“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Monday, March 31, 2014

A New Book: Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education

Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education

By Henry A. Giroux

Haymarket, 2014

Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education reveals how neoliberal policies, practices, and modes of material and symbolic violence have radically reshaped the mission and practice of higher education, short-changing a generation of young people.
Giroux exposes the corporate forces at play and charts a clear-minded and inspired course of action out of the shadows of market-driven education policy. Championing the youth around the globe who have dared to resist the bartering of their future, he calls upon public intellectuals—as well as all people concer ned about the future of democracy—to speak out and defend the university as a site of critical learning and democratic promise.


Arab revolutions and neoliberal illusions

It is naive to assume that the Arab people in face of setbacks have retreated from their democratic aspirations.

By Seif Dana 

Al-Jazeera - 13 Jan 2014 

Words “are witnesses which often speak louder than documents”, wrote Eric Hobsbawm in "The Age of Revolution 1789-1848".  And in an age of Arab revolutions (2010- ), words have become effective lethal weapons of counter-revolutions. No such common word may capture this wisdom of the brilliant historian these days than the Western category of liberal democracy preached by neoliberal Arab intellectuals as their people struggle for uprooting the neo-colonial system of oppression and the alliance between global capital and Arab economic elite.
The democracy concept illuminates not only the dynamics of the on-going social and historical confrontations in the Arab homeland, but also highlights the failure of this concept, in the non-Western world, to address either the socio-economic root-causes of the Arab uprisings or address the critical question of democratising (or transforming the structure of) the Arab state, and not simply "peacefully" organise the intra-elite transfer of power.

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The Modern Face of Kabul

The Atlantic - Mar 31, 2014 

Despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, the country's capital city of Kabul is home to a vibrant youth scene, a handful of sleek shopping malls, cafes, and more. Reuters photographer Morteza Nikoubazl recently set out to document modern Kabul, populated by musicians, artists, athletes, and activists who are trying to live 21st-century lives in spite of massive infrastructure problems and the ever-present threat of militant attacks. Afghanistan is preparing for an election on April 5 that should mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country's history, but it has been hit by a tide of violence as the Taliban has ordered its fighters to disrupt the vote and threatened to kill anyone who participates. Many of the people in these images were happy to be photographed, but did not want to give their names. This photo essay is part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [26 photos]

See the photos.........

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convicted of accepting bribes in Holyland case

Olmert convicted in one of the largest corruption scandals ever exposed in Israel; Judge: Olmert lied to the court.

By Revital Hovel  

Hareetz | Mar. 31, 2014

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted Monday of accepting bribes in the Holyland corruption case. 
Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen convicted Olmert of accepting bribes when he served as mayor of Jerusalem in exchange for helping the developers of the Holyland Park residential project in the city. Shula Zaken, Olmert's former bureau chief, was also convicted of accepting bribes on Monday.
Olmert had denied wrongdoing in the Holyland apartment complex deal, as well as other corruption allegations that forced his resignation as premier in 2008.

Read more....

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How feminism became capitalism's handmaiden - and how to reclaim it

A movement that started out as a critique of capitalist exploitation ended up contributing key ideas to its latest neoliberal

By Nancy Fraser

 The Guardian, Sunday 13 October 2013

As a feminist, I've always assumed that by fighting to emancipate women I was building a better world – more egalitarian, just and free. But lately I've begun to worry that ideals pioneered by feminists are serving quite different ends. I worry, specifically, that our critique of sexism is now supplying the justification for new forms of inequality and exploitation.
In a cruel twist of fate, I fear that the movement for women's liberation has become entangled in a dangerous liaison with neoliberal efforts to build a free-market society. That would explain how it came to pass that feminist ideas that once formed part of a radical worldview are increasingly expressed in individualist terms. Where feminists once criticised a society that promoted careerism, they now advise women to "lean in". A movement that once prioritised social solidarity now celebrates female entrepreneurs. A perspective that once valorised "care" and interdependence now encourages individual advancement and meritocracy.

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Emory University Eradicates its Visual Arts Department, Portending an Ominous Trend in University Education

By Lilly Lampe and Amanda Parmer

Art and Education

Late in the day on Friday, September 14, Robin Forman, Dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, released a letter to the Emory College community stating that Emory University would be closing their Visual Arts Program, as well as the Department of Educational Studies, the Department of Physical Education, and the Department of Journalism. In addition, the administration decided to suspend admissions to graduate programs in Spanish, Economics, and the Institute of Liberal Arts (I.L.A.)––Emory’s flagship interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. The tactics used by Emory’s administration in arriving at these decisions and announcing the news––delivering the decision to the heads of the departments rather than engaging them throughout the process; blanketing the rationality, reasoning and facts of the decision making process in vague and ambiguous language; and sidestepping the impact this would have on the Emory community––strike a corporate tone rather than one of a democratic university. The effects continue to resonate throughout the university community as details of the decision-making process surface in an erratic and piecemeal fashion, stressing a need for greater transparency and analysis.


American Dream breeds shame and blame for job seekers

By Debbie Siegelbaum

BBC News, Washington - March 25, 2014

Decades ago, the American dream inspired employees, offering the promise of the good life. But now, with jobs disappearing, that dream has become a nightmare for the unemployed who see their joblessness as a personal - and shameful - failure.
Victor Tan Chen studies some of the unluckiest people in the US.
The sociology fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, researches car workers in cities like Detroit, hard-hit by the economic downturn and by long-term trends in the US industrial base.
"But they used to be the luckiest men in America," Chen says.
Decades ago, car workers lived the quintessential American Dream: they pursued stable, well-paying, union-backed jobs, often straight out of high school. They were able to build a middle-class life and provide the promise of something better to their children.

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These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money

You can major in art at a lower-tier public university if you want to. Just don't expect it to make you rich.

By Derek Thompson

The Atlantic - Mar 26 2014

This morning we published a review of recent research by PayScale on the most valuable colleges and majors in America, based on self-reported earnings by individuals who graduated from hundreds of schools.
Some of you asked: What about the least valuable colleges and majors in America? What a mischievous question! So we looked into that, too.
Here are the eleven schools in PayScale's data with a 20-year net return worse than negative-$30,000. In other words: these are the schools where PayScale determined that not going to college is at least $30,000 more valuable than taking the time to pay for and graduate from one of these schools.

