The Names of the Revolution


Posted by Matthew Barber on Saturday, December 14th, 2013

From the inception of the Syrian uprising, each Friday has been given a special title by activists involved in protests. Fridays were important in the beginning because more protests would occur on that day than any other day of the week. Protests would often take place immediately following communal prayers in mosques where large groups of people would have already congregated together, something impossible in Syria outside of institutionalized contexts like the mosque or a place of education.

Each Friday bore a name such as “The Day of Rage” or “The Day of Defiance” and such titles were picked up and circulated by both the Arab and Western media. The practice of naming the Fridays was started by the “Syrian Revolution 2011” Facebook page, run by Fida’ ad-Din Tariif as-Sayyid ‘Isa, a Syrian activist in Sweden.

Some months into the uprising in 2011, people complained and proposed that the process of naming the Fridays should be democratic rather than performed by a small group of website administrators. A new system emerged whereby a number of options for the next Friday’s name would be posted on the Revolution Facebook page, and visitors were able to vote for the title of their choosing. Each week, multiple thousands vote on these names.

The names have reflected themes that concern the uprising during the particular week that a name is assigned. Back when the uprising was still characterized by protests rather than skirmishes, activists would incorporate the current Friday’s name into the slogans and banners used in demonstrations.

At the beginning, names began as simple, one-word titles such as “The Day of Honor” that were general in scope. Then the names began to express specific ideas, like “The Day of Loyalty to the Kurdish Uprising,” or positions that could be endorsed, like “The Day of No to Peacekeeping Forces in The Land of Sham.” Eventually, names grew unwieldy in length and included statements, i.e. “The Day of Full Preparation for Full Mobilization; Russia is the Enemy of the Syrian People” or “The Day of Allah Is Great: He Supported his Worshipers, Made his Soldiers Mighty, and Defeated the Factions Alone” (an excerpt from a prayer recited on Eid). Some titles employed cleverness: “Revolution University – Martyrdom Engineering.”

We recently collected all of the names given to the Fridays since the beginning of the uprising and list them below with translations. December 9 marked the 1000th day of the revolution; all of the Friday names listed below except the final one (Dec. 13) constitute the first 1000 days of the revolution.

Read more at Syria Comment

Pope assures critics he’s no Marxist

Pope Francis last month called unfettered capitalism “a new tyranny.”Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis, responding to criticism from some conservatives that his economic and social ideas smack of socialism, said in an Italian newspaper interview Sunday that he is not a Marxist – but that Marxists can be good people.

Francis also denied reports that he would name a woman cardinal, said there had been good progress in cleaning up Vatican finances, and confirmed that he would visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next year, La Stampa said.

Far-right American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who has a huge following in the United States, last month railed against the pope over the religious leader’s written comments on the world economy.

Limbaugh said the comments sounded like “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope,” and suggested that someone else might have written the papal document that contained the remarks. He also accused the pope of going “beyond Catholicism” and being “purely political.”

Read more at Al Jazeera America

Arapahoe High School shooting suspect dead after wounding two, sheriff says

Students were seen walking to the track with hands in the air. | AP Photo

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A teenager who may have had a grudge against a teacher opened fire Friday with a shotgun at a suburban Denver high school, wounding a fellow student before killing himself.

Quick-thinking students at Arapahoe High School alerted the targeted teacher, who quickly left the building. The scene unfolded on the eve of the Newtown massacre anniversary, a somber reminder of the ever-present potential for violence in the nation’s schools.

The wounded student, a 15-year-old girl, underwent surgery and was in critical condition. Authorities originally said a second student was wounded, but Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that the other girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the first student and wasn’t injured.

Robinson identified the shooter as Karl Halverson Pierson, 18. The sheriff did not elaborate on any possible motive except to say Pierson had a “confrontation or disagreement” with the teacher. He didn’t know if the injured girl was intentionally shot.

Read more at POLITICO

Rare snowstorm near Syria-Lebanon border brings havoc, disrupts aid

A Syrian refugee shovels snow outside her tent in the makeshift refugee camp of Terbol near the Bekaa Valley town of Zahleh in eastern Lebanon on December 11, 2013.(AFP Photo / STR)

At least two people were killed and 14 injured as the first snowfall of the season hit Syria and Lebanon. High winds and freezing temperatures affected refugee camps and disrupted international aid. More severe weather is expected this winter.

The storm, named ‘Alexa,’ took the lives of two people and injured 14 others in Lebanon, Ya Libnan reported, citing Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh.

The winter storm caused transportation chaos in the region and grounded the UN humanitarian airlift, which was scheduled to bring food and supplies from Iraq to the northeastern Kurdish areas of Syria. Tens of thousands of people are isolated in those areas, waiting for the aid to arrive.

Read more at RT-Novosti

Rare Snow Storm Hits Jersusalem

A fierce winter storm is sweeping across the Middle East

Snow-covered cars are parked on a street in central Jerusalem, Dec. 13, 2013.

Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank was enduring a rare snowstorm sweeping across the Middle East on Friday. At least 20 inches had fallen since Thursday, Reuters reports.

“In my 54 years I don’t remember a sight like this, such an amount I cannot recall,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said.

