John Kerry may have met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the peace process on Thursday, but what's really gotten commentators worked up is the contents of the shwarma he consumed during an impromptu snack in Ramallah. Reputable sources such as the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times have reported that the secretary of state's sandwich was stuffed with turkey. But for many with ties to or interest in the region (including myself), the news made absolutely no sense. It would be one thing if Kerry had gobbled down chicken or lamb. But whoever heard of turkey shwarma?
Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran expressed this very sentiment in his response to the bewilderment of FP's own David Kenner:
@davidkenner there is no such thing as turkey shawarma. Like the peace process, it is probably an illusion.— Ahmed Al Omran (@ahmed) May 24, 2013
Others were downright outraged at the very notion of turkey in shwarma:
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg floated one theory about the confusion:
Meanwhile The Angry Arab implored the world to get to the bottom of the nagging mystery:
Turkey Shawarma? Is that true? Can somebody verify it was turkey and not lamb or beef or chicken? nblo.gs/LwEbX— The Angry Arab (@AngryArabNews) May 24, 2013
FP was happy to oblige. In the interest of putting the speculation to rest once and for all -- so that we can all move on to more pressing matters -- we called Samer restaurant, where Kerry ate his shwarma, to find out just what was in the secretary's sandwich.
"Chicken," said Samer, the proprietor, who seemed rather amused about the whole situation.
Excited to have stumbled upon this piece of intel, I pressed Samer to confirm that the shwarma was not in fact turkey. "Oh, yes. It was turkey," he amended. "Not chicken?" I asked. "No, turkey. We have lamb and we have turkey. He ate the turkey and really enjoyed it."
According to Samer, turkey shwarma is not uncommon in the West Bank -- though Palestinians often refer to it as chicken, which explains the confusion during our conversation. "There are people who use chicken and people who use turkey," he told me. "But people like turkey more."
John Kerry, it seems, agrees.
When it comes to U.S. foreign policy in the Arab world, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much -- be it arming the Syrian rebels or brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace. But the shwarma -- shaved, spit-roasted meat wrapped in doughy pita and smothered in toppings -- has managed to win the hearts of American politicians from both sides of the aisle.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stopped into a West Bank restaurant to grab one of the tasty sandwiches as part of a trip to the Middle East. The AP reports:
Kerry chomped one of the meat sandwiches after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
Asked what toppings he wanted, Kerry said, quote, "I want everything. I'm all in."
After the first bite, Kerry declared, "Fantastic."
For those who closely follow the intersection of shwarma and politics, Kerry's ecstatic reaction may have brought to mind an earlier instance of shwarma consumption by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). On a 2012 trip to Libya, McCain rapturously tweeted:
Not convinced of the shwarma's unique power to straddle America's political divide? Just look to its more contentious cousin: falafel.
During his March trip to the Middle East, you may recall, President Obama whipped up a minor controversy when it was announced that he would be dining on the fried chickpea dish with Israeli President Shimon Peres. One Palestinian chef, angry that the dish was being presented as typical Israeli cuisine, told reporters, "We, a group of Palestinian chefs, are prepared to counter this flagrant Israeli attack on our culture by preparing the official dinner for presidents Obama and Abbas." He offered to make a dinner for the American and Palestinian leaders that would "reveal the fallacious claims of the occupation and its continuous attempts to rob our folklore, this time in the presence of the president of the biggest country in the world."
If only Obama had opted for shwarma.
America and Australia have their fair share of similarities -- both are former British colonies with English as a primary language, both occupy giant chunks of land, and both are characterized by their independent frontier spirits -- but is this reason enough to join them? Sadly, no.
The deadline for a White House petition to "Join American and Australia to form Ameristralia" is fast approaching. The petition, which has until Friday to garner 100,000 signatures, so far clocks in at an unimpressive 6,500.
The campaign to combine the two great nations was inspired by Redditors who in April realized that the United States dominates the social media site during its daytime while Australians actively use Reddit when America sleeps. Combined, they could achieve Reddit -- if not world -- domination. As Urban Dictionary puts it: "the union of the greatest country in the world and the deadliest island, Ameristralia rules all of the day and all of the night."
But while the petition is clearly a joke, an argument can be made for fusing the two countries. Fans of the union -- who call themselves 'Matriots' (Mate + Patriots) -- note: Ameristralia would bypass Russia in size at 17.32 million square km to Russia's 17.08. And yes, it would also finally bring the United States into the metric system. Furthermore, not only do the two countries' respective leaders get along famously, but having a whole territory in the South Pacific, not just a Marine base, could really be a boon to the U.S. pivot to Asia. As the initiative's Facebook page notes, both countries have "amazing armies" to be used "to uphold freedom and awesome." Who could argue with that mission statement?
Still not convinced? Redditors point out that Ameristralians would also dominate Olympic swimming, diving, and at long last give the United States a fighting chance at rugby.
So there you have it: a case for Ameristralia. If the petition somehow reaches 100,000 signatures by Friday, it will join other ridiculous requests -- like Texas seceding from the Union or the United States building a Death Star -- to require White House review.
Google's autocomplete algorithm doesn't just enable users to save precious seconds of typing by predictavely filling in the rest of the search. It's also, apparently, the subject of contentious legal cases the world over. The latest example: On Wednesday, a German federal court ruled that libelous autocompletes are a violation of privacy.
As the BBC reports, the case was brought by a businessman (fittingly, he remains unnamed) who was frustrated by the fact that Google.de autocompleted searches of him with "scientology" and "fraud." This week's ruling -- which overturned two previous decisions in favor of Google -- called on the search giant to make changes to its autocomplete function when made aware of an "unlawful violation."
And this is far from an isolated case. The BBC goes on to report:
The ruling could also have a bearing on another case involving auto-complete. Bettina Wulff, wife of former German president Christian Wulff, sued Google because auto-complete suggested words linking her to escort services. Mrs Wulff denies ever working as a prostitute and has fought several legal cases over the accusation. The case against Google is due to be heard soon in a Hamburg court.
The technology blog Techdirt, which snarkily claims to have a "suing-algorithms-for-fun-and-profit! dept" brought us another story last year of an Australian surgeon named Guy Hingston who sued Google for defaming him by implying that he's not doing so well financially. The search:
But as TechDirt pointed out, Hingston may be shooting himself in the foot. His case, in attracting media attention, has made it all the more likely that "bankrupt" will appear next to his name in a search.