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Don't Touch That Dial!

A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook.

By Vaughan Bell

The Slate -February 15, 2010

A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both "confusing and harmful" to the mind. The media now echo his concerns with reports on the unprecedented risks of living in an "always on" digital environment. It's worth noting that Gessner, for his part, never once used e-mail and was completely ignorant about computers. That's not because he was a technophobe but because he died in 1565. His warnings referred to the seemingly unmanageable flood of information unleashed by the printing press.
Worries about information overload are as old as information itself, with each generation reimagining the dangerous impacts of technology on mind and brain. From a historical perspective, what strikes home is not the evolution of these social concerns, but their similarity from one century to the next, to the point where they arrive anew with little having changed except the label.


Rumsfeld's Knowns and Unknowns: The Intellectual History of a Quip

How will posterity remember the secretary of defense's most famous soundbite? That's a known unknown.

By David A. Graham

The Atlantic - Mar 27 2014

Errol Morris has long shown an obsession with the nature of facts and evidence (The Thin Blue Line), violence and war (The Fog of War), and obsession itself (Fast, Cheap & Out of Control). His newest film, which premiered Tuesday, combines all three: It's a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld and what Morris sees as his obsession with going to war in Iraq. Here's the trailer:

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Where everyone in the world is migrating

By Nick Stockton 

Quartz - March 28, 2014

It’s no secret that the world’s population is on the move, but it’s rare to get a glimpse of where that flow is happening. In a study released in today’s Science, a team of geographers used data snapshots to create a broad analysis of global migrations over 20 years.
The study was conducted by three geographic researchers from the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital in Vienna. The researchers presented their data in five-year increments, from 1990 to 2010. Their research is unique, because it turned static census counts from over 150 countries into a dynamic flow of human traffic. 

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jens Stoltenberg, Ex-Norway Prime Minister, Is Named Head of NATO

He Replaces Anders Fogh Rasmussen

By Naftali Bendavid and Kjetil Malkenes Hovland

The Wall Street Journal - March 28, 2014

Jens Stoltenberg, former prime minister of Norway, was selected as the next leader of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, putting him at the helm as the alliance faces a historic challenge.  Mr. Stoltenberg, who succeeds Anders Fogh Rasmussen, will take office Oct. 1, becoming secretary-general as NATO faces an array of new challenges in the wake of Russia's incursion into Ukraine.  There had been some discussion in the run-up to the decision about appointing a secretary-general from one of NATO's newer members in Central or Eastern Europe, given that many have belonged to the alliance for at least a decade, diplomats said. But Mr. Stoltenberg's credentials won him broad support. The only other major candidate was Italy's Franco Frattini, a former defense minister, officials said.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crimea Karaites Back Russia Takeover

Jewish Sect Says Culture Ties It to Motherland

By Talia Lavin

The Jewish Daily Forward - March 27, 2014

(JTA) — Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the strategically critical peninsula that dangles from Ukraine into the Black Sea, has drawn international condemnation.
But for the leader of the All-Ukrainian Organization of Crimean Karaites — a group with an unusual heritage that draws from Jewish traditions — joining Russia is a welcome development.
“In Crimea, the majority of Karaites support annexation to Russia, and voted for it,” Vladimir Ormeli, the group’s head, told JTA. “Culture and people connect us with Russia, more than Ukraine. But this is a complicated conversation.”
Complicated conversations are typical for the Crimean Karaites, a small group whose ethnic heritage and religious categorization has been disputed for hundreds of years. Not in dispute, however, is their long history in Crimea, a region they consider their homeland.

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Caring too much: That's the curse of the working classes

Why has the basic logic of austerity been accepted by everyone? Because solidarity has come to be viewed as a scourge        

By David Graeber           

The Guardian, Wednesday 26 March 2014 

"What I can't understand is, why aren't people rioting in the streets?" I hear this, now and then, from people of wealthy and powerful backgrounds. There is a kind of incredulity. "After all," the subtext seems to read, "we scream bloody murder when anyone so much as threatens our tax shelters; if someone were to go after my access to food or shelter, I'd sure as hell be burning banks and storming parliament. What's wrong with these people?"
It's a good question. One would think a government that has inflicted such suffering on those with the least resources to resist, without even turning the economy around, would have been at risk of political suicide. Instead, the basic logic of austerity has been accepted by almost everyone. Why? Why do politicians promising continued suffering win any working-class acquiescence, let alone support, at all?

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Local-Guide Requirement Considered for Nepal Peaks


The New York Times - MARCH 27, 2014

NEW DELHI — Struggling to cope with a crush of climbers and garbage on Mount Everest, Nepal is also considering a proposal that would require every foreign climber to hire a local guide to ascend the country’s highest peaks.
The intention is to increase local employment in an industry that is increasingly reliant on foreign guides, officials said Thursday. The policy could also help avoid the kind of on-mountain disputes that led to a confrontation last year when three professional climbers from abroad told a group of Sherpas that they wanted to climb on their own.
Officials from Nepal plan to present the proposal at a meeting of Himalayan nations, including Pakistan, India and China, which is scheduled to be held in Katmandu, Nepal’s capital, next month. Nepal hopes to persuade its counterparts to adopt similar policies, which would require the employment of local guides by climbers ascending any mountain higher than 8,000 meters, or about 26,250 feet.

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Selling a Lemon

By William Rivers Pitt

Truthout - Thursday, 27 March 2014

President Obama spoke in Brussels on Wednesday on the Russia-Ukraine situation. At one point, in seeking to shame Russia for its actions, Mr. Obama actually went so far as to try and legitimize America's catastrophic actions in Iraq, so as not to appear hypocritical in his comments. His words:
"Moreover, Russia has pointed to America's decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future."
Facts: America ran roughshod over the international community to get that war going. If an invasion and ten-year occupation isn't annexation, then nothing is. Companies like Halliburton/KBR absolutely grabbed Iraq's resources, because their oil was supposed to "pay for the war," and there were gas lines in Iraq for years after the invasion, because those companies sat on that oil like it was their own private piggy bank... which it was, as it turns out. And as for the state we left Iraq in, thousands upon thousands of people have been killed in the sectarian strife left in our wake. They aren't making decisions about their future. They're running for their lives.

