>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.
Some of Charles Schulz’s fans blame the cartoon dog for ruining Peanuts. Here’s why they’re wrong.
It really was a dark and stormy night. On February 12, 2000, Charles Schulz—who had single-handedly drawn some 18,000 Peanuts comic strips, who refused to use assistants to ink or letter his comics, who vowed that after he quit, no new Peanuts strips would be made—died, taking to the grave, it seemed, any further adventures of the gang.
Hours later, his last Sunday strip came out with a farewell: “Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy … How can I ever forget them.” By then, Peanuts was carried by more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and read by some 300 million people. It had been going for five decades. Robert Thompson, a scholar of popular culture, called it “arguably the longest story told by a single artist in human history.”
In a new book, the former Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross explores just how close Israel came to attacking Iran, and why Susan Rice accused Benjamin Netanyahu of throwing “everything but the n-word” at Barack Obama.
Updated on October 9, 2015 at 12:40 p.m.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington early next month for a meeting with President Obama, he should at least know that he is more popular in the White House than Vladimir Putin. But not by much.
This meeting will not reset the relationship between the two men in any significant way, and not only because Netanyahu has decided to troll Obama by accepting the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute on this same short trip. The meeting between the two leaders will most likely be businesslike and correct, but the gap between the two is essentially unbridgeable. From Netanyahu’s perspective, the hopelessly naive Obama broke a solemn promise to never allow Iran to cross the nuclear threshold. From Obama’s perspective, Netanyahu violated crucial norms of U.S.-Israel relations by publicly and bitterly criticizing an Iran deal that—from Obama’s perspective—protects Israel, and then by taking the nearly unprecedented step of organizing a partisan (and, by the way, losing and self-destructive) lobbying campaign against the deal on Capitol Hill.
The leaderless GOP begins its search for a speaker anew, starting with a campaign to draft Paul Ryan.
First Eric Cantor. Then John Boehner. Now Kevin McCarthy.
Conservatives in and out of Congress have, within a span of 15 months, tossed aside three of the four men most instrumental in the 2010 victory that gave Republicans their majority in the House. When the leaderless and divided party gathers on Friday to begin anew its search for a speaker, the biggest question will be whether that fourth man, Paul Ryan, will take a job that for the moment, only he can win.
Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee and chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, has for years resisted entreaties to run for speaker, citing the demands of the job on his young family and his desire to run the tax-writing panel, which he has called his “dream job.” And he did so again on Thursday, within minutes of McCarthy’s abrupt decision to abandon a race he had been favored to win. “I will not be a candidate for speaker,” Ryan tweeted. Yet the pressure kept coming. Lawmakers brought up his name throughout the day, and there were reports that Boehner himself had personally implored him to change his mind.
A new report details a black market in nuclear materials.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press published a horrifying report about criminal networks in the former Soviet Union trying to sell “radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists.” At the center of these cases, of which the AP learned of four in the past five years, was a “thriving black market in nuclear materials” in a “tiny and impoverished Eastern European country”: Moldova.
It’s a new iteration of an old problem with a familiar geography. The breakup of the Soviet Union left a superpower’s worth of nuclear weapons scattered across several countries without a superpower’s capacity to keep track of them. When Harvard’s Graham Allison flagged this problem in 1996, he wrote that the collapse of Russia’s “command-and-control society” left nothing secure. To wit:
Kids who are adopted have richer, more involved parents. They also have more behavior and attention problems. Why?
Being adopted can be one of the best things to happen to a kid. People who adopt tend to be wealthier than other parents, both because of self-selection and because of the adoption screening process. Adoptive parents tend to be better-educated and put more effort into raising their kids, as measured by things like eating family meals together, providing the child with books, and getting involved in their schools.
And yet, as rated by their teachers and tests, adopted children tend to have worse behavioral and academic outcomes in kindergarten and first grade than birth children do, according to a new research brief from the Institute for Family Studies written by psychologist Nicholas Zill.
What’s the balance between preparing students for college and ensuring they aren’t killing themselves in the process?
