WTF Friday, 7/3/2015

Hey, remember that time Sri Lanka shocked the world by booting Mahinda Rajapaksa out of office just as he was fixing to settle into the presidency for life? (I was there, it was pretty major.)

The new president, Maithripala Sirisena, was celebrated for his bravery in defecting from the regime, and for his principles in his campaign against the abuses of Rajapaksa rule. After the election, investigations of Rajapaksa and his family were announced on allegations of massive corruption, extrajudicial killings of journalists, and attempts to stage an election-night coup.

But six months later, things have gotten weird.

Sirisena’s coalition, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said today that Rajapaksa will run on their ticket in next month’s parliamentary polls. Rumor has it he may even be the pick for prime minister.

If that sounds like an unbelievably speedy rehabilitation of someone whose ousting was met with global cries of “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead”, remember that the January election was close. Rajapaksa remains very popular with the majority Sinhalese community and their representatives in Parliament. And, in the absence of clear evidence that he tried to overturn the election results, the fact that he gracefully exited office allowed him to preserve the option of a comeback.

At the moment, it’s not clear whether Sirisena actually signed off on Rajapaksa’s return. Over the last couple of days, he’d sounded adamantly opposed to the idea. If he changed his mind, it would indicate a major split in the (always tenuous) big tent movement that brought him to power. If he didn’t, he may have lost control of elements of the UPFA.

And either way, looks like the lead up to the August 17 election is going to be another bumpy ride for Sri Lanka.

WTF Friday, 6/26/2015

You GUYS. Marriage equality is now U.S. law.

A five justice majority of the Supreme Court made human rights history by ruling that the states cannot ban gay marriage. The other four justices continued to insist that allowing gay people to form stable family units will ruin marriage, democracy, pizza, and the American way of life.

Predictably, a bunch of horrified bigots have announced that they are moving to Canada. Since marriage equality has been the law in Canada for the last ten years, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that they just misspelled “Gambia“. They’ll love it there. None of this pesky human-rights-for-everyone crap, stable (one billion year term) government, plenty of capital punishment, good bridges.

Maybe Scalia will decide to go too?

WTF Friday, 6/12/2015

Somehow it’s Friday again. And:

A Sri Lankan MP has called for legal action against the country’s Foreign Minister for his unacceptably friendliness to gays. FM Samaraweera betrayed his country by voting against a resolution that called for the withdrawal of marriage benefits to UN employees in same-sex relationships. In previous fits of pique against the UN, the MP in question, Wimal Weerawansa, has attempted a hunger strike and threatened to stop using Gmail.

A large population of Ukrainian prisoners is stuck in the war zone “in legal limbo“. With no one to judge their cases, thousands of inmates remain in prisons in the east, facing water and electricity shut-downs as well as artillery attacks. The kicker? The court system has no centralized database, so no one actually knows how many people are affected. (h/t goes to Lev, thanks Lev!)

Barbie’s finally getting a pair of flats.

WTF Friday, 6/5/2015

Yes, it’s technically Saturday, and we’re in the final stages of dissertation writing here at KCF HQ, but I couldn’t resist a very special tunnel-themed WTF Friday.

Item 1: The Egyptian military has discovered and destroyed 521 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza in the last six months. The use of tunnels to smuggle goods (most famously, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken) in and out of the Gaza Strip became common after the 2007 imposition of the blockade. The World Bank reports that the closure of the tunnels has had a significant negative impact on Gaza’s economy: together with the 2014 summer war accounting for “a 15 percent contraction of its GDP” (USD 460 million).

Item 2: Syrian rebels are using tunnels, built following the instructions in a helpful “how to” video from Gaza, where tunnels have also been used for years for military purposes, to attack regime positions. Meanwhile, back in Gaza, a tunnel collapsed yesterday, killing one Hamas fighter and injuring others.

And finally, Item 3, as reported by the WSJ: Rich people like houses with unnecessary tunnels in them. The article explains: “tunnels have emerged as a unique amenity with handsome décor, as high-end builders seek to set themselves apart at a time when every house seems to have a wine cellar and media room.”

Yes, tunnels are the answer to a whole host of problems, including restrictions on freedom of movement, military inferiority, and the mortifying possibility that your home might have the same number of wine cellars and media rooms as your neighbors’. Happy weekend, everyone.

 

WTF Friday, 3/27/2015

Hello again, internets. I’ve been out of commission for the last few weeks with the flu and then bronchitis. While I was busy coughing:

  • South Sudan geared up to sue UNICEF for its totally accurate claim that state security forces have conscripted “dozens of children”;
  • Customs agents seized 30 crates of “radioactive maxi pads” at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri airport. The Chinese manufacturers of the pads apparently bill their product as chock full of “air vitamins” that are “beneficial to human health”; and
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal charged three more suspects despite heavy opposition from the Cambodian government. Two of them are reportedly in their 70s, bringing the average age of the court’s indictees down a bit from its previous level of 317.

