Sunday Reads: Pythons, Snow Storms and Reality… as we know it?
Posted: October 30, 2011 Filed under: Africa, DR Congo, Feminists, Foreign Affairs, Kenya, Media, morning reads, religion, Russia, Somalia, Tunisia, Uganda, Violence against women
Minx here, and since the last few days have been a living hell, this Sunday Reads are going to have lots of links…but not too much commentary. After suffering through a migraine, the brain takes a bit to re-boot. It is frustrating to try to get your thoughts straight…so if the post is off, you know why!
For most of you it is a cold white morning, in fact this October Snow is the earliest to hit NYC since the Civil War. Snow storm hits many parts of north-eastern United States | Weather | guardian.co.uk
Huge swathes of the north-eastern United States have been hit by a rare October snow storm that struck across the region from Virginia all the way to Maine.
Dubbed “Snowtober” by news organisations covering the unusually early winter storm, the massive weather formation dumped up to 30cm (one foot) of snow in parts of the country that rarely see it this early in the year. Some estimates put the number of people affected by the unseasonal weather at around 60 million.
It sometimes shocks me when I spend a few days out of it with a migraine…and miss so much. If any one missed the great post from Wonk, Quixote, Peggy Sue, Dak and Boston Boomer…check them out!
Moving from cold October snow to an update on Kenya’s fight in Somalia. Kenya to Stay in Somalia Until Safe From Al-Shabab Menace | Africa | English
General Julius Karangi, Kenyan (CDF) Chief of the Defense Force, speaks to journalists at a military press briefing in Nairobi. Kenya, October 29, 2011.
Kenya’s Defense Ministry says it has not set a time frame for its operation against al-Shabab militants in Somalia, saying troops will leave the country when Kenyans feel secure. Kenyan officials emphasized that they are not at war with Somalia, but with al-Shabab.
Kenya’s military chief, General Julius Karangi, told reporters Saturday that Kenya’s military will continue its assault in Somalia until Kenyans feel safe from what he called “the al-Shabab menace.”
“This campaign is not time bound, we shall leave it to the people of this country to decide that yes, we feel safe enough on the common border and then we shall come back. So key factors or indicators would be in the form of a highly degraded al-Shabab capacity,” he said.
The military says it has killed hundreds of al-Shabab militants in 15 days of fighting, while only one Kenyan soldier has been killed in battle.
Meanwhile, as the US sends troops to Uganda…this little bit of news from Oklahoma was reported by Al Jazeera.
US court dismisses lawsuit against Kagame – Americas – Al Jazeera English
A federal court in the state of Oklahoma has dismissed a lawsuit against Rwandan President Paul Kagame, brought by the widows of two assassinated African presidents, ruling that he had immunity in the US.
District Judge Lee West ruled on Friday that as a head of state recognised by the US government, Kagame was immune from the wrongful death civil suit. The Obama administration had urged the court to recognise Kagame’s immunity.
Juvenal Habyarimana, then president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of neighbouring Burundi, were killed in a rocket attack on their plane at Kigali airport in 1994.
The attack triggered the Rwandan genocide, in which Hutu armed groups and soldiers killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The widows had sought $350m in damages, arguing that Kagame, leader of the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, had ordered the assassination of their Hutu husbands.
There is also some distressing news out of DR Congo: Congo’s militias mobilising again, leading peace activist warns | World news | The Observer
One of Congo’s leading peacemakers, Henri Ladyi – who has been called “Africa‘s Schindler” for his work rehabilitating child soldiers in the republic’s eastern region – said he feared years of hard work in demobilising militia members, especially child soldiers, was being undone. They were being pulled back into the bush to get ready for a fresh conflict, eight years after the formal end of Africa’s largest war, which killed 5 million people
He said chiefs of the Mai Mai – the name given to the vicious gangs who roamed eastern Congo, some politically motivated, others defending territory and stealing cattle – were preparing for clashes as they believed Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, was cooperating with the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, to organise wide-scale election fraud. Government efforts to disarm the militias, whose numbers have dwindled in recent years, were undermined by the fact that no proper peace and reconciliation process was followed, said Ladyi.
