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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"In March 2011, while many of the arms depots belonging to the government of Libya were being looted, we wrote about how the weapons taken from Libyan government stockpiles could end up being used to fuel violence in the region and beyond. Since then, we have seen Tuareg militants, who were previously employed by the regime of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, leave Libya with sizable stockpiles of weapons and return to their homes in northern Mali, where they have successfully wrested control of the region away from the Malian government. These Tuareg militants were aided greatly in their battle against the government by the hundreds of light pickup trucks mounted with crew-served heavy weapons that they looted from Libyan depots. These vehicles, known as 'technicals,' permitted the Tuareg rebels to outmaneuver and at times outgun the Malian military. Moreover, we have recently received reports that Tuareg rebels also brought back a sizable quantity of SA-7b shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) .. The man-portable facet of MANPADS severely limits the size of the warhead that the weapon can carry compared to larger surface-to-air missile systems. They are also designed to engage and destroy low-flying military aircraft densely packed with fuel and ordnance. Because of this, MANPADS are not ideally suited for bringing down large civilian aircraft. Though airliners are hardly designed to absorb a missile strike, the damage a single MANPADS can inflict may not be catastrophic. MANPADS systems employ infrared seekers that are drawn to the heat signature of an aircraft's engine, and therefore tend to hit the engine. Large commercial jets are designed to be able to fly and land if they lose an engine, and because of these factors, nearly 30 percent of the commercial aircraft struck by MANPADS have managed to make some sort of emergency or crash landing without loss of life, despite, in some cases, sustaining significant structural damage to the aircraft. Still, the threat is not insignificant. The other 70 percent of civilian planes that have been hit by MANPADS have crashed with considerable loss of life. Indeed, on departure from or approach to an airport, airliners do have to traverse predictable airspace at low altitudes -- well within the engagement envelope of MANPADS -- and their airframes are under considerable stress." (STRATFOR)

"At first glance, the vote from the March Democratic presidential primary in Oklahoma looked like a misprint. The tally from Dewey County showed 86 votes for Randall Terry, 59 votes for Jim Rogers and 47 votes for Barack Obama. Terry is a lightly funded anti-abortion activist. Rogers is a frequent and largely unsuccessful candidate in the Sooner State. Obama is president of the United States. It would be nice to say that the Dewey County vote was an aberration. But it wasn’t. So far in this year’s Democratic primaries, Obama has lost 15 counties in Oklahoma, six counties in Alabama, and three parishes in Louisiana to a mixture of 'Uncommitted' ballot lines and little-known opponents that basically serve as human 'none of the above' options. That is fully two dozen counties that the president has lost running 'unopposed' in the Democratic primaries, with a full month of voting still to go. The basic question is whether these eye-catching results have any meaning for the fall. It is certainly fair to argue that they are much adieu about nothing (or very little). Obama’s primary showings have been weakest in states in the Republican South that he has little chance of winning. And the counties he has lost have tended to be part of the rural white South, a constituency that not only drifted away from the Democratic Party in general elections decades ago but also seems particularly resistant to the nation’s first African-American president." (CenterofPolitcs)


"Charles Taylor is a villain who terrorized, oppressed, and repressed his people. Instead of being a leader, he decided he would be a ruler. When he became president of Liberia in 1997, he had a chance to wash away the gangster attitude of the evil regime that preceded him. Instead, he chose a path of violence, sparking a bloody civil war among the people who had elected him to lead. Last week, I watched from my bed in the morning as he awaited the verdict in his trial for war crimes in Sierra Leone. Throughout his six-year reign as president of Liberia, he sold illegal arms to a murderous rebel group in Sierra Leone in exchange for blood diamonds. Those rebels were responsible for terrible atrocities in that country’s civil war—rape, mass killings, sexual slavery. At the same time, in his own country, he forced tens of thousands of young people to fight in his armies, shattering their lives.I watched the trial with mixed emotions. Every time Taylor came on the screen, I thought of that saying, 'Oh, see how hard the mighty have fallen.' I also felt real sorrow when I saw the amputees from Sierra Leone, survivors of war.When the guilty verdict was handed down, I walked outside and saw a rainbow encircling the sun. Everyone in Monrovia could see it. It was a hot day, 80 or 90 degrees. I don’t remember seeing any raindrops fall. I thought, this is a sign. It is over. All is well. I spent many years fighting for peace in Liberia." (Leymah Gobwe)