WTF Friday, 3/6/2015

Here is a small selection of confusing and horrifying things going on in the world:

The UK Home Office rejected LGBT activist Aderonke Apata’s asylum claim on the grounds that she can’t be a REAL lesbian because she has children. Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t just absurd for the obvious reasons. (Like, say, the fact that straight sex isn’t a magic, gay identity destroying bullet.) It’s also absurd as a matter of asylum law. It doesn’t actually matter whether Apata is, in fact, gay. What matters is whether, if sent back to Nigeria where homosexuality is a crime, she would face serious persecution on the basis of perceived gay identity. Given her high profile advocacy and open relationship with a woman, along with the fact that she has already been the target of anti-gay violence, this is an easy question to answer. Do better, UK Home Office. (Via Amanda.)

From Australia: The Queensland Liberal National party women’s group has decided to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th) with a lunch in a men’s club. (Presumably women will be admitted for the day.) The organization’s vice president, who apparently booked the venue because it’s a bargain, said she didn’t have a problem with the club’s exclusion of women. She added:

“[H]ow can we celebrate international women’s day knowing that there’s not an international men’s day – and then when the men do want to have something that’s for themselves, we can’t respect it?”

And then, because things in Australia are truly upside down, Prime Minister Tony Abbott lauded the decision as an example of the ladies “smashing the glass ceiling”. (h/t GG.)

Oh, and ISIS is now chucking gay people (and those suspected of gayness) off of roofs. Ugh.

 

WTF Friday, 2/27/2015

I’m not sure why I’m bothering, given that the entire internet is occupied with dress-related content today, BUT: Someone is wrong on the internet about the International Criminal Court, and I simply cannot let that pass.

The individual in question is Stephen Rademaker, a former Bush (both H.W. and W.) administration official who drafted the legislation creating the Frankenstein’s Monster known as the Department of Homeland Security. And the substance of his wrongness is contained in his recommendation that:

Congress should make it a federal criminal offense for an official of the ICC, or a foreign government acting under authority of the ICC, to indict, prosecute, detain, or imprison American military personnel or government officials for alleged war crimes.

He is literally suggesting that we make a federal case out of the vanishingly slim possibility of ICC prosecutions of Americans.

Over at Justice in Conflict, Mark Kersten highlights a number of problems with this “breathtakingly absurd” proposal. It’s silly, it’s hypocritical, and it would sabotage the U.S.’s reasonably functional, if uneasy, relationship with the Court.

Personally, I think it’s kind of cute that paranoid Republicans still think of the ICC as some kind of all-powerful, avenging justice monster, despite all the evidence to the contrary. (Remember that time it took 10 years and 600 plus pages of judicial opinionating to sentence one guy for one war crime?)

But what strikes me as truly insane about Rademaker’s proposal is his blithe disregard for immunities. Because you know what you can’t do under U.S. law? Prosecute foreign officials, or representatives of international organizations, for conduct undertaken in the course of their official duties. (This is called “functional” or “act” immunity.) And I really can’t think of anything much more official than fulfilling the obligations contained in a treaty that over 120 countries have ratified. So unless Rademaker is suggesting that ICC prosecutions are jus cogens violations (there appears to be an emerging exception to immunity for universally-agreed-to-be-serious crimes like genocide, torture, and slavery), this makes no sense.

And frankly, if ANYONE should be in favor of robust, no-exceptions-allowed, functional immunity, shouldn’t it be former Bush administration officials?

WTF Friday, 2/20/2015

A few weeks ago, I wondered how 3,172 year old dictator Robert Mugabe would celebrate his birthday (actually, his 91st) this year.

The answer turns out to be: by gorging on Zimbabwe’s precious wildlife. The big day is tomorrow, and the menu reportedly includes ELEPHANT MEAT. This man is leaving no box unchecked in his quest for super-villain status.

I’m at #ISA2015, so that’s all I’ve got for today, but here is a giraffe standing perfectly still to avoid being spotted and eaten by Robert Mugabe.

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(Photo credit: me, 2010.)

WTF Friday, 2/13/2015

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Earlier this week, Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development (those things go together, right?) exhorted women to quit refusing to have sex with their husbands.

After a high profile incident in which a man in Bushenyi murdered his wife, Minister Mary Karooro Okurut told an audience of local women’s groups that domestic violence is fueled by lack of sex. Endorsing the sort of progressive, sensitive opinion you’d want in a gender minister, she explained that if ladies would just put out more, they wouldn’t be at such high risk of getting beaten and murdered.

She did allow, however, that it might be okay for a woman to abstain if she’s ill. Obviously she’d need a note from a (male) doctor, though.

h/t to Ledio Cakaj

WTF Friday, 2/6/2015

So: