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“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘Revolts

Leaders’ Judgment?

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I wanted to cover more of events in Syra and Yemen, but this piece in the New York Times is very relevant.

So I am not the only one with a low opinion of Binyamin Netanyahu:

“Journalists recalled that Mr. Dagan, who had refused contact with the media during his time in office, called a news briefing the last week of his tenure and laid out his concerns about an attack on Iran. But military censorship prevented his words from being reported.

“Dagan wanted to send a message to the Israeli public, but the censors stopped him,” Ronen Bergman of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot said by telephone. “So now that he is out of office he is going over the heads of the censors by speaking publicly.”

Mr. Dagan’s public and critical comments, at the age of 66 and after a long and widely admired career, have shaken the political establishment. The prime minister’s office declined requests for a response, although ministers have attacked Mr. Dagan. He has also found an echo among the nation’s commentators who have been ringing similar alarms.

“It’s not the Iranians or the Palestinians who are keeping Dagan awake at night but Israel’s leadership,” Ari Shavit asserted on the front page of the newspaper Haaretz on Friday.

“He does not trust the judgment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.”

It was Mr. Shavit who interviewed Mr. Dagan on stage at Tel Aviv University this week. And while Haaretz is the home of the country’s left wing, Mr. Shavit is more of a centrist.

“Dagan is really worried about September,” Mr. Shavit said in a telephone interview, referring to the month when the Palestinians are expected to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognize their state within the 1967 border lines. The resolution is expected to pass and to bring new forms of international pressure on Israel. “He is afraid that Israel’s isolation will cause its leaders to take reckless action against Iran,” he said.

Nahum Barnea, a commentator for Yediot Aharonot, wrote on Friday that Mr. Dagan was not alone. Naming the other retired security chiefs and adding Amos Yadlin, who recently retired as chief of military intelligence, Mr. Barnea said that they shared Mr. Dagan’s criticism.

“This is not a military junta that has conspired against the elected leadership,” Mr. Barnea wrote. “These are people who, through their positions, were exposed to the state’s most closely guarded secrets and participated in the most intimate discussions with the prime minister and the defense minister. It is not so much that their opinion is important as civilians; their testimony is important as people who were there. And their testimony is troubling.”

This concern was backed by a former Mossad official, Gad Shimron, who spoke Friday on Israel Radio.

Mr. Shimron said: “I want everyone to pay attention to the fact that the three tribal elders, Ashkenazi, Diskin and Dagan, within a very short time, are all telling the people of Israel: take note, something is going on that we couldn’t talk about until now, and now we are talking about it. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and that is the decision-making process. The leadership makes fiery statements, we stepped on the brakes, we are no longer there and we don’t know what will happen. And that’s why we are saying this aloud.” “

Update 1: Letters From a Young Contrarian does a great job, The Arab Spring into Summer: Today’s Events.

Update 2: Not forgetting Left Foot Forward’s Arab Spring latest: Murder, civil war and motor racing.

Over In Syria, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb.

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The situation in Syria is still very serious, yet in the West comparatively little is heard of Syrian’s dire circumstances or the true level of State organised murder.

In the Western media, the regime’s violent is under reported and not given the prominence that it should have.

This is another example of how the dictatorship in Syria treats people:

“BEIRUT — The boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.

What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.

Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was 13 years old.

And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that has roiled the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.

It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments. “

Hassan Nasrallah Backs Murders in Syria.

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One time radical and firebrand, Hassan Nasrallah, has gone with the money.

He is backing the murderous President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Not too surprising, because if he didn’t, he would lose the support of the Iranian regime and their money.

Since the uprising against the Syrian dictators some 1100 people have been killed by the regime and their thugs, according to Sawasiah, ABC News reports:

“Human rights activists in Syria say the two-month crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters has cost the lives of at least 1,100 people.

The Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah says it has the names of 1,100 people reportedly killed during the unrest that broke out in mid-March.

