Daily Digest: Flare-ups in Libya, and on the sun; watchdogs and showdogs

by Mike Mullen

– The protest momentum rolls along in Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi is clinging to power with slightly less integrity than that awful mustache clings to his upper lip. Qaddafi — who, with the ouster of Mubarak, and Fidel Castro’s recent departure, becomes one of the last dictators who really remembers the black Michael Jackson — faces an easier road in defending his throne, given this description from the London Review of Books: “There are no foreign media correspondents in Libya, and the al-Jazeera bureau has been closed down. Gaddafi has said that he will personally appear at the head of pro-regime demonstrations tomorrow, but whether he does remains to be seen.” No doubt one of the sustaining elements in revolutions is that the world, or at least your neighbors, can see you, and may be rooting for you. If it happens, Libya’s revolution would take place in the shadows, and we’d only really see it when it came out the other side. Meanwhile, in Egypt, the real hard work has begun, as eight jurists have been selected to begin crafting a new constitution. The panel includes a controversial member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but is otherwise stacked with judges and law professors. I remember an American historian (Joseph Ellis, maybe?) saying that the American population at the time of our revolution was around three million, or roughly the population of the Twin Cites. Out of that population came Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams, and a half-dozen other brilliant legal minds, who sort of reinvented the way people live. Egypt is an enormous country, and it’s lived under a repressive regime with slanted laws for everyone’s living memory. Are these the right eight people to invent Egypt? Can they recall the recent past and use it to shape the distant future? Good luck, fellas. Oh, and if you want a good opening phrase, can’t go wrong with, “We the people.”

– Let’s hope you heard the news in time, and canceled your travel plans to the sun. The BBC has reports of nasty weather on our nearest fireball, with the recent appearance of a so-called “X-flare,” which is described as so powerful that “such flares can affect communications on Earth.” (This explains my inability to call my mother for several weeks. I knew there was something.) The British Geological Survey has also released an archive of weather events on the sun dating back to the 1800s, so you can go find out what it was like on the sun the day you were born. (For me: “Hot, dry, sunny. Chance of X-flare.”) Also, as you settle in to sleep at night, consider this sentence: “Researchers say the Sun has been awakening after a period of several years of low activity.”

– Iran is totally ruining everyone’s Middle East optimism. First, protests in Iran — which recall the failed uprisings of 2009 — have apparently led to immediate violence, and threats of state violence, from “President” Ahmadinejad’s government. The Times reports, ” … on Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed opposition attempts to revive mass demonstrations as doomed to fail, while members of the Iranian Parliament clamored for the two most prominent leaders of the protest movement to be executed.” (!) Even still, whenever tens of thousands hit the streets, there’s reason to pay attention. But the U.S. and its allies have one eye on the streets of Tehran, and another on its nuclear program. The Washington Post this morning writes about a flurry of activity observed by U.N. cameras at a facility in the town of Natanz: “In a six-month period between late 2009 and last spring, U.N. officials watched in amazement as Iran dismantled more than 10 percent of the Natanz plant’s 9,000 centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium. Then, just as remarkably, hundreds of new machines arrived at the plant to replace the ones that were lost.” Can we please order up a round of coffees for the state department? There are about a thousand moving parts in place in the region right now, and one of them is churning out enriched uranium for a short, well-dressed crazy person. (I refer of course to Tom Cruise.) The Post’s also got some great details on the fallout of Stuxnet, the mysterious “worm” that invaded the Iranian program last year. If we can somehow fight this thing just by using computers, I have every hope that we’ve got the tech’s and engineers for it. Geek Squad to the rescue!

– The Guardian has a charming, terrifying slide show of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which was won last night by Hickory, a Scottish deerhound. Hickory looks a bit uncomfortable with the attention in the lead shot of the slide show, but is quite striking gliding across the darkened stage in the next photo. I’d like to draw your attention to shot 8, of Mojor the komondorak (what the what?) who looks, quite frankly, like a pile of disconnected mops, and shot 14 of Kindle the shih tzu, who also played a starring role in the horror movie The Ring. (My pick? Logan, the English setter, from number 11 — gorgeous, and looks like a good listener, you know?) Of course all references to dog shows lead back to the Christopher Guest movie, “Best in Show.” There are about 30 perfect scenes in it, but I’ve selected one that features Mr. Guest himself, who is especially perfect, as Harlan Pepper. Go watch this movie, and be good to your dog, even if it’s a loser.