Opinion polls and regional media coverage suggest that the anti-Assad protests are widely backed the citizens of Arab countries, and they might even support an intervention -- though not one by the West
Foreign ministers at the Arab League headquarters on October 16 to discuss suspending Syria from the Arab League / AP
As atrocities in Syria continue, the question is inevitable: is the international community doing enough? Certainly the Syrian regime is, in analyst-speak, "increasingly isolated," but what does that actually mean? There have been the usual condemnations of violence. Individuals like the U.N. high commissioner for human rights have called for the international community to protect Syrian civilians. It's no surprise, of course, that the Western bit of the international community in particular is increasingly irritated, to say the least, with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. But if you're really looking to nail down what kind of "isolation" we're talking about, perhaps the best indicator lies in the attitude of the Arab world.
The big pan-Arab dailies, at least, appear to universally support the anti-Assad protesters. Furthermore, a new public opinion poll out Tuesday suggests this trend extends to ordinary citizens -- in other words, this is not a case of media elite-public divide. On the one hand, this seems obvious: even over the summer, an Arab American Institute poll found that while a plurality of respondents in their "Arab Attitudes" survey thought it was "too early" to call the Arab Spring, the second most popular response was that the uprisings were leaving the Arab world "better off." On the other hand, consider the particulars: many in the Arab world are sensitive to signs of foreign interference, or even foreign judgment and the infiltration of Western values. Many in the Arab world also want leaders who prove themselves against Israel: Assad has unquestionably done that. Neither Israel nor its European and American supporters has been overly fond of the Syrian regime.
But it appears that favorability to the Arab Spring overrides these concerns. An article at the daily Al-Hayat directly addresses some of these issues, for example the fear of foreign interference, also expressed in an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (a notably pro-Palestinian and often anti-Western paper). "What if the people rebel and cannot achieve victory?" the author at Al-Hayat asks. "There must be no foreign interference," runs the refrain. "The problem with this way of thinking," though, the author continues, referring to the hardliners, is that "first, adherents [to this creed] love strategy and geopolitics and their calculations more than they love the people [...] Second, they hate America more than they love the people." Third, the article continues, somewhat redundantly, this view shows insufficient interest in supporting individual Arab communities.
It's interesting to see the pro-Palestinian and generally aggressively anti-Western Al-Quds Al-Arabi also siding with the Syrian people. The paper runs one article questioning dictators' mindsets, another with a Syrian's recollection of his own disillusionment process, and another flatly stating in the first sentence, "It is not correct for one to ignore the great pain of Syria." This last article also talks about "the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who repeats the massacres of his father," comparing those massacres to terrorism. The article argues that the Syrian people "deserve" a chance to build a "modern national democratic Arab state."
Even those articles concerned with regional stability are quick to express horror at Assad's actions. The Egyptian Al Ahram, for example, describes "growing fears that Syria will slide into civil war," but also distastefully refers to the "Syrian regime's excessive use of force" and "opposition leaders who are being murdered in suspicious transactions." Asharq Al-Awsat published an article worrying about regional repercussions, as Syria was once the "corner joint in the relationship between Iran and Turkey." It also dedicates another article almost entirely to expressing skepticism at Assad's feints at reform.
In addition, New York Times readers might note that the Times's Anthony Shadid isn't the only one suggesting Qaddafi's killing might embolden the Syrian opposition. It's also a view widely held in the Arabic-language media: "If there were those who thought that the violent repression of demonstrations would keep Arab rulers from Mubarak's fate," runs an Al-Qudspiece, "the shattered body of Libya's former governor has shown the alternative to the detention cage."
All this isn't to say that the Arab world isn't still highly skeptical of Western attitudes on the Arab Spring -- readers trolling through online articles will come across some pretty aggressive denunciations of NATO's involvement in Libya. But if you're looking for proof of the near universality of support for Syria's protesters, look no further than a report published today by the Arab American Institute.
"The overwhelming majority of Arabs in the six nations covered in the survey side with those Syrians demonstrating against the government (from 83% in Morocco to 100% in Jordan). And when asked whether Bashar Al Assad can continue to govern, the highest affirmative ratings he receives are 15% in Morocco and 14% in Egypt.
