A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘iraq

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO shares a new transit map that combines streetcar and subway routes.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram notes, in light of the ongoing massacres of Iraq and the desperate plight of a party of Afghanistani Sikhs smuggled into the United Kingdom, that persecution combines with general bars on refugees to force people-smuggling.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining how planetesimals form.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh writes about the imminent debt catastrophe facing the Italian economy, and Marginal Revolution picks up on it.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas wonders how some people get the sense that the world is technophobic.
  • Language Log examines how Muslims around the world learn to read the Qu’ran in Arabic. Fascinating comments.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Russia’s new problems in the Pacific Rim and notes the unseemly pro-Russian propaganda of The Nation.
  • More Words, Deeper Hole’s James Nicoll reviews the Niven/Pournelle collaboration Lucifer’s Hammer and notes it a competent distillation of the fears of the mid-1970s.
  • The New APPS Blog looks at a study examining alloparenting, the raising of a child in part or in whole by a non-parent, and notes that the most successful of these societies don’t teach their children fear of the outside world.
  • Peter Rukavina shares an old Prince Edward Island news article commenting on how celebrations of Confederation were postponed by the outbreak of the First World War.
  • Torontoist tells the story of Toronto astronomer and popularizer Dr. Helen Sawyer Hogg.
  • Towleroad celebrates the recent birthday of gay icon Madonna.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at the controversies of Michael Brown and Steven Salaita.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Putin who annexed Crimea can be foudn in the Putin who tried to cover up the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000, and notes the desire of Chechnya’s dictator to have North Caucasians serve in the Russian military as conscripts.

[BLOG] Some politics-related links

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  • 3 Quarks Daily links to an essayist wondering why people talked about Gaza not the Yezidis as a way to dismiss Gaza.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly notes how Americans subsidize Walmart’s low wages by givibng its employees benefits.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Chinese plans to reforest Tibet could accelerate the dessication of its watershed since trees suck up water, observes the existence of a new Chinese ICBM and links to a report of a Chinese drone, notes that the ecologies of Europe are especially vulnerable to global warming owing to their physical fragmentation, and notes that Canadian-Mexican relations aren’t very friendly.
  • Eastern Approaches notes Russia’s reaction to the shootdown of the MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine and observes the issues with Poland’s coal industry.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis calls for American military intervention to protect the Yezidis from genocide.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the plight of the Yezidi, examines the undermining of liberal Zionism, wonders how Russian relations with Southeast Asia will evolve, and after noting the sympathy of some Americans on the left for Russia analyses the consequences of a Russian-Ukrainian war.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders if Russia’s food import ban is a sign of a shift to a cold war mentality, notes the collapse of the Ukrainian economy, wonders about the strategy of Hamas, and comments on the weakness of the economy of Ghana.
  • The New APPS Blog comments on the implications of the firing of American academic Steven Salaita for his blog posts.
  • The Pagan Prattle looks at allegations of extensive coverups of pedophilia in the United Kingdom.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the decreasing dynamism of the ageing Australia economy.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer doesn’t think there’s much of a crisis in Argentina following the debt default, notes ridiculous American efforts to undermine Cuba that just hurt Cubans, examines implications of energy reform and property rights in Mexico, has a good strategy shared with other for dealing with the Islamic State.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little contends with Tyler Cowen’s arguments about changing global inequality, and studies the use of mechanisms in international relations theory.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy touches upon Palestine’s case at the ICC against Israel, looks at Argentina’s debt default, and wonders if Internet domain names are property.
  • Window on Eurasia has a huge set of links, pointing to the rivalry of Russian Jewish organizations in newly-acquired Crimea, looking at Ukrainian ethnic issues in Russia, suggests that the Donbas war is alienating many Ukrainians in the east from Russia, notes Islamization in Central Asia, suggests that Russia under sanctions could become as isolated as the former SOviet Union, suggests Ukrainian refugees are being settled in non-Russian republics, wonders if Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova will join Turkey as being perennial EU candidates, suggests that Belarusians are divided and claims that Belarusian national identity is challenging Russian influence, looks at the spread of Ukrainian nationalism among Russophones, looks at the consequences of Kurdish independence for the South Caucasus, and notes that one-tenth of young Russians are from the North Caucasus or descend from the region.