Most were from southern areas in Hauran Plain – including the city of Deraa where the protests first began two months ago.

The human rights group says it in fact has heard reports of another 200 civilian deaths but has no names to base the figures on.

The death toll in Syria rose sharply after the protests spread from Deraa to other parts of the country.”

Yahoo News has more on Nasrallah’s speech:

” “We call on all Syrians to preserve their country as well as the ruling regime, a regime of resistance, and to give their leaders a chance to cooperate with all Syria’s communities in order to implement the necessary reforms,” he said in the speech broadcast by his party’s Al-Manar television.

The speech, marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after a 22-year occupation, was broadcast on a giant screen to thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the village of Nabi Sheet, a Shiite stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

It was the first time the reclusive Hezbollah chief commented on the protests in Syria, which along with Iran is a major backer of his Shiite militant party.

“The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria… is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries,” said Nasrallah, who has not appeared in public since 2008.

The London School of Economics And The “Libya Gift”

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Below is the minutes of a meeting at the London School of Economics which discussed taking money from Gaddafi’s Libya. A copy of this is on the web, I put it here as a matter of public record.

“THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

COUNCIL

20 October 2009

MINUTES

A meeting of the Council was held on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 in BOX, 5th Floor, Tower 3

PRESENT: Sir Anthony Battishill (in the Chair), Ms Vivina Berla, Professor Chris Brown, Ms Angela Camber, Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Ms Bronwyn Curtis, Mr Alan Elias, Mr Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Mr Tim Frost, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Janet Hartley, Ms Kate Jenkins, Professor Paul Kelly, Dr David Lane, Ms Anne Lapping, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor David Marsden, Professor Eileen Munro, Professor George Philip, Mr Brian Smith, Professor Sarah Worthington.

BY INVITATION: Mr Mike Bragg (Staff Consultative Council), Mr Roger Mountford (Nominated Officer, LSE Enterprise).

IN ATTENDANCE: Ms Jenny Bone, Ms Barbara Bush, Mr Adrian Hall, Professor David Held (until Minute No. 21), Ms Fiona Kirk, Ms Jayne Rose, Ms Jean Sykes, Mr Wayne Tatlow.

APOLOGIES: Mr Stephen Barclay, Howard Davies, Mr Richard Goeltz (North American Advisory Board), Mr Mario Francescotti, Ms Sophie de la Hunt, Mr Wol Kolade, Professor Richard Sennett, Mr Peter Sutherland.

IN MEMORIAM

10. Council stood as a mark of respect for Professor Antoine Faure-Grimaud of the Department of Finance who died on 6 July 2009 at the age of 41.

WELCOME

11. The Chairman welcomed Ms Bronwyn Curtis to her first meeting of the Council.

THE CHAIRMAN

12. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that Mr Peter Sutherland was recovering from a period of ill health. Mr Sutherland had retained a keen interest in the School during his period of recuperation and had been kept abreast of School developments. He hoped to return to the School later in the Michaelmas Term.

13. RESOLVED: that the Secretary and Director of Administration would convey to the Chairman the best wishes of the Council.

MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 21 SEPTEMBER 2009

14. RECEIVED: the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 21 September 2009.

15. RESOLVED: that the minutes be approved as a correct record.

MATTERS ARISING

Donation for the Centre for Global Governance

16. RECEIVED: paper CL/2, “Libya Gift”, comprising introductory remarks from the Director, a letter from Professor Fred Halliday entitled “LSE and the Qaddafi Foundation: A Dissenting Note”, and a collection of media reports on links between the LSE and Libya.

17. REPORTED: that Council had decided on 23 June 2009 to accept a donation of £1.5m over 5 years from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation for the LSE Centre for the Study of Global Governance. Since that time, there had been widespread condemnation of Libya’s handling of the return of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and the Director had received a letter from Emeritus Professor Fred Halliday which counselled against acceptance of the donation. Accordingly, the Council had been given the opportunity to consider whether, in the light of events over the summer, LSE’s links with Libya had attracted negative publicity to the School, or might do so in future and, if so, whether that was sufficient to warrant reconsideration of the gift.

