it through the GOP nominating process [no done deal by any means], he could pose a VERY FORMIDABLE challenge to Obama.  This is someone to be taken very seriously.  Fortunately, their are many constituents within the GOP who will oppose Huntsman as a RHINO (Republican in Name Only).  Huntsman's ties with the Obama administration as ambassador to China may be a substantive barrier.  But that same foreign policy experience will make him stand out within the current GOP field.

Five-Time Oscar-Winner Composer John Barry Dies at 77 from the Associated Press
"Five-time Oscar-winning composer John Barry, who wrote music for a dozen James Bond films, including "You Only Live Twice" and "Goldfinger" and developed the twanging guitar riff in the suave spy's theme music, has died. He was 77."
While Barry is most well-known for his Bond scores, I actually appreciate him more for other, more classical movie scores that he wrote.  My favorite is the score for "Out of Africa," a marvelous

Sunday, January 30, 2011

News Nuggets 533

The shore near Giant's Causeway in Country Antrim in Ireland.  From National Geographic.

It should be noted that the situation in Egypt has become very fluid and chaotic in the last twelve hours.  
Egyptian Soldiers Show Solidarity with Protesters as Mubarak Appoints VP from the Washington Post
"In Tahrir Square, the central plaza that has been the focus of anti-Mubarak sentiment, protestors and soldiers worked together to beat back two Interior Ministry vehicles that attempted to enter the site. A tank commander then scaled his vehicle and announced to the crowd that the Interior Ministry, which operates the nation's police force, had deployed thousands of armed men who were bent on sowing chaos in Egypt. The army, he said, "would stand with the people.""

Mubarak: the Exit Strategy from Al-Bab: An Open Door to the Arab World

"It seems to me, based on statements so far, that the US is focusing more on the post-Mubarak situation than on trying to save him. It is trying to engineer (and manipulate) a smooth transfer of power."

Watching a New Beginning in Egypt from the Washington Post
"For much of Friday afternoon, this city teetered between hope and fear."

Egypt's Day of Anger (Khari Abaza) from the National Interest

"Unless the Mubarak regime collaborates peacefully with the protestors, certain chaos lies ahead."

Hard to know what to make of the next two stories:
Egypt Protests: America's Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned."

Sources in Egypt and West: US Secretly Backed Protest  from the DEBKA File [of Israel in English]
"Persistent claims were heard Saturday, Jan. 29 in various Egyptian and informed western circles that the popular uprising against president Hosni Mubarak, still going strong on its fifth day, was secretly prepared three years ago in Washington during the Bush administration."

Inside the White House's Egypt Scramble (John Berry) from the Daily Beast
"As protests erupted in Egypt, Washington struggled desperately to find the right response to the crisis. John Barry reports on the administration’s decision-making."

Egyptians Defiant as Military Does Little to Quash Protests from the New York Times
"As street battles between protesters and the security police flared for a fifth day, Mr. Mubarak named a new government filled with military figures, signaling the pivotal role the military might play in shaping the outcome of the unrest. … at least some troops seemed to be sympathizing with the protesters."

First-Hand-Account: Egypt: Death Throes of a Dictatorship (Robert Fisk) from the Independent [of the UK]
"Our writer joins protesters atop a Cairo tank as the army shows signs of backing the people against Mubarak's regime."

A telling little note from another quarter:
China Micro-Blogging Sites Censor 'Egypt' from Discovery News
"The word "Egypt" was censored Saturday by several micro-blogging sites in China, where the ruling Communist Party is wary of issues of political reform, demands for democracy and disturbances to public order, including overseas."

Thousands in Algeria Protest March: Organizers from Agence France-Presse via Raw Story

"More than 10,000 protesters marched against authorities in Algeria's northeastern city of Bejaia on Saturday, organisers said, in the country's latest rally inspired by neighbouring Tunisia."

The New Obama Narrative (George Lakoff) from the Huffinton Post
"For the first two years of his administration, President Obama had no overriding narrative, no frame to define his policymaking, no way to make sense of what he was trying to do. As of his 2011 State of the Union Address, he has one: Competitiveness. The competitiveness narrative is intended to serve a number of purposes at once:"

Wikileaks Unplugged (Doyle McManus) from the Los Angeles Times
"The era of WikiLeaks appears over, the group is in disarray even as the U.S. takes measures to prevent future leaks and news organizations move to cut out the middleman."
While I think McManus is premature given that Wikileaks has released only a very tiny percentage of the documents load they have, I think events are clearly going in the direction he describes.

Now THIS is interesting!:
Republicans Embrace Obama Rail Initiative from The Hill
Key Republicans are embracing a major spending initiative outlined in President Obama's State of the Union address.  Two top members of the House Transportation Committee said they will push the president's initiative seeking to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail over the course of the next 25 years."

If true, what a LAUGH to those GOP governors who contemptuously kicked the high-speed rail money allotted to them back to the fed several months ago.  I'm sure they did so thinking they were lining up with the GOP leaders in DC.  Oops!!  Prediction: some of these dopes will come hat-in-hand to Obama to get that money back.  Hope he tells them where they can go!!

Serious in Singapore (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times

"This was just an average public school, but the principal had made her own connections between “what world am I living in,” “where is my country trying to go in that world” and, therefore, “what should I teach in fifth-grade science.” I was struck because that kind of linkage is so often missing in U.S. politics today. Republicans favor deep cuts in government spending, while so far exempting Medicare, Social Security and the defense budget. Not only is that not realistic, but it basically says that our nation’s priorities should be to fund retirement homes for older people rather than better schools for younger people and that we should build new schools in Afghanistan before Alabama."

Contemporary Student Life (JohnTierny) at the Atlantic
"It may be that, like me, you don't quite know what to make of articles that have appeared recently about the state of contemporary secondary and post-secondary education. But maybe you can!  If so, help me sort through it. I've spent my entire professional life as a teacher -- for over twenty years at the college level, and for the last nine years at a high school.  Despite all that, I still don't know what to make of all this."
A related discussion:
Film Focuses on Stressed-out Students from the Boston Globe
"High-stakes milieu worries parents."

