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Jul. 27 2010 — 8:49 am | 34 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Could the WikiLeaks docs help the US war effort in Afghanistan?

It’s unquestionable that some damage will come to America’s war effort in Afghanistan as a consequence of the 92,000 documents that WikiLeaks dropped the other night. And the confirmation of existing reports showing that America believes there are extensive ties between Taliban fighters and Pakistani intelligence will cause some awkward conversations between officials in Washington and Islamabad.

But if the WikiLeaks docs were good news for the Taliban, you’d think they’d be confirming all of the contents, wouldn’t they? Not so, according to The Daily Beast’s Mushtaq Yusufzai:

Responding to WikiLeaks’ release of tens of thousands of pages of classified military documents about the war in Afghanistan, a high-ranking Taliban commander rejected reports that the Taliban had any links with Pakistan’s spy agency.

“Look, we’re at war and would like to get aid from anyone to fight against the U.S. and its allies who invaded our homeland,” Sirajuddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the Haqqani network, told The Daily Beast on Monday, denying any existing links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, known by its acronym ISI.

via WikiLeaks Secret Documents: The Taliban Responds – The Daily Beast.

Haqqani goes on to play up US and NATO ‘atrocities’ and how incidents the documents might confirm help bring Afghan civilians over to the Taliban side. What he neglects, deliberately, is that appearing too cozy with the Pakistani side isn’t good for the Taliban’s cause either. Afghans don’t want to be under the thumb of NATO and America, but they also don’t want their country run as a satellite of Pakistan, a country whose decades of basketcase rule no one in the world aspires to resemble. Portrayal of the Taliban in Afghanistan as mere proxies for Afghanistan’s slightly less dysfunctional but militarily much powerful neighbor could help the government of Hamid Karzai and his American sponsors in ways the Islamists understand all too well.



Jul. 26 2010 — 12:41 pm | 51 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Exaggerating the ‘decline’ of the Indonesian language

A few readers of this blog might know that I have a background doing research on political affairs in Southeast Asia. I spent two years studying and developing a decent enough facility with Bahasa Indonesia, the lingua franca of the archipelagic nation that is the fourth largest country by population in the world. I even got a chance to use it while I was interning for the World Bank in Jakarta in 2005. And that’s why I find Norimitsu Onishi’s article in the New York Times warning that Indonesian kids don’t speak Bahasa anymore so weird. When I was in Jakarta, nobody really spoke capital-I Indonesian. Which leads me to wonder how much time Onishi has really spent using the language with everyone from the non-wealthy to the well-to-do in Jakarta.

Here’s the nut of the story:

“They know they’re Indonesian,” Ms. Sugiarto, 34, said. “They love Indonesia. They just can’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. It’s tragic.”

Indonesia’s linguistic legacy is increasingly under threat as growing numbers of wealthy and upper-middle-class families shun public schools where Indonesian remains the main language but English is often taught poorly. They are turning, instead, to private schools that focus on English and devote little time, if any, to Indonesian.

For some Indonesians, as mastery of English has become increasingly tied to social standing, Indonesian has been relegated to second-class status. In extreme cases, people take pride in speaking Indonesian poorly.

via Indonesians’ Focus on Language Is Often English – NYTimes.com.

What’s so wrong about this article is its conclusion that Indonesian is becoming ’second-class.’ If you spend enough time around actual Indonesians, you start to understand that Bahasa Indonesia has always had a second-class status. continue »



Jul. 25 2010 — 4:42 pm | 57 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

We already know the real Snooki

As much as Professor Thompson is a fan of the show, “I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in an elevator with her,” he said. The fact is, Snooki is much more interesting as a character than she is in any other context. “We don’t even know how to define what Snooki is so good at,” he said. He thinks she has a “delicious artlessness,” an unprocessed quality.

via Snooki’s Time on ‘Jersey Shore’ – NYTimes.com.

Remember when I asked whether or not we want to get to know the ‘real people’ behind our favorite acts?

When it’s not an act, we want to know even less about it. And this is kind of the bummer of the reality TV-era. Celebrities used to be heroes – that’s why they were ’superstars.’ Now you can’t really call them that, because there’s nothing ’super’ about them. They’re just like everybody else, just like dumb you and me, a mirror image of ourselves on the screen that we look at for comfort, in place of something magnificent to which we aspire.



Jul. 25 2010 — 2:05 pm | 42 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

If only BP CEO Tony Hayward’s accent was the problem

Following up on my blog post earlier this week, it would appear to be closer to confirmed that BP is attempting to set up a graceful exit for yacht-loving, personal-time-needing CEO Tony Hayward. BBC says he’ll be out in 24 hours, confirming my theory that the petroleum giant is seemingly ‘manufacturing good news’ in advance of the company’s Tuesday earnings report.

Somewhere along the way, BBC’s reporting goes from straight-up to funny, noting how likely Hayward successor Bob Dudley is more amenable to Americans on account of his lack of an Oxbridge accent. No, really:

The man expected to replace him, Bob Dudley, took over the day-to-day operations in the Gulf of Mexico last month.

Many say that, from a public relations point of view, Mr Dudley has the advantage of being American and speaking with an American accent.

He grew up in Mississippi and, according to BP, has a “deep appreciation and affinity for the Gulf Coast”.

via BBC News – BP chief Tony Hayward ‘negotiating exit deal’.

Ha, indeed, it’s the English accent that’s the problem! Check it out:

Because if “I’d like my life back” came out of the mouth of a southern-fried cracker, some son of Dixie, I’m sure people who were outraged about the potential environmental ruination of the Gulf of Mexico would just say, “aw shucks, BP, you guys just keep on trying to plug that hole, we don’t really need oysters or marine life or oil-free beaches.”

Meanwhile, back in the world of really bad news, reports appear to indicate that some crew on the Deepwater Horizon had bypassed certain safety functions in advance of the explosion that caused the spill. And the best bets appear to be that the leak will be sealed off only in mid-August.

In other words, BP would love to talk about anything other than how the effort to stop the spill is going! Smell ya later Tony Hayward!



Jul. 22 2010 — 12:19 pm | 127 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Proof that nuking the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a terrible idea

Remember when our Julia Ioffe picked up the Russian media that was suggesting that America might want to take a page from the Soviet Union’s history books and nuke the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to cut off the oil spill once and for all?

That was some fun Internet times. But back in reality, we have some indications that it is actually a terrible idea. In 1969, as part of its program of ‘peaceful nuclear explosions’, the government exploded a large nuclear bomb 8,000 feet below a mountain near Parachute, Colorado. They were trying to liberate natural gas, but all they ended up doing was irradiating it. And now oil companies want to try drilling again, and locals are not happy according to Catherine Tsai at the AP: continue »


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    I'm waiting for the day when I can get the news directly into my brain. Until then, I'll be lit up by the electric glow of screens, chasing the latest breaking like the hopeless news junkie I am. Ever since the Encyclopaedia Britannica tried to launch a web portal ten years ago, I've seen many ends of the online news spectrum, from my time as a political news reporter for both RawStory.com and the Huffington Post to the better part of a year I spent running the late New York Sun's website. There have been a lot of other stops in between. Now I am your homepage editorial overlord. But I haven't let it go to my head. Yet.

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