Is opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei negotiating with the Muslim Brotherhood? Well, something's going on:
Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, told DPA [news agency] that his group was in talks with Mohammed ElBaradei - the former UN nuclear watchdog chief - to form a national unity government without the National Democratic Party of Mubarak.
The group is also demanding an end to the draconian Emergency Laws, which grant police wide-ranging powers The laws have been used often to arrest and harass the Islamist group.
Nasser said his group would not accept any new government with Mubarak. On Saturday the Brotherhood called on President Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner following the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet.
Speaking to CNN later Sunday, ElBaradei said he had a popular and political mandate to negotiate the creation of a national unity government.
"I have been authorized -- mandated -- by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government," he told CNN.
This from the BBC though:
[T]here were signs of disagreement within the opposition, with the largest group, the Muslim Brotherhood, appearing to go back on its endorsement of leading figure Mohamed ElBaradei as a negotiator with Mr Mubarak...
"Change is coming," promised Mr ElBaradei when he addressed the crowds.
Mr ElBaradei has been mandated by opposition groups to negotiate with the regime.
But a spokesman for the largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, appeared to reject this position.
"The people have not appointed Mohamed ElBaradei to become a spokesman of them," Mohamed Morsy told the BBC.
"The Muslim Brotherhood is much stronger than Mohamed ElBaradei as a person. And we do not agree on he himself to become representing [sic] this movement, the movement is represented by itself, and it will come up with a committee... to make delegations with any government."
And Barry Rubin:
As one shrewd analyst remarks, "al-Baradei being put in power by the Muslim Brotherhood is effectively like the `moderate' Miqati being put in power [as prime minister] in Lebanon by Hizballah. What matters is that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizballah are calling the shots."
If you believe that al-Baradei, with no real political experience or any organized movement behind him, can dominate the Muslim Brotherhood, I have a bridge over the Nile I'll sell you. But it's even worse than that. It has been well-known in Egypt that much of al-Baradei's presidential campaign has been run by the Brotherhood. He's certainly not their puppet but to a considerable extent he is their pawn.
Glass half full or half empty? Mona Eltahawy channels the old bliss was it in that dawn to be alive spirit:
To understand the importance of what's going in Egypt, take the barricades of 1968 (for a good youthful zing), throw them into a mixer with 1989 and blend to produce the potent brew that the popular uprising in Egypt is preparing to offer the entire region. It's the most exciting time of my life.
On the other hand, more Edmund Burke than William Wordsworth, we have Barry Rubin:
There are two basic possibilities: the regime will stabilize (with or without Mubarak) or power will be up for grabs. Now, here are the precedents for the latter situation:
Remember the Iranian revolution when all sorts of people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now president.
Remember the Beirut spring when people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Hizballah is now running Lebanon.
Remember the Palestinians having free elections? Hamas is now running the Gaza Strip.
Remember democracy in Algeria? Tens of thousands of people were killed in the ensuing civil war.
It doesn't have to be that way but precedents are pretty daunting.
What did Egyptians tell the Pew poll recently when asked whether they liked "modernizers" or "Islamists"? Islamists: 59%; Modernizers: 27%. Now maybe they will vote for a Westernized guy in a suit who promises a liberal democracy but do you want to bet the Middle East on it? [...]
The Egyptian elite wants to save itself and if they have to dump Mubarak to do so—as we saw in Tunisia—the armed forces and the rest will do so. But if the regime itself falls creating a vacuum, that is going to be a very bad outcome. If I believed that something better could emerge that would be stable and greatly benefit Egyptians, I’d be for that. Yet is that really the case?
Consider this point. Egypt’s resources and capital are limited. There aren’t enough jobs or land or wealth. How would a new regime deal with these problems and mobilize popular support? One route would be to embark on a decades-long development program to make the desert green, etc. Yet with so much competition where would the money come from? How could Egypt try to gain markets already held by China, for example?
More likely is that a government would win support through demagoguery: blame America, blame the West, blame Israel, and proclaim that Islam is the answer. That’s how it has been in the Middle East in too many places. In two cases—Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—democracy (though other factors were also involved) has produced anti-democratic Islamist regimes that endorse terrorism and are allied to Iran and Syria.
Is America ready to bet that Egypt will be different? And on what evidentiary basis would that be done?
We shall see.
Nothing natural about it, public farting in Malawi will soon be punishable by Local Courts. As parliament gears to meet this January month-end, a roll of expectant bills are on the Speakers' waiting list - chief strange among them, the proposed Local Courts Bill of 2010. Most Malawians are surprised. Many think this is childish, and others have responded with the most cynical of jokes....
Though farting is natural, some discipline needs to come in, argue protagonists. Government is intent at punishing any air fouler, and also proposes to punish any idle and disorderly person and drunken persons who behave the wrong way.
Malawi has also experienced bizarre incidences where bereaved families have hung to dead bodies, refusing their departed loved ones burial following strange beliefs mostly religious.
The farting irony is not all the 'old' heads at the August House are targeting. Pretender fortune tellers will be given a speedy courier up the highway to prison.
Malawians are also blessing for more than just regulated 'bad air' laws. Rogue and vagabond, endangering or obstructing in public way or line of navigation and those in unlawful use of vehicles and animals will also be answerable under the same laws.
