Monday, May 30, 2011

Saudi's want lower oil prices to keep US dependent, but speculators still fear unrest threat

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal told Fareed Zakaria Sunday on Fareed’s Global Public Square program that Saudi Arabia wants oil prices to drop a bit so that the US remains dependent on Saudi oil welfare.

On the other hand, the fear of possible instability even in Saudi Arabia, despite denials, could lead speculators to drive up the price of oil further, so that gasoline averages $5 a gallon by mid July, CNN said this morning, Memorial Day. And speculation by Wall Street on commodities is still entirely legal.

Neil MacFarquhar has a major article about containing unrest in Saudi Arabia in the New York Times May 27, with an impressive picture from a skyscraper of downtown Riyadh – sort of like a city on another planet, link here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Authoritarian Middle Eastern governments harass individual protestors in cyberspace

Much as had been reported earlier with a few countries, especially Egypt, now authoritarian regimes in the Middle East are using the Internet to strike back at protestors, sometimes hacking their accounts with spyware, and sometimes smearing their reputations online and urging them to be targeted, according to a Washington Post story Sunday by Mary Beth Sheridan, “Autocratic regimes fight web-savvy opponents with their own tools”, link here.

Whereas Facebook and Twitter have been credited as helping launch the Arab spring, there’s some blowback in that regimes have been using the same tools.

There is increasing debate, also, on the authority under international law to apprehend dictators like Gadhafy who commit crimes against their own people (could this discussion have applied to Saddam Hussein?)  Reuters and MSNBC had a typical story, here. Could cyberterror figure into international law this way?  In any case, any day now there could be another sudden announcement from the White House, this time on Gadhafy's end, I suspect. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Indonesia, other embassies, hold public open houses today in Washington

A number of embassies in Washington DC held open houses today (Saturday, May 14), and the most conspicuous was the “party” at the Embassy of Indonesia, on Massachusetts Ave., just NW of Dupont Circle. The line was about a block long in the afternoon but moved quickly.

The most interesting part of the brief tour was the concert of angklung players; the public was allowed to try this instrument made from bamboo tubes.  There was a kind of class "music lesson" in playing individual notes on a scale on the instrument (below). 

There was an “office” roped off, with no photography of it allowed, and yet there was absolutely nothing sensitive visible in it.

The “living” room also had a piano and an unusual pipe organ, and a plasma TV with movies of Indonesia. There is also a “grand hall” at the entrance.

I set foot inside the sovereign territory of another embassy in April, that is, France, for a FilmFestDC showing. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

A field trip to Embassy Row(s)

Today, I made a little field trip to Embassy Row in NW Washington, near the UDC, off Van Ness Street, where the old National Bureau of Standards was located in 1963 for my first paid job.
International Avenue is bifurcated by Van Ness.

 The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan faces back onto it immediately north, behind the UDC.  If you walk up the street, in a dead-end loop, you pass the back of the Nigerian embassy;

then you encounter the Arab Republic of Egypt, then the United Arab Emirates, and then come back and see the front of Nigeria and Pakistan, as well as Malaysia. Across Van Ness, the really big embassy is, of course,

 China; as I walked on the North side, the automatic gate opened (I don’t think it was supposed to); I went on, and overheard a protest being broadcast through a bull horn from the Ethiopian embassy.  There is a high hill (closed to the highest point in DC, a little under 500 feet), with a Greek statute on it, and a view of the company Intelsat. The embassy of Singapore is also nearby.

I then rode down to the Dupont Circle Metro, with a long stop at Cleveland Park, when a woman running the Metro Red Line train announced she was getting off. We waited ten minutes without further explanation. 

From Dupont Circle, I walked up to S Street, across Florida Ave., and toward the Woodrow Wilson Museum. I encountered a protestor across the street from the Myanmar (Burma) embassy.

  I also saw the Ireland Embassy residence, with its harp drawing. 

I finally came to the address of concern.  What I had once reported as the “Embassy of Pakistan” on S Street is a residence belonging to the embassy (it is far too small to be the entire embassy of a major country). It may in fact not be sovereign territory, but be ordinary residential property belonging to the country to house it diplomats. Many embassies maintain residences at other locations in DC.

  Next to it is the embassy of Mauritania, a much less populous country.  Matt Damon’s documentary “Running the Sahara” goes through this country (after starting in Senegal), my movies blog, Nov. 23, 2010.

Here is a quick clip of the "protest" at the Ethiopian embassy:

Update: May 11

The Washington Blade reports on a demonstration Tuesday at the Uganda Embassy, on N 16th Street (not in the areas I visited), over draconian anti-gay legislation, here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

DOD releases images of OBL and his compound on Saturday afternoon

The Department of Defense is releasing some “silent video” of the “home” where Osama bin Laden lived, including some pictures of Bin Laden watching himself on television.  That sounds like a familiar experience, doesn’t it.  He looks like a "crumpled old man", rather than the boogeyman of genre horror films. 

There is some video of an OBL speech, but you have to read lips to understand it. The administration does not want to “distribute”.  In that speech, his beard seems to be dyed black.  CNN commentators (and perhaps military officers here) were calling this vain or "feminine" behavior. So much for The Polarities! 

Of course, all of this suggests that OBL (or UBL) was continuing to conduct the Al Qaeda “network”, which has admitted that indeed he was killed in the raid shortly after midnight Sunday Pakastani time.

About fifty reporters (including Barbara Starr from CNN) from the “establishment press” were invited to the Pentagon to see the images for the first time.  I was not among that list.  But the public was allowed to see the video on television and on the Internet almost immediately.

And all this on a Saturday afternoon!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden's death is confirmed by President (very shortly)

President Obama will soon announce that the United States has confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden. Larry King on CNN: "Bin Laden is dead."  It is believed that the body was found in the mountains in the border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the president will confirm that. (LateOBL had been living without Internet or phone in a "McMansion" in an exurb [Abbottabad] of Islamabad; it's hard to believe Pakistan's government didn't "know".

President Obama will soon announce that the United States has confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden. Larry King on CNN: "Bin Laden is dead."  It is believed that the body was found in the mountains in the border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the president will confirm that. (LateOBL had been living without Internet or phone in a "McMansion" in an exurb [Abbottabad] of Islamabad; it's hard to believe Pakistan's government didn't "know".

Here is the URL for ABC's live feed.

DNA evidence has confirmed the identity of UBL.

Earlier today, Fareed Zakaria examined the instability in the Middle East and an expert said that Saudi Arabia, with its oil production, is still stable for now; but if it did not move toward constitutional monarchy (at least) within the next sixth months, there will be real trouble with Saudi oil production.

CNN says the President will address the nation shortly.

Update/Correction (May 7, 2010):

The Embassy of Pakistan is in the "Embassy Row" area of Washington DC (near Van Ness St), with this Wikipedia image link  (Creative Commons).

The Embassy website (for The Islamic Republic of Pakistan) is this.

In January 2008, I had visited the Woodrow Wilson House near Dupont Circle and snapped another picture in the area which, according to signeage, appeared to have a connection to Pakistan.

I will revisit both addresses or places soon, and track down what this was (at least when I reported it in 2008) and update and report the correct information on all properties previously shown in this blog.