From Women Under Siege Syria: Member of opposition group confesses to rape on state TV
Syria Online TV, a state-owned news source, posted a video to YouTube on December 10, 2012, that features a confession of rape from a member of an opposition group referred to as “Abdulhadi’s gang.” The speaker is introduced as Mahmoud al-Akkari, born in 1978 in Talbiseh, a suburb of Homs. He says that he, Abdulhadi al-Akkari—to whom his relationship is not specified—and Sheikh Zakariyya al-Dakka agreed to join ongoing Talbiseh protests. He then proceeds to describe the range of crimes he and “Abdulhadi’s gang” allegedly committed, including the kidnapping of “five girls from different neighborhoods.” He goes on to say that the group “took them to the farm, where they raped and murdered them.” He does not specify where this farm is located.
From Slate: Mr. Schmidt goes to Pyongyang
On Monday, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt arrived in North Korea, a country that is almost completely cut off from the Internet. Schmidt, who is traveling with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, is part of what has been termed a private humanitarian mission. The State Department has nonetheless expressed dissatisfaction, saying that the timing of the visit is not “particularly helpful.” [...]
But if the timing is bad for traditional diplomacy, then what about digital diplomacy? Digital diplomacy entails leveraging new connection technologies to shape international relations. The beauty of this concept is that it doesn’t have to be strictly between one government and another. It can be conducted by technology companies, NGOs, or even ordinary citizens. A visit to North Korea by the chairman of Google, even in his “private” capacity, seems to fall into this category. The trip might even indirectly further one of the State Department’s key goals, which is to promote the “freedom to connect.”
From The Guardian: U.S. attacks counter productive, former Obama security advisor claims
In his study, Boyle said Obama pledged to end the “war on terror” and to restore respect for the rule of law in US counter-terrorism policies.”Instead, he has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor … while President Bush issued a call to arms to defend ‘civilisation’ against the threat of terrorism, President Obama has waged his war on terror in the shadows, using drone strikes, special operations and sophisticated surveillance to fight a brutal covert war against al-Qaida and other Islamist networks.”
Boyle, who teaches at La Salle University, Philadelphia, said the government claim that drones were an effective tool that minimised civilian casualties was “based on a highly selective and partial reading of the evidence”.
He argues one of the reasons why the US has been “so successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties” is that it has reportedly adopted a controversial method for counting them: all military-age men in a strike zone are classed as militants unless clear evidence emerges to the contrary.
From the Japan Times: U.S. imagination goes wild regarding Iranian ‘threat’
When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”
It is as comical as it is untrue. But “The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act,” which as of Dec. 28 is an official U.S. law, is not meant to be amusing. It is riddled with half-truths, but mostly complete and utter lies.
[Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Defense] minister said Paris had decided to act urgently to stop the Islamist offensive, which threatened to create “a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe”.
He also revealed that a French pilot was killed in Friday’s fighting – during an air raid to support Mali’s ground troops in the battle for Konna.
“During this intense combat, one of our pilots… was fatally wounded,” the minister said.
Speaking on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said the intervention complied with international law and had been agreed with Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore.
It would last “as long as necessary”, Mr Hollande said.
From CNN Asia: Study finds the world wastes half its food
Up to half of the world’s food is wasted, according to a new report that found production inefficiencies in developing countries and market and consumer waste in more advanced societies.
The British-based independent Institution of Mechanical Engineerssaid about 4.4 billion tons of food is produced annually and roughly half of it is never eaten.
Some of it is lost to inefficient harvesting, storage and transportation, while the rest is wasted by markets or consumers. The group also said food waste also impacts land, energy and water use.
“This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands,” the group said in its report.
As keen observers of the national conversation know, deep thinkers have floated the idea of minting a trillion dollar coin for deposit into the United States treasury to cure the nation’s deficit. This bold plan, endorsed by luminaries including New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman, and Kai Ryssdal, host of public radio’s award-winning Marketplace program, has the potential to solve America’s fiscal crisis overnight, with no partisan bickering and no repercussions for world currency markets.
But can the coin (or sixteen of the coins, to be precise) be struck?
For the answer to this question, we turned to legal, numismatic, and political experts. Their answers were discouraging.
From The Edge of the Inside: Thoughts from the Brent Musburger/Kathleen Webb discussion
When Christians claim human beings are made in the Image of God, then it stands that to consider the identity of one human as derivative through another is objectification at best, and idolatry at worst. The philosophical turn that suggests we shift the subject helps us open up the possibilities that are other people. Or, when we work to recognize the other, other persons as human subjects, we open up the possibility of both deeper and challenging relationships. If I cannot, or will not, objectify you then I must be ready for you. And that means I must be ready to get outside of my expectations bound up in my former objectification of you as a human being and realize there might be something for me to learn, experience, and grow from rather than use our relationship built on the object I made of you.
From the Washington Times: No assault weapon ban coming, NRA confidently predicts
One day after gun ownership groups met with Vice President Joseph R. Biden as part of his ongoing talks on gun violence prevention, the president of the National Rifle Association predicted that Congress will not pass a ban on military-style, so-called “assault weapons” in the wake of the school shootings last month in Newtown, Conn.
“I do not think that there’s going to be a ban on so-called assault weapons passed by the Congress,” David Keene said Friday on NBC’s “Today” show.