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Al Jazeera notes the inequitable terms of a trade agreement between the European Union and West Africa, observes that so far north Kazakhstan isn’t vulnerable to Russian irredentism in the same way as east Ukraine, explores the Northern Gateway pipeline controversy, detects Kurdish-Turkmen tension in the city of Kirkuk, and looks at the Japanese-Brazilian community.
  • The Atlantic explains why poor American women increasingly don’t wait for marriage or even relationships to become parents (what else do they have to do?) and notes the successful treatment of a mentally ill bonobo.
  • BusinessWeek notes that authors of best-sellers tend to be successful American presidential candidates, comments on potential problems of Russia’s South Stream pipeline project in Serbia, and notes that more airlines are cutting service to a Venezuela that doesn’t want to pay their costs in scarce American dollars.
  • CBC notes that Scottish independence could cause change in the flag of the United Kingdom, observes the beginning of peace talks in eastern Ukraine, notes the contamination of a salmon river in eastern Quebec by a municipal dump.
  • MacLean’s examines the collapse of the Iraqi military, looks at the psychology of online abusers, and explains the import of some archeological discoveries in Yukon.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes that the Global Village Backpackers building on the northeast corner of King and Spadina is up for sale.
  • Centauri Dreams and the Planetary Society Blog both comment on the almost last-minute search by the Hubble space telescope for Kuiper belt objects to be targets for the New Horizons probe after it passes Pluto.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin speculates that the alleged boredom of Obama in office might be taken as a marker for imminent revolutionary sentiment.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that the protoplanetary disk of protostar IRAS 16293-2422 is composed of two segments, both rotating in opposite directions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money approves of Mattherw Yglesias’ argument that some wars, like a proposed intervention in Iraq, are unwinnable.
  • Marginal Revolution has more on the court decision against Argentina for the benefit of its creditors.
  • Registan describes what the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is doing in Pakistan. (Putting down roots.)
  • Savage Minds features a post by a pair of anthropologists advocating that the discipline take part in a boycott of Israel.
  • Torontoist profiles the #parkdalelove Twitter campaign mounted after Mammoliti’s ridiculous statements.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reports on a lawsuit by a convert to the church that converted him, alleging that because they publicized his conversion from Islam contrary to his request his life was threatened in Syria.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Russia annexed Crimea because it thought alternative separatist movements in Ukraine were budding.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • The Dragon’s Gaze examines the very complicated history of the formation of the trinary system of Fomalhaut.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a report on the study claiming to find chemical evidence of the impact that created the Moon out of moon rocks.
  • Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that no plausible American intervention could have prevented the fall of Mosul to ISIS.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes the predictions of economists that Brazil will win the World Cup.
  • Out of Ambit’s Diane Duane shares a photo of people scavenging from a hundred thousand books dumped out of a bankrupt bookstore in Ireland.
  • Livejournaler pollotenchegg maps fertility rates in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the arrest of a half-dozen TTC workers on charges of embezzling from their organization.
  • Towleroad notes opposite-sex married but bisexual Anna Paquin’s Twitter posting for pride.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s David Bernstein takes issue with the idea that Jewish Republicans are rare. (Representation is, as a consequence of their distribution.)
  • Window on Eurasia links to an analyst’s concern that the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, currently seeing fighting, might end up becoming alienated from the rest of Ukraine on the model of Northern Ireland.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes the TTC proposal to remove some streetcar stops.
  • Discover‘s D-Brief suggests that one reason humans are physically weaker than other primates is because we sacrificed physical strength to support our brain instead.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting Earth has much more carbon and water sequestered inside than expected.
  • Geocurrents notes that estimates on the size of various economies, including Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, often vary quite widely even between years.
  • The Inkfish blog notes that the Humboldt squid can apparently radically slow down its metabolism when it hangs out in oxygen-poor waters.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that continuing improvements in HIV/AIDS mortality have led a Vancouver hospital to shut down its dedicated ward for patients.
  • Language Log shares a photo explaining how an Arabic word on a sign in Iraqi Kurdistan as badly mistranslated.</li
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money discusses misogyny and gun control after the Rodger shooting.
  • The Planetary Society Blog announces that the parent organization supports the NASA proposal to capture an asteroid into lunar orbit, with qualifications (how much will it cost?).
  • Towleroad notes that in Ghana’s capital of Accra, a mob in a Muslim neighbourhood lynched a gay man and began looking for his partner.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the growing list of travel restrictions on Russian citizens imposed by the Russian government and argues anti-Semitism is a bigger threat in Russia than in Ukraine.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links (1)

I’ve accumulated more than a few links in the past couple of weeks. I wanted to share them, in two posts, before I left Toronto on a week-long vacation in Prince Edward Island.

