Scotland Is 1st Nation to Make Period Products Free – The New York Times

“LONDON — Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products freely available to all who need them, after final approval was given to a landmark piece of legislation in Parliament on Tuesday.

The measures are intended to end “period poverty” — or the circumstances, and in some cases, prohibitive expense that have left many without access to sanitary products when they need them.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, posted on Twitter shortly after the vote on Tuesday evening that she was “proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation” which she called an “important policy for women and girls.”

A draft bill received initial approval in Parliament in February, and the measure was officially passed on Tuesday, with lawmakers voting unanimously in its favor.”

Opinion | 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Getty Images

“HAMBURG, Germany — It may well be that Germans have a special inclination to panic at specters from the past, and I admit that this alarmism annoys me at times. Yet watching President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign since Election Day, I can’t help but see a parallel to one of the most dreadful episodes from Germany’s history.

One hundred years ago, amid the implosions of Imperial Germany, powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to arguably the most potent and disastrous political lie of the 20th century — the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation. That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter. Among a sizable number of Germans, it stirred resentment, humiliation and anger. And the one figure who knew best how to exploit their frustration was Adolf Hitler.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not about comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler, which would be absurd. But the Dolchstosslegende provides a warning. It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Trump’s irrational claim that the election was “rigged” as a laughable last convulsion of his reign or a cynical bid to heighten the market value for the TV personality he might once again intend to become, especially as he appears to be giving up on his effort to overturn the election result.”

David Lindsay:
What do Jochen Bittner and my sister Elly Lindsay have in common. It is at least an interest in history. I graduated from high school in three years complicated by anti Vietnam war activities and drugs. My parents supported me in a gap year, where I lived in Cambridge MA with my sister Elly. I worked as a volunteer stage carpenter and electrician at the Harvard Loeb Drama Center, while Elly finished her senior year at Radcliff College at Harvard. Elly was the president of the Harvard Dramat at the Loeb Theater, and acting in shows, while studying history and literature. She was particularly proud of one of her major papers for the history department, where she examined how Germany fell into fascism, and she wrote in her conclusions, that Americans would not have been immune to the forces at work in Germany. We could in similar circumstances, be just as horrible as the Germans were in World War II.
Bret Stephens wrote about Dolchstosslegende in a piece I posted last week. This piece adds a great deal to the discussion, or better put, to the warning. Trump insisting that the election was stolen, is dangerous. Republicans of any patriotic worth, should quickly disavow it.

Opinion | Dear Joe, It’s Not About Iran’s Nukes Anymore – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times

“With the assassination by Israel of Iran’s top nuclear warhead designer, the Middle East is promising to complicate Joe Biden’s job from day one. President-elect Biden knows the region well, but if I had one piece of advice for him, it would be this: This is not the Middle East you left four years ago.

The best way for Biden to appreciate the new Middle East is to study what happened in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2019 — when the Iranian Air Force launched 20 drones and precision-guided cruise missiles at Abqaiq, one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil fields and processing centers, causing huge damage. It was a seminal event.

The Iranian drones and cruise missiles flew so low and with such stealth that neither their takeoff nor their impending attack was detected in time by Saudi or U.S. radar. Israeli military analysts, who were stunned by the capabilities the Iranians displayed, argued that this surprise attack was the Middle East’s “Pearl Harbor.”

They were right. The Middle East was reshaped by this Iranian precision missile strike, by President Trump’s response and by the response of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to Trump’s response.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Tom Friedman. You always have something useful and important to say. I quit carried by your words, until I wading through some very bad comments, to get to some very thoughtful ones. I will print a few of my favorites, which I recommended.

Socrates
Verona, N.J.Nov. 29

One thing Trump is not is a diplomat. Trump thinks he understands ‘deals’, but what he’s referring to when he says ‘deals’ are cheap transactions counted in dollars, not diplomacy, which is counted in saved lives, security, lasting peace and international engagement. Trump got something ‘right’ in Saudi Arabia by accident the same way a clock gets it accidentally right twice a day. Look at Trump’s ‘diplomatic deal’ with North Korea; some highly rated photo ops at the DMZ followed by absolutely nothing. All hat and no cattle. Joe Biden and his Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken have plenty of global experience and are believers in diplomacy, reasoned discourse and de-escalation. That approach may not always ‘solve the problem’, but it will have a better batting average than the ‘art of the empty deal’ that he who shall not be named championed. The whole world is looking forward to American sanity and alliance-building starting Jan 20 2021. Let’s give it the old college try.

