“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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Want to be happier? Stay in the moment - Matt Killingsworth

China issues 13th Five-Year Plan communique

CCTV.com  10-29-2015

The 5th plenary session of the 18th CPC central committee came to an end early this afternoon. During the last day of the plenum, party leaders issued suggestions to the 13th Five-Year Plan that maps out strategies for the economic and social development in China from 2016 to 2020. Tang Bo has more.
The 5th plenary session of the 18th CPC central committee stresses that, to achieve the goals of building a moderately prosperous society and promoting sustainable and healthy economic and social development, the following principles should be followed:
They are adherence to the dominant position of the people, to scientific development and deepening reform, to the rule of law,  to the consideration of both domestic and international situations, and adherence to the party's leadership.
The plenum also stresses on the requirements needed for building up a well-off society, which include maintaining the economic growth at a midium-high speed, doubling the gross domestic product and per capita income of urban and rural residents by 2020 from 2010, increasing the contribution of consumption to economic growth, and improving the household population urbanization rate.
The requirements also include the significant improvement of agricultural modernization and people's living standards and qualities, overcoming poverty in rural area under the current standards of fighting poverty, as well as the improvement of social civilization and ecological environmental quality.

READ MORE AND WATCH FULL COVERAGE OF The Fifth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee.....

There Are No Peasants Here

Honduras’ brave new economic experiment is buoying an era of development by kicking poor farmers off their land.

By Lauren Carasik   

FOREIGN AFFAIRS - October 23, 2015

Standing in the shade of his modest house in the still-sweltering Honduran heat, Santos Hernandez Ortiz pointed to the wall that had been recently built just a few feet from his home, cutting him off from the land and trees he has been cultivating for 40 years. The wall — which stands more than 10 feet tall and is made of stone, runs through Ortiz’s modest lot as well as his neighbors’ — was constructed under the watchful eye of seven balaclava-clad police officers after a wealthy landowner claimed it for his own. Now, the leaves of the partitioned trees hang over the wall, but its fruits are maddeningly out of reach. Ortiz worries that he might lose his house next.


A New Book: The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China By Guobin Yang


Raised to be "flowers of the nation," the first generation born after the founding of the People's Republic of China was united in its political outlook and ambitions. Its members embraced the Cultural Revolution of 1966 but soon split into warring factions. Guobin Yang investigates the causes of this fracture and argues that Chinese youth engaged in an imaginary revolution from 1966 to 1968, enacting a political mythology that encouraged violence as a way to prove one's revolutionary credentials. This same competitive dynamic would later turn the Red Guard against the communist government. Throughout the 1970s, the majority of Red Guard youth were sent to work in rural villages. These relocated revolutionaries developed an appreciation for the values of ordinary life, and an underground cultural movement was born. Rejecting idolatry, their new form of resistance marked a distinct reversal of Red Guard radicalism and signaled a new era of enlightenment, culminating in the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s and, finally, the Tiananmen protest of 1989. Yang completes his significant recasting of Red Guard activism with a chapter on the politics of history and memory, arguing that contemporary memories of the Cultural Revolution are factionalized along the lines of political division that formed fifty years before.

1. Violence in Chongqing
2. Flowers of the Nation
3. Theory and Dissent
4. Ordinary Life
5. Underground Culture
6. New Enlightenment
7. Factionalized Memories

READ MORE.......

Half of top leadership reshuffled before plenum

Global Times - October 26, 2015

More than half of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee members elected during the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 have been moved to different positions or were removed from their current jobs ahead of the CPC's fifth plenary session that kicks off on Monday.
The large-scale reshuffle is extremely rare in the history of the CPC, a result, said observers of the anti-graft campaign, which has been of unprecedented severity, and to guarantee a solid start to China's new five-year blueprint amid a slowing economy.
A WeChat account operated by Beijing's Party organ newspaper, the Beijing Daily, revealed that a total of 104 out of the 205 CPC Central Committee members have been promoted, demoted or expelled from their positions since 2012.
Among them, 81 were promoted to key positions, 16 were transferred to less important posts, and seven were removed from their jobs.
Some of the seven members may have their membership revoked during the fifth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee that runs until Thursday, experts said.
Since the sweeping anti-graft campaign was launched in 2012, the announcement of any personnel reshuffles has drawn greater attention.


Commentary: Where will China go in the next five years?