18. REPORTED, by Professor David Held (Co-Director, Centre for the Study of Global Governance): that the decision to accept the gift was a matter for the LSE/ Council; that the Foundation was a UN accredited NGO; that the gift was funded by private sector organisations (in construction and engineering); that the gift was unrestricted and had no conditions on use; that a public signing ceremony had been undertaken, and that a u-turn at this juncture might affect the School’s relations with Libya and cause personal embarrassment to the Chairman of the Foundation, Dr Saif al-Islam Gaddafi; that the views espoused by Professor Halliday were not necessarily shared by all in the academic community; that, having trawled traditional media and the blogosphere, no evidence had been found that LSE’s links with Libya had attracted criticism, despite the ‘storm’ created by the Al-Megrahi affair; and that it was important to engage with the Middle East and North Africa.

19. IN DISCUSSION the following points were made:

(a) that there were concerns about the reputational risk of rejecting the gift, having accepted it in the summer;
(b) that with the exception of Professor Halliday, no member of the School community had queried the decision to accept the Libyan donation, although this might reflect the timing of the original discussion near the end of the Summer Term and the publication of the relevant Council minutes in September;
(c) that in future more information should be provided to Council about controversial potential donations, more time allowed for consideration, and Council should benefit from a “devil’s advocate” approach when considering the arguments;
(d) that in future the totality of the School’s relationship with a country should be overseen to enable early identification of potential reputational risk;
(e) that LSE Enterprise had experience of working with the Libyan state, delivering executive education. They had operated with complete independence and their work had been positively received by others, including the School’s supporters in the United States;
(f) that some individual members of the North American Advisory Board had indicated that acceptance of the donation would not affect the extent to which US alumni would financially support the School;
(g) that although Professor Held had joined the Board of Trustees of the Foundation after acceptance by Council of the donation to the Centre for Global Governance in June 2009, concerns remained about the perceived conflict of interest.

20. REPORTED, by Professor David Held:

(a) that due diligence work and research had been undertaken to establish the credentials of the Foundation. The donation had been extensively debated within the Development Committee before it reached the Council for decision;
(b) that the Foundation was created in order to be to be an exemplary NGO within North Africa. Its support for democracy and human rights had at times placed it at odds with the Libyan State, but it had enjoyed some success in areas such as penal reform;
(c) that the Foundation raised funds on a project-by-project basis, with the money coming from private sector companies, rather than the Libyan government;
(d) that, following the Council meeting on 23 June 2009, Professor Held had been invited to join the Board of the Foundation in an individual capacity. Upon the advice of Council, Professor Held would be willing to resign that position;
(e) that the donation from the Foundation represented less than 20% of the operating costs of the Centre for Global Governance, with the remainder coming from a diverse range of other sources.

21. REPORTED, by the LSESU General Secretary: support for discussion of controversial major donations at Council.

Professor Held left the meeting.

22. RESOLVED:

(a) on balance, that the decision of 23 June 2009 to accept the gift would stand;
(b) that in order to avoid the potential for conflicts of interest and reputational risk, colleagues should not usually serve on the boards of organisations from which they or their units were receiving gifts. The Director would be asked to consider the implications of, and as appropriate promulgate, this policy decision. In this context, Council accepted Professor Held’s offer to stand down as a Board member of the Gaddafi Foundation;
(c) that the totality of the School’s relationship with, and work in Libya needed to be carefully monitored and handled to avoid misunderstanding of the School’s position;
(d) that when presenting to Council on controversial potential donations, the arguments should include a “devil’s advocate” element. Council should be given sufficient time to weigh all of the arguments, and to have the opportunity to reflect before reaching a decision;
(e) that the Secretary and Director of Administration would write to Professor Halliday to inform him of the outcome of discussions at Council.

REPORT ON BEHALF OF THE DIRECTOR

23. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Planning and Resources):

Student Recruitment
(a) that the School had “over-recruited” by 280 students, but remained within the HEFCE +/- 5% tolerance band. Departments which had over-recruited by more than 5% of their admission target would receive compensation. Consideration would be given as to how over-recruitment of Home/EU undergraduate students can be avoided in future years.

Points-Based Visa System
(b) that the School’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the introduction of the points-based visa system had proved effective, with relatively few students affected and no significant impact on conversion rates.

Pay Negotiations
(c) that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association’s latest offer of 0.5% had been accepted by Unison, but rejected by the UCU, Unite, EIS – ULA and the GMB. It was likely that all parties would enter into arbitration through ACAS.

Public Sector Finance
(d) that a briefing would be arranged for Heads of Academic Departments, Service Leaders, Departmental Managers, APRC and members of Council, to explain the deteriorating public spending environment and how this might affect the School in future years. The School would need to develop contingency plans to ensure that it would be able to continue to support teaching, research, service improvement and estate development, regardless of any decrease in public funding.

24. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations):

THE World Rankings
(a) that the LSE had been rated 67th in the THE World University Rankings and 5th in the world as a specialist social sciences institution. The School’s position in the global ranking had been adversely affected by a change in the weightings for international staff and students, resulting in a marked drop in ranking from 2007. The publishers had acknowledged weaknesses in league table methodology and had entered a dialogue with the School about more suitable measures.

Peking Summer School
(b) that the 6th LSE-Peking University Summer School in Beijing had attracted 240 students from 40 countries.

LSE Cities
(c) that Deutsche Bank had provided an endowment of £1million per year for the next five years to fund LSE Cities, an international centre for urban excellence.

Yrjo Jahnsson Award in Economics 2009
(d) that Professor John Van Reenen, Director of the LSE Centre for Economic Performance had been awarded Europe’s most prestigious prize for economic researchers. Professor Van Reenen shared the award with Fabrizio Zilibotti of the University of Zurich, an alumnus of the LSE.

Postgraduate Education
(e) that the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations) had been invited to contribute to the Government review of postgraduate education.

25. REPORTED, by the Chief Information Officer:

IBSS
(a) that arrangements were being made to secure the financial sustainability of the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, following the withdrawal of funding by the ESRC. Any future arrangement would provide for continued access for LSE users, free of charge, in perpetuity.

26. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration:

Human Resources Advisory Group
(a) that the Secretary and the Director of Human Resources would bring forward to Council a report about reviving the committee of Council responsible for advising on HR strategy.

27. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning):

Student Loans Company
(b) that relatively few students had been affected by late loan payments and that the School had been proactive in promoting services to assist any students still awaiting loans.

Black to the Future
(c) that the second LSE “Black to the Future” conference had attracted 380 participants. The aim of the event was to inspire young black Londoners to aim for the top in the world of education.

Orientation
(d) that the new student orientation arrangements appeared to have been successful and feedback was being sought from students.

SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN STUDENTS AND YOUNG ACADEMICS

28. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning):

(a) that the School had for some time been considering ways in which it might assist in meeting the needs identified in a Universities UK report of March 2008 for staff development for young academics in Palestinian universities. The report recommended the development of “virtual” links between Palestinian universities and higher education institutions in the UK. In June, with the assistance of the British Council, Mr Steve Ryan of the LSE Centre for Learning Technology travelled to Al Quds Open University to deliver a seminar on the assistance that LSE might provide, such as online seminars on topics such as the use of IT in teaching and research methodology. The capacity-building programme would be rolled out during 2009/10 and a delegation from Al Quds would visit the UK later this year. It was hoped that Al Quds would disseminate the knowledge made available by the LSE to other Palestinian universities, in order to provide broader benefit.

