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New York Times curiously apologises over Singapore comments 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Forgive me for quoting at length here, but things have been put rather well already and this area of the world is outwith my expertise (such as it is).

A few days ago the New York Times ran the following apology.

In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.

This is a curious thing. Firstly, that a reporter would be help to account for some kind of undertaking made 16 years ago. Secondly, that the NYT really cared that much to print such an apology. Third, that, as Outside the Beltway put it:

Is there any question whatsoever that Singapore, despite having had elections for decades, is authoritarian by Western standards?  Or that nepotism and other forms of personal loyalty plays a stronger role in Singapore than in true representative democracies?  Or that Lee Kuan Yew played and continues to play an outsized role in Singapore and People’s Action Party politics?

Joyner, the author of the above comment, then clarifies via a quick email from a friend:

The reason the New York Times issued that correction is that if you print something about the Lee family, they will sue you in Singapore courts, which they control, and then they will win, and then they will seize any assets you happen to have in Singapore.  For the New York Times, this is an issue.

If you have ever wondered about the strange kid-gloves treatment the rather noxious family gets in the international media, that’s why.
And Joyner concludes that
It makes sense, actually.  And as Steven Taylor notes in the comments below and CJ Morton speculates via Twitter, it’s quite possible that NYT wrote the correction in the way they did precisely to elicit the reaction they did from readers paying attention.  That is, they simultaneously met their obligation to the Singapore autocrats and thumbed their noses at them.
An interesting little story.

Debt Graphic 1, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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The New York Times has this interesting little graphic picking out a few countries and where their debts are held. I suppose they have a good reason for essentially singling out Greece in this manner and they’re not seeking to spread unfounded concern about their debts…

Angry Arab on the NYT 17, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Middle East.
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The Angry Arab, in a brief comment on a recent New York Times article, comes up with an absolute peach of a comment, laying out American hubris and purported exceptionalism bare and for all to see.

Look at this dispatch by Adam Nossiter: “China has been determined in its pursuit of minerals in Africa, often without consideration of how countries are governed.” Was there no editor at the desk to note that this is not different from US policies? Like US ever cares about how oil-rich countries are governed? Let me re-write this sentence for you to see what I mean: The US has been determined in its pursuit of oil in the Middle East, often without consideration of how countries are governed.” The only word I would change is often: I would replace it with always.

NYT journalist’s account of kidnapping 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia.
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Stephen-Farrell_2_611272a(Stephen Farrell – The Times)

Here’s the link to Stephen Farrell’s account of his four days in captivity after being kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan until his rescue by British Special Forces, during which one soldier died. It is as engaging and ‘page-turning’ a read as it is possible to get. Once again as with all of these writings or even just those where people have some spent time with terrorists/freedom fighters/irregulars/bandits/insurgents, what comes across most profoundly (to me at least) is the relative normality of the people. They aren’t monsters, though some of them to monstrous things. Alas the other aspect of the story that is familiar is that the interpreter is killed, this time not by execution but in the fire-fight at the very end.

Here’s a link to an article to the memory of Farrell’s translator, Sultan Munadi, who died in the rescue operation. I feel, however, that it is unfair to call people like Sultan translators. To me a translator is someone who sits in an office or in an organisation and translates articles, speeches and the like. They are in a civilian environment doing a civilian job. People like Sultan are a different breed entirely doing a different job entirely. Whilst they do not always do it well, they are, nevertheless, unquestionably risking their lives. Their job is, therefore, unequivocally different and must be treated as such. It makes decisions like the British Government’s not to automatically grant translators entry to the UK utterly disgusting and immoral.

Why names come and go 19, May 2009

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Simply put, the quicker a name comes into fashion, the quicker it goes out. The theory being that people don’t want to name their kids ‘fad’ names. Taken from the Freakonomics blog in the NTY.

UAE Sheikh held over torture video 12, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, The Emirates.
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According to Robert Worth at the NTY, Sheikh Issa Al Nayhan, the half-brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, has been detained under house arrest, following the release of the video of him clearly leading the 45 minute torture of an Afghan grain dealer. This comes 11 months after the authorities had been notified of the tape’s existence and thanks to the release of the tape on ABC news in the US. So far, this incident has caused the US to halt its nuclear deal with Abu Dhabi.

The UK recognise Hezbollah 10, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Lebanon, Western-Muslim Relations.
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The British have broken with their somewhat illogical policies of the past and are now recognising Hezbollah. A Foreign Office spokesperson is quoted on Al Jazeera as saying, “Hezbollah is a political phenomenon and part and parcel of the national fabric in Lebanon. We have to admit this.” When it is put like this, one wonders how they managed not to recognise them in the past. Moreover, it puts the US’ lack of recognition in a critical light. See Roger Cohen in the NYT for a thorough examination of this issue.