(People's Daily Online) - October 26, 2015

The autumn in Beijing is not only about foliage. We always have more to expect.
Chinese Communist Party will hold a vital meeting in Beijing from October 26 to October 29, at which the development roadmap for China from 2016 to 2020 will be discussed, namely China’s 13th Five-Year Plan.
The Five-Year plans are China’s development agendas set by CPC. We have accomplished 12 Five-Year plans in the past, and here comes the 13th. In Chinese traditions, every 60 years marks a circle, so the year 2016 will be the beginning of a new circle. Hence, we have good reasons to believe that the 13th Five-Year Plan will be a brand new start for China.
People all around China are paying close attention to this plan. In accordance with China’s development goal, a moderately prosperous society shall be built by 2020. The phrase “moderately prosperous society” or in Chinese “Xiaokang”, has its special meaning to Chinese people. For thousands of years, it describes a promising prospect for the development of our nation and the improvement of people’s life. It means not only steady economic growth, but also a real leap-forward for people’s living standard, including the 70 million impoverished populations in China.


The Making of Salafism Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century By Henri Lauzière


Some Islamic scholars hold that Salafism is an innovative and rationalist effort at Islamic reform that emerged in the late nineteenth century but disappeared in the mid twentieth. Others argue Salafism is an anti-innovative and antirationalist movement of Islamic purism that dates back to the medieval period yet persists today. Though they contradict each other, both narratives are considered authoritative, making it hard for outsiders to grasp the history of the ideology and its core beliefs.
Introducing a third, empirically based genealogy, The Making of Salafism understands the movement as a recent conception of Islam projected back onto the past, and it sees its purist evolution as a direct result of decolonization. Henri Lauzière builds his history on the transnational networks of Taqi al-Din al-Hilali (1894-1987), a Moroccan Salafi who, with his associates, oversaw Salafism's modern development. Traveling from Rabat to Mecca, from Calcutta to Berlin, al-Hilali interacted with high-profile Salafi scholars and activists who eventually abandoned Islamic modernism in favor of a more purist approach to Islam. Today, Salafis claim a monopoly on religious truth and freely confront other Muslims on theological and legal issues. Lauzière's pathbreaking history recognizes the social forces behind this purist turn, uncovering the popular origins of what has become a global phenomenon.

1. Being Salafi in the Early Twentieth Century
2. Rashid Rida's Rehabilitation of the Wahhabis and Its Consequences
3. Purist Salafism in the Age of Islamic Nationalism
4. The Ironies of Modernity and the Advent of Modernist Salafism
5. Searching for a Raison d'Être in the Postindependence Era
6. The Triumph and Ideologization of Purist Salafism


BRICS bank, AIIB well on track for start of operations: officials

English.news.cn   2015-10-28

BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Preparations are going smoothly for the the New Development Bank (NDB) for BRICS countries, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), officials said Wednesday. The NDB, initiated by BRICS members -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- is expected to approve its first loans next April, said NDB vice president Vladimir Kazbekov at a seminar in Beijing. The bank has already received loan applications and is hoping to issue its first loan to an energy-efficient project, Kazbekov said, noting that the bank plans to increase its staff to 100 from more than 20.
Aimed at financing infrastructure projects, mainly in BRICS countries, the NDB opened in Shanghai in July and is scheduled to start operations at the end of this year or early 2016. Work is also going well for the multilateral AIIB, with formal operations beginning next year, said Chen Huan, who is in charge of preparations for the bank's launch.

Premier Li meets German Chancellor Merkel in Beijing

By Shen Chen

(People's Daily Online) - October 29, 2015

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
The two sides agreed to continue carrying out the consensus reached at last round of China–Germany governmental consultation to deepen mutual trust and enhance cooperation at various areas. An upgraded version of Sino-German cooperation is expected from both sides.
After the meeting, Premier Li and Chancellor Merkel witnessed the signing of 13 agreements in fields like finance, manufacturing and communication between youth in two countries.
At Li's invitation, Merkel is making an official visit to China from Thursday to Friday. It is her eighth visit to China since 2005 in the capacity of chancellor.


Daimler sees 29% sales rise amidst China’s slowing economy

Advancing financial inclusion in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East

Robin Lewis, John Villasenor and Darrell M. West

BROOKINGS | September 16, 2015 

Of the 21 countries ranked in the 2015 Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard, no countries in Asia placed in the top 5 in the overall ranking. However, all of the FDIP Asian countries have demonstrated progress within at least one of the four dimensions of the 2015 Scorecard: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services.
This blog post will dive into a few of the obstacles and opportunities facing FDIP countries in central Asia, the Middle East, and southeast Asia as they move toward greater access to and usage of financial services among marginalized groups. We explore these countries in order of their overall score: Turkey (74 percent), Indonesia (70 percent), the Philippines (68 percent), Bangladesh (67 percent), Pakistan (65 percent), and Afghanistan (58 percent). You can also read our separate post on financial inclusion in India, available here.


