• ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, April 17

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Turkey’s Erdogan claims he won a major national vote, giving him near-dictatorial powers. The opposition says “not so fast”  (Associated Press)

    Comment: He has been accumulating power steadily and moving the country toward Islamism, rejecting the century-old secularist tradition of the country’s modern founder, Atatürk.

     How bad is Libya? Well, there are now slave markets there, according to the United Nations  (BBC)

    Comment: Beyond the horrific human tragedy, there are other lessons for the US and Europe here. The biggest–and one we have had to learn repeatedly–is that it is far easier to knock down a regime, such as Muammar Gaddafi’s or Saddam Hussein’s, than it is to stand up a stable replacement.

     NYT calls North Korea a “Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion”

    Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has said repeatedly that “our policy of strategic patience has ended,” hardening the American position as Mr. Kim makes steady progress toward two primary goals: shrinking a nuclear weapon to a size that can fit atop a long-range missile, and developing a hydrogen bomb, with up to a thousand times the power than the Hiroshima-style weapons he has built so far. –New York Times

    Comment: The NYT headline is insightful, highlighting the dangers ZipDialog has long stressed.

    But there are two crucial differences worth pondering. First, in October 1962, the US was dealing with a rational rival. Now, we’re not sure. Second, in 1962, we dealt with Russia, which had complete control over the nuclear weapons, which were theirs, after all. Now, we are dealing with North Korea and its own arsenal. Beijing has tremendous leverage, but it ultimately has to get Pyongyang to act. Moscow didn’t have that problem with Havana.

    Related story: Vice President Pence, visiting South Korea, tells North Korea not to test US resolve. (Washington Post)

     “Against all odds,” says the WaPo, “a communist soars in French election polls”

    [Jean-Luc] Mélenchon is running as the candidate of the Unbowed France political movement, in an alliance with the French Communist Party. The latest polls show him narrowly trailing Emmanuel Macron, long seen as the favorite, and Le Pen, expected to qualify for the final round of the two-round vote but to lose to Macron in the end. In the final days of a truly unprecedented campaign, Mélenchon’s unexpected surge is a reminder that radical change is in the air and that its extremist apostles — on the right or the left — may soon hold power. –Washington Post

    Comment: Who knows which two candidates will make the runoff? But the strong showing of an extreme left and an extreme right candidate are deeply disturbing. Trouble for markets, the EU, and, most of all, stable democracies in a stable Europe. Time for paintings from Weimar?

     Shameful NYT headline on a story that has NOTHING to do with Justice Neil Gorsuch:

    Why Gorsuch May Not Be So Genteel on the Bench

    The only connection between the story and Gorsuch is that he is male and conservative, and a recent study deals with conservative males on the Supreme Court before Gorsuch.

    Comment: The Times reports on a forthcoming law review article that says male SCOTUS justices interrupt more often than female justices and that conservatives interrupt more often than liberals. That may or may not interest you. For me, it ranks #1257 on my list of important public issues. Perhaps it ranks higher for you. 

    The problem here is that the academic has nothing, zero, nada, zip, bupkes to do with new Justice Neil Gorsuch. The NYT just wanted a current news hook and was delighted to smear Gorsuch in the process.

    Nice work, Times, and special kudos to the reporter, Adam Liptak, whose sleazy hook should earn him extra dinner invitations in Georgetown and the Upper West Side.

     

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  • New Feature: ZipDialog Explainer. Today’s topic: Egypt’s Coptic Christians

    Another Islamic terrorist bombing is the horrific and all-too-familiar news out of the Middle East. This one was directed at Coptic Christians worshipping in Egypt on Palm Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility.

    The media naturally rush to cover the breaking news. That understandable and completely proper. ZipDialog tries to find the best and clearest report and add some brief commentary. (For instance, today’s terror bombings are well covered by Reuters.)

    Sometimes, though, we need a little background to understand the breaking news.

    That’s the goal of this new feature, “ZipDialog Explainer.” It aims to provide some essential background and do it succinctly. 

    The topic could be anything in the news, from the economy and technology to popular culture in other countries.

    Most ZipDialog posts will continue to be news and commentary, with occasional injections of blues and humor. When an “explainer” topic arises, we’ll include that, too. Feel free to suggestion them.

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    Who and What are Egypt’s Coptic Christians?

    Coptics are the largest branch of Christianity in North Africa and the Middle East, including Egypt. The exact number in Egypt is disputed. Estimates range from 6 million to 20 million. There are about 80 million Egyptians, making it the largest Arab country. (Like many non-democratic states, Egypt is not eager to count various social groups, fearing the political impact when the true numbers become known.)

    Christianity in Egypt dates to the very beginning to the religion and established some of its early features, such as monasticism.

    The distinctive branch of Coptic Christianity dates to a church council in the fifth century, when local leaders differed from their counterparts in Rome and Constantinople over the nature of Jesus’ divinity, as well as the relationship between his divinity and humanity.

    The name itself comes from the Greek and is based on an earlier name for Memphis, the original capital of Ancient Egypt.

    Organizationally, the Coptic Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria has jurisdiction over all Africa, which is why the terrorist bombings in that city carry special significance for all Christians in the region–and for Islamists who wish to drive Christianity out of its historic home in the Middle East. In fact, the Coptic Pope had just completed a service in one of the churches bombed.

    There have been deadly bombings and attacks on Coptic Christian homes for many years, especially since 2010.

    One silver lining: after a deadly 2010 bombing in Alexandria left 21 dead, thousands of Muslims came to the Christians’ defense, standing stood guard as human shields so Coptics could attend Christmas Mass in January 2011.

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    If you have a topic to suggest, please let ZipDialog Explainer know.  You can email charles.lipson (at) gmail