news 301211: praetorian and panda

I was on the MRT today and I managed to scope some headlines over the shoulder of another commuter who was reading the papers (yes, that’s how crowded the train was!). One story caught my eye – apparently, BBC has chosen a panda (Tian Tian) as one of its female faces for 2011. Here is the lovely panda (sauce):ImageThere were some angry reactions from people, including former British deputy PM John Prescott who tweeted: “So the BBC couldn’t find a woman for Sports Personality of the Year, but they could find a panda for a female face of 2011.” (sauce)

Anyhow, this apparently isn’t the first time BBC has featured non-humans in its list. Benson the carp was featured in 2009 under the male section and in 2010, Peppa the pig was featured for the female section. I guess it’s an attempt at a little lightheartedness, though there will always be some who don’t get it.Image(Benson was a common carp that anglers frequently fished and released, while Peppa is a cartoon character – sauce and sauce)

In other news, BBC also featured a thought piece on how armies can be decisive forces in revolutionary movements: the writer questioned why in Egypt the army refused to curb protests when they could have, while in Syria the opposite happened. One argument was that the distinction between independent or servile armies makes a difference in outcome. Servile armies, or those which are extensions of the political regime, have their fates bound with the regime. Hence, they have a stake in preventing regime change. Those with a distinct corporate identity, however, also have a danger in producing Praetorian states (which the writer says means that the military has undue influence over the political regime); but they also can allow peaceful revolutions to occur. (sauce)

I wasn’t too sure what ‘Praetorian’ meant, so naturally I wiki’d it (sauce). Apparently, the Praetorian Guard was an elite force of bodyguards employed by Roman emperors. In modern popular usage, it refers to an elite or loyal group of followers attached to popular people or leaders. It is usually used pejoratively (in a negative sense) as it implies the leader’s paranoia, or the unconditional fanaticism of his followers, which are both rather unsavory. Anyhow, hope you enjoyed this short little background to ‘Praetorian’ and its connotations. I was unsure up till now, too!

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