WTF Friday, 9/2/2011

Thanks to a reader from Denver for pointing out this fucked up and weird comic to us. Credit to commenter “Kaiser Dragon” not only for the Final Fantasy reference but also for noting the obvious point of this comic: “I like the part where they talk like stereotypical black people, cause they are from Africa and that makes it funnier.”

“Dude, check it out I’m in Libya revolutionizing in my throwback and shit.”

Now this is a strange one. Maybe well-intentioned? Still, nothing is ever gonna make me feel comfortable about seeing “asylum-seeker” and “game show” in the same sentence. Plus, how much an asylum-seeker knows about Dutch culture is pretty low on the list of reasons to allow them to stay in the Netherlands. And, as Joshua Keating points out, “You have to wonder about anyone who would actually enjoy watching this.” Also, that slow zoom on Geert Wilders in the video is probably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. That is all.

In Which I Am Actually Rendered Speechless

As many of you know, I got married recently. Planning a wedding is a weird process where people ask you a lot of things that you don’t really have answers to, like “What kind of forks do you like?” or “Orange-y pink red, or like, reddish orange pink?”

One of the questions that gave me the most trouble was “What’s the theme of your wedding?”  (Me: “Wait, I know this one! Uh… marriage?”)  If only I’d come up with this couple’s answer.

That’s right, their nuptial theme was Colonial F*cking Africa.  Because nothing says joy and eternal devotion like kicky party decor reminiscent of the rape, slaughter, enslavement, and oppression of millions of people.  Oh, and p.s. the wedding was IN SOUTH AFRICA.

Dodai Stewart has a great post up at Jezebel pointing out the epic inappropriateness on display here.  But I have to ask: Is this actually the worst wedding theme ever, or does some happy couple out there have pictures of their flower girl dressed up like Himmler?

Hattip to @laurenist

Today in Baby Lions

Some good news from Somalia, and bonus, it’s about lions!

Katharine Houreld of the AP reports today that Somali authorities, in an unusual show of state capacity, have rescued a pair of rare Berbera lion cubs from being trafficked abroad.  This is the first time animals have been confiscated from smugglers in Mogadishu.  Apparently, the port manager noticed the baby lions aboard a ship and reported their presence to an organization training AU peacekeepers, which is now housing the cubs and keeping them supplied with tasty goat snacks.  So: go Somali government.  Way to do a thing!

And, because it’s totally relevant, here are some lion cubs I saw last spring at the Bronx zoo (where you probably shouldn’t go until they track down that poisonous cobra).

The Nuge on Africa

The fates have seen fit to bless us with a gift on this snowy March (new motto: “in like a lion, out like an asshole”) day. It’s an op-ed about Libya by Ted Nugent. And yes, it’s that Ted Nugent.

The scintillating intellect that gave us “If You Can’t Lick ‘Em… Lick ‘Em” thinks that the U.S. should stay out of Libya because: “Once we swat one of these African cockroaches or intervene in their civil war, where do we stop?”

The piece is full of slurs and stereotypes so offensive that we hesitate to call it “casual racism.” (Serious hobbyist racism, possibly? Considering-going-pro-but-not-willing-to-give-up-a-shot-at-the-racism-Olympics?) We’re honestly amazed that this got published.

Which brings us to a question (or two) for the Washington Times’s editorial board:

We note that your submission guidelines specify that contributions should not contain libelous or misleading material. Now, the Nuge is a regular contributor, not a freelancer, and therefore may be above such petty considerations as truth and whatnot, but perhaps you’d like to run your keen editorial eyes back over the following statements:

“Genocide is a way of life [in Africa].”

“There is no country in Africa that truly respects freedom or the rule of law.”

“AIDS is projected to kill as much as half the populations of some countries.”

Because here’s the thing, editors (and Nuge): There are more then 50 countries in Africa, with a total population of over 1 billion people. In the past 20 years, exactly 1 of these countries has experienced a clear case of genocide. Even if the contested case of Darfur is added to the tally, that’s a whopping 2 countries (Rwanda and Sudan for those of you playing along at home) comprising a population of approximately 50 million people. So 5% of Africa’s population lives in a country with a recent history of genocide. By way of comparison, guess what approximately 5% of America’s population does? Lives in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.  Would you say that being bitten by a celebrity’s chihuahua is a “way of life” in the United States?