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US Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa

By Nick Turse

TomDispatch | News Analysis  - Thursday, 27 March 2014

The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities.
For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly claimed no more than a “light footprint” on that continent, including a remarkably modest presence when it comes to military personnel.  They have, however, balked at specifying just what that light footprint actually consists of.  During an interview, for instance, a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman once expressed worry that tabulating the command’s deployments would offer a “skewed image” of U.S. efforts there.
It turns out that the numbers do just the opposite.
Last year, according AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez, the U.S. military carried out a total of 546 “activities” on the continent -- a catch-all term for everything the military does in Africa.  In other words, it averages about one and a half missions a day.  This represents a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command was established in 2008.

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Aldous Huxley on Drugs, Democracy, and Religion

By Maria Popova

“Generalized intelligence and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy.”

Brainpickings - March 24, 2014

In 1958, five years after his transcendent experience induced by taking four-tenths of a gram of mescalin, Aldous Huxley — legendary author of Brave New World, lesser-known but no less compelling writer of children’s books, modern prophet — penned an essay titled “Drugs That Shape Men’s Minds.” It was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post and eventually included in Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience (public library) — a selection of Huxley’s fiction, essays, and letters titled after the Sanskrit word for “liberation.” In the essay, Huxley considers the gifts and limitations of our wakeful consciousness, our universal quest for transcendence, and the interplay of drugs and democracy.

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The dependent generation: half young European adults live with their parents

Eurofound report says it's not just people finishing education who struggle to live independently, but those in their 30s too       

By Shiv Malik        

The Guardian - Monday 24 March 2014

Almost half of Europe's young adults are living with their parents, new data suggests – a record level of dependency that has sobering social and demographic implications for the continent.
One of the most comprehensive social surveys of 28 European countries reveals on Tuesday that the percentage of people aged 18-30 who were still living with their parents had risen to 48%, or 36.7 million people, by 2011, in tandem with levels of deprivation and unemployment that surged during five years of economic crisis.
The data from EU agency Eurofound, obtained by the Guardian, shows that few countries are immune and that the phenomenon is not exclusive to the debt-laden Mediterranean rim. The figures show large rises in the number of stay-at-home twentysomethings in countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France, Belgium and Austria. In Italy, nearly four-fifths (79%) of young adults were living with their parents.

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Security Guards Now Outnumber High School Teachers

By Martin Hart-Landsberg, PhD

Sociological Images - March 24, 2014

There are now more people working as private security guards than high school teachers.
Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev offer the following graph, highlighting the number of “protective service workers”* employed per 10,000 workers and the degree of income inequality in the year 2000 for 16 countries.  The United States is tops on both counts.

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Book Review: Latin America’s Multicultural Movements: The Struggle Between Communitarianism, Autonomy, and Human Rights, edited by Todd A. Eisenstadt et al.

Reviewed by Senia Cuevas

The London School of Economics and Political Science - March 25, 2014

Throughout the Americas, indigenous people have been arguing that as “first peoples” they should be entitled to representation in local, national, and international fora in a capacity different from that of other civil society groups. Latin America’s Multicultural Movements is a collection of empirically-based chapters that aim to advance debates concerning multiculturalism and indigenous and minority group rights in Latin America by looking at the struggle between communitarianism, autonomy, and human rights. Senia Cuevas recommends this book to those interested in the history and politics of indigenous communities and the weaknesses of multicultural policies.

Latin America’s Multicultural Movements: The Struggle Between Communitarianism, Autonomy, and Human Rights. Todd A. Eisenstadt, Michael S. Danielson, Moises Jaime Bailon Corres, and Carlos Sorroza Polo (eds.) Oxford University Press. March 2013.

Multicultural policies (MCPs) which aim to solidify recognition of the rights of indigenous communities in Latin America are often controversial, with substantive evidence about their success on both sides of the debate. However, most agree that rights recognition is but one step in the process of inclusion and equality; true changes will not occur by providing legal rights that will never be enacted upon. While major binding international conventions concerning recognition of indigenous peoples – such as the ILO-Convention 169 – have been widely ratified, in practice this has come at a slower pace (p. 4). Similarly, the Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian territorial circumscriptions which would grant autonomy in the form of self-governance to indigenous groups have not been successful after ten years (p. 23).

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Australia Is Again Stealing Its Indigenous Children

By John Pilger

Truthout | News Analysis  - Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because (as an Australian Aborigine) you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again." A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."
This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognized abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous Stolen Generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed-race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children were given to institutions as cheap or slave labor; many were abused.

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The Future of Internet Freedom


The New York Times - MARCH 11, 2014

OVER the next decade, approximately five billion people will become connected to the Internet. The biggest increases will be in societies that, according to the human rights group Freedom House, are severely censored: places where clicking on an objectionable article can get your entire extended family thrown in prison, or worse.
The details aren’t pretty. In Russia, the government has blocked tens of thousands of dissident sites; at times, all WordPress blogs and Russian Wikipedia have been blocked. In Vietnam, a new law called Decree 72 makes it illegal to digitally distribute content that opposes the government, or even to share news stories on social media. And in Pakistan, sites that were available only two years ago — like Tumblr, Wikipedia and YouTube — are increasingly replaced by unconvincing messages to “Surf Safely.”

