Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In many countries, you can go to jail for insulting the head of state online

There are at least twelve countries where you can go to jail for insulting their heads of state.  The most notorious of these might be Thailand, where the constitution protects the monarch from insult, and the law prescribes 15 years in prison, and any critical commentary can get the blogger in trouble.  That even applies to dead monarchs. 
A surprising one is the Netherlands, where people were convicted in both 2007 and 2012 for comments about Queen Beatrix. (That name happens to be the name of a rustic town in Clive Barker’s fantasy “Imajica”, and all the non-Earth planets had very authoritarian, Putin-like governments). 

Cameroon has an outright sedition law, and remember that country is part of the recent belligerent anti-gay push in Africa. 

Kuwait sends offenders into exile.

All of this is in the article by Jessica Phelan in GlobalPost, here

In Poland (which I visited in 1999) you could be prosecuted for passing gas in the presence of the head of state.
Turkey has a four-year prison sentence.  A columnist got 10 months in prison, suspended right now, for a typo when he typed “ustamf” instead of “ustam”, which would be an insulting term to refer to prime minister Recip Tayyo Erdogan.  (Story in The Verge, here. by Chris Welch.)  Imagine the mentality that requires you to be diligent enough to check everything you self-publish for any typos, lest going to jail. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

New attention to perils faced by gay people in Syria and other areas of Muslim conflict

Graeme Reid has a story in the Washington Post Sunday, “The double threat for gay men in Syria”, from both militants (on both sides) and their own families, link here.   Anti-gay laws and practices in Muslim countries have been accepted as a fact of life for many decades, but the recent explosion of anti-gay laws in less Muslim areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Africa have gotten international attention and raised new and complex questions about how asylum should be handled, as recently covered on my LGBT blog.

Cultures under physical threat from outside forces are more likely do demand loyalty, including the ability to provide new babies, from all members.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Grotesque" anti-Semitic prank played in Ukraine by "goons"

A Ukranian tabloid called Novosti Donbassa ran a story about masked men in Eastern Ukraine handing out fliers demanding the Jews register, pay a tax, and list all the property they owned.  Secretary of State John Kerry called this “grotesqye, beyond unacceptable”.  Time has an account of a story, with a link to the Ukranian language site here.
It does seem that pro-Russian sympathies in eastern Ukraine relate to economic hardships and loss of safety net associated with the country’s allying itself with the capitalist west.  And Putin seems to play on the idea that in his part of the world, people still show solidarity by nationality and religion.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Experts concerned about large gathering of Al Qaeda in Yemen, and what is said at it

CNN situation room is presenting news of a gathering of Al Qaeda in Yemen, with Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, claiming “We must eliminated the cross; the bearer of the cross is America”.  The CIA and Pentagon somehow didn’t know about the meeting as soon as usual. 
The master CNN link is here. Peter Bergen pointed out that this group in Yemen had the expertise to put hidden bombs on international flights without being detected, as with the laser printer device. The particular individual was not seen, but could have trained others.  CNN's Barbara Starr noted that the group has gone unplugged, stayed off the Internet and used couriers again.  That contradicts the idea that domestic terrorists in other countries (like the Tsarnaev brothers) should be recruited in a decentralized manner over the Internet. 
All this happens while the tabloids report “Obama’s top fear is New York getting nuked”, as in the New York Post headline, link.  Administration officials denied that recent comments had anything to do with any specific threat.  A bigger, or more likely catastrophe is probably the possibility of a "dirty" bomb or localized EMP device.  The Boston attack, on the other hand, was deliberately “personal” but the device doesn’t seem to have been as amateurish and "Internet inspired" as first thought.  Tamerlan must have been trained in Chechyna.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nigerian economy growing despite anti-gay laws, security problems, sectarian conflict, and slow infrastructure

The Wall Street Journal has an article today reporting that Nigeria has surpassed South Africa as an economy, and it does not seem that the anti-gay law has slowed the economy now.  The story by Drew Hinshaw and Patrick McGroarty, is here

here is a picture of a Shoprite supermarket in the story.
However, it is much more difficult to establish a company in Nigeria, and to get essential infrastructure set up, like electricity.  And in some industries, like oil, security is obviously a problem, as is piracy off the coast.
Yet, Nigeria is a large country in the African economy, and the desire of some companies to locate some employees there could be a problem.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fathers teach sons to become warriors in religious cultures under conflict

At a Sunday School class this morning, there was a presentation of the diaspora of the Jewish peoples at various times in the Old Testament.  Yes, the ten tribes were captured and removed, and then the other two were.  Not with a Holocaust as with the Nazis, but this does happen with invaders.

I posed the question as to whether a man raising a family in a settlement on the West Bank could really set a good example for his children, especially sons, in depending property that was taken away by force from the previous owners (Palestinians).   This is the problem George Meek has worked on (previous posts).  I also said I wondered if a good father on the Palestinian side could tell his son to grow up to be a suicide bomber.  I don’t think so.

But the view was expressed that in a culture like this, it is the survivor of your own people that is the highest value.  Sons in these circumstances are being taught to become “warriors”, or like the “Dauntless” faction in “Divergent”.  How is a suicide bomber morally different from an Air Force pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima?

Very different, to me.
The picture is of Nacascolo, Nicaragua, the mission site for the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC a few years back. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A modest proposal to end inequality: Forced emigration to the Third World. Sounds Maoist

There's another Modest Proposal on the loose, this one in an LTE in the Washington Post on Saturday, link,.  

That is, make all well-to-do kids raised by well-off parents in the west emigrate to the Third World, link here.  What happens if the country of choice is Uganda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, or Ethiopia?  Or Mauritania?  Or Sudan?  Have I named the most anti-gay countries?
I do recall the Peace Corps questionnaire from 2002, that there were a lot of questions to see how well "socialized" the applicant was in working with individuals coming from very different values-spaces and cognition.  I'm not.

Remember that Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s required everyone (except Mao himself) take turns being a peasant.  Mao had his own personal masseur.
The same page in the Post (A14, April 5) has a letter recommending that women register for Selective Service as well as men.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Iranian writer calls Israel a "guardianship state" which is almost analogous to a caliphate

If I was going to buy the complete book, I guess I could put it in my Book review blog.  The March April 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs carries a chapter of “The Israeli Republic” by Jalal Al-e Ahmad, an Iranian writer, specifically about a 1963 visit to Israel.  The chapter is included with commentary by Bernard Avishai (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), also in the periodical, called “Among the Believers: what Jalal A-e Ahmad thought Iranian Islamism could learn from Zionism”.  The link is here

What’s interesting is the term “guardianship state”, which he says has two different contexts for Israel.  One context is that he believes that Israel represents all Jews throughout the world.