In 2012, ZDNet wrote about a Hong Kong tycoon who sued Google for similar reasons. As ZDNet noted, "Whether Yeung's name is input into Google Search in English or Chinese, a drop-down option for the search term plus 'triad' [the name for China's organized crime organizations] appears -- a connotation which is unlikely to make the tycoon happy."
And individuals aren't the only parties bringing autocomplete-related lawsuits. In 2012, an anti-discrimination group in France, SOS Racisme, sued Google for discriminatory autocompletes -- in this particular instance, linking "Jew" or "Jewish" with searches for people who aren't Jewish like Rupert Murdoch. Go figure.
With so many loose associations on Google, does it really make sense to hold the company accountable for each one? After all, you could argue that everything from women to countless countries to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have been defamed by autocomplete. Google, for its part, claims little responsibility. Their defense: the algorithm works by filling in blanks based on the frequency of our searches. In other words, we're all kind of slandering each other.
Screenshot [h/t Telegraph Online]
Here's a new data point to drop into the drone debate: A 9-inch remote-control drone helicopter that spent the last week tangled in the arms of a Lady Justice statue atop a courthouse in Marion, Ohio -- "rest[ing] on the hilt of her sword," as the AP poetically put it -- was finally liberated over the weekend by a man with an extension pole (county officials had previously said they wouldn't spend public resources to retrieve it). The camera-equipped drone had been filming a tourism video for the city when a gust of wind swept it into the statue's arms. On Tuesday, the Marion Star posted footage, above, of the drone's fateful last flight.
It's a story that seems full of symbolism. But how should we interpret it? Here are some conclusions you could draw:
a) The murky legality surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles will ultimately give way to a standardized system of rules and regulations (the swift gust of wind is Sen. Rand Paul)
b) Drones will eventually be freed from legal constraints and set aloft to do as they please (the man with the long pole is Attorney General Eric Holder)
c) Drone use by private citizens is a threat to law and order (Lady Justice represents civil liberty/privacy groups, the man filming the tourism video is Rosa Brooks)
Of course, then there's Marion Sheriff Tim Bailey, who had this to say about the drone owner, Terry Cline:
"Look," the sheriff said. "Let's put this in perspective. He ran a helicopter into county property. It's no different than if someone hit the courthouse with their car. We took a report. We're done."
Think about it.
When Justin Bieber performed in Istanbul on Thursday night, did he halt his concert out of respect for Muslim fans -- or because he was getting pelted with toys?
This is the stark question before us today amid reports from U.S. entertainment outlets that the teen pop sensation observed the Muslim tradition of silence during the call to prayer by interrupting his performance. E! Online reports:
Fans were shocked and delighted... when the "Boyfriend" singer paused his show for the first time thanking the singer for being "respectful" and a "great man."
As E! reported, fans rushed to Twitter to praise the artist's cultural sensitivity:
Justin showed tonight in Istanbul/Turkey how much he respects the muslim beliebers. BEST IDOL EVER— Belieber (@BiebsHeaven) May 2, 2013
Some were even more enthusiastic:
And even those indifferent to the Biebs were swayed by the gesture:
I'm not a Justin Bieber fan but as a Muslim, he totally earns my respect twitter.com/justamalaykid/...—luqieman(@justamalaykid) May 3, 2013
But Beliebers and newly converted Beliebers might want to hold their enthusiasm in check. Hurriyet, a leading Turkish daily, is reporting that toys -- not the call to prayer -- were behind the show's suspension:
Fans were throwing toys and scarves at the beloved singer as a show of appreciation, but the teen magnet decided he wanted no more of it, and abandoned the stage.
He stayed backstage and refused to come out until an announcement was made in Turkish, informing fans that the show would not go on until the toys stopped coming in.
Bieber then continued on with his show.
The news comes after Bieber caused a stir at an airport in Istanbul by refusing to go through passport control.
So, which is it? A hotheaded diva moment or a gracious act of cultural sensitivity? We may never know what really happened Thursday night -- unless, that is, any Turkish Beliebers out there care to step forward as eyewitnesses.
MIKKO STIG/AFP/Getty Images
During a race on Sunday to mark the Day of the Turkmen Racehorse, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and his horse Berkarar (Mighty), of the national Akhal-Teke breed, were the first to stride across the finish line, claiming an $11 million prize.
The strongman, who is known as Arkadag (the Patron), bested six other riders by completing the 1,000-meter course in 21.2 seconds, and proclaimed that he would donate his winnings to a state-run company that breeds horses. "The spectators' attention was riveted on the golden arrow -- Berkarar, led by the leader of the nation," one news outlet in the country gushed (never mind that, as Russia's RIA Novosti noted, public institutions forced workers to attend the races or "face punishments including dismissal from work").
It was a nice and tidy story spun by the country's state-controlled media -- until, that is, EurasiaNet got hold of a video reportedly showing Berdymukhammedov crossing the finish line, only to tumble off his horse and face-plant in the dirt, prompting black-suited officials to frantically run to the president's aid. Here's another clip of the incident circulating on Turkish television (h/t RFE/RL):
EurasiaNet has more:
The motionless Berdymukhamedov, who was apparently briefly knocked unconscious, was haphazardly lifted in a manner that could have left him paralyzed, if his spine had been injured. Security officials in the crowd waved for cameras to stop filming and snarled at those that continued. An ambulance sped out onto the track and the huddled ministers and security officials loaded Berdymukhamedov inside, to be whisked away to receive medical attention.
For approximately an hour it was not clear if Berdymukhamedov was alive or dead, or how injured he might be. Security officials had little idea what to do. Along with dignitaries in the stands, they sat uncomfortably in their seats, sure only that leaving the stadium was not an option. Finally, state cameramen arranged themselves and Berdymukhamedov briefly presented himself, moving stiffly but able to wave to the crowd, which cheered.
Berdymukhammedov's affection for Akhal-Teke horses has been well-documented since he took office in 2006. He's authored two books about them -- "The Flight of Celestial Race Horses" and "Akhal-Teke - Our Pride and Glory," and launched a government website, "Heavenly Akhal--Teke Horses," to boot. He's also mandated annual beauty contests for the horses, and once fired the head of the national equine association for not doing enough to develop the horse industry.