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Escaping Beirut

By Robyn Creswell

The New York Review of Books - March 25, 2014

In a splendidly vituperative passage in the Lebanese writer Rabih Alameddine’s first novel Koolaids (1998), one character says:
I fucking hate the Lebanese. I hate them. They are so fucked up. They think they are so great, and for what reason? Has there been a single artist of note? A scientist, an athlete? They are so proud of [Lebanese novelist Khalil] Gibran. Probably the most overrated writer in history. I don’t think any Lebanese has ever read him. If they had, they would keep their mouth fucking shut.…The happiest day in my life was when I got my American citizenship and was able to tear up my Lebanese passport. That was great. Then I got to hate Americans.…I tried so hard to rid myself of anything Lebanese. I hate everything Lebanese. But I never could. It seeps through my entire being. The harder I tried, the more it showed up in the unlikeliest of places. But I never gave up.
Many of the funniest moments in Alameddine’s work—and he is essentially a comic writer—revolve around the difficulties of trying to escape the past. The heroes of his fiction are all misfits of one sort or another. They rebel against what they take to be the tyrannical conventions of Lebanese society—its patriarchy, its sexual norms, its sectarianism. In most of his novels this revolt takes the form of flight to America, what one character calls an escape “from the land of conformism to the land of individualism.” (Alameddine is from a prominent Lebanese Druze family and has lived much of his life in San Francisco.) Looming behind these singular stories is the larger history of dislocation caused by the civil war, when many Lebanese—the ones who could—left. In America, Alameddine’s characters discover that the pleasures of individualism often turn out to be empty, and their host country’s foreign policy, particularly its support for Israel, is a constant irritant. So their emigration is only ever partial; the old world haunts all their attempts at reinvention.

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He Acted Like the Man You Wanted to Be

‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’ Explains a Star’s Power 

The New York Times - MARCH 24, 2014

He was the strong, forthright hero: authentic, stubborn, sometimes pigheaded but dedicated to justice and capable of tenderness and sacrifice; a solitary figure, called upon to defend the homestead or rescue the girl, but often exiled, in the end, from the post-frontier civilization that no longer needed his hard man’s brand of competence and courage. Whether he was a gunfighter, a cowboy or a cavalry officer, he became, for many moviegoers, the very avatar of the American frontier: the embodiment of James Fenimore Cooper’s Deerslayer, Emerson’s American Adam or what Garry Wills called fans’ sense of what “was disappearing or had disappeared” from American life.
The narrator of Walker Percy’s novel “The Moviegoer” talks about the memory of him killing “three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in ‘Stagecoach' ” as more real than memories from the narrator’s own life. Joan Didion called him the “perfect mold” into which “the inarticulate longings of a nation” were poured.

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In defence of Heidegger

By Jonathan Rée

Prospect - March 12, 2014

You do not have to admire a philosopher personally to admire his work

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger died nearly 40 years ago, but his work has never stopped making the headlines: not because of his ideas, but because of his association with Nazism. The latest stage of the controversy (well covered here and here by Jonathan Derbyshire) has been occasioned by prepublication hype for an edition of the Schwarzen Hefte, a 1000 page transcript of the little notebooks bound in black covers, in which he jotted down observations for most of his life. According to the pre-publicity, these notebooks show that Heidegger was a deep-dyed anti-Semite, and suggest that no self-respecting thinker should touch him with a bargepole. I can’t say that I agree.
1. In the first place, it’s common knowledge that, as well as being a member of the Nazi party for many years, Heidegger was an anti-Semite. Not a violent one, but the sort of cultural anti-Semite (DH Lawrence, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound) often found in the 1920s and 30s, not only in Germany but throughout Europe and America. For good measure, I guess he was also a womaniser and a male chauvinist pig. The question is whether these facts are a reason for avoiding his works, or whether we can in fact read him without putting our political purity in danger.

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Ukraine and The Geopolitical Chessboard

By Jack A. Smith

Global Faultlines - March 27, 2014          

“The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined beforethen. — Henry Kissinger, Washington Post, March 6, 2014
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard (1998)
Russia has taught the United States a stern and embarrassing lesson in Ukraine as a riposte to Washington-backed regime change in Kiev, the capital. “So far,” Moscow in effect warned a thoroughly shocked Washington, “but no further.” Crimea was integrated into the Russian Federation after a Referendum.

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Liberal Imperialism's new clothes

By Phil Leech     

Middle East Monitor - Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The international crisis in Ukraine and the devastating tragedy that is the on-going Syrian Civil War have not only divided the world along lines reminiscent of the Cold War, they have also inspired an ideological debate among politicians, academics and policy wonks over how 'the west' should respond. One element of this is that - despite its discrediting by the shambles of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - advocates of liberal imperialism apparently wish to give it another shot. It would be wiser to confine it to the dustbin of history.

Michael Ignatieff - the unsuccessful leader of Canada's Liberal Party and a prominent public intellectual - articulated what contemporary liberal imperialism represents in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, separating himself from the prevailing wisdom that, he claims, represents "fatalism parading as realism and resignation masquerading as prudence".

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Barack Obama: The Least Transparent President in History

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

Democracynow.org - March 27, 2014 

“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” So wrote President Barack Obama, back on Jan. 29, 2009, just days into his presidency. “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” Now, six years into the Obama administration, his promise of “a new era of open Government” seems just another grand promise, cynically broken.
As the news industry observed its annual “Sunshine Week” in mid-March, The Associated Press reported that “[m]ore often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act [FOIA].” The AP report continued, “The government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.”


Why Does It Matter If Heidegger Was Anti-Semitic?

By Richard Brody

The New Yorker -  March 27, 2014

The controversy stirred up by the revelations in Evelyn Barish’s new biography of the literary scholar and “deconstructionist” Paul de Man (which Louis Menand recently discussed in the magazine) will, I suspect, seem like a collegial colloquium compared with the uproar attending the publication of the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s “Schwarzen Hefte” (“Black Notebooks”), written between 1931 and the early nineteen-seventies.
The first three volumes (1931-41), have been released in German in the past few months. They’re being published only now because, according to their editor, Peter Trawny, Heidegger requested that they be the final publications in his complete works. The notebooks have been the talk of European op-ed pages, and much of the discussion—at least, in Germany, France, and Great Britain—is centered on their revelations of Heidegger’s deep-rooted and unambiguous anti-Semitism.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Beyond Neoliberal Miseducation

By Henry A Giroux

Truthout | Op-Ed - Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This article draws from a number of ideas in Henry A. Giroux's newest book, Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education.
As universities turn toward corporate management models, they increasingly use and exploit cheap faculty labor while expanding the ranks of their managerial class. Modeled after a savage neoliberal value system in which wealth and power are redistributed upward, a market-oriented class of managers largely has taken over the governing structures of most institutions of higher education in the United States. As Debra Leigh Scott points out, "administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country."1 There is more at stake here than metrics. Benjamin Ginsberg views this shift in governance as the rise of what he calls ominously the "the all administrative university," noting that it does not bode well for any notion of higher education as a democratic public sphere.

