Suddenly, to be an Arab has become a good thing. People all over the Arab world feel a sense of pride in shaking off decades of cowed passivity under dictatorships that ruled with no deference to popular wishes. And it has become respectable in the West as well. Egypt is now thought of as an exciting and progressive place; its people’s expressions of solidarity are welcomed by demonstrators in Madison, Wisconsin; and its bright young activists are seen as models for a new kind of twenty-first-century mobilization. Events in the Arab world are being covered by the Western media more extensively than ever before and are being talked about positively in a fashion that is unprecedented. Before, when anything Muslim or Middle Eastern or Arab was reported on, it was almost always with a heavy negative connotation. Now, during this Arab spring, this has ceased to be the case. An area that was a byword for political stagnation is witnessing a rapid transformation that has caught the attention of the world.
Three things should be said about this sea change in perceptions about Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners. The first is that it shows how superficial, and how false, were most Western media images of this region. Virtually all we heard about were the ubiquitous terrorists, the omnipresent bearded radicals and their veiled companions trying to impose Sharia and the corrupt, brutal despots who were the only option for control of such undesirables. In US government-speak, faithfully repeated by the mainstream media, most of that corruption and brutality was airbrushed out through the use of mendacious terms like “moderates” (i.e., those who do and say what we want). That locution, and the one used to denigrate the people of the region, “the Arab street,” should now be permanently retired.
In the wake of the uprising that shook up Egypt and ended the thirty year regime of Hosni Mubarak a growing debate around the role of social media has ensued. The press, looking for catchy headlines, characterized the uprising as “the first Twitter revolution,” or “Facebook revolution.” Conversely, a number of critics and academics cry foul, proclaiming that people, not technology, conducted the revolution.
Anyone who has even a pedestrian understanding of social movements knows that they are often caused by the convergence of social, economic, cultural, and political factors. And this is certainly true in the Arab world. Decades of government corruption, elite economic self-interest, the arrogance of power, and historic economic inequalities were the primary catalyst for what Newsweek magazine called, “a youthquake that is rocking the Arab world.” A recent tweet by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is subtle but profound: “We cannot in good conscience continue to reward the rich, penalize the poor, and ignore the middle. There will be a day of reckoning.” While Reich was referring to the current political and economic climate in the U.S., the tweet speaks to the wider global condition. While social media was not the catalyst of the Egyptian protest, it was certainly a tool for mobilizing protest.
The five million Facebook accounts in Egypt make it the second most popular site in the country. YouTube is the third most visited site. Whereas protestors used Facebook to organize, set dates, and “peercast,” that is, share mobile pictures and video with peers, Twitter became the social media backbone of the movement’s day-to-day machinations.
I recently had a chance to speak with a young man who made Tahrir Square his home during parts of the uprising.
Karim (this is a pseudonym) studies social media and told me that he felt like he was participating in history. On February 5 he sent me a number of pictures from his Facebook album that captured various aspects of the massive demonstrations in Egypt. The pictures, of course, had an ethnographic aesthetic about them and offer a much more intimate perspective of the movement than did the highly selected images most people viewed on television. The Facebook album included pictures of people protesting, confronting the police, nurturing the wounded, laughing, celebrating, and, most important, bonding together in a common cause to transform their country. In many of the pictures (see photo at right) I also noticed people capturing the protest with their mobile devices.
In literally thousands of instances they streamed pictures, videos, tweets, and Facebook updates for their comrades around Egypt and the world. his kind of media production is a hallmark feature of the digital media age. Egyptian protestors were not only consuming images of their efforts, they were also producing and sharing those images with the world and giving new meaning to the notion of participatory politics.
Karim explained the popularity of photos this way. “As you might know, sometimes these demonstrations are not safe; so, as soon as we reach Tahrir Square, we take photos of the demonstration and upload them to our Facebook profiles to tell our friends that we are participating and encourage them to come over.”
