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If you missed this item from Michael Massing — it was posted a few days ago — it’s definitely worth a read:
What a delight it must be to be a columnist for a major American newspaper. When traveling to distant, war-torn lands, you can enlist America’s top generals to show you around. That’s what David Ignatius of The Washington Post did on Sunday. He was shown around Baghdad by no less a figure than Centcom commander David Petraeus. Or, rather, he was shown it from the air. The two flew over the city in a Black Hawk helicopter. The general pointed out all the signs of recovery below. “See, the houses are occupied again,” he said as they passed over a neighborhood that several years ago had been largely abandoned. He pointed to the schools, police stations, parks, markets, and a traffic jam, which, he said was “good to see.”
It was only after Petraeus and Ignatius landed in the Green Zone that they learned that, while they’d been aloft, two massive bombs had gone off in the heart of the city, killing more than 100 and wounding more than 500. “I guess that tells you something about the difference between life, close up, and what you see from several hundred feet,” Ignatius wrote in his column Monday (“A Resilient Baghdad on a Day of Horror”). Rather than try to examine that life up close, however, Ignatius repaired to the Al-Rashid Hotel in the Green Zone for lunch with two Iraqi friends.
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.”