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Podcast: Social Movements in the Neoliberal Age By Professor Michael Burawoy

Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice 
Annual Lecture 2013-14

Social Movements in the Neoliberal Age
Professor Michael Burawoy

University of California, Berkeley
Thursday 16 January 2014
The social movements of the last four years -- ranging from the Arab Uprisings to the Indignados, from the land struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America to student movements against the privatization of higher education, from labor struggles to the Occupy Movement -- call for a new social theory that links social movements to state-sponsored commodification of labour, nature, money and knowledge. Built on the shoulders of Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation, such a new sociology reconstructs Polanyi’s theory for the new century just as he reconstructed Karl Marx's theory of capitalism for the twentieth century. Do these recent social movements add up to a Polanyian “counter-movement” that might arrest and even reverse third-wave marketisation of today? Or do they signal the intensification of third-wave marketisation and the destruction of our planet, a war declared by markets and states on the human species?

To listen the lecture......

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Egypt’s military expands its control of the country’s economy

By Abigail Hauslohner

The Washington Post - March 16, 2014

CAIRO — In the shadows of a harsh political crackdown, the military that overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected president last summer is positioning itself to become the country’s uncontested economic power.

Egyptians have focused in recent months on the likely ascent of military commander Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to the presidency in the nation’s first post-coup election this spring. But already, the generals have used their July power grab to slip their allies into key economic posts and expand their authority over government development deals, including a lucrative Suez Canal project.

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China Releases Plan to Incorporate Farmers Into Cities


The New York Times - MARCH 17, 2014

BEIJING — China has announced a sweeping plan to manage the flow of rural residents into cities, promising to promote urbanization but also to solve some of the drastic side effects of this great uprooting.
The plan — the country’s first attempt at broadly coordinating one of the greatest migrations in history — foresees 100 million more people moving to China’s cities by 2020, while providing better access to schools and hospitals for 100 million former farmers already living in cities but currently denied many basic services. Underpinning these projections would be government spending to build roads, railways, hospitals, schools and housing.

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The Tenure Take-Back

The response to a professor who lost her job offer when she tried to negotiate reveals the skewed priorities of academia.

By Rebecca Schuman

The Slate - March 18, 2014

As my Slate colleague Katy Waldman has written, it appears that in the buyer’s market of academia, “lean in” is a dangerous fallacy. For men and women both, it’s not “lean in” so much as “bend over.” According to the widely read blog the Philosophy Smoker, a job candidate identified as “W” recently received an offer for a tenure-track position at Nazareth College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. Like many recipients of job offers, W viewed the original bid as the opening move in a series of negotiations, and thus submitted the following counteroffer, after informing the department—with whom she says she had been in friendly contact—that she was about to switch into “negotiation mode”:
As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier. 
1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc. 
I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.
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A New Book: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism David Harvey

Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism 
By David Harvey
Profile Books, March 2014

Following on from The Enigma of Capital, the world's leading Marxist thinker explores the hidden workings of capital and reveals the forces that will lead inexorably to the demise of our system.

You thought capitalism was permanent? Think again.
Not that the contradictions of capital are all bad: they can lead to the innovations that make capitalism resilient and, it seems, permanent. Yet appearances can deceive: while many of capital's contradictions can be managed, others will be fatal to our society. This new book is both an incisive guide to the world around us and a manifesto for change.
David Harvey unravels the contradictions at the heart of capitalism - its drive, for example, to accumulate capital beyond the means of investing it, its imperative to use the cheapest methods of production that leads to consumers with no means of consumption, and its compulsion to exploit nature to the point of extinction. These are the tensions which underpin the persistence of mass unemployment, the downward spirals of Europe and Japan, and the unstable lurches forward of China and India.

Book Review: The Education of David Martin: The Making of an Unlikely Sociologist by David Martin

The London School of Economics and Political Science - March 18, 2014

David Martin‘s autobiography offers surprising and often moving insights into his life, times and intellectual development. As Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the LSE he gives readers a behind-the-scenes account of the protests during the 1960s and 1970s, and  also recounts the ups and downs of his role in championing the King James Bible and the Prayer Book in the 1980s. Mike Gane recommends this humorous and witty read to LSE alumni, sociologists of religion and culture, and theologists.

The Education of David Martin: The Making of an Unlikely Sociologist. David Martin. SPCK London. November 2013.

David Martin spent many years at the LSE as sociologist of religion, and it is religion which is at the centre of this autobiography which is a very welcome addition to a growing number from academics who lived through the turbulent 1960s. Born in 1929, and coming late to the university, he is able to throw light on the ambience of the LSE and particularly the Department of Sociology in the years after 1962, and up to his departure for a position at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, in 1986. He invites us to follow his ‘pilgrim’s progress’ from early childhood memories of Methodist family, church, and education that always involved musical participation to his arrival in the Church of England, a kind of late living vindication of the famous Halévy thesis on English social mobility. The Dorset landscape is experienced in his youth as ‘numinous’ and contrasted with ‘mundane’ life in Mortlake (pp 19-35), yet it is hard to find any instances of revelation, of experiential mystery, nothing on death. His religion, he says, was not intellectual; it was revivalist, in an account of how an established Protestant Christian tradition is lived, how its variations and departures are negotiated as a life-time education.

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The latest casualty of Italy’s economic slump is the restaurant that invented tiramisu

By Roberto A. Ferdman 

Quartz - March 18, 2014

Italy’s financial woes come at a gastronomic cost too. +  Le Beccherie, the Italian restaurant credited with inventing tiramisu, the popular cocoa-dusted and coffee-soaked dessert, will be shuttering its doors at the end of the month. The news was first reported by Italian news site Corriere della Sera (link in Italian). 1  The reason? A lame Italian economy. The iconic restaurant simply hasn’t been able to seat enough customers to justify its overhead these days. “There has been a fall in the number of customers,” owner Carlo Campeol told Corriere della Serra. “We’ve lost politicians, businesspeople, and members of the general public.” +  La Beccherie has been around for more than seven decades—it was first opened in 1939 in the town of Treviso. Its tiramisu has been around for more than four decades—it was first made at Campeol’s relative, Ada Campeol, in the late 1970s. Treviso asked to be recognized as the official birthplace of tiramisu this past fall. “It’s very sad, because this place was established by my grandfather,” Campeol recently told CS Monitor.