Curious about the adoption of technology in the uprisings, I asked Karim how did social media influence the events in Egypt. Karim replied that, “the demonstration started on January 25 and the call for it was done mainly through Facebook.” Facebook emerged, in part, as an efficient way to coordinate and organize protestors. The first Facebook post related directly to the events in February was made on January 14 at 11:18 pm, eleven days before the first massive protests in Tahrir Square. The main tag simply read: رسالة إلى شعب مصر: ليكن 25 يناير هو شعلة التغيير في مصر. (Rough)Translation: “Message to the people of Egypt: Let the January 25 is the torch of change in Egypt.”
According to Karim, social media was crucial from the outset of the movement because it gave people on the ground an information technology that they could control. “Because of the government’s heavy control over all the traditional media,” he explained, “the Internet is the only available option for all opposition parties and movements.” That is also why after two days of protest the government shut down the internet and mobile phone service. Determined to keep the momentum people used everything from dial-up modems to proxy-servers.
The first and what will likely go down in history as one of the most famous Twitter hashtag’s in the Egyptian revolution was “#jan25,” created by a twenty-one year-old woman named, who goes by the Twitter name, @alya1989262. Follow the “#jan25” feed (created January 15, one day after the above Facebook announcement) and one of the most striking features is the range and complexity of communication that took place via Twitter. In many ways, Twitter became the mediated eyes, ears, and voice of the day-to-day life of the protest.
Twitter was also used to rally, recruit, and encourage people to come out and show their solidarity with the protestors. In other instances it was used as a broadcast medium, a technology that allowed the protesters to tell their side of the story, their side of history. In societies were freedom of the press is severely constrained and the press is often the mouthpiece of the government, social media emerges as an alternative broadcasting platform, a way to communicate and connect with the world. There is historical precedence for this.
In the 1960s leaders of the U.S. civil rights movement came to understand the power of television and how the images of police brutality turned the tide against the state sanctioned southern hostility toward freedom fighters and their demands for political equality. In the student led movement against the Vietnam War in chants like “the whole world is watching” was an effort to leverage the power of television to mobilize widespread support for their social movement. By staying connected to Twitter the protestors in Egypt were also able to track how well their efforts were trending beyond home. What did they see? The whole world really was watching them but this time on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms in addition to television. @alya1989262 acknowledged this, “Twitter trends also help us gauge how visible we are to the international community.” What makes social movements in the age of social media so distinct is the real time nature of communication in the execution of protest as well as the ability to share perspectives, narratives, and experiences that establish an ambient connection to the outside world.
As we gain a better understanding of what happened in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world we will also learn more about who used mobile devices and social media to energize their efforts to create democratic freedoms. Karim contends that, “the youth who called for the first demonstration on January 25 belong to upper middle class in Egypt and most of them, if not all, have Internet access.” @alya1989262’s account is similar. “A certain class of activists are armed with smartphones, which allow them to live-tweet the protests.” Does this suggest that the movement was ignited by a generation of tech savvy and college educated citizens? Not necessarily. But the idea of this segment rising up to confront power is not all that surprising when you consider their condition. Roughly a third of the population in the middle east is under thirty and a noteworthy percentage of them have college degrees. The young and the digital in the middle east are connected to the world in a way that previous generations could not even have imagined. And yet, the unemployment rate of young college educated persons in the middle east is staggeringly high. A recent report from NPR notes that 40% of young persons with college degrees in Saudia Arabia, for example, are unemployed. Faced with the prospects of a life with few if any meaningful opportunities to utilize their cultural capital—education—many young people realized that they had nothing to lose by confronting the Mubarak regime.
What happened in Egypt is yet another confirmation of what our research has consistently demonstrated regarding young people’s engagement with social media: young people use social media not as a substitute for face-to-face interactions with their peers and the world but rather as a complement. Young people in Egypt did not use social media to avoid gathering with each other or to passively participate in their country’s revolution. They used it to encourage gathering with each other for the expressed purpose of actively participating in the revolution. Twitter and Facebook did not start the revolution but they did help generations of Egyptians realize a world that not that long ago would have been impossible to imagine.