The storm has tested Israeli rescue services, with more than 1,000 people were stranded overnight because of the heavy snow fall. The military helped police rescue hundreds of people stuck in vehicles on highways near the capital, Reuters reports.

It was also reportedly snowing heavily in Cairo.

The United Nations and other aid agencies have warned that thousands of Syrian refugees living in vulnerable conditions in Lebanon are at risk from the heavy snow and freezing rain that have hit the region this week, the Guardian reports.

Read more at TIME

Without Notice, Putin Dissolves a News Agency


MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin exerted new control over Russia’s state news media on Monday, dissolving by decree one of Russia’s official news agencies, RIA Novosti, along with its international radio broadcaster as he continues a drive to strengthen the Kremlin’s influence at home and abroad.

Dmitry K. Kiselyov, a Kremlin backer, was appointed the head of a new news agency.

The decision shutters a decades-old state-run news agency widely viewed as offering professional and semi-independent coverage, while putting a reconstituted news service in the hands of a Kremlin loyalist. Since returning for a third time as president last year, Mr. Putin has taken several steps that critics have denounced as a strangulation of political rights and open debate, concentrating power in an ever tighter circle of allies.

The decree comes at a time when Russia has become increasingly assertive on the world stage, most recently in the tug of war with the European Union over political and economic relations with Ukraine, a country with deep historical and cultural links that Mr. Putin and others here believe bind it to Russia, not the West.

The Kremlin’s intense lobbying and strong-arming of Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, have been a principal grievance of the hundreds of thousands who have poured into the streets in the last two weeks. The reorganization of Russia’s state news media occurred only days after a meeting between the two leaders — and unconfirmed rumors that they had reached a secret deal to forge a strategic partnership — served to intensify the protests.

Mr. Putin’s presidential chief of staff, Sergei B. Ivanov, said the decision to close the news service was part of an effort to reduce costs and make the state news media more efficient. But RIA Novosti’s report on its own demise said the changes “appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.” Its executive editor, Svetlana Mironyuk, the first woman to lead the agency, appeared before her stunned colleagues and apologized for failing to preserve what she called the best news organization ever built by state money, according to a video recording of the meeting.

Read more at The New York Times

Assad’s Poison Pill

Initially perceived as President Bashar Assad’s worst blunder in Syria’s civil war, the use of chemical weapons by his army last summer increasingly looks like his ticket to military victory and the key to his political survival.

As a small U.N.-affiliated group of chemical weapons experts toils to maintain a tight schedule mandated by the Security Council for the destruction of Syria’s chemical arms, Western diplomats and the United Nations are hard at work organizing a conference in Geneva in an attempt to end the carnage.

But critics say that it could actually help Assad win the nearly three-year war, even as he stands accused by a top U.N. official of complicity in war crimes.

Damascus says its aim in attending the proposed Geneva conference is to maintain the Assad family’s 40-year hold on power. And as observers believe that the military situation now favors the Assad government, he could also seal a diplomatic victory by leveraging his cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team.

“Assad will continue to cooperate with the OPCW,” said a Western diplomat who closely follows Syria. “He has the know-how, so he can renew the chemical program in the future if he wants it. But for now, as long as he cooperates with the chemical team, everybody has an interest in keeping him in power,” the diplomat added, asking for anonymity so he could speak freely.

Read more at Newsweek

Inside the Company That Bungled Obamacare

Hard to believe, but Healthcare.gov might not be CGI’s biggest headache. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When 200 of CGI Federal’s top managers gathered at the luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania on a brisk day in early November 2009, they found time for business — and high jinks.

During the two-day event, managers presented PowerPoint slides celebrating the phenomenal success of CGI Federal, a major technology contractor, in winning lucrative government contracts. Most attendees stayed in the resort’s Chateau Lafayette hotel, a replica of the Ritz-Carlton in Paris, and at a formal dinner under the elaborate chandelier in the ballroom, George D. Schindler, the president of CGI Federal, spoke of the company’s big profits that year and its bright future.

The fun came during a team-building exercise following a boozy lunch in conference rooms not far from the hotel’s Lady Luck casino. Managers were split off into small groups and asked to solve math-laden riddles. For each correct answer, they received a bicycle part. The goal was for the teams, around 20 or so, to assemble children’s pink and blue bicycles, then race their tasseled bikes up and down the carpeted corridors of the hotel.

“People were riding these bikes drunk through the hallways of the resort,” recalls one former manager who attended the event, while others were “duck-walking” the children’s bikes, which were too small for most adults to sit on. Amid “a lot of hooting and hollering,” the manager recalls, the hotel staff was laughing. “Some people were bombed out of their minds until 2 a.m. It was greed and opulence, and it was on the taxpayers’ dime.”

He was wrong about one thing: taxpayers didn’t pay directly for the event for CGI Federal, the American arm of Montreal-based CGI Group that is known these days as the main company behind the glitch-plagued Healthcare.gov website, the engine of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Through a lucrative government contract, CGI Federal is the principal contractor assigned the daunting job of building the federal online insurance marketplace — a large, complex website intended to help millions of ordinary Americans obtain health insurance that instead has become a byword for technological failure.

Read more at Newsweek