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What’s the Point of Academic Publishing?

Sarah Kendzior
By Sarah Kendzior

Chronicle Vitae - January 24, 2014

In December 2013, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs made a startling announcement. “Today I wouldn't get an academic job,” he told The Guardian. “It's as simple as that. I don't think I would be regarded as productive enough.”  Higgs noted that quantity, not quality, is the metric by which success in the sciences in measured. Unlike in 1964, when he was hired, scientists are now pressured to churn out as many papers as possible in order to retain their jobs. Had he not been nominated for the Nobel, Higgs says, he would have been fired. His scientific discovery was made possible by his era’s relatively lax publishing norms, which left him time to think, dream, and discover.  In January 2014, creative-writing professor Cathy Day published a rundown of her publications since 2011: 300 pages of a novel, 100 pages of non-fiction, seven essays, two short stories, and 200 blog posts. The blog posts, dedicated to the craft of writing, attracted the most attention, garnering over 160,000 pageviews. Day’s last post was particularly popular: It announced the end of her blog.

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Killing Pigs and Weed Maps: The Mostly Unread World of Academic Papers

By Aaron Gordon

Pacific Standard - March 18, 2014

At one of the first academic conferences I ever attended, I heard an economist joke that dissertations are only read by three people: the author, their advisor, and the committee chair. It’s funny in the way that academic jokes are funny: not actually funny but it gets listeners to nod along with the central truth. This specific central truth must resonate with established academics, since I heard versions of this same joke at nearly every conference I attended thereafter.
Like many jokes, this particular one turns out to be half true. A burgeoning field of academic study called citation analysis (it’s exactly what it sounds like) has found that this joke holds true for not just dissertations, but many academic papers. A study at Indiana University found that “as many as 50% of papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors.” That same study concluded that “some 90% of papers that have been published in academic journals are never cited.” That is, nine out of 10 academic papers—which both often take years to research, compile, submit, and get published, and are a major component by which a scholar’s output is measured—contribute little to the academic conversation.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

India's arms imports almost three times of China, Pak: SIPRI report

By Rajat Pandit

TNN | Mar 17, 2014

NEW DELHI: India's continuing abject failure to build a robust defence industrial base (DIB) has come to into focus once again, with an international thinktank holding its arms imports are now almost three times as high as those of the second and third largest arms importers, China and Pakistan.

As per the latest data on international arms transfers released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the volume of Indian imports of major weapons rose by 111% between 2004-08 and 2009-13, and its share of the volume of international arms imports increased from 7% to 14%.

The major suppliers of arms to India in 2009-13 were Russia (accounting for 75% of imports) and the US (7%), which for the first time became the second largest arms supplier to India, said SIPRI. As earlier reported by TOI, the US has already bagged defence deals close to $10 billion over the last decade in the lucrative Indian defence market, with the latest being the $1.01 billion one for six additional C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft.
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Finnish Education Chief: 'We Created a School System Based on Equality'

An interview with the country's minister of education, Krista Kiuru

By Christine Gross-Loh

The Atlantic - Mar 17 2014

Finnish education often seems paradoxical to outside observers because it appears to break a lot of the rules we take for granted. Finnish children don’t begin school until age 7. They have more recess, shorter school hours than many U.S. children do (nearly 300 fewer hours per year in elementary school), and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation. There are no gifted programs, almost no private schools, and no high-stakes national standardized tests.
Yet over the past decade Finland has consistently performed among the top nations on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year olds in 65 nations and territories around the world. Finland’s school children didn’t always excel. Finland built its excellent, efficient, and equitable educational system in a few decades from scratch, and the concept guiding almost every educational reform has been equity.  The Finnish paradox is that by focusing on the bigger picture for all, Finland has succeeded at fostering the individual potential of most every child.

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The U.S. has treated Russia like a loser since the end of the Cold War.

By Jack F. Matlock Jr.

Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the U.S.S.R. from 1987 to 1991, is the author of “Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended.”

The Washington Post - March 14, 2014

One afternoon in September 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz settled in a chair across the table from Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in a New York conference room. Both were in the city for the United Nations General Assembly.
As he habitually did at the start of such meetings , Shultz handed Shevardnadze a list of reported human rights abuses in the Soviet Union. Shevardnadze’s predecessor, Andrei Gromyko, had always received such lists grudgingly and would lecture us for interfering in Soviet internal affairs.
This time, though, Shevardnadze looked Shultz in the eye and said through his interpreter: “George, I will check this out, and if your information is correct, I will do what I can to correct the problem. But I want you to know one thing: I am not doing this because you ask me to; I am doing it because it is what my country needs to do.”

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science


The New York Times - MARCH 15, 2014

Last April, President Obama assembled some of the nation’s most august scientific dignitaries in the East Room of the White House. Joking that his grades in physics made him a dubious candidate for “scientist in chief,” he spoke of using technological innovation “to grow our economy” and unveiled “the next great American project”: a $100 million initiative to probe the mysteries of the human brain.
Along the way, he invoked the government’s leading role in a history of scientific glories, from putting a man on the moon to creating the Internet. The Brain initiative, as he described it, would be a continuation of that grand tradition, an ambitious rebuttal to deep cuts in federal financing for scientific research.
“We can’t afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to seize them. I don’t want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here.”

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Does Singapore deserve its 'miserable' tag?

By Charlotte Ashton Singapore

BBC - 14 March 2014

Singapore's reputation as a wealthy, aspirational and hi-tech country ensures it attracts a great deal of foreign talent - so why is it labelled the world's least positive country?
It was Christmas, but as my husband and I waited for our luggage in the shiny arrivals hall of Changi airport, the internet delivered tidings of no joy.
"Check this out," posted one friend on my Facebook wall, with a link to a survey of 148 countries in which Singaporeans were revealed to be the least positive people on earth.
At the bottom of the happy pile along with Iraqis, Armenians and Serbians. "Good luck in misery city!" he wrote.
Over the next few months a happiness battle kicked off around us. Singapore's politicians reinforced their commitment to well-being and Starhub - a mobile network provider - launched an advertising campaign called "happiness everywhere", full of smiling Singaporeans dancing to plinky-plonky guitar music.

