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Author Archives: manueldg82

Mohammed bin Salman’s ill-advised ventures have weakened Saudi Arabia’s position in the world

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) of Saudi Arabia is the undoubted Middle East man of the year, but his great impact stems more from his failures than his successes. He is accused of being Machiavellian in clearing his way to the throne by the elimination of opponents inside and outside the royal family. But, when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s position in the world, his miscalculations remind one less of the cunning manoeuvres of Machiavelli and more of the pratfalls of Inspector Clouseau.

Again and again, the impulsive and mercurial young prince has embarked on ventures abroad that achieve the exact opposite of what he intended. When his father became king in early 2015, he gave support to a rebel offensive in Syria that achieved some success but provoked full-scale Russian military intervention, which in turn led to the victory of President Bashar al-Assad. At about the same time, MbS launched Saudi armed intervention, mostly through airstrikes, in the civil war in Yemen. The action was code-named Operation Decisive Storm, but two and a half years later the war is still going on, has killed 10,000 people and brought at least seven million Yemenis close to starvation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mohammed-bin-salman-saudi-arabia-patrick-cockburn-qatar-lebanon-a8112426.html?amp

 

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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in Middle East

 

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After the liberation of Mosul, an orgy of killing

One hot and sticky evening in July, in the dying days of the battle for Mosul, a group of Iraqi army officers sat for dinner in a requisitioned civilian house not far from the ruins of the mosque where, three years earlier, the leader of Islamic State had announced the creation of a new caliphate.

At the head of the table sat the commander, large and burly, flanked by his two majors. The rest of the officers were seated according to rank, with the youngest officers placed at the far end. The commander, who was trying to lose weight, had banned his cook from serving meat at mealtimes, but tonight was a special occasion. The day before, his unit had liberated another block of streets in the Old City without suffering any casualties. In celebration, a feast of bread soaked in okra stew, and roasted meat shredded over heaps of rice flavoured with nuts and raisins, was laid out on a white plastic table.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/after-the-liberation-of-mosul-an-orgy-of-killing

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death

The internet is dying.

Sure, technically, the internet still works. Pull up Facebook on your phone and you will still see your second cousin’s baby pictures. But that isn’t really the internet. It’s not the open, anyone-can-build-it network of the 1990s and early 2000s, the product of technologies created over decades through government funding and academic research, the network that helped undo Microsoft’s stranglehold on the tech business and gave us upstarts like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix.

Nope, that freewheeling internet has been dying a slow death — and a vote next month by the Federal Communications Commission to undo net neutrality would be the final pillow in its face.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The History of Photography is a History of Shattered Glass

It has only been a few weeks, but I can already feel the events in Las Vegas slipping away from me. The horror that unfolded there is indelible: A single shooter killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds more. And yet the horror is not indelible; it is fading, as most public tragedies eventually do. (You might even have wondered, reading the above, Which events in Las Vegas?) Since Oct. 1, there has been a terrorist attack in New York City, a mass shooting in Texas and other gun violence throughout the country, as well as numerous distressing public scandals. What trace of these events remains for those of us not personally affected by them? Names, dates, photographs, videos: all retrievable, but most archived away in a cloud of faint memory.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Why you need to touch your keys to believe they’re in your bag

As virtual reality headsets hit the market, they bring with them the echoes of Macbeth’s words: the world they immerse you in might look or even sound right, but can’t be touched or grasped. Seeing a dagger on the table before you, you might try to reach for it, but as your arm simply goes through the air, you are left with the ghostly feeling that things are not so real. Impalpable objects are not convincing, and integrating touch into new technologies is the next frontier. But why, to Macbeth and to us, does touch matter so much? What does it bring, that vision doesn’t?

Missing a whole family of sensations can be disturbing – yet the absence of tactile experiences seems to have more damaging consequences than the absence of other experiences, for instance olfactory ones.

https://aeon.co/ideas/why-you-need-to-touch-your-keys-to-believe-theyre-in-your-bag

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Brazilian Women Can Learn to Yell

When I was 7, I joined the Brazilian Girl Guides. One of the basic laws of the guides was that a girl should be “courteous and delicate.” (These days they only emphasize the “courteous” part.) I remember being taught to abide by the following requirements to earn one of the guides’ coveted badges: A girl needs to know how to treat authorities, how to show deference to people, how to listen and speak at the right time and — my favorite — how to address people without yelling.

In September, I took my first classes in women’s self-defense. They definitely left some marks on me (besides the bruises). I could finally understand, in my body, the full extent of the violence and humiliation that we women in Brazil are meant to swallow during our lives, always with meekness and grace. Lowered head, slumped shoulders, stiff neck, dropped gaze: Our whole body is often shrunken and pointed inward, as if we are trying to be as small a target as possible.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in South America

 

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Estonia, the Digital Republic

Up the Estonian coast, a five-lane highway bends with the path of the sea, then breaks inland, leaving cars to follow a thin road toward the houses at the water’s edge. There is a gated community here, but it is not the usual kind. The gate is low—a picket fence—as if to prevent the dunes from riding up into the street. The entrance is blocked by a railroad-crossing arm, not so much to keep out strangers as to make sure they come with intent. Beyond the gate, there is a schoolhouse, and a few homes line a narrow drive. From Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, you arrive dazed: trees trace the highway, and the cars go fast, as if to get in front of something that no one can see.

Within this gated community lives a man, his family, and one vision of the future. Taavi Kotka, who spent four years as Estonia’s chief information officer, is one of the leading public faces of a project known as e-Estonia: a coördinated governmental effort to transform the country from a state into a digital society.