And as for respecting freedom and the rule of law, we’re not sure what Nugent thinks those words mean – this is a man who describes the U.S. justice system as “a failed court system and the evil perpetrators of its insidious, engineered recidivism, virtually guaranteeing stacks of dead victims at the hands of released monsters, while the supreme black-robers go about their professionally protected little lives.” If, despite his apparently low opinion of justice in the U.S., he means that “Africa” doesn’t measure up to the American standard of respect for rule of law, we’ll just note that a recent index compiled by the World Justice Project showed Ghana scoring within 3 points of the United States on respect for fundamental rights (14 and 11 respectively on a scale of 1 (best) to 35 (worst)) and South Africa scoring within 1 point of the U.S. on access to justice (12 and 11).  Last we checked, both of those countries were in Africa.  So, uh, maybe dial back the self-righteous accusations?

Oh, and AIDS isn’t projected to kill half of anyone’s population. Perhaps your esteemed columnist has misinterpreted the frequently-cited statistic that approximately half of global AIDS deaths have occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Er, and you all know that Charles Taylor’s name is Charles, not Robert, right? Right?

And finally, exactly what policy prescriptions are we supposed to derive from this choice observation: “Africa is an international scab”?

Africa is an international scab and we should pick it? Africa is an international scab and we should wait for it to dry up and fall off? Africa is an international scab and we should be more careful shaving in the future? Help us out here.

Hattip to our friend TexasinAfrica, whose impressively restrained comment to the op-ed you should also check out.

Land of Rape, Lions, and Bones, Apparently

An anonymous tipster pointed me to this article on the One Million Bones project (which I’ve blogged about before), and its epic last sentence:

“They won’t be able to [ignore genocide] in 2013, if Natale’s project comes together and one million bones are sprawled across our nation’s capital, just as they are across cities in Africa.”

Yes, that has always been my least favorite thing about African cities: plenty of cheap beer, but you’re constantly tripping over stray femurs and tibias.

WTF Friday, 8/27/10 and 9/3/10

I purposely withheld last week’s WTF Friday just to hit you guys with a double whammy this week.

Omar al-Bashir made a surprise appearance at the celebration for Kenya’s new constitution. The ICC has reported Kenya to the UN Security Council, but in the words of Kenya’s foreign affairs minister, “He is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest. That is not African.” Well thank you, Miss Manners.

Africa: Land of Rape and UN Condemnation of Rape

In non-African rape news, the rape of a transgender woman in the Vietnamese province of Quang Binh may not be prosecuted. The judicial authorities in Quang Bin province are apparently under the impression that rape law in Vietnam only covers the rape of women by men, and “the victim had not reclassified her legal gender from male to female.” According to the chief judge of the provincial People’s Court, “Even if the group raped her ten times, we would not be able to sentence them.” I sure hope the perpetrators haven’t seen that quote! (Vietnamese law actually says nothing about the gender of rape victims or perpetrators.)

Double secret reverse genocide in the DRC? Say it ain’t so, Pauly K.! (via FP Passport).

I don’t think it’s premature to name this photo the “Cutest/Saddest of the Pakistan Flood.” Disaster porn at its finest.

I find it kind of unfortunate that the Football Association elections in Sudan seem to have been run more fairly than the actual elections. And that the Sudanese government seems to take FIFA more seriously than the ICC. Just saying.

So Wyclef seems to be taking his disqualification from the Haitian Presidential Election well: “‘Do you intend to continue supporting people who have no respect for Haiti’s Constitution?’ read the message on his Twitter account, which was later translated into English. ‘Do you continue to support people violating the right of the person who [do] not believe in the value of mankind, that every man is a man, and everybody has to live decently?’” And of course, he’s dropped a protest song and video in record time. This whole thing is starting to make more sense to me now that I realized Wyclef is dropping a new album on December 4 (less than a week after the election) featuring two songs with “Haiti” or “Haitian” in the title, another called “Political Correctness,” and I believe an album cover in which the Haitian flag is wrapped around his head. In fact, and I am definitely delving into conspiracy theory here, his last 3 albums seem to be quite a bit more Haiti-centric than his earlier offerings. Has he been planning this since 2004? I think I need to find a new internship/use for my brain.