The Tea Party Wags the Dog (Frank Rich) from the New York Times
"The Republicans, who sold themselves as the uncompromising champions of Tea Party-fueled fiscal austerity, have discovered that most Americans prefer compromise to confrontation... Obama’s post-New Year’s surge past a 50 percent approval rating — well ahead of both Reagan’s and Bill Clinton’s comeback trajectories after their respective midterm shellackings — may have only just begun. There was no drama to Obama’s address — just a unifying theme, at long last, as he reasserted the role of government in rebooting and rebuilding the country for a new century and putting Americans back to work. The president wisely left any theatrics to his adversaries, and, as always, they were happy to oblige."

Palin Kills It in Gun Country (Andrew Romano) from the Daily Beast
"Dube seemed to see contemporary culture as an existential threat of sorts—a hostile force. "Do me a favor and take a young person hunting this fall," he said in closing. "If you don't have one at home, borrow one. No one's teaching them what hunting means to us anymore.""
The descriptions of attendees are far more interesting than what Palin said.  Craziness.

Glenn Beck vs. the Rabbis (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"With political speech coming under new scrutiny, how much longer can Beck's brutal routine continue at Fox News?  The latest omen of Beck's end times came on Thursday -- Holocaust
Remembrance Day -- when 400 rabbis representing all four branches of American Judaism took out an ad demanding that Beck be sanctioned for "monstrous" and "beyond repugnant" use of "anti-Semitic imagery" in going after Holocaust survivor George Soros."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

News Nuggets 532

An amazing display of the aurora-borealis (northern lights) as seen from Tromso in northern Norway. From National Geographic.

For those looking to follow what's happening in Egypt, far and away the best source is Al Jazeera English.  Live online feed can be found HERE.

Cairo Falls into Near-Anarchy; Army Warns it Will Treat Protesters as Criminals from the Washington Post
"Since they deployed, Egyptian soldiers have remained steadfastly neutral and protesters have been imploring the troops to join their cause. But the statement Saturday suggested that the army intends to attempt what the police could not do: Quell a movement of tens of thousands of Egyptians who are demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation."
A bad sign.  If the army takes the side of the security services, it could get exponentially more ugly this weekend.

Egyptian Military Deploys in Streets of Cairo: Protesters Warmly Greet Army, Urge Them to Join Demonstrations from the Washington Post
"In some parts of the capital, the protests appeared to grow more violent, and there were reports that demonstrators were attacking government buildings and a police station. But in other parts, an apparently festive atmosphere prevailed, as demonstrators warmly greeted newly deployed army troops and urged them to join the protests. Unlike the police, the military did not appear to be battling the demonstrators."

Five Things to Understand About the Egyptian Riots (Heather Hurlburt) from the New Republic
"Here are five points that American observers should keep in mind whatever comes next, while consuming the blog posts, Tweets, and TV coverage of their choice."

Egyptian Government on Last Legs, Says ElBaradei from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Mohamed ElBaradei says he is sending a message 'to the Guardian and to the world'"

The New Arab World Order (Robert Kaplan) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Don't mistake the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt for 1978 Iran. But that doesn't mean that U.S. diplomacy in the Arab world is going to be any less complicated going forward."

Waves of Unrest Spread to Yemen, Shaking a Region from the New York Times
"Thousands of protesters on Thursday took to the streets of Yemen, one of the Middle East’s most impoverished countries, and secular and Islamist Egyptian opposition leaders vowed to join large protests expected Friday as calls for change rang across the Arab world."

Is Qaddafi Next? (Philip Shenon) from the Daily Beast
"As protesters rise up in Egypt, a new WikiLeaks cable threatens to stir unrest in Libya. Philip Shenon reports on the St. Barts parties and bad behavior fueling Muammar Qaddafi's new PR problem."
Not happening -- at least not any time soon.  So far, this wave of revolution is hitting relatively moderate dictatorships.  The hardcores (Libya, Sudan) show little sign of real protest.  In all these cases, the regimes have been successful FOR DECADES in obliterating organized opposition and what we in the west would call "civil society."  Moreover, twitter, Facebook, etc. have had much less of an impact in those countries.  So -- reformers there have a much bigger set of hurdles to clear.

Israel Fears Regime Change in Egypt from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"Israel is watching developments in Egypt with concern. The government is standing by autocratic Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, out of fear that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could take power and start supplying arms to Hamas."
If Mubrark's government falls, IN VERY SHORT ORDER, the Israelis will regret that that they didn't cut a deal with Abbas and the PLA when they had the chance.  A new Egyptian government [if at all representative of public opinion in the country] will almost immediately end the embargo of Hamas in Gaza and probably start arming Hamas newly.  The Egyptian public hates Egypt's "alliance" with Israel and the embargo of Gaza in particular.

Jordanians March for Political Reform from the Financial Times [of London]
"Thousands of Jordanians have taken part in anti-government protests in Amman and other towns, demanding political reform, better economic conditions and the resignation of the country's unpopular prime minister. The demonstrations were supported by a large number of political and social groups, including the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main opposition party."

The Arab World's Youth Army (Ellen Knickmeyer) from Foreign Policy Magazine

"Meet the chronically unemployed twenty-somethings fueling social and political upheaval across the Middle East."

Savagery and Respect (Benny Morris) from the National Interest
"It is worth looking a little more closely at where exactly street-orchestrated regime change is taking place—and where it isn't. The regimes that have crumbled or appear to be on the verge of crumbling, are those linked to the West, and they are regimes characterized by a relatively soft authoritarianism, and are commonly perceived as weak, if not downright flabby, well past their prime."
I think this is true -- for the moment.  The most savage dictatorships have not seen much unrest yet.

Warily Watching the Arab Revolt (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"It's an easy revolution to like, and U.S. officials have wisely endorsed the protesters' goals of openness and reform. But in truth, there's little America could do to bolster the octogenarian Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, even if it wanted to. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may endorse reform, as she did Wednesday, but this is a post-American revolution, encouraged in part by a recognition of the limits of U.S. power."

Do Tunisia and Egypt mark the beginning of a new chapter for Obama in the Middle East? (David Rothkopf) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"The Obama administration has thus far been pitch perfect in its public statements regarding the unrest in Egypt. Learning from its ill-considered silence in the early days of the Iranian protests, it has offered a balanced message. … That said, the uprisings in Egypt also signal a new period in the administration's foreign policy that will pose conundrums that make the riddle of the Sphinx look like a snap in comparison."