On June 15, my colleague Allison Trzop and I were lucky enough to attend a most remarkable event, a reading of large sections of Shakespeare's Henry V by a group of distinguished lawyers and judges. The evening was sponsored by the Federalist Society's Boston Lawyers Chapter and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and hosted by George Bush's former Chief of Staff, Andrew Card. After the lively reading, we were treated to a fascinating panel discussion with Bernard Dobski, an expert on Shakespearean politics; John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on national security and terrorism after 9/11; and Michael Avery, a professor at Suffolk University Law School, the author of numerous articles as well as editor and co-author of several books on civil rights law and evidence. We managed to persuade Prof. Avery to allow us to post his opening remarks. You might want to take a quick look at the play, just to refresh your memory.
Helene Atwan Director
Good evening. I would like to thank Daniel Kelly and the Federalist Society for inviting me to this very interesting event, and for giving me an opportunity to speak about the contemporary relevance of some of the themes addressed in Henry V. I respect the fact that the Federalist Society frequently invites some of us from the left side of the aisle to share our perspective with you. I will try to honor that by speaking as plainly and candidly as Montjoy does to the King.
Carlos A. Ball is Professor of Law at the Rutgers University School of Law (Newark). He has written extensively on gay rights issues and is the author of From the Closet to the Courtroom, which chronicles five ground-breaking LGBT lawsuits that ultimately defined history.
For supporters of LGBT rights, the election of President Obama represented an apparent historical turning point for sexual minorities in our country. As a presidential candidate, Obama had said all of the right things: he criticized the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (DADT); he called for the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect employees against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination; and called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
But now that almost a third of Obama's first term has gone by, there is growing despair among many of his LGBT supporters over how little the administration has accomplished on gay rights. We have been here before. Eighteen years ago many gay rights advocates celebrated the election of President Clinton, the first presidential candidate to reach out to the LGBT community, only to be disappointed by how clumsy and conflicted the new administration was in handling the gays in the military controversy.
Today's post is by Paul Ortiz. Ortiz is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He is writing a book titled Our Separate Struggles Are Really One: African American and Latino Histories, which will be published by Beacon Press.
"In the debate surrounding Arizona's laws targeting immigrants and ethnic studies, we've heard very little mention of capitalism and its place in American politics. Senate Bill 1070 is an insurance policy for capitalism, a way to ensure that the cheap labor that serves the foundation of the new economy remains cheap forever. House Bill 2281 is part of a package deal. The erasure of ethnic studies courses that show how poor people have changed history - when they have organized - will allow the invention of a historical narrative as one sided as the old myths of the European Conquest. These bills are a gift from a steadily shrinking, white, ruling class to its own posterity and to any white workers and ethnic minorities willing to accept second-class citizenship in order to avoid something far worse. Unless we mobilize to defeat these measures, worse things are on the horizon. Our history proves it."
Almost thirty years ago, a young Justice Department attorney was assigned to assist Sandra Day O'Connor in preparing for her upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
"The approach," John Roberts said in a memo written in the summer of 1981, "was to avoid giving specific responses to any direct questions on legal issues likely to come before the Court." In effect, Roberts was advising O'Connor that she had the right to remain silent, because anything she said could and would be used against her. It is an approach that has been followed religiously by Supreme Court nominees ever since, including Roberts himself during his 2005 confirmation hearings to succeed the deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
For conservatives, it is clear that silence has been golden.
During a week in Nogales in March, working with the No More Deaths documentation project, I must have met several hundred deportees. They were arrested for a crime that no U.S. citizen can commit: entering the United States without official permission. Only people who are not U.S. citizens need special permission to enter U.S. territory.
When you get your U.S. passport in the mail, it comes with a flyer that says "With your U.S. passport, the World is Yours!" Holders of the U.S. passport are accustomed to simply arriving at the border of another country, showing their passport, and easily crossing in. Rarely, they have to apply beforehand for a visa. If they pay the fee and fill out the application correctly, the visa is routinely granted. Holders of a U.S. passport tend to believe that freedom to travel is their birthright, a view reinforced by the literature that comes with their passport. For the cost of a plane ticket, they can leave the country they were born in any time they want.
For most of the world's population, though, freedom to travel is a distant dream. They can't leave the country of their birth because instead of that magical ownership of the world that comes with a U.S. passport, they are citizens of countries in Africa, Latin America, or most of Asia. Many of them are also poor, and people of color. They can't leave their countries because no other country will let them in. Least of all the United States. We live in a kind of global apartheid, where whole countries—almost all of them in the First World—shut themselves off to travelers, while assuming that their own citizens have the right to travel anywhere they choose. Meanwhile the citizens of other countries—mostly in the Third World—can't travel at all because no country will let them in.