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Thomas
Seattle6h ago
Times Pick

The whole reason Iran needs threats (precision missiles, nukes, etc.) is to protect their sovereignty from the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Friedman flatly states that Iran is homicidal, but Iran expressly sought to minimize fatalities in both the Saudi oil strike and the American-Iraq base strike. In the past couple years, however, the Saudi crown prince had Jamal cut up, we precision struck Soleimani, and presumably Israel just assassinated Mohsen. Friedman also states that Iran’s preferred weapon for homicide is precision guided missiles, which, funnily enough, happens to be our favorite toy too. The deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia is not one made out of love, and I’m skeptical it will lead to a less polarized Middle East. Iran needs to be reintegrated into the world and the Biden administration would be wise to not fall for Saudi-Israeli manipulations.

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lin commented November 29

lin

Eventually, the point is to come to the negotiating table. Best not to have too many bodies to climb over to get there. Many homicidal drone strikes have Made in America written on them, even when they have not been launched by American forces. But when Friedman says ‘it’s complicated’ I don’t think he fully discloses how American and Israeli actions – including arms sales – are contributing factors.

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Meuphys
Atlanta41m ago
Times Pick

By all means, restart the nuke deal with Iran. I don’t really think it matters whether Netanyahu, an undemocratic indicted criminal, and Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi disapprove. Both nations badly need a shakeup in leadership, and while we are not and cannot be the agents of that, it’s important for US credibility that we be seen as returning to a responsible posture rather than accept Trump’s poorly-planned and poorly-executed policies as the new normal. The rest of Europe, also signatories to the Iran deal, would welcome our return to the table. As for the new Iranian missile capabilities, the way to address that is through negotiations and intelligence, not through the ham-handed bullying which has characterized US foreign policy in the Trump years. Iran is a democracy, if flawed, and Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Israel is a democracy technically, but one currently led by a criminal in thrall to hardline religious elements – a criminal whose party’s vote total in the last election was insufficient to win without going into coalition with the Blue & White party. Like Trump, Netanyahu is a criminal whose continued freedom has been dependent on his political position.

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George Cooper
Tuscaloosa, Al6h ago
Times Pick

Friedman doesn’t mention a key reason for Iranian influence in the gulf is the political disenfranchisement of the Shia minority ( Shia are majority in Bahrain ) giving the Persian Shia an opening to their Arab brothers. Likewise, Hezbollah came into existence and gained power in Lebanon as response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon ( shades of the Lon Nol coup coupled with the American/ARVN invasion of Cambodia that eventually ushered in Pol Pot Mr. Freidman also missed a second seminal event from a tactical military view. That is despite being armed to the teeth with worlds most advanced weapons systems by the US, the Saudi’s multi billion air force and African mercenary army (Saudi’s hate to engage their own men in Yemen ) has been given a thumping by a home grown guerrilla army, the Houthi’s. The UAE ( the only Gulf Army worthwhile) has pulled out and retreated. One can attach the word “homicide” to the Iranians, however it seems more appropriate alongside MBS and the Saudi’s for their carnage inflicted upon the people of Yemen.

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Public
Powerful piece by Tom Friedman, taken to task for his tone, and brevity, and possibly, his blind hatred of Iran, all though, what he says, is helpful in understanding one of the most dangerous quagmires in the world. Unfortunately, George W Bush contributed mightily to the instability and carnage of the war torn region.

Opinion | When I Step Outside, I Step Into a Country of Men Who Stare – By Fatima Bhojani – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Bhojani is a writer from Pakistan.

Credit…Abdul Majeed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — I am angry. All the time. I’ve been angry for years. Ever since I began to grasp the staggering extent of violence — emotional, mental and physical — against women in Pakistan. Women here, all 100 million of us, exist in collective fury.

“Every day, I am reminded of a reason I shouldn’t exist,” my 19-year-old friend recently told me in a cafe in Islamabad. When she gets into an Uber, she sits right behind the driver so that he can’t reach back and grab her. We agreed that we would jump out of a moving car if that ever happened. We debated whether pepper spray was better than a knife.

When I step outside, I step into a country of men who stare. I could be making the short walk from my car to the bookstore or walking through the aisles at the supermarket. I could be wrapped in a shawl or behind two layers of face mask. But I will be followed by searing eyes, X-raying me. Because here, it is culturally acceptable for men to gape at women unblinkingly, as if we are all in a staring contest that nobody told half the population about, a contest hinged on a subtle form of psychological violence.

“Wolves,” my friend, Maryam, called them, as she recounted the time a man grazed her shoulder as he sped by on a motorbike. “From now on, I am going to stare back, make them uncomfortable.” Maryam runs a company that takes tourists to the mountainous north. “People are shocked to see a woman leading tours on her own,” she told me.”

The poisonous myth: Democratic Germany’s ‘stab in the back’ legend – Alan Kramer – Irish Times

1919: Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans. Photograph:  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1919: Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

““German economic life is to be annihilated . . . It amounts to the denial of the people’s right to existence.” (German foreign minister Count Brockdorff-Rantzau’s response to the draft peace treaty, May 1919.)

