Today's Blogs


Lebanese bloggers discuss the Hezbollah-backed protest that surrounded government offices in Beirut Friday. They also speculate about recent developments in the KGB-spy poisoning case and can’t quite tell if Hannibal Lecter or Mel Gibson directed Apocalypto.

Bei-rout: Approximately 800,000 Hezbollah supporters and fellow travelers assembled in downtown Beirut today, demanding the ouster of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his Cabinet. They claim they’re only after “clean” government, but in-country bloggers see both tragedy and farce in the demonstration.

Doha at The Lebanese Bloggers reports on a speech delivered by Michel Aoun, a Christian leader and former anti-Syrian reformist known as “the General” who unexpectedly signed a friendship pact with Hezbollah last year. Doha writes: “[H]is speech is weak all in all. He didn’t say anything out of the ordinary, just calls for the government to step down and of course that he is more independent and will ensure a sovereign and clean Lebanon, etc…And added that perhaps under his reign, there wouldn’t be army tanks spread around the city to protect the government. I’m sorry, I fail to believe you GENERAL Aoun! Did you notice that Lahoud was a general, Aoun was a general, and Nasrallah is a general? How can I believe that under their reign, my country will not be ruled by a military junta?”

Blacksmith Jade at Blacksmiths of Lebanon doesn’t care how peaceful or populous the rally is: “Today, we find ourselves in a situation in which those who have continuously acted with complete disregard for the institutions of our state, those who have ignored the presence of our military, and those who have marched in support of tyrants and assassins, have conspired to push the country down the path of fear and instability.”

Abu Kals at Lebanese-American blog From Beirut to the Beltway reports from the center of activity: “Although they don’t admit it, Hizbullah and the pro-Syrian parties are going out of their way to sabotage the formation of the international tribunal, and this protest is one facet of it. The Shia ministers resigned right before a cabinet session tentatively approved the plan, and described another session that approved it following UNSC endorsement as ‘unconstitutional’. The plan needs to be approved by parliament, but the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, is a Hizbullah ally and generally follows Syrian and Iranian orders. The sit-in/protest official slogan is ‘we want a clean government.’ “

Read more about the march in Beirut.

Polonium pandemonium: L’affaireLitvinenko grew a size weirder Friday as Mario Scaramella, the Italian informant Litvinenko met with at a now-infamous sushi restaurant, tested positive for polonium-210. On Thursday, the first post-Soviet Russian premier, Yegor Gaidar, also claimed to have been dosed with some unknown toxin.

Edward Jay Epstein airs one Putin-didn’t-do-it hypothesis: “The accident hypothesis would also involve the smuggling Polonium 210, but for profit rather than assassination. And for a smuggler it could be very lucrative since Polonium 210 emits alpha particles that can be used as an ‘initiator’ for a weapon, especially one in its early stages or a poor man’s bomb. … He might have been arranging a sale to an intermediary, establishing the bona fides of someone claiming to have access to a Russian nuclear facility, or investigating the international black market in nuke components.”

“Not Buck Turgidson” at the Strangelovean Richmond War Room thinks polonium-210 wasn’t actually such an odd choice of weapon: “Had our assassin decided to use something nasty like plutonium, he could have caused several accidental cases of cancer. Po-210, however, hits its target and hurts no one else.”

AJStrata at The Strata-Sphere doesn’t buy the theory that Litvinenko spread the isotope through his bodily fluids (using bathrooms that then became contaminated, etc.): “Yes, the urine showed the Polonium. But no other traces from the sweat, saliva, etc showed up. This tells me the dose ingested was not large enough to seap far from the stomach and intestines. Also, the internal damage was not systmec. If the radiation was seaping through out the body we would have seen external signs of damage in the pictures of Litvinenko (swollen eyes, etc). But we did not see radiation burning throghout his body. That means there may be another pool of Polonium out there still.”

Read more about the polonium-based intrigue. In Slate, Daniel Engber looked into radiation as a contagion.

Temples of doom: Mel Gibson’s new film, Apocalypto, depicting the decline and fall of the Mayan civilization, opens on Dec. 8, but a few enterprising bloggers caught advance screenings. Some raved, some booed—all cringed.

Anne Thompson, deputy film critic at the Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Business, callsApocalytpo a piece of “bravura filmmaking,” but says Mel is up to his old corporal fetishes:“He removes pumping hearts from heaving chests, lops off sacrificial heads and bounces them down the Mayan Temple steps. Blood spurts out of an artery at a 90 degree angle. …. One can argue for realism, but on the other hand, the many strokes of luck that spare our young hero’s life—and we very much want him to live—stack up a tad implausibly.”

Conrad H. Roth at Varieties of unreligious Experience was a bit creeped out, too: “The camera never shies away from the visceral, the sadistic Catholic gaze carried over from The Passion—the hero sheathed in mud, or live ants stuffed in an open wound, or the innumerable piercings and other grotesque ornaments on every face. … It is this unflinching quality, so absent from the usual pussy-hearted blockbusters, that transfixes and enthralls.”

Read more about Apocalypto.