Random interviews carried out by Africanews show many Malawians are surprised at this 'strange' law.
"Well, they expect me to hand myself over to police or something. I just fouled the air laughing about this same proposal," said one.
"We are serious issues affecting Malawians today. I do not know how fouling the air should take priority over regulating Chinese investments which do not employ locals, serious graft amongst legislators, especially those in the ruling party, and many more. I cannot understand the inclusion of this part," expressed another.
"My goodness. What happens in a public place where a group is gathered. Do they lock up half a minibus and how about at meetings where it is difficult to pinpoint 'culprits'? Again, this will be seen to have brought insubordination of children who will openly deny having passed bad air and point at an elder.
Culturally, this is very embarrassing," she expressed concern.
She was 66. She recorded this, in 1961, when she was just 17. It was Motown's first no. 1 on the US pop charts. Later covered by the Beatles, of course.
Not forgetting the funkier Too many fish in the sea from 1964.
Good recent picture of her here in the Detroit Free Press obituary.
Since the exhibition opened last October, however, there's been a significant change in the artist's circumstances. As I reported here, his studio in Shanghai was demolished by the Chinese authorities a couple of weeks ago: an action almost certainly related to his vocal criticism of the government and its human rights record.
There's an article on Weiwei in the WSJ this week:
Celebrated internationally, Mr. Ai has largely escaped a backlash against his activism. Until now. Days before we met, his first major exhibit at 798 was abruptly canceled. Yet there is little chance he will back down. Perhaps unapparent earlier to his parents, his veins are unquestionably filled with the blood of his father, an artist and celebrated poet exiled to a labor camp during Mao's purges. Ai Weiwei grew up in China's desolate Xinjiang province, watching his father clean toilets.
Why put himself at similar risk? "No reason, really," Mr. Ai says, mumbling into his beard. But then he rises up, adding: "I want to have a purpose, to protect the dignity of life. I feel it's ridiculous to live in a condition where people cannot access their rights. I don't want children to live in this situation.
"We have a responsibility, as artists, to fight for better conditions. I see freedom and justice as basic, fundamental rights for everyone. I'm just in this position to make my voice heard." He acknowledges that his fame, and friends around the world, afford him that ability. "But there are a million people like me in China. I don't think they can stop us all."
I was in Tate Modern this morning.
Any mention of all this - the destruction of Weiwei's studio and the increased level of harrassment he's now experiencing - in the exhibition blurb? Nope. At least, not that I could see, and I had a pretty good look round. Nor is there anything on the Tate's website. It's all business as usual:
The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative and personal content create a powerful commentary on the human condition. Sunflower Seeds is a vast sculpture that visitors can contemplate at close range on Level 1 or look upon from the Turbine Hall bridge above. Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today's society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?"
What does it mean to speak out against a corrupt and repressive government? Should we offer some kind of support to an artist whose work we're showing who's just had his studio demolished? Or at least mention the fact? Might this not be relevant to to these questions about individuals in society? About acting alone or acting together?
Apparently not. That's far too specific. Far too messy. Far too political. Best keep the questions so vague, so inspiringly woolly, that they become meaningless: the kind of art-speak boilerplate that's peeled off by the yard on this sort of occasion, but that no one should in any way take seriously. After all, this is art, not politics.
And would Unilever continue this most mutually beneficial sponsorship arrangement otherwise?
A short report from BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville in Afghanistan on the stoning to death by the Taliban of a couple accused of adultery. They'd eloped to Pakistan, but were lured back with the promise that they wouldn't be harmed. There's a video of their grim fate, only now come to light though this happened some five months ago. Most of it is too graphic to show:
The video begins with Siddqa, a 25-year-old woman, standing waist-deep in a hole in the ground.
She is entirely hidden in a blue burka. Hundreds of men from the village are gathered as two mullahs pass sentence. As Taliban fighters look on, the sentence is passed and she is found guilty of adultery.
The stoning lasts two minutes. Hundreds of rocks - some larger than a man's fist - are thrown at her head and body. She tries to crawl out of the hole, but is beaten back by the stones. A boulder is then thrown at her head, her burka is soaked in blood, and she collapses inside the hole.
Incredibly Siddqa was still alive. The mullahs are heard saying she should be left alone. But a Taliban fighter steps forward with a rifle and she is shot three times.
Then her lover, Khayyam, is brought to the crowd. His hands are tied behind his back. Before he is blindfolded he looks into the mobile phone camera. He appears defiant.
The attack on him is even more ferocious. His body, lying face down, jerks as the rocks meet their target. He is heard to be crying, but is soon silent.
A Taliban spokesman is unrepentant:
"Anyone who knows about Islam knows that stoning is in the Koran, and that it is Islamic law.
"There are people who call it inhuman - but in doing so they insult the Prophet. They want to bring foreign thinking to this country."
God knows there's enough competition, but for me the Louvin Brothers were the finest of all those close harmony groups. I've posted this clip before....and, well, here it is again:
That's Charlie on the right with the guitar. As good as it gets.
More links at this Metafilter post.
Update: NYT obituary here:
Mr. Louvin’s solo career spanned five decades, but, as he told Terry Gross, the host of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program, in 1996, he never got used to singing without his brother.
“When it comes time for the harmonies to come in, I will move to my left because my brother and I always used to use one microphone,” he said of performing solo.