Nubia announces first eye-scan smartphone

China Daily, October 29, 2015

Nubia, the handset brand that has been used by Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, unveiled a series of upgraded smartphones on Wednesday to mark three-year anniversary of the company's establishment.  One of the devices, Nubia Z9 Mini Elite, has been upgraded with new biometric authentication -- eye pattern recognition, the same technology embedded on ZTE's latest flagship Axon.  "Our users can use eye-scan to unlock their phone or encrypt applications," said Ni Fei, senior vice-president of Nubia Technology. "The technology brings maximum protection of user's privacy as well as creates a new interactive experience."  ZTE, the parent firm of Nubia before the latter announced financial autonomy in June, has jointly worked with US biometric security technology startup EyeVerify Inc to launch the "world's first smartphone" with eye-based biometric solution, called the Grand S3, at the Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona.  Nubia Z9 Max Elite and rose gold colored Nubia "MyPrague" were also introduced at the launch event.


Africa: States of independence - the scramble for Africa

The Rise & Fall of Arab Nationalism (Making of the Modern Arab World #2)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Chinese films win big at Chicago Film Fest

Xinhua, October 25, 2015 

Emerging Chinese director Song Pengfei could hardly believe that his first try at film directing would turn out to be an immediate success. At Friday night, amid applause and enthusiasm, Song, director of a movie entitled "Underground Fragrance," came to the stage at the Peninsula Hotel, Chicago, a city in the U.S. state of Illinois, to claim Gold Hugo for New Directors at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival. "Underground Fragrance" is a feature film presenting ordinary people striving to move up in today's China. Song was joined by Song Zhantao, director of the documentary "In the Underground," which tells about the lives of miners in north China's Hebei Province, who won the Silver Hugo Award for the documentary, and Jia Shaowei, producer of "In the Underground." The two Songs are not related. "I'm mesmerized by the film," said Claudia Landsberger, jury of New Directors Competition, referring Song Pengfei's feature film "Underground Fragrance." "When you watch the movie, you can actually feel it, smell it. It's your life there," she said. "When the film ends, you want to know what happened to the people afterwards." Landsberger said the film tells so much about modern China and it's amazing that such a film is from a new director.

Chinese bribed top official to stall UN reforms?

Indrani Bagchi

TNN | Oct 23, 2015

NEW DELHI: The arrest of former president of the UN General Assembly, John Ashe, on charges of bribery by the Chinese has vindicated India's suspicion that key top level officials in the UN system were being paid off to delay or scuttle the Security Council reform process, among other things.
Earlier this month, Ashe, former envoy from Antigua & Barbuda was charged by US attorney Preet Bharara for accepting a bribe of $1.3 million from Chinese businessmen and officials for support for a multi-billion dollar "south south" UN-sponsored conference centre in casino capital Macau. Bharara's complaint also stated that other Chinese nationals paid Ashe hundreds of thousands of dollars to facilitate their businesses in Antigua. While only some of the details of the bribery processes have been made public, they are enough to provide a clue to the methods China uses to influence UN processes.


Obama vetoes US defense bill, sends it back to Congress

CHINA DAILY - 2015-10-23

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama vetoed a sweeping $612 billion defense policy bill on Thursday, returning the measure to the Republican-controlled Congress because of the way it uses money meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs.
"I'm going to be sending it back to Congress and my message to them is very simple: 'Let's do this right,'" Obama told reporters.
"We're in the midst of budget discussions. Let's have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security," he said.
Obama also said he disagreed with provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have limited his ability to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center before he leaves office in January 2017.
"Guantanamo is one of the premier mechanisms for jihadists to recruit," he told reporters at a rare White House veto signing ceremony.


Obama vs. Putin: Mutual finger-pointing deepens ideological clash

RUSSIA DIRECT - Sep 29, 2015

BY Ivan Tsvetkov

The recent speeches made by Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama at the 70th UN General Assembly clearly show that Russian and American leaders are once again locked in a global ideological confrontation of the type once witnessed during the Cold War. The unusual excitement preceding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to New York seemed fully understandable. This was the first time in ten years that the Russian leader had come to speak at the UN General Assembly and his first full-fledged meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis.  Moreover, there were hopes for overcoming the deadlock over Syria, as well as hopes for forming effective international mechanisms to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) terrorists.  And yet, especially after all the scheduled meetings and performances had already taken place, it is hard to escape the feeling that most people are unwilling to believe that a pair of beautiful speeches and an hour and a half conversation behind closed doors can interrupt the course of history.