I never expected to learn much about hope during the ten years I taught kids locked up in an adult county prison. After all, jail's a pretty dead-end place. Turns out I was wrong.
I learned a lot about optimism and resilience from some unlikely teachers—my jailhouse students. There was Ray who told me, "I've only lived in the world, free, not locked up somewhere, for a total of 6 years and 4 months," but who firmly believed that God would put a light at the end of his own dark tunnel; or Dario who despite living in shelters, on the streets, or in jails completed his high school diploma; or Wade who was looking at state prison, yet planning how he'd help his little brother when he got out.
Still, I'm a slow learner. In spite of the Obama optimism, I don't easily see much hope in our nation. It's hard to look past the bully culture fostered by Tea Party narcissism and conservative righteousness; by laws that require police to suspect, stop and question anyone whose skin is darker than theirs or whose name hints of Latino origins; by churches that kick children out of their schools because of their parents' sexual orientation.
That's why I was pleased, relieved, and frankly startled when the Supreme Court, an institution which in my opinion hasn't been this country's greatest source of hope lately, ruled recently that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles who have not committed homicide to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
On May 5, the Phoenix Suns wore jerseys with a Spanish word on them and everybody got excited because the team was making a political statement, as seen here, and here, and here, and even here.
But wait, didn't those jerseys exist because of an NBA marketing scheme called Noche Latina? Didn't the Suns wear them on March 21 and 26? Yes and yes.
Noche Latina, which this year lasted a couple of semanas, is an outreach program to Hispanic fans, and features Spanglish uniforms (more on that later) and other Latino-themed entertainment, as well as basketball analysts breaking out their high school Spanish phrasebooks. It was a token gesture to the 15% of NBA fans who have Hispanic heritage, and nobody took it seriously.
Which is why the Suns' decision to use the uniforms a second time, in protest of Arizona's new immigration enforcement law, is even more interesting than most columnists have given it credit for. The uniforms were a marketing gimmick—in fact, the NBA didn't even fully translate the team names. Los Suns? That's about as Hispanic as Taco Bell.
Something about that fact struck a chord with readers and, almost instantly, the phrase was being quoted, tweeted, retweeted, blogged, and forwarded all over the web. From well known writers and journalists to enthusiastic readers, it seemed everyone was moved to share this surprising information about our aging society.
In this video, Fred Pearce tries to answer the question of why this particular phrase made such an impact on people, and what an aging society will mean for our future.
Beginning today, Pearce will be taking part in a forum discussion about population issues, hosted by Mother Jones. To take part in the conversation, click here and leave a question for Fred Pearce or one of the other experts (including another Beacon Press author, Courtney E. Martin) weighing in on the issue.
In early March I spoke about immigration rights in a colleague's class at Salem State. "We can't be expected to take care of all the world's needy people," one student protested. "If we let in everybody who wanted to come, we couldn't maintain our standard of living here."
A week later I was on the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, collecting testimonies from migrants who had been captured in the Arizona desert and deported back across the border. Dazed, exhausted and dehydrated, they hobbled on raw, blistered feet and clutched small plastic bags stamped "Homeland Security" that held all of their worldly possessions. Although my supposed task was to document abuses by the U.S. border patrol, most migrants had more pressing hopes when I approached them. "Can you help me get in? Could you adopt me?"
The student's words haunted me just as the mass of dispossessed humanity haunted me, just as the barbed-wire-topped wall that slices in half the city of Nogales haunted me, during the week I spent there.
Beacon Broadside ran a post by William Ayers on April 7 about being "disinvited" from lecturing at the University of Wyoming—read the original post here. Earlier this week, Denver Westword's Michael Roberts, who followed the incident closely as it became a lawsuit, reported that United States District Court Judge William Downes "ordered that Ayers be allowed to speak at the university," after dismissing the university's security concerns as a "heckler's veto." According to Roberts, the federal judge cited earlier free speech cases—including the famous Williams v. Wallace involving Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—and "stressed that 'fear is not enough to override the First Amendment.'" Ayers spoke yesterday to a crowd of more than 1,000; the Billings Gazette offers a write-up of the event, which drew "about 10 protesters."