Most telling is the scant support the Syrian leader receives in Lebanon. From other results ... we can see that the Lebanese haven't stopped giving Hezbollah a net favorable rating and more than one-half of Lebanese Shia have a favorable view of the role played by Iran in Syria. But in questions dealing with the Syrian leader, it is clear that whatever support he might have commanded in the past is now gone."
So what does that mean for those who'd like to see the international community intervene to stop the slaughter of the opposition? Actually, the poll addresses this, too, and the message is exactly what you'd expect from reading the Arabic-language media on the subject:
"Turkey's interventions with Syria to date have won majority support in every Arab country [...] The country receiving the lowest rating for its role in Syria is the United States, which should serve as a cautionary note for U.S. policy-makers. [...] Syria appears not to be a place where U.S. interference will ultimately be welcomed."
Is Syria the place where the countries of the Middle East will finally start policing themselves, calling repressive regimes on their games -- at least the worst of them? Hard to know what CIA analysts would say to that right now, but the public opinion and media message is clear: it's not as far-out a suggestion as you might think.
Lawmakers overrode an Obama veto for the first time on Wednesday. A day later, they already had regrets.
The enactment on Wednesday of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act should have been a triumphant moment for Republican leaders in Congress. They had succeeded, after years of trying, in overriding a presidential veto for the first time and forcing a bill into law over the strenuous objections of Barack Obama.
But the morning after brought no such celebration for HouseSpeaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell—only pangs of regret.
“It appears as if there may be some unintended ramifications,” McConnell lamented at a press conference barely 24 hours after all but one senator voted to reject the president’s veto of the legislation, which would allow victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. court. On the other side of the Capitol, Ryan said that he hoped there could be a “fix” to the very law he allowed to pass through the House—one that would protect U.S. soldiers abroad from legal retribution that the Obama administration had warned for months would follow as a result of the law.
With the death of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost its chief optimist. And the prime minister remains paralyzed by pessimism.
The Book of Proverbs teaches us that where there is no vision, the people perish. The people of Israel, now bereft of Shimon Peres, will not perish, because survival—or, at least, muddling through—is a Jewish specialty. But the death of Israel’s greatest visionary, a man who understood that it would never be morally or spiritually sufficient for the Jews to build for themselves the perfect ghetto and then wash their hands of the often-merciless world, means that Israel has lost its chief optimist.
Peres was, for so many years, a prophet without honor in his own country, but he was someone who, late in life, came to symbolize Israel’s big-hearted, free-thinking, inventive, and democratic promise. Peres came to this role in part because he had prescience, verbal acuity, a feel for poetry, and a restless curiosity, but also because, gradually but steadily, he became surrounded by small men. One of the distressing realities of Israel today is that, in so many fields—technology, medicine, agriculture, literature, music, cinema—the country is excelling. But to Israeli politics go the mediocrities.
An etiquette update: Brevity is the highest virtue.
I recently cut the amount of time I spent on email by almost half, and I think a lot of people could do the same.
I’m sure my approach has made some people hate me, because I come off curt. But if everyone thought about email in the same way, what I’m suggesting wouldn’t be rude. Here are the basic guidelines that are working for me and, so, I propose for all of the world to adopt immediately:
Best? Cheers? Thanks?
None of the above. You can write your name if it feels too naked or abrupt not to have something down there. But it shouldn’t, and it wouldn’t if it were the norm.
Don’t waste time considering if “Dear,” or “Hey” or “[name]!” is appropriate. Just get right into it. Write the recipient’s name if you must. But most people already know their names. Like they already know your name.
Late in her losing primary campaign against Barack Obama eight years ago, Hillary Clinton put out her “3 a.m. phone call” ad. The idea was that real presidents have to deal with crises at short notice and with very high stakes. According to the ad, then-Senator Clinton’s greater experience meant that she’d be better at making those 3 a.m. decisions than the relative-rookie Obama would be. If you supported Hillary Clinton, you found that persuasive. If you preferred Obama, as I did, you were less impressed.
What does Donald Trump do at 3 a.m.? To judge by the social-media record, he sends out tweets—and real, “from the Id” personal tweets himself, rather than higher-road ones from his staff. The usual giveaway is the “Twitter for Android” label you see on Tweetdeck and other platforms, versus “Twitter for iPhone” from his staff.
