Who is Deborah K. Jones? The career diplomat has served as the U.S.c ambassador to Kuwait from 2008-2011. She’s also served in Syria, Turkey, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates. She’s currently a scholar at the Middle East Institute. She has two kids and speaks fluent Arabic.
She was chosen to represent the American people “during this important stage of Libya’s new democracy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said today adding that she is a career foreign service officer “who has served admirably in diplomatic posts around the world.”
If confirmed, she would head the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, amid heightened tension and tighter security following the deaths of Stevens and four other Americans who were killed while visiting the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
The following is an excerpt from Libyan writer Omar al-Kikli’s Prison Sketches (2012), translated from the Arabic by Sebastian Anstis. Read more at Jadaliyya.
The Tea Theory of Relativity
For us, tea was a matter of utmost importance; it was the only pleasure we had. It was so important that one of us, arguing with a prison guard, stated that a prisoner would be willing to exchange a cup of tea for an equivalent amount of his own blood.
Of course, this was gross exaggeration.
Of course, this was a clear indication of how important tea was in our existence.
It may be more accurate to say, as has one of our poets, that the evening tea prevents depression. Yet in prison, tea was so mediocre that it may have had the opposite effect, even though it came in generous quantities (nor should it be understood from “evening tea” that there was a morning tea or a noon tea).
Whatever the case may be we would scheme to obtain the greatest quantity of it possible.
It was served with dinner.
At first, each one of us would extend his plastic cup, and the warden would pour a helping of hot tea according to his calculations and generosity. Later, they gave us larger containers for sharing.
It dawned on us that the collective portions were much less than all our individual portions put together. So we divided ourselves such that some cells would receive individual cups while others would receive collective shares. Then we would gather all the tea and distribute it amongst ourselves.
Eventually, an observant inmate noticed that the portion for two people was hardly more than that for one.
This observation triggered deep reflection, from which sprang a moderately complex, and very wise idea.
Our plan depended on psychological suggestibility. It assumed that if a person requested a single cup of tea, and the next person requested tea for two, the difference between the two amounts would be minute. Therefore, the warden must be made to sense the magnitude of the difference from one portion to the next. For example, one person might ask for an individual portion, and the next, enough for four. In theory, this should lead to a second portion large enough for five or six people.
We debated the theory exhaustively. After countering all objections, I received collective approval.
We agreed among the different cells to request portions of tea in the following magnitude and order: 1-4-1-1-5 (or something to that effect).
After consolidating portions that evening, our yield was less than the average of the previous days.
With that we buried the tea theory of relativity though I do not believe it was allowed a fair scientific evaluation given the number of trials.
(Adapted from the Arabic, Imed ud-Din Hamaam for Al-Arabiya News)
“It is not by bread alone that man lives”–or at least, not the kind of life that Salah Hasan, an entrepreneur in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, wants for his people. Initiatives such as Hasan’s “Cup of Culture” in Safwa Coffee café, are part of a wave of cultural cafés that have slowly begun to spread down the city streets. These Cafe owners are not satisfied with offering only coffee and tea; they’d rather follow up with serving a “cup of culture” and soft, ambient music.
Hasan says “the project is primarily centered around culture, and aims to change the interets and convictions of [Libya's] youth…What we’re focusing on is intellectual change.”
The starting point of this change is a simple rack set up in a corner of the shop — on it, there are books, papers, and magazines of varying genres and subject matter. Anyone who visits the café is free to help themselves to any of the growing material; an accessible and already popular stand-in for a local library.
Here, you will not have just a cup of coffee. Rather, you can relish in a “cup of culture,” as the owners of this coffee shop like to say. In Safwa Coffee, shown in the video above, the phrase is imprinted on the rack displaying the reading material available to visiting patrons.
The initiative has enjoyed a popular reception, and it’s clear that the idea resonates with people; the cafe has attracted groups who’ve embarked upon scouting for books to contribute.
The driving forces of the project say that it is an invitation to the Libyan youth to invest their free time in more edifying activities. They want to move away from traditional methods of learning by introducing alternative, modern systems to attract and encourage young people to hang out in coffee shops–a non-academic setting to foster a life-long interest in learning.
Check out this great PSA from SafeLibya.com on gun control.
Libya’s gun control problem has lead to continued violence in the region and the NTC’s attempts at weapons collections have proved futile.
ALSO READ: Libya’s escalating gun problem [AL JAZEERA ENGLISH]
Last week Libyan author Hisham Matar met with 702 Mornings host Linda Mottram at the Sydney Writers’ Festival for a live broadcast interview, discussing such topics as exile, the shifting roles of the writer, and the potential for another “Libyan Novel”.
On the responsibility to write:
❝ There is a distinction between the citizen and the artist that I have always felt. When I sit and write an article, as a citizen the experience of writing is very different from when I sit and write a novel. Even the way I sit, the way I feel as myself, you know, feels different. And this experience –this very extreme experience—of the revolution and the overwhelming invitations that are put to you as a citizen to get involved has clarified this distinction for me even more. So I feel, yes, as a citizen, I feel obliged to be an active citizen, to speak truth to power, call injustice by its name. But the artist continues to feel no obligation towards these things at all. The obligation I feel as an artist is solely to the work. “
On Gaddafi’s death:
❝ ”I think the way that he was killed was morally wrong. But it also was a missed opportunity for the future of the country. It overcomplicates things to do with accountability, with the relationship of justice to revenge, all of those things. Its very difficult territory to navigate…[but also] there was something being played out there in the violent way that he was treated that seemed to say something about the past too. It was a moment of psychosis that expressed something about the horror but also the sense of impotence that I think people felt towards life.”
Listen to the full 15-minute interview here.