As elections in Colombia rapidly approach, I think about horses in Bogotá.
This is not a non sequitur.
When I arrived in Bogotá as a young journalist in 1975, I was struck by the contrast between its cultural richness and lingering rural quality. Horses, cows and roosters inhabited the same space along with opera, world-class bookstores and dynamic discotheques.
It costs a lot to lock people up (by some estimates $32 billion annually). You have to house them, feed them, give them basic medical care.
It costs a lot, even if you cut corners. Overpack a dorm or double-bunk (as dangerous as that practice is). Serve cheap food—unrecognizable, processed meats; overripe, almost rotted fruit; white bread that wads up to the touch. Save on health care by not giving any. In the county jail where I taught high school for ten years I'd seen young guys with cheeks ballooned out from abscessed molars told to wait two weeks for the next dentist visit; or students go without their essential medications because they supposedly filled out the wrong forms which would eventually get "lost" anyway in the great paper-shredder of jailhouse bureaucracy. One male warden on the women's unit even decided to save money by rationing toilet paper and tampons.
Today, some states such as Virginia, Utah, Missouri, Arizona, New York, New Jersey and Iowa have a new, more direct approach: charge locked up men and women fees for room and board.
Fred Pearce is the author of The Coming Population Crash: and Our Planet's Surprising Future. He is environment consultant at New Scientist and a weekly columnist and investigative journalist for the Guardian. He has also written for Audubon, Popular Science, Time, the Boston Globe, and Natural History. His other books include Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, With Speed and Violence, When the Rivers Run Dry, Keepers of the Spring, Turning Up the Heat, and Deep Jungle.
I bring good news from Machakos, a rural district of Kenya, a couple of hours drive from Nairobi. Seventy years ago, British colonial scientists dismissed the treeless eroding hillsides of Machakos as "an appalling example" of environmental degradation that they blamed on the "multiplication" of the "natives." The Akamba had exceeded the carrying capacity of their land and were "rapidly drifting to a state of hopeless and miserable poverty and their land to a parched desert of rocks, stones and sand."
A bumper sticker is first-cousin to the slogan, a statement steering the driver behind the message-laden car to a new thought, witticism or warning.
Veterans of highway driving know that bumper stickers vary depending upon region, economics and political climate. Ironically, they also reveal more about the driver than the style, make and year of his stickered car. Among the most popular have been messages like "I break for animals," "Save Paper," "If you can read this, you're tailgating," "He who dies with the most toys wins," or "Is it 2012 yet?" As slick as the paper they are printed upon, bumper stickers are literally and figuratively the rear guard of popular thought.
One such bumper sticker recently appeared quoting Founding Mother Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814), the first female historian of the American Revolution and an architect of the Bill of Rights. It reads, "The rights of the individual should be the primary object of all governments."
Seven years after writing Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes, with Bill Gates Sr, I feel like I'm part of the same stuck tax debate. Will raising taxes on the wealthy hurt the economy–or restore fairness to a broken system? Is it a form of punishing success or recycling economic opportunity from those who've benefited from the system?
The drama in Haiti took a new turn when 10 Americans (8 of whom were released this week-- ed.) were arrested as they tried to carry a group of Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic. While the American group claimed to be rescuing orphans, the Haitian government accused the group of child trafficking. These conflicting accounts reflect the opposing views in a debate that has been raging ever since the devastating earthquake occurred last month, leaving in question the fate of thousands of displaced and homeless children.
On one side of this debate, for example, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is promoting legislation to speed up the adoption process. "The littlest and most vulnerable victims of the tragedy in Haiti are orphan children," Senator Christopher Bond argued, "and they cannot wait for help." On the other side, several international aid organizations have been calling for a complete suspension of adoptions in order to adequately investigate the orphan status of each displaced child. "Haiti's infrastructure has been severely damaged by the disaster, and with it the systems to ensure that children are correctly identified as orphans," said a statement issued by Save the Children. "The possibility of a child being mistakenly labeled as an orphan during this time is incredibly high."
