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Friday, July 20, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"With the days and weeks of the Syrian government appearing numbered, the Central Intelligence Agency is scrambling to get a handle on the locations of the country’s chemical and biological weapons, while assessing the composition, loyalties, and background of the rebel groups poised to take power in the event President Bashar al-Assad falls. Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the CIA has sent officers to the region to assess Syria’s weapons program. One major task for the CIA right now is to work with military defectors to find out as much information on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction, according to one U.S. official with access to Syrian intelligence.Another focus will be to sort through reams of intercepted phone calls and emails, satellite images, and other collected intelligence to find the exact locations of the Syrian weapons, this official said.  This task has become more urgent in recent days. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Syrian military was moving its chemical weapons out of storage." (TheDailyBeast)


"There's a buzz, a palpable energy, running through the corridors of Africa's capitals and urban areas, and much of it revolves around tech.  What happens when smartphones outsell computers four to one, and 50% of a continent's population is below the age of 20? You have a technology-literate mobile generation unlike any that has come before.This week finds me in Botswana.I've talked to a couple of start-up entrepreneurs - Pule Mmolotsi, who is testing out an Oyster-like card for public transportation in the country, and Katy Digovich, who is creating apps for the Ministry of Health. They represent what I continue to see across the continent - a new generation trying new ideas and taking to technology.African governments aren't fast or savvy enough to build the infrastructure needed to support this type of entrepreneurial tech activity. Academic institutions are woefully behind in teaching skills for computer science and design. So where do people like Pule and Katy go? What mechanisms support their start-ups and connect them to capital, businesses and their peers?
If you had asked that question two years ago, the answer would have been: 'Very little.' But in the past two years there has been an interesting phenomenon in Africa - the proliferation of tech hubs and incubators." (BBC)


"GSTAAD—Mountains in summer have a faraway astral beauty, snowy and shrouded in cloud peaks like old men wearing spats ... Until 1741 people believed that dragons inhabited the Alps. Reliable witnesses compiled a list of what these dragons looked like. One had a snake’s body and a cat’s head. Others were snakes with a bat’s wings. Some had scaly legs and a two-pronged tail. Their eyes sparkled horribly. Then two fool Englishmen went up and reported that the tails were glaciers, the eyes were mountain lightning, and the curled-up tail was La Mer de Glace. Leave it to two English bores to ruin Mont Blanc forever by exposing it to something far worse than dragons with scaly legs: mass tourism. It’s been downhill ever since. Just like Taki. Already crippled by severe arthritis on both ankles after 60 years of high-end sport, I tried a rather fancy mawashi geri (round kick) last week, and the terrible sound of ligament, muscle, and bone being ripped apart was heard all the way to Lausanne. The standing leg collapsed, my knee gone for the duration. It could have been a dragon let loose by some avalanche that got me." (Taki)



"I get a lot of news about Libya from the Libya Herald, a plucky English-language newspaper which started up earlier this year. One of my favorite leads, from the midst of the elections last week, read, 'Though deploring the abduction of Libya's Olympic committee president, the British foreign secretary William Hague has hailed the progress that Libya has made since the revolution as ‘inspiring.' That's Libya in a nutshell: Baby steps towards democracy against a backdrop of vigilante justice. Both those who advocated the NATO bombing campaign which led to the overthrow of Muammar al-Qaddafi, and those who opposed it, can now find grounds for vindication. It's early days, and no one can foretell Libya's future. But the surprisingly solid victory last week of a coalition led by Mahmoud Jibril, a moderate, American-educated businessman, has been enthralling for Libyans, and deeply encouraging to the anxious Westerners who have been monitoring the process." (FP)

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