A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Burma: Ruling Party argues that Aung San Suu Kyi ‘does not hold a monopoly on Myanmar democracy’ – Telegraph

In News, Really?!? on March 31, 2012 at 11:50

Burmese cheer at a rally with the government sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Yuzana, Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi ‘does not hold a monopoly on Myanmar democracy’?? – 


In a small campaign office below a Buddhist temple, 38 year old Lei Lei Aye explained why she will win her by-election in Rangoon’s Taung Nyant township on Sunday – one of 45 contests which could herald the lifting of sanctions against Burma and its transformation into a new Indonesia.

The people will vote for her because her party, President Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), is putting “democracy into action, rather than just talking about it,” she said.

It is a bold claim because she and her party are facing the party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s best known “democracy idol,” is widely expected to win a landslide victory.

But she and a new generation of government supporters, many of them Western-educated, believe Ms Suu Kyi has no monopoly on democracy and may not win as convincingly as she thinks.

Ms Lei Lei joined the governing party’s charitable wing at Yangon University in the mid-1990s, and waged a campaign to improve her district of the former capital which she believes will see off her National League for Democracy rival.


Pragmatism on the Prairie – NYTimes.com

In Politics on March 31, 2012 at 11:17

Pragmatism on the Prairie

REPUBLICANS often accuse Democrats of being socialists. But in North Dakota, socialism has been thriving for decades. It is the only state with a state-owned bank and a profitable state-owned grain elevator and flour mill, both of which the good people of North Dakota, who mostly vote Republican in presidential elections, embrace and value. Both institutions began embroiled in controversy. With all the vitriol about socialism and radicalism in the national debate today, is there anything we can learn from North Dakota?

All state revenues are deposited in the Bank of North Dakota, which promotes agriculture, commerce and industry in the state. It was the first bank in the country to provide a federally insured low-interest student loan; it supports new farmers in a state that has some of the toughest laws in the country limiting corporate farms; and through partnerships with local banks, it guarantees loans to commercial and industrial enterprises that directly benefit North Dakota. Before he became governor and then a United States senator, John Hoeven, a Republican, was the bank’s president. A Socialist Republican? That’s weird.


‘Bully,’ a Documentary by Lee Hirsch – NYTimes.com

In News on March 30, 2012 at 20:57

‘Bully,’ a Documentary by Lee Hirsch

“Bully,” Lee Hirsch’s moving and troubling documentary about the misery some children inflict upon others, arrives at a moment when bullying, long tolerated as a fact of life, is being redefined as a social problem. “Just kids being kids” can no longer be an acceptable response to the kind of sustained physical and emotional abuse that damages the lives of young people whose only sin is appearing weak or weiLee Hirsch, the director of “Bully,” spoke about his film when it screened during the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival (and, at that time, was called “The Bully Project.”)

And while the film focuses on the specific struggles of five families in four states, it is also about — and part of — the emergence of a movement. It documents a shift in consciousness of the kind that occurs when isolated, oppressed individuals discover that they are not alone and begin the difficult work of altering intolerable conditions widely regarded as normal.

The feeling of aloneness is one of the most painful consequences of bullying. It is also, in some ways, a cause of it, since it is almost always socially isolated children (the new kid, the fat kid, the gay kid, the strange kid) who are singled out for mistreatment. For some reason — for any number of reasons that hover unspoken around the edges of Mr. Hirsch’s inquiry — adults often fail to protect their vulnerable charges.


Dolce & Gabbana go bananas over Dolce… and Banana – Telegraph

In Nonsense on March 30, 2012 at 14:44

Dolce & Gabbana go bananas over Dolce… and Banana 

We can think of a few puns involving several luxury brands names, but perhaps none quite as real – or costly – as the aforementioned ‘Dolce & Banana’.

WWD report how Beller has been served with a lawsuit by the Italian brand, even though she has since modified the name of her store – which was unsurprisingly a hit with tourists photographing themselves before her shopfront – to simply, ‘Banana.’

The affidavit accuses Beller of “objectionable conduct” and “diluting” the Milan Fashion Week brand’s namesake.

“The name Dolce and Banana makes a mockery of the well-known trademark Dolce & Gabbana,” read the complaint, filed to the Cape Town High Court.


