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Augustus Richard Norton, a professor at Boston University and expert on the Middle East, sends this note about the latest developments from Lebanon:
Lebanese politicians reached agreement last night in Doha to break the stalemate that has kept Lebanon in crisis since December 2006. The agreement provides for the election of a president of the republic (the chair has been empty since last November) as well as a new government in which Hezbollah, which led last week’s show of force, gained its objective of a “blocking third” of cabinet votes (in effect, restoring the normal consensus rule to the Lebanese government). Lebanon will thus return to the logic of “no victor, no vanquished,” epitomized by a government that rules by consensus.
The new formula gives the pro-U.S. parliamentary majority 16 seats, with 11 to the opposition and three to the new president. In addition, agreement has been reached for an election law for parliamentary elections next spring. As one Beirut paper notes, Lebanon has turned a new page.
As the negotiations continued in Doha, Lebanese demonstrated on the airport road with signs saying “if you don’t reach agreement, don’t bother coming back.” These signs captured the public mood.
If the agreement holds, this is a significant reverse for the United States and for Saudi Arabia, which have both urged the pro-U.S. government to hang tough.
The U.S.-supported Internal Security Force–widely seen in Lebanon as Sunni-dominated gendarmerie–disappeared as soon as the Hezbollah-led opposition forces moved into West Beirut on 7 May. Only in recent days did it reappear well after the clashes ended. As for Saad al-Hariri’s private militia, it simply crumbled. As happened last summer in Gaza, U.S.-encouraged forces intended to stand up to a well-organized Islamist group were completely ineffectual.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”