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Azerbaijan has banned wearing hijabs in schools.
In a move some say is designed to bring the secular predominantly Muslim country closer to Europe, Azerbaijan follows a number of other countries in banning religious head scarves in schools. It also follows the closure of several mosques late last year under a new law on religion.

Don't you feel proud of the European export of tolerance?

[there's a very similar dynamic behind Turkish regulation of the hijab, and Turkish secularisation in general]
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Does the cost of policing affect what laws are enforced?

I'd (naïvely?) imagined that there would be some kind of institutional firewall in place, analogous to the division between advertising and content in a newspaper, or the various Chinese Walls inside financial firms. That is, that decisions on which types of crime to pursue would be separate from decisions about how to pay for it.

Is that not the case? Brooke Magnanti (belle de jour) writes:

Another way in which opposing sex work brings financial benefit is through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Police know, for instance, that if a brothel owner is prosecuted, since running a brothel is illegal, any money and property retrieved from the 'crime scene' becomes theirs. When police resources are limited, does the temptation of profit possibly influence victimless crimes being prosecuted more vigourously than they otherwise would?
It's impossible to know for certain, but one can imagine plenty of situations in which police - with restricted time and money - must make choices: unknown violent criminals who may be difficult and expensive to catch, or women technically breaking the law standing right in front of you, with cash assets?

Similarly, there's a debate about the cost of evicting travellers from Dale Farm:

The cost of evicting travellers from Europe’s largest illegal camp could spiral to £18million, councillors have revealed.
The occupants of Dale Farm in Crays Hill, Essex, have threatened violence if bailiffs move in, pushing up the bill to remove them from £3.5million just 18 months ago.
Basildon Council has set aside £8million for the operation – almost a third of its annual budget – while Essex Police has a £10million ‘worst-case scenario’ fund.
Despite the huge cost, Tony Ball, leader of the council is determined to press ahead if the families choose not leave by their own accord.
Mr Ball said: 'No one wants a forced clearance of this site and we have spent ten years asking the travellers to work with us to seek a peaceful resolution.
'However, it is important the law is applied equally and fairly to all people and if we do not take action in this case, we would have little moral right as a planning authority to take action against future unauthorised developments.

So it sounds like the cost of enforcement is taken into account in policing decisions, whether at the level of the police themselves or their political masters. Is that the case? If I break the law in some way that's expensive to identify, can I expect to get away with it?
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I've lately been poking around in the UN Comtrade database. This records international trade in detail that is mind-boggling, and I suspect not entirely reliable. So today I learned that:

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I thought the nuclear industry had the best PR money could buy. Maybe not in Japan. Here's a spokesman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, managing to make his employer sound as uncaring as possible. He's talking about the workers inside fukishima, exposing themselves to high radiation levels:

Some people call them heroes. But we don’t think they are heroes. They are doing what they should do as TEPCO employees.

[via the BBC Global News podcast today, though the interview seems a few days older, and is also in the Economist]
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Oh, hello LJ. You're still my one true love, however much I abandon you for shinier, nastier and more superficial hangouts -- it's just that when I'm busy and stressed, I end up following the path of low resistance and quick feedback.

And it's been a ridiculously busy few weeks. I'm feeling overwhelmed, overexcited, connected and useful, in a way I haven't since 2003. I have a stack of projects and involvements, any one of which could justifiably expand to become a life-defining obsession. You could knock out the top three and I'd still have enough to usefully fill my days several times over.

