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Levant Is Going To Break

Can the U.N. stop the Israel-Hezbollah conflict?

Economist, Aug. 5 A piece wonders how Israel, Hezbollah, and Lebanon will extract themselves from the Levant mess. Stopping the massacre might depend more on the mobilization of resources by the United Nations than anything. “So a new UN force in Lebanon may risk looking like a Frankenstein’s monster, with French leadership, a mandate from the UN, Muslim legitimacy from Turkey, logistical support from NATO, and money and diplomatic backing from the United States and Britain.” According to an accompanying piece, France is most qualified to spearhead the operation because of its close ties to former territory Lebanon. Many Cuban-Americans in Miami are celebrating Fidel Castro’s faltering health. And some are showing their hatred for Castro by trying to ban from Miami schools books that depict Cuban life, according to an article. School-board members argue that life on the island isn’t as carefree as the books depict it, and kids will get a skewed view. Opponents say that it looks like the politicos are trying to recreate a socialist state on U.S. soil.— M.M.
Related in Slate: Ian Bremmer on an ailing Castro and Tim Harford on ending the war in Lebanon.  

New Republic, Aug. 14 and 21 An article surveys six new Katrina books, noting that they all “focus more on what happened after New Orleans ended up underwater than on how New Orleans ended up underwater.” Meanwhile, the piece lays responsibility at the feet of the Army Corps of Engineers: “The Corps spent more in Louisiana than in any other state, but it wasted most of the money on ecologically harmful and fiscally wasteful pork that kept its employees busy and its political patrons happy, while neglecting hurricane protection for New Orleans.” An article contends that Sen. Joe Lieberman is wrong on Iraq but says, “the best argument for him is that, with Bush’s power on the wane, and Democrats resurgent, that iconoclasm may soon become necessary again.” As an early supporter of previous humanitarian interventions like Bosnia and Kosovo, Lieberman has often been “defiant and isolated and right” long before other liberals came around.— B.C.
Related in Slate: Read John Dickerson on the Lieberman-Lamont race.

Vanity Fair, August 2006 Tape recordings of the transmissions from NORAD officers, air-traffic controllers, and fighter pilots the morning of Sept. 11 contradict the testimony of Air Force generals before the 9/11 commission, according to an article. The author, a producer of the movie United 93, weaves audio clips of NORAD transmissions, scenes from the generals’ testimony, and interviews with the officers into a revealing timeline. Confusion reigned that day. But false Air Force accounts obscure the military’s mistakes and overstate its readiness to shoot down United Flight 93. According to the 9/11 commission’s senior counsel, John Farmer Jr., the generals’ story was “a whole different order of magnitude than spin. It simply wasn’t true.” A piece reports that convicted California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham won’t be going down alone. Investigations have implicated many others, from military contractors to Republican Reps. Jerry Lewis and Katherine Harris.— C.B.

New York Times Magazine, Aug. 6 An article addresses one of the biggest challenges in fighting the AIDS epidemic in South Africa: marketing. Prevention programs and products must “cut through fatalism and denial to get young people to apply the information they already know,” the author writes. Organizations such as loveLife are seeking to solve the problem by branding their names through various mentorial and recreational programs, so that it connotes a young and healthy lifestyle rather than just a traditional prevention campaign. Famed French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy defends Israel after visiting it, saying “there is a question here of integrity and fairness: devastation, death, life in bomb shelters, existences broken by the death of a child, these are also the lot of Israel.” He finds Iran’s funding of Hezbollah no longer acceptable: “We should listen to the Israelis when they tell us they had no other choice anymore.”— B.C.
Related in Slate: Amanda Schaffer reports on microbicides, which can prevent HIV. See Slate’ s complete coverage of the Middle East crisis.

The New Yorker, Aug. 7 and 14 A piece reports from Lebanon, where the Israeli bombing has revealed the Lebanese government’s inefficacy while strengthening Hezbollah and its sponsors, Iran and Syria. “Iran’s role in this has been huge,” says one Western diplomat. “Without any cost to Iran, Lebanon is getting devastated, Israel is taking hits, and the Iranians are getting distraction from the nuclear issue. They must be very happy right now.” The author finds Hezbollah supporters are prepared for a drawn-out conflict. “Sheikh Nasrallah said last night that it will last a long time,” a young Lebanese man tell the author. “So here I am.” A piece argues that the “citizen journalism” of the blogosphere does not yet offer a full alternative to “old media.” If anything, it recapitulates the rise of “new media” of past centuries, such as pamphleteering and the penny press. Internet journalism’s self-conception as the citizenry struggling against an elite media “is, as a historical phenomenon, mainly a straw man.”— C.B.

Weekly Standard, Aug. 7 A piece raps the intelligence community for failing to figure out that Iran was arming Hezbollah. This lapse leads the author to wonder whether Iran has been helping out al-Qaida on the sly and more important, “If Iran is willing to transfer such weaponry to Hezbollah, where does it draw the line? Would it one day do the same with a nuclear warhead?” In a Web-only piece, two Israeli paratroopers complain that the international community is siding with terrorists when it accuses Israel of using heavy-handed tactics against civilians. The authors reason that such admonishments only encourage Hezbollah and its ilk A dispatch from the National Organization for Women’s 40th-anniversary conference suggests that it wasn’t exactly the “herstoric event” one NOW state chapter president billed it as. The July conference was chock full of tired slogans, lots of sharing, and “sheros.”—Z.K.
Related in Slate: Daniel Byman explains Iran’s use of terrorism, and “Today’s Blogs” weighs the blogosphere’s comments on proportionality.

Time and Newsweek, Aug. 7 Middle East: A Time piece calls for President Bush to tone down the terror rhetoric in backing the Israeli offensive against Hamas and Hezbollah. By putting the onus on stopping terror, the administration is addressing only a symptom of the wider Middle East power struggle, the writer contends. America’s interest is to support an ally and rein in a dangerous Iranian regime. While Hezbollah and Hamas are not direct threats to America, Bush’s tough talk suggests otherwise, the author says. A Newsweek article warns that Israel’s aggressive retort in Lebanon is shaping the Middle East’s perception of Hezbollah. The terrorist group and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, are taking on the heroic mantle of crusaders. “Hizbullah’s own rockets and missiles can miss nearly all their targets, with comparatively little loss of life, but so long as they keep firing, they shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility and win friends and admirers in a radicalized Muslim world.”

Odds and ends: An article in Time looks at the stem-cell debate from the points of view of scientists, disease sufferers, and politicians who have a stake in regulating or benefiting from the research. Bright graphics break down the cell-replication process. And an accompanying piece examines the high political stakes—Democrats are using the debate to fashion themselves “the party of progress” and President Bush’s press secretary recently backed away from equating stem-cell research with murder. The former soldier charged with raping an Iraqi girl and murdering her and her family has a history of substance abuse and anti-social behavior, according to a Newsweek article. The piece parses the past of the man who apparently fulfilled expectations that he would snap.—M.M.