"Assad’s promises of reform have failed to stop the widespread protest — but Syria is no longer cut off from the outside world"
Walking around Aleppo’s markets recently*, young salespeople took pains to express that in Aleppo they felt the protests in the south to be rabble-rousers augmented by neighboring countries (Jordan). The protests are disproportionate to actual residents’ sentiments, volunteer the salesmen unprompted by us. It’s an amazing contrast to the english-language TV news citing activist reports and showing online amateur documentation (at arm’s length). Aleppans(?) know the same facts yet see a different context street to street, it seems.
Tension is palpable until the usual business concerns (like possible squishing by mini-truck or motorbike in the narrow market halls) return. Then it’s the same souk it’s been for centuries.
Addendum: for more context on both Aleppo’s and Syria’s as-yet-silent majority waiting to see what happens, a piece on cnn today illustrates the complexity…which is just as tough as the Middle East usually is.
Syria is more a geographic confection than a natural state. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the First World War, the rump Syria was created —a mixed bag of religions, sects and tribes. The delicate sectarian balance between the majority Sunnis and the minority but very powerful Alawites means that any implosion of the state could be quickly followed by Iraqi-style warfare. Syria also has sizeable Kurdish, Christian and Druze minorities, all of which have their own grievances and anxieties. Some analysts believe it is the fear of anarchy that has so far restrained many people in Damascus and Syria’s second city, Aleppo, from joining the protests —their anxiety being “Apres Assad, la deluge.”
Al Jazeera and similar arabic cable news has been really fascinating to follow during my trip in the Middle East. I don’t follow the arabic commentary because I don’t speak the language but the persistent coverage and debate has been notable.
I wish I could understand the language rather than relying on fellow travelers’ translations no matter how eager they are to share.
The world economy needs a new global reserve currency to help prevent trade imbalances that are reflected in the national debt of the U.S., said Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
A “global system” is needed to replace the dollar as a reserve currency and help avoid a weakening of U.S. credit quality, said Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University in New York. The dollar fell to an almost 15-month low against the euro last week, and the U.S. trade deficit widened more than forecast in January to the highest level in seven months.
“By taking off the burden of any single country, we don’t have to have trade deficits,” Stiglitz said in an interview in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. “Things would be much worse if it were not the case that Europe was having even more of a problem, but winning a negative beauty pageant is not the way to create a strong economy.”
The Chinese government is not fond of criticism. Sometimes they lock the critics up (see: Ai Weiwei). They can’t do that with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though. Thus, apparently in response to a Clinton’s speech and the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Chinese government has released its own report: a catalog of the human rights abuses of the United States, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy.
It’s a fascinating document, one touching on cases both famous and obscure. Those tuned in to American public discourse will recognize a lot of media topics in there: the Giffords shooting, gun rights, TSA full-body scanners, campaign finance, WikiLeaks, unemployment, the Wal-Mart gender equity suit, and—yes, believe it or not—sexting; the Chinese government lists sexting as an example of the U.S.’s inability to look after the rights of its children.
Like most major technology companies, it can sometimes be hard to judge where Google lies on the moral spectrum. However, the King of Search took moral ambiguity to a new level this week with a press release that basically said:
Software patents are evil
But all the other cool kids are doing it.
And if we don’t get some, we can’t defend ourselves.
So we’re making a move for the Nortel patent portfolio.
And if we get it, we’ll use it to protect open source, sweetness and apple pie, but in ways we aren’t spelling out precisely.
The bonus incident speaks volumes about Transocean and the tone set at the top of the company. But so do two other details in the filings. First, the company’s board created a Health Safety and Environment Committee in August last year, some four months after the spill. Guess how often it met during the four months between then and the end of the year? Once.
Agenda Item 2 in the proxy is even more eye-opening. To hear the company tell it, the provision is an attempt to “discharge the members of the Board of Directors and our executive management from liability for their activities during fiscal year 2010,” explicitly including the rig explosion and oil spill. It would, Transocean says, not only prevent many shareholders from suing directors and officers entirely — whether by taking part in existing lawsuits or future ones — it would give other shareholders a narrow window of just six months to sue.
Where still waters run deep, this is where you find the Fish. Those born under this sign are sensitive and vulnerable, receptive to the environment around them. For Pisces, the complex and fragile wild-fermented beers in the style of Belgian lambics. Unlike other beers, where the source of the yeast is strictly controlled, wild beers are fermented by the microorganisms that float in the open windows of the brewery. For the Piscean purist, New Belgium Brewing Co. has created Le Terrior, fermented by wild yeast, a funky reflection of the local environment.
