I tried to write about basketball and ended up writing about science fiction and the Middle East

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My most recent post was about the conflict in the Middle East. So was the one before that and the one before that. And two of the next three before that. And so on. Not quite two solid months of football in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, but I could easily pull off a similar streak if given half the chance. It’s hard not to write about geopolitical issues that affect people I love (that is, people), and I still have a lot more to say.

But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can too often resemble rival fans supporting their favorite teams — the message of my previous post notwithstanding — so to distance myself from falling completely back into familiar patterns, I hope to periodically punctuate my commentary on the real conflict with frivolous asides about meaningless sports. In other words, what I usually like to talk about. At a minimum, I hope the breaks will provide me with a reminder that war is not sport.

All that said, I can’t help myself. It’s impossible to discuss my topic tonight without thinking of what’s happening on the shores of the Mediterranean. Without further ado, I present the ongoing trade negotiations between Cleveland and Minnesota. (Bear with me.)

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Jon Stewart still doesn’t understand why his take on Israel and Gaza earned so much criticism

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Jon Stewart walked into a minefield.

Last week, the Daily Show aired a brief segment on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and the show’s position drew an inordinate amount of friendly fire, including from this site.​ Stewart clearly wasn’t happy with the way his original segment was received.

So what did he learn from the experience? On Monday night, he let us know.

Stewart returned to the conflict, in a widely-disseminated segment titled We Need to Talk About Israel. Every time he tried to bring it up, Daily Show correspondents popped up from behind his desk and drowned him out with shouted slogans and epithets.

The takeaway was clear: it’s literally impossible to sit down and have a calm, rational discussion about politics in the Middle East. You simply can’t have a constructive conversation about what’s going on in Gaza. Any attempt to do so will surely end in quagmire.

Here’s the problem: Jon Stewart is wrong. And I know that thanks to Jon Stewart.

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Here’s how safe it is to fly into Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport right now

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The FAA just extended its ban on American airlines (lower-case “a”) flying to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for an additional 24 hours, but — at least under present circumstances — the precaution appears to be overkill.

And I have some pretty good evidence to support that contention.

No, not the fact that Michael Bloomberg flew commercial — oh, the humanity! — to TLV in order to express his support. And not even the fact that John Kerry felt comfortable flying directly into the ostensibly-banned airport.

What makes me so confident — again, at least for now — that all those cancellations were probably unnecessary appeared at the very end of an article in Haaretz describing Israel’s plan to temporarily open an additional civilian airport in its south to international traffic [emphasis mine]:

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What really happened to flight MH17? A deep dive into the pool of idle speculation

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The first time a Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared under mysterious circumstances, news media had themselves a field day: at least a month of wall-to-wall MH370 coverage, much of it idle speculation — or worse — due to the near-complete lack of hard information about the missing plane.

A second plane was tragically shot down today over Eastern Ukraine, but unlike the original missing flight, the circumstances under which it disappeared are far less mysterious. We have the body, we have the bodies, and now, we have the black boxes. I imagine that, pretty soon, we’ll have the full story.

Which means that if there are going to be batshit crazy theories about what happened and why, we’d better get moving in a hurry. What follows is my contribution to the concoction of crackpot. You’ve been warned.

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Bar Refaeli’s Instagram “fail” was actually an elaborate troll job

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As some of you may be aware, Bar Refaeli maintains an Instagram account she sometimes uses to share snapshots of her, ahem, thoughts. A combination beach photo/inspirational quote posted yesterday has already garnered the Israeli model/actress over 53,000 likes and some amount of nerd opprobrium:

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Anonymous Daily Show staffer subliminally injects context into the show’s Middle East coverage

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Jon Stewart couldn’t get wait to get back from his 4th of July vacation and discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; the unfolding debacle was featured heavily in his very first segment the Monday of his return, (500) Crazies of Summer.

You’ve probably seen the segment by now. You’ve probably even seen some of the criticism it’s attracted. You might have even stuck around long enough on Tuesday night’s The Daily Show to watch Hillary Rodham Clinton tell Jon why she thinks his understanding of the conflict is skewed (here and here).

But even if I hadn’t directed you to those pieces of criticism, you probably could have just watched the clip yourself and had no trouble arriving at the conclusion that Stewart’s analysis of the current situation was largely facile and pointless. Essentially it boiled down to this: Israel has bigger guns.

Thank you, Mr. Leibowitz, for the nuanced update.

Though I don’t agree with everything Horovitz had to say about the segment (in “some of the criticism” above), there was one paragraph fragment that stood out to me as undeniably true and to the point:

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