Monday, July 19, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

Could you please shut up?

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 04:31 AM PDT

Thomas Friedman, in Can We Talk? regrets the firing of Octavia Nasr.

I find Nasr's firing troubling. Yes, she made a mistake. Reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover. It undermines their credibility. But we also gain a great deal by having an Arabic-speaking, Lebanese-Christian female journalist covering the Middle East for CNN, and if her only sin in 20 years is a 140-character message about a complex figure like Fadlallah, she deserved some slack. She should have been suspended for a month, but not fired. It's wrong on several counts.

To begin with, what has gotten into us? One misplaced verb now and within hours you can have a digital lynch mob chasing after you -- and your bosses scrambling for cover. A journalist should lose his or her job for misreporting, for misquoting, for fabricating, for plagiarizing, for systemic bias -- but not for a message like this one.

I'd argue that that Nasr's tweet was indicative of a "systemic bias." Still, as Lee Smith wrote:

The Western press delights in rattling the bourgeois sensibilities of its audience by showing the multifaceted aspects of Hezbollah--it's not just a militia with an appetite for slaughtering Jews, it's also a social welfare outfit that provides educational opportunities!--and even collaborates with the Party of God by publishing doctored photographs of Israeli "war crimes." The op-ed pages of America's dailies are replete with articles promoting Hezbollah's "pragmatism" and "moderation" (which also happens to be the position of the president's counter-terrorism czar John Brennan, and a recent CENTCOM analytical exercise), while reported pieces from Lebanon pass along Party of God press releases as objective analysis. If every U.S. journalist who quoted Hezbollah mouthpiece Amal Saad Ghorayeb as a respected "scholar" was fired, the bars of East Beirut would lose 25 percent of their business.

Rather than being unique, Nasr's sympathy for Fadlallah was par for the course among Western journalists. (This is why I thought that Nasr was fired for some other reason. The tweet was a convenient excuse.)

At the end of his column, Friedman writes:

Of course, Fadlallah was not just a social worker. He had some dark side. People at CNN tell me Nasr knew both. But here's what I know: The Middle East has to change in order to thrive, and that change has to come from within, from change agents who are seen as legitimate and rooted in their own cultures. They may not be America's cup of tea. But we need to know about them, and understand where our interests converge -- not just demonize them all.

That's why I prefer to get my news from a CNN reporter who can actually explain why thousands of men and women are mourning an aged Shiite cleric -- whom we consider nothing more than a terrorist -- than a reporter who doesn't know at all, or worse, doesn't dare to say.

Michael Young, though, observes:

What the tributes to Fadlallah show us, against the backdrop of the relative silence surrounding Abu Zeid's death throughout the Middle East, is that things are out of kilter when it comes to liberalism in the region. An essentially conservative cleric has been played up as the vanguard of progressiveness and dialogue, while a scholar who sought to introduce a freethinking outlook toward religion, who had to go into exile to escape possible assassination, departed from this world with little comment - certainly not from the British ambassador to Egypt, Dominic Asquith, who also hosts a personal embassy blog.

In other words, while Fadlallah's views on certain social issues were different, his views on terror and Israel were pretty mainstream and unlike Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid (whom Young profiles) didn't really challenge Islam. It's almost as if the hatred of Israel and (at least philosophical) support for terror is what makes an Islamic cleric genuine in Friedman's eyes.

Perhaps Fadlallah had been somewhat alienated from Hezbollah and Iran, but that didn't stop a news agency of the latter from carrying praises from the former in his memory.

The revered cleric served as the resistance's spiritual leader following its formation in 1982.

In a statement, Hezbollah said the passing was a loss weighing heavy upon both "Lebanon and the whole world," Rizk, reported Press TV's correspondent in the Lebanese capital.

"This is a big loss. He was symbol whom our arena is in dire need of," the statement added.

Referring to Fadlallah's impassioned criticism of Israel and the United States, the statement said, "He stood with courage in support of the resistance against the Zionist enemy. He also expressed his outright rejection of the conspiracies of the hegemonic powers."

Crossposted on Yourish.

Military monday #18

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 04:19 AM PDT

I haven't dont this in a while. One of the fascinating aspects of military technology is the development of new materials to help the soldier in the field.