Book Review: On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman


On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. Alice Goffman. University of Chicago Press.

There are currently 2.3 million people incarcerated in American prisons and jails. There are a further five million or more under some form of penal supervision – generally parole or probation. Such is the scale of imprisonment (America’s rate is close to five times that of England, and we are at record levels), and the disproportionate nature of its impact (one in 15 African-American males aged 18 or older is incarcerated compared with one in every 106 white males of the same age) that scholars have started to refer to what is occurring as mass incarceration. This unprecedented social ‘experiment’ has generated some wonderful, critical scholarship, most recently in the form of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Becky Pettit’s Invisible Men, both published in 2012.


Man completes his sociology Ph.D. at age 90

By Kathy Hovis


Back in 1972, Benjamin Franco Suarez was diligently working toward his doctorate in sociology at Cornell, studying the fertility behavior of Bolivian women as part of his work on demography, economic development in developing countries and Latin American studies.
He passed his B exams, but needed money and a job, so he took what he thought would be a short leave of absence to earn some money, planning to return quickly to finish up.
Forty-three years later, Franco Suarez, now 90, received his doctorate in September and was honored at an Oct. 19 campus reception. He spent the last year confirming his results by using correlation analysis on the data he’s been carrying with him for nearly four decades.


Screw Finding Your Passion

MARKMANSON - October 22, 2015

Remember back when you were a kid? You would just do things. You never thought to yourself, “What are the relative merits of learning baseball versus football?” You just ran around the playground and played baseball and football. You built sand castles and played tag and asked silly questions and looked for bugs and dug up grass and pretended you were a sewer monster.  Nobody told you to do it, you just did it. You were led merely by your curiosity and excitement.  And the beautiful thing was, if you hated baseball, you just stopped playing it. There was no guilt involved. There was no arguing or debate. You either liked it, or you didn’t.  And if you loved looking for bugs, you just did that. There was no second-level analysis of, “Well, is looking for bugs really what I should be doing with my time as a child? Nobody else wants to look for bugs, does that mean there’s something wrong with me? How will looking for bugs affect my future prospects?”  There was no bullshit. If you liked something, you just did it.


Germany's oldest student, 102, gets PhD denied by Nazis

By Damien McGuinness

BBC News, Berlin - 9 June 2015

A 102-year-old German woman has become the world's oldest person to be awarded a doctorate on Tuesday, almost 80 years after the Nazis prevented her from sitting her final exam.  Ingeborg Rapoport (then Syllm) finished her medical studies in 1937 and wrote her doctoral thesis on diphtheria - a serious problem in Germany at the time.  But because of Nazi oppression she has had to wait almost eight decades before being awarded her PhD.  Her mother was a Jewish pianist.  So, under Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic race laws, Ingeborg was refused entry to the final oral exam. She had written confirmation from Hamburg University that she would have received her doctorate "if the applicable laws did not prohibit Ms Syllm's admission to the doctoral exam due to her ancestry".


1150 Free Online Courses from Top Universities


Get 1150 free online courses from the world’s leading universities —  Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford and more. You can download these audio & video courses (often from iTunes, YouTube, or university web sites) straight to your computer or mp3 player. Over 30,000 hours of free audio & video lectures, await you now.


Turks Clash With Kurds in Tokyo, at Least 4 Injured

SPUTNIK - 25.10.2015

At least four people were injured in scuffle between Turks and Kurds near the Turkish embassy in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, local media reported Sunday.  MOSCOW (Sputnik) — According to the Japanese NHK broadcaster, some 600 Turkish citizens both of Turkish and Kurdish origin came to the embassy to participate in the snap parliamentary elections.     
Brawl between Turks and Kurds outside turkish embassy in Tokyo this morning. pic.twitter.com/3uapgsq6eV     — Tom Wilson (@tomwilson1983) 25 октября 2015  Soon after the clashes broke out, Japanese police arrived at the accident site and took actions to reconcile the rival groups.