These arguments seem eerily familiar, and speak to the fact that the United States has yet to develop a well-reasoned policy regarding displaced children in time of crisis. Thirty-five years ago, in April 1975 in Vietnam, another evacuation of children took place. The scene was Saigon, on the brink of collapse as the Communist forces approached the city. The foreign volunteers who ran international adoption programs begged for help getting their wards out of the country. In response, President Gerald Ford authorized funds to evacuate thousands of children, who were flown out of the country and placed with new adoptive families overseas.
By all appearances, Operation Babylift, as the evacuation came to be called, looked like a bold response to a heart-wrenching humanitarian crisis. In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their homes; hungry children wandered alone through the streets; foreign aid agencies could not meet the most basic needs of the population. The idea of evacuating displaced children and placing them in loving homes overseas seemed not only wise but also deeply moral.
Today's post is from Adele Barker, who was awarded a Ucross Fellowship for her work on her latest book,Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka. Barker has taught at the universities of Arizona and Washington, and is the author and editor of five books on Russian literature and cultural life. In 2001-2002 she received a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant to teach and write in Sri Lanka. After the tsunami she returned to the island where she traveled to the areas most devastated by the waves and by the thirty year old civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the central Sinhalese government.
I was on my way home from Sri Lanka, sitting in the transit lounge of Heathrow Airport when the earthquake struck Haiti. Several hours later the first film footage began to come in. We sat with our Starbucks and along with everyone else just stared.
Two weeks earlier my son and I had spent December 26th driving up the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. It was the fifth anniversary of the tsunami. We stopped at a couple of beaches and swam along with other Sri Lankans. On the surface it looked like just another day. But it wasn't. How could it be? We have friends over there who will never ever go to the shore again, much less swim in the waters. Others marked the day in their own way. Officially nothing was done by the government. But privately people remembered.
Like most of us, I've spent a lot of time over the past few weeks in front of the television set looking at images of Haiti. We used to live in Sri Lanka. I had written about the tsunami, and so people have asked me if what happened in South Asia in 2004 can teach us anything about how to respond in Haiti. People want answers; I want answers, but the answers aren't easy to come by. We want people not to die in these disasters; we want aid to reach its mark in something approximating a timely manner; and we want to see life returning to normal as soon as possible. Do we have a shot at any of these or am I simply dreaming? I am neither a seismologist nor an aid worker. Like all of us though I am devastated by the disaster, puzzled and irritated by the problems getting aid where it is supposed to go, and wishing things were different. And so I offer here a few thoughts.
Today is election day in Sri Lanka, and today's post is from Adele Barker, who was awarded a Ucross Fellowship for her work on her latest book, Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka. Barker has taught at the universities of Arizona and Washington, and is the author and editor of five books on Russian literature and cultural life. In 2001-2002 she received a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant to teach and write in Sri Lanka. After the tsunami she returned to the island where she traveled to the areas most devastated by the waves and by the thirty year old civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the central Sinhalese government. This post is part of a series, appearing at the Huffington Post marking the anniversary of the 2004 tsunami.
January 4, 2010
It's kite season on the Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka. On the tip of the peninsula, people are flying their homemade kites along the sea's edge with a little help from the northeast monsoon winds. It's a good season up here for other things as well. Peace has come to the north of this war torn country. It's a very different place than it was three years ago when I was here. Sri Lankans from all over the island are now free to travel to the north. For foreigners it is still problematic. Small guest houses that had gone to ruin are being rebuilt. Just outside of town the land is being cultivated for the first time in many many years. People are busy turning the soil, and planting everything from onions to cabbage and chilies on land that was occupied by the military during war time. Each week more land is being released back to the population at large, something that is absolutely crucial given the number of people up here who need to be resettled.
Downtown Jaffna is booming with the kind of energy that tells you that this is an area intent on rebuilding. Three years ago when I was up here working on my book Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka, the center of Jaffna looked like a poster city for civil war, twenty-six years of it to be exact. Mostly the stores sold tools and twine, the markets were bare, textile shops sat waiting for the odd customer. The only shops that seemed to be doing well were the ones selling bicycle seats since petrol was both expensive and generally unavailable.