Looks like today has been a good day for slightly-under-the-radar news stories, so I figured I may as well do a roundup.
A pair of interesting articles in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz: (Links are to the English edition) Our ol’ buddy Arafat is apparently now willing to sign on to the Clinton peace plan for Israel, (a couple of years late, but hey…) and says that (quoting Ha’aretz)
“He said that “foreign” forces were exploiting young hopeless Palestinians, encouraging them to commit attacks in exchange for money, adding that two families of suicide attackers from Jenin received $30,000 each from these foreigners.”
and a Reuters report of an interview with King Abdullah of Jordan where he says that Arafat has “lost control of extremists” in the Palestinian community.
Short interpretation of these articles: Arafat is realizing that he’s in a really, really great deal of trouble. The new intifada, which he encouraged and ran as a way of boosting his political position for negotiations, started to spiral out of his control about a year ago, and he hasn’t really been able to control anything since then. Several Arab countries in the region have been intentionally fanning the flames for their own purposes; Iraq and Saudi Arabia are two of the most egregious cases. (The $30k that Arafat was citing is from Saddam Hussein; Saudi funding is a bit more covert, but even more extensive) However, most of these countries (Iraq quite excepted) are realizing that they may have just set off a lot more than they bargained for, and are trying to stop it before it spreads to their own soil. The name of the game here is trying to keep contained a young, unemployed populace which spreads across the entire Middle East; keeping them focused on the situation in Israel worked for a while, but the resulting culture of violence is potentially poison to every government and regime in the area.
Projection: Pretty much everyone has given up on Arafat as irrelevant by now. The Israelis don’t negotiate with him anymore, Bush’s latest speeches indicate that he doesn’t really think Arafat can do anything, and even Arab leaders have recognized that he’s pretty much an albatross at this point. He’s also an old man and not in the best of health. So things will continue pretty much as they’re going now, with increasing bloodshed, until he finally dies; at which point there will very likely be a power struggle among the Palestinian leaders which could even branch into a Palestinian civil war. (This is what you get when the first thing you set up in your government is twelve independent secret polices, each of them spying on the other — paranoia breeds disunity) Several parties (Israel and all the nearby Arab countries, who fear spreading trouble from the intifada) have at least some interest in allowing such a war to go on and absorb the current generation of violence; several other parties (e.g. Iraq) have an interest in there being enough Palestinian unity to keep the anti-Israeli violence going; and yet other parties (e.g. Iran) have an interest in these groups being heavily enough armed to keep trouble going off there and keeping the rest of the Islamic world and Israel together embroiled in trouble for time to come. Which, if any, of these forces will succeed is an interesting question. Prognosis: Whee! More explosives! (expletives in a combination of Hebrew and Arabic omitted)
(N.Y. Times) The U.S. Senate voted 52-40 to lift a ban on performing privately funded abortions in US military hospitals overseas. (!) Right now American servicewomen must either get leave and return to the United States (a difficult process, one full of administrative headaches and a damnable invasion of privacy — the soldier’s C.O. should not have to be involved in this. Far too many CO’s are not the sort whom I would ever suggest sharing such a thing with) or have the abortion performed in local hospitals, which typically are staffed with doctors which often speak little English and are (to put it politely) not trained and equipped to American standards.
This will probably lead to a firestorm and fierce opposition in the House, but it’s still damned good to see that the Senate is doing something productive. The vote was mostly on party lines, with four Republicans — Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Arlen Specter (!) (R-PA) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) breaking ranks to vote for and two Democrats, Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Harry Reid (D-NV) voting against.
Finally, some good news to post here!
The NY Times reports on the increasing use of ultrasounds to abort female fetuses in China, leading to a drastic population imbalance. Unfortunately the web edition doesn’t include the fascinating map that’s in the dead-tree version; it shows gender ratio by region across the country. The biggest ratio is in Hainan Province, where there are 135.7 boys for every 100 girls; a good quarter of the country has a ratio above 1.2:1. Fortunately, China does not supplement this with an enormous population bubble in lower age brackets; (see table below…) unfortunately, they do supplement this with a rising tide of unemployment (particularly in rural areas) coming from an uneven and corrupt privatization policy, and the rapid spred of AIDS due to various policies that I won’t go in to right now — it’s too depressing.
Here are the US Bureau of the Census figures for China’s population by age and gender, 2002; the gender-split figures are the ones which the new study suggests are inaccurate, so those should probably not be taken too seriously.
|Percent||Percent (male)||Percent (female)||Cum. Pct.||Cum.Pct. (male)||Cum. Pct. (female)|
Only 33 percent of the population is below age 20, which is good — there are countries where 60 percent of the population is. That plus a high male ratio would be the ultimate recipe for war in the offing; right now this is a recipe for social unrest in the offing.
(Where, you ask, did I get this table of populations? I’ll just say that it’s possible to go to
extraordinary lengths when one is avoiding work. Also, I’m planning on using these tables for some more serious analysis later.)
The last of these stories really has no lasting importance for anything. From Reuters via Yahoo, we have someone who was eaten by a crocodile shortly after escaping from prison.
Some days, you just can’t win.
Interesting day today… I wonder what the augurs say.