Reading Digest – 10 August 2012   Leave a comment

[Note: This feels better than BBC Breakfast, but we’ll see how it goes.  Expect changes in the coming days.]

“It’s not just one magazine, Marge.  They take hundreds of magazines, filter out the crap, and leave you with something that fits right in your front pocket.” – Homer Simpson

US Allies Squabble:

BBC Logo South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak visits disputed islands:

Both South Korea and Japan say they have a historical claim to the islands, and the issue has been a long-standing thorn in relations.

The islands, which are roughly equidistant from the two countries, are small but lie in fishing grounds which could also contain large gas deposits.

Al-Jazeera Logo S Korean leader’s islands visit angers Japan – Clearly these are very important islands:

Dokdo covers a total land area of 18.7 hectares. Apart from the coastguards there are two civilian residents, an elderly man and his wife.

Fighting in the Sinai:

BBC Logo Sinai: Egypt tribes back offensive against militants:

"Let Hamas be upset, we don’t care," he said, of the Islamist group which control the Gaza Strip.

Mr Marzuka said Israel’s contact with Palestinians in Gaza should be through the official Rafah border crossing.

"We are against smuggling, and against the siege," he added, referring to Israel’s blockade of the enclave.

Al-Jazeera Logo Egyptian army arrests ‘terrorists’ in Sinai:

Military trucks carrying dozens of armoured personnel carriers mounted with machine guns rolled through the town of al-Arish heading eastwards on Thursday, where they claim Bedouin "Islamists" with links to the attacks have established a presence in villages near the border with Gaza.

The build-up came after state television reported that military helicopters and soldiers killed 20 people on Wednesday in the first such operation in Sinai in decades, allegedly in retaliation for an ambush that killed 16 soldiers.


"We demanded that they present us the bodies, just one or two bodies, so we can be convinced," said Eid Abu Marzuka, one of the Bedouins who took part in the meeting.

Others said they doubted the report, which a military commander in Sinai had confirmed.

If you’re curious, Al Jazeera has a complete video report, including a discussion between an Israeli political science professor, an Egyptian “political analyst”, and a guy from Hamas. 

Green-on-Blue in Afghanistan:

BBC Logo US soldiers killed in Afghanistan Helmand attack:

Afghan officials told the BBC that the three were special forces members shot in the Sangin area late on Thursday.

The exact circumstances are unclear. Nato says it is the latest in a series of "green-on-blue" attacks, where men wearing Afghan army uniforms turn their guns on coalition troops.


In a separate incident a road side bomb has killed at least six civilians – including women and children – in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Farhang told the BBC.

NYTimes Logo Attacker in Afghan Uniform Kills 3 U.S. Troops:

The coalition did not provide any additional details of the attack.

But Muhammad Sharif, the governor of Sangin District of Helmand Province, where the killings took place, said a police commander had invited the Special Forces soldiers to eat dinner at his check post on Thursday. He then shot them when their guard was down, and fled, Mr. Sharif said.

Al-Jazeera Logo US soldiers killed in Afghanistan’s Helmand:

In a separate incident, three US soldiers and a US aid worker were killed on Thursday in the eastern province of Kunar, after a suicide attack.

This has been today’s reminder that despite the fact that no one in any position of real authority gives a shit, we are still at war.  Carry on. 

Chinese Communist Party Scandal:

BBC Logo Bo Xilai scandal: Police on trial in Gu Kailai ‘cover-up’ – As an outsider, this story is like watching octopi fight, I don’t really know what’s going on, but I know that it’s both serious and brutal:

Foreign journalists seeking to attend the police officers’ trial could not get in.

"It’s open to the public but I’m afraid all the places are full at this time," a court spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

I’ll bet they were.

Al-Jazeera Logo China charges policemen in Gu Kailai cover-up – Al Jazeera dug up a bit of context:

Analysts say the Communist Party is keen to resolve the crisis before a major congress to be held later this year, when seven of its most senior leaders will stand down from their positions and hand over to a new generation.

"It is quite clear that the authorities have reached an agreement over Bo Xilai," said Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong.

"[Gu’s] trial went so smoothly and according to the script … there was no mention of corruption and Bo Xilai’s name wasn’t mentioned."

Syria (Still Shitty):

NYTimes Logo Crime Wave Engulfs Syria as Its Cities Reel From War:

It was Iraq, circa 2003, in miniature: in areas where decades of suppressive government have suddenly been lifted, looting, violence and sectarianism have begun to thrive.

But the lawlessness may be more systemic. For years, the Assad government relied for control on private militias called shabiha that were paid by the government or by its wealthy supporters. With the government stretched financially and many businessmen fleeing or switching sides, those payments appear to have stopped, Ms. Hanano and others said, leading many militia members to pay themselves however they can, often with violence as a byproduct.