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton shares a vintage photo of Toronto’s Union Station from 2010, before the massive construction on Front Street that transformed the scene.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes that the very large majority of stars in the night sky are quite likely to still be alive, not having died in the mere tens of thousands of years (at most) it has taken for their light to reach us.
  • The Burgh Diaspora’s Jim Russell notes that German attitudes which force women to choose between motherhood and employment aren’t going to work in the long run.
  • Centauri Dreams suggests that landing sites on icy Europa’s chaos regions are likely to give probes access to its biologically interesting water oceans, and notes the serious problems associated with focusing lasers for interstellar solar sails across light years of space.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram notes the hardening of British attitudes towards migrants, while John Quiggin notes the role of nepotism in the centres of globalization.
  • The Dragon’s Tales has plenty of interesting links: one suggesting that known exoplanet systems seem to follow Kepler’s law, another suggesting that habitable exomoons are likely to orbit at least part of the time outside of the local stellar habitable zone if they’re to avoid overheating, and a third one mapping the genetic legacies of different ancient migrations to the Western Hemisphere.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the new cosmopolitanism and experimenting of Polish cuisine and chronicles the destructiveness of the continued alienation and even oppression of the Roma of Hungary.
  • Far Outlier’s Joel notes the growing popularity of baseball in the late 19th century Kingdom of Hawai’i and chronicles the origins of smallpox inoculation among the beauty practices of Circassian female slaves.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell makes an argument that independent satellite surveillance played a role in the decisions of France and Germany not to involve themselves in Iraq. Commenters dissent, suggesting that an Italy equally plugged into Franco-German networks didn’t care about the intelligence.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that a bare majority of Taiwanese now support same-sex marriage, and comments approvingly about American gay conservative Jamie Kirchick’s calling out of Russian homophobia on Russia Today at the expense of his career with that station.

[LINK] “Syria: Inventing a Religious War”

Facebook’s Conrad linked to Toby Matthiesen‘s post at the New York Review of Books blog about how Shi’ite international support for the Syrian government is a consequence of very specific choices made by the Syrian government to acquire Islamic credibility for the Alawite sect whose members dominated the Syrian elite, and international allies.

Since late May, pictures of Hezbollah militants standing amid the ruins of al-Qusayr, the former Syrian rebel stronghold, have offered dramatic evidence of the extent to which foreign Shia fighters are shifting the course of the Syrian war. To many observers, the Lebanese militia’s entry into the conflict has shown definitively that it has been a sectarian war from the outset. According to this view, Syria’s Alawite sect, to which the Assad clan and its security forces belong, is “quasi Shiite,” a fact which accounts for the government’s alliances to Iran and Hezbollah; while Syrian rebel forces are overwhelmingly dominated by the country’s aggrieved Sunni majority, now backed by the Sunni governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, along with various foreign Sunni jihadis.

But Bashar al-Assad is head of an ostensibly secular Baathist regime and many Shia think that Alawites are heretics. Why exactly is Hezbollah getting involved, and is this conflict really rooted in religion? The answer to both these questions may lie in a suburb of Damascus called Sayyida Zainab, the site of an important Shia shrine and since the 1970s a haven for foreign Shia activists and migrants in Syria. Today, Hezbollah forces, along with Iraqi Shia fighters, defend the suburb. Though the story of Sayyida Zainab is little known in the West, it may help explain why what began as a peaceful uprising against secular authoritarian rule in 2011 has increasingly become a war between Shia and Sunni that has engulfed much of the surrounding region.

