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Irish Update

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Irish Pride

Hello again, and welcome (or should I say fáilte?) to the Fodar. Ireland has been having quite the summer, but I’m quickly realizing that not everyone keeps the Irish Times on their RSS like I do. So I’ve taken it upon myself to brief you all on the goings on of this tiny, yet thunderous nation. Sheep may outnumber people 2:1 over there, but they are certainly not a nation of followers. I’ve interspersed some highly significant moments with a few lighter pieces to give you a taste of Irish summer – hmm, maybe the Captain can come up with an “Irish Summer” themed shot to share with y’all. But I digress — Big things are happening in my favorite little country, so let’s get craic-in’.

British Prime Minister Apologizes for Bloody Sunday Massacre

On June 15th, while thousands gathered in Guildhall Square, Derry, British Prime Minister David Cameron publicly apologized for the massacre that took place 38 years prior. On January 30, 1972, British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights demonstration, killing fourteen civilians in what came to be known as Bloody Sunday. “On behalf of our country,” said Cameron, “I am deeply sorry.”

The newly published Saville Report officially recognizes, for the first time, that British forces fired the first shot and that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable.” The 5,000 page report was welcomed by Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen:

“From this day forth, history will record what the families have always known to be true . . . 14 innocent people died on the streets of Derry on January 30th, 1972. There is no doubt, there are no ambiguities. In truth, there never were. They were innocent. May they rest in peace.” (Source: Irish Times)

This was a day of reconciliation for both Ireland and the UK, a monumental moment in the long and often bloody history between them.

Bono Blogs about Bloody Sunday

In a guest op-ed for the New York Times, U2 front man Bono checks his agenda and offers us a more personal perspective on the findings of the Saville Report and Cameron’s apology. He did write the song, after all – this is definitely worth a read.

Jay-Z Owns the Oxygen Festival

Reigning king of the Empire State has expanded his domain to Dublin, opening for Ireland’s largest music festival this summer. “He came, he saw, he conquered,” he “stole the show,” and was quickly dubbed “the festival’s undisputed heavyweight champion.” His performance may have “sidestepped hip-hop’s usual clichés,” but he seems to have inspired nothing but from reviewers at the Irish Times.

Milk 2010

Ireland’s first-ever outdoor LGBT music festival will kick off August 14th. How can you go wrong with a line-up featuring Bananarama and Right Said Fred? But really, this is about a growing culture of openness and acceptance in country still grappling (as so many of us are) with its conservative Catholic upbringing. Milk welcomes “anyone from any community encouraging a culture of inclusiveness, acceptance, diversity and celebration” – which brings us to our next story…

Seanad Passes Partnership Bill.

This is huge. While Massachusetts was busy declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the Seanad Éireann was engaged in a 23 hour long debate, eventually passing a Partnership Bill granting “marriage-like benefits to gay and lesbian couples in the areas of property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax[KG1] .” The bill was passed 48-4 with no abstentions after it was eventually guillotined by Seanad Leader Donnie Cassidy. While same-sex marriage is still not recognized, the new civil registrations will carry comparable legal benefits. This is an enormous step forward for Ireland, a country struggling to find its own identity amid 21st century convention and a steep Catholic tradition. When you consider that divorce was not legal until 1996 and abortion is not legal in the Republic of Ireland, except when necessary to save the mother’s life, the Partnership Bill speaks volumes about the willingness of modern Ireland to compromise its Catholic roots and adapt to a more contemporary set of values.

Irish Gay Rights take a step forward.

Derry Crowned City of Culture

Derry, Londonderry, Doire Colmcille – the city has many names, and now a chance to showcase its oft misunderstood history as the first-ever UK City of Culture for 2013. Beloved Irish rockers Snow Patrol lead the campaign, urging the panel to “Just Say Yes” to Derry – I’m not sure which bit I’m happier about, the fact that this fabulous city is getting its due, or that a Snow Patrol song is finally being used to promote something other than the latest mediocre rom-com. I kept it in the Irish theme with that one, but seriously – take a peek at their soundtrack track record. Not good.

Whales in Dublin?

The first whale sighting off the Dublin coast in more than 20 years. He may not be as cool as this guy, but let’s give him some credit.

Ireland’s Credit Rating Drops

I feel you on this one, Eire. Happens to the best of us.

Citing the government’s “gradual but significant loss of financial strength, as reflected by its deteriorating debt affordability,” Moody’s has downgraded Ireland from Aa2 to Aa1 and changed its outlook on ratings from stable to negative. Bloomberg quotes Dietmar Hornung, Moody’s lead analyst for Ireland, as saying “It’s a gradual, significant deterioration, but not a sudden, dramatic shift.” But this is not a portent of doom, nor an irreparable mark on Ireland’s economy. The days of the Celtic Tiger are long gone – with an unemployment rate of 13% and emigration rates once again on the rise, this isn’t really surprising so much as signifying of Ireland’s acute struggle in Europe’s recent economic decline.