Germany lost the war. It is easy to lose sight of this basic fact. The peace treaties imposed by the victorious nations on Germany and its allies resulted from their defeat and capitulation.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed by Germany on June 28th, 1919 (the others being the treaties of St. Germain with Austria, Trianon with Hungary, Neuilly with Bulgaria, and Sèvres with Turkey), did not result from negotiations between equals, as some German politicians naively hoped.

In fact it flowed directly from the armistice of November 1918, a term that implied a temporary pause in fighting. Over the summer of 1918 Allied offensives were driving the German troops back through France and Belgium towards the German border; increasing numbers of German soldiers, with their combat officers, were surrendering en masse – a sure symptom of the army’s loss of cohesion. To German commanders it was becoming clear that defeat loomed large and imminent.

Strict censorship and the army’s daily false news bulletins meant that news of the armistice came as a shock

Armies, as organisations of violence based on values of bravery and endurance, find it hard to admit defeat. The more thoughtful German officers could read the signs by summer 1918, but the de facto commander-in-chief, General Eric Ludendorff, kept lying to the civilian government about non-existent victories, masses of reserves, and the great losses of the enemy.

Only on September 29th did Ludendorff finally admit to the army leadership that the war was lost. He demanded the formation of a new democratically-based government that must call for an “armistice”. If not the army would completely collapse.”

Source: The poisonous myth: Democratic Germany’s ‘stab in the back’ legend

Opinion | Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Hurt American Alliances – by Roger Cohen – by The New York Times

Roger Cohen really know what he is talking about. Trump supporters, please take note.

“Tuesday’s election will be seen globally as a referendum on the durability of democracy. If American democracy, long a beacon, cannot self-correct, then all democracies are at risk. European nations have watched with alarm as President Trump has set about undermining American democracy while attacking the very foundations — the European Union and NATO — that allowed war-torn Europe to become whole, democratic and free.

The Oval Office was once the focal point of the respect the United States commanded around the world; no longer. It has become impossible for democracies today to believe it is in their national interest to take Trump’s America seriously. With this president, there are simply too many petulant reversals of course. The presidency and dishonesty have become synonymous. Alliances are founded on trust. When that goes, they begin to dissolve.

Hence the talk in European capitals of the need to “contain” the United States, a verb once reserved for the Soviet Union. America, under Trump, has lost the credibility and legitimacy that were cornerstones of its influence.

Allies believe a second Trump term could lead to the United States’ leaving NATO, following the decision to leave the World Health Organization. Departure from the World Trade Organization is also possible. Trump has yet to encounter a multilateral organization he does not want dead.

The values of liberty, democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law for which the United States has stood, albeit with conspicuous failings, over the postwar decades have been abandoned. Despite the horrors of Vietnam and Abu Ghraib, and Cold War support for dictatorial regimes, America led not just because it had a huge army and nuclear arsenal, but also because it shared beliefs with its allies and worked with them. The United States has become a values-free international actor under a president who has led a values-free life.

This American abdication has allowed President Vladimir Putin of Russia to proclaim liberalism “obsolete.” It has led Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to say Europeans must “take our fate into our own hands.” It has empowered President Xi Jinping of China to offer his country’s one-party system as an alternative model for developing countries. It has turned the phrase “leader of the free world,” as applied to the United States, into a laughable notion.

The Trump administration has unrelentingly undermined proven international relationships. America-first nationalism (even on vaccine development) has replaced the stabilizing commitment of the United States to multilateral institutions, a rules-based order and painstakingly negotiated international accords, like the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Over the past four years, America has come close to exiting the global community of democracies. Trump is far more comfortable with autocrats like Putin and Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia than with a democratic leader like Merkel. (She has, for the president, the added drawback of being a woman.)”

Opinion | John Kerry: China’s Chance to Save Antarctic Sealife – By John F. Kerry – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Kerry served as U.S. secretary of state from 2013 to 2017.

Credit…Liu Shiping/Xinhua, via Getty Images

“Even as the United States and China confront deep disagreements, there is a global challenge that simply won’t wait for the resolution of our differences: climate change.

While some have decided that we are entering a new Cold War with China, we can still cooperate on critical mutual interests. After all, even at the height of 20th-century tensions, the Americans and the Soviets negotiated arms control agreements, which were in the interests of both countries.

Climate change, like nuclear proliferation, is a challenge of our own making — and one to which we hold the solution. We have an opportunity this month to make clear that great power rivalries aside, geopolitics must end at the water’s edge — at the icy bottom of our planet in the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the entire continent of Antarctica.

The first post-World War II arms limitation agreement — the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 at the height of the Cold War — banned military activities, created a nuclear-free space, set aside territorial claims and declared the continent a global commons dedicated to peace and science. Now we have the opportunity to extend that global commons from the land to the sea.”