So, telegraphically:
- At vodo, we've just released the first part of a brilliant drama, launching itself at ideas of identity and pain and truth through a near-future setting. I'm in a slight bind over this: the people I'd most like to recommend this to are those who'll be (justifiably) annoyed that e.g. the primary female character is a prostitute doing it for self-actualisation. But trust me: it's worth it nonetheless.
- We're also introducing in-browser streaming fed by bittorrent. Again, this is simultaneously exciting and hard to recommend. It's potentially *very* significant, but the existing system isn't entirely reliable.
- My interest in events in Egypt/Tunisia/Libya/Bahrain/Yemen is probably obvious to anybody connected to me on twitter or facebook. I've now found a useful conduit for that interest, in the form of the Egyptian-German Network for Changing Egypt. Rhey're fficient, smart, driven by a desire to improve things rather than pose as radicals. They remind me a huge amount of CASI, probably still the project I'm still most proud of having been involved in. After two meetings we already have real progress on several fronts, and I'm thrilled to imagine how it could develop

[there are several more layers to go. But I'm writing this in a break from a phone call, and should get back to it. More later, or perhaps you'll have to infer it from 140-char blobs of inanity]
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Juan Cole has a rundown of Top Ten Achievements of Mideast Democracy Protests this Weekend. I'm in a state of perpetual astonishment at how fast things are changing. I keep on realising I've not read about a country for a couple of days, and it's had another wave of protest or resignations.

My personal favourite of the weekend is Number 4:

4. Egyptian protesters stormed the HQs in Cairo and Alexandria of the State Security Police, the dreaded secret police who used arbitrary arrest and torture to keep strong man Hosni Mubarak in power for decades. They said they had been afraid that security officials would shred documents implicating them in crimes, and they carried off many documents. Some were former prisoners who had been tortured in the cells of the building they invaded.

This is the about the point where you know the system is going to fundamentally change, not just continue with different men at the top.

The best historical comparison (this side of 1789, at least), is perhaps the raiding of the stasi headquarters in 1990. It's not just that they broke through a barrier of fear and collected evidence of torture. They also halted the wholesale destruction of files that was in progress. That's going to form the basis for some kind of reconciliation with the past, and/or prosecution of those involved in crimes.

It's also pretty important for the world beyond Egypt. Over the coming weeks, we're going to see a flood of information coming from these seized documents. We've already had German technology being used for torture and for bugging Skype communications. It seems fairly likely we'll get something about extraordinary renditions. Maybe information from Egypt will tell us here and the US some of the secrets we couldn't get from our own politicians.

And that's just one of ten.
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[cross-posted from ohuiginn.net. I really need to stop having so many semi-active bits of myself across the net]

There's no doubt that European weapons are today being used to kill Libyans.

Journalists across Europe are now fleshing out the details, figuring out whodunnit and how. Here's a summary of what they've found so far...

Start with the official figures: €343 million of weapons sold in 2009 alone. The EU Observer, Deutsche Welle and Der Spiegel summarize those numbers and examine what is behind them. They speculate, for example, that the €43m of German electrical exports includes jamming equipment used to block the mobile phone and GPS networks.

Italy is the biggest exporter: they officially sold Libya €111m of weapons, but are also responsible for €80m of firearms dubiously licensed through Malta. The Corriere della Sera has found a government report detailing the Italian companies involved, which Sky News summarizes in English:

Missile systems maker Mbda Italia signed a deal worth 2.5 million euros ($A3.42 million) in May 2009 to supply Libya with 'material for bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles', the interior ministry report was quoted as saying.

Helicopter maker Augusta Westland signed two contracts with Libya in October 2010 worth 70 million euros ($A95.88 million). Also last year, Selex Sistemi Integrati signed a 13 million euro ($A17.81 million) deal to provide Libya with gun targeting equipment.


This year, military shipmaker Intermarine Spa started negotiations with Libya for contracts worth a total of 600 million euros ($A821.86 million).

Selex Sistemi Integrati, Augusta-Westland and Oto Melara are also in talks with Libya for contracts totalling 150 million euros ($A205.47 million).

In Britain, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade reports that "the UK Government had approved the export of goods including tear gas and crowd control ammunition and sniper rifles to Bahrain and Libya". The arms-promotion wing of the UK government counts Libya as a "priority market", and says "high-level political interventions" have supported UK weapons sales there. Last November, over half of the exhibitors at the Libyan Defence & Security Exhibition (LibDex) were UK companies.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has provided another cause for controversy, bringing along eight arms firms on a trip to Egypt and Kuwait last week. Cameron openly defended arms sales, saying "he could not understand why anyone would oppose his attempts to boost British defence sales in such a volatile region"

Belgian sales to Libya consist mostly of small arms made by FH Herstal. Le Soir is doing a fantastic job of investigating this. Last Monday they were already reporting contracts for guns. By Thursday they'd identified spent ammunition from the libyan city of Al-Bayda as manufactured by FH Herstal.

