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Candide’s Latest: December 8-10, 2006

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Dictators and Reactionaries Lose a Loved One
Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926-2006
Early AP report here


2 Billion Other Reasons to Forget Iraq
The Persistence of Poverty

What Iraq looks like to the world's poor

While parts of the world continue their fixation on the phony relevance of American options in Iraq (now that it’s been made clear that it’s no longer up to America to decide) the World Bank throws out a reminder about the overrioding issue that does, or ought, to matter: “Despite an intensified campaign against poverty, World Bank programs have failed to lift incomes in many poor countries over the past decade, leaving tens of millions of people suffering stagnating or declining living standards, according to a report released Thursday by the bank's autonomous assessment arm,” the Post reports. “Among 25 poor countries probed in detail by the bank's Independent Evaluation Group, only 11 experienced reductions in poverty from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, while 14 had the same or worsening rates over that term. The group said the sample was representative of the global picture. […]The study emphasized that economic growth is, by itself, no fix: How the gains are distributed is just as important. In China, Romania, Sri Lanka and many Latin American countries, swiftly expanding economies have improved incomes for many, but the benefits have been limited by a simultaneous increase in economic inequality, putting most of the spoils into the hands of the rich and not enough into poor households, the study concluded. […]Overall, from 1990 to 2002, the percentage of the world's people who subsist on less than $1 per day declined from 28 to 19, according to World Bank research. But officials with the evaluation group noted that much of the advance was registered in China, which has rejected many of the tenets of the development model advocated by the West and barely relied on the largesse of the World Bank. […] By the bank's reckoning, 1.1 billion people subsisted at [less than $1 a day] in 2001.” The full story…

Iraq Study Group Fallout
Arabs Love It. Conservatives Hate It.

And Iraqis don’t give a shit. The Christian Science Monitor reports that “ The Iraq Study Group (ISG) recommendations are making far more waves outside Iraq than inside that troubled country. To average Iraqis, the report seems to be an abstract exercise unlikely to end the war there anytime soon. But it is being eagerly read elsewhere in the region, with a number of Arab states welcoming the report as a sign that their advice is starting to be heeded. In Israel , however, it's being viewed with apprehension because of its calls for direct US engagement with Syria and Iran .” The UK Independent says cracks have finally appeared between Bush and Blair over what to do next. James Baker and Condi Rice are divorcing. Meanwhile, the LATimes reports, the reactionaries in America are losing it: “Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh called it "The Iraq Surrender Group." The conservative New York Post tabloid doctored a front-page photo to depict the co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group in primate fur, under the headline "Surrender Monkeys," inspired by a frequently quoted line from "The Simpsons." And conservative commentator William J. Bennett vented in volcanic fashion. "In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority," Bennett wrote on the National Review website. "Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible."” Bennett must not have mirrors around the house. The full story…

Operation Iraqi Fubar

Becoming What We Despise

Robert Sheer in Truthdig: “Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, has been tortured by his own government for the better part of three-and-one-half years, suffering years of systematic sensory deprivation documented in his attorneys’ filings and supported by photos of the prisoner published this week by the New York Times. In that time, Padilla, who has been judged by professionals as mentally ill as a consequence of his brutal treatment, has been denied his Constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial and was permitted no legal representation for 21 months. The Bush administration’s excuse for this betrayal of our legal system was that Padilla was a dangerous al Qaeda agent, a big fish caught in the administration’s successful pursuit of its much ballyhooed war on terror. In the words of then-U.S. Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft, Padilla was “a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.” Those lurid claims were abandoned when the government, faced with a belated U.S. Supreme Court censure, finally charged Padilla with vague and lesser crimes carrying a maximum 15-year sentence.” See the full column…

Blame in Stars and Stripes
How U.S. Screwed Lebanon

From McClatchy: “American political leaders watched with alarm during the past week as the Hezbollah militia laid siege to the U.S.-backed Lebanese government, but few would acknowledge publicly what most analysts and politicians here say is obvious: American policy may bear much of the blame. Many in Beirut say that U.S. failure to stop Israel's onslaught against Hezbollah last summer crippled the Lebanese government - a U.S. ally - while strengthening Hezbollah - a U.S. enemy. That created an environment in which the Shiite Muslim militia could call for overthrowing Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and his Cabinet. "Hezbollah has more support in the population now because they are the `victorious resistance,'" Cabinet member Ahmed Fatfat said. "And it weakened the government because we did not get any concessions ... the last war was a disaster for Lebanon and the image of the United States." Fatfat, like several other Cabinet members, has been in hiding at the government building in downtown Beirut for days as tens of thousands of protesters outside demand a new administration led by Hezbollah, a group that's on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.” The full story… Meanwhile, Hezbollah is calling for more demonstrations…

