Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Reading and Links -- July 7

This weekend's stories have scaled back from rolling boil to simmer. No special theme today. Eclectic collection instead.

Avoiding Algeria in Egypt
July 6, 2013
Álvaro de Vasconcelos is Director of Projects for the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI), a consortium of 16 think tanks in the Arab world and the West, and coordinator of the Global Governance Group (GG 10). He was formerly Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris, and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (IEEI) in Lisbon.
Hope remains that Egypt will not become Algeria in 1992 (or Chile in 1973). But to avoid that grim fate, it is imperative that Muslim Brotherhood members’ fundamental rights now be protected. 
US President Barack Obama, who has expressed deep concern about the overthrow of Morsi, is perhaps the only leader able to mediate in such a situation and work for a consensus solution that prevents a civil war. To achieve this, he would need to use all of the leverage at his disposal, including cutting off the massive military assistance that the US provides to Egypt’s armed forces, as he has threatened to do. He can also use the reserve of trust that he established by reaching out to the Brotherhood during Morsi’s presidency. 
But will Obama take the initiative? His speech in Cairo in 2009 – which called for “A New Beginning” in the region – inspired many in the Arab world. Now it is time for more than words.

When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.

My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

Number Six stands out to me...
(6.)   Sixth, the MB has also shown their true undemocratic colors when they decided to go after the constitutional court, the judiciary, the free press, the NGOs, and to draft a deeply flawed electoral law slanted to their favor. Theoretically, the MB seems to be relying on an ancient and outdated political philosophy whereby the people’s participation in the political system appears to start and finish with the ballot boxes, what Amr Ezzat coined as ‘ballotocracy’. According to this view, arguably based on medieval precedents, the leader, once elected should command total respect and obedience from his (and of course there is no ‘”or her” in this political vision) followers. He is constantly compared to a captain of a ship or a leader of a caravan. If you don’t follow his commands, you run the risk of drowning or perishing in the barren desert. The MB, and strangely Anne Patterson, do not seem to believe that the president’s role is more akin to the CEO of a company or the president of a university who is accountable to a board of directors or to stockholders/board of trustees; who is subject to laws and procedures; and who can be fired and sacked if he does not do his job properly. If this view imbuing total obedience seems generally outdated, it is particularly unsuitable for a revolutionary moment. Not realizing the people cannot be expected to go home and mind their business after casting their votes in the presidential elections is the gravest mistake the Brotherhood/Patterson coalition has committed.

Service Brings Scorn to Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Enlistees
By Isabel Kershner, yesterday's NT Times
The integration of Haredim, or “those who fear God,” into the military — and providing them a path into the work force — is viewed as essential by many Israelis, not only to uphold the principle of social equality but also to ensure the economic survival of the country. More than a quarter of Jewish first graders in Israeli schools belong to the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox minority. 
In recent years, hundreds have served in Nahal Haredi, a combat battalion established in the late 1990s for ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds. About 3,000 more have served in Shahar, an army program set up in late 2007 to train young married ultra-Orthodox men as technical staff members for the air force, navy, intelligence and other branches of the military. 
To attract recruits, Shahar allows soldiers to go home every night during their two-year army stint and provides a government salary. 
But with Parliament working on legislation that would eventually lead to the conscription of ultra-Orthodox men, and the subsequent backlash among the Haredim, things now appear to be moving in the opposite direction.
This brings tears to my eyes.
“No fighting,” Anderson said, as she handed out 15 meals and walked toward the back of the bus, where a young mother in a tank top and pink slippers was sitting with her 2-year-old son. The mother opened the toddler’s fruit cup and, a minute later, the little boy stood up on his seat, laughed and tossed the fruit cup out the school bus window.

“How dare you?” the mother said, turning to the toddler, slapping his bottom hard enough for the bus to go quiet, then pulling her arm back to slap him again.

“It’s okay,” Anderson said, hurriedly reaching into another bag for a replacement cup of fruit, breaking the rule about seconds.

“It is not okay with me!” the mother said. She turned back to her son, who was wailing, and yanked him back into his seat. “Sit on your butt,” she said. “What did I tell you about wasting?”

Anderson watched the mother for a few seconds and wondered if this would be one of the times when she needed to call child protective services to make a report. It had happened three times on buses already in the past two weeks, once for possible child abuse and twice for possible neglect. Stress, anger, desperation — these were behaviors she had been told to anticipate on the bus at a time when a record 10 percent of children live in homes unable to provide adequate, nutritious food. “Low-income families are being pushed to the very edge,” one of her training manuals had warned. But now Bible walked back from his driver’s seat and put his hand on the young mother’s shoulder. “It’s hot. We’re hungry. Nobody is in a good mood,” he said. “So I’d like to tell a joke. Have you heard that this bus has 2050 air conditioning? That means 20 windows down and 50 miles an hour.”

The mother appeased him with a smile. The 2-year-old went back to eating his sandwich. The meal ended, and the bus emptied out.
Khaled Fahmy is professor and chair of AUC's Department of History.
What led me to rebel against Mohamed Morsi and to not consider him as the legitimate president of Egypt was his failure to achieve the goals of the revolution, and particularly, not standing up to the army and the police. We revolted so that we could subject the army to parliamentary supervision, and we were stunned to see the Brotherhood’s constitution maintaining all the army’s perks and privileges , allowing for military trials for civilians, exempting the army from the necessity of presenting its budget to parliamentary oversight, and ruling out the possibility of appointing a civilian as minister of defence. As for reforming the police, the president avoided every serious initiative to reform the interior ministry, and turned a blind eye to human rights violations still being committed by the police and did not put an end to the legal and structural environment that allowed for torture to spread across police stations.

Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitationsterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found. 
At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews. 
From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.
More at the link. 

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