First Contacts with Hollande Camp: Merkel Braces for Possible Sarkozy Election Defeat – SPIEGEL ONLINE

In Economy, News, Politics on March 30, 2012 at 13:29

Will Merkozy have to break up, thanks to Hollande?

First Contacts with Hollande Camp: Merkel Braces for Possible Sarkozy Election Defeat 

For weeks, French President Nicolas Sarkozy fell hopelessly behind in polls against his Socialist Party opponent François Hollande, but in recent days he has narrowed the gap. Current polls show that Sarkozy might even manage to narrowly beat Hollande in the first round of voting on April 22. But in the run-off ballot on May 6, Hollande is still expected to win.

That means that France’s future president could well be Hollande, a possibility for which the country’s neighbors must begin making preparations. And that includes in Berlin, where the Chancellery has begun forging tentative ties with Hollande’s camp.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel still hopes Sarkozy will ultimately win, having found in him a dependable ally, despite their personality differences. Particularly during the euro crisis, she and Sarkozy have stood side by side, most recently in advocating Merkel’s pet project, the European fiscal pact, which obliges the 25 EU member states who have signed up to pursue greater budget discipline.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy’s challenger Hollande has already announced that as president he would immediately try to renegotiate parts of the fiscal pact. From Merkel’s perspective, that would be fatal, as it could destabilize the complete financial architecture of the new European Union.

But her hands are tied. The Chancellery seems to have resigned itself to accepting Hollande as the French leader, if necessary. The important Berlin-Paris alliance must continue to function.

An article about the West impact on Democracy in the Middle East – Al Jazeera

In News, Politics on March 30, 2012 at 12:35

To read more click link below

How the West de-democratised the Middle East

With the momentous convulsion in the Middle East sparked by Mohamed Bouazizi’s martyrdom in January 2011, it is time to ask what happened to the question which for long dominated Western discourse on the Middle East: Is Islam compatible with democracy? The predominant answer for many years was “no”. Among others, Elie Kedourie, MS Lipset, and Huntington advocated such a position. Bernard Lewis, “the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East”, who offered “the intellectual ammunition for the Iraq War”, was most vociferous in upholding this position. Their main argument was that, unlike Christianity, Islam was unique in not differentiating religion from the state and hence democracy was impossible in Muslim polities. Against this doxa, I make three arguments.

First, the position that Islam is incompatible with democracy was false from the beginning, because it served imperial ambitions of the West and violated Muslims’ self-perception that, not only is Islam compatible with democracy, it was one of the engines of democratic empowerment.

Second, I argue that the West’s discourse of democratisation of the Middle East is dubious because it hides how the West actually de-democratised the Middle East. My contention is that, from the 1940s onwards, democratic experiments were well in place and the West subverted them to advance its own interests. I offer three examples of de-democratisation: The reportedly CIA-engineered coup against the elected government of Syria in 1949, the coup orchestrated by the US and UK against the democratic Iran in 1953 and subversion of Bahrain’s democracy in the 1970s. I also touch on the West’s recent de-democratisation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Third, I explain that the Middle East was de-democratised because the West rarely saw it as a collection of people with dynamic, rich social-cultural textures. The Western power elites viewed the Middle East as no more than a region of multiple resources and strategic interests; hence their aim was to keep it “stable” and “manageable”. To Ernest Bevin, foreign secretary (1945-51) of imperial Britain, without “its oil and other potential resources” there was “no hope of our being able to achieve the standard of life at which we [are] aiming in Great Britain”.


A great article about early puberty for young girls – NYTimes.com

In News on March 30, 2012 at 11:44

To read more click link below

Puberty Before Age 10 – A New ‘Normal’? – NYTimes.com.

One day last year when her daughter Ainsley was 9, Tracee Sioux pulled her out of her elementary school in Fort Collins, Colo., and drove her an hour south, to Longmont, in hopes of finding a satisfying reason that Ainsley began growing pubic hair at age 6. Ainsley was the tallest child in her third-grade class. She had a thick, enviable blond-streaked ponytail and big feet, like a puppy’s. The curves of her Levi’s matched her mother’s.

