Today's Blogs

Fueling Up

Bloggers scrutinize Russia’s delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran and Saudi King Abdullah’s decision to pardon a rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes for being in public with a man who wasn’t a relative. They also weigh in on researchers who collect their data on social networking sites like Facebook.

Fueling up: Russia started shipping nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr power plant this week. The plant, which Russia is helping to build, is expected to become operational in six months, and Iran says it will serve only civilian energy needs. Officially, the United States favors Russia’s move because it provides another incentive for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

But some bloggers sense an attempt to upset the global balance of power. “This is further confirmation, if any were needed, that Putin is working to re-establish Russia as a regional power even if it comes at the cost of its relationship with the West,” opinesOutside the Beltway’s conservative James Joyner. “It should also throw cold water on the notion that the UN Security Council is going to emerge any time soon as a viable collective security regime while Russia and China have veto power.”

Despite the declassification earlier this month of a National Intelligence Estimate claiming that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program, others doubt that the fuel will be used solely for civilian use. On Blogs of War, right-leaning Texan John Little tags the news as “More fallout, so to speak, resulting from our schizophrenic positions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” The Conservative Beacon’s Joshua Price is wary: “I just don’t know how one can make the statement that one wants to be sure Iran is only using its nuclear program for energy purposes and yet one still sends nuclear fuel without any proof–other than that laughable NIE.” And Amil Imani, an Iranian living in the United States, writes, “My advice to the President and the people of my adopted country is: go ahead and make merry, enjoy the gift of life, but don’t let down your guard and make sure that no one lulls you into the deadly trap of complacency. Yes, if the mullahs get the bomb, they will make use of it in numerous ways.”

And Thomas-Ernst Auslander, a Swede, looks for the silver lining: “[I]f they are genuine in their declarations of peaceful use of nuclear technology, they will somehow be in a better position to contribute more positively to the reduction of carbon emissions and air pollution.”

Read more about the Russia-Iran fuel deal.

Royal pardon: Saudi King Abdullah has “pardoned” the “Qatif Girl,” a Saudi Arabian teen who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months imprisonment for being alone in a car with a man who was not her relative. While they were sitting in a car, two men entered the vehicle and took them to a location where five other men waited; the woman and her companion were gang-raped. Olivetheoil comments on Saudi Jeans, the blog of a reformist Saudi: “The Qatif Girl’s courage in standing up and calling out the BS is a role model to all.”

At Sundries Shack, conservative Jimmie points out: “So now that we’ve seen what a little pressure can do, it’s about time we see what a lot of pressure can do. King Abdullah took a bold step that will not at all be popular with the huge numbers of Islamists that not only live in Saudi Arabis but also fill his government. … Sharia is a blight upon the soul of the world and the sooner it is carved out and destroyed utterly, the better we will all be. So let’s get to carving, folks.”

“I guess some folks forgot that the criticisms of the sentence hardly came form the West alone. Women activists in Saudi Arabia took to the streets recently to protest the sentence,” notesFeministing’s Jessica. The Psycho Atheist, a former British soldier, agrees and takes issue with Abdullah’s claim that the verdicts were “fair”: “I’m all for taking into account cultural differences, but how, by any stretch of the imagination, can sentencing a rape victim to prison and 200 lashes be considered by any sane individual to be fair?”

The Rehearsal Studio’s Stephen Smoliar, an author, has a thoughtful post that takes into account the reaction of Muslims opposed to Abdullah’s decision: “[I]f the King is sincerely trying to act as a change agent, his ‘political judgement’ is sharp enough to recognize that ‘change’ need not necessarily be accepting Western values to such a degree that key Islamic values are sacrificed in the process.”

Read more about the Qatif pardon. Crossroads Arabia rounds up international coverage.

Facebook U: Researchers from Harvard and UCLA are monitoring 1,700 Facebook users to research social relationships, the New York Times reports.

Some are pooh-poohing the researchers’ attempts. “I cannot help but feel that the researchers are really only observing a very small part of human interaction,” writesAlexander van Elsas, a Dutch telecom professional. “It is what I call observing social behavior through a fishbowl. You can see the person, even see what he is doing, but you also be sure that what you see is a distorted version of reality.”

Wesleying’s Mad Joy, a Wesleyan student, interviews a psychology grad student who created a popular Facebook personality test, and muses about the ethics of studying people without their consent: “On the one hand, I do support the furthering of academic research, and if data about my social life as exhibited through Facebook is going to this ‘good cause,’ I’m pretty okay with that. However, I’m not sure that I like that others might be viewing my profile on false pretenses.”

AndChutry Experiment’s Chuck Tryon *, an assistant professor and editorial board member of MediaCommons, “a digital scholarly network,” responds to a related article in the Washington Post: “I think it’s clear that the study of social networking could be better served by aspects of both the traditional peer-review model and of the scholarly network.”

Read more. Peruse one academic researcher’s papers about social networking.

Correction, Dec. 18, 2007: The article originally misspelled the name of blogger Chuck Tryon. (Return to the corrected sentence.)