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.
I tried so hard to ignore this “North Sudan” nonsense, you guys.
Last year when the media first started reporting Jeremiah Heaton’s quest to find somewhere to make his daughter princess of, I resolutely closed my browser window and binge-watched season 3 of Parks & Rec.
Then, in November, when word spread that Heaton’s heartwarming tale of neocolonialism would be turned into a Disney movie called “The Princess of North Sudan”, I remained steadfast, determined not to blog about it.
But now he’s back and I just can’t anymore. So here it is:
Heaton’s argument that he can unilaterally assert a state in the Bir Tawil triangle because it is unclaimed territory (terra nullius) is ludicrous. We’ve long since passed the point where states come into being on the word of one white dude with a flag.
On paper, international law (covered here) says that a state must have (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with the other states. (The handful of embassies and consulates Heaton has set up may be an attempt to satisfy requirement #4.) But in practice, statehood also requires recognition by other states. Which explains why Somaliland, despite embassies, passports, and decades of democratic governance of a stable population, is still part of Somalia.
So far, the nations of the world don’t seem to be lining up to extend recognition to “North Sudan”. And I’m kind of thinking that (1) a white foreigner proclaiming himself king of territory in northern Africa may have some unpleasant resonances for members of the African Union, and (2) the government of Sudan: Original Flavor may object to Heaton’s country name of choice.
And seriously, Disney finally makes a movie about an African princess (lions don’t count) and it’s a Caucasian American from Virginia??
More than 300 Rohingya refugees are missing somewhere in the Andaman sea. Their boat was last seen on Saturday, May 16th when the Thai navy towed it away from Thailand towards Indonesia. It had previously been batted back and forth across the maritime border between Malaysia and Thailand; with neither country’s government willing to let the refugees land.
They are part of a mass exodus of Burmese Rohingya, fleeing ethnic violence and political repression aboard rickety wooden boats. But a recent crackdown by regional authorities has upped the risk to the smugglers who pilot the boats, leading them to abandon the refugees at sea. Thousands of people are now stranded, floating somewhere in the waters of Southeast Asia with rapidly dwindling food and water supplies.
None of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which would obligate them to protect refugees on their territory. (Not that the obligation necessarily prevents governments from pushing boats full of desperate refugees out of their waters. Ahem, Australia.) They’ve also all already taken in hundreds of Rohingya, and apparently feel that they’ve done enough.
Amid high level regional talks about how to handle the crisis, the Philippine government announced today that it was willing to help. It may already be too late for the people aboard the missing boat.
Last week the news broke that French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic sexually abused homeless children begging for food at a Bangui refugee camp.
We know about this because a UN staffer passed an internal report on the allegations to French authorities, who launched their own inquiry. The staffer was suspended for leaking confidential information, but temporarily reinstated on Wednesday by the United Nations Dispute Tribunal pending a full review of the case.
That’s already chock full of WTF-ery, but on top of that, the media has apparently decided to designate this a “sex for food scandal” (see Exhibit A, below).It strikes me as just a touch… something (sanitizing? anodyne? dishonest?) to refer to it this way. Surely forcing children to perform sex acts for food (or for any reason) is in fact a “child rape scandal”.
But further investigation reveals that this is the standard practice for discussing sexual abuse of indigent children by peacekeepers, apparently because the wordplay on “oil for food” is just tooooo tempting. See Exhibits B-E: former “sex for food” scandals in 2002 (West Africa), 2004 (DRC), 2006 (Liberia), and 2011 (Côte d’Ivoire).
It really says it all that we have enough datapoints on this to infer a pattern, doesn’t it?
This just in via The Wall Street Journal: “China Says Please Stop Hiring Funeral Strippers“.
Apparently, inviting erotic dancers to your loved ones’ funerary rites is a time-honored method of improving attendance. But China’s government is not cool with it. They’ve “been trying to fight the country’s funereal stripper scourge for some time now” and will now be working with the police to crack down more firmly.
You know what phrase should not exist? “Funeral strippers.” I’m kind of okay with “funereal stripper scourge”, though. Anyone need an album title?
h/t: Dan Hetherington. Thanks, Dan!
Australia’s track record with refugees is not great. Highlights include locking them up on a rape-y island and handing them back to oppressive regimes from which they were trying to escape.
But now Australia has a new plan to get rid of pesky refugees attempting to assert their legal right to asylum: ship them off to Cambodia. The arrangement, which Human Rights Watch said in September would “undermine refugee protection in the region”, cost Australia 35 million USD.
A letter recently distributed by immigration officials to refugees detained on Nauru explains:
The opportunity to settle in Cambodia is now available to you. The first flight from Nauru to Cambodia for refugees will be as soon as 20 April 2015. Moving to Cambodia provides an opportunity for you and your family to start a new life in a safe country, free from persecution and violence, and build your future.
“Cambodia is a safe country, where police maintain law and order. It does not have problems with violent crime or stray dogs.”
Look, this whole thing is ridiculous (not least because Cambodia is an impoverished dictatorship with catastrophic human rights issues of its own), but that last bit is a straight-up fabrication. Cambodia has SO MANY stray dogs. They’re so thick on the ground that multiple times during the months I lived there I looked down and discovered that my hand was actually inside of a dog’s mouth.
Let’s try to keep the lies within reason, Australia.
This morning I went looking for evidence of a really awesome idea for a reality TV show that I had once, and discovered that our first two weeks of posts never made the transition from Blogspot to WordPress. I also discovered that back in 2008 we used to post multiple times per day. Crazy.
So I’m in the process of bringing them over manually, and have got the first ten up. Please enjoy these deep cuts from the Wronging Rights archive:
- Welcome to Our Blog
- Your Correspondents
- “Dictator House”
- MSM on Africa – Round 1: Evolution of a Story
- Hard Choice Feminism
- Human Rights Don’ts
- UPDATE: MSM on Africa – Round 1: Evolution of a Story
- Fun with Footnotes
- Paying for Justice
- Equality of Arms
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.
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.