(b) that the School was exploring the possibility of providing more formal staff development for young academics in Palestine (such as fee waivers). A number of discussions had taken place over the summer between the School, the Department of Business, Industry and Skills (BIS), the British Council and a number of other UK universities. The School had committed support in principle for a scheme of this nature, and an announcement was expected from the BIS early in the New Year. It was understood that any initiative would relate to the Palestinian territories broadly defined, including Gaza.

REPORT OF THE COUNCIL AWAYDAY 2009

29. RECEIVED: paper CL/3, report on the Council Awayday held on 21 September 2009.

30. REPORTED, by Professor David Marsden: that concerns had been raised by Academic Governors during the Awayday session on Research Performance and the Research Excellence Framework regarding: bibliometrics; research themes/ academic autonomy; and the danger of inhibiting truly ground-breaking research.

31. IN RESPONSE, the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations) reported that a paper had been circulated to all Heads of Department regarding preparations for the REF and that this would be debated in full at the Academic Board later in the term and would be the basis of further discussion within academic departments.

STRATEGIC PLAN

32. RECEIVED: paper CL/4, draft Strategic Plan Targets 2009-14.

33. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that the targets were a “work in progress” and currently contained a mixture of quantitative targets and processes.

34. REPORTED, by Mr Mike Bragg (representative of the Staff Consultative Committee): concerns regarding the achievability of some of the targets for the development of IT Services; and concern that valuable data might be lost if the proposed staff survey were to be made more concise.

35. IN RESPONSE: the Secretary and Director of Administration reported that the staff survey, in its original format, was extremely long and that the time required to complete it would deter staff from responding. He would be reviewing the shortened version of the staff survey and would ensure that all key elements were retained.

36. RESOLVED: that Mr Bragg would discuss his concerns regarding the proposed IT Services targets with the Chief Information Officer outside of the meeting.

37. IN DISCUSSION:

(a) it was suggested that the target for uptake of Houghton Street Online should be more ambitious;
(b) the alignment of activities with the Strategic Plan was welcomed;
(c) that it would be useful to specify the rationale for each of the selected targets.

38. RESOLVED:

(a) that the Director of Development and Alumni Relations would review the target relating to Houghton Street Online;
(b) that Council members would email comments on the proposed targets to the Secretary and Director of Administration within a fortnight of the meeting.

REMUNERATION COMMITTEE

39. RECEIVED: paper CL/5, a report on policy issues arising from the meeting of the Remuneration Committee held on 15 July 2009.

40. REPORTED: that the Remuneration Committee had established four sub-groups to consider individual cases and bring forth recommendations, which allowed the main Committee to focus on substantive policy issues and strategic decisions. The main Committee would set the parameters for decision-making by the sub-groups, in order to ensure consistency in application and appropriate controls on expenditure. In the current session, the Committee would be considering the issue of equal pay.

COURT OF GOVERNORS

41. RECEIVED: the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Court of Governors held on 2 July 2009.

42. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that at the suggestion of the Council, the Court would be briefed on issues relating to the promotion by Government of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at the expense of the social sciences, arts and humanities. It was hoped that members of the Court would be willing to lobby policy-makers on this key issue.

43. REPORTED, by the General Secretary of the LSE Students’ Union: that the restructuring of the Union had been successfully completed and that financial irregularities in previous years were being addressed by the Sabbatical Officers and the new management. Financial and back office services would be outsourced to Charity Business, a specialist provider, with the objective of improving management accounts and ensuring compliance with the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for accounting and reporting by charities.

ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE SECRETARY AND DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION AND THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND FACILITIES

44. RECEIVED: papers CL/7 and CL/8, the annual reports of the Secretary and Director of Administration and Director of Finance and Facilities.

45. REPORTED: by the Secretary and Director of Administration: the role of the Triumvirate under the auspices of the Academic Planning and Resources Committee in approving and resourcing Service Development Plans for the support services and ensuring that these meet the needs of the academic community.

