At Last

The wait is over. There will be no greater summer blockbuster than the blistering new release by former dentist and Arkadag (The Protector) Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

Who, you ask? Why, the president of Turkmenistan, of course. In merely his 53rd book, The Spiritual World of the Turkmen People, the Protector (pondering the depth of the human soul, above) shares his “deep thoughts on the historical experience of the Turkmen people.”

Darn it, it’s not on Amazon yet. In the meantime you may wish to top up on some of the Arkadag’s considerable accomplishments.

 

A New French Mandate?

A plaintive cry of Lebanese helplessness, a petition calling for reversion to the twentieth century French Mandate (a quick potted history here) has gathered more than 55,000 signatures today.

Coincidentally, a few weeks back I wrote about a former British colony that demanded to be re-affiliated with its colonial master – and succeeded. Read the curious history of Anguilla here.

Beirut

After yesterday’s explosion, it is for others to properly eulogize Beirut. I had only one opportunity, twenty-one years ago this month, to visit the Paris of the Middle East, to admire the ski-slopes-to-the-Mediterranean panorama, to enjoy the famous levant cuisine along the corniche, to stay in a fancy hotel the likes of which were then commonplace to hordes of foreign correspondents.

Yet I have the uneasy feeling that a eulogy is what’s in order. For Lebanon was failing, and failing fast, before yesterday’s calamity. Inflation ran at the harrowing monthly rate of 56%. State-owned Electricite du Liban could only summon power to that once-elegant corniche a couple of hours a day, and suddenly, overnight, Lebanon’s governor estimates the country will need three to five billion dollars for repairs. How does the most robust economy provide shelter overnight to 300,000 homeless people

Just now every country is focused inward, intent on tending to itself. There may not be enough willing partners in the world to make Beirut whole. Could Beirut turn out to be the first human-caused, post-apocalyptic scorched hole in the earth? Might it just be abandoned as beyond repair by those who can – like much of the governing class? What of those left behind?

Belarus Votes

The campaign toward elections next weekend in Belarus is giving Aleksandr Lukashenko more fits than usual as he “competes” for a sixth term as president. After authorities jailed one of the main opposition candidates, vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, for “committing actions to incite social hatred and the assault of law enforcement officers,” his 37 year old wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was allowed to register as an opposition candidate.

RFERL has a report. If you’re looking for coverage as the election approaches this week, watch RFERL, and a leading Belarussian opposition website, from the group Charter 97, for more on the story. See also the Riga-based site Meduza. The screen grab above comes from Meduza’s coverage of a Tsikhanouskaya campaign rally, which Meduza estimates drew some 63,000 people.

Personally, the Belarussian capital of Minsk gave me the creeps.