In France, web outlet Rue89 interviews Jean Guisnel, whose recent book on the arms trade has a chapter devoted to Libya. He names French politicians involved in weapons deals with Libya: president Nicolas Sarkozy, minister of defence Michèle Alliot-Marie and her husband, and the Libyan middle-man Ziad Takieddine. As for companies:

Involved in recent contracts were MBDA, subsidiary of EADS, for the Milan anti-tank missiles, EADS Defence and Security for telecommunications networks, and the Dassault-Thales-Snecma Sofema consortium for renovation of the Mirage jet. In my opinion, these are the most important.

Then there are are ongoing negotiations not yet concluded: military and civilian Eurocopter helicopters, the renovation of Rattlesnake missiles sold by Thales, or renovation of Combattante boats.

A few journalists are starting to look beyond pure arms sales, examining training and other collaboration. I highlighted reports from 2008, claiming that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had brokered a deal for elite German commandos to train the Libyan security services:

The German officers would receive €15,000 each, paid by a private security firm which in turn got a €1.6m cheque from Libya. They would take time off from their elite anti-terrorist unit. Their superiors thought they were vacationing in Tunisia, though the German embassy in Libya knew their real purpose. The officers set up shop in a barracks in Tripoli, where for 6 months they taught their Libyan counterparts how to storm buildings, board ships and operate out of helicopters.

Finally, openDemocracy weighs in on a big story not yet getting enough attention: arms deals aren't the only link between Europe and Gaddafi's military. The tyrant has also been a conveniently ruthless border guard, keeping refugees away before they become Europe's problem. The EU's €50m funding for Libyan border controls is just part of the problem:

We, the citizens of the EU, should also be reminded that for over three years now, we have relied on Gaddafi and his state apparatus to keep asylum seekers and other migrants away from our doors.

The Gaddafi Government’s treatment of migrants has been known to undercut human rights for a long time. In the past week, matters have escalated further. Human rights groups have reported atrocious racist violence against Sub-Saharan Africans in Libya, including those removed there by Italy on the basis of bilateral agreements with Libya designed to combat illegal immigration to Europe. Eritrean, Somali, and Sudanese refugees, accused of being mercenaries on the payroll of the government are summarily executed with knives and machetes.

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In Britain, there's currently a certain amount of self-criticism over the UK's rapprochement with Libya over the past decade -- how our demands were about terrorism and biological weapons, how our desires were for weapons and oil deals, and how anything involving human rights or democracy within Libya was left out of the picture.

In Germany, there's been nothing of the sort. When the German press has blamed anybody outside Libya, they've blamed the US -- which is somewhat unfair, given that in this instance America has cleaner hands than any European government. There's been occasional criticism of Britain, France, Italy and the EU, but almost none of Germany itself.

This is odd, given that Germany has by my reckoning been one of the main forces supporting trade, business and even military links with Gaddafi, and has been no more obviously concerned with the ethics of it than any other country.

I spent part of last night going through German newspaper archives, picking out past reports on German relations with Libya -- be they around oil or engineering (common) or human rights (very, very rare). Here's just one instance from the pile of notes.

Let's go back to 2004. The EU arms embargon on Libya had just been lifted, thanks to lobbying by Germany, France, Italy and the UK. Denmark and Sweden had mentioned human rights, but the general feeling was that, by abandoning its biological weapons program and renouncing international terrorism, Libya had conceded on all the truly important issues.