E-Estonia is the most ambitious project in technological statecraft today, for it includes all members of the government, and alters citizens’ daily lives. The normal services that government is involved with—legislation, voting, education, justice, health care, banking, taxes, policing, and so on—have been digitally linked across one platform, wiring up the nation. A lawn outside Kotka’s large house was being trimmed by a small robot, wheeling itself forward and nibbling the grass.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/12/18/estonia-the-digital-republic

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in European Union

 

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Gracias a los que marcharon contra el 2×1

La ESMA siempre fue un emblema. Como centro clandestino no fue más importante ni más terrorífico que Campo de Mayo, en la zona norte del Gran Buenos Aires, o que La Perla, en Córdoba, o tantos. Pero por diversas razones (el secuestro de las fundadoras de Madres de Plaza de Mayo, la visibilidad de sus sobrevivientes, represores y del mismo edificio, por ejemplo) su efecto simbólico es poderoso. Lo mismo ocurrió con sus juicios. En 2011 fueron condenados 16 represores de ese centro clandestino y dos fueron absuletos. Fueron las primeras condenas de El Tigre Acosta y Afredo Astiz. Y a pesar de que desde la reapertura de los juicios había habido fallos ejemplares y personajes importantes condenados, esa sentencia significó, para muchos, la certeza de que los represores estaban efectivamente siendo juzgados. Fue una noticia que recorrió el mundo. Algo similar ocurrió ahora, con este nuevo fallo, con estas nuevas condenas para Astiz y sus compañeros y jefes de la patota de la ESMA. Fue el juicio oral más largo y más grande de la historia argentina: las audiencias duraron cinco años y un día (aunque podría decirse que el juicio comenzó mucho antes) y abarcó a 54 imputados y 789 víctimas. Pese al clima político adverso y antecedentes recientes preocupantes, fueron condenados a prisión perpetua 29 represores, 19 recibieron penas de entre 8 y 25 años y 6 fueron absueltos. Fue, en términos simbólicos, la confirmación de la continuidad de los juicios, aunque, con altibajos, nunca se interrumpieron desde 2005. Fue, en términos reales, la primera vez que recibieron condena en la Argentina tripulantes de los “vuelos de la muerte” (Adolfo Scilingo que habló públicamente de esta metodología a partir de su confesión a Horacio Verbitsky fue juzgado en España). El “vuelo” es un crimen del que no hay testigos, pues consistió, justamente, en hacerlos desaparecer para siempre, aunque algunas víctimas, como las Madres Azucena Villaflor, Esther Ballestrino de Careaga y María Eugenia Ponce, Angela Aguad y las monjas francesas Alice Domon y Leonie Duquet, fueron devueltas por el mar a la costa, lo que ayudó al juzgamiento de sus asesinos. En el caso de Mario Arru y Alejandro D´Agostino, además, fue el trabajo de la periodista y sobreviviente de la ESMA Mirian Lewin y de la Unidad Fiscal de Delitos de Lesa Humanidad lo que hizo posible ubicarlos en el lugar preciso: en un avión Sky Van del que, según la acusación, fueron arrojadas al mar las Madres de Plaza de Mayo y las monjas francesas.

https://www.pagina12.com.ar/79388-gracias-a-los-que-marcharon-contra-el-2-x-1

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in South America

 

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Dark Victory in Raqqa

In August, in the living room of an abandoned house on the western outskirts of Raqqa, Syria, I met with Rojda Felat, one of four Kurdish commanders overseeing the campaign to wrest the city from the Islamic State, or ISIS. Wearing fatigues, a beaded head scarf, and turquoise socks, Felat sat cross-legged on the floor, eating a homemade meal that her mother had sent in a plastic container from Qamishli, four hours away, in the northeast of the country. In the kitchen, two young female fighters washed dishes and glanced surreptitiously at Felat with bright-eyed adoration. At forty years old, she affects a passive, stoic expression that transforms startlingly into one of unguarded felicity when she is amused—something that, while we spoke, happened often. She had reason to be in good spirits. Her forces had recently completed an encirclement of Raqqa, and victory appeared to be imminent.

The Raqqa offensive, which concluded in mid-October, marks the culmination of a dramatic rise both for Felat and for the Kurdish political movement to which she belongs. For decades, the Syrian state—officially, the Syrian Arab Republic—was hostile to Kurds. Tens of thousands were stripped of citizenship or dispossessed of land; cultural and political gatherings were banned; schools were forbidden to teach the Kurdish language.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/06/dark-victory-in-raqqa

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Middle East, Revolution

 

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The Globalized Jitters

We were on our way from breakfast to the bodega when the stomach-scrambling panic started to kick in. My best friend and I had embarked on what was supposed to be a gonads-to-the-wall gonzo journalist reporting project, interviewing activists and radicals all over post-Trump California. We were camped out in Downtown L.A. in a ridiculous hotel room we’d rented cheap—a space she declared a “Kubrickian Porno Suite,” full of ergonomic lounge furniture spotted with suspicious stains. It was day one, and we had already made our first mistake. We had underestimated the strength of the breakfast coffee.

By the time we figured out just what was amiss, it was far too late. I had had two, and she had had three—it was free, after all—and thus it came to pass that mere hours into our comradely, clichéd, hell-raising road trip into the dark heart of the Trump resistance, I was hyperventilating myself into a spiral of neurosis over an unmemorable Facebook flamewar, and she was having a full-on panic attack.

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-globalized-jitters-penny

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Reportages

 

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