Kids who go to elite private high schools enjoy lots of advantages. They have access to the most challenging academic classes at reputable institutions, with staffs that are well-equipped to help them prepare for college. Parents pay an average of $10,000 per year to ensure their kids this privilege.
And yet the rigor that these opportunities demand can come with an extra cost for the students themselves. A recent study surveyed and interviewed students at a handful of these high schools and found that about half of them are chronically stressed. The results aren’t surprising—between the homework required for Advanced Placement classes, sports practices, extracurricular activities like music and student government, and SAT prep, the fortunate kids who have access to these opportunities don’t have much downtime these days. These experiences can cause kids to burn out by the time they get to college, or to feel the psychological and physical effects of stress for much of their adult lives, says Marya Gwadz, a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing.
A new tally of the those killed last month makes it the deadliest-ever disaster at the annual pilgrimage.
The death toll in last month’s Hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia is roughly double the number that the country first reported, the Associated Press is reporting.
The Saudi estimate of the disaster was 769, but the new estimate, based on an AP count, suggests that 1,453 people died in the stampede. This new number would make it the deadliest catastrophe in the history of the event.
The Hajj draws roughly 2 million pilgrims to Mecca each year, an observance that lends its host, Saudi Arabia, unrivaled prestige across the Muslim world. It also saddles the kingdom with billions of dollars of costs and logistical considerations. Over the course of the past 40 years, several of the pilgrimages have been marred by deaths caused from stampedes, the collapse of infrastructure, violence, and fires.
Joe Wright’s bombastic CGI-laden epic might be the worst franchise spinoff ever attempted.
Have you ever wondered where the pixie dust in Peter Pan came from, or what its scientific name is? Just how the institutional hierarchies of fairies, native tribes and lost boys break down? How the pirate infrastructure Captain Hook would later commandeer was set up? Where Hook came from, or Smee, for that matter? It’s hard to imagine anyone being so curious, more than 100 years after J. M. Barrie’s play debuted, but nevertheless, Pan is here—a big-budget, garish mess of a blockbuster that answers questions about the Peter Pan universe nobody asked.
In Pan, Peter (Levi Miller) first visits Neverland after he’s spirited away by orphan-snatching pirates during World War II (never mind that Barrie’s original story was set at the turn of the century). In this timeline, the kingdom is governed by the dread pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who steals children to mine pixie dust (or “pixum”) to grant him eternal youth, while he fights an endless war with Neverland’s native peoples, led by Tiger Lily (played by the decidedly white Rooney Mara). Peter meets the dashing young James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and inspires a rebellion, but Pan’s plot quickly disintegrates as the director Joe Wright stages one bombastic set-piece after another with very little grasp on the story he’s trying to tell.
American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they've failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family” tragically helped create this system, it's time to reclaim his original intent.
By his own lights, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator, sociologist, and itinerant American intellectual, was the product of a broken home and a pathological family. He was born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but raised mostly in New York City. When Moynihan was 10 years old, his father, John, left the family, plunging it into poverty. Moynihan’s mother, Margaret, remarried, had another child, divorced, moved to Indiana to stay with relatives, then returned to New York, where she worked as a nurse. Moynihan’s childhood—a tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood—contrasted starkly with the idyllic American family life he would later extol.
A family that falls behind on even a small loan can find itself in a never-ending pit of payments and shame.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, the mayor of Jennings, a St. Louis suburb of about 15,000, settled in before a computer in the empty city-council chambers. Yolonda Fountain Henderson, 50, was elected last spring as the city’s first black mayor.
On the screen was a list of every debt-collection lawsuit against a resident of her city, at least 4,500 in just five years. Henderson asked to see her own street. On her block of 16 modest ranch-style homes, lawsuits had been filed against the occupants of eight. “That’s my neighbor across the street,” she said, pointing to one line on the screen.
And then she saw her own suit. Henderson, a single mother, fell behind on her sewer bill after losing her job a few years ago, and the utility successfully sued her. That judgment was listed, as well as how one day the company seized $382 from her credit-union account—all she had, but not enough to pay off the debt.