“We should have learned from every other African country – Liberia, South Africa, Rwanda – who put in place a reconciliation process after conflict. We did not succeed in DRC, and these leaders who are in power also don’t admit what their role was, so people do not trust them.
“There is no forgiveness in communities: people live alongside each other, shop in the same market, but with hatred still. We will not have peace in DRC until we have reconciliation. I fear instead we will have more war.”
In Tunisia, Democracy is being to take hold, this next op/ed from Monica Marks, a doctoral student in Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford University, discusses the idea Can Islamism and Feminism Mix? – NYTimes.com
A small but increasingly vocal minority of secular Tunisians are predicting that an Islamist-dominated national assembly will reverse key pieces of civil rights legislation, including those recognizing the right to abortion and prohibiting polygamy.
Tunisia’s secular feminists, many of whom are urban admirers of French-style secularism, see Ennahda women as unwitting agents of their own domination. Although Ennahda openly supports Tunisia’s 1956 Code of Personal Status — arguably the most progressive piece of women’s rights legislation in the Arab world — its critics accuse the party as a whole of purveying a “double discourse,” adopting a soft, tolerant line when speaking to francophone secularists but preaching a rabidly conservative message when addressing its rural base.
Rather than developing strong platforms of their own, secular opposition parties like Ettajdid have focused their campaign efforts almost exclusively on fear mongering, raising the specter of an Iranian-style Islamist takeover and the imposition of Shariah, the legal code of Islam. Daniel Pipes and other Western commentators have joined the fray, urging Washington to stand against the “blight” of Ennahda and labeling Islamism “the civilized world’s greatest enemy.”
But as the article continues, there is a sense of hope for women in Tunisia.
In May, Tunisia passed an extremely progressive parity law, resembling France’s, which required all political parties to make women at least half of their candidates. As a long-repressed party, Ennahda enjoyed more credibility than other groups. It also had a greater number of female candidates to run than any other party, and strongly supported the parity law as a result.
According to Mounia Brahim and Farida Labidi, 2 of the 13 members of Ennahda’s Executive Council, the party welcomes strong, critical women in its ranks. “Look at us,” Ms. Brahim said. “We’re doctors, teachers, wives, mothers — sometimes our husbands agree with our politics, sometimes they don’t. But we’re here and we’re active.”
These women are not likely to oppose women’s rights legislation. Ennahda women are, first and foremost, Tunisians. They are well educated, and their brand of Islamism, like Tunisian society as a whole, is relaxed and comparatively progressive. Since the 1950s, Tunisian women have enjoyed greater legal protections than their counterparts in other Arab states.
In Russia, a huge renovation is complete…Joy and Nostalgia in Moscow as Bolshoi Theater Reopens – NYTimes.com
…if you wanted to understand the significance of the event, it was more useful to stand outside, where a few hundred people not lucky enough to get tickets were watching the gala on two large screens. It was a cold, miserable night, and the whole thing was covered live on television, but they stood there anyway, and when columns of ballerinas appeared to the adagio from “Swan Lake,” there were audible sighs of delight.
The reopening of the Bolshoi is freighted with political significance; the six-year restoration has turned the clock back to the late 19th century, replacing thousands of Soviet hammer-and-sickle signs with imperial double-headed eagles. More simply, though, it fills a vacuum in a country besotted by art.
Take a look at some of the images from behind the scenes in the magnificent Bolshoi. The Bolshoi Theater Reopens – Audio & Photos – NYTimes.com
Sticking with culture…and art, a new production on BBCRadio4 has inspired a new book…‘History of the World in 100 Objects,’ From British Museum – NYTimes.com
Trustees of the British Museum
A double-headed serpent Aztec figurine from Mexico (A.D. 1400-1600), part of a project to tell the history of the world in 100 objects from the British Museum.