So there you have it – the financial and political woes, social struggles and civil and cultural landmarks Ireland has seen of late. With so much going on, such highs and lows wrestling in the headlines, it’s hard to say what shape the rest of the summer will take.

Sláinte!

Kelly

The Week in Fodder

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Another Friday and another Week in Fodder. Some new formatting, the first Poll of the Week and plenty of scrumptious morsels of knowledge, you’ll be sure to find something to like. Al-Shabaab, the Iranian scientist, the Barefoot Bandit, Eskil Ronningsbakken (You have to read on to find out who he is!), 18th century ships at Ground Zero and the lamest moments in technology… we hope you enjoy!

World Views

Al-Shabaab leaves Somalia.

Ugandan Blasts: Last Sunday, as revelers watched the finale of Africa’s first World Cup, the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab struck, utilizing suicide bombers, two viewing locations in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.  Killing 74 civilians, the attack was the first by the hard-line militia outside of its Somali homeland. Heavily linked to al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the transitional Somali government for over three years. It’s widely believed – disputed by some, however – that Uganda was specifically targeted for its soldiers that are in Somalia protecting the transitional government as part of the larger AU-mandated peacekeeping force. Al-Shabaab is an exceedingly dangerous (perhaps more so than al-Qaeda) militant group. Striking outside of its borders is a truly alarming development.

Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage: On Thursday, the Argentinean Parliament passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Argentina becomes the first country in all of Latin America to pass such a progressive, tolerant piece of gay rights legislation. This is somewhat surprising given the overwhelming Catholicism of the Argentine population; over 90% of the country identifies with the Church. Argentinean dioceses actively tried to sustain opposition to passage of the bill. Despite the organized resistance to the measure, it passed and now gay and lesbian couples can enjoy the same rights at heterosexual couples.

Sharia Women: Earlier this week, Malaysia Islamic officials appointed the first ever women to the country’s Sharia court. Malaysian sharia, the strictest interpretation of Islamic law, cases are tried by judges that are the guides of Islamic law within the country. The fact that two women were appointed to this position is a very big deal. Strict interpretations of the Qur’an call for women and men to be completed segregated from each other’s company outside of the familial home; you can clearly understand the controversy in letting female judges decide the fate of defendants. Although the extent of the women’s powers are still unclear, this is a pioneering step. Watch this, as a possibly model for other progressive Islamic countries, with a keen eye.

Healthcare and Kim Jong-il: This week, Amnesty International released a report on the healthcare system in the People’s Republic of Korea. The results of the report are unfathomable. Findings of doctors working at hospitals without basic medicine, performing surgeries by candlelight and amputating limbs without anesthesia litter the testimonial. Unsettling details about conditions under the world’s most reclusive regime are nothing new; stories of the nation’s food crisis, among other things, have trickled out from defectors. That being said, the international community is not close to putting together a full picture of what life is like under Kim Jong-il. We should cross our fingers and hope it’s not worse that what we know.

Feuding Neighbors: India and Pakistan are officially talking again. After almost two years of ice-cold relations, stemming from the Mumbai terror attacks, the two countries are back at the table trying to iron out their differences concerning the disputed and volatile region of Kashmir. Historical rivals, dating back to Partition, the two countries attitudes towards each other took a turn for the worse when Lashkar-e-Taiba trained militants struck the Indian commercial hotbed of Mumbai killing at least 170. This is a productive step forward for the region and the two countries to be talking about tinderbox issues once again.

American Matters

The CIA and the Iranian: At this point, you have all undoubtedly heard about the rouge Iranian scientist, Shahram Amiri, who went missing for months and only to surface this week in Washington, DC.  Mr. Amiri’s whereabots had been the subject of debate for months. Since his appearance, the story has unfolded at a breakneck pace. He and the Iranian government claim that he was abducted and tortured by the CIA. The Agency asserts that he was a willing defector and informant on the Iranian nuclear program. Reports have confirmed that Mr. Amiri was paid at least $5 million by the CIA for services rendered. He returned to the Islamic Republic to a hero’s welcome. We will probably never know what the truth of this latest international espionage episode is but it provides another reminder of the shadow games continually played by the world’s governments

The Barefoot Bandit's favorite loot.