As for the horse carrying Berdymukhammedov on Sunday? He appears to be safe for now.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat for his nearly annual televised live-call-in show -- which, this year, went on for nearly five hours. In addition to tackling some weightier questions about the Russian economy and the country's hot-and-cold relations with the United States, Putin also addressed more casual inquiries, culled from millions of submissions.
At one point, Putin cited the Boston Marathon bombings as justification for taking a hard line in the Caucasus. "We have always said that action is needed and not declarations," Putin told viewers. "Now two criminals have confirmed the correctness of our thesis." At another, he displayed a rare flash of humor in discussing former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. "He's a slacker and doesn't want to work," Putin observed.
According to the Guardian's Moscow correspondent Miriam Elder -- who deserves a medal for live-tweeting the marathon session -- the Russian leader had a particularly pensive response to a question about whether he was happy. "Me?" Putin inquired. "This is a philosophical question." Responding to liberal journalist Aleksei Venediktov, Putin adamantly dismissed a comparison to Stalin. "Stalinism is connected with a personality cult, with mass violations of the law, with repressions and prison camps," he said. "There is nothing of such kind in Russia and I hope there will never be. Our society is different now and it will never let this happen again."
But even as Putin dwelt on the freedoms that exist in today's Russia, the sheer length of time he monopolized on the airwaves seemed to undermine that assertion ("Putin sets new record for Q&A session: 4 hours 47 minutes, 85 questions answered," the Voice of Russia proclaimed after it was all said and done). These days, we tend to associate long-windedness with authoritarian leaders -- be it Fidel Castro's infamous four-hour, 29-minute speech before the U.N. General Assembly in 1960 or Hugo Chávez's mesmerizing television rambles that went on for anywhere from four to eight hours ... or until El Presidente was done talking. Why the correlation?
In 2009, after Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi's 96-minute speech before the United Nations, the BBC investigated this very question. The article notes that marathon speeches by democratic leaders -- such as one Indian politician's eight-hour Kashmir lecture in 1957 -- are rare, and that applause (out of either genuine passion or fear for one's life) often accounts for a substantial portion of history's longest speeches. The BBC even highlights an amusing example from Russia's own Stalin, who received a standing ovation that took up a whole side of a vinyl recording of one of his speeches. But another historian argues that long speeches haven't always been the sole preserve of dictatorships:
"Now [a long speech] is seen as a sign of political weakness, for example Neil Kinnock or Gordon Brown when he uses too many words and too much jargon.
"But earlier generations, ending with Harold Macmillan, had a taste for very long speeches which demonstrated their learning. We have now less patience with people who show their authority by speaking at great length."
One could certainly devote an academic paper to the nuanced relationship between democracy and speech length, but perhaps a simpler explanation exists. As Robert Service, a professor of Russian Studies at Oxford University told the BBC, "You are only ever going to get long speeches when the speaker doesn't have to worry about the audience running away."
Any other theories?
Update: A number of readers have weighed in on the question of why authoritarian leaders tend to talk for so long. Below are a few of the more interesting suggestions:
"only their opinion matters?" - Facebook user Charles Ursenbach
"Dictatorships also have fewer things competing for viewers' attention, as the 'running away' joke denotes. While the State of the Union is going on, I can switch to a lot of other things, or even watch something in the DVR." - Commenter Pdubble
"It's probably the most democratic thing Putin does. People call in, ask him questions, some easy to answer, others not so much." - Facebook user Pavel Shmelov
"Because brevity is the soul of wit - and they are, by and large, witless." - Facebook user Julian De Wette.
"Filibusters come to mind, and the[n] immediately the relationship between democracy and speech length mentioned above." - Commenter Zhangir K S
"Because they can." - Facebook user Rick Brandl
ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images
In death as in life, Margaret Thatcher inspires endless controversy. The former prime minister was buried today at St. Paul's Cathedral, and even the hymns chosen for the service have sparked debate -- never mind the lavish trappings of the ceremony itself. One of the hymns -- "I vow to thee, my country" -- apparently has surprising feminist overtones, which has the good folks at the Economist pondering questions of deep theological import:
As prime minister, Mrs Thatcher pointed out that in the hymn, the kingdom of God's numbers are said to increase "soul by soul"—in other words, through the salvation of individuals and not social classes or communities.
But she probably did not realise the full import of the line that follows: a form of words that is considered of great significance in feminist readings of the Jewish and Christian tradition. "And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace" is a quote from a passage in the Book of Proverbs, in which Wisdom is personified as a female divine figure. The word "her" does not refer to the heavenly homeland, but to a lady called Wisdom. Jewish and Christian theologians have long wondered how this can be reconciled with monotheistic belief in a Deity who (if He has any gender at all) is usually regarded as masculine.
Let's just say this isn't a question we've spent much time thinking about here at FP. But it did get us wondering what an alternate music selection for Maggie Thatcher's funeral -- one picked by her fiercest critics -- might look like. And you thought "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" was scathing.
Elvis Costello, "Tramp the Dirt Down": A track in which Costello dreams of dancing on Maggie's grave. He may finally get his wish.
Morrissey, "Margaret on the Guillotine": If nothing else, Maggie being led to the guillotine with handbags and all à la Marie Antoinette sounds like a promising movie premise.
Pink Floyd, "Fletcher Memorial Home": In which Floyd imagines Maggie living out her final days in the company of her good friend, Augusto Pinochet.
Robert Wyatt, "Shipbuilding": A Costello cover, this song will probably go down in history as the greatest song written about the Falklands War.
Sinéad O'Connor, "Black Boys on Mopeds": Using the killing of a young black man as a symbol of police violence, O'Connor accuses Thatcher of being no different than the Chinese autocrats who ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre. It is one of the more brutal indictments of Thatcher's England you'll ever hear.
ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images
In a country with a population of just 315,281, it turns out it's not very hard to accidentally hook up with a close relative.
"Everyone has heard of (or experienced) it when someone goes all in with someone and then later runs into that person at a family gathering some other time," writes the website News of Iceland.
Now, there's an app for that.
Three enterprising entrepreneurs have used the information from Íslendingabók -- a website with a geneological database of more than 700,000 Icelanders, past and present -- to make an Android app that allows users to bump phones and find out if their genes are a little too close for comfort before an encounter goes any further (slogan: "Bump the app before you bump in bed").