Just days later, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder landed in Tripoli with an entourage of 25 businessmen. In passing he praised what he called the 'political change' in Libya. But his main reason for visiting was the promotion of German business. Openly so, and with the support of much of the German political spectrum, from his own center-left SPD, through the pro-business FPD to the conservative CDU. So he shook hands, made introductions, closed deals. He was photographed in an elaborate tent, and at an oil well, looking equally out-of place in both locations.
What didn't emerge until four years later was that, alongside oil and engineering negotiations, Schroeder was fixing up a deal whereby elite German commandos would train the Libyan security services.

This caused controversy when it emerged in 2008. Not as military support for a dictator -- the €43m of German jamming equipment bought by Libya in the last 2 years has raised few eyebrows -- but because it was being provided by German security personnel, and thus involved sharing state military know-how with a potential enemy.

In fact, the Byzantine structure of the deal shows everybody knew they were bending the rules to breaking point. The German officers would receive €15,000 each, paid by a private security firm which in turn got a €1.6m cheque from Libya. They would take time off from their elite anti-terrorist unit. Their superiors thought they were vacationing in Tunisia, though the German embassy in Libya knew their real purpose. The officers set up shop in a barracks in Tripoli, where for 6 months they taught their Libyan counterparts how to storm buildings, board ships and operate out of helicopters.

Training can't be identified in the same way as you might see 'Made in Germany' on a used shell. But it's no less real; we can be sure that a hundred or so of the Gaddafi loyalists struggling to keep control of Tripoli have been trained by the German security forces.

[this is a modified cross-post from Ethnography of Light, a group-blog run by a few friends in Berlin. If you feel like browsing through there, do click through on the links. Much of the best stuff -- like this collection of poetry -- is hidden behind not-very-prominent links to Google Docs]
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Here is a good article on how Europe and the US could influence what's happening in Libya:

There are numerous steps the United States and its allies can take today to affect the immediate calculations of the Qaddafi regime. Europe buys 85 percent of Libya's oil, after all. And the West largely controls the international financial system through which the Libyan leadership moves its money -- and could block transactions with one word from the Treasury Department or other finance ministries. And there's more: Western governments could say today that they will seek international investigations and prosecutions of Libyan officials who murder their people. And they could offer to provide humanitarian assistance to parts of Libya that have fallen to the opposition.
We should be under no illusion that Qaddafi himself will give in to international pressure at this point. As his brutal tactics show, he is fighting for his life. But Libya's fate is not in Qaddafi's hands; it is in the hands of those who must decide, today and tomorrow, whether to follow his orders. Every psychological blow to Qaddafi's government -- whether it is a Libyan official who defects to the opposition or a forceful repudiation of his government by the international community -- gives them another reason to refuse to commit further outrages on their leader's behalf, for which they may be held accountable when the crisis is over.

ETA: The International Crisis Group also has some suggestions.
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Worrying what's going to happen in Egypt today. Still think that, without anybody for Mubarak to talk to, it's most likely to end in a really nasty way.

Some people have been suggesting phoning random Egyptian numbers with encouragement. There's something appealing about that, however much it smells of "let's you and him fight". I suspect I'd only do it if I had some longstanding connection with Egypt, but then I'm not a big fan of the phone in the first place

Other than that, I imagine the only useful thing to do is bug our own politicians. Ideally, asking them for something concrete -- like threatening specific responses if Mubarak starts seriously shooting people later today.

Anybody else have smarter ideas? Since I imagine any spare attention I have tomorrow will float towards Egypt anyway, I may as well try to do something semi-useful with it.
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The organized opposition don't matter much to the protests in Egypt. Everything is being arranged online, and through informal networks.

Given that -- how are they ever going to reach a compromise with the government?

In a movement with leaders, this follows an intuitive pattern. The authorities talk to the leaders, grant some of their demands, and persuade them to call off the protests. If needed, they can add some extra pressure with personal bribes or threats.

Without leaders, this just doesn't work. The government can offer things to the protesters, but has no way of getting a halt to the protests in return. So any concessions they do make will just encourage the rebels to continue with further demands.

So: either the demonstrations gradually peter out, without being able to force any change. Or the government reacts with violence, terrifies people out of joining the protests. Or, just possibly, things escalate until the government falls, accompanied by who knows how much violence.