“How was your day?” Tracee asked Ainsley as she climbed in the car.

“Pretty good.”

“What did you do at a recess?”

“I played on the slide with my friends.”

In the back seat, Ainsley wiggled out of her pink parka and looked in her backpack for her Harry Potter book. Over the past three years, Tracee — pretty and well-put-together, wearing a burnt orange blouse that matched her necklace and her bag — had taken Ainsley to see several doctors. They ordered blood tests and bone-age X-rays and turned up nothing unusual. “The doctors always come back with these blank looks on their faces, and then they start redefining what normal is,” Tracee said as we drove down Interstate 25, a ribbon of asphalt that runs close to where the Great Plains bump up against the Rockies. “And I always just sit there thinking, What are you talking about, normal? Who gets pubic hair in first grade?”


New York city schools want to ban ‘loaded words’ from tests – CNN.com

In Nonsense on March 30, 2012 at 11:39

New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests

New York city schools want to ban ‘loaded words’ from tests 

New York (CNN) – Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.

The banned word list was made public – and attracted considerable criticism – when the city’s education department recently released this year’s “request for proposal” The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.

The Department of Education’s says that avoiding sensitive words on tests is nothing new, and that New York City is not the only locale to do so. California avoids the use of the word “weed” on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use “Hurricane” or “Wildfires,” according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education.

In its request for proposal, the NYC Department of Education explained it wanted to avoid certain words if the “the topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation; the topic has been overused in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to students; the topic appears biased against (or toward) some group of people.”

Belvedere Vodka’s ‘rape’ ad prompts boycott, apology- The Periscope Post

In News on March 30, 2012 at 09:13

Belvedere Vodka’s ‘rape’ ad prompts boycott, apology

This is sickening.

“Luxury” brand Belvedere Vodka is facing continued backlash this week over an ill-judged advert the company posted on its official Twitter and Facebook pages over the weekend depicting a grinning frat boy holding a struggling girl under the caption “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.”

Angry twitter users, feminists and people who don’t like sexual assault used as a punchline quickly pounced on the ad, shaming Belvedere into an almost immediate apology and a donation to America’s Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).

But critics say the “impressively half-assed” apology, as Jill at blog Feministe described it, isn’t enough; moreover, what the ad – and the people who took to Belvedere’s Facebook page to defend it – implies about the Western world’s rape culture is disturbing, said blogger MK Feminist (“Throat punching patriarchy since 2011”). “Rape culture is so deeply embedded and accepted that people can look at an ad like this one and defend it as a joke. How is it funny?? At all? There’s not even a grey area,” she wrote.


Upcoming Disaster… Not in the News – Total Weighs Options As Explosion Fears Mount – SPIEGEL ONLINE

In News on March 30, 2012 at 07:33

Photo Gallery: The Elgin Gas Emergency

North Sea Gas Leak: Total Weighs Options As Explosion Fears Mount 

The weather over the North Sea was somewhat rough. What’s more, the crew of the small, twin-engine plane was determined to keep its distance from the crisis zone. On Wednesday, a small group of environmental activists boarded the plane to inspect the Elgin platform leaking gas. But given their distance from it, they could only see what their zoom lenses allowed.

Kai Britt, an employee for the German branch of Greenpeace, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that people weren’t allowed to get any closer than five kilometers (three miles) from the platform, from which 238 workers have already been evacuated. He was one of four environmentalists who flew from the northern German city of Hamburg, over the western Danish port city of Esbjerg and to the spot 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the eastern coast of Scotland where the offshore platform lies. Britt says that even the four supply ships that could be seen near the Elgin from the plane kept out of the exclusion zone. “They’re scared that the thing will blow up around them,” he said.

The environmentalist didn’t bring back any particularly spectacular photographs from their flight. But the group’s observations point to the helplessness that has apparently gripped senior officials at Total, the platform’s French owner, since the leak was discovered on Sunday. Although the company finally succeeded in pinpointing the source of the high-pressure leak, it is still far from being in a position to plug it in a reliable way. Some experts are worried about the gas flame in the stack above the platform, which usually burns excess gas. Despite Total’s statements to the contrary, the flame is still burning. If worse comes to worst, rising gas clouds could spark a gigantic explosion.