The View from Tehran: How Iran is Spinning the Arab Revolution (Mehrun Etebari) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"From Iran, it's more about 1979 than 2009."

Why Iran's Ahmadinejad Needs a Nuclear Deal (Jamsheed Choksy) from World Politics Review
"Ahmadinejad's administration requires a positive outcome, at least on paper, so that the U.S., its European allies and the United Nations Security Council lift the debilitating economic sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic."

In Africa, Refusal to Cede Power a Test for Democracy (Patrick Smyth) from the Irish Times
"African leaders who use violence to stay in power are sending out a dangerous signal."

This Week in War: Lessons from Cyber War I (Robert Haddick) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"How Russia pioneered the use of cyberattacks as a military tactic."

What 'Shellacking'? Recent Polls Show Major Momentum For Obama from TalkingPointsMemo
"Now, it seems like everything is coming up in Obama's favor. Buoyed by a surging approval rating, an improved economic outlook, and some popular legislative achievements, Obama is suddenly back on top."

Obama Finds the Sweet Spot (Richard Gwyn) from The Star [of Toronto]
"Democrats are quarrelling with Democrats. … Likewise Republicans with Republicans. … All this has left Obama looking like the one politician left standing who is cool and reasonable and trying to get things done by the only way they ever can get done — by compromise and listening to what the other side has to say."

The Children Must Play: What the United States Could Learn from Finland about Education Reform (Samuel Abrams) from the New Republic
"Obama Says He Wants to Reform Education. He Should Take a Cue From Finland."

GOP Fires at the Pentagon (Robert Dreyfuss) from the Nation
"Among Republicans, a civil war has broken out over defense spending."

A Big Warning Sign for Mitt Romney from Politico
"An array of Republican heavyweights who backed Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential bid are not yet committed to - and in some cases, downright skeptical of - the former Massachusetts governor’s all-but-certain 2012 campaign."

Republicans are Terrified of the Tea Party from Politico

"Bachmann’s Republican critics may be sick of her grandstanding, but they’re more terrified of her tea party following."

Why Michele Bachmann is the Real Sarah Palin (David Swerdlick) from The Root
"They rep the same constituency. One in Congress, one from the comfort of her living room. Which Tea Party pol is the one to watch?"

Friday, January 28, 2011

News Nuggets 531

Demonstrators burning a police station in Suez in Egypt.  From the Guardian of the UK.

A Region in Upheaval: Confused about All the Protests? Here is Everything You Need to Know from Global Post
"What happened? And what does the future hold for this volatile region of the world? Here’s everything you need to know about the leaders, the protesters and the problems in each of the nations that have been gripped by protests over these last few weeks."

Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration from the New York Times
"The protests rocking the Arab world this week have one thread uniting them: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel whose aggressive coverage has helped propel insurgent emotions from one capital to the next."

‘Hosni Mubarak, the Plane is Waiting’ (Yasmine El Rashidi) from the New York Review of Books
"On the 25th, I had made a plan with a journalist friend to head out early and stop by several of the designated protest locations—the Supreme Court, Cairo University, the popular Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque, and Shubra—before deciding where to go. Admittedly, we were skeptical. Just weeks before, in a similar call for demonstrations in Egypt in solidarity with the Tunisian uprising, I had arrived at a downtown square to find it barricaded by 200 shielded riot police. Inside were only nine protesters holding up three small banners. But this time was different."

In Egypt, Protests Show Signs of Cohesion from the Washington Post
"The demonstrations, which continued Wednesday despite a strong police presence and hundreds of arrests, drew experienced activists and those who had never marched before. There were secularists, socialists and Islamists all walking together and demanding change with a unity that for years eluded Egypt's opposition."

Don't Fear Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (Bruce Reidel) from the Daily Beast
"The secretive Islamic opposition group has long renounced violence and may be the most reasonable option. Bruce Riedel on why Obama shouldn't panic—and should let Egyptians decide their fate."
Easy to say.  The stakes are enormous.

After Tunisia: Obama's Impossible Dilemma in Egypt (Shadi Hamid) from the Brookings Institution
"…in the growing battle between Arab autocrats and popular oppositions, the United States is finding itself torn between the reliable allies it needs and the democratic reformers it wants. Nowhere is the U.S. dilemma more urgent than in Egypt."

As Arabs Protest, Obama Administration Offers Assertive Support from the Washington Post

"The Obama administration is openly supporting the anti-government demonstrations shaking the Arab Middle East, a stance that is far less tempered than the one the president has taken during past unrest in the region."
Mubarak's government is doomed.  According to NPR this morning, the Egyptian army command has told Mubarak that they will NOT intervene to save his regime.  That leave's the police and security services as the last base of his support -- and according to the BBC this morning, those services are *fully extended* right now.  Practically speaking, the only thing they can do to alter the course of events now is significantly escalate the violence. See Tienanmen Square.  Will they go there?

Egypt: Rage against the Mubaraks from the Guardian [of the UK]

"There is one cry that stands out in Egypt: dictatorship will no longer hold us down."

Unrest Spells End to Mideast Dynasties from the Financial Times [of the UK]
"For Egyptians, and many Arabs across the region, the trend towards tawrith – inherited rule – has long been considered the ultimate insult for societies aspiring to greater freedom. With protests spreading through the Arab world, triggered by the Tunisian revolt, dynastic succession in the region’s republics is likely to emerge as the main casualty."

In Tunisia, Most Members of Old Cabinet Step Down from the New York Times
"Tunisia’s interim government on Thursday purged almost all the cabinet ministers left over from the government of the ousted dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, bowing to two weeks of mounting street protests against the cabinet’s continued dominance by the old governing party and resolving an impasse that had threatened to bog down the new government."

Arabs, Christians, and the Lessons of History (Mohammed Abdel Haq) from the Independent [of the UK]
"Both faiths are entitled to live in peace, and to have their property and freedom of worship protected. Those of us around the world who value the religious protection and freedom we find in the West should not remain silent as we see it being destroyed elsewhere."

From Bullets to Megabytes (Richard Falkenrath) from the New York Times
"STUXNET, the computer worm that last year disrupted many of the gas centrifuges central to Iran’s nuclear program, is a powerful weapon in the new age of global information warfare. A sophisticated half-megabyte of computer code apparently accomplished what a half-decade of United Nations Security Council resolutions could not. This new form of warfare has several implications that are only now becoming apparent, and that will define the shape of what will likely become the next global arms race — albeit one measured in computer code rather than firepower."