As the Global Post noted back in 2011, sexual encounters are becoming more anonymous as Iceland becomes increasingly urbanized. Íslendingabók began as a geneological website but has since taken on the additional role of helping couples search for common roots. Presumably, having the site available in app form will make it a bit easier to conduct these incest checks in, say, a bar or at one of those famous volcanic hot springs (couple on the right, above: take note!).
Of course, in Iceland, the question is not whether you're related -- it's how closely. The new technology leaves up to the user the decision about whether hooking up with a third or fourth cousin is too much. But here's hoping for a few less awkward Icelandic family reunions this summer.
OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images
Last time we checked in with Pakistan's falcon population, we reported on the surprising, feel-good story of how the Taliban have saved the fearsome birds in the tribal areas by fueling violence that has scared off poachers. Now there's a new wrinkle when it comes to the status of falcons in this troubled region.
On Monday, Indian security forces recovered a dead falcon that had been outfitted with a camera and an antenna (see photo above) near the fort city of Jaisalmer. According to Agence France-Presse, the wired bird has spooked Indian military officials, who say that while it may just be the work of hunters, "the possibility of it being an espionage attempt from Pakistan cannot be ruled out at this stage."
So, is Pakistan turning its great falcon glut into a low-tech drone fleet as part of its ongoing confrontation with India? Fueling suspicions in this case is the fact that the bird was recovered in an area used by the Indian military for war games. As recently as April 2012, India massed 50,000 troops in the area for joint exercises between its army and air force. A falcon would seem like the perfect countermeasure, no?
As it happens, this isn't the first time Indian authorities have insinuated that Pakistan is enlisting avian henchmen to spy on its nemesis to the south. In 2010, Indian authorities placed under armed guard a pigeon suspected of delivering messages across the border. The pigeon, police said, may have been on a "special mission of spying."
Could this also be part of a regional trend of using feathered friends to outwit high-tech aerial defenses? In 2011, Saudi authorities detained a vulture on charges that it was spying on behalf of Israel after learning that it bore a tag reading, "Tel Aviv University." And while officials eventually cleared the bird -- named R65, for its identification code -- on charges of espionage, is it too much to hope that, somewhere in the Pakistani hinterlands, an army of falcons-turned-surveillance drones is gathering strength?
Stay safe out there, feathered friends.
Iran, always leery when it comes to espionage, has taken a number of steps to fend off would-be spies. The latest came just yesterday, with the announcement of an "Islamic" alternative to Google Earth -- the ironically named Basir (spectator). But there's one thing Tehran didn't plan on: Dom.
Dom is a U.K. resident who had his laptop stolen from his London apartment two months ago. But luckily for him -- and us -- he'd installed an application that tracks the location of his laptop and even sends back screenshots of it being used.
Where did the computer end up? Nearly two months after the burglary it appeared in the heart of Tehran:
The Telegraph, which identifies Dom as an animator named Dom del Toro, explains that del Toro reported the theft to British police, who claimed they couldn't do anything since Iran was outside their jurisdiction. He then set up a Tumblr blog -- the aptly named, Dom's laptop is in Iran -- where he's been posting pictures of the Tehrani woman currently using his computer.
We learn about her taste in music:
And even her interest in Jenga:
Hidden App claims to work by taking "real time photos of the thief and screenshots of them using your computer" -- all "without them knowing you're watching." Unless, that is, you post the images on the Internet.
From the country that brought you the virtual-girlfriend game Love Plus comes the latest breakthrough in dating simulation: Japanese students at the University of Tsukuba have apparently invented the Riajyuu Coat, a jacket that hugs you and comes with a pair of headphones that whisper sweet nothings in your ears. According to the gaming blog Kotaku, riajyuu is slang for "someone who is pleased with their life outside the Internet," which may be wishful thinking for anyone who finds themselves in need of such a coat.
The jacket looks fairly normal but comes with a belt that tightens around the waist, as though your girlfriend were hugging you from behind. When you feel the squeeze, you'll hear a sweet voice in your ears that says things like, "I'm sorry I'm late!" (even coat-girlfriends can't show up on time?!). Here's the promotional video:
The researchers don't seem to be interested in selling the coat so much as just having fun with the idea. But the concept does suggest that Japan's traditionally quirky innovation isn't limited to robots anymore.
When, in 2012, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman chose to title a blog post about Estonia's less-than-stellar economic recovery "Estonian Rhapsody," we should have known that this was no run-of-the-mill fiscal commentary -- but rather an omen of far more dramatic things to come. The slew of angry tweets that the post elicited from Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves included the phrase "Nostra culpa" and provoked mixed responses in the international press, with some glorifying the president and others lambasting his rashness.
Conflict, rhapsodies, Latin -- in retrospect, it's easy to understand why Estonia-based writer Scott Diel and U.K.-based composer Eugene Birman thought this bizarre online feud had the makings of an opera. Their much-anticipated 16-minute production, Nostra Culpa, is set to premier on Sunday at the Estonian Music Days festival.
So how exactly does one go about turning six tweets and a blog post into opera? Foreign Policy caught up with Birman to find out what we can expect.
The opera will be divided into two acts, according to Birman, with the first detailing Krugman's philosophy and the second Ilves's tweets. "I thought the most powerful thing would be to take those things verbatim and oppose them -- not to put them into conversation because there was no conversation," Birman told FP. The two acts are fairly different in style, with Krugman's movement set to loud and fast music and the Estonian president's sung against a more varied and slower score.
For Birman, the decision to separate the exchange into two acts using a single female soloist, Iris Oja, underscores the problems with communication in today's world. "The nature of Twitter for example, or writing an article is that there's no real discussion," he said. "You can respond to something but it's not really a discussion format. They're speaking at each other instead of to each other." In the digital age, where everything is mediated through our computer screens, having one voice speaking directly to the audience does seem fitting.
Diel and Birman hope the opera will stimulate deeper discussion in Estonia about the political and economic issues behind the spat. "Estonia became independent through music," Birman tells FP, referencing the mass singing demonstrations, known as the Singing Revolution, that helped the country peacefully overthrow the Soviet government. "There is something Estonian about this -- that we're using music to have a discussion about what the political policy of Estonia should be," he says.
But more than anything, the opera's purpose is to highlight the absurdity of all the squabbling over economic recovery -- and in particular the terms so often thrown about by pundits. Librettist Scott Diel achieves this by transforming Krugman's 70-word blog post into a series of almost tweet-like phrases imploring the Estonians to follow his advice. "There's this line in the libretto that says stimulate over and over again and it becomes almost sexual," Birman says. "The words when you take them out of their context become really strange."