46. RESOLVED:

(a) to commend the outstanding achievements of the professional support services staff over the past year and the plans of the services for the coming year;
(b) to request a substantive discussion within Council about these reports on at least a biennial basis, commencing 2010/11.

HEFCE ASSURANCE REVIEW

47. RECEIVED: paper CL/9, a report on the 2009 HEFCE Assurance Visit.

48. RESOLVED: to note the content of the report.

LEGAL COMPLIANCE

49. RECEIVED: paper CL/10, a report on recent legislative and regulatory developments.

50. RESOLVED: to note the content of the report.

NOTICE OF THE COURT MEETING OF 10 DECEMBER 2009

51. RECEIVED: paper CL/11, the notice of the Court meeting of 10 December 2009.

52. RESOLVED: to approve the draft calling notice for the meeting of the Court of Governors to be held on 10 December 2009, subject to any amendments made by the Director.

RELEASE OF PAPERS

53. RESOLVED: that the agenda and papers of the meeting of Council held on 20 October 2009 be released to the intranet and made available to the public upon request, with the exception of the following items:

(a) Minute 5 of the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 21 September 2009 (estate strategy) on grounds of commercial sensitivity;
(b) Paper CL/2, donation to the Centre for Global Governance – publication to be delayed until follow up action has been completed;
(c) Paper CL/6, unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Court of Governors held on 2 July 2009 and CL/11, notice of the Court meeting to be held on 10 December 2009 – both intended for future publication;
(d) Paper CL/8, the annual report of the Director of Finance and Facilities, will be published save for extracts relating to potential property acquisitions (commercially sensitive) and identified or identifiable individuals (data protection).

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Vice Chairman of the Court and Council

54. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that on 10 December 2009, the Court would be asked by the Chairmanship and Vice-Chairmanship Selection Committee to approve the election of Ms Kate Jenkins as a Vice-Chairman of the Court and Council, succeeding Sir Anthony Battishill.

55. RESOLVED: to concur with the recommendation of the Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship Selection Committee that Ms Jenkins be elected a Vice Chairman of the Court and Council.

There being no further business, the meeting of the Council concluded at 7.40pm.”

Remember, those present:

PRESENT: Sir Anthony Battishill (in the Chair), Ms Vivina Berla, Professor Chris Brown, Ms Angela Camber, Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Ms Bronwyn Curtis, Mr Alan Elias, Mr Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Mr Tim Frost, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Janet Hartley, Ms Kate Jenkins, Professor Paul Kelly, Dr David Lane, Ms Anne Lapping, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor David Marsden, Professor Eileen Munro, Professor George Philip, Mr Brian Smith, Professor Sarah Worthington.

Thoughts On The Middle East.

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Blake Hounshell looks at events in the Middle East in a critical way, and I think he’s correct, that Netanyahu will do nothing. Any halfway competent statesman would realise this is an opportunity to grasp, but not Netanyahu. The only quality he has an abundance is mediocrity, which will doom Israelis and Palestinians to more misery:

“Even more awkward for the United States, Netanyahu is due to visit Washington in a few days in what will likely be one long exposition of the words, “I told you so.” If he is smart, he will announce a serious plan for peace and get out ahead of the most serious threat to Israel’s security since the 1973 war. If he is true to form, he will use the opportunity to double down on his argument for the status quo.

President Obama has planned two speeches for the coming week: one for Thursday, billed as a disquisition on the Arab Spring, and another an address at the AIPAC conference. With George Mitchell’s resignation, the peace process is officially dead. The Arab street now understands its power — people clearly aren’t going to sit around quietly waiting until September for the U.N. General Assembly to pass a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state. The BDS movement (“boycott, divestment, sanctions”) is gaining steam internationally. There will be more marches, more flotillas, more escalation, more senseless deaths.

Ship Sinks, Why No News?