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The Gender Pay Gap Is Alive And Well In All 50 States, Shows Study

By  Alanna Vagianos

The Huffington Post  |  03/13/2014

Not only does the gender wage gap have real staying power, but it's alive and kicking in all 50 states.
According to a new report released earlier this week by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the gender pay gap -- which had significantly narrowed since the 1970s -- has slowly plateaued in recent years.
Compiling data from the Census Bureau, the Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, AAUW calculated the median salaries for full-time employment in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In the U.S., women are paid 23 percent less than men on average. Although down from a 2012 figure of 91 percent, Washington, D.C. maintains the smallest wage gap in the U.S., with women earning 90 percent of what their male counterparts do ($66,754 vs. $60,116). Also consistent with last year's results, Wyoming came in last with women taking home a shocking 64 percent of men's average earnings ($51,932 vs. $33,152).
While it remains important to note that geography and local industry have a large influence on differing salaries, there are other major factors that come into play -- namely education level, race/ethnicity and age.

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Secretive Pentagon think tank knows no bounds


Politico | 3/12/14

From Vladimir Putin’s body language to the histories of religious warfare, from the development of new technologies to accounts of ancient empires, there isn’t much the Pentagon’s internal think tank won’t pursue.
The Office of Net Assessment, which is headed by a seldom-seen, 92-year-old Nixon-era defense analyst named Andrew Marshall, is just a tiny compartment in the labyrinthine Defense Department, but its interests are vast. In a recent solicitation, the ONA said it’s seeking research about nuclear proliferation, future naval warfare and the use of space, among other topics.

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The Secret World of American Spies in the Middle East


The New Republic -  JANUARY 6, 2014

In September 1947, on the day the Central Intelligence Agency was formally established in Washington, D.C., two of Teddy Roosevelt’s grandsons, Archie and Kim, drove from Beirut across the Lebanese mountains into Damascus to meet a fellow spy named Miles Copeland. Archie, 29, was the CIA’s first station chief in Beirut; Copeland, 31, was its man in Damascus. Kim (or Kermit Jr., whose namesake and father had roared around the Middle East like T.E. Lawrence during World War I) would, by 1949 at age 33, head the CIA’s covert operations in the region. For now he was traveling, nominally, as a private citizen, working on a book based on his posting to Cairo during World War II for the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA.
In two years, Copeland would help engineer the first military coup in the Arab world: the 1949 bloodless putsch by Colonel Husni al-Za’im in Syria. To what degree is a matter of debate, including Copeland’s own boasts, and then retractions, in subsequent memoirs. Archie would try and fail to engineer another military overthrow in Syria in 1957, after a series of coups and countercoups in Damascus (Za’im only lasted a few months before he was overthrown and executed by rival officers). But the 1947 meeting, like the men’s CIA years in the Middle East during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, was a mix of business and pleasure. As Copeland later wrote, after Archie and Kim arrived in Damascus, they set out “on a tour of Crusader castles and off-the-beaten-path places.”

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How China (and the Rest of the Emerging Markets) Spend Today

After 30 years of catchup growth, consumers around the world are starting to look more and more American. 

By Matthew O'Brien

The Atlantic - Mar 14 2014

Emerging market consumers—they're becoming just like us!
They're earning more. They're spending more. And they're spending more on the same things we do. The same gear, the same gadgets, and, particularly in China, the same luxury goods.
It's the best news our beleaguered global economy has gotten in a while. For too long, the world has relied on Americans to be the consumers of last resort, to keep buying no matter how much debt it took. That worked until it didn't in 2008. But a world where hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian families are entering the global middle class—and spending like it—is one where growth could theoretically be more stable. A new report from Credit Suisse shows us just how this world is emerging, and what it means for all of us. Here are the big takeaways.

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Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap


The New York Times - MARCH 15, 2014

Fairfax County, Va., and McDowell County, W.Va., are separated by 350 miles, about a half-day’s drive. Traveling west from Fairfax County, the gated communities and bland architecture of military contractors give way to exurbs, then to farmland and eventually to McDowell’s coal mines and the forested slopes of the Appalachians. Perhaps the greatest distance between the two counties is this: Fairfax is a place of the haves, and McDowell of the have-nots. Just outside of Washington, fat government contracts and a growing technology sector buoy the median household income in Fairfax County up to $107,000, one of the highest in the nation. McDowell, with the decline of coal, has little in the way of industry. Unemployment is high. Drug abuse is rampant. Median household income is about one-fifth that of Fairfax.
One of the starkest consequences of that divide is seen in the life expectancies of the people there. Residents of Fairfax County are among the longest-lived in the country: Men have an average life expectancy of 82 years and women, 85, about the same as in Sweden. In McDowell, the averages are 64 and 73, about the same as in Iraq.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Rise of Anti-Capitalism


The New York Times - MARCH 15, 2014

WE are beginning to witness a paradox at the heart of capitalism, one that has propelled it to greatness but is now threatening its future: The inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing costs so far down that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces. While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero.
The first inkling of the paradox came in 1999 when Napster, the music service, developed a network enabling millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry. Similar phenomena went on to severely disrupt the newspaper and book publishing industries. Consumers began sharing their own information and entertainment, via videos, audio and text, nearly free, bypassing the traditional markets altogether.

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In a first, Vrindavan widows play with colours on Holi

By Amit Bhattacharya

TNN | Mar 16, 2014

VRINDAVAN: The long-ostracized widows of Vrindavan played Holi with gulal and buckets of coloured water on Friday, in a cathartic celebration that snubbed tradition which bids them to stay away from festivities.

Last year, these women had taken the first step to reclaim their place in the mainstream when they played Holi with flowers and songs in a much-applauded event that also drew criticism in certain conservative quarters.