800-Pound Ebola

Meet Ebola

It was the great scare of the early 1990s, a horrific disease that supposedly was ready to break-out in Washington, D.C., if Richard Preston’s “Hot Zone” was to be believed. Preston exaggerated the danger. It was never as severe as he made it out to be, not has the Ebola virus, for all its virulence, proved to be as wildly infectious as feared. It may yet turn out to be, of course: if HIV tells us one thing, it’s that diseases are mutating out of our control. Ebola, at any rate, has been going after gorillas. It could be an omen of a plague. From The Times: “The Ebola virus has killed from 3,500 to 5,500 gorillas in one region of the Congo Republic since 2002, and its continued spread, along with hunting, could wipe out the species, researchers are reporting today. “A lot of animals are dying,” said Dr. Peter D. Walsh, an ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for evolutionary primatology in Leipzig, and an author of a report being published today in the journal Science. “There’s a massive decline.” […] Other researchers say that although vaccination might be feasible, it is not known whether the vaccine could made into a heat-stable version or an oral form. In addition, there would be miles of red tape to cut through, involving various conservation groups, donors and governments. Dr. Stuart Nichol, chief of molecular biology in the Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “It’s really going to be a nightmare to try to press forward with some kind of vaccine approach. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel good to sit back and do nothing. But in reality it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to do anything.” [...] Apes are humans’ closest relatives, and like people they suffer a brutal illness from Ebola and die from hemorrhage and shock. Precisely how gorillas contract the disease is a mystery. Scientists assume they must catch it somehow from another animal that acts as a natural reservoir host and carries the virus without being harmed by it. Fruit-eating bats are suspected, but none has been confirmed as the reservoir.” The full story…

Kansas on the Thames
A Tornado Hits London

From the Daily Mail: “A tornado ripped through a north London street this morning, injuring six people and leaving hundreds homeless. One man was taken to hospital with a serious head injury and the other five were treated at the scene for minor injuries, London Ambulance Service said. About a hundred residential buildings and several cars were damaged. Brent council has set up a respite centre at the Church of the Transfiguration in Chamberlayne Road for those affected. The “mini tornado” hit at 11am and lasted only about 40 seconds but still managed to tear the side off of one house and roofs from surrounding ones, Scotland Yard confirmed. A car was also flattened in the storm and trees uprooted.”

The Grammy Nominations Are Out

The full list here...

Little Mosque On the Prairie

From The Times: "The handsome, clean-cut young man of evidently Pakistani or Indian origin is standing in an airport line, gesticulating emphatically as he says into his cellphone, "If Dad thinks that's suicide, so be it," adding after a pause, "This is Allah's plan for me." As might be expected, a cop materializes almost instantly and drags the man off, telling him that his appointment in paradise will have to wait, even though the suicide he is referring to is of the career kind; he's giving up the law to pursue a more spiritual occupation. The scene unrolls early in the pilot of a new Canadian comedy series called "Little Mosque on the Prairie." Yet that fictional moment is an all-too-possible occurrence, as witnessed when six imams were hauled off a US Airways plane in Minnesota in November after apparently spooking at least one fellow passenger by murmuring prayers that included the word Allah. "Little Mosque on the Prairie" ventures into new and perhaps treacherous terrain: trying to explore the funny side of being a Muslim and adapting to life in post 9/11 North America. Its creators admit to uneasiness as to whether Canadians and Americans can laugh about the daily travails of those who many consider a looming menace." See the full article…

Treasure of the West
High Country News

High Country News is one of the great little newspapers of the world, with influence fortunately out of proportion with its small circulation. It’s a bi-weekly newspaper “for people who care about the West.” Its outlook is conservationist, but not slavishly so. That’s what makes it an interesting, and sometimes vital read. Its editor Greg Hanscom just left the paper, writing an essay (“A Decade of Difficult Questions”) as a parting shot that profiles the paper’s point of view, and the precarious place the West finds itself in after six years of the virtual environmental devastation by the Bush administration: “In the late 1990s,” Hanscom writes, “we blazed headlines across the cover such as "The Old West is Going Under" and "A New Road for the Public Lands." We proclaimed the end of the Age of Dams and a truce in the Timber Wars. Sure, there were still bad things afoot: Motorheads tore up the deserts, condos sprawled through the high country, and we were seeing the pesky beginnings of a natural gas boom. But we dared to dream that, having dispensed with the old fights, we could begin putting our ravaged region back together. […] It was telling, though, that unlike much of the environmental movement, which was doing its best to pound the final nails in the Old West’s coffin, HCN paused and took a thoughtful step back. We asked whether the New West was such a great thing after all. And we looked at the conservation coup with questioning, critical eyes. […] We also believed that the environmental movement had become a strong and lasting presence in the region. It no longer needed a cheerleader. More than anything, the movement, and the West, needed clear-eyed honesty. […]And we ran stories that were skeptical — sometimes critical — of the environmental movement. I wrote a cover tory about the visionary Wildlands Project, which was inspiring a new generation of conservationists — and sparking fear, loathing and downright hatred from many rural residents. HCN Northern Rockies Editor Ray Ring wrote about Montana enviros who had become separated from the diverse allies that once made them a powerful, progressive force. We lost readers for telling these stories, but we were determined to ask the tough questions. […]At times, it must seem like our sole purpose is to make our readers uncomfortable. But we do it for a reason: We want to understand the path the West is on, and do our part to help the region find its way to a better future. We want to help the West thrive in the long term, less vulnerable to economic booms and busts and changing political winds. And we believe that this will only happen if we continue to think hard, ask difficult questions, and foster energetic and honest discussion with people we don’t necessarily agree with.” See the full essay…

Pulp Fiction: Homage to The Word
Thanks to Jersey Cynic at BlondSense

In the Blogosphere


"I sit here and try to imagine how I would feel if it had been my country which had been invaded, bombarded into submission, occupied, allowed to be looted and vandalized, my people brutalised, towns I lived in ripped apart, my countrys infrastructure destroyed, people I loved killed and those who lived, frightened, despairing, wondering if they have any future.... Iraq is the holocaust of our time. It weighs heavily on the hearts of a lot of us."


Parting Shot
From My Sketchbook, Lebanon


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