Tom Vanderbilt, who also runs “How We Drive" which I link to a lot:
Given Twitter’s particular genius for broadcasting micro-narratives of no particular consequence (Will that friend of yours get on that next flight to Spokane? Oh, will that grocery line ever budge?), it’s little surprise that conversation about traffic—the liturgy of complaints, the minor revelations, the rare piece of useful information, the grinding banality of it all, or even the joy of not being in it—is such a staple of the site.
There are the local DOTs or Road Authorities bleating out a stream of salting advisories and local closures, often revealing some small kernel about the nature of a place. Consider Transport for London, with English officiousness, alerting its followers: “Western Avenue / A40 (Hillingdon): Eastbound direction. Lane one restriction to facilitate cyclic cleaning.” Dispatches from self-appointed traffic authorities can be telling too; note this one from @mumbaitraffic: “Qualis and BEST bus in a fight on Southbound Peddar road near the Dominos … blows being exchanged.” Some, like @sydneytraffic, are simply bots that channel official incident feeds to Twitter.
…As a kind of samizdat language of the road, the tweets about traffic evoke an earlier, now largely forgotten form—CB radio—which is associated with truckers but once had a kind of underground network of users among everyday drivers. In Kenneth Tynan’s masterful mid-1970s profile of Johnny Carson, there’s a moment where the talk-show host tells the playwright he ripped the CB radio out of his car: “I just couldn’t bear it—all those sick anonymous maniacs shooting off their mouths.” Tynan, in a passage that anticipates the Internet (and Twitter), wrote: “I understand what he means. Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious.”
Also interesting about the article is a Tweet quoted in Spanish, without translation. I like that.
More or Less creator Michael Blastland lays out the history of economic ideas to understand why economics goes wrong and whether it can ever go entirely right. In the first programme of a three part series, Michael travels to Athens and the site of Aristotle’s Lyceum - where economics as a discipline began.
Part one of an engaging three-part series (2, 3) about the emergence of economics. Excellent audio for household chores. I will now forever associate moral philosophic economics with the 15-year-gross goddamn putty used to install those wretched sliding shower doors in the downstairs apartment. As it should be, of course.
In Bloodlands, a brave and original history of mass killing in the twentieth century, [Timothy Snyder] argues that we still lack any real knowledge of what happened in the eastern half of Europe in the twentieth century. And he is right: if we are American, we think “the war” was something that started with Pearl Harbor in 1941 and ended with the atomic bomb in 1945. If we are British, we remember the Blitz of 1940 (and indeed are commemorating it energetically this year) and the liberation of Belsen. If we are French, we remember Vichy and the Resistance. If we are Dutch we think of Anne Frank. Even if we are German we know only a part of the story.
The title of this book, Bloodlands, is not a metaphor. Snyder’s “bloodlands,” which others have called “borderlands,” run from Poznan in the West to Smolensk in the East, encompassing modern Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus, and the edge of western Russia. This is the region that experienced not one but two—and sometimes three—wartime occupations. This is also the region that suffered the most casualties and endured the worst physical destruction.
More to the point, this is the region that experienced the worst of both Stalin’s and Hitler’s ideological madness.
I know, I know. Dour stuff. But it’s a hell of a book—I’ve hobby-researched WWII for a decade and this angle is freshly shocking. This weekend I blame @berkun, who got me watching Ken Burns’ WWII docs. Which seems like at third of the story.
“While, obviously, some women will apply to speak, the overwhelming evidence is that most will not. In a post last year, Clay Shirky, lamented that his female students were far less likely to sing their own praises and ask for things that would benefit them, like recommendations, than were his male students. His suggestion? That the women act more like the men. While I generally enjoy agreeing deeply with Clay, he—like the conference organizers calling on more women to apply—has missed a key point. If your system of finding worthy students or speakers to promote is to have them come to you and ask, but a solid body of research shows that women won’t do so, you’ve institutionalized a gap.”—Would I attend my own conference? - O’Reilly Radar
The bright lights aren't supposed to be red & white
The best part of this Friday evening’s 7th Ave undergrad migration pattern? The students standing under a meager tree in a decent rainstorm, expecting to be let back in to the house-party where a fellow student fell through a window. I’m sure once the ambulance leaves with said student, the attendant cops will hold the door for the party-goers to come back in and resume their revelry.
The two I just talked with on the curb seemed to think it’s minutes away. They didn’t want to come stand on my porch out of the rain. I complimented them on their sobriety at this point in the evening.
Notable but unrelated: when did cut-off-finger black driving gloves come back into fashion? Why not the lace ones? Who decides these things?