But I can't see how the Jan25 movement -- or any movement without an ability to negotiate -- can end with some kind of moderate, limited success.

Am I wrong?
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I know nothing about Egypt. Or Tunisia. Or Sudan. Or Lebanon. Or Albania. Or -- there's a lot of news happening at the moment, isn't there?

But here are some of the articles I've found about Egypt that get beyond "woo! riots!":

Al-ahram on the significance of the date:

Police Day [Jan 25] is meant to mark the day when the police forces took to the street in Ismailia to fight the British Occupation.
"The decision may be controversial but I think it was a good choice," says Essam El Erian, the media spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group. "Six decades ago the police did their patriotic duty and fought the British occupation, now we ask them to also fight against a corrupt government that has rigged the elections."

Marc Lynch on the Arabic media:

During the key period when the protests were picking up steam, Al Jazeera aired a documentary cultural program on a very nice seeming Egyptian novelist and musical groups, and then to sports. Now (10:30am EST) it is finally covering the protests in depth, but its early lack of coverage may hurt its credibility. I can't remember another case of Al Jazeera simply punting on a major story in a political space which it has owned.

Simon Tisdall on protest tactics -- how this is what happens when you don't go through the same ritual demonstrations:

Egyptians have been here before. The so-called Cairo spring of 2005 briefly lifted hopes of peaceful reform and open elections
But Tuesday's large-scale protests were different in significant ways, sending unsettling signals to a regime that has made complacency a way of life. "Day of Rage" demonstrators in Cairo did not merely stand and shout in small groups, as is usual. They did not remain in one place. They joined together – and they marched. And in some cases, the police could not, or would not, stop them.
an ad hoc coalition of students, unemployed youths, industrial workers, intellectuals, football fans and women, connected by social media such as Twitter and Facebook, instigated a series of fast-moving, rapidly shifting demos across half a dozen or more Egyptian cities. The police could not keep up – and predictably, resorted to violence.

And, since they seem to be mentioned almost nowhere else, Global voices lists the demonstrators' demands

  • To raise the minimum wage limit to LE 1200 and to get an unemployment aid.

  • To cancel the emergency status in the country , to dismiss Habib El-Adly and to release all detainees without court orders.

  • Disbanding the current parliament , to have a new free election and to amend the constitution in order to have two presidential limits only.

Also, Anonymous are in the thick of it. Again. They've apparently turned LOIC on Egyptian government websites. This is after Tunisia, where they were about the first outside group to get involved. Meanwhile in Spain, having contributed to the December protests which prevented passage of an anti-download law, they're back at it as the government takes another shot at it.

It's like the gang of bored teenagers on the street corner has turned into a politicised mob.

Obligatory riot porn: Stopping a water cannon, Tiananmen-style. And something less violent
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If I were a digital artist...

...I'd put a pigeon in a Skinner Box, and connect it to Facebook.

Feed it whenever somebody clicks 'like' on an update. Give it a few buttons to post different things: a picture of itself, a lolcat, a political rant. Watch it learn to post crowd-pleasing updates.

I'm pretty sure this would work -- both on a technical level, and as something people would like as simultaneously cute and disturbing. I'd be tempted to do it, except that I don't really have anywhere to keep a pigeon.

You might have to fiddle a few details. You'd somehow need to avoid too big a time-lag between posting an updates and getting feedback/food. And you'd want to engineer diminishing returns as the account got more popular. If the pigeon got a thousand likes for posting a single update, it might just binge rather than continuing to perfect its technique. Ideally you'd replace food with some kind of drug, something with tolerance effects so that the pigeon would be left always wanting more. But getting a pigeon hooked on heroin might not go down so well in some quarters;(
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Afghanistan. Still a war there. And every time you look away for a while, the news gets a bit worse.

Here is a horrifying story of bombing an Afghan village into oblivion. Except the writer isn't horrified; in her eyes, this is a perfectly sensible military tactic. She's incomprehending when one of the villagers "in a fit of theatrics" accuses the commander of "ruining his life". Because blowing his home, and his neighbours' homes, and their farmland, is a trivial thing to get annoyed about.