On Friday, the widows went a step ahead. Pichkaaris (water guns) and gulal (coloured powder) were out in force at the Ras Behari Sadan and Leela Kunj, two adjacent widow homes in the heart of the temple town. The women — many defiantly wearing colourful sarees — were in no mood to hold back. They smeared each other and the guests with gulal and danced in the ashram courtyard as buckets of coloured water were poured on them from above.
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The CIA’s Poisonous Tree

By David Cole

The New York Review of Books - March 15, 2014

The old Washington adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime may not apply when it comes to the revelations this week that the Central Intelligence Agency interfered with a Senate torture investigation. It’s not that the cover-up isn’t serious. It is extremely serious—as Senator Dianne Feinstein said, the CIA may have violated the separation of powers, the Fourth Amendment, and a prohibition on spying inside the United States. It’s just that in this case, the underlying crimes are still worse: the dispute arises because the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein chairs, has written an as-yet-secret 6,300 page report on the CIA’s use of torture and disappearance—among the gravest crimes the world recognizes—against al-Qaeda suspects in the “war on terror.”
By Senator Feinstein’s account, the CIA has directly and repeatedly interfered with the committee’s investigation: it conducted covert unauthorized searches of the computers assigned to the Senate committee for its review of CIA files, and it secretly removed potentially incriminating documents from the computers the committee was using. That’s the stuff that often leads to resignations, independent counsels, and criminal charges; indeed, the CIA’s own Inspector General has referred the CIA’s conduct to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

A View From Within the 'Vast Conspiracy' Against Russia and Turkey

Today's autocrats claim foreign agents are trying to overthrow them. But the real scandal is the way they're stifling civil society.

By Moisés Naím

The Atlantic - Mar 14 2014

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro agree: There is a vast international conspiracy underway to destabilize their governments and eventually oust them from power.
They are convinced that the protesters storming the streets of Istanbul and Caracas are nothing more than mercenaries serving foreign powers or “useful idiots” unwittingly aiding the shadowy interests working to overthrow their governments. Vladimir Putin shares this view. He has said that the revolts in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, which forced his ally, former President Viktor Yanukovych, to flee to Russia, were also instigated by foreigners. And who, according to these autocrats, is behind this dark global conspiracy?
Western Democracies, of course.
Putin, Erdoğan, Maduro, and other leaders who share their fears (Bashar al-Assad, Robert Mugabe, etc.) assume that foreign intelligence services and other secret agencies are the main instigators, organizers, and funders of the protests against their governments. Their fears are not entirely unfounded. After all, the CIA does have a history of helping overthrow leaders that the U.S. government didn’t like at the time: Iran’s Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, Guatemala’s Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973. But today’s dictators and their semi-authoritarian colleagues seem to feel equally threatened by private philanthropic organizations that operate openly in support of democracy and human rights.

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Remembering British MP Tony Benn, a Lifelong Critic of War and Capitalism

March 14, 2014

Tony Benn, the former British Cabinet minister, longtime Parliament member and antiwar activist, has died at the age of 88. He was the longest-serving member of Parliament in the history of Britain’s Labour Party, serving more than half a century. He left Parliament in 2001, saying he planned to "spend more time on politics." In 2009 he appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the war in Afghanistan and Britain’s fight for a nationalized healthcare system. "You’ve got to judge a country by whether its needs are met and not just by whether some people make a profit," Benn said. "I’ve never met Mr. Dow Jones, and I’m sure he works very, very hard with his averages — we get them every hour — but I don’t think the happiness of a nation is decided by the share values in Wall Street."

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Getting Ukraine Wrong


The New York Times - MARCH 13, 2014

President Obama has decided to get tough with Russia by imposing sanctions and increasing support for Ukraine’s new government. This is a big mistake. This response is based on the same faulty logic that helped precipitate the crisis. Instead of resolving the dispute, it will lead to more trouble.
The White House view, widely shared by Beltway insiders, is that the United States bears no responsibility for causing the current crisis. In their eyes, it’s all President Vladimir V. Putin’s fault — and his motives are illegitimate. This is wrong. Washington played a key role in precipitating this dangerous situation, and Mr. Putin’s behavior is motivated by the same geopolitical considerations that influence all great powers, including the United States.

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Oil and gas could explain Putin's costly attempt to control the Crimea

According to Kremlin insiders the annexation has been 6 years in the planning

The Independent - Friday 14 March 2014 

Why does Putin want the Crimea?

If the President of the Russian Federation is to be believed his whole campaign is driven by the need to protect ethnic Russians from neo-Nazi extremists that they claim have infiltrated the new temporary government in Kiev. 
That sounds laudable - until you look at the wider picture of how Russians are actually treated in their homeland today.  Russia has very serious social problems with drug and alcohol abuse and HIV Aids, but the state does virtually nothing to help. Ethnic minorities are treated with disdain whilst the gay community has been forced underground. Those close to the Kremlin enjoy limitless wealth whilst real poverty now affects over 20 per cent of the population. Clearly support for ethnic Russians in Russia is not a Presidential priority.

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Columbia University Fired Two Eminent Public Intellectuals. Here’s Why It Matters.

The fate of Carole Vance and Kim Hopper should worry everyone who wants academics to play a larger role in public debates.

By Michelle Goldberg

The Nation - March 12, 2014

About a month ago, The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof wrote a much-discussed column calling for academics to take on a greater role in public life. Most professors, he lamented, “just don’t matter in today’s great debates,” having instead burrowed into rabbit holes of hyper-specialization. PhD programs, he wrote, “have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Professors, Kristof pleaded, “don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks—we need you!”

Shortly before his column came out, Carole Vance and Kim Hopper, longtime professors at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, learned that they were losing their jobs because they hadn’t brought in enough grant money. Both, ironically, are models for the sort of publicly engaged intellectual Kristof wants to see more of. Vance has done pioneering work on the intersection of gender, health and human rights. “She has been a mentor and a leading influence on generations of scholars as well as activists and practitioners,” says Rebecca Schleifer, the former advocacy director for the health and human rights division at Human Rights Watch. Hopper, who divides his time between Columbia and the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, is both an advocate for the homeless and one of the nation’s foremost scholars on homelessness. Last year, American Anthropologist ran a piece highlighting his work beyond academia, noting that Hopper “has long urged anthropologists to take part in public debates, to translate ethnographic findings into policy proposals.”

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