One of the stranger moments comes in the second movement, when in adapting Ilves' sarcastic tweet "Let's sh*t on East Europeans," the singer will make a high-pitched whistling sound with her voice in place of the asterisk.
While Birman concedes the content is amusing, he cautions "in the end there's nothing really funny about what they're discussing. If you think about it, if you look at the words and you look at the argument, then it's pretty ridiculous. But that makes good theater." We won't argue with that.
Here's the libretto in full, as written by Scott Diel:
RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images
In one of the odder reasons we've come across for stonewalling a politician's bid for office, a voter has formally objected to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shahbaz Sharif's candidacy in Pakistan's May 11 elections, citing the absence of his beard. Pakistan's Geo TV reports:
[The voter] claimed that the former chief minister didn't follow Sunnah [teachings of the prophet] and teachings of Islam. The applicant said Mr Shahbaz didn't grew a beard as per Sunnah so his nomination papers be rejected and be disqualified from contesting election.
While beards are prevalent among Muslim politicians, they are certainly not a requirement -- particularly in Pakistan, whose former and current presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Pervez Musharraf, both boast clean-shaven jaws. As Sharif tweeted on Thursday, "Never thought beard would be relevant to contesting elections."
The politician, a former chief minister of Punjab, isn't just facing opposition over his facial hair, however. As the Pakistani paper Dawn reported on Thursday, the country's National Accountability Bureau has also objected to the candidacy of Shahbaz and his brother Nawaz (a former prime minister), who "have been accused of accumulating money and assets beyond their declared means of income by misusing authority." Perhaps, then, the main issue is not Shahbaz's lack of a beard, but rather the man behind it.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
As I noted in an earlier post, Chelyabinsk initially went the tourism route. Local officials set up a design contest for a meteorite-themed logo to slap onto calendars, booklets, magnets, and other souvenirs, hoping to capitalize on the hundreds of people who flocked to the area in the days after the interplanetary incident in search of bits of space stone. Now, officials want the region to be an international landmark. The Moscow Times reports today that Chelyabinsk is petitioning Russia's patent service for rights to the title, "the meteorite capital." The paper has more:
The Chelyabinsk region wants an official trademark for use of the meteorite title in products and advertising, and the governor's administration has already submitted an application to the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks, RIA-Novosti reported Wednesday.
According to Natalya Denisova, head of the regional administration's department for special projects, the trademark would most likely be used in tourism services and cultural events, as well as publishing and video products.
"It's unlikely that we'd have a conflict of interest with Chebarkul or with businesspeople. ... We're all after one main goal here: to promote a positive image of the Chelyabinsk region," Denisova said in comments carried by RIA-Novosti.
Chebarkul, a city in Chelyabinsk, was the meteorite's final destination.
If Chebarkul doesn't put up a fight for trademark rights, maybe Antartica will. A Pittsburgh University geologist once called the continent the "meteorite capital of the world," though it appears he did not go so far as to secure a trademark.
With Egypt's economy entering crisis mode, you'd think government officials would have their hands full. But Prime Minister Hesham Kandil seems to be finding time for the obscure mobile game Smurfs' Village. Or at least that's how his Twitter account made it seem on Monday, when a tweet that may have been automatically generated by the app appeared on his feed, reading "Doctor Smurf prescribes cakes, pies and smurfberries as part of a healthy diet."
The bizarre tweet has since been deleted from his account, but not quickly enough to prevent an inevitable onslaught of snark. The blog Egyptian Chronicles, for instance, ran with the gleeful headline, "The PM of Smurfs Village!!"
One Twitter user blamed the politician's smurf addiction for Egypt's current state of turmoil:
.@kandilhesham someone's having a VERY productive day at the office. No wonder the country's going down the pooper.— Farah Saafan (@FarahSaafan) April 1, 2013
Another pointed out the tweet's problematic public health implications:
.@kandilhesham should you really be advising people to eat cakes, pies and smurfberries when Egypt is dealing with a diabetes epidemic?— sherief gaber (@cairocitylimits) April 1, 2013
Some people, however, were a bit more understanding:
We've blogged before about politicians whose accounts have accidentally been hijacked by apps after their children used their phones to play games. Our advice still applies: In an age where a stray tweet can provoke an almost automatic backlash, politicians should keep their phones out of the hands of their children. Unless, that is, they're playing the games themselves.
Screenshot of Twitpic
The United States and Pakistan have not had the greatest year -- or decade -- from a diplomatic perspective. Just today, for instance, Pakistan and Iran launched a natural gas pipeline that Washington has vigorously opposed. Reflecting on the state of U.S.-Pakistani relations at the end of 2012, one senior State Department official told reporters:
Obviously, if you sort of step back a little bit, for us, 2011 was as hard a year in U.S.-Pakistan relations as you can imagine.... And so we tried in 2012 to sort of get back into some sensible business with them. Our philosophy has been that it ought to be possible between Pakistan and the United States to systematically identify our shared interests and act on them jointly.
Apparently, 12-year-olds have no trouble doing just that. Through the Marshall Direct Fund's Global Kid Connect program, Aspen Country Day School in Colorado has been taking part in a pen pal exchange with Lahore Grammar School in Pakistan. In their letters, which the organization has posted online, the elementary and middle schoolers go beyond identifying "shared interests" (Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift), broaching some touchier subjects as well.
Audra, a seventh-grader, writes:
Not many of the Pakistani students' letters have been posted online. But judging from the responses by Aspen students, terrorism is a recurring theme in the exchanges, Here's Tristan, 13:
To answer your question. We don't think your country is all terroriscs [sic] but we think that your country has terrorists in it. Are there terrorists in your country?
Meanwhile, Sarah, a seventh-grader, unequivocally states her lack of an agenda when it comes to Pakistan:
Here's my personal favorite, from Andrew, 13, and Mat, 9:
You have to give these kids credit. It might be time for the State Department to recruit some junior ambassadors.
Traditions aren't traditions if they're not a little weird, right?
"We have decided to prepare the body of our 'Comandante President,' to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people," Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro declared on Thursday, in announcing plans to preserve Hugo Chávez's body and showcase it in a glass tomb at a military museum near the presidential palace. "Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong."
