In an opinion piece by Thomas Friedman, the Lebanese elections receive high plaudits. He went to Lebanon for the elections last weekend. They were indeed ‘free and fair’, Friedman writes, “not like the pretend election we’re about to see in Iran where only candidates approved by the Supreme Leader can run.”
Friedman says he watched the voting in a mountain village. People came by car, wheelchair, by foot. “One old lady walked in hooked up to her oxygen tank. By God she was going to vote,” says Friedman.
“The ballot box was the only weapon Western-leaning March 14th coalition had against the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance widely suspected of being behind the murder of former PM Rafik Hariri.”
“Moderates winning over extremists through ballots and not bullets is rare in this region and well worth applauding,” concludes Friedman.
Internet censorship in China
“The great Firewall of China is rolled out,” reads the title in the Sydney Morning Herald.
This concerns China’s latest form of internet censorship, the so-called Green Dam Youth Escort software.
Government propaganda says it’s intended to clean up the internet for children, filtering out pornography and other unsavoury content. All schools have been instructed to install the software and every computer sold in China from July 1st onwards must have it fitted.
Bloggers in China are busy trying to find out how they’ll be able to get around this software, it seems.
The Green Dam is set to filter out websites named on a blacklist. However, it could block a whole variety of otherwise legitimate websites.
The pro-government China Daily says that officials have denied this software is ‘spyware’ as claimed by papers such as the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s not capable of spying on Internet users. It’s simply a filter to protect youngsters from pornography and violence,” officials say.
Death of Gabon’s President Bongo
This newspaper which gives a broad focus on news in neighbouring African countries asks whether the succession struggle in Gabon will be democratic or ‘familial’?
“Probably both,” the paper says, in response to its own question. The end result will most likely be a Bongo elected to power.
The family is extremely rich family thanks largely to the power they’ve held and the paper does not see the Bongos giving this up.
It further suggests that France won’t let an unknown person take power in Gabon because there’s too much at stake. France has a military base in the country and oil company Total has considerable interests there too. L’Observateur concludes in cynical fashion, “Wait for it, France will support the Bongos.”
Yesterday, the former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing claimed that Bongo financed Jacques Chirac’s Presidential campaign against him in 1981. Chirac’s office has of course denied this claim.
Le Progrès says that Bongo had a lot of influence with the French political class and said many times he could destroy the French political class if he wanted.
In any case, Nicolas Sarkozy did promise to turn over a new leaf in French-African relations and to move beyond the hitherto grey zone of post-colonial meddling and influence. “With Bongo’s death, could we really now be seeing the end of ‘Françafrique’?” the paper asks.
Everyone is quick to criticise Bongo now that he’s died, the edorial of this centre-right paper says before calling for a more dignified response. Le Figaro says that he wasn’t Gandhi or Nelson Mandela but he was no Robert Mugabe either.
It points to the fact that Bongo did not take power by force.
He worked within a system – “Françafrique” (France’s cozy relations with former colonies). There was an element of realpolitik involved. Gabon’s President of 41 years was certainly flawed but did manage to provide order and stability, the paper notes.
Humming birds in love
“How a hummingbird in love can move faster than a fighter jet,” reads the title and it says it all!
The dramatic courtship dive of the little male hummingbird is the quickest aerial move in the natural world, scientists have calculated. The aim is to impress the ladies. The move involves the bird flapping its wings very fast as it dives, then folding them by its side.
The bird can reach a maximum velocity of 383 body lengths per second. That’s faster than a fighter jet or the Space Shuttle on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.