Double-dip?: Economic news for the past two to three months has been mostly positive; gradual reduction in unemployment, stronger consumer confidence and a slowly growing economy. All of a sudden, however, the US is staring a double-dip housing crisis in the face. Reports this week indicate that foreclosures will hit the 1 million mark in 2010. This high number can be attributed to a backlog of mortgage holders; still, though, it’s a very scary statistic. So faced with this knowledge and the growing stagnation of the nation’s housing market, economists are feeling a bit weary. The whole world will be watching the US housing numbers with bated breath.

Barefoot Bandito: The Barefoot Bandit, otherwise known as Colton A. Harris, was finally caught in the Bahamas this week. A new American folk hero, Mr. Harris had been on the run for over two years, a plethora of states and the Caribbean for a litany of robberies from stealing airplanes to cold, hard cash. After finally yielding to the pressure of law enforcement officials, Mr. Harris was quick to plead guilty. At the age of 19, the Barefoot Bandit and his escapades will be the subject of American lore and pop culture for years, possibly decades, to come. Hats off to you Mr. Harris. You may be a criminal, but you’re a damn good one.

Death of a Hero: Vernon Baker, the only non-posthumous African American recipient of the Medal of Honor, died this week at the age of 90. He received the honor for his service with his platoon in Italy during WWII. He left the military in 1968 as a First Lieutenant. Mr. Baker returned to the United States after his military service and lived the rest of his years in Northern Idaho. In a time of war, it is important to remember those pioneers and heroes that so valiantly served our country. We’re forever indebted to you, Mr. Baker. Thank you.

Henry in America: French legend Thierry Henry is officially a member of the New York Red Bulls. A prolific scorer for both club and country, Henry comes to Major League Soccer (MLS) as the biggest signing in its history. (And YES, this includes David Beckham.) Unlike Mr. Beckham, Henry was made to score goals. He will clinically finish in front of goal and bring Red Bulls’ fans to their feet. It is quite possible Henry is the European star the MLS has been long searching for to bring Americans to its stadiums. Just wait, Henry will have too many Sportscenter Top Plays to count.

Off the Beaten Path

Secrets, secrets.

Mona’s Secrets: This may be only interesting to me and art enthusiasts but I thought it would be a nice little bit of Fodder for all. Using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, Dr. Philippe Walter has uncovered the nitty-gritty details of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “sfumato” technique. The spectrometry procedure even allowed Dr. Walter to attain the recipes of Da Vinci’s paints and glazes. The glazes, mixed by Leonard himself, were layered in an impressively micro-manner. From the Da Vinci Code to this newest report, it seems that the vaguely smiling Mona will eternally hold a place in the world’s hearts.

Anchors at Ground Zero: Construction workers at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan have found the remains of an 18th Century ship used by traders in the mouth of the Hudson River. Next to the uncovered wooden hull, the excavators also found a 100lb anchor. A truly impressive historical find in the middle of the world’s busiest city. Everyone involved hopes to have the treasure removed by the end of the week. It just goes to show, there is history everywhere; even where you least expect it.

Eskil Ronningsbakken: There is not much to say about Eskil Ronningsbakken. He’s the world’s foremost extreme balancing act. Just check out this gallery and the YouTube video embedded below. As AWC says, “CRAZY Norwegians!” That is all.

Raccoon News: Last week’s Week in Fodder gave you a ridiculous and colloquial story about the Boston area so I’ll return the favor to NYC this week. Earlier this week, a raccoon – channeling his inner burglargot into the basement of the Brooklyn Public Library. Closing the storage area to staff for the week, the raccoon caused quite the nuisance and unfortunately did not get the library card it had applied for. (KNEE-SLAPPER!!)

Too Uncool for School: In our final news synopsis of the week, we offer you your first “Poll of the Week.” The other day, MSNBC ran a story chronicling the “10 Most Uncool Moments in Tech.” Click on that link, take a look at a couple of the videos and tell us which one you think is the LAMEST. It has to be the Sony rap, right?

Idiom of the Week

“Get you knickers in a twist”

Victorian knickers. Insert British accent.

This week’s Idiom of the Week should be said in an English accent at all times. Something about the word knickers makes me immediately think of good ‘ole England. To “get your knickers in a twist:” when you are angry, nervous, or perturbed with a particular situation.

Example #1: “Larry, don’t get your knickers in a twist with this one. Everything will work out.”

Example #2: “Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, recently got his knickers in a twist with the departure of Lebron James. As a result, he was fined 100,000 dollars by the NBA–true story.”

Song of the Week

This week’s song of the week comes from the Scandinavian group Who Made Who. I found this gem while listening to the radio of Nova Planet, a music website from France (http://www.novaplanet.com)

That’s all folks! Until next week, keep on reading the Fodder and living the good life!