One human rights group, Women Under Siege, said it had documented nearly 100 cases of rape in Syria since the conflict started, with many of them involving several men believed to be members of pro-government militias.

Lovely.  But wait, there’s more!:

Al-Jazeera Logo Algerian diplomat tipped as UN envoy to Syria:

Brahimi, 78, has served as a UN special envoy in a series of challenging circumstances, including in Iraq after the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and in Afghanistan both before and after the end of Taliban rule. He was posted in South Africa as it emerged from the apartheid era.

Somehow I don’t think an unarmed septuagenarian Algerian is going to become a pressing issue in the minds of either the Assad government or the rebels.

BBC Logo Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi ‘to be new UN Syria envoy’ – Other goings on:

  • Iran called for dialogue between the government and opposition, at the start of a summit on the crisis in Tehran at which no Western states are present
  • The Lebanese authorities detained Michel Samaha, a former minister with close ties to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad
  • Health Minister Wael al-Halqi was named Syria’s new prime minister, replacing Riad Hijab, who defected to the opposition three days ago

Activists estimate about 20,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted against the Assad regime in March last year. Tens of thousands of people have also fled the country.

Chinese Economic Slowdown:

NYTimes Logo Chinese Export Growth Tumbles:

“Things really aren’t going China’s way,” Alistair Thornton, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Beijing, said in a note. “Those looking for signs of resilience in China’s economic data were merely disappointed yesterday, but they are going to be distraught today.”

BBC Logo China export and import growth slows sharply in July:

"Things really aren’t going China’s way," said IHS Global Insight’s Mr Thornton.

"Those looking for signs of resilience in China’s economic data were merely disappointed yesterday, but they are going to be distraught today."

“Hey, that guy’s right!” – Lenny

Philippine Flooding:

Al-Jazeera Logo Death toll rises in Philippine flood disaster – Manila is less underwater than it was, but:

Tens of thousands of people were continuing to stream into evacuation centres that were already overcrowded and unable to provide enough immediate relief goods.

"The water is still high and the local government units are getting overwhelmed," Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said, referring to the farming provinces north of Manila where she was touring on Friday.

"We have evacuation centres that are congested. That is the whole problem."

Just over 362,000 people were sheltering in evacuation centres on Friday, nearly 50,000 more than on Thursday, according to the disaster council.

The number of people officially affected by the floods also rose to 2.44 million, from 2.1 million on Thursday.

Three and a half hundred thousand (362,000) at shelters, but the death count is low, so nobody cares enough to start giving free teevee time to Red Cross donation spots. 

Drug War:

BBC Logo Top Mexican ‘drug queen’ Sandra Avila extradited to the US:

Sandra Avila Beltran, dubbed Queen of the Pacific, has been handed over to the American authorities to face cocaine trafficking charges.

Mexican prosecutors accuse her of having played a major part in the build up of the Sinaloa Cartel in the 1990s.

Sandra Avila, who has been in prison since 2007, denies any wrongdoing.

With her behind bars I can say with great confidence that drugs will soon be unavailable in the United States.

Fit to Print:

NYTimes Logo S.E.C. and Justice Dept. End Mortgage Investigations Into Goldman:

Federal authorities ended two investigations into the actions of Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis, handing a quiet victory to the bank after years of public scrutiny.

In a rare statement late Thursday, the Justice Department said there was “not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution” against Goldman or its employees after a Congressional committee asked prosecutors to investigate several mortgage deals at the bank. Federal prosecutors are typically loathe to acknowledge the closing of a case, doing so publicly in only a handful of instances over the last several years.

I don’t have the precise figures in front of me, but I think that puts the score at something like Banksters: 8.7 Trillion, Feds: 3. 

NYTimes Logo Regulator Shines Spotlight on a Bank, and on Himself:

Some officials investigating the bank view Mr. Lawsky’s action as the product of political ambition, suspecting that he is already considering a run for governor himself one day. As an indication, they and others cite the tone of Mr. Lawsky’s order against the bank where he called it a “rogue,” claimed it had “zeal to make hundreds of millions of dollars at almost any cost” and was engaged in “dealings that indisputably helped sustain a global threat to peace and stability.”

Are any of those “Some officials” quoted?  Of course not.  But kudos to the anonymous editor at the Times who put this story (subtitled “Aggressive action by Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York’s top banking regulator, against the British bank Standard Chartered has some wondering about his goals”) directly below the one about Goldman getting away with it for the umpteenth time. 

NYTimes Logo Gay Couples Face Pressure to Have Children – As vapid as these kinds of stories are (it cites new shows on NBC and ABC as evidence for fuck’s sake), crap like this is how the Times pays for itself.  This’ll be at or near the top of the “Most E-mailed” list before the end of the day.

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