Last week Instapundit linked to an item about "liquid armor" (not to be confused with "liquid metal" of T2 fame):

Liquid armor has been shown to stop bullets more effectively than plain Kevlar, according to British firm BAE Systems. The material could be used to make thinner, lighter armor for military personnel and police officers, the BBC reports.

Materials scientists combined a shear-thickening liquid with traditional Kevlar to make a bulletproof material that absorbs the force of a bullet strike by becoming thicker and stickier.

Its molecules lock together more tightly when it is struck, the scientists explained -- they described it as "bulletproof custard," the BBC reports.

This would be an advance for personal armor.

Recently there has been an advance in bulletproof technology for vehicles, called spinel.

How about better ballistic protection through a new ceramic-based "Spinel" bullet-proof transparent material. Spinel Ceramic Armor, though transparent like glass, is a completely new compound that starts as a powder. Produced by ArmorLine, the amazing new "Spinel Transparent Ceramic Armor" is HALF the thickness and HALF the weight of conventional, laminated "bullet-proof glass" with similar ballistic protection. Being much lighter than "bullet-proof glass", the Spinel Transparent Armor is ideal for use in vehicles and aircraft where weight is an important factor. By replacing laminated glass with Spinel Transparent Armor plates, hundreds of pounds could be shaved from the weight of a troop transport vehicle without sacrificing any ballistic protection.

Here's a technical description of spinel for those who are so inclined.

Egypt's corruptions

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 04:19 AM PDT

Death in Police Encounter Stirs Calls for Change in Egypt

The two undercover police officers seemed unfazed by the bystanders, who watched as the officers beat a 28-year-old man in the lobby of a building here last month, one witness said.

One of those bystanders, Amal Kamel, stood at the top of a short flight of marble stairs in the lobby, watching the officers punch and kick the man, Khaled Said, smashing his head against the bottom step until his body was still and he stopped begging for his life. The officers dragged Mr. Said to a car, Ms. Kamel said, and returned 10 minutes later to leave his body at the bottom of the stairs.

They had little to worry about, human rights advocates here say. Units within Egypt's sprawling security force are granted broad powers by the government, and officers are rarely punished for abuse. A police officer told Mr. Said's relatives that he choked on a clump of marijuana. The episode might have ended there.

Interestingly these protests against Egyptian police abuse aren't reported to be in connection to Mohammed el-Baradei's campaign for the presidency. If he were looking for popular cause to rally support against Mubarak and son, this would seem to be ideal.

But it's not just the police who abuse power in Egypt.

Egyptian media reported on July 9 that the head of the small Jewish community of Cairo, Carmen Weinstein, who is nearing 80, had been sentenced to three years in jail for having defrauded an Egyptian businessman and ordered to pay 40 000 Egyptian pounds as partial compensation. The court had found her guilty of selling one Nabil Badia a piece of real estate belonging to the community on which stands a synagogue for the sum of three million pounds, and refusing either to put the place in his name or to return the money.

The news came as a surprise to Mrs. Weinstein since she had not been informed of the trial and had therefore not been represented - thus effectively preventing her from defending herself.

Carmen Weinstein has always lived in Cairo; as the president of the community she has an office in town and it would not have been difficult to notify her and to call her to testify. The fact that it was not done raises a number of questions. None of them, unfortunately, was asked by the local press.

Mrs. Weinstein appears to be the victim of fraud perpetrated by members of Egypt's parliament. Thus she has no recourse. Being Jewish, presumably means that there will be no protest movement that will rise to her defense.

Defective defector

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 04:19 AM PDT

When Shahram Amiri, re-defected last week from the United States back to Iran, it was a big news story. The New York Times, yesterday, looked at the possible fates awaiting him: A defector goes home, but to what end?

After mentioning the very different fates of men who did similar things, Kamel Hassan, and Vitaly Yurchenko, the Times suggests one answer:

As Ray Takeyh, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, notes, there are no real Iranian precedents for dealing with returning nuclear defectors. "I think they have a Soviet approach -- they will want to make propaganda use of him," Mr. Takeyh said. "My impression is that he will be around for a year or so." But then, he said, "I don't think it's going to turn out well for him. They have to establish to other potential defectors that there is a cost to be paid."

Swallowtail butterfly

Posted: 18 Jul 2010 09:59 PM PDT


Going to my parents condo, I got one of those shots I always hope for. I wish I'd centered it better, but still really nice.

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