Morning in Obama's America (Robert Shrum) from The Week
"The president sounds like Reagan. His opponents have a bad case of malaise."

Obama’s Evolution (Ronald Brownstein) from the National Journal
"The president is shifting from leading a political party to leading the nation."

Obama Finds a New Angle to Reach Old Goals (E.J. Dionne) from the Washington Post
"In fact, what Americans must be ready for now is the paradoxical phase of Barack Obama's presidency. Many things will not be exactly as they appear."

Obama Shows Why Election was a Mistake (Joe Conason) from Salon via RealClearPolitics
"Complaints about President Obama's State of the Union address on both sides of the political divide (which was obscured but not obliterated by the evening's novel seating arrangements) seemed to miss its point and purpose. Like every successful speech of its kind, Obama's message resonated on more than one level. So while he conceded little ground to the right, the president nevertheless sought to draw his adversaries -- and even more so the independent voters who temporarily sided with them -- into the American story he told."

'We Do Big Things': The Annotated State of the Union (James Fallows) from the Atlantic
"There's another way in which SOTU speeches "work," and don't -- with the public, as opposed to the professional commentariat. Political and media pros tend to complain about the length, and the run-through of policy possibilities known in the DC as the "laundry list," that typify these speeches -- but post-speech polls often indicate that ordinary-citizen viewers actually like hearing all these details, and stay for the whole show even when the president runs long. They may not remember any of the proposals, or believe they'll happen -- but evidence suggests that people like to hear these things said."

State of the Union Address: Not Classic But Effective (Michael Tomasky) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Such setpieces are rarely game-changing, but Obama made the most of it by moving to the centre at the Republicans' expense."

G.O.P. Splits Over Plans to Cut Defense Budget from the New York Times
"To hear the Republican leadership tell it, the once-sacred Pentagon budget, protected by the party for generations, is suddenly on the table. But a closer look shows that even as Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, insist on the need for military cuts, divisions have opened among Republicans about whether, and how much, to chop Pentagon spending that comes to more than a half trillion dollars a year."

Old Rules Won't Determine GOP Presidential Candidate (Michael Barone) from the Washington DC Examiner via RealClearPolitics
"So it may be worthwhile, before trying to assess the chances of likely, putative and possible Republican candidates in the 2012 cycle, to dismiss some of the rules of thumb that have arisen over the years."

Reid, McConnell Reach Rules Refom Agreement (Sam Stein) from the Huffington Post
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have reached agreement on a set of relatively small changes to the upper chamber's rules, including an informal pact to reduce the number of filibusters in exchange for allowing more amendments from the minority party."

Old Hickory's Ghost (Russell McClintock) from the New York Times

"…the dynamics of secession also drew attention to a more recent historical event – the Nullification Crisis of 1833 – and brought back to the center of debate that most controversial of early Americans, Andrew Jackson. Conflicting interpretations of his legacy tell a lot about how the North and South – and Democrats and Republicans within the North – saw the crisis."

The Best of Paris Haute Couture Spring 2011 (Isabell Wilkinson) from the Daily Beast

"Spring is in the air! This week in Paris, Karl Lagerfeld lit up Chanel, Christian Dior ushered in a return to 1950s glamour, and a “punk CanCan” ruled the runway at Jean Paul Gaultier. See highlights from Haute Couture."
More often than not, I find new couture fashion to be more hilarious than beautiful.  No exception here.  Some look like a cross between Michael Jackson and Batman.  Pop culture and  Broadway clearly had their influence.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

News Nuggets 530

Protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday.  From the New York Times.

Egypt President's Son, Family Flee to Britain from the Times of India
"Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's son, who is considered as his successor, has fled to Britain along with his family, a US-based Arabic website reported. "
Bet: like in Tunisia, the army has communicated to Mubarak that they will only go so far to protect his regime -- and they have either reached or are close to that limit.

Cairo Erupts as Egyptian Protesters Demand Mubarak Resign from Raw Story
"Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Egypt Tuesday, facing down a massive police presence to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in protests inspired by Tunisia's popular uprising."

Fresh Anti-govt Protests in Egypt from Al Jazeera English
"More than 500 protesters arrested as thousands return to streets to protest poverty and government repression."
Check out the video coverage of Tahrir Square in Cairo.  The story notes that it is not just the young and the educated who are protesting but average Egyptians.  Bad sign if you're in the Presidential palace.

Who Would Have Believed It? (Brian Whitaker) from Al-Bob: An Open Door to the Arab World
"Today's protests in Egypt far exceeded my own expectations and, no doubt, the expectations of the organisers and the Egyptian authorities. The Mubarak regime, even if it's not headed for oblivion just yet, must surely be shaken to the core."
Interesting blogging and analysis of what's happening in Egypt can be found here.

Will Egypt's Protests Go the Way of Tunisia's Revolution? (Mona Eltahawy) from the Washington Post

"To understand what drove tens of thousands of Egyptians to erupt Tuesday in the largest protests in a generation against President Hosni Mubarak, you only had to see one photo of events in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, a Nile Delta factory city where an estimated 5,000 people turned out."

Obama Poised to Intensify U.S. Criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak from Bloomberg Businessweek

"The White House is prepared to step up its criticism of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key Middle East ally, if his government intensifies its crackdown on protesters, said an administration official."
In an indirect way, I suspect this explains why Mubarak's family split.  Obama says this far and no further with the crackdowns.  You can bet Egyptian generals are making their own plans based on this. 

Obama's Support for Egypt Protesters Risks a Key Ally (Leslie Gelb) from the Daily Beast
"In a move charged with great danger, the Obama team is tilting slightly away from Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian strongman and U.S. critical ally, and toward the demonstrators thronging the streets, writes Leslie H. Gelb. Plus, full coverage of the protests in Egypt."
No doubt there is great danger here for Obama and US interests on many levels -- but what is he supposed to do?  Hang in there with Mubarak (whose family just fled the country) until some bitter end?  Do the Jimmy Carter thing with a repressive dictator?  The US is ALREADY in deep s@#$ with the so-called "Arab street".  After years of backing folks like Mubarak in Egypt and elsewhere, the US is in a no-win situation.

