This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.
- Journalist Matthieu Aikins has the cover story for GQ this month, and it’s a very well-done account of the siege of the US Embassy in Kabul last September.
- Graft is a major obstacle to progress in the Afghan transitional process.
- President Karzai has backed newly-released, strict guidelines for Afghan women, decided upon by the clerics of the Ulema Council, in what is seen as a big step back for gender equality in the Afghan transition.
- Rifts and rivalry have been exposed within Tehreek e-Taliban (TTP), the Pakistani branch of the militant group. Deputy commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad was fired, sparking anger and talk of a splinter group.
- China plans to increase its defense spending by 11.2% in the coming year. In 2012, Asia is expected to overtake Europe in its military spending, led by China.
- Humanitarian aid finally reached the Baba Amro district of Homs.
- Syria’s deputy oil minister, Abdo Hussameldin, has become the highest ranking official to defect from Bashar al-Assad’s government to the rebels, doing so in a YouTube video this week.
- The intervention debate within the US has ramped up considerably as the administration inches toward action.
- New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks writes movingly about Anthony Shadid’s last days.
- French photographer William Daniels writes for TIME about the last days with Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, and his own escape from Homs.
- War is erupting in the south of Yemen between government forces and a group known as Ansar al-Shar’ia.
- The “Kony 2012” campaign, which I think we can agree makes it sound like Invisible Children is trying to get Joseph Kony elected president, has had some serious and important rebuttals and takedowns: The Atlantic, The Atlantic, UN Dispatch, Visible Children.
- A group of female veterans have released a statement calling on the Pentagon to drop Rush Limbaugh’s show from Armed Forces Radio, and more than 18,000 people have signed a petition in a similar vein.
- A new lawsuit has been filed over negligence and lack of action to prevent and prosecute military rape against Panetta, Gates and Rumsfeld by eight Marines and Navy officers. Their stories are horrific and demonstrate the shameful treatment of women and rape victims inside the system. A New York Times editorial yesterday called the rate of rape in the US military “intolerably high.”
- The Director of National Intelligence has released data on Guantanamo Bay recidivism and the numbers on re-engagement of former detainees. Lawfare points to a particularly important chart.
- Assessing the key quotes and arguments in Eric Holder’s speech defending targeted killing.
- This Week in Wannabe Jihadists: A Brooklyn-born man, 24-year-old Betim Kaziu was sentenced to 27 years in prison for his attempt to join Al Qaeda or the Taliban. A former Army soldier from Maryland, Craig Benedict Baxam, is going on trial for trying to join Al-Shabaab.
- Al Qaeda’s English language outreach programs have faltered seriously.
- A congressional report (prepared for the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission by Northrup Grumman) says that China has progressed to testing their cyberattack capabilities. [pdf]
- After talks were set to resume with Iran, a new report is circulating that satellite imagery shows a hidden Iranian nuclear plant.
Photo: Feb 24. A boy walks down a shelled out street in Baba Amro, Homs. The building on the right is where photographer William Daniels stayed with other journalists, including Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik. William Daniels - Panos for TIME.
In 1991, Barack Obama, then a student at Harvard, stepped into the fray of a major on-campus debate. Obama publicly supported a professor named Derrick Bell, who was at the center of a fight over diversity and the denial of tenure to a black female professor. Bell, however, was a controversial figure for spearheading an academic discipline called Critical Race Theory, which read issues of race and power into a legal context. This video became a major issue in recent weeks, as Andrew Breitbart, who died last week, planned to release this video as evidence of a major gotcha on Obama. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum … Buzzfeed beat them to their own scoop. A roundup of what happened:
- Breitbart Before Andrew Breitbart died last week, the conservative figure said he had something big from Obama’s Harvard days, and was about to release it when he died.
- Buzzfeed However, the upstart political wing of Buzzfeed got there first, licensing the 1991 video from a Boston television station and posting hours before Breitbart’s folks could.
- PBS But it appears that in the end, PBS beat both sites by a full four years, covering it in “The Choice 2008,” a Frontline special. Some scoop Breitbart got. source
» Allegations of selective editing … overruled: Breitbart’s folks claimed that the clip acquired by Andrew Kaczynski was selectively edited, and that their clip offered details that his didn’t. However, the PBS clip, posted hours later, appears to show the exact same scene, validating Kaczynski’s find. Now, Breitbart’s John Nolte has gone from attacking the veracity of BuzzFeed’s video to attacking editor-in-chief Ben Smith. Kaczynski says that, whatever the case, he was looking for this video long before Breitbart announced his find, totally punching holes in the whole thing. But here’s the thing that really kills it: You could watch this video and not even know it was controversial. (We watched it and saw a guy who looked like he was going to be president 20 years ago.) Perhaps a fitting end for Breitbart, a man whose journalistic legacy was at times flawed.
But can we please admit that many four year colleges do in fact attempt to indoctrinate students? And that a lot of Americans, including President Obama, regard that as a good thing? […]
It is nevertheless true that institutions of higher education generally value reason more than faith; they value intellectual achievement more than moral achievement; they’re implicated in America’s careerism; they advance a whole host of value judgments under the banner of diversity, some of them uncontroversial, others deeply contested; and if the typical American college was more like Hillsdale or Notre Dame or Bob Jones than Harvard in its value judgments, I cannot believe President Obama would be equally enthusiastic about subsidizing them. Am I wrong?
In January, San Francisco residents were treated to the unveiling of the world’s first Celestial Observatory for Single-Celled Organisms — actually, an art installation by Jonathon Keats that features cyanobacteria hooked up to the Hubble Space Telescope via a custom video feed.
“Bacteria have never been given observatory access, to study the cosmos for themselves,” Keats told Wired (for which he is an occasional columnist) back in January. “Their experience of the universe has always been at the scale of microns.”
Keats aims to rectify that appalling oversight, in hopes that his little cyanobacteria will succeed where humanity’s greatest minds have failed: devising a viable theory of everything “reconciling cosmic and quantum observations… in their own bacterial way.”
Keats’ project is part of a larger exhibit called “Vast and Undetectable,” at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, designed to “explore space that is either so large or so small we cannot conceive of it with our known processes of sight and comprehension.”
The exhibit runs through April 14, and also includes installations centered on slime molds (video footage, not the actual slime molds, because gross!), embossed prints of star clusters stripped of colorization and presented in their raw form, and deconstructed color-coded maps from the Hubble Space Telescope’s deep-field images.
Location Los Angeles, California
Owen Cotter is known by his friends as “The Captain” and within the sci-fi community as “the Human Star Trek Encyclopedia.” As a recognized expert, he showcases his unique gift of memory for science fiction at conventions, events, and industry gatherings around the country. Inspired by SciFiction, a Hugo award-winning literary project formerly run by SyFy, Owen is redeveloping SciFiction.com into a global information portal for the sci-fi community. Owen loves William Shatner, technology, and Texas Hold’em poker charity tournaments.
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