Mugabe vs. SCOTUS

A late entry in the category of “Most Ridiculous Responses to the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling”: Robert Mugabe has announced plans to propose to President Obama.

Speaking to listeners of Zimbabwe’s national radio station on Saturday, he said:

“I’ve just concluded – since President Obama endorses the same-sex marriage, advocates homosexual people and enjoys an attractive countenance – thus if it becomes necessary, I shall travel to Washington, DC, get down on my knee and ask his hand.”

Then he called the U.S. government a bunch of “perverted Satan-worshipers who insult the great American nation”.

H/T: Ben in NYC.

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, 6/19/2015

A ray of light at the end of a very dark week: North Korea announced today that its scientists have cured AIDS. (Also Ebola, MERS, and SARS.)

According to regime mouthpiece Korean Central News Agency, wonder drug Kumdang-2 (which you can buy here) can be used to “prevent different malignant epidemics”. So we’ve got that going for us.

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.

Fighters Not Killers?

Time Magazine reports that Kurdish militia members in northern Syria are using a new smartphone app that tests their knowledge of the laws of war.

The app, called “Fighter Not Killer” was developed by the NGO Geneva Call “to raise awareness of the law of war among combatants, commanders, officers, political leaders and civilian populations”. It presents 28 different scenarios challenging users to correct apply the laws of war.

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I don’t quite know what to make of this. Help me out:

*Screenshot taken from the app’s iTunes page.

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, 5/29/2015

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??


WTF Friday, 5/22/2015


  • Gambia offered to take the Rohingya off Southeast Asia’s hands. Clearly a sincere gesture, given how universally revered President Jammeh’s government is for its human rights record. Oh wait
  • Political science all-the-way exploded over the news that a widely-reported study showing that contact with openly gay canvassers changes people’s attitudes towards gay rights was based on fraudulent data.
  • And the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor got in a Twitter fight with the spokesman of Burundi’s president.Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 1.58.36 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.02.09 PM

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    Going by the retweets and favorites, I think Malinowski’s won this round. (That’s how we judge the success of public diplomacy, right?)


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.