In fact, it turns out Maduro was missing a few names. The practice of embalming national (mainly communist) leaders and boxing their bodies in glass for posterity may have gone out of vogue with the end of the Cold War, but Chávez still has distinguished company. Here are the most notable members of the exclusive club:
Vladimir Lenin, Russia
Died: Jan. 21, 1924
Call him a trendsetter. Lenin was the first communist revolutionary to be encased in glass upon his death, and his body is now on display in Moscow's Red Square at Lenin's Mausoleum, commonly known as Lenin's Tomb. But that might not last forever given public opposition to the memorial. In 2011, for instance, a member of the ruling United Russia party created a website where people could vote on whether to bury the former Soviet leader (the vary majority of respondents voted in favor of burial).
Mao Zedong, China
Died: Sept. 9, 1976
The founder of the People's Republic of China ruled the nation from its establishment in 1949 until his death. Though he reportedly wished to be cremated, the chairman's mausoleum went under construction immediately after Mao died and was completed by the following May.
Kim Il Sung, North Korea
Died: July 8, 1994
Like his neighbor to the north, Kim Il Sung ruled the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its inception in 1948 until the day he died. Draped in a Workers Party of Korea flag, his body is on display at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, also known as the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum.
Kim Jong Il, North Korea
Died: Dec. 17, 2011
Kim Jong Il, who led North Korea from his father's death in 1994 until his own demise nearly two decades later, was put on display in the same shrine that houses his father. Dennis Rodman visited the remains of both former leaders during his recent trip to North Korea.
Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam
Died: Sept. 2, 1969
The communist revolutionary established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 at Ba Dinh Square, where his body now rests. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was inspired by Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow, and his body is watched over by an honor guard.
Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images
Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines
Died: Sept. 28, 1989
Marcos was president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, but died in exile in Hawaii. Nonetheless, his remains were returned home in 1993, and his body was put on display inside the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in the city of Batac. This week, the mortician who embalmed Marco offered some advice (and his services) to Venezuela. "They must not delay" choosing an embalmer," he told AFP, adding that he would not use resin to preserve Chávez as was done with Lenin.
Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images
Pope John XXIII, The Vatican
Died: June 3, 1963
Angelo Roncalli led the Catholic Church from 1958 until his death, and his body is now on display at St. Peter's Basilica. He was known for forging better relations with other religions, and was beatified on September 3, 2000. In 2001, the BBC reported that Vatican officials had found the pontiff's bodily remarkably well-preserved when they opened his coffin after nearly four decades as part of an effort to transfer his remains from a Vatican crypt. His body was soon put on display in St. Peter's Square, with the pope's face covered in a thin layer of wax.
Of course, we could go further back in time. You could always visit King Tut.
Earlier this week, we reported on the controversy in Tunisia and Egypt over some "Harlem Shake" videos, which have provoked arrests and an investigation by the Tunisian Ministry of Education, and the follow-up Harlem Shake protests Egyptians and Tunisians were planning.
Well, they happened.
The video above is from Cairo, outside the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood. Another protest took place outside the Ministry of Education in Tunis, though rain deterred some dancers.
The videos are spreading (here's one from another school, Tunisia's Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology), as is the backlash. Salafist groups have tried to intimidate students making Harlem Shake videos, and, at one school, a protest broke out that was dispersed by police with tear gas.
The videos are clearly becoming more political. In the video from Egypt, for example, a protester is wearing a large fake beard to mock conservative critics. And in the videos from Tunisia there are a number of protesters wearing the Guy Fawkes and gas masks that were popular during the Arab Spring protests of 2011. Unlike so many other flash-in-the-pan memes, the Harlem Shake might be around for a while -- especially if politicians in Egypt and Tunisia keep trying to get rid of it.
When a 10-ton meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday, Feb. 15, it injured more than 1,500 people, caused $30 million in damage, and sparked nearly 3,000 financial aid applications from residents. Now, it seems, Russians -- including government officials -- are trying to get that money back, using the very rock that caused the losses in the first place.
This week, authorities in Chelyabinsk announced a design contest for a memorial to mark the "interplanetary visit," and also unveiled plans to develop a logo that entrepreneurs can slap on calendars, magnets, booklets, and other souvenirs. The region's geography and history museum, meanwhile, has already opened an exhibition on the meteorite that will include photos, videos, and meteorite fragments. "The authorities say they will try to make the memory of last Friday's event a great tourist attraction," the Voice of Russia reported.
Then there's the mayor of Chebarkul, who has himself tried to dig up some meteorite fragments by sending divers into the town's lake, where the meteor crashed. And he recently tried to galvanize his constituents by launching a competition for business ideas that would allow Chebarkul to profit from the global attention. The window may be closing fast, though, since Russian scientists say the fragments will soon be covered by snow or blown away by the wind.
Efforts to capitalize on the meteor strike got underway almost as soon as the extraterrestrial stone blew up, spewing tiny fireballs that buried themselves just inches deep in the ground and quickly cooled into little collectibles. Residents rushed to the scene of the explosion and began to dig up bits of meteorite that were often no larger than a centimeter. Apparently enough people were eager to see the meteor that some locals started taxiing them over for a steep price.
Many of the fragments have made their way onto the Russian classified ad website Avito.ru, where prices range from 500 to 300,000 rubles ($16 to $10,000), though the size of the fragments doesn't vary nearly as much. But meteorite aficionados beware: Many of the space particles for sale are raising some eyebrows, and Chelyabinsk police have already looked into a local man who has sold a few chunks for 15,000 rubles ($492) apiece that they believe could be fakes. Given the uncertainty, you might be better off with a good old-fashioned souvenir.
Israelis are in an uproar over the recent news that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spends a whopping $2,700 per year of public funds on ice cream. The story dominated Israeli headlines over the weekend, causing outrage in a country that has faced large-scale unrest over soaring food prices and cuts in government spending. Particularly controversial was the lack of transparency surrounding the ice cream dealings:
Originally this expenditure wasn't included in the Netanyahu family's maintenance budget, but his aides managed to bypass the bureaucratic procedures - transferring one budget item to another normally requires a tender - and get the go-ahead to buy his favorite ice cream flavors from a neighborhood ice cream parlor.
Netanyahu tried to spin his penchant for ice cream -- pistachio in particular-- as being for official entertainment purposes, but the Israeli press isn't buying it. Uzi Benziman, in an editorial for Haaretz, offers a few pointed questions against the prime minister. If the ice cream really serves diplomatic purposes, why should Bibi backtrack now? Also, how could the PM possibly know his guests would prefer pistachio?
...if Netanyahu not only knows who'll be visiting him in the coming year, but also that their favorite flavors also happen to be vanilla sorbet and pistachio, then what do we need the Shin Bet and the Mossad for?
So what does the prime minister's love of pistachio say about him? One not-so-scientific look at ice cream flavor as personality test, describes pistachio people:
You are a highly individualistic and straight-to-the-point person. No one should mess with you. ...You seek to distinguish yourself from everyone else and take pride in being distinctive and exclusive. You are usually both smart and good-looking and are loved by many, even if you don't know it. However, you can be quite intolerant of certain things in life and you do not like change. You are a diligent planner and seek comfort in the routine things. Perhaps you should loosen up a little and do something spontaneous and totally unplanned - you might surprise yourself!
Ideal Partner: You get along well with banana and vanilla fans
URIEL SINAI/AFP/Getty Images
Wow, what an awfully long day! What a roller coaster of emotion!
Kevin Baron has the full rundown. There were spats between friends -- though it seems like if John McCain and Chuck Hagel are still on speaking terms, they'll be frenemies from here on out. There were flubs -- a frequently flustered Hagel fumbling on Iran (specifically the issue of containment), senators with gotcha questions (Sen. Lindsey Graham at one point even interrupted to point out to Hagel, "I gotcha!"), and pandering all around. All in all it was the most dramatic piece of Washington theater since...well, inauguration was only two weeks ago.
It remains to be seen what effect Hagel's performance will have on his confirmation prospects. Josh Rogin reports that today's hearing has lost Hagel votes, but it seems doubtful that support will crater completely. But that's for another day.
For now, we pause to take one last look...at the looks of Chuck Hagel. We feel you, Chuck. It was ups and downs all day.
And if you think this post is an excuse for this .gif we made, it is.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Stealthy? Yes. Fashionable?
Well, what do I know.
Citing a desire to explore "the aesthetics of privacy and the potential for fashion to challenge authoritarian surveillance," New York artist Adam Harvey will be unveiling a line of "drone-proof" clothing next week designed to help those seeking an escape from the all-seeing eyes.
The four-piece line, dubbed "Stealth Wear," as reported by RT, includes an anti-drone scarf and an anti-drone hoodie, designed to throw off the thermal imaging systems often used by unmanned planes, a shirt with a shield that protects the wearer's heart against x-ray radiation, and an accessory Harvey has called the "Off Pocket," which lets the user "instantly zero out" a phone signal to protect against GPS tracking.
It's not Harvey's first time using art to investigate ways to shake off big brother: his master's thesis at NYU looked at ways to interfere with facial recognition software. The clothing line is a response to the growing use of domestic surveillance drones (there are expected to be as many as 30,000 in U.S. skies by 2020) but still, it's not hard to think of some people outside the U.S. who might be interested in acquiring some anti-drone wear. No word yet on how much an anti-drone scarf will cost.
Stealth Wear will be unveiled at a London studio next week along with videos explain the technology behind the garments.
Alright, I can't believe I need to say this, but the future will not look like Call of Duty.
The latest entry in the bestselling game series, Black Ops II, takes place in the not-too-distant future, a version of the year 2025 in which the United States and China are engaged in escalating tensions after a U.S. cyberattack hits the Chinese stock exchange, prompting officials in Beijing to halt exports of rare earth minerals. Chaos ensues. Drones! Invisibility cloaks! There's a villainous Nicaraguan drug lord pulling strings for good measure, and David Petraeus is the secretary of defense.
The technology is science fiction, but the politics, that's just fiction. You'd never know it by reading some of the responses, though. Probably as a result of game studio Treyarch's effort to bolster the game with the input of some high-profile consultants, including Brookings Institute future-warfare expert Peter Singer and disgraced gun runner-turned-media personality Oliver North, some people are taking the game's premise disturbingly seriously. Fox News' review points to the game development's "eerie resemblances with the serious war-gaming exercises conducted by the U.S. military and government officials," while CNN's review explains that the expert consultants saw the "dwindling supply of rare earth elements" as "a feasible backdrop for a new Cold War."
Yes, China controls 95 percent of rare earth mineral production today, and that does constitute an "undisputed monopoly," as Hal Quinn and Michael Silver wrote in their editorial for the Washington Times. But there's no reason for all this hyperventilating. Despite their name, rare earth minerals aren't all that rare -- the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the supply of these minerals, which are critical to high-tech gadgets from cell phones to advanced weapon systems, will last well into the next century, if not longer. Despite China's current market dominance, Chinese reserves constitute only half of global rare earth supplies, and other countries -- notably Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Australia -- are beginning to exploit their deposits and become reliable suppliers in an increasingly diversified rare earth mineral marketplace.
As to whether competition over these resources could come to blows, Christine Parthemore, who now works in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs and is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, cautioned against cold war alarmism in a Center for a New American Security report on rare earth minerals. "History," she wrote in 2011, "indicates that conflict over absolute scarcities is unlikely." While supply disruptions are possible, the report argues, they'll look more like the 1973 oil crisis than the Cuban Missile Crisis.
So let's certainly open up different sources of rare earth mineral supplies, but let's not have a collective freak out about a potential cold war with China over iPhone batteries. It really is just a video game.
Paris Hilton, darling of tabloid papers and the star of a notorious sex tape, has opened a new store in the most bizarre of locales: the Islamic holy city of Mecca. What could go wrong?
"Loving my beautiful new store that just opened at Mecca Mall in Saudi Arabia!" Hilton tweeted on Nov. 14, causing disgruntled tweeps to engage in a heated discussion about the implications of the starlet's decision to open her store in a city that is considered the holiest site in Islam.