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At the moment, events in Libya are followed with great scrutiny, yet scraps of information are coming in to suggest that a boat carrying 600 people may have sunk on Friday

Perplexingly, it is not too clear if that is the case. The ship left port on Friday and witnesses in another ship say they saw debris etc:

“A boat carrying more than 600 migrants capsized off the coast of Libya Friday and many of the passengers are believed to have drowned, the United Nations said Monday, marking what may be the deadliest chapter yet in an escalating immigration crisis unleashed by the conflict in the North African country.

Migrants arriving in Lampedusa over the weekend told staff of the United Nations’ refugee agency that they witnessed a boat brimming with hundreds of migrants—who were predominantly Congolese, Eritrean, Nigerian, Ivory Coast and Somali nationals—sink near the port of Tripoli, said Laura Boldrini, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A spokesman for the Libyan government in Tripoli declined to comment on the matter.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said it was unclear how many people survived the shipwreck, but that some of the people aboard the capsized boat managed to swim ashore. He added that migrants have often drowned in similar incidents, because they don’t know how to swim. One woman who swam ashore told IOM staff that her baby drowned in the shipwreck. Mr. Chauzy said that once ashore, she and other migrants were “herded” by armed men onto another boat that eventually reached the tiny island of Lampedusa. “

It is bewildering. How could you lose a ship full of 600 people between the Libyan coast and Italy, and not know?

How can 600 people be thrown in the sea and it doesn’t get reported (or hardly) in the Western media?

Or is it simply a case of “No WASPs, Europeans or Westerners involved, move along, no story”.

Surely, a record of the ship leaving must have been kept, its Captain, its destination and when it didn’t arrive, why weren’t questions asked promptly?

Update 1: There are a few stories coming out, now, on Twitter, 3 days later:

My Fox Houston has a piece.

NPR too, but overall too little and far too late.

Western Interests And Bahrain.

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Outside of Government circles or some parts of the media it is fairly clear that the West has moderated and muted criticism of the repression going on in Bahrain, Reuters has a good piece on it:

“(Reuters) – The fate of Bahrain’s protest movement is a stark reminder of how Western and regional power politics can trump reformist yearnings, even in an Arab world convulsed by popular uprisings against entrenched autocrats.
Bahrain is not Libya or Syria, but Western tolerance of the Sunni monarchy’s crackdown suggests that interests such as the U.S. naval base in Manama, ties to oil giant Saudi Arabia and the need to contain neighboring Iran outweigh any sympathy with pro-democracy demonstrators mostly from the Shi’ite majority.

“The response from the West has been very timid and it shows the double standards in its foreign policy compared to Libya,” said Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

“Saudi influence is so huge on Bahrain now and the West has not stood up to it, which has disappointed many. They’re losing the hearts and minds of the democrats in Bahrain.”

Iran has hardly been consistent either, fiercely criticizing Bahrain’s treatment of its Shi’ites, and praising Arab revolts elsewhere as “Islamic awakenings” — except the uprising in its lone Arab ally Syria, which it blames on a U.S.-Israeli plot.

Bahrain’s king said on Sunday a state of emergency, imposed in March after Saudi-led troops arrived to help crush protests, would be lifted on June 1, two weeks before it expires.

That would be two days before a deadline set by Formula One organizers for Bahrain to decide whether to reschedule a Grand Prix it was to have hosted on March 13. The motor race was postponed because of the unrest then shaking the Gulf island.

Bahrain is eager to prove that stability has returned after the upheaval in which at least 29 people, all but six of them Shi’ites, have been killed since protests erupted in February.

VERBAL SLAPS

Apart from verbal slaps on the wrist, the United States and its allies have stood by as Bahrain, egged on by Saudi Arabia, has pursued a punitive campaign that appears to target Shi’ites in general, not just the advocates of more political freedoms, a constitutional monarchy and an end to sectarian discrimination. ” [my emphasis.]