Jordan Islamists Vow More Nationwide Protests from Al Arabiya News Channel
"Jordan's Islamist opposition on Wednesday called fresh protests for later in the week and warned it would press on with its campaign to force political and economic reform in the kingdom."

Yemen Protesters Demand Change of Government from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Thousands gather in Sana'a to call on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down."
Incredible.  As a historian, I look at what's happening in the Middle East right now, and I see interesting parallels with the European revolutions of 1848, a year when most of the major European monarchies faced near-death experiences against revolutionary forces inspired by liberalism and incipient nationalism.  One can only hope that 2011 will end better for Arab reformers than 1848 did for European democrats.  In 1848, conservative monarchist elements ultimately crushed virtually all of the liberal revolutions.

A Region’s Unrest Scrambles U.S. Foreign Policy (Mark Landler) from the New York Times
"As the Obama administration confronts the spectacle of angry protesters and baton-wielding riot police officers from Tunisia to Egypt to Lebanon, it is groping for a plan to deal with an always-vexing region that is now suddenly spinning in dangerous directions."
As each Arab regime goes through its own revolutionary tumult, we may end up with ten or twelve different versions of US policy going to hell in a handbasket.

Operation Groundhog in Kazakhstan: The US Seeks to Protect Former Soviet Nuclear Testing Site from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"Plutonium is lying around, virtually unprotected, at a test site in Kazakhstan where the Soviets once detonated more than 500 nuclear bombs. Could the dangerous material fall into the hands of terrorists?"

Dealing with Julian Assange and the Secrets He Spilled (Bill Keller) from the New York Times Sunday Magazine
"Is the WikiLeaks founder the great puppet master of the news media? He would like you to think so. But The Times’s dealings with him tell a different story."

Financial Crisis Was Avoidable, Inquiry Finds from the New York Times

"The 2008 financial crisis was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street, according to the conclusions of a federal inquiry."

Obama SOTU Speech: Love Train in the House! (Howard Fineman) from the Huffington Post
"When he was done delivering his feel-good, oh-so-sensible and sotto voce State of the Union address, I expected the sound system in the House to begin blasting the O'Jays' classic--and to see the members dancing in a conga line in the aisles, Coors Light in hand. Early polls showed that the speech was one of the most well-received he has ever given."

First Thoughts: An 'Exceptional' Speech from MSNBC

"Ryan's speech "was gloomy, especially compared with Obama's positive and forward-looking address... This will ultimately be a challenge for the Republicans competing against Obama in 2012. How do you both criticize his policies and chart a new course, but also remain optimistic? Ryan has a fairly sunny nature, and he had a hard time looking optimistic. This is NOT going to be easy for the actual presidential field.""

Why an Unexceptional Speech Got an Exceptional Response from Taegan Goddard's Political Wire

"It was no surprise that the post-State of the Union snap polls released last night and this morning showed a win for President Obama. What was surprising -- more like jaw-dropping -- was the lopsided degree of the President's win. "
As I have noted for some time -- Obama doesn't pitch much to pundits.  I thought the speech was better than his first SOTU, and, after listening two nights ago, I was confident he had hit a home run … for the audience he was pitching to: the general public.

A Call to Protest Ignites a Call to Arms (Barbara Ehrenreich) from Los Angeles Times
"The reaction to Frances Fox Piven's essay urging the unemployed to protest for change shows that we are no longer a democracy but a tyranny of the heavily armed."

Michele Bachmann's Alternate Universe (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post

"For Republican leaders, it's more than a one-night problem. Bachmann is bidding to become the new voice of the opposition, replacing the titular leaders of the GOP."
In so many ways, Bachmann's rise reminds me of Palin's popularity -- and not just in terms of their far right politics.  These two are so profoundly self-serving and egomaniacal, it leaves me speechless. 

Michele Bachmann Stirs Talk of a GOP Divided from the Los Angeles Times
"Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's decision to give a second response to President Obama's State of the Union -- after the official GOP response -- draws fire and revives talk of Republicans as split into mainstream and 'tea party' factions. CNN's decision to televise her critique also is criticized."

Young Writer Searches for Harlem: A Review of Harlem is Nowhere:  A Journey to the Mecca of Black America by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts from the New York Times

"Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts’s first book, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” takes its title from a 1948 essay by Ralph Ellison, and it pays homage, in grainy and shifting ways, to many other classics of black literature and thought."

Hussein Wanted Soviets to Head Off U.S. in 1991 from the New York Times

"As the American-led ground offensive in the first war with Iraq got under way on Feb. 24, 1991, Saddam Hussein directed his frustration at an unlikely target: the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Mr. Hussein had dispatched his foreign minister to Moscow in an 11th-hour bid to head off a ground war."

A Guide to Houses No Gentleman Would Dare to Frequent (Alison Cowan) from the New York Times

"Encyclopedic in breadth but compact enough for the vest pocket of a 19th-century gentleman on the go, the book was an insider’s guide to Manhattan, easily picked up at the newsstand before a night on the town, much the way tourists and locals now consult a guidebook when they are in the mood for a memorable restaurant or meal."
The whole book is HERE with a map HERE.

Dogs for the Disabled and Assistance Animals: A Friend for Life from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]

"Guide dogs play a vital role in aiding the disabled, says Tom Chivers. But now monkeys, horses and even llamas are getting in on the act."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

News Nuggets 529

A map that tells you A LOT about why this region is in the trouble it is in right now.  See the article from Der Spiegel below.

The Broken Consensus: America's Contested Primacy (Eric Edelman) from World Affairs Journal

I'm reposting this one from yesterday -- more than most analyses I've seen lately concerning the "America in decline" narrative, this one presents a very nuanced, cold-eyed picture of America's major competitors and how they stack up against the US in some key categories.
"American decline will not be determined purely by economic gains or losses. The future shape of the international system will depend more on broader measures of national power than percentage shares of global production. Factors like GDP, population, defense spending, and a variety of other criteria should also be taken into account. The key variable would seem to be the efficiency and effectiveness with which nations convert resources into usable hard and soft power. At least as important as the objective measures of national power are the subjective assessments by international statesmen and military leaders of the international distribution of power. Those judgments are inevitably affected by a range of cultural, psychological, bureaucratic, and political factors. It is worth asking how the putative competitors stack up on some of these dimensions."

The British Economy: Heading South – and Fast from the Editorial Board of the Guardian [of the UK]

"With the economic outlook so bleak, isn't it time to rethink the coalition's austerity plans?"
For those who think we need to deal with the deficit NOW, fire alarms should be going off given the latest numbers out of the UK.  Get the US on a steady path out of the recession first.

Now, back to our regular nuggets:
Watching Egypt (but Not on Al Jazeera) (Marc Lynch) from Foreign Policy Magazine

"The images and stories of protests today have been impressive, both in numbers and in energy and enthusiasm. The Egyptians are self-consciously emulating the Tunisian protests, seeking to capitalize on the new mood within the Arab world."

Arab Rulers Fear Spread of Democracy Fever from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]

"In the wake of Tunisia's mostly peaceful revolution, Arab leaders are worried that their young, frustrated populations might follow suit. While the West sits back and watches, regimes stress stability over genuine democracy and hope to calm simmering discontent with cash."

In Egypt, it's 'C' for Christian and 'M' for Muslim (Lynx Qualey) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"From kindergarten Egyptian citizens are branded as Christians or Muslims – a practice that many feel deepens divisions."

Good News About Israel and Palestine (Really) (Jeffrey Goldberg and Hussein Ibish] from the New York Times
"We tend to forget, amid the welter of commentary about Palestinian incitement and Israeli belligerence, that we have recently seen startling shifts in both Israeli and Palestinian attitudes on the need for compromise."
These authors touch on something that most commentators seem to miss about the relationship as it currently stands between Israel and Palestine: no matter how much each side dislikes the other [both individually and collectively], once you've trashed the latest "peace talks", where is everyone left?  Right back exactly where they were.  All the other options: do nothing and allow the situation to further decline, fight, another intifada, etc., etc. have ALL been tried and failed and even left things in worse shape than before. And so all there is to do is to SIT BACK DOWN again and talk. I think Obama and Abbas get this central dynamic more than the Israelis -- but I think it will dawn on even them soon enough.

Russia: Rewriting History (Cameron and Asmus) from Chatham House [of London]
For those not familiar with this source, Chatham House is like the Brookings Institution of the UK.
"Russian policymakers have often viewed the historical narrative of their country in ways contrary to actors in the west-nowhere is this more prevalent than in the erroneous line of thinking that describes the 1990s as a decade of purposeful humiliation by the United States and European Union."
It has become a very convenient political narrative for pols across the ideological spectrum in Russia.  It is becoming the default position of repressive regimes everywhere when faced with internal crisis [at times not without some justification]: blame America.  However, this perennial chestnut doesn't work in Russia's case.  Having read a lot on this over the last two years, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton did A LOT to try and steer the former Soviet Union towards a soft economic landing and did what they could to bolster the global and economic cred of both Gorbachev and later Yeltsin, often LONG after their sell-by dates.  I think it's understandable that Russians accustomed to the "super-power" label felt embarrassed given the chaos of the 1990s -- but that was not the US's fault.  Where the "humiliation" piece comes in (and may have more justification) was Clinton and Bush II's needlessly provocative expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.  Putin and his reactionary supporters have had a field day with this.  I understand some of the rationale: power abhors a vacuum, and states like Poland and the Czech Republic were clamoring for it.  But to promote NATO membership for the Ukraine as Bush II did was needlessly provocative and was done with an "in your face" quality towards Russia that was bound to produce this reaction.

The State of Obama is Strong (Jonathan Capehart) from the Washington Post
"The President Obama you see tonight will be different from the one you saw on Nov. 3. That Obama was a little glum and introduced into our political lexicon the now-worn-out gerund "shellacking" to describe the beat-down he and the Democrats suffered at the polls in the midterm elections. No, the Obama you will see tonight will be strong. Really strong."

Obama Gets Up off the Canvas (Clarence Page) from the Chicago Tribune

"At this midpoint of his first term, it is too early to say what President Barack Obama's legacy will be. We don't even know whether he will get a second term. But we're beginning to see more clearly the outlines of what that legacy might be: In a contentious age of left-versus-right, he's a center-left pragmatist — and he's beginning to make it pay off."

What the Speech Has Already Done (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post

"The president won't give his annual State of the Union address until later tonight, but in an important way, the speech has already worked. For the past week or so, news report after news report has dutifully relayed the argument the president is planning to offer tonight: America needs to be competitive going forward, and to be competitive going forward, it needs to invest in things like infrastructure, R&D and education, not just reduce the deficit."

Obama Tries Out Bill Clinton's Message (Peter Beinart) from the Daily Beast
"Facing a Republican majority, the president had to drop his campaign-era themes for this State of the Union and pick up Clinton’s—talking about “winning the future” to underscore his energy and youth. And it worked."

Poll: High Marks for Obama's State of the Union Speech from CBS News
"An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of the overall message in President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News poll of speech watchers."

Democracy Corps: Swing Voters Reaction to Obama's SOTU Speech from the Democratic Strategist
"Dial testing and follow-up discussions with 50 swing voters in Denver, Colorado showed that President Obama's 2011 State of the Union struck a powerful chord as he described his economic vision for the country. Following the speech, voters gave the President impressive assessments on key economic measures and were especially drawn to the President's emphasis on three of the themes he emphasized in his speech; innovation, education, and America's competitiveness in the future. As one of these swing voters put it, "the future belongs to the people who make the what and the how.""

Anderson Cooper Wallops Bachmann For 'Flunking History' (VIDEO) from TalkingPointsMemo

"Michele Bachmann was the subject of Anderson Cooper's "Keeping Them Honest" segment last night, for her comments last weekend that to America's diversity-conscious first settlers, "it didn't matter the color of their skin, it didn't matter their language, it didn't matter their economic status."  In her remarks, Bachmann also said that "we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.""
Normally I don't post stuff spouted by the Palins and the Bachmanns of this world -- the MSM does just fine with these kinds of verbal 'banana peel' moments.  But this was too good (or too stupid) to pass up.  Thank you Anderson!

Wealthy Indians Revive Ancient Fire Ritual (Rama Lakshmi) from Washington Post

"In this rapidly modernizing country, new money is also reviving old traditions. A group of mostly urban professionals has teamed up to help conduct the fire ritual this spring in a village that last witnessed it 35 years ago."