"R u kidding?" was one person's response, while others commented on the absurdity of such a controversial female celebrity marketing her goods in a country where women aren't permitted to drive cars. Here are some more reactions posted by folks on Twitter:
NO JOKE: Paris Hilton store just opened at Mecca Mall! O, 'tis most sweet,When in one line two crafts directly meet- parishilton.com/loving-my-beau…— Hussein Ibish (@Ibishblog) November 17, 2012
Shiite Muslims considered infidel Officially in Saudi Arabia and not welcome in kingdom But Paris Hilton’s new storein Mecca gets welcome.— Syed Haider (@haiderworld) November 18, 2012
So Paris Hilton opened a handbag store in MECCA? The world is a corrupt place at the moment. Someone please send me to Mars.— Brown Power Ranger (@OfficialEtty) November 19, 2012
Hilton has tried her hand at many careers, with varying success, including acting and singing. However, her notoriety has helped her fashion brand triumph in the global marketplace. The Mecca store is Hilton's fifth in Saudi Arabia, bringing the grand total of Paris Hilton shops to 42. "So proud to keep growing my brand!" Hilton tweeted. The store will sell perfumes, handbags, and footwear, along with other items in the hotel heiress's fashion line.
One thing's for certain -- it seems doubtful that Hilton will be invited to Saudi Arabia to promote the opening of her new store. She might have some problems with the dress code.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Prominent Egyptian-American journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy, author of FP's May/June cover story, was arrested on Tuesday in New York City and jailed overnight following a scuffle over American Freedom Defense Initiative leader Pamela Geller's anti-Islam subway ads. In a video shot by the New York Post, Eltahawy is seen defacing one of the ads with a can of pink spray paint, until Pamela Hall, a supporter of Geller's initiative, throws herself into the line of fire.
"Mona, do you have the right to do this?" Hall yells.
"I think this is freedom of expression," Eltahawy counters before letting loose with her brightly colored weapon of choice.
Things continue in this vein until NYPD officers intervene and promptly handcuff an indignant Eltahawy, who is clad in a coat almost the same shade as her paint.
"This is what happens when you nonviolently protest in America!" she shouts to the gathering crowd.
Eltahawy was later charged with criminal mischief, making graffiti, and possession of a graffiti instrument, all misdemeanors.
Geller's ads, which read "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man" and conclude with "Support Israel. Defeat Jihad," have been the cause of a legal and political firestorm in recent weeks. In late August, a federal court ruled that the Metropolitan Transit Authority couldn't prevent the ads from being posted. This order was unaffected by the spate of violent anti-American protests over the anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims" currently taking place across the globe.
"Our hands are tied," Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, told the New York Times. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision on Sept. 21, saying that Americans often have to tolerate things they find offensive because of the First Amendment.
Geller later blogged her version of the pink spray paint spat, calling Eltahawy a "thug" and correctly predicting that "This criminal behavior and fascism will be lauded in Leftist circles." The flurry of celebratory tweets from Eltahawy's many Twitter followers following her arrest would seem to confirm Geller's fears.
Today, only the squat silhouette of a woman outlined in pink serves as a reminder of the confrontation, but Eltahawy's arrest has become something of a social media legend, inspiring the hashtags #freemona and #proudsavage as well as an online parody.
"As an US citizen I know that non-violent civil disobedience is one of many ways to fight racism," Eltahawy later tweeted.
If only Gandhi had thought of acquiring a can of pink spray paint.
In 2001, the Taliban shocked and angered the world by destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan, 800 year-old statues that the hardline group declared declare "un-Islamic" due to their depiction of the human form.
A decade later, here's a woman identified on the group's Facebook page as Erika killing it in front of the craters that were left behind. Erika is a volunteer for the group Skateistan, an international non-profit attempting to "use skateboarding as a tool for empowerment" and developers of Afghanistan's first skateboarding school. The school welcomes both girls and boys to participate, even going so far as to open a private girls' skating rink so that older students could continue to practice without men present.
A spate of increased violence, and in particular the increase of Afghans dressed as security attacking U.S. forces, have frayed nerves throughout the country and brought renewed attention to the role of the U.S. mission. However, while it may be just one girl on a skateboard, the photo, besides being awesome, is a reminder that not all the news coming out of Afghanistan today is bad.
Lebanese political figures have become notorious for taking their rather unseemly catfights to Twitter and Facebook, leading some to wonder whether tweeting their spats is the only thing keeping these pillars of the Lebanese community from literally being at each other's throats. Former Prime Minister and leader of the March 14 coalition, Saad Hariri, is by far the most egregious offender, using Twitter as a platform for his many grievances against the ruling Hezbollah-backed March 8 bloc. Hariri waxes philosophical in this July tweet:
"I hope the Holy month will bring all closer to the values of brotherhood and tolerance. An occasion for some to go back to their conscience."
Hariri, who used to tweet so frequently that the AFP actually wrote a story about it last year, has been noticeably quiet lately following some cringe-worthy virtual gaffes. In January, he cheerfully tweeted "Good morning" to the Israeli minister of defense, prompting widespread outrage, since Lebanon is still technically at war with Israel. As if that weren't bad enough, Hariri displayed some markedly undignified behavior when let himself be baited by one of his followers in May. A few samples:
Another noteworthy virtual brawl took place in April, when the head of the Free Patriotic movement, Michel Aoun, held a question-and-answer session on his Facebook page. While answering one of the questions, Aoun insulted Lebanese President, Michel Sleiman, by saying that the leader of Lebanon should command a parliamentary bloc instead of "begging at the door of some ministers." Sleiman responded by tweeting that "At least a consensual president does not beg for the presidency. On the contrary, everyone asks him to accept the post of president."
According to Think Media Labs, a Lebanese social media marketing agency, July was quite an active month for the many Lebanese politicians who frequent Twitter. Minister of Energy Gebran Bassil was the most prolific tweeter, with 226 tweets, while member of the pro-Western March 14 alliance Antoine Haddad was the most responsive to his followers.
Perhaps Twitter, by providing Lebanese politicians with a platform to get snarky, is the only thing standing in the way of another civil war. Who needs to start shooting when you can run your mouth instead?
On July 2, Cinnabon made history, becoming the first American franchise to open a location in Libya. The 7,500 square-foot bakery-cafe in downtown Tripoli also sells Carvel ice cream and is the first of at least 10 locations franchisees Arief and Ahmed Swaidek plan to open in Libya in the next four years. Cinnabon, which already has locations in major Middle East markets, also wants to expand into Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.
Libyan Cinnabons are slated to "feature classic menu items as well as 'locally created' sandwiches, salads and baked goods," along with cakes and pies imported from Italy. Focus Brands International, Cinnabon's overseas expansion partner, also works with other fast-food chains like Moe's Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky's, and Auntie Anne's pretzels. No word yet on whether Libyans will get to experience the wonders of giant pretzels or Tex-Mex in the near future.
This blog does not have any specific about information tied to it.