Lastly, Fidel Castro has issued an apology and taken responsibility for the discrimination faced by homosexuals during his time as President. He claims to have been too busy with food, medicine, the CIA, traitors, etc, to worry about homosexuality, which wasn’t decriminalized until 1979. You gotta make time to worry about rights and stuff, dude. I take like a whole 45 minutes out of my schedule every week!

Impress Your Friends and Outflank Your Enemies: The Wronging Rights Guide to the Conflict-Mineral Regulations in Section 1502 of HR 4173

As Kate notes, the recent passage of new legislation on “conflict minerals” from the DRC has prompted much discussion from the aid-blogosphere. Predictably, the reactions have been mixed. The Enough Project is thrilled, which is hardly surprising, given their extensive campaigning around the conflict-minerals issue. Jason Stearns offers more measured support. Laura Seay at Texas in Africa is not a fan. Chris Blattman, showing himself to be a ninja of skeptical ambivalence, has not just one but two posts in which he somehow manages to criticize nearly every aspect of the new regulations, yet still come out in favor of them overall.

Therefore, this seems like a good time for a quick analysis of what the new legislation actually says. So, without further ado, I present:

Impress Your Friends and Outflank Your Enemies: The Wronging Rights Guide to the Conflict-Mineral Regulations in Section 1502 of HR 4173.

1. Who has to follow the new law’s requirements?

Not clear! The text of the bill amends Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (which is codified in 15 U.S.C. 78m, if you’re interested in looking it up), by adding a new subsection (p) at the end. However, the new subsection (p) doesn’t specify who is bound by its requirements. It seems to leave that up to the SEC’s regulations, which haven’t been issued yet.

You see, paragraph 1(A) of the new law directs the SEC to issue regulations requiring “any person described in paragraph 2″ to comply with the new reporting requirements.

Easy, right? Just check paragraph 2! Well, except that paragraph 2 refers right back to paragraph 1(A). It defines “persons” as anyone (1) who is required to comply with the reporting requirements in paragraph 1(A); and (2) who manufactures a product that either (a) requires conflict minerals in order to function, or (b) requires conflict minerals as part of the manufacturing process.

So yeah, that’s a little confusing. As far as I can tell, this allows the SEC significant discretion to decide who must comply with the reporting requirements, as long as the category is limited to manufacturers of “products.” (Another term that isn’t defined yet! Isn’t law fun?)

(The Enough Project and the Washington Post appear to be under the impression that the law applies only to publicly traded companies, but I can’t figure out where they’re getting that idea from. I emailed Enough’s Laura Heaton, though, and will update this section if I get more information.)

2. What does the new law require people to do?

The new law’s requirements fall into two basic categories. The first category imposes new disclosure and auditing responsibilities on private citizens and corporations who manufacture products using “conflict minerals.” The second category orders the State Department to get to work on a “strategy and map to address the linkages between conflict minerals and armed groups.” Much as I love maps, I’ll focus on the first category in this analysis, because it’s the one that’s most relevant to the debate over the regulation of conflict minerals.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll begin with a few things the new law does not do. It does not outlaw conflict minerals, from the DRC or elsewhere. It does not create any new crimes. It does not apply to any person or corporation that’s outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. (For the moment, it’s unclear who it actually does apply to, as will be discussed further below.) It does not specify any new penalties or punishments.

So what does the new law require? Well, for the next nine months, nothing. The law directs the SEC to develop a new set of regulations on the disclosure of “conflict minerals” used in the manufacture of products. Those new regulations aren’t due until 270 days after the law was enacted, so for now, a lot remains unclear.

However, the gist of the new law is that although nothing has been outlawed, an awful lot of things are about to become much more expensive, complicated, and difficult. Congress did specify certain things that the SEC’s new regulations must include, so I’ll explain those for now.

a. Initial Disclosure
First, all “persons” covered by the law must submit an annual report disclosing whether they used conflict minerals that originated in the DRC, or in an adjoining country, to manufacture any of their products.