"'IT’S THE story. It is the feeling that you really make a little bit of a difference. You’re doing something useful ... helped somebody out of some trouble, you’ve righted a wrong, you’ve exposed something worth exposing.' This is the quote under splendid photos of the late Mike Wallace from his handsome 'Remembrance' memorial program by CBS. The memorial took place Tuesday in Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It played to a packed house.I congratulate the head of CBS News and 60 Minutes — one Jeff Fager — for how he opened and closed. He said of the crowd at first that Mike would have loved being there, but he’d want to know the count! Then followed clips of 'Mike’s Methods' which included lots of shots of Wallace saying, 'Forgive me' over and over, for asking tough guys like Putin, Malcolm X, and the Ayatollah Khomeini follow-up questions." (Liz Smith/NYSocialDiary)


"Yesterday was also the 30th annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon in the Conservatory Garden of Central Park. Readers know it mainly as the Hat Lunch because it has become tradition to wear a hat. The women are as fashionable as ever. What is different is that many of them are wearing hats and many of those hats are very creative and even amazing. The spirit of it makes me laugh. It's funny and fun and all meant in the best of ways. There's a pride in it all; and everyone wins. This year Anne Harrison, the current president of the Women's Committee honored Gillian Miniter and J P Morgan (the bank) for their ardent and longtime support of the Conservancy. Gillian has been working for the Park in several capacities – President of the Women's Committee, Chairman of Playground Partners; co-chair of two FLO Luncheons. During Gillian's term as president (2009 – 2011) she helped more than $13 million for Central Park." (NYSociaDiary)


"It wasn't only pundits getting into the election spirit last night. At the Top of the Standard, where Downtown for Democracy and OHWOW Gallery were celebrating the Pocket Guide to Politics launch, politics was indeed the hot topic. There was even a table laid out for voter registration. 'It's so easy to register," Girls' Lena Dunham told Style.com. 'There's really no excuse.' Just moments earlier, Dunham's close friend and one of the evening's hosts Audrey Gelman took the mike to champion voter activism. Later, the Virgins banged out a couple songs on a baby grand piano. It wasn't your usual indie band music, but the guests didn't seem to mind. Mos Def, who took time to throw a couple thumbs up for the camera with Terry Richardson, and Mia Wasikowska, in a printed midriff-baring bustier top, hung out late into the night." (Style)


"Meanwhile a pal asked me to check out a band, friends of hers. 'They’re a trio from Boston and they’re awesome!' my pal said. 'I’ll tell them to expect you.' Strolling to the venue I was overtaken by some exceptional drumming and I stopped to absorb the syncopations pulsing from an open-fronted bar. In the back a smoky room, on a platform stage was a band of a dozen men on percussion instruments. The sound was bracing and I wanted to dive into its lusciousness, except I had an obligation. And onward I went to the tourist-centric plastic venue with twenty foot blow-up mugs of beer dangling from the rafters. I settled at the bar, and prepared to love the lissome trio performing. My ebullience dissipated as I determined the trio were not awesome. And I couldn’t walk out of the club because there was just me and one double-wide denim clad family, with bulging sunburned skin. To be polite I stayed to the end, to say hello, as per my pal’s instructions. Eventually the caterwauling stopped and I went and gushed how genius they were, because truly I was so grateful they were done. I strained to make conversation but my efforts fell flat and we remained awkward." (Christina Oxenberg)

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