IT was a project so audacious that it took 100 curators four years to complete it. The goal: to tell the history of the world through 100 objects culled from the British Museum’s sprawling collections. The result of endless scholarly debates was unveiled, object by chronological object, on a BBC Radio 4 program in early 2010, narrated by Neil MacGregor, director of the museum. Millions of listeners tuned in to hear his colorful stories — so many listeners that the BBC, together with the British Museum, published a hit book of the series, “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” which is being published in the United States on Monday
Also from the Guardian, A Halloween reading list | Books | guardian.co.uk
However, being the très cool, alternative trendies that we are, let’s not settle for any old horror novel. Sure, American Psycho or The Shining will scare the bejeesus out of you, guaranteed. But that’s a bit too easy.
Instead, I’ve put together an alternative Halloween reading list in preparation for next Monday: novels that are eerie, horrifying or disturbing in unusual and different ways. (And please, no jokes about Jeffrey Archer or Cecelia Ahern being truly gruesome … mainly because I’ve just made one.)
There is one book I would add to the list…Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor.
From Minx’s Missing Link File: In the world of snakes and science…Python Digestion Study Holds Promise for Human Heart Health – NYTimes.com
Paul Zenk/PBS Nature “Invasion of the Giant Pythons”
A giant python swallows an alligator in Everglades National Park, Fla.
Pythons are known for their enormous appetites. In a single meal they can devour animals at least as big as they are — deer, alligators pigs and house pets, for example.
Equally remarkable is what happens inside the python as it digests its prey. Within a day, its heart and other organs can double in size. The metabolic rate and production of insulin and lipids soar.
Then, like an accordion, the python’s organs return to normal size in just a few days. Metabolism slows. Then the snake can fast for months, even a year, without losing muscle mass or showing any ill effects, ready to ambush new prey.
How this process happens so rapidly is a biological mystery with important implications for human health, particularly when it comes to heart failure. Now scientists at the University of Colorado here are reporting that they have partly solved it.
Give that link a read, it is fascinating.
Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week: Last night on TCM there was a movie called The Body Snatcher, about the days when doctors would buy bodies for dissection…and the special people who would provide these bodies…sometimes getting them from the graveyard was more difficult than killing them in an alley. So continuing the Halloween theme. Whodunnit? Grave-robbery in early medieval northern and western Europe – Medievalists.net
This thesis brings together all that is currently known of early medieval grave reopening in northern and western Europe. It investigates in detail an intensive outbreak of grave-robbery in 6th-7th century Kent. This is closely related to the same phenomenon in Merovingia: an example of the import of not only material goods but also a distinctive cultural practice. Limited numbers of similar robbing episodes, affecting a much smaller proportion of graves in each cemetery, are also identified elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon England. Although the phenomenon of grave-robbery is well-attested in Merovingia, this research is the first study at a regional level.
The aim is to advance the debate about early medieval robbery from general discussion of interpretative possibilities to evaluation of specific models and their compatibility with the archaeological evidence. The conclusions have significant implications for the interpretation of grave-robbery across early medieval Europe. In Kent robbing is at a level that must be considered in any discussion of cemetery evidence. The poor publication record has inhibited recognition and analysis of robbing in the county. However, by using extensive archive material, this thesis has shown that the practice of ransacking graves was on a similar scale in East Kent as in Merovingia.
