Yes, more has been happening in the world than the Iowa caucuses. (Am I the only one bored out of my mind by horse-race coverage? Do we really have ten months to go?) Some other recent news includes:
Spain's same-sex-marriage law makes politicians proud:
Newly departed Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says that the ruling he’s most proud of from his nearly eight years in office is the passage of full marriage rights for his gay and lesbian countrymen.
Herewith a few things to think about before you disappear into 2012:
Sweeties. On Wednesday, the Virginian-Pilot ran what I thought was an adorable story about a Navy first. Apparently, when ships come in, someone gets the honor of disembarking for the first official welcome-home kiss with their beloved.
It's been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who's been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition - the first homecoming kiss.
North Korea declared yesterday that the era of Kim Jong Un, third son of deceased Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, had officially begun. Since state television announced the former leader’s death on Monday (Sunday U.S. time), a group of senior North Korean government officials has stepped in to manage the succession of power, but the country will remain vulnerable as the inexperienced leader tries to maintain the country's precarious position on the world stage.
Socialism was supposed to create a new socialist man—a fellow or gal whose labor was unalienated, who was freed from want, who had time off to read, to fish, to play, to parent. He would be healthier, longer-lived, better educated and wiser than his counterpart under capitalism. To a considerable degree, social democracy (or even its attenuated American cousin, New Deal liberalism) has accomplished some of those goals (higher pay, more time off, widespread education) if not all of them (unalienated labor, widespread wisdom).
As long as we are speaking of cultures that have simmered in exile, let's turn to Tibetans, whose leaders have consulted with Jewish and Israeli leaders about what it takes to keep a diaspora culture alive. One of the answers: keep alive the language. Hebrew was essentially a language on ice, used primarily in religious services but not to communicate, rich with symbolism but lacking words for anything related to post-exile life—until early Zionists performed CPR and turned it into a living vehicle, actually spoken daily (usually very, very quickly and disputatiously) (#joking).
One day after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the nation appears on the brink of reverting to sectarian conflict. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered the arrest of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi for allegedly ordering and funding the assassinations of Shiite officials, and asked the parliament to pass a no-confidence vote that would enable him to dismiss Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak. Both Hashemi and Mutlak are Sunni politicians aligned with the Iraquiya coalition, which is largely made of Sunnis and such secular Shiites as the coalition’s leader, Ayad Allawi. Maliki’s Dawa Party and its allies (including the backers of Moktada al-Sadr) consist largely of more religious Shiites.
Former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, died Sunday at 75 years of age. AP Photo/Peter David Josek
Vaclav Havel helped to bring down a totalitarian regime; Kim Jong-Il ran one. One was imprisoned repeatedly for refusing to conform to even the smallest of the lies foisted upon him by communism—and in doing so, inspired his fellow citizens to join him in throwing it off.
The mob numbered about 200 young and angry people. Some had covered their faces. They gathered on a West Bank road near midnight and hurled stones at passing cars. Israeli troops, including the commander of the division in charge of the area and his deputy, rushed to the spot. One of the rioters opened the commander's jeep door and hurled a brick at him. Another shouted, "Nazi" at the deputy commander and hit him with a rock.
The rioters finally left. A few minutes later, several dozen of them—mostly teenagers—forced open the gate of a nearby Israeli army base. The sentries failed to stop them. At the parking lot outside the headquarters, they broke car windows and slashed tires. When a squad of soldiers chased them from the base, they blocked the road leading to it.
So you think congressional Republicans are the only right-wingers who like to append their pet (and sometimes, wedge) issues—like the Keystone pipeline—to must-pass legislation like the payroll tax-cut extension? Guess again—it looks to be a trans-Atlantic syndrome.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama stood with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the South Court Auditorium of the White House to announce that “a war is ending.” Two days later, the president visited Fort Bragg to offer an encomium to post-9/11 veterans. “Your service belongs to the ages,” he told the assembled troops.
By the end of the year, all U.S. combat troops in Iraq will have slipped across the border into Kuwait, and America’s war in Iraq will be over.