Conservatives have put families and communities at the center of their conception of a better America—but they’re notably absent from the Republican nominee’s account.
Again and again at Monday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump’s record in business. She accused him of caring only about himself. Again and again, he pleaded guilty.
When Clinton quoted Trump as cheering for a housing crisis, Trump responded, “That’s called business.” When Clinton accused Trump of not paying taxes, Trump answered, “That makes me smart.” When Clinton attacked Trump for declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying the people he owed, Trump replied, “I take advantage of the laws of the nation because I’m running a company.” Clinton set out to paint Trump as selfish and unethical. Trump basically conceded the charge.
Commentators are declaring Trump’s answers a tactical mistake. But they’re more than that. They show how unmoored he is from conservatism’s conception of America.
After Andrea Wulf won the Royal Society’s highest honor for her book The Invention of Nature, a writer at The Guardian attributed it to a new fondness for “female-friendly” biographies among prize juries.
Last week, the Royal Society held its ceremony to honor the best popular-science book of the year. I was there, having had the good fortune to be one of the finalists for my recent book, The Hunt for Vulcan. I didn’t expect to win—partly because of my baseline pessimism, partly because of the strength of the competition, and partly because I had set out to write a kind of miniature, a brief book on a quirky topic. Whatever the reason, I was right: I didn’t.
The event itself was good fun. Each of the authors read a passage from their work; the head judge for the prize, author Bill Bryson, led us in a brief question-and-answer session, in which we compared notes on what moved us to write about science. Then came the moment of truth. Venkatramen Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society, approached the podium, opened the envelope, and announced that Andrea Wulf had won for The Invention of Nature.
The Republican says he desperately wants to win his home state—but there’s scant evidence he’s actually trying.
NEW YORK—Earlier this month, Donald Trump stood in front of a midtown Manhattan ballroom crowded with supporters and repeated something that, in the context of his race for president, was as shocking as any of his more outlandish policy proposals.
“Just so you understand, we are going to play New York,” Trump said. “We’re not just doing this for fun. We’re going to play New York.”
It was a public commitment to invest the time, energy, and resources necessary to win a state that has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 32 years, that hasn’t been competitive on the national level in nearly as long, that has twice elected Hillary Clinton to the Senate with large majorities, and where the most recent poll showed Trump losing by 24 points.
At Berkeley, researchers are studying how wearing flip-flops changes buildings' air-conditioning needs.
When a tech company recently came to Stefano Schiavon at the University of California, Berkeley to test an air-conditioning system for its office, his mind went to flip-flops. The new system would blast cool air from the floor rather than the ceiling, and this being the Bay Area, and this being a tech company, Schiavon figured he couldn’t use the same old models researchers have been using since the 70s to study thermal comfort. (Yes, that is the name for the academic study of maintaining a building at just the right temperature.)
He needed to test people in flip-flops.
Feet, it turns out, are exquisitely sensitive to temperature. When you get cold, the blood vessels in your extremities are the first to constrict, which is your body’s way of preventing more heat loss. “You feel uncomfortable because your feet get numb or getting close to numb,” says Edward Arens, an architect at the University of Berkeley, who also studies thermal comfort. If building managers could heat or cool the feet alone, they could cut energy and costs. So at Berkeley, researchers are focusing on thermal comfort from the feet up.
They were given the same 120 minutes. But each network presented them its own way.
A presidential debate never really ends. For weeks—until the next matchup—cable news keeps the top clips on rotation, replaying the zingers and goof-ups. (I expect to see Hillary Clinton’s Shaq-like shoulder shimmy about a zillion times before this election concludes.) And what’s wrong with that? A debate is America’s rare chance to compare the candidates head-to-head. Each appearance is worth chewing over.
But if cable-news recaps constitute part of our collective short-term political memory, it’s interesting to see which clips they choose to spotlight—and how their choices vary by network.
For months, the Political TV Ad Archive, a project of the Internet Archive, has faithfully logged when campaign commercials air in key media markets. How they manage to track them is pretty neat: Their software builds an audio fingerprint of each campaign advertisement, then listens for that distinctive waveform on live broadcasts. Using the same technology, the group launched a side project this week, monitoring how clips from Monday’s debate have reappeared on the major news networks.