Opinion | Can Biden Fix What Trump Broke? – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Credit…Ian Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock

“PARIS — If Joe Biden moves to the White House in January, he will find across the Atlantic a very different landscape from the one he left as vice president. In turn ignored, lectured or brutalized by President Trump, who has enjoyed playing on their divisions, Europeans are now learning to navigate alone in a world ever more dangerous for them, while managing an awkward relationship with America.

At stake for many of them in this presidential election is quite simple: If Mr. Trump wins a second term, they fear, he will be tempted to double down on his unilateralist agenda. NATO, already described as “brain-dead” by President Emmanuel Macron of France, could just as well die for good. Alternatively, it is hoped, a Biden administration would re-engage America in the multilateral system it created 75 years ago. And Europe, with its newfound assertiveness, could be a more valuable player.

For Europe, the election comes at a time of particular danger. The European Union’s neighborhood is “engulfed in flames,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told The Financial Times last week.

From the Eastern Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea, from a Britain consumed by Brexit to a defiant Russia, not to mention the Balkans, Libya or the sub-Saharan countries of West Africa, the union is surrounded by crises. What is new for its leaders is the need to confront them not as “the West,” but on their own, with a mostly passive United States administration looking elsewhere.”

Opinion | A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“For once, I am going to agree with President Trump in his use of his favorite adjective: “huge.”

The agreement brokered by the Trump administration for the United Arab Emirates to establish full normalization of relations with Israel, in return for the Jewish state forgoing, for now, any annexation of the West Bank, was exactly what Trump said it was in his tweet: a “HUGE breakthrough.”

It is not Anwar el-Sadat going to Jerusalem — nothing could match that first big opening between Arabs and Israelis. It is not Yasir Arafat shaking Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn — nothing could match that first moment of public reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

But it is close. Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.

It’s a geopolitical earthquake.

To fully appreciate why, you need to start with the internal dynamics of the deal. It was Trump’s peace plan drawn up by Jared Kushner, and their willingness to stick with it, that actually created the raw material for this breakthrough. Here is how.”

Opinion | Lebanon’s Explosion Is Down to Incompetence – By Faysal Itani – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Itani is a political analyst.

Credit…Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

“My first summer job was at the port of Beirut. It was the late ’90s and I was just a teenager. I spent muggy months entering shipping data as part of an ambitious new program to move the port from analogue to digital log keeping. It was as unglamorous as you would expect from a bottom-rung job in the bowels of a Middle East bureaucracy. But despite the heat and the monotony, there was optimism.

The port was critical infrastructure in an economy rejuvenating after 15 years of civil war. Digital log keeping was part of the future — and an attempt to introduce much-needed order and transparency to a recovering public sector. This was, after all, the same port that had been rendered unusable during the civil war by sunken vessels and unexploded ordnance, save for one area controlled by a militia.

The Lebanon that emerged from that rubble is gone, gradually choked by a cynical political class. Yesterday, it was finished off. The port of Beirut was blown up in an explosion that killed at least 100 people (and counting), wounded more than 4,000 and destroyed blocks of the city. Lebanon now faces a new type of catastrophe for which decades of war and political instability were poor preparation.

By all appearances the port disaster did not involve the usual suspects — Hezbollah, Israel, jihadist terrorism or the government of neighboring Syria. The truth seems to be both duller and more disturbing: Decades of rot at every level of Lebanon’s institutions destroyed Beirut’s port, much of the city, and far too many lives. It is precisely the banality behind the explosion that captures the particular punishment and humiliation heaped on Lebanon.

So far, Lebanese officials are in agreement about what happened, though it’s likely that more than one “official” account will emerge. After all, this is Lebanon, a country deeply divided by politics, religion and history. But here is what we know as of now, according to reporting by credible Lebanese media: Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate unloaded from a disabled vessel in 2014 had been stored in a port warehouse. Then yesterday, a welding accident ignited nearby fireworks — which caused the ammonium nitrate to explode.

Ports are prime real estate for political, criminal and militia factions. Multiple security agencies with different levels of competence (and different political allegiances) control various aspects of their operations. And recruitment in the civilian bureaucracy is dictated by political or sectarian quotas. There is a pervasive culture of negligence, petty corruption and blame-shifting endemic to the Lebanese bureaucracy, all overseen by a political class defined by its incompetence and contempt for the public good.

It’s unclear what combination of these elements let a bomb-in-waiting sit in a warehouse for almost six years, moved fireworks next to it and allowed irresponsible work practices to be carried out nearby. But the catastrophe, while exceptionally severe, is the result of business as usual in Lebanon. The country is familiar with explosions, and it is just as familiar with disasters caused by failures of public services: a garbage crisis that dates back to 2015, an environmental catastrophe in 2019 and power outages this year that last up to 20 hours a day.”