There are outraged posts and further information popping up online.
One of the best responses is from Joshua Foust, writing at Central Asia blog Registan. As he points out, this isn't an individual outrage. It's a standard tactic, something that the soldiers involved now barely see as controversial:

I cannot comprehend why the deliberate destruction of villages seems to be an official, sanctioned ISAF policy in the South. Is is abhorrent, an atrocity, and there is no excuse for it (nor are there words for the anger it’s stirred in me, reading about it from afar; I suspect Broadwell would sniff at me to stop whining as well, were we to discuss it in person). This should outrage and infuriate everyone who reads about it. But, and this is where I move from rage to despair: how could we ever possibly hope to stop it?
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In the soviet bloc, it was apparently common for punk gigs to happen in churches.

Punk groups were officially banned, or at the least subject to disapproval. The scene was monitored, and being known as a punk meant throwing away pretty much any chance of a career. In the official venues, it was a rare and brave promoter who would give them space.

...so the priests stepped in. Either as an extension of their youth-work, or because some priests were themselves punks -- or because the church loathed the state almost as much as the punks did, so "my enemy's enemy is my friend" applied.

Whatever the reasons, it happened. Certainly in Poland and East Germany, presumably elsewhere as well. It's fairly well-known among people who lived through it, even as children.

But the internet is being oddly unbountiful with information. I've found a bit in German, including on a neo-nazi attack on a punk gig in a Berlin church, on "Blues" masses (which became punk masses), and a documentary. In English, this is about the most I've found.

But somewhere out there online, there must be a really good account, ideally complete with beautiful and incongruous photos. Help me; where is it?
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The suffragettes were seriously into jujitsu.

Edith Garrud takes down a policeman

It makes sense. They were neophile radicals with a legitimate reason to fight the law; who better to learn martial arts?

But it's also somewhat impressive, given the time-frame: they were really among the first in England to take up the practice. Asian martial arts had received some discussion there in the 19th century, but the first dojo didn't open until 1899*, and a decade later there were still only a half-dozen trainers.

One of them was Edith Garrud. That's her above, demonstrating how to take down a policeman.

Because this wasn't just about muggers and drunken husbands; the suffragettes needed self-defence against the police. So Garrud trained the 'Bodyguard Group' of 25 'Jujitsuffragettes'. Their main aim was protecting the movement's leaders from police violence and from arrest. Meanwhile Garrud's dojo also became a refuge for suffragettes.

Here's how it's described by a descendent of one of the group:

The 25 Bodyguard members were armed with Indian rubber clubs, hidden within their long skirts, & trained in jujitsu, a Japanese system of wrestling that works well against stronger opponents... Although they couldn't out-muscle the policemen, they could outwit them. On several occasions they staged exciting rescues. Twice a decoy maneuver led the detectives to carry off the wrong Mrs. Pankhurst. But the sad truth is that, more often than not, the women suffered dislocated joints, broken bones & concussions.

And here's how Punch saw it:

* This first teacher was E.W. Barton-Wright. Barton-Wright was an engineer who had spent 3 years in Japan (typical nerd-martial artist crossover!). On his return to London he started teaching what he called 'Bartitsu'. This mixed jujitsu with kick-boxing and stick-fighting -- the idea being that you should be able to fight off muggers with your umbrella and perhaps a well-thrown coat.

Bartitsu was quickly forgotten, but not before Conan Doyle had mentioned it as the skill which enabled Sherlock Holmes to overpower Moriarty, as they fought above the Reichenbach Falls. In the 80s, Holmes aficionados and martial arts historians figured out the connection, paving the way for a revival in the past decade. It's surely only a matter of time until the steampunk crowd discover it, and people start feeling nervous when they meet somebody in Edwardian dress down a dark alley.

More: Martial history magazine; "The Jujitsuffragettes"; Clarkes World; Suffragettes in an airship. And thanks to Dmytri for telling me about it all.
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In October I mentioned that French news website Rue 89 was being sued for defamation, because of an article which used my Panama database to link French businessman Eric de Sérigny to firms in Panama.