(The definitions of “person,” “conflict minerals,” and “adjoining country” are discussed more below. If you just can’t wait to get there, feel free to scroll down and check them out now, and I’ll wait for you up here. Otherwise, in a nutshell, “conflict minerals” are coltan, cassiterite, gold, wolframite, or their derivatives; an “adjoining country” is one that shares a border with the DRC; and “person” is not yet fully defined, but will be some subset of manufacturers who use conflict minerals in their products.)

Manufacturers who can be certain that their conflict minerals didn’t come from that region are done: no more duties under the new law. They also get to pass go, and collect $200. Lucky bastards.

However, if the manufacturers use minerals that are from that region of Africa, or whose source is unclear, then the new law imposes some significant new investigation and disclosure requirements on them.

b. Audit Requirements
First, the manufacturer must conduct an “independent private sector audit” of the minerals’ origin and chain of custody, and certify the audit’s results. The audit must meet standards to be set through the coordination of three different federal agencies: the Comptroller General of the United States, the SEC, and the Secretary of State. If the audit is found to be unreliable, then the manufacturer will be in violation of the disclosure requirements, and the person who certified it might also be in very hot water personally with the SEC.

This audit requirement has the potential to be hugely burdensome, because those kinds of audits tend to be very expensive and time-consuming. It’s not hard to see why. Not only is there limited information about conflict areas available, it’s also inherently difficult to tell where minerals have come from, especially if they have already been processed. In combination, those factors mean that investigating minerals’ sources and supply chains won’t be easy. It’s true that “difficult” is not “impossible,” but it is usually “expensive.” Especially because the most important pieces of information here are the ones that will be the hardest to obtain: where the minerals were mined, who mined them, and what relationship the miner had with the region’s “armed groups.”

Providing this kind of information will be difficult for artisanal miners (excellent euphemism alert!) and other small suppliers who are only involved at one stage of the supply chain. So, this seems likely to push minerals from the DRC and its environs further into black and gray markets. (Which is definitely great, because when I think of “markets in which illegal armed groups are unlikely to thrive,” “black ones” come top of the list.) Conversely, because a manufacturer can avoid the costly audit requirement entirely if it’s sure that none of its minerals came from the DRC or its neighbors, I would expect this provision to be a huge boost to large corporations that control mines in other regions of the world and handle their own processing and trading, because they will be able to charge more money for the regulatory safety they offer.

c. Reporting Requirements
After the auditing’s done, the manufacturer has to compile a report that describes in detail (1) the audit and its results, (2) any other due diligence measures that it undertook in order to document the origin and supply chain of the conflict minerals it used, and (3) any products it manufactures that are not “DRC conflict free.” The report has to be submitted to the SEC, and made publicly available on the manufacturer’s website.

Products are only “DRC conflict free” if they don’t contain any minerals that “directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country.” Needless to say, that definition is really, really broad. The distinction between “finance” and “benefit” suggests that an “indirect benefit” would not have to be financial in nature, leaving the options for what would qualify wide open. And “armed groups” include any groups from the DRC or its adjoining countries that have been identified as human rights abusers in the State Department’s country reports on human rights – and as of now, that definition doesn’t carve out exceptions for national armies or UN peacekeepers. (More on that definition below.)

This places the burden on the manufacturer to prove a negative: that the minerals at issue didn’t benefit any armed group, even indirectly. Otherwise, for each non-DRC-conflict-free product, the manufacturer must report “the facilities used to process the conflict minerals, the country of origin of the conflict minerals, and the efforts to determine the mine or location of origin with the greatest possible specificity.” Once again: very difficult information to get, even more difficult information to trust. Complying with this requirement will be expensive.

The other due diligence requirements, beyond the audit, won’t be clear until the SEC issues its new regulations. However, the text of the law suggests that they won’t be mere formalities. The statute specifies that relying on due diligence processes that have been “previously determined by the Commissioner [of the SEC] to be unreliable,” is not enough to constitute compliance with the new law.

3. Some Definitions! We Love Definitions!

  1. “Conflict Minerals”: the new law defines “conflict minerals” as either (A) coltan, cassiterite, gold, wolframite, or their derivatives; or (B) any other mineral or its derivatives that the Secretary of State later determines to be “financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country.”

