>BEIRUT -- There's a saying in Arabic: "You drink politics with your mother's milk." But this week's visit to Lebanon by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shows that Iran, and by proxy Hezbollah, is breaking this pattern by directly engaging younger generations in a culture of resistance and radicalism.
On Wednesday morning, children of all ages came out to the airport road to welcome Ahmadinejad on his first visit to the Arab nation since becoming president in 2005: Some had Lebanese flags painted on their faces, others were so tiny their mothers' had to cradle them in their arms. Being the second largest job provider in Lebanon, Hezbollah considered Ahmadinejad's visit a holiday, bringing children from their Mehdi and Houda schools, associations, and scout group's to attend the Iranian president's welcoming festivities. A group of children who did not go to school to celebrate the occasion had the words Revolution Institute on their hats, while a woman had a dress sewn made from the bright yellow Hezbollah flag. White baseball caps with the Iranian flag and a cedar tree, symbolizing Lebanon, dotted the crowd. And one lone man wore a USA shirt in a sea of red, white and green. The older kids sang songs and cheered and one little girl was even dressed in what looked like a wedding dress, with white flowers in her hair and white shiny heels on her feet.
For a certain segment of Lebanon, Ahmadinejad's visit is a major event in their lifetime and one that Hezbollah qualified as a historical visit. Remember, for Shiite Muslim's, many of whom feel ignored by the Lebanese government and the outside world- Iran, and its ally Hezbollah, are the only ones paying attention to them. And any attention is good attention. Iran gives Hezbollah millions of dollars a year, not to mention a slew of weapons.
Zaynab Shaito, a young woman who was waiting for Amadenijad on the airport road on Wednesday, said: "I'm here to pay back the Islamic Republic. I'm here to say thank you for building my house and village, and my country. In times when everybody is against Iran and against Ahmadinejad we are here to support Iran, and we are here to show that no one can stop us from loving the path of freedom and resistance."
After the morning's parade Ahmadinejad's black SUV headed to Baabda presidential palace where the Iranian leader met representatives from Hezbollah, as well as Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. It was strange to see photos of Hariri and Ahmadinejad shaking hands knowing that a UN tribunal is investigating the assassination of Saad's father -- former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri -- and is expected to indict members of Hezbollah soon. Even before Ahmadinejad's visit, tensions had been mounting between Hezbollah and the pro-Western coalition that leads the government causing many Lebanese to worry there may be another war -- this one bigger and more deadly than those in the past. Given that much of the power -- and money -- behind Hezbollah comes from Iran, Ahmadinejad's visit is a show of strength for Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Yet there was no sign of tension between the two countries at Wednesday's meeting. Ahmadinejad referred to Lebanon as his "brother" and said he "feels like at home." He praised the Lebanese army for fighting off "the Zionist enemy" and called the country "the banner of pride and freedom not only for the people of Lebanon, but for all peoples of the region." He pointed out that both countries' goals are aligned and both "Iranian and Lebanese peoples are raising their voices because they want justice." "We want to increase our cooperation in all fields on this day," he said.
Washington has expressed its concern about Ahmadinejad's trip with U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley saying last week that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with the Suleiman about the visit. Then on Wednesday U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly released remarks saying that Lebanon is a "sovereign state that can invite or receive anybody." "There is a concern we share with the countries in the region that Iran is not playing a helpful role in the region in terms of stability," Connelly said.
Ahmadinejad will visit several villages in the south of Lebanon that were destroyed during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, one of which is only a few miles from Israel. Rumor has it he will throw a stone at the nation he swore to "wipe off the map." In turn Knesset Member Arieh Eldad of the National Union threatened to kill Ahmadinejad if he threw rocks. The timing couldn't have been worse given that the Middle East peace talks are in progress.
Yet peace was not the word on most people's tongues on Wednesday -- more often, the word I heard was "resistance." The image Ahmadinejad supporters seem to have is that Iran and Lebanon need to stick together to fend off their enemies. Hussein Hammade, who was one of the thousands of onlookers waiting for Ahmadinejad on Wednesday morning, said: "I'm here to say welcome to the exceptional man, and I'm here to say thank you. It means a lot to us this visit. It's a visit to strengthen the resistance. In the presence of enemies all working to burn Lebanon, this visit make me feel safer now that we are not alone and we got a strong man representing a strong country in town."
But not everyone in Lebanon is a fan of the Iranian leader. Mustapha Eitani, 27, expressed fear of what the visit is going to mean for Lebanon. "This visit is making me worry," he said. "It is after he is gone that I'm worried about. I think he is here to prepare for the coup d'état Hezbollah is preparing after he is gone. Iran needs to leave us alone, don't turn Lebanon as an arena to settle their differences with the Americans."
After Wednesday's parade tens of thousands of Ahmadinejad supporters gathered in Raya Square in Dahieh, a southern suburb of Beirut and a Hezbollah stronghold.
"Allah, Allah, Allah!" thousands sang. "Let's go Nasrallah!" young girls cheered as the Hezbollah leader appeared, for security reasons, via video link. Girls as young as 13 spoke about how "cute" Ahmadinejad is and stood on chairs to get a better look at him.
A friend who lives in Dahieh invited me to his mother's apartment to drink tea and watch the festivities from her second floor balcony. Amazed by the size of the crowd he explained that "nobody ever comes here," which is why the Iranian leader's visit, accompanied by patriotic music and ten-story posters, is such a big deal in the neighborhood. It's not necessarily that Ahmadinejad is loved by everyone, but his arrival is probably one of the biggest social events of the year and one that is not to be missed.
Of course I couldn't see the many thousands who did not show up for the rally on Wednesday night. But from what I could see, many young Lebanese idolize Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad. Whether it's for the substance of their message or their charisma is another question.