Daniel Yergin's Much-Awaited Sequel to The Prize from Foreign Policy Magazine

"The Gulf War also provided unexpected subtext for Daniel Yergin, whose masterwork history of oil, The Prize, was coincidentally published a few months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and became a No. 1 best-selling non-fiction title. The next year it won a Pulitzer Prize."
The Prize was a very timely book when it came out -- and it looks like the sequel will be JUST as timely!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

News Nuggets 528

A cowboy riding the plains of West Texas late last summer.  From National Geographic.

The New Rules: The Battle for Islam's Soul (Thomas Barnett) from the World Politics Review
"Beginning with the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the West has viewed the Middle East and North Africa primarily through the lens of radical fundamentalist political movements. That perspective has narrowed our strategic vision ever since, conflating Shiite with Sunni, evangelicals with fundamentalists, Persians with Arabs, Islamists with autocrats, and so on. But recent events in Tunisia and Algeria remind us that the vast bulk of history's revolutions are fueled by economics, not politics. In this, the struggle for Islam's soul is no different than that of any other civilization in this age of globalization's rapid expansion. "

Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – Live Updates from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Cairo a 'war zone' as demonstrators demand president quit.  Protests continue in Tunisia and Lebanon"

Superpower and Upstart: Sometimes It Ends Well (David Sanger) from the New York Times
"… while no official would dare say so publicly as President Hu Jintao bounced from the White House to meetings with business leaders to factories in Chicago last week, his visit, from both sides’ points of view, was all about managing China’s rise and defusing the fears that it triggers."

The Broken Consensus: America's Contested Primacy (Eric Edelman) from World Affairs Journal
"The National Intelligence Council’s November 2008 report, Global Trends 2025, argued that “the international system—as constructed following the Second World War—will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 . . . [It] will be a global multipolar one with gaps in national power continuing to narrow between developed and developing countries.” This conclusion represented a striking departure from the NIC’s view in 2004 that the United States was likely to continue its dominance of the international system.  What changed in four short years?"

Between America and China: A 'Balance of Financial Terror' (Editorial) from Der Standard [of Germany in English]
"The Bank of China holds more than $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves. Just as China has no interest in allowing the yuan to appreciate by ten percent, as the U.S. demands, it also has no particular desire to send the dollar into a tailspin with all sorts of crises. Both of these actions would result in enormous losses."

India's Doctrinal Shift? (Nitin Gokhale) from The Diplomat
"The Indian Army is undertaking its first strategic transformation in more than two decades. And it has its sights firmly on China"

GOP Lawmakers Planning Meeting to Explore Alternatives in Afghan War from the Huffinton Post
"Three Republican lawmakers who have been outspoken on the war in Afghanistan are trying to push their party to start debating alternative policies and will be convening a meeting next month to start the debate."
I'm sure Dick Cheney isn't happy about these renegades.

British Economy Suffers Shock Contraction in Fourth Quarter by Reuters via CNBC
"The Office for National Statistics said that Britain's economy would have struggled to register any growth in the fourth quarter even without any snow disruption."
Deficit hawks in the US need to take note of this!

GM Selling More Cars in China Than US from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
"General Motors Co. sold more cars and trucks in China last year than it did in the U.S., for the first time in the company's 102-year history."
This is FANTASTIC NEWS!  One of the biggest problems US automakers have faced over the decades has been making cars that appealed largely just to US consumers [see the Hummer] rather than for a GLOBAL market.  This hopefully signals a clear shift towards that global audience.

Bush White House Broke Election Laws, Report Says from the New York Times

"The Bush White House, particularly before the 2006 midterm elections, routinely violated a federal law that prohibits use of federal tax dollars to pay for political activities by creating a “political boiler room” that coordinated Republican campaign activities nationwide, a report issued Monday by an independent federal agency concludes."
No surprise.  Now what?

Mapping the State of the Union from the Daily Beast
"As Obama prepares to address Congress, The Daily Beast wondered what the 20 top State of the Union speeches of the past century would look like as individual Word Clouds. VIEW OUR GALLERY."
The "gallery" is a little lame -- but the list is interesting.

What Comes After No? from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"Now that House Republicans have muscled through a symbolic repeal bill, they will have to deliver their own alternative plan. Don’t expect much."

Senate Makes Headway on Rules Reforms from Politico
"There’s no deal yet on how to change Senate filibuster rules, but Democrats and Republicans are finding common ground in two other areas: ending the practice of so-called secret holds and smoothing the way for presidential nominees."
I guess something is better than nothing.

Ronald Reagan, the anti-Reaganite (Jacob Heilbrunn) from the Los Angeles Times

"100 years after his birth, Republicans clearly still venerate his memory, but they have moved so far to the right that his actual record wouldn't live up to their ideals."

Court Orders Rahm Emanuel’s Name Back on Chicago Mayoral Ballot from Raw Story
"Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will be included on upcoming ballots as a candidate for Mayor of the City of Chicago, The Chicago Sun-Times reported."
This is SOOO Chicago!!  It's almost funny to contemplate the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting that must have gone on over the last 24 hours.

NY-Sen: Senator Surprise (Michelle Cottle) from Newsweek

"New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand was once dismissed as an undeserving political lightweight. Now, with two big legislative wins, her star is suddenly on the rise."
Interesting profile.  I had considered her a lightweight when she was appointed.  Guess not.

The Night Rider: Daredevil Surfer Who Lights Up Monster Waves in Pitch Darkness: VIDEO from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"It's perhaps not surprising that surfers have a reputation for daring that borders on madness - always pushing themselves and the boundaries of their sport in search of the biggest wave, the most thrilling run. But big-wave rider Mark Visser has now taken the sport into new territory after he took on 30ft monster waves off Maui - in pitch darkness."
The video is pretty amazing. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

News Nuggets 527

A bear looking for fish at Kurile Lake in Kamchatka, Russia.  Yup, those claws look pretty formidable up close.  See the Bear Nugget below.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Obama Will Spotlight Beginning of the End in Afghanistan (Yochi Dreazen) from National Journal

"When it comes to Afghanistan, the official said Obama will use the address to argue that this year marks a turning point that signals the beginning off the end of the long Afghan war. The official said Obama would make clear that 2011 will be the high water mark for the U.S troop presence in Afghanistan, which will decline over the next three years and, at least in theory, be almost entirely out of the country by 2014."