The case has now been dropped.

Rue89 has given Sérigny a right to reply space, presumably as part of the deal. He concedes that the original reporting was 'serious', but still denies the allegations, and suggests it's a case of identity theft.

So that's something of a relief. Props to Rue 89 for standing by their story, and to David Leloup for writing it in the first place. I wince to imagine the time and money it must have taken to defend the article.

I still have no idea what all the fuss was about; the original article seemed well-documented but not exactly damning. Now it's all blown over, at least so far as I can tell from over here.
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LJ memes, I discovered today, have a pen-and-paper forerunner from the 19th century. 'Confessions' were series of meme-like questions ('your favourite book?', 'your greatest regret?') -- often in book form, so you could inflict the questionnaire on multiple friends and collate the answers.

Sadly, the only online traces I can find are from when Famous People got involved. Marx's daughters liked them, so we have a set of answers from daddy, and another from an impressively bad-tempered Engels. Vanity Fair doggedly maintains one once answered by Proust, and Mark Twain* was typically caustic about a printed variation on the theme.

All those examples are fairly dull, to be honest. But there must be thousands more buried in obscure archives, and among them presumably some with interesting questions and/or answers. It'd be a nice small project for somebody to dig a few out, transcribe them, and reanimate them for the web. Think of it as the meme equivalent of Jurassic Park.

Also: 'asking friends a list of questions' is the kind of fad that must have been tried in lots of different contexts. What other forms did it take, in other times and places?

* Mark Twain:

Nothing could induce me to fill those blanks but the asseveration of my pastor that it will benefit my race by enabling young people to see what I am, and giving them an opportunity to become like somebody else. This overcomes my scruples. I hâve but little character, but what I hâve I am willing to part with for the public good.

[further teleological Victoriana: readthroughs, wargames]
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According to the New York Times*, there's lately been a rash of single-person protests in Moscow.

Demonstrations require authorization, which often isn't given. A single person, though doesn't count as a demonstration, and so can stand anywhere they like, holding a placard with impunity.

Or almost with impunity. Counter-protesters (in this case, government supporters) have a kamikaze option. They join the protest, with a placard giving the opposite view. Now it's an illicit two-person demonstration, and all participants can be arrested:

Under a quirk of Russian law on rallies and protests, so-called individual pickets are legal without permits, which the opposition rarely obtains. Single protesters, standing 30 feet or so apart, may hold signs in public. As the Russian police were interpreting the rules, two protesters standing together were grounds for arrest — even if they came from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

* all the reports I've found on this lead back to the New York Times or Washington Post; I've not found anything on Russian blogs, etc. I don't think it's been made up, but I'm not going to spend long checking.
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Think Ed Miliband is passive, useless? Wrong. Jim Jepps understands: he has ascended to such mastery that he can alter history with the slightest motion:

Meanwhile Miliband watches, as if to say "I am stone. As life comes and goes about me, I am rock. Let rivers rage and thunder crash, what are these ephemeral twitiches to the aeons?"

As libraries shut, offices close, unemployment rises and riots flare across the streets all we see are Lib Dems and Tories racing round setting light to schools, and urinating on our armed forces (but only the living ones, never the dead).

Of course, Labour's ranks are not all schooled in Miliband's teachings. Some cluck and splutter "Do something!" They shout "Call someone a bigot! Announce a policy initiative! Issue a press release! Do something!"

Miliband stops breathing, a hint of a frown crosses his face, but just for a moment. Holding up one finger he silences them. A deathly quiet falls. "Listen." One brave Labour acolyte steps forwards, and trembling asks "Wh... what is that sound? It's cutting me to the quick... horrible..." she breathes, eyes wide.

"It is the weeping of my enemies."

Also via Jim, a rant about protest organizers in London:

the left are not to blame for the brutal police tactics, they are not guilty of kettling anyone, and they are not responsible for arrests. Nonetheless they are responsible for unnecessarily putting people in situations where these things inevitably happen.

December 2016

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