Agence France-Presse

Inward Focus (Split Canyon Distraction Mix)

[#resist]

Protesters demonstrate on 16 September 2017 in Tunis against parliament passing an amnesty law for officials accused of corruption under toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

There is nearly a joke waiting here—

Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Saturday in the streets of the capital against a widely contested new law that grants officials from the former regime involved in corruption amnesty from prosecution.

Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a law protecting officials accused of graft during the rule of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, triggering angry protests by the opposition and activists.

Waving flags and banners saying “No to forgiveness”, “Resisting against mafia rule”, around 1,500 people marched through the capital’s central Avenue Habib Bourguiba in the company of opposition leaders.

After months of protests, the law was amended from an original draft which would have also granted amnesty to corrupt businessmen. Now they will be liable to prosecution for crimes committed during Ben Ali’s 24-year rule.

(Reuters)

—because it should not be quite so easy for Americans to empathize so proximally.    (more…)

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A Matter of Priorities

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama pose with the Jackie Robinson West All Stars Little Baseball League in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., Nov. 6, 2014. (YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)

It is, of course, a tragically stupid tale:

Little League Baseball has stripped the U.S. championship from Chicago-based Jackie Robinson West and suspended its coach for violating a rule prohibiting the use of players who live outside the geographic area that the team represents, it was announced Wednesday.

Jackie Robinson West must vacate wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament — including its Great Lakes Regional and United States championships.

The team’s manager, Darold Butler, has been suspended from Little League activity, and Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position.

The organization found that Jackie Robinson West used a falsified boundary map and that team officials met with neighboring Little League districts in Illinois to claim players and build what amounts to a superteam.

As a result, the United States championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.

“Quite honestly, we had to do this,” Little League International president and CEO Stephen D. Keener told ESPN on Wednesday. “We had no choice. We had to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. … As painful as this is, it’s a necessary outcome from what we finally have been able to confirm.

“The real troubling part of this is that we feel horribly for the kids who are involved with this. Certainly, no one should cast any blame, any aspersions on the children who participated on this team. To the best of our knowledge, they had no knowledge that they were doing anything wrong. They were just kids out playing baseball, which is the way it should be. They were celebrated for that by many, many organizations, many people. What we’re most concerned about today is that it’s going to be hard on these kids. And that’s the part that breaks your heart.”

(ESPN)

People are, as you might imagine, furious. And they should be. Yet what is it about our society that so many people waste so much energy being furious about the wrong thing?

(more…)

¡A Puti-Toots Bonanza!

"I understand why he has to do this—to prove he's a man.  He's afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this."  (Angela Merkel)

When it rains ....

And that’s not a Weather Girls joke.

Apparently the story is famous, which is why Max Fisher has to explain it to Americans, complete with a headline that tells us what it means.

The incident of Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and the dog is a famous one. It was 2007 and Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, was visiting Putin at his presidential residence in Sochi to discuss energy trade. Putin, surely aware of Merkel’s well-known fear of dogs, waited until the press gathered in the room, then called for his black Labrador to be sent in. The Russian president watched in unconcealed glee as the dog sniffed at Merkel, who sat frozen in fear.

Later, in discussing the incident with a group of reporters, Merkel attempted an explanation of Putin’s behavior. Her quote, reported in George Packer’s recent profile of Merkel in the New Yorker, is one of the most pithily succinct insights into Putin and the psychology of his 14-year reign that I have read:

“I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man,” Merkel said. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

And who else but Puti-Toots would try to dog the German Chancellor … with an actual dog?

____________________

Fisher, Max. “This quote about Putin’s machismo from Angela Merkel is just devastating”. Vox. 2 December 2014.

Another Broken Closet Door

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (R) and U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland speak to journalists in Riga on November 20, 2014. (Ilmars Znotins/AFP/Getty Images)

The Gay Fray might get a lot of headlines around the U.S., and there is certainly the closet case running the morbid puppet show in Russia, but just who the hell is Edgars Rinkevics?

Actually, he is the Foreign Minister from Latvia who decided to kick down his closet door a few weeks ago:

The Washington Post: Why did you decide to come out now, and what have you made of the reaction?

Rinkevics: These decisions were building very slowly. It certainly takes time and it takes a lot of reflection. A lot of journalists are asking this, trying to find rational or irrational issues. Basically, after a lot of reflection, after also seeing how some of the discussions here in Latvia were proceeding on partnership issues, and also seeing that there has been quite some progress in understanding issues of gays compared even to 10 years ago, 20 years ago, I thought it would be the right decision not to pretend to answer questions about how is your wife doing or your family doing, but simply to make a public announcement. Probably also it helps many people who had a bit of a different situation. In general I have to say that the reaction has been better than I even expected that Thursday night [November 6]. There have been people who simply put out statements of support, there have been people who certainly made critical remarks, some hysterical remarks, but in general it has been received in a very balanced way. And I think it’s very slowly moving off the agenda and people are concentrated on foreign policy agenda as they should be.

It’s a process, and of course attitudes are changing, changing slowly. Let’s not forget that during the whole Soviet Union years and the first years of independence, there have been highly negative attitudes. Those attitudes cannot change overnight. It’s been an issue not just here in Latvia but also in many countries. Such things really take time, such things really need more openness from people.

In general terms, what I have heard many times is we really don’t care who you are in your private life so long as you do your job properly.

The interview with Michael Birnbaum of The Washington Post is one of only a few Mr. Rinkevics has given on the subject.

____________________

Birnbaum, Michael. “INTERVIEW: The gay Latvian foreign minister whose coming out stunned Eastern Europe”. The Washington Post. 25 November 2014.

Somehow Unsettling

Swiss FlagA moment of silence, please, and not specifically for the bear in question though I don’t object. But there is something perhaps more important than one bear going on here. Agence France-Presse explains, though I can’t quite put my finger on it:

Look, mountains!Switzerland’s only recorded wild bear has been culled after fears that it could pose a threat to humans, the authorities announced on Wednesday.

The male bear, known as “M13”, was shot dead by wildlife rangers on Tuesday, said Adrian Aeschlimann, spokesman for the Federal Office for the Environment.

“The cull was carried out according to the management plan for bears in Switzerland,” he told AFP.

M13 lived in the mountainous Graubuenden region of eastern Switzerland, on the border with Italy, spending spring seasons in the Val Poschiavo.

Discovery News (detail)Look, I realize that Switzerland is all of 16,000 square miles, and no, I don’t really care what that equals if you flatten out the mountains. You have one bear in a country.

Oh, wait. No, you don’t.

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