Monthly Archives: February 2009
Addie Stan has a nice post on Religion Dispatches about the thoughtful Oscar acceptance speech by Dustin Lance Black, who won Best Screenplay for the Milk script.
My own favorite moment from last night came once the show ended. As the credits rolled ABC played a bluesy Beck cover of the old Bob Dylan standard “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat.” Intrigued, I did some digging this morning and learned that the song will appear on a benefit album for the UK-based charity War Child International. War Child asked some legendary musicians like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen nominate artists to cover one of their songs for the benefit album. The result is a 15 song album called “Heroes” that is set to be released tomorrow. Proceeds from the album will go to War Child International, which is an umbrella organization for activist groups seeking to end the terrible scourge of child soldiers.
Kudos to ABC for giving this some play to such a large audience.
The International Criminal Court just announced that it will reach a decision on whether or not to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al Bashir next Wednesday, March 4. Chances are the court will issue the arrest warrant. So why make the date public? The court says it is doing so out of concern of rumors (promulgated by the New York Times) that a decision has already been made to issue the arrest warrant. The court denies that this is the case.
Now that the court has set a firm date, look out for reprisals on internationals in Darfur. The Sudanese government is widely expected to disrupt on-going UN humanitarian and peacekeeping work Darfur in response to the arrest warrant. Those of us who have been championing ICC action in Darfur should understand that the pursuit of justice may come at the expense of near-term humanitarian concerns. That said, over the long run the court can be a useful tool and help create the conditions in which a lasting peace can take hold.
Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, pushed by the Sri Lankan military into a tiny enclave awash with civilians, have indicated their willingness to accept a ceasefire with the government. Only, they just sent two airplanes careening into government buildings in the capital, Colombo, and don’t seem too ready to fulfill one of the crucial requirements of a ceasefire:
But the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rejected calls to lay down arms and surrender, saying keeping their weapons is necessary to ensure survival for the ethnic minority Tamil people in the Indian Ocean island nation.
This rationale seems to repeat the Tigers’ long-stated raison d’etre, so it’s probably premature to foresee the group disbanding or even ceasing attacks without some new diplomatic development. Unfortunately, in a situation that has attracted pitifully scant attention compared to the similar actions taken by the Israeli government in Gaza, the Sri Lankan government seems set on a military solution. It’s reprehensible for the Tigers to effectively be holding civilians in their small redoubt hostage, but it is equally reckless for the Sri Lankan military to continue a full-scale assault without adequate concern for the lives of innocent Tamils.
In this edition of UN Plaza I interview Kevin Jon Heller of Opinio Juris. In addition to being an excellent blogger and a professor of international law Kevin serves as a defense adviser to Radovan Karadzic. In the segment below Kevin talks about some of the ethical considerations at stake in defending someone accused of the worst of times.
In advance of International Mother Tongue Day on February 21, UNESCO launched an online World Atlas of Languages in Danger. It’s a pretty fascinating resource that uses a google maps application to provide up-to-date data on some 2,500 endangered languages.
According to UNESCO, here in the United States there are 75 “critically endangered” languages, all of which are Native American tongues. For example, I learn that Eyak, spoken by natives of south-central Alaska, became extinct in 2008 with the death of Marie Smith Jones.
In all, the atlas shows that 199 languages have fewer than ten speakers and 178 others have between 10 to 50 speakers.
Interestingly, the atlas shows that Manx Gaelic–the native tongue of the Isle of Man– officially died out in 1974 “when Ned Maddrell fell forever silent.” The BBC, however, smells a controversy, and finds one “Jennifer Kewley-Draskau, author of the handbook Practical Manx” who says that the extinct claim is potentially misleading.
“Unesco ought to know better than to declare Manx a dead language,” said Ms Kewley-Draskau. “There are hundreds of speakers of Manx and while people are able to have productive conversations in the language then it is very much alive and well.”
That may be true. And if this guy has his way we’ll all be speaking Manx soon.
Just when you think you got ‘em under control, they hit you from the other side:
World attention on piracy off Somalia has diverted attention from the growing threat of attacks off west Africa, according to shipping experts.
The International Maritime Bureau says it knows of more than 100 pirate attacks off west Africa last year – yet only 40 were reported.
Oi. Maybe one of the only instances where “world attention” is focused more on Somalia than anywhere else.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.