Apparently, some British people might have accidentally eaten some horse meat, thinking it was beef. This is apparently a Very Big Deal, because British people are civilized and do not eat horses, unlike the barbaric French.
And yet somehow, no one on the internet has posted the “All our horses are 100% horse-fed for that double-horse juiced-in goodness” clip from Futurama. Seriously, internet, WTF?
I’m pretty sure I just got an email from the future. It’s from Human Rights Watch, and it warns of a potential deadly scourge: killer robots.
According to a new HRW report, several of the world’s most advanced militaries are on their way to developing weapons that “would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention.” HRW is calling for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons, presumably because they know that if we wait until killer robots actually exist, this type of advocacy will only make them mad.
I guess it’s time to redirect some of my zombie apocalypse preparations towards the coming killbot menace.
For everyone who’s ever wondered “what do I need Twitter for, anyway”, it turns out that the surprising answer is: “keeping track of sovereign state declarations of war.”
No, really. My post-Hurricane Sandy restoration of internet services kicked in just in time to catch the Israeli Defense Forces announcing a major operation against Hamas on Twitter. The IDF accompanied their live-tweeting of “Operation Pillar of Defense” with video posted to YouTube of the initial strike, which killed Hamas military wing commander Ahmed al-Jabari.
Over at Foreign Policy, Uri Friedman reports that the video was briefly blocked this morning, after YouTube users flagged its content as a violation of the site’s Community Guidelines, which prohibit “graphic or gratuitous violence.” Users of Twitter have also raised the possibility that some of the IDF’s tweets (like this one) might constitute “specific threats of violence” in violation of the site’s regulations. But the video is back up, and meanwhile, the IDF has kept up a steady stream of tweets and announced Spanish and French language Twitter and Facebook pages, as they battle it out with #GazaUnderAttack for the world’s sympathy.
Direct appeals by political actors to the online court of global public opinion are not unprecedented (see, e.g., Kenya Defense Forces vs. Al-Shabaab, Twitter Edition), but this may be something new. The IDF’s initial Twitter posts preceded by several hours the government press conference announcing the operation. That means that a sovereign state chose to communicate a major policy development via online, privately owned platforms (with content restrictions!), rather than through official channels.
That rustling you hear is the sound of thousands of “International Relations in the 21st Century” syllabi being updated…
I learned today (h/t Peter Dörrie) that Zimbabwe is deploying military personnel to the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).
Know what country’s soldiers you’re definitely not picturing when you hear the term “UN peacekeepers”? That’s right, Zimbabwe.
I would think this was just another item to be filed under “Confusing Choices Made by the International Community in Handling the Syria Crisis” (see, e.g., sending an accused war criminal to head the Arab League observer mission), but Zimbabwe currently has military personnel in the UN missions to Darfur (UNAMID), Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and Liberia (UNMIL), and police in South Sudan (UNMISS), Timor-Leste (UNMIT), and Liberia.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (a major opposition force in Zimbabwe politics) has called on the United Nations to stop using Zimbabwe’s armed forces in its peacekeeping missions on the grounds that their human rights record renders them unfit for service. The army has most recently been accused of abuses against miners in the Marange diamond fields, while the police are alleged to have beaten and tortured civil society activists who viewed a video of the Arab Spring protests in 2011.
So this should definitely help the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with that whole catastrophic image problem thing…
This is kind of the perfect set-up. Nick Cage hasn’t done a prison movie since 1997, and I think we all know how well that went.
“An exhibition of guns as art now in Mexico is making its way from Mexico to the United States, where many of the weapons presumably originated.” I think the ATF just set those guns free because they loved them so much, hoping that they would come back one day, thus reciprocating the love.
I kind of feel like I’m gonna jinx this if I talk about it.
In which I may have gotten tricked into believing something ridiculous. Thanks a lot, Globe. (via FP Passport)
Kutch just ridin the wave. Unlike earlier this month, I guess this one’s a “fun flood.”
“The tournament more notorious for poor goalkeeping, administrative nightmares and tragedy rather than high quality football.” This is just not true. You gotta pick your burdens more carefully.
Charles Taylor’s story where he escapes from prison (with help from the US Government) by tying bed sheets together and climbing out of a window is all of a sudden gaining some credibility. Actually, this kind of thing is surprisingly common.
Oh, that’s rich. You know what’s also like colonialism? Colonialism.
I’m really looking forward to this.
While reading the Sudan Tribune the other day (what, you don’t read it?) I came across the statement, attributed to Sudan’s Justice Minister Mohamed Bushara Dousa, that “25% of people in Sudan have some form of immunity.”
This sounded beyond crazy, but Amanda and I did some asking around and discovered that, in fact, widespread immunity from criminal prosecution is a serious human rights issue in Sudan. While 25% of the population might be an overstatement, it appears that most government officials, including the entire security sector, enjoy functional immunity (also known as “act immunity”), which protects them from prosecution for crimes committed in the course of their official duties. This means that victims of torture by members of the police or armed forces have no legal recourse.
Obviously, this bums me out hard, but it also makes me wonder whether this is a common problem worldwide that I’ve somehow missed. So, internets, learn me a thing: Do these sorts of broad immunities exist in your countries / regions of expertise?
If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re familiar with the peace vs. justice debate about the value of international accountability mechanisms in post-conflict settings. I won’t inflict my opinions about this on you again, except to note one thing: These arguments are invoked with regard to developing countries in which violent conflict is ongoing or newly ended, but some recent comments by a member of the Obama transition team about the decision not to pursue trials for Bush administration officials for the use of torture against detainees have surprising resonance with this debate.
In a panel discussion on 9/11 last week, Berkeley Law School dean Christopher Edley, Jr. apparently remarked that the decision not to prosecute was undertaken in part because “it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt.” I assumed (correctly, it turns out*) that he meant “revolt” in the fuzzy, metaphorical sense of the word where maybe some NSA analysts would just start showing up late to work with one too many shirt buttons undone. However, the interwebs are taking it a different, more coup-y, way, which prompted me to wonder: “peace vs. justice: not just a concern for developing nations anymore?”
The thing is, as shown by Round 1 of this Economist-sponsored throw-down between Richard “Justice on Principle” Dicker and Jack “Pragmatic Peace” Snyder, the two sides of this debate are arguing from very different premises. While Team Justice does make consequentialist arguments (for instance, that impunity can breed future instability), their emphasis is generally on the normative claim that it is morally right to punish perpetrators through criminal prosecutions. Consequently, their response to Team Peace’s consequentialist arguments (that pushing for accountability can undermine prospects for peace by creating perverse incentives for actors who fear prosecution) is often to treat them as beside the point at best, or as spurious dictator-coddling excuses at worst.
However, the fact that criminal trials were viewed as too risky by the Obama administration – in a setting characterized by strong institutions and entrenched democracy – underscores just how high the stakes of pursuing accountability for the crimes of a previous regime are. If the view looks that way from Washington D.C., where the trade-off is “smooth institutional function vs. justice”, imagine what it looks like in contexts where institutions are weak, and the resort to violence is common.
*Updated at 2:40pm following confirmation that Dean Edley was, in fact, speaking metaphorically.
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).