    This is interesting for two reasons. First, the definition isn’t limited to minerals that actually come from the DRC or an adjoining country. So, for instance, gold is now a conflict mineral, no matter where it’s from, or when it was mined. I can understand the reasons for using such a broad definition -if gold from the DRC is interchangeable with gold that was mined 500 years ago, then it’s worth paying attention to the overall market. However, this means that the regulatory burden of the new law will potentially fall on a very broad group of businesses, not just the gadget manufacturers that have been the focus of the media campaign for this new law.

    Second, the Secretary of State can add minerals to the list if they’re financing conflict in an “adjoining country,” but not in the rest of the world. So, minerals that fuel conflict elsewhere aren’t “conflict minerals.” Hear that, petroleum?

  2. “Adjoining Country”: The new law defines “adjoining country” as “a country that shares an internationally recognized border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” (It’s not clear to me why they didn’t just list those countries specifically. Perhaps that option was rejected as an unwarranted leap of faith that those borders would remain stable over the next few years?)

  3. “Armed Groups”: Somewhat confusingly, not all armed groups are “armed groups” for the purposes of the new law. Rather, to qualify, a group must (a) be an “armed group,” and (b) be identified as “perpetrators of serious human rights abuses” in the State Department’s annual human rights report on the DRC or any “adjoining country.” A couple of potential issues here.

    The first is that there’s no carve-out for government or UN forces. As noted in the latest State Dept. report, the FARDC has been responsible for significant human rights abuses. However, including them in the definition of “armed group” means that no minerals can be labeled “DRC conflict free” unless they did not indirectly finance the army, which presumably includes legitimate taxes collected by the government in Kinshasa. Is it just me, or is that not actually a great way to encourage or strengthen legitimate governmental capacity?

    Second, under this definition, if a group isn’t specifically mentioned in one of the State Dept. reports, it doesn’t count for the purposes of the conflict-minerals law. It’s unclear how this would work for groups like the Mai-Mai, who are often discussed in the State Dept. reports as if they are one category of armed actor, but are actually disparate local militias that may or may not be connected to each other, or to other rebel organizations. So, is just being labeled a Mai-Mai militia group enough to be considered an “armed group” under this definition? Or must the State Dept. report reference a specific militia by name in order to count?

I hope this is helpful to y’all. I’m one sleepy blogger now, but if I have time tomorrow, I’ll try to post about my reactions to the arguments that Laura et al. have raised.

Feedback Loops and Sucking Vortexes

I’ve been curious for a long time about whether and how the “all rape all the time” characterization of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo affects the situation on the ground there.

My concern is that the narrow focus on sexual violence as the defining feature of the conflict is both an input and an output of a cycle where:

  1. Rape atrocity stories sell newspapers, drive blog traffic, etc.;
  2. Journalists and other observers focus their reporting on sexual violence to draw audiences and paychecks;
  3. Donors prefer to fund initiatives aimed at combating sexual violence because that’s the high profile issue in all the papers;
  4. Organizations providing services in the field or research and advocacy target more of their programs towards sexual violence to attract donors;
  5. Sources providing information to reporters and NGOs on the ground highlight the very real phenomenon of sexual violence rather than other, equally severe violations because they know that’s what everyone’s interested in. This information then gets used to justify the choices made at steps 2, 3, and 4.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

A recent SIDA working paper by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern fills in another potential piece of this cycle. Its authors argue that:

“Focusing and continuing to channel resources to SGBV specifically—whether in terms of prevention, access to justice or services to survivors—contributes to rape allegations becoming increasingly entangled in survival strategies.”

Their conclusions arise out of interviews conducted with soldiers and with local organizations in the eastern DRC between 2006 and 2009. In their more recent interviews, they began encountering references to what they call “the commercialization of rape.” They note two manifestations of this phenomenon: accusations of rape as an “income-earning strategy” (essentially, extortion) and allegations of rape for access to services and opportunities earmarked for survivors.

The Marias explain the second trend:

“The lack of basic health services and the lack of resources for women who have not been raped—plus the widespread poverty—have created a situation in which destitute women and girls who are not rape survivors sometimes present themselves as rape victims in order gain access to these opportunities.”

Leaving alone the issue of what the disproportionate focus on rape at the expense of other serious violations means for the victims who can’t claim the status of rape survivor, I hope I’m not the only one worried about how this affects our ability to talk accurately about the scope and character of sexual violence in the region.