Why the Arab World Resists Democracy (Omar Taspinar) from Today's Zaman [of Turkey in English]
"Out of the 22 countries in the Arab League, only Lebanon has regular elections. Yet, even there, chronic instability fights the image of a successful democracy. Why is there such an Arab exception to democracy? … According to political scientists and political economists, there are structural impediments to democracy in the Arab world."

Protests in Algeria and Yemen Draw Inspiration from Tunisia Uprising from the Los Angeles Times
"Activists in Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and even Albania  took to the streets this weekend demanding democratic reforms in their countries."

North Korean Apocalypse Avoided? (Peter Drysdale) from the East Asia Forum
"The conflict internationalised very quickly and added another confrontational element to relations between Washington and Beijing. The tension heightened when China took an unusually strong public stand against the joint naval exercises between the South Korea and the US in the West Sea. The chance of serious military conflict that could have gotten rapidly out of hand was extremely high."

Leaked 'Palestine Papers' Underscore Difficulty of Peace Process from NPR's Morning Edition
"In the short-term, Lourdes said, the disclosures are bad news for Palestinian negotiators because word of the offers they made will not play well in the Arab world. But long-term, Lourdes said, "this may damage Israel's standing in the international community" if it is perceived to have been intransigent."
The link to the audio will go up late today. The NYTimes coverage of this story is HERE and the Guardian of the UK's analysis is HERE and HERE.  It is unclear where these leaked documents actually came from - but the peace process will almost certainly be the big loser.

Speech Will Highlight Obama the Author (Michael Shear) from the New York Times
"The State of the Union address President Obama will deliver on Tuesday was developed during months of deliberations with a small group of White House advisers who helped Mr. Obama channel his instincts as an author."

Will Obama's State of the Union Rise Above the Cliches of a Stale Speech? (Walter Shapiro) from Politics Daily
"As a former presidential speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, I am certain what the Obama wordsmiths first did to prepare for this year's address. They immediately went back and studied all the prior presidential State of the Unions that came on the heels of stunning rebukes at the polls."

Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address--an Accounting (Glenn Kessler) from the Washington Post
"Here, in order of delivery, is a summary of the key proposals, pledges or priorities announced by Obama a year ago--and what happened to them. Overall, he did rather well in getting his ideas enacted by Congress, the clear benefit of having commanding majorities in both houses of Congress."

The West Wing, Season II (John Heilemann) from New York Magazine
"Almost overnight, Barack Obama overhauled his White House and rewrote much of the script. Now all he needs is a happy ending."

Scientists Face 'Shocking Levels' of Vilification Over Discoveries (Steve Connor) from the Independent [of the UK] 
"Scientists are being subjected to shocking levels of personal vilification and distrust, Britain's most senior scientist has warned. Sir Paul Nurse, the new president of the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of sciences, urged scientists to take on those critics who have cast doubt on the veracity of scientific discoveries ranging from the link between climate change and man-made carbon dioxide to the benefits of GM crops."
He's right on the money -- both in see ing the problem and diagnosing an appropriate set of actions.  Scientists need to GET INTO THE PUBLIC ARENA and duke it out with their opponents!!  For twenty years, they deluded themselves into thinking that the problems were scientific and that better research would handle the problems they faced.  WRONG!  The problems are political, ideological, and philosophical.  No critical mass of peer reviewed articles will make any difference now.  Scientists need to get out of the lab and off campus and get into the TV studio -- and take THESE CRITICS head on!

A Look Inside Loughner's Mind Reveals Our Own from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday

"Mr. POTOK: I also felt that this was a person who was mentally ill who had absorbed some very particular ideas from the radical right and, in particular, from the conspiracy theorists on the radical right."
Loughner was almost certainly mentally unbalanced -- AND heavily influenced by the anti-government rhetoric of the far right!

Gabrielle Giffords 'Even More Alert,' Will Start Rehab in Houston from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
"She inspired the nation with her fairy-tale recovery. Now Rep. Gabrielle Giffords must inspire herself through the ordeal of rehabilitation, and doctors say it's likely to be the hardest work she'll ever do."

Obama Could Survive Some Bumps on Road to 2012 Reelection (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"…a detailed examination of the national map heading into 2012 suggests that the president still sits in a strong position for reelection - able to lose half a dozen (or more) swing states he carried in 2008 and still win the 270 electoral votes he needs for a second term."

And They Lived Snappily Ever After: Fisherman and 17ft Crocodile Best Friend Form Unlikely Tourist Attraction from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"As Chito, wearing a leopard skin sash and a headband, taps the surface of the water and calls out to his friend, the 990lb reptile dramatically emerges from below to applause from the crowd."
Quite astonishing!  A seventeen foot long and 990 pound killing machine -- as gentle as a kitten WITH THIS ONE GUY.  How is he with other humans?  Probably not so sweet.

PARENTING NUGGET [of a sort]!!
America's Top Parent: What’s behind the“Tiger Mother” craze? A Review of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua from the New Yorker

"Chua, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is a Yale Law School professor. She is married to another Yale law professor and has two daughters, whom she drives relentlessly. Chua’s rules for the girls include: no sleepovers, no playdates, no grade lower than an A on report cards, no choosing your own extracurricular activities, and no ranking lower than No. 1 in any subject. (An exception to this last directive is made for gym and drama.)"
This book has been getting an extraordinary amount of attention!  The Wall Street Journal has a review of Chua's book HERE.

Two Forms of World's 'Newest' Cat, the Sunda Leopard from Earth News at the BBC

"The "newest" cat species described to science, the Sunda clouded leopard, actually exists in two distinct forms, scientists have confirmed."
What an AMAZING looking animal!  See the video at Earth News link above.  The still photo there doesn't do justice to how distinctive this cat looks!

Catch of the Day: Dramatic Close-up Pictures of Wild Bears Fishing for Survival from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Salmon may be a popular choice on restaurant menus, but, it seems, it is also a favourite with wild bears. A dramatic new series of photographs, by Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov, show the bears fishing for their supper in Kurile Lake in Kamchatka, Russia. The wildlife enthusiast risked his life swimming just a few feet from the animals at the rural site, which is home to more than 18,000 of them."