This research identifies over 200 reopened graves across Kent, with at least 15 sites affected. At the most intensely robbed sites, an average of over 20% of burials were disturbed. Robbing is likely to have had a significant impact on artefact finds, especially from the late 6th century onwards. Grave-robbery opens a window onto the wider meanings and values of grave-good types within the early medieval period. The analysis in this thesis demonstrates that the main motive for reopening was the removal of grave goods. However, straightforward personal enrichment was not the goal. A deliberate, consistent selection of certain grave-good types were taken from burials, while other apparently covetable possessions were left behind. The desired grave-goods were removed even when in an unusable condition. It is argued that the selection of goods for removal was related to their symbolic roles in the initial burial rite. Their taking was intended to harm living descendants by damaging the prestige and strength of the dead. In addition to the robbed graves, there is a small number of graves spread across the sites which were reopened for bodily mutilation or rearrangement of skeletal parts. These closely resemble the better known deviant burial rites which were applied to certain corpses at the time of initial burial and are interpreted as a reaction to fear of revenants.
I want to end with this report of sexual assault on the MTV reality show, Real World…it is disturbing. You may remember some months ago, the Village Voice published an article about the contracts participants must sign to be on Real World. (link below) It absolved MTV of any responsibility if participants were sexually assaulted. Check this out…Was a “Real World” star raped by her castmates? – Reality TV – Salon.com
Tonya Cooley is a former “Real World Chicago” and “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” cast member. She’s been a Playboy “Cybergirl of the Week,” has worked with the Girls Gone Wild team, and done a little Cinemax softcore. And absolutely none of that means that she wasn’t raped.
I won’t go into the details, but it involves a toothbrush, a couple of guys, and a TV crew. Cooley was unaware of the event, she had drunk a lot of alcohol and passed out, no one alerted her to the video taped assault, however they did replace the toothbrush with a brand new one…
Of course, reality TV has a long and tawdry track record with the ladies. In 2003, a guest at the “Real World San Diego” house claimed she was drugged and raped during a party. Two years ago, the gruesome suicide of “Megan Wants a Millionaire’s” Ryan Alexander Jenkins, while facing charges for killing his ex-wife, served as a temporary reminder of the desperate laxity involved in screening potential reality show stars. We got another reminder in June, when “Cake Boss” co-star Remy Gonzalez pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 13 year-old girl. Then in August,”Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Taylor Armstrong’s estranged husband Russell committed suicide in the wake of a domestic violence scandal. Long before “Housewives,” Armstrong earned himself retraining orders from two separate prior relationships and pleaded guilty to battery.
This list of disgusting connections between reality shows and violence against women and girls is shocking, I had no idea there was so much disgusting things going on…I never watch these shows, they make me want to grab a bucket. Avoiding all the “stuff” in the entertainment industry is a good thing, it isn’t until researching Botox treatment for migraines that I came upon the latest from the Michael Jackson trial…this is unbelievable, the man got Botox injected in his armpits and groin so that he would not sweat…
Back to the Salon piece:
But without all the facts of the case, we know that Cooley is a loose cannon — and that reality TV depends upon bad behavior, and often encourages it. We know that MTV’s contracts have stipulated that if you get “non-consensual physical contact,” is a risk that comes with the territory — and the network is not responsible. We know that we still live in a world where the Huffington Post can blithely chalk up an alleged sexual assault as a “freak incident.” You know, like hail in the desert. And that on TVology.com, Terron Moore has decided the accused “did some things Tonya didn’t like… and well, she’s just now complaining about it.” You know, like anyone would if someone put an empty carton of milk back in the fridge. Of Cooley’s allegation that men were coached to feel up the females, he adds, “Who needs encouraging to touch privates, exactly? That’s the fun part!”
Clearly it’s time for a refresher course here. If you grope a person without consent, that is assault. If violate a human being, even one who is passed out drunk, you are raping that person. That is not a “freak incident” — and it sure as hell isn’t the fun part. Nobody should get a free pass to commit crime because he’s on a reality show, and nobody should sign away her right to safety from abuse to be on TV. Those who still don’t get it are the ones who need to get real.
What the hell…the PLUB religious right is not the only jackasses on an anti-woman campaign, they are getting the best kind of assistance by the media and entertainment industry…not to mention dumb assholes that feel it is “fun” to commit a violent act towards a woman. Where are we heading to…somebody tell me!