What America’s immigrants looked like when they arrived on Ellis Island

By Ana Swanson

THE WASHINGTON POST - October 24, 2015

We hear so often that America is "a nation of immigrants" or a "cultural mixing pot" that the phrase has become kind of a tired cliche. But actually seeing that history is a different story. The fascinating photographs below -- of people in their native costume passing through Ellis Island in the early 20th Century -- hint at just how incredible and unique America's history is as a nation of immigrants.
These photos were taken by Augustus Sherman, an amateur photographer who worked as the chief registry clerk on Ellis Island from 1892 until 1925. Sherman snapped these photographs of people passing through customs in their native costume. They were published in National Geographic in 1907 and once hung on the walls in the headquarters of the federal Immigration Service in Manhattan, according to the Public Domain Review. They are now housed by the New York Public Library.


1906-1912 Ellis Island portraits

The faces that became America 

by Alex Q. Arbuckle


First opened in 1892, the immigration station at Ellis Island in New York harbor processed more than 12 million immigrants before being closed in 1954.  At the station's peak in 1907, more than one million immigrants passed through in a single year, with 3,000 to 5,000 entering every day, mostly from Europe and its periphery.  While most entrants to Ellis Island answered a few questions and passed through to the mainland within a few hours, some were detained on the island for longer periods.  Augustus Francis Sherman was the chief registry clerk at Ellis Island, and an avid amateur photographer. He had special access to the immigrants who were temporarily detained while waiting on escorts, money or travel tickets.  Sherman persuaded many of these immigrants to pose for his camera, encouraging them to put on their finest clothes or national dress.  His photographs, captioned simply with the subject’s place of origin, were published in National Geographic in 1907 and hung for many years in the headquarters of the Federal Immigration Service.


Immigration Through Ellis Island - Award Winning Documentary Video Film

The untold history of Iran

Blair, the Iraq War and me

How my doctoral thesis was used by Tony Blair's government to concoct a credible public case to invade Iraq in 2003. 

AL-JAZEERA - 25 Oct 2015

Ibrahim Al-Marashi

How was I, a PhD student at Oxford University in 2003, linked to Tony Blair, the case for the Iraq War, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email affair?
For the first time, Blair has apologised for his role in the Iraq War, just a week after the UK Daily Mail reported on a recently released memo by Colin Powell, dated a year before the Iraq war of 2003. That memo reveals how I would become connected to a political controversy that continues to this day in the UK. The timing of this released memo in the US and Blair's apology on Fareed Zakaria's CNN programme coincides with the anticipated release of the Chilcot Inquiry report, an investigation that has been going for several years into the circumstances that led the UK into the Iraq war.


China's Yantai Xinchao to buy U.S. oilfields for $1.3 bln

REUTERS - Sun Oct 25, 2015

Oct 25 China's Yantai Xinchao Industry Co Ltd has agreed to spend about 8.3 billion yuan ($1.31 billion) to buy oilfields in the U.S. state of Texas, the company said in a corporate filing late on Saturday.
The oilfields, in Howard and Borden counties, will be bought from Tall City Exploration LLC and Plymouth Petroleum LLC, Xinchao said in the filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
The transaction has aready been approved by the U.S. Treasury's Committee on Foreign Investment, it added. ($1 = 6.3488 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Meng Meng; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore


The Bizarre, Dangerous Worldview of Kissinger and Washington

The Cairo Review Of the Global Affairs - October 25, 2015 

Rami G. Khouri

In an important op-ed article published earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Henry Kissinger provided a fascinating window into the foreign policy mindset of American officialdom that he has so consistently mirrored for nearly half a century now. His important article, entitled “A Path out of the Middle East Collapse,” captures concisely two things that the world should grasp about American foreign policy—especially in the Middle East, where it has been actively engaged in warfare for over a quarter of a century, as its relations and interests frayed.
Rather than offering any path out of anywhere, Kissinger inadvertently clarifies the American role in the path that has brought the Middle East to this point of turbulence, violence, and occasional state contraction or collapse. I see several main problems in the text—and in the official American mindset in Washington that it reflects.


Iran’s last Shah - the fifth estate

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Inside Iran’s Revolutionary Courts

By Jenny Norton

BBC World Service - 17 October 2015

After Iran's Islamic Revolution secretive courts were set up to try suspected ideological opponents of the regime, with no jury, no defence lawyers and often no evidence beyond a confession extracted from the defendant by means of torture. Those who survived them still bear the psychological scars today.  In the living room of their flat in Calgary, Canada, Shoreh Roshani and her mother Parvin are watching a flickering video. Shoreh has her arm around her mother, and both women are weeping softly.  The grainy footage, which only recently came to light, is of a trial in 1981 and shows the final hours in the life of Shoreh's father, Sirus.  Shortly after it ended, he and the other six defendants were taken away and shot.


Mercedes-Benz Production Factory Bremen