Posts tagged ‘lebanon’

Wet Nude Spa

I suspect my anagrams are showing more than Hannibal Lecter’s, but I didn’t want another boring title.

Israel has ended its blockake of Lebanon, now that UN troops supplied by Europe have begun to take charge of the area. Near as I can tell, Israel has now completely withdrawn its military presence from Lebanon. Although I am not optimistic that this will mark the start of a more peaceful era in the region, it’s at least a new direction for events to take. We’ll see how well this all works.

Also, here is an interesting/scary portrait of a hardcore member of the religious right (and a Wikipedia biography of her). Special thanks to muddbstrd for the first link. To summarize: this woman has accepted large amounts of illegal campaign donations, presided over the Florida election recount in 2000, and claims that it is a sin to separate church and state. It’s a bit creepy that such people are playing such a prominent role in the government, and that they have such widespread support: Rep. Harris has been elected for 2 terms now. Now that Tom DeLay has resigned, I seem to be noticing several other people with unethical and unconstitutional agendas, most notably in the Republican party. I realize that the segment of the population with whom I associate is a bit skewed, but I still can’t understand how people like this have so much support. Are they elected by uninformed people who don’t know about Rep. Harris’ views, or do they actually agree with her? Is there really a significant part of the country that believes that separation of chuch and state is a bad thing? Am I only reading about the really outlandish claims because they are the only ones who can get into sensationalist stories these days? Can anyone actually find a good argument to back up a statement such as, “If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin” or a similar claim about putting the 10 Commandments in courthouses?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has heard the complaints of the Facebook members and added more privacy settings to the News Feed and Minifeeds on the site. It was pretty special to see 750,000 people stand up in protest to the Feed over the course of about 3 days. I wish people could do this for more important issues, such as all the human rights issues that China is having. Unfortunately, it seems that people will only do stuff like that if the consequences directly affect them. Still, it was pretty cool to be a part of this and have a satisfactory conclusion.

Finally, it seems that Amazon Unbox,’s new system to sell and distribute DRM’ed movies, has some very spyware-like characteristics to it. It seems to call home quite often, and has some very odd behavior when you try to uninstall it. A choice quote from the article that was also on the Slashdot synopsis: “to be allowed the privilege of purchasing a video that I can’t burn to DVD and can’t watch on my iPod, I have to allow a program to hijack my start-up and force me to login to uninstall it.” This seems like a kind of bad deal. Hopefully other consumers will be aware of this and either explicitly accept it or not use Unbox.

News is far overdue

First off, there has been a huge backlash against Facebook in the two days since they unveiled their new creepy stalker newsfeed. The group I linked to yesterday already has the membership of about 5% of all of Facebook (and that includes all the Chipotle Burritos, Case Dorms, and residents of Guttlesohn Falls that are signed up, too). This has even prompted many newspapers to take notice. It’s pretty cool to watch so many people actually stand up and protest for what they want.

Having said that, the big news today is that President Bush finally admitted to having a network of secret CIA prisons scattered around the world. I have posted about rumors of these before. It’s pretty discouraging to find that they were true, but slightly hopeful that enough people within the CIA and elsewhere in the government are beginning to stand up and say that this really should stop. edit: Bush went so far as to say that prisoners would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay and given rights from the Geneva Conventions.

Speaking of people getting fed up with unpopular polities, the Democrats tried to have a vote of no confidence on Donald Rumsfeld. It was blocked by Republicans, but at least they’re starting to fight back. For too long have the Democrats just rolled over and let the Republicans do whatever they want. I hope this is a sign of things to come. This comes in the wake of a very controversial speech by Rumsfeld, in which he drew parallels between terrorism today and fascism in the 1930’s, and then attacked Amnesty International (the first group to condemn the secret CIA prisons) for questioning the US. The government tried to censor news agencies that reported on this speech, but they have held strong on their articles.

It’s pretty cool to see everyone starting to wake up and fight back against all of this stuff!

On a less uplifting note, the truce in Darfur is being threatened. I apparently missed when this truce began; does anyone else remember hearing about thata few months ago? The problem here, like in Lebanon until recently (I’ll get to that soon) is that the UN has no actual power, and the countries that make up the UN are reluctant to contribute troops voluntarily (and China, Russia, and India are already arming the fighters).

Going back to less recent news, Europe has committed troops to keeping the peace in Lebanon and attempting to disarm Hezbollah. Both Israel and Hezbollah (and their benefactor, Iran) seem to be claiming victory here: Israel for getting the UN to pledge to try to disarm Hezbollah, and Hezbollah for firing so many rockets and killing so many civilians and not being completely destroyed (yet) in response. I am ever hopeful that the Middle East can settle down, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen until the UN gets a concrete plan to disarm Hezbollah (and then solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they’ve at least made a little headway here already).

Security guru and all-around awesome dude Bruce Schneier has a pretty rational look at the liquid explosives plot to blow up British airplanes bound for the US (which led to a US ban on liquids; special thanks to Natalie for the link). He mentions some very good points about the futility of our current strategy and how using more investigation and intelligence will work much better than our current strategy of banning everything and making everyone scared. Among other methods, he suggests that watching body language to find nervous, suspicious-acting characters is much more effective than banning liquids or shoes. This reminds me of a 2002 debacle in which airport security forced a woman to drink her own breast milk to “prove” that it was not a terrorist weapon. Although the current rules make exceptions for breast milk, medicine, and a couple other things, the entire situation is ridiculous.

Due to the UN’s hesitation on sanctioning Iran, the US is considering unilateral sanctions instead. Because, you know, unilateral sanctions have worked so well with Cuba. I suspect this is just empty talk, but it’s the sort of thing the Bush Administration is just crazy enough to try anyway.

Right. I think that’s about all the news I’ve been meaning to post. I can now close about 20 Firefox tabs.

Hezbollah declares “open war” on Israel

Friday evening, Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah declared “open war” on Israel. This comes 3 days after Hezbollah apparently kidnapped 2 Israeli soldiers. In response, Israel bombed the Beirut airport, so Hezbollah attacked an Israeli warship and started launching rockets across the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel then bombed the Hezbollah headquarters, though the leaders of the group apparently escaped without injury. Israeli strategists think that a land incursion into Lebanon would turn into an imbroglio with no end in sight, so they continue to use air strikes. Civilians on both sides of the border are having their homes destroyed, and many civilians are now living in bomb shelters. Anderson Cooper is in Beirut right now reporting the whole thing, and he’s doing a great job (if you’re not familiar with him, he’s quite possibly the best reporter right now: he did much of the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and has come to fill the role that Connie Chung used to hold. He can be seen on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360o“). In the meantime, the Lebanese government has done nothing to stop the fighting. This indicates to many people including myself that the Lebanese government is powerless and Hezbollah has much more of an influence over the populace.

Something I had not previously realized is that Hezbollah is almost completely funded by Iran, which is a growing influence in the area now that Syria has withdrawn from Lebanon. Hezbollah has been firing Iranian rockets into Israel, and they attacked the warship with an Iranian unmanned drone. At this point, my opinion of Iran has sunk pretty far, since they seem to be trying to destroy other countries in the region and advocating genocide along with Hezbollah (kill the Jews!—link provided by mikasaur2000. I realize the movie shows Palestinians while Hezbollah is Lebanese, but the ideology of the two groups is remarkably similar. Except that Hezbollah is full of adults who are actually killing civilians instead of just dreaming about it). I knew Hezbollah was into this whole anti-Israel thing, but I hadn’t realized Iran was hardcore on this issue too.