There are prospects for democracy in Lebanon, but the presence of the Iranian regime is certainly one of the challenges facing it. I have met a number of young people here who are pushing for social change using the tools at hand: Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. I have met Shiites with diverse political sensibilities, many of whom are even anti-Hezbollah. But democracy-building is a slow process and the export of Iranian propaganda to a country struggling to forge its own identity doesn't make it any easier.
Reporting contributed by Moe Ali Nayel. Photos by Elinor Collins.
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Winds of Winter,” the tenth and final episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz discussed new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.
It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.
Millions of men in the prime of their lives are missing from the labor force. Could a big U.S. housing construction project bring them back?
Something is rotten in the U.S. economy. Poor men without a college degree are disappearing from the labor force. The share of prime-age men (ages 25-54) who are neither working nor looking for work has doubled since the 1970s.
The U.S.’s labor participation rate for this group of men is lower than every country in the OECD except for Israel (an outlier, because of the high number of non-working Orthodox Jewish men) and Italy (an economic omnishambles). Today, one in six prime-age men in America are either unemployed or out of the workforce altogether—about 10 million men.
So, this is the 10-million-man question: Where did all these guys go?
According to a report from White House economists released last week, non-working prime-age men skew young, are less likely to be parents, are disproportionately black and less educated, and are concentrated in the South.
On swallowing “sorry”s and replacing them with simple “thank you”s.
There are many things I envy about Tami Taylor, the famously empathetic yet take-no-shit matriarch of Friday Night Lights: her perfect hair, her prodigious wine intake, her ability to always say the right thing. But while watching the show, one thing that really grabbed me was her capacity for casual gratitude.
Casual gratitude is a term I just made up, to distinguish it from the more serious, mindful, let-me-sit-down-and-count-my-blessings practice of gratitude, or the formal gratitude of, say, a thank you note, or a life debt. As the Taylors flurried around their Texas kitchen and the local high school, Tami was always quick to recognize others for the small favors they did for her with a “thank you” or “I appreciate it.” And it’s how she says it. She doesn’t make a big deal out of it, just thanks people casually, but with grace and sincerity, and then she moves on. A simple thank you for a simple kindness.
The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down two Texas abortion-clinic restrictions in a 5-3 decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a series of restrictions on Texas abortion clinics Monday, turning back one of the most significant challenges to abortion rights in a generation.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a five-justice majority in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
The case centers on two abortion-clinic regulations enacted by the Texas legislature in 2013. One of the regulations requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure’s location. A second regulation also requires clinics that provide abortions to meet the same safety and staffing standards Texas requires for hospital operating rooms.
It’s not because they’re inherently harsher leaders than men, but because they often respond to sexism by trying to distance themselves from other women.
There are two dominant cultural ideas about the role women play in helping other women advance at work, and they are seemingly at odds: the Righteous Woman and the Queen Bee.
The Righteous Woman is an ideal, a belief that women have a distinct moral obligation to have one another’s backs. This kind of sentiment is best typified by Madeleine Albright’s now famous quote, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” The basic idea is that since all women experience sexism, they should be more attuned to the gendered barriers that other women face. In turn, this heightened awareness should lead women to foster alliances and actively support one another. If women don’t help each other, this is an even worse form of betrayal than those committed by men. And hence, the special place in hell reserved for those women.
Girls who start to develop at young ages—as more and more of them are—are at risk for a host of physical and psychological problems.
“I wanted to call the book The New Normal, but everyone around me said no, you can’t!” said Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-author of a book that ended up being called The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today’s Girls, on Sunday at Spotlight Health, a conference co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “It may be average, but it’s not okay.”
Greenspan is also a co-author of a longitudinal study that looked at around 1,200 girls ages six to eight, and followed them for seven years, from 2004 to 2011, to see when puberty began for them. While puberty in girls is often measured using the onset of their first menstrual period, the first sign is actually breast development—it’s just that first period is easier to measure, because people typically remember it. For breast development, a doctor really has to do an in-person exam. (Puberty onset in boys hasn’t been well-studied, but it doesn’t seem to be following these same patterns.)
The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within—and even crowded out of—their own country.
I said goodnight to a gloomy party of Leave-minded Londoners a few minutes after midnight. The paper ballots were still being counted by hand. Only the British overseas territory of Gibraltar had reported final results. Yet the assumption of a Remain victory filled the room—and depressed my hosts. One important journalist had received a detailed briefing earlier that evening of the results of the government’s exit polling: 57 percent for Remain.
The polling industry will be one victim of the Brexit vote. A few days before the vote, I met with a pollster who had departed from the cheap and dirty methods of his peers to perform a much more costly survey for a major financial firm. His results showed a comfortable margin for Remain. Ten days later, anyone who heeded his expensive advice suffered the biggest percentage losses since the 2008 financial crisis.
The spacecraft Juno was designed to make it all the way to Jupiter, then orbit the planet without getting destroyed in the process
Jupiter is not to be trifled with.
The gargantuan planet is a gas giant, a term that makes it sound far gentler than it actually is. In fact, Jupiter is severe and volatile.
Its famous Great Red Spot is a violent anticyclone three times the size of Earth that has been raging for at least 400 years. The radiation around Jupiter is a menace, 1 million times more intense than radiation belts that surround Earth. The Jovian magnetosphere, which powers its radiation belts and produces brilliant permanent auroras around the planet’s poles, is the largest structure in our solar system. “Northern Lights on steroids,” as Randy Gladstone, a planetary scientist who focuses on airglow, once put it to NASA. “They're hundreds of times more energetic than auroras on Earth.”