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From Molly Crabapple, this wonderful portrait of Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times war reporter who was recently killed in Syria.
Colvin died trying to retrieve her shoes so she could escape a rocket shelling attack (the custom in Syria is to leave one's shoes at the door before entering a home; the rocket landed a few yards away from her as she was preparing to escape).
Molly says, and I agree:
Looking at Marie Colvin's face, it occurs to me she has the perfect beauty of an older woman- the beauty of good bones and battle scars. The beauty that comes from bravery, from power, from competence, from taking no shit. Earned beauty.
This tribute at the New Yorker is a beautiful read. Reuters today released amateur video believed to have been shot by Syrian rebels just before, and after, the attack. In the video, one of the survivors says he believes—contradicting other reports— that they were not personally targeted by the Syrian government. "They've been bombing civilians for days... we were just unlucky."
People walk past graffiti on a street in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Jan. 13, 2012. (REUTERS)
Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs responded with a statement, which we published in full. A Boing Boing reader from Georgia also asked to respond to the anonymously-sourced wisecrack, with which he takes issue. Like the wisecracker, this person requests anonymity.
The police in Georgia are definitely not fat or lazy. They are not corrupt on the street level, either. But the whole system still retains elements of corruption (in enforcement, in the judiciary, and in the legislative realm). The problem lies more in the definition of corruption: the fact that you can no longer bribe the policeman in the streets or at the sovereign borders does not mean everything is crystal-clean.
The fact that citizens are still afraid of police in Georgia as if they were monsters is still an expression of the damage of corruption. The fact that you can be imprisoned for smoking pot weeks before actually being tested by cops (because you might seem suspicious to them, not because you've been caught smoking pot) is a kind of corruption, I believe.
There is a terrible feeling of vulnerability in Georgia. Police are still used as a tool to terrorize people and make money, but these days, paying bribes to individual policemen is no longer normal.
Georgian policemen stand to attention during a daily shift change at the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi, Jan. 12, 2012. (REUTERS)
There are lots of pros and cons about the reforms in Georgia, but still, no—the "fat lazy cops" comment was not fair. The police have changed greatly for the positive.
At least you don't have to pay mandatory bribes to drive around any more; the government fought very effectively against organized crime and turned Georgia into what is almost a drug-free country. In the past, the city was covered in used syringes. You could buy heroin as easily as bread.
Now, the city is clean, and it is very hard to buy any kind of drugs. I really appreciate this, as may of my friends have stopped using heavy drugs over the past two or three years.
An employee assembles a "Police Pad" at the production line of the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers assembled at this factory, according to local media. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)
Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)
When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.
My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.
But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.
Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.
Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation
The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called “Police Pads”) ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."
Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.
The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine.
Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. The entire national police force was fired, and a new force hired, trained and deployed with the aim of meeting the highest international standards of professionalism.
These reforms are widely regarded as an unqualified success. Having reduced corruption and bribe taking to levels comparable to those in Europe, the police in Georgia have earned the trust and respect of the public they serve:
Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?
Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!
These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.
Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?