The entire report is well worth a read, as it discusses a number of other interesting and under-explored issues, including the sometimes perverse incentive structure of demobilization efforts.

Hattip to Patrick at Benetech for forwarding the report.

"A Compound WTF, Wrapped in Proto-Colonialism, Wrapped in Bacon"

Guys, a new bar has been set for reader emails. We have received a tip from alert reader Ashley* notifying us of the following post on, an online community for furries and their friends:
Need some help with a cool idea.
Well me and a friend have come up with this crazy idea that we should get a ton of money together and buy a poor African country. Build up its infrastructure and medical care. Then let the nation prosper.

However we are not sure what nation to go with. So we have made a few points of intrest.

Must have a coast.
Not be totally aids ridden, by African standards.
Have some semblance of a national army.
Not totally jungle or totally desert.

Preferably former English colony with a substantial English speaking population.

So any ideas are welcome and encouraged!

It was posted by a 19 year old kid from Saskatchewan with a thing for crying playing wolf.** A few days later, he followed up with a list of countries that he thought might meet his exacting standards:

So I have a rough list that ill be chopping down. This is a list of most African countries that would fall close in line.
Only stipulation thus far is that there coastal.

In no particular order:

Mauritania; Madagascar; Liberia; Kenya; Guinea-Bissau; Ghana; Gambia; Gabon; Ethiopia; Eritrea; Djibouti; The Ivory Coast; The Republic of Congo; The Democratic Republic of Congo; Cameroon; Benin; Angola; Algeria; Nigeria; Namibia; Tanzania; Sierra Leone; Senegal

List of countries that I could take and build up. Any input would be wonderful!

Although one commenter responded to the first post by suggesting that this plan was “wildly unrealistic, wholly unethical, deeply racist, proto-colonial, and unbelievably insulting to people in any developing country, African or otherwise,” most of the rest of the responses have been along the lines of “ooh, cool, man!” (And shockingly, no one has queried whether the DRC’s whopping 23 miles of oceanfront real estate really qualify it as “coastal.”)

We’ll spare you the usual “Ow, my brain!” rant. We figure you’re familiar with it by now. (And if not, feel free to construct your own from the following list of nouns, interjections, and adjectives: gah!, colonialism, stupid, lions, poverty, ignorance, rape, argh!, presumptuous, oil wealth, magenta.)
Instead, we’d just like to ask whether a little less “save them, white people, you’re their only hope!” flavor in mainstream discourse on Africa could have prevented this tragedy. And maybe propose a new journalistic standard to our news-editor friends:
Perhaps next time you’re polishing a story, you might ask yourself if your article would give a 19 year old kid, whose previous leadership experience consists of sitting in front of a computer wearing a set of bunny ears, the impression that the people of an entire continent are so abjectly helpless and miserable that they would prefer their country to be purchased and ruled by him and a few of his fluffy little friends.
Just a thought.
*We’ve re-purposed Ashley’s email subject as a post title because it was awesome.

** With regard to whether or not the posts are just a joke, we think Ashley said it best in her initial email to us: “I don’t know if it’s a joke. Rephrased: it is clearly a joke, but it’s unclear if it was meant as one.” We agree – we wish it seemed like the kid wasn’t serious, but, uh, it doesn’t seem that way.

WTF Friday, 4/30/10

  • Mother Jones highlights a photo series by Jonathan Torgovnik featuring women who had children as a result of rape during the Rwandan genocide. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like MJ’s headline, “Can You Love a Child of Rape?,” is really the right way to frame this. Doesn’t posing the question that way place “not loving them” as the default, and “loving them” as the exception? Doesn’t that make you kind of uncomfortable? Would really like to hear from our readers on this.

  • Speaking of rape and eye-catching headlines (as we tend to do), there has got to be a better way to convey that there has been a lot of rape in the DRC than calling it the “rape capital of the world.” I mean, shouldn’t the UN have some sort of “special representative on sexual violence in conflict” who would handle these matters more delicately? Oh, they do? Oh, she said it? Cripes.

  • FP has a great piece called “The World’s Worst Immigration Laws.” I find it interesting that Italy fines illegal immigrants while Japan pays them to leave. Wacky world we live in.
  • Lastly, from the “forgone conclusion department,” Bashir wins in a landslide.