Staying connected to the events of the world

While it is a long holiday weekend here; out on the Black Rock Desert 50,000 people covered in dust, buy often not much else, are living an isolated moment of creativity and freedom and in the process proving that at least for a few moments at a time we do have a better side to our nature. Separated from the events of the world and connected only with the moment – okay, except for the ubiquitous cell phones that allow them to remain distracted at all times if they so choose.  However, it is not a holiday, a time of peace and celebration or disconnection every where.  The turmoil in the Middle East is not taking a holiday.  The major demonstrations that marked the pre-Ramadan days in Egypt have not returned, but in Syria they have continued: the week was the Friday of “better to die than live in humiliation” and another 25 or 30 people did die.

Syria remains as obscure and difficult to read as ever; the EU is boycotting Syrian oil, Russia objected and Iran has threatened repercussions if any outside country or organization takes any military action.  Assad has signed into a law a new freedom of the press law; journalists will be protected as if they were members of the government.  They are free to report on events in Syria, but not on the military and not if their reports incite violence or anti-government activities.   Now we should have better coverage of the events in Syria, that is as long as none of the events involve the army or dissidents – finally some progress in Syria.

The situation in Libya is really fluid, rumors are rapid, but interesting; it is said that Saadi has turned his coat.  According to the rumor, Saadi is promising to come over to the rebel side and better yet, provide details about the royalist forces and the location of his father – father and son appear to be in the process of affecting a total disconnect.  Another rumor has his father traveling in a convoy out of the country going to Mali on his way to South Africa where he has friends and according to another rumor dollars and gold that transferred to South Africa within the last 24 hours.  The press is free to operate in most of Libya, cell phone service seems to adequate, but the Colonel is still the slippery eel he has always been – now you see him and now you don’t.

The Israelis are back in the street, they took a hiatus, not because of Ramadan, but because of renewed fighting.  There are said to be 300,000 people in the streets of Tel Aviv alone.  They are calling for major reforms and protesting the cost of living.  The size of the crowds at the demonstrations in Israel and around the Arab world have been used by the outside world, the media and local governments to measure the seriousness of the issues and the commitment of the protesters.  But how does anyone know accurately the size any crowd?  For years it was a specialty – measuring crowds, unless there were tickets sales or a precise capacity to an area it required some special techniques to estimate crowd size.  The numbers are always contested by people who opposed the gathering, if the gathers produced the numbers and conversely the gathers contested the numbers produced by those opposed.

However, that is old history – today in Israel a more exact way of measuring was used: cell phones.  When the crowd was at 100,000, a reporter asked one of the organizers how they arrived at the number – simple the organizer said, “we are working with the service providers and they tell us there are currently 100,000 cell phones here.”  Beware, your cell phone may keep you connected to the world and your friends , but it also keeps you on that great strategic map in the sky where big brother watches all of his little brothers.



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