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06 Nov 2011 21:21


World: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, stuck with huge tax bill, gets huge donations

  • $2.4M the size of the fine China gave to firebrand artist Ai Weiwei — to be paid in just 15 days
  • 20k number of people who have offered Weiwei donations to help pay this insane tax bill
  • $550k amount of money these people have given the artist in just five days; impressive source
  • » This on top of a long arrest earlier this year: Ai Weiwei spent 81 days in jail on tax evasion charges, but claims all authorities wanted to talk about was his pro-democracy record. The fine Ai has been forced to pay is more than three times the size of his tax bill — and he needs help paying. The surprising part is that he actually got said help. “It’s surprising; it has really changed my perspective on people,” he said, noting that people traveled long distances to give him financial help — in person. Ai prefers to think of the payments as loans, and turned down a $157,000 payment from a businessman, saying he preferred smaller loans.

11 Oct 2011 11:07


World: Yulia Tymoshenko: Former Ukranian PM sentenced to prison

  • The end of Ukraine’s experiment with democracy? Just a few years ago, Yulia Tymoshenko was one of the most popular politicians in Ukraine. Then she lost power in a narrow 2010 election, and Viktor Yanukovich gained it. Yanukovich pursued Tymoshenko’s role in a set of negotiations with Russia over the price of natural gas — something which, at best, would constitute a political controversy in the U.S., but certainly not something worthy of jail time. But this is Ukraine, and Tymoshenko got sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday. Does this signify a move away from traditional democracy for the country? How does a political icon like Tymoshenko (who’s probably far-more-known in the West than Yanukovich) get jailed for what was, at worst, a political scandal? Seems questionable. (photo via the European People’s Party Flickr page) source

07 Jul 2011 00:46


U.S.: Rebel leaders in Libya face possibly-irrelevant treason charges

  • 21 Libyan rebels to be charged with national security crimes source
  • » It’s worth noting that these rebel leaders are being tried in absentia, as they’re currently busy doing rebel stuff. Additionally, if and when Gaddafi’s government falls, the outcome of these trials will likely be inconsequential. Nevertheless, it’s an indication of the regime’s confidence in its ability to triumph that they’re proceeding with the trials anyway. Whether this portrayal of confidence is genuine or tactical remains to be seen.

16 Feb 2011 14:03


World: Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni plays the robocall game

  • This is Y.K. Museveni. I greet you. Vote for the old man with a hat.
  • Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni • In a phone call to potential voters. With elections looming on Friday, the longtime President’s voice was racing across phone lines everywhere as robocalls, unheard of in African politics, went out to the Ugandan citizenry, referencing his iconic hat. A win Friday would mean his fourth term in office (with no limits), amidst concerns about repression of democratic opposition. Of additional note, as it’s probably what Uganda is most known for internationally right now, the American evangelical group “The Family,” heinously tied to Uganda’s anti-gay (seriously) legislation, is led by a man named Doug Coe. As reported by Jeff Sharlet, Coe has referred to President Museveni as the group’s “key man in Africa.” Take that for what you will. source

14 Feb 2011 14:57


World: Higher Military Council in Egypt issues timeline for reforms

  • 2 months maximum expected before Egypt’s constitutional referendum source

12 Feb 2011 12:03


World: How does Mubarak feel about Egypt’s move towards democracy?

  • He called up an Israeli lawmaker just before he resigned to speak his mind a little. To put it simply, Mubarak feels, much like many Israeli officials, that a move towards democracy in Egypt will give rise to extremism. “He gave me a lesson in democracy and said: ‘We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that’s the fate of the Middle East,'” said Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Israeli cabinet minister. “‘They may be talking about democracy but they don’t know what they’re talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam.'” In other words, Mubarak is all grumblecakey about the rise of democracy in the country, which he feels will hurt the region more than help it. And yes, we said “grumblecakey.” source

10 Feb 2011 20:57


World: Mubarak’s speech: Why the United States needs to look inward

  • “I can not and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is.” What makes a leader, in the face of international, media and local scrutiny, choose not to listen to repeated calls to resign? Who essentially shames his allies? A man whose statements are so transparent that not even his own people believe them? And why is it that the world allowed him to gain so much authority that he can’t easily be toppled from his position? There are a lot of questions tonight, and we’ve been parsing through them all afternoon. The fact that Mubarak was effectively supported by the United States makes the question marks much more pointed. As Americans, we need to learn how to encourage democracy at all costs, and focus less on what we gain – leverage in Israel, influence in a region, whatever. We can’t support another military state created by the United States. It’s ended in tears multiple times, and every time, Americans lose out monetarily, civilians lose their rights, and our world becomes a little more unstable. No more. This has to stop. source

07 Feb 2011 13:18


Politics: Tony Blair has his say on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

  • It is founded on a different view of the relationship between religion and public policy than most people in secular societies would want.
  • Former British PM Tony Blair • The oft-maligned former leader speaking about the Muslim Brotherhood, whose likely involvement in forming a new Egyptian government is causing some angst for advocates of secularism. Blair suggested the Brotherhood was not extremist like some groups in other countries, but that while religion had an important place in society, he “wouldn’t want to live in even a democratic theocracy.” Can you even call something democracy if one entity officially has omnipotent control over the people?  source

05 Feb 2011 09:41


World: Hillary Clinton: Transitioning to democracy can be risky

  • There are risks with the transition to democracy. (The) transition can backslide into just another authoritarian regime. Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, only to see the political process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception, and rigged elections to stay in power, or to advance an agenda of extremism.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton • Regarding the pitfalls that Middle Eastern countries could face as they fight for democracy. This is true, yes, but is she saying it to convince others to be careful, or to dissuade less-committed democracy fighters in the region? source

01 Feb 2011 14:44


World: Obama to Mubarak: Don’t run for reelection this fall

  • finally! The Obama Administration seems to have officially given up on Egypt’s current regime, as the President indicated via diplomat that he doesn’t want Mubarak to run for reelection this fall.
  • but… While Mubarak is expected to announce he won’t seek another term, it seems crazy to think he’ll be able to continue governing even that long. Is a transitional government in play? source