Sayyida Zainab—located some six miles to the southeast of central Damascus—is named after the daughter of the first Shia Imam, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. While Zainab is allegedly buried there (Sunnis believe she is buried in the large Sayyida Zainab mosque in Cairo), the site is less important in the Shia tradition than the shrines in Iraq and Iran. In fact Sayyida Zainab only became a site of mass pilgrimage in the 1980s and 1990s, when a large shrine was built around the tomb with Iranian support.

By the time I did fieldwork there in 2008, however, the suburb of around 150,000 people had become a meeting ground for Shia from around the world. During the summer months, the foreign Shia population would reach tens of thousands, with up to one million pilgrims visiting Sayyida Zainab every year. There were clerics and students from the Gulf, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Africa, and South-East Asia, among other places. Publishers of cultural and religious magazines from Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula were having late-night discussions in the bookshops opposite the shrine. Young religious students were sitting in the Hawza Zainabiyya, a large center for Shia religious study there, or in one of the other smaller religious schools reading and discussing with their mentors. Iranian pilgrims could pay with Iranian currency, their thousand-tuman notes with the iconic picture of Khomeini bundled in the hands of the street vendors.

It was a world apart from the coffee houses and government buildings of central Damascus, where the old rhetoric of secular Arab nationalism still dominated, and at the time, I found it difficult to fathom the government’s reasons for allowing a suburb full of foreign religious students and clerics to flourish. Most Syrians I met had never been to Sayyida Zainab, and whenever I told people I was going there, they advised me not to go, complaining about the Iranians and Iraqis living there and arguing that it didn’t belong to the Syria they knew. Only after the Syrian uprising began in 2011 did it become clear to me that Sayyida Zainab was a crucial part of the alliance with Iran and Arab Shia militias that has until now allowed the Assad regime to keep the upper hand in the civil war.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 18, 2013 at 2:36 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton photographs the Gibraltar Point lighthouse and wonders about the Toronto Islands.
  • Bag News Notes visits Iraqi Kurdistan and the survivors of Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurdish city of Halabja.
  • At Behind the Numbers, Mark Mather notes that the projected size of the American population in decades hence has decreased owing to the recession-related fall in the birth rate.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the church-sponsored attack on a gay pride protestin Georgia, its implications for law and order in Georgia, and the impact on Georgia’s reputation abroad.
  • Geocurrents’ Asya Perelstvaig goes over the fluctuating Russo-Finnish border regions.
  • GNXP’s Razib Khan argues that devoting ten thousand hours to practising a particular skill, as described by Gladwell, won’t do anything if one doesn’t have the requisite talent.
  • Language Hat notes an article on the life of Alice Kober, one of the linguists who helped decrypy the Minoan script Linear B.
  • Open the Future’s Jamais Cascio wonders how astronomers would recognize artifacts of a supercivilization–Dyson spheres, FTL warp bubbles, et cetera–as artifacts.
  • Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble notes that many Russian nationalists are opposed to integrating with post-Soviet countries, particularly in Central Asia, that are currently de-Russifying.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Over at the Burgh Diaspora, Jim Russell takes a look at Japan’s system of higher education, with a proliferating number of institutions and faculties but collapsing numbers of students, and argues that financially viable higher education systems will need students beyond their immediate catchment area.
  • Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell starts a discussion about post-democratic governments such as Italy’s recent Monti government and elsewhere, and wonders what response there can be apart from an inchoate populism.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird links to a paper suggesting that the greenhouse effect has been mitigated in the past decade by the sulfur dioxide from volcanic eruptions.
  • At False Steps, Paul Drye contemplates the abortive joint ESA-Russia effort at an Ariane-launched spaceplane, the Kliper.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis notes, with some local distinctions, the contrast between a broadly secular and liberal minded core Egypt (Cairo and the upper delta) contrasted with a more conservative rest of the country.
  • At The Power and the Money, Douglas Muir expects the Syrian civil war to continue for a good while yet.
  • Towleroad reports on Lech Walesa’s homophobic statements, denounced even by Walesa’s own son.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little sees reason for concern about the long-term effectiveness and academic credibility of the French university system.
  • Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble notes, via others, the alienation of western Kazakhstan–rich in natural resources, more conservative, but subordinates–from the remainder of the country.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alexander Harrowell reminds his readers–proponents of the Iraq war, too–of the broad consensus in the United Kingdom against the 2003 invasion and its sequelae.
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