“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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Deals Activists Through the Decades: From the 1600s to Carl Icahn

By David Benoit


The famed activist investors of today are fine-tuning 400-year-old tactics.
Shareholder fights with management stretch back all the way to the very first publicly-traded company, The Dutch East India Co., when shareholders tried to fight against a restructuring in the 1622.
The dissident investors, who had little control over how the company was run, used published pamphlets to court public opinion and campaigned for a say in who became directors, arguing the structure of the firm resulted in conflicts of interest.
The shareholders eventually won rights they hadn’t had before. And pockets of shareholder uprisings have occurred ever since.


Choices for America in a Turbulent World Strategic Rethink

by James Dobbins, Richard H. Solomon, Michael S. Chase, Ryan Henry, F. Stephen Larrabee, Robert J. Lempert, Andrew Liepman, Jeffrey Martini, David Ochmanek, Howard J. Shatz

RAND Corporation - 2015

This book is the first of a series in which RAND will explore the elements of a national strategy for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy in a fast-changing world. Here, we lay out the major choices facing the next American administration both globally and in three critical regions. The initial chapters lay out alternatives for managing the world economy and the national defense, countering international terrorism, handling conflict in the cyber domain, and dealing with climate change. Subsequent chapters examine in more detail the choices to be faced in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. The final section proposes broad strategic guidelines that can inform and guide these choices.
Later volumes will develop further particular aspects of such a national strategy, including national defense, alliances and partnerships, institutional reform of the American system for managing national security, climate change, surprise and the role of intelligence in reducing it, and the global economy.


The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050

PEW RESEARCH - April 2, 2015 

Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest and the Unaffiliated Are Shrinking as a Share of the World’s Population

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 …
  • The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
  • Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
  • Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
These are among the global religious trends highlighted in new demographic projections by the Pew Research Center. The projections take into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration and patterns in conversion.


A New Century for the Middle East

BY Jeffrey D. Sachs


NEW YORK – The United States, the European Union, and Western-led institutions such as the World Bank repeatedly ask why the Middle East can’t govern itself. The question is asked honestly but without much self-awareness. After all, the single most important impediment to good governance in the region has been its lack of self-governance: The region’s political institutions have been crippled as a result of repeated US and European intervention dating back to World War I, and in some places even earlier.  One century is enough. The year 2016 should mark the start of a new century of homegrown Middle Eastern politics focused urgently on the challenges of sustainable development. Support Project Syndicate’s mission  Project Syndicate needs your help to provide readers everywhere equal access to the ideas and debates shaping their lives. Learn more  The Middle East’s fate during the last 100 years was cast in November 1914, when the Ottoman Empire chose the losing side in World War I. The result was the empire’s dismantling, with the victorious powers, Britain and France, grabbing hegemonic control over its remnants. Britain, already in control of Egypt since 1882, took effective control of governments in today’s Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, and Saudi Arabia, while France, already in control of much of North Africa, took control of Lebanon and Syria.


Happy aging needs realism, action, and fun

Robert Holzmann

BROOKINGS | December 14, 2015

Bad news sells well. So demographic projections that suggest that the world’s population under most scenarios will continue increasing and becoming older provide fodder for professional doomsayers. Indeed, without changing policies the demographic challenge risks turning into a global disaster at economic, social, and other levels. Population aging is likely the most important socioeconomic change since the dawn of mankind, the importance of which equals that of climate change. Yet some visionaries propose turning the projected demographic trend into an opportunity—they see this very new phenomenon not as a wave that can be ducked (it can’t), but as process that needs to be proactively managed with appropriate policies.
Population aging has two sources—increased life expectancy and decreased fertility rates.  Life expectancy at birth has been constant at about 30 years for thousands of generations. In the 18th century it started to increase, first in some industrializing countries and then across the world, and the trend of the frontier in life expectancy is linear since 1840, albeit with some exceptions (as seen recently for white males in the United States). A similar historic pattern is seen in the sustained fall in the fertility rate, which contributes temporarily to population aging if converging to above the reproduction level, and permanently if it falls below.


Under-represented, underpaid, and over-exploited: economic policy remains sexist


Gender inequality exists in the UK, despite half a century’s worth of efforts to the contrary, argues Diane Perrons, co-director of the LSE’s Commission on Gender, Inequality and Power. She writes that the gender pay gap has declined, but men continue to be over-represented among full-time workers and in high-paid jobs, while women are at a greater risk of poverty. She argues that gender-sensitive macroeconomic policies and gender-responsive budgeting are some of the changes that will help avoid another century slipping by without us achieving gender equality.
Despite nearly 50 years of policy effort, the UK is still a long way from eradicating gender inequality. There has been progress on many fronts, but women are still far from prominent in political life; they are trivialized in the media; under-represented, underpaid and over-exploited in the labour market; and at risk of violence in the home.
Furthermore, there is evidence of backsliding. On the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, the UK has fallen from 13th position in 2008 to 18th in 2015. These challenges are further complicated by the way that gender intersects with a wider range of identity factors including class, race, ethnicity and citizenship status. The LSE Commission on Gender, Inequality and Power focused on all these issues, resulting in our report, Confronting Gender Inequality. This blog focuses on the economy.


The Islamic State

Authors: Zachary Laub, Online Writer/Editor, and Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor

CFR - November 16, 2015

The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a militant movement that has conquered territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, where it has made a bid to establish a state in territories that encompass some six and a half million residents. Though spawned by al-Qaeda’s Iraq franchise, it split with Osama bin Laden’s organization and evolved to not just employ terrorist and insurgent tactics, but the more conventional ones of an organized militia.  In June 2014, after seizing territories in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the Islamic State proclaimed itself a caliphate, claiming exclusive political and theological authority over the world’s Muslims. Its state-building project, however, has been characterized more by extreme violence, justified by references to the Prophet Mohammed’s early followers, than institution building. Widely publicized battlefield successes have attracted thousands of foreign recruits, a particular concern of Western intelligence.  The United States has led an air campaign to try to roll back the Islamic State’s advances, and a series of terrorist attacks outside of Iraq and Syria in late 2015 that were attributed to the group spurred an escalation in international intervention. The U.S.-led coalition has worked with Iraqi national security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq; some of those forces have also worked with Shia militias. In Syria, a small number of U.S. Special Operations Forces have embedded with some opposition forces. Meanwhile, militant groups from North and West Africa to South Asia have professed allegiance to the Islamic State.


Graduate Student Summer Associate Program

The 2016 application period is now open!
Applications can be submitted from October 15, 2015 through January 5, 2016.

About the Program

RAND's Summer Associate Program introduces outstanding graduate students to RAND, an institution that conducts research on a wide range of national security problems and domestic and international social policy issues. RAND's core research areas include:
The program receives about 600 applications each year for the 40+ positions. The selection process is based on matching Summer Associates and their specific skill sets with researchers and their project needs. Given the ever changing research climate, we often do not know which projects may require Summer Associates until the beginning of the year.
The program runs in the summer months only. Summer Associates work at RAND full-time for a 12-week period. Positions are available in RAND's major U.S. offices — Santa Monica, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, and Boston. All Summer Associates are collocated with project mentors. The location of the project mentor determines the location of the Summer Associate. Students receive bi-weekly compensation and are given the opportunity to conduct research that can be completed during the summer they are at RAND. The summer earnings for 2016 will be approximately $13,500 (before taxes) for the 12 weeks of full-time research.

Dictionary of Xi Jinping's New Terms

People's Daily Online - December 29, 2015

It has been another busy year for Chinese President Xi Jinping. Important speeches he made in conferences, investigations and state visits set the tone for China's reform,development agenda and diplomacy. Let's have a look at some of the new terms he used in 2015 that have the most influence.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, delivers an important speech at the fifth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 13, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
Political discipline and rules
Political discipline and rules exist to enable CPC cadres to defend the authority of the CPC Central Committee. Cadres must follow these rules, aligning themselves with the committee in deed and thought, at all times and in any situation.
Rural flavor
The new rural construction should conform to the reality and law of development in rural areas. The rural flavor and landscape should be retained, and the natural environment and local culture protected.
Four comprehensives
The strategy consists of comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively driving reform to a deeper level, comprehensively governing the country in accordance with the law, and comprehensively enforcing strict Party discipline.
Critical minority
We will seize the critical minority of top cadres to promote rule by law across the nation.


Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life?

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life. 

I have one of the best jobs in academia. Here's why I'm walking away

By Oliver Lee

VOX - September 8, 2015

My grandmother worked in a school cafeteria. My mother taught second grade. Nearly two decades ago, I resolved to enter public education, too, but with plans to rise even higher. I would become a college professor, advancing the scholarship of my discipline, free from the petty bureaucratic concerns that hamstrung my mother's career. From 1998 until 2012, I pursued that objective with extraordinary focus. I graduated from college at 19. I went to law school and passed the bar exam. At 24, I was admitted to the history PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh. There, I made connections with brilliant academics, won prestigious fellowships and grants, and, at the age of 29, just five years after starting graduate school, I landed a tenure-track job.  I can't understate how rare this opportunity is: Tenure-track jobs at large state universities are few and far between. Landing one without serving a postdoctoral appointment or working as a visiting assistant professor is about as likely as landing a spot on an NBA team with a walk-on tryout — minus the seven-figure salary, naturally.


Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed”

The Salon - Monday, Dec 28, 2015 

Reagan embarrassed himself in news conferences, Cabinet meetings. Recalling how GOP cringed at his lack of interest

William Leuchtenburg

No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed. At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. On one occasion, asked why he advocated putting missiles in vulnerable places, he responded, his face registering bewilderment, “I don’t know but what maybe you haven’t gotten into the area that I’m going to turn over to the secretary of defense.” Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. “Doing everything we can,” she whispered. “Doing everything we can,” the president echoed. To be sure, his detractors sometimes exaggerated his ignorance. The publication of his radio addresses of the 1950s revealed a considerable command of facts, though in a narrow range. But nothing suggested profundity. “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts,” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”
In all fields of public affairs—from diplomacy to the economy—the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.” The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully,” Congressman Jim Wright of Texas acknowledged. “But he never knew frijoles from pralines about the substantive facts of issues.” Some thought him to be not only ignorant but, in the word of a former CIA director, “stupid.” Clark Clifford called the president an “amiable dunce,” and the usually restrained columnist David Broder wrote, “The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan’s ears is a challenging one for his aides.”


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Das Experiment Trailer

Stanford Prison Experiment - ORIGINAL FOOTAGE

Spain holds most open election for decades

BBC - December 20, 2015

Spaniards are to go to the polls in a landmark election that will see more than two parties compete for power for the first time in decades.  Newcomers Podemos, an anti-austerity party, and Citizens, a liberal party, are challenging the ruling Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists.  Opinion polls have put Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's PP narrowly ahead.  While he has been in power, Spain has emerged from a financial crisis into a period of economic growth.  The conservative PP currently has a majority in Spain's lower house of parliament. However, the BBC's Tom Burridge in Madrid says both Podemos and Citizens look set to take a take a large chunk of the vote, ending the power monopoly of Spain's traditional heavyweights.  It is almost certain that no party will get a majority of MPs in the parliament, our correspondent says, meaning some form of coalition will have to be agreed before a government can be formed.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Edward Said Lecture Series at Maltepe University

In a Pomegranate Chandelier

BY T.J. Clark

LONDON  REVIEW OF BOOKS - Vol. 28 No. 18 · 21 September 2006
  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson
    Verso, 240 pp, £12.99, September 2006, ISBN 1 84467 086 4
  • Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination by Benedict Anderson
    Verso, 224 pp, £14.99, January 2006, ISBN 1 84467 037 6
Writers only pretend to be embarrassed at the small fame a book sometimes brings them, but there is nothing assumed about the irritation they can feel at having a new line of argument, and a universe of unfamiliar examples, reduced to a single phrase. Great titles are especially dangerous. Imagined Communities is one of the greatest, and I shall be arguing that the cluster of concepts it sums up deserves still to be central to our thinking about the world. But it is understandable, and touching, that the first footnote to Benedict Anderson’s afterword to his new edition should read, in explanation of the trimming of the title in his text: ‘Aside from the advantages of brevity, IC restfully occludes a pair of words from which the vampires of banality have by now sucked almost all the blood.’
Night has fallen, and I gather my cloak about me. Part of the force of Imagined Communities as a title – as an idea – comes from the way the two words immediately set the reader wondering whether they are meant as oxymoronic, and if they are, with what degree of irony or regret. The words bring to mind the true strangeness, but also the centrality, of the human will to be connected with others ‘of one’s kind’ whom one will never meet, and never know. Connected with them in the present, by blood or language or difference from a common enemy (or combinations of all three); and connected through time by a shared belonging to something that seems to emerge from a steadier, thicker, more grounded past and be on its way to an indestructible, maybe redeeming future.


China’s plan to ‘liberate’ a cradle of Tibetan culture

By Emily Rauhala 

THE WASHINGTON POST - December 14, 2015

— Two photographs grace the walls of the Tibetan farmer’s home. In the courtyard, affixed with silver tacks: Xi Jinping, smiling. Inside, by the light of a yak butter candle: the Dalai Lama in monk’s robes.
Here, in a region called Qinghai in Chinese and Amdo in Tibetan, in a town known as Tongren or Rebkong, depending on whom you ask, things exist in disparate pairs: Two portraits. Two languages. A public face and a private heart.
Even that, it seems, is not enough.
Local officials this year issued a 20-point notice that reaches ever further into the lives of Tibetans here in what’s long been a cradle of Tibetan culture, a thriving monastery town where people proudly speak their native tongue and tout the artists who paint scrolls called thangkas.


The French elite: where it went wrong Simon Kuper

By Simon Kuper

FINANCIAL TIMES -  May 10, 2013

The French Stalinist Maurice Thorez spent the second world war in Moscow, where he called himself “Ivanov”. When France was liberated, he came home and entered government. After Charles de Gaulle stepped down as French leader in 1946, Thorez picked up one of the general’s pet projects: the creation of a school, the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, to train the new republic’s top bureaucrats. This caste, Thorez must have thought, was the “vanguard of the proletariat” that Lenin had always talked about. ENA has since produced countless members of the French political and financial elite, culminating in President François Hollande.  Elite-bashing in France dates back to the guillotine but the “énarques” and their buddies are currently at an all-time low. Within a single year, governments of both right and left have become despised. France has record unemployment. Elite scandals keep coming (most recently, around the budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, with his secret Swiss bank account). Something has gone horribly wrong for Thorez’s caste.


UN experts find level of discrimination against women in US “shocking”

By Dr. Stefan Grobe 

EURONEWS - 14/12/15

The discrimination against women in the United States is worse than in most developed countries, according to findings of a United Nations expert group.  “The US, which is a leading state in formulating international human rights standards, is allowing women to lag behind,” said the human rights monitors, composing the UN expert group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, at the end of an official visit to the country.


Listen to Me Marlon Official Trailer 1 (2015) - Marlon Brando Documentary HD

Wealthy philanthropists shouldn't impose their idea of common good on us

Joanne Barkan


Almost all multibillionaire philanthropists in the United States set up tax-exempt, grant-making, private foundations when they want to make the world a better place. Not Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. They plan to give away their fortune gradually over the course of their lifetimes, but they’ll do so through a for-profit corporation.  There’s a simple explanation why: private foundations in the US cannot engage in political activity; they cannot campaign for or contribute to candidates for public office or lobby legislators; with limited exceptions, they cannot fund for-profit organizations. By funding their philanthropic work outside the confines of foundation law, Chan and Zuckerberg reserve the right to do all of these. According to their Facebook post: “The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will pursue its mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates”.


Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen The Huthi Phenomenon

by Barak Salmoni, Bryce Loidolt, Madeleine Wells

RAND - 2010

For nearly six years, the government of Yemen has conducted military operations north of the capital against groups of its citizens known as “Huthis.” In spite of using all means at its disposal, the government has been unable to subdue the Huthi movement. Along with southern discontent and al-Qa'ida-inspired terrorism, the Huthi conflict presents an enduring threat to the stability of Yemen and the regime of its president. This book presents an in-depth look at the conflict in all its sociocultural, political, and military aspects. Basing their research on a wide variety of sources, both Western and non-Western, the authors provide a history of the Huthi movement and its origins in the Zaydi branch of Islam. They discuss the various stages of the conflict in detail and map out its possible future trajectories. In spite of a recent ceasefire, the 2009-2010 round of fighting, featuring Saudi involvement and Iranian rhetorical condemnation of Saudi-Yemeni actions, points to the conflict becoming transnational and increasingly sectarian. These developments run contrary to the interests of the United States and its friends in the region, as they seek to combat al-Qa'ida-related threats and build Yemeni capacity.


Islamophobia and Black American Muslims

Margari Hill

HUFFINGTON POST - 12/16/2015

Twenty years ago, I stood nervously in front of a group of reporters. The bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma killed 168 people, including 19 children, shook the entire nation. Our local chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took the lead in pushing back against the Islamophobia in media coverage and organized the press conference. The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) had only been established a year before in Washington and their advocacy work had not reached our community in Northern California. In the decades that followed, CAIR has expanded across the country, as Muslim led initiatives have taken the reigns in combatting Islamophobia through political advocacy, interfaith outreach, and education.
And during this time, it has become increasingly rare to see Black American Muslims, and even rarer to see Black American Muslim women, in media or in decision-making capacity in these national efforts. The erasure of Black American Muslims undermines efforts towards developing a unified front in the face of our greatest threat. Groups working in the field must take into account the ways in which their anti-islamophobia work alienates Black American Muslims.


The case for working less


Rather than ‘more work’, David Spencer argues that the pursuit of less work could provide a route to a better standard of life, including a better quality of work life. Reducing work time can be as much about realising the intrinsic rewards of work as reducing its burdensome qualities. It would also allow work to be shared more evenly across the available population, overcoming the anomaly of overwork for some and unemployment for others.
The focus of conventional employment policy is on creating ‘more work’. People without work and in receipt of benefits are viewed as a drain on the state and in need of assistance or direct coercion to get them into work. There is the belief that work is the best form of welfare and that those who are able to work ought to work. This particular focus on work has come at the expense of another, far more radical policy goal, that of creating ‘less work’. Yet, as I will argue below, the pursuit of less work could provide a route to a better standard of life, including a better quality of work life.
The idea that society might work less in order to enjoy life more goes against standard thinking that celebrates the virtue and discipline of hard work. Dedication to work, so the argument goes, is the best route to prosperity. There is also the idea that work offers the opportunity for self-realisation, adding to the material benefits from work. ‘Do what you love’ in work, we are told, and success will follow.


2nd Ld-Writethru: China strongly opposes U.S. arms sale to Taiwan

ICROSS CHINA - 2015-12-17

BEIJING, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- China's Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang on Wednesday summoned Kaye Lee, charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in China, and made solemn representations to the United States over its arms sale to Taiwan. Zheng made the statement shortly after the U.S. administration announced a 1.83-billion-U.S.-dollar arms sale package for Taiwan. "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. China strongly opposes the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan," Zheng said. The arms sale severely goes against international law and the basic norms of international relations, severely goes against the principles in the three China-U.S. joint communiques, and severely harms China's sovereignty and security interests, he said.


Is That Cappuccino You’re Drinking Really a Cappuccino?


THE NEW YORK TIMES - September 29, 2015

What if the cappuccino you had this morning was not, in fact, a cappuccino? Scary. More worrisome still: What if your flat white was?
There was a time when cappuccino was easy to identify. It was a shot of espresso with steamed milk and a meringue-like milk foam on top. But now the onetime king of specialty coffee drinks is having a bit of an identity crisis.
Even among experts, there is considerable disagreement concerning what exactly a cappuccino is, with some of those in the know focusing on the size of the drink as its distinguishing characteristic.
“In the U.S., cappuccino are small, medium and large, and that actually doesn’t exist,” the food and coffee writer Oliver Strand said. “Cappuccino is basically a four-ounce drink.”


Eat Drink Man Woman - Official Trailer

The Turco-Russian Crisis: Erdogan vs. Putin

By Bulent Aliriza     Contributor: Ali, Uslu    

CSIS - Dec 16, 2015

During the morning of November 24 the semi-official Anatolia News Agency quoted “Turkish presidential sources” in reporting that “Turkish jets shot down a warplane believed to be a Russian-type SU-24 after it violated the Turkish air space. The incident happened near Turkey’s southern border with Syria.” Confirmation quickly followed that one of two Russian aircraft on a bombing mission against Syrian Turkmens, backed by Ankara against the Assad regime, was shot down by a Turkish fighter aircraft as it traversed the southernmost tip of the Turkish province of Hatay for 17 seconds before crashing in Syria.


The U.N. Sent 3 Foreign Women To The U.S. To Assess Gender Equality. They Were Horrified.

The human rights experts concluded that the country falls far behind most others.

Laura Bassett

HUFFINGTON POST - 12/15/2015

A delegation of human rights experts from Poland, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica spent 10 days this month touring the United States so they can prepare a report on the nation's overall treatment of women. The three women, who lead a United Nations working group on discrimination against women, visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon to evaluate a wide range of U.S. policies and attitudes, as well as school, health and prison systems.
The delegates were appalled by the lack of gender equality in America. They found the U.S. to be lagging far behind international human rights standards in a number of areas, including its 23 percent gender pay gap, maternity leave, affordable child care and the treatment of female migrants in detention centers.
The most telling moment of the trip, the women told reporters on Friday, was when they visited an abortion clinic in Alabama and experienced the hostile political climate around women's reproductive rights.


Who Represents the World’s Tyrants and Torturers in Washington?

The hired guns who advocate for the world’s worst human rights abusers.

By Erin Quinn

THE SLATE - DEC 17, 2015

After growing up in a country with limited freedoms and an oppressive government, Tutu Alicante still wasn’t prepared when he heard about a violent clash between the military and young men who had organized a protest in his hometown of Annobón, Equatorial Guinea.  Alicante, who was living in the capital city, remembers learning in August 1993 that the military, known for cracking down on political dissidents, detained and tortured the protesters. A protester and bystander were killed, as reported in a State Department document.  The military went looking for Alicante’s cousin at his cousin’s home. When he wasn’t found, they burned the house down. When Alicante’s father told him that there was nothing they could do, he resolved to bring about change from afar.  Four months later, Alicante left for the United States and became a human rights lawyer. Upon launching an organization to promote Equatoguinean human rights, the nation’s president labeled him a “national traitor.” Knowing that the fate of human rights activists in Equatorial Guinea is typically imprisonment or worse, Alicante considers his repatriation inconceivable. In the United States, meanwhile, he’s encountered well-funded efforts to protect and polish the image of Equatorial Guinea’s government.


Derrida: On The Private Lives of Philosophers

How the Human Rights Industry Undermines Palestinian Liberation

By: Budour Hassan

TELESURTV - 10 December 2015

The establishment of the Palestinian Authority following the signing of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the PLO ushered structural transformations in Palestinian politics, society, and struggle.  The struggle for liberation was then transformed into a diplomatic quest for statehood on 22 percent of Palestinian land; the revolution was hijacked and the Palestinian masses were gradually sidelined from political action and public space altogether. If the first Palestinian Intifada had constituted the culmination of people’s engagement in mass politics and direct action, the decades that succeeded it saw the exact opposite. People were dragged to the margins, stripped of their agency, and turned into spectators as a small elite was negotiating on their behalf by exploiting their sacrifices and claiming to be their sole legitimate representative.  The new era required the formation of a new normative framework, the adoption of a new discourse, and the introduction of an entirely different vocabulary and lexicon. All of this was necessary to complete the transition from revolution to state building and the development of the neoliberal process under occupation and continued colonization and land theft by Israel. 


Are Droids Slaves?

In Star Wars, droids aren’t robots or comic relief—they’re chattel Share Tweet Email Still from Return of the Jedi  Still from Return of the Jedi 

By Jonathan V. Last   


I always hated the Jawas.
As a kid, the Jawas weren’t scary the way Stormtroopers or Darth Vader were. But there was something unsettling about them. The Tusken Raiders might have been primitive savages who tried to kill Luke Skywalker—who, back then, was my hero—but the Jawas seemed worse. A little bit evil, even. The feeling was so pronounced that in the dozens of times I watched A New Hope as a child, the massacre of the Jawas never roused even a beat of sympathy in me. It was the opposite, actually. Every time C-3PO piled the Jawa carcasses into a funeral pyre, a little part of me thought, Good riddance. They got what they had coming. But I never understood why I felt that way.
Then I grew up. I came to understand that George Lucas’s trilogy had a lot of moral confusion in it. I realized that the Empire is actually the force for good in Star Wars. I realized that the Jedi were actually contemptible and that the series can easily be read as following the radicalization of a young terrorist. I even realized that the destruction of Alderaan was not only justified, but prudent.


Polish military police raid Nato centre in Warsaw

Julian Borger  

THE GUARDIAN - Friday 18 December 2015 

Polish military police have raided a Nato-affiliated counterintelligence centre in Warsaw in the latest of a series of moves by the country’s new rightwing government to consolidate its hold on power.
The raid took place at 1.30am on Friday at the temporary offices of the Nato Counter Intelligence Centre of Excellence. According to the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, senior aides of Antoni Macierewicz, the defence minister, accompanied by military police, entered the building using a duplicate key.
The centre’s night staff called the director, Col Krzysztof Dusza, but he was prevented from entering. A defence ministry spokesman said Dusza had not responded to an order to step down from the post.
Any such change of management was supposed to have been a matter of consultation with Nato and the Slovak government, which is a partner in the centre. Neither Nato nor Slovak officials could confirm whether any such consultation had taken place.


Chinese, ‪Thai‬ leaders exchange congratulatory messages on commencement of joint railway project

English.news.cn | 2015-12-19
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Thai counterpart, Prayuth Chan-ocha, sent each other congratulatory messages Saturday on the formal commencement of a project of ‪#‎China‬-‪#‎Thailand‬ cooperation in railway construction.
Li said in his message that the launch of China-Thai cooperation in railway construction meets the needs and common interests of development of both nations and is of important significance to promoting regional interconnectivity and mutual access.
While encouraging the two sides to continue their efforts in ensuring smooth implementation of the project, Li expressed the hope that fulfillment of the project will lay a foundation for an early opening to the traffic of a "great artery" connecting China, Laos and Thailand, so as to promote common development in the region and bring benefit to the people.
Acknowledging that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Thailand, Li said China is willing to join hands with Thailand in making concerted efforts in this endeavor, and keep expanding and deepening mutually beneficial and practical cooperation between the two countries, with bilateral cooperation in the railway construction project as a new starting point,to promote the China-Thailand friendly relations to a new height.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

30-Story Building Built In 15 Days (Time Lapse)

Beijing's Sanyuan Bridge to Be Retrofitted within 43 Hours


A Map of Intellectual Talent in the Early-20th-Century United States

By Rebecca Onion


In the November 1904 issue of the general-interest publication the Century magazine, writer Gustave Michaud published an article titled "The Brain of the Nation." Using the 1901 edition of Who's Who in America, Michaud mapped birthplaces of the men included in the directory and came up with these graphic representations of "The Distribution of Men of Talent."
Michaud wrote that the Who's Who likely selected for "geniuses" over "practical men," adding: "Intellectuality is the main characteristic of the man of genius; intelligence, that of the man who succeeds at life." The births he mapped here were of these "geniuses," or people who had succeeded in idealistic professions: artist, scientist, author.
Michaud, who had some scientific training and often wrote for Scientific American, published an argument for eugenic selection in human reproduction in Popular Science in 1908, and the second half of this article is full of eugenic speculation. Michaud, like many of his contemporaries, was interested in figuring out ways to maximize what he perceived as the most important human characteristics.


Slumdog Millionaire Trailer (HD)

Death By Coconut: A Story Of Food Obsession Gone Too Far

NPR - December 4, 2015

The coconut has developed a bit of a faddish following in the West.
Today, devotees add coconut oil to coffee, dab it on acne and, following Gwyneth Paltrow's example, swirl it around in their mouths to fight tooth decay. Starbucks has launched a coconut-milk latte. And the coconut-water business has surged to $400 million, with a little help from Madonna and Rihanna.
No one would be more delighted at the coconut's rising star than August Engelhardt, a sun-worshipping German nudist and history's most radical cocovore.
From 1902 to 1919, Engelhardt lived on a beautiful South Pacific island, eating nothing but the fruit of Cocos nucifera, which he believed was the panacea for all mankind's woes. Except that a coconut mono-diet proved to be a terrible idea. At the end of his life, der Kokovore was reduced to a mentally ill, rheumatic, severely malnourished sack of bones with ulcers on his legs. He was only 44.
Engelhardt was resurrected from near-oblivion by Swiss writer Christian Kracht's marvelous 2012 novel, Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas, which fictionalizes the German cocovore's bizarre and poignant story. The English translation by Daniel Bowles was published this year in the U.S. to fine reviews.


BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2016 results announced

China remains BRICS superpower, while several nations make their debut in extended top 200 table


China has reinforced its dominance in the Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2016, claiming half of the top 10 places.
Beijing-based Peking and Tsinghua universities have taken the top two spots for the third year in a row, while the University of Science and Technology of China, Zhejiang University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University rank seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively.
Overall, China is the most-represented nation, with 39 institutions in the extended top 200 list of higher education institutions in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and 30 other “emerging economies”.
The other BRICS nations have also performed well this year, albeit to a lesser extent, with 14 Brazilian and 15 Russian institutions, including Lomonosov Moscow State University in third place, featuring in the table.
India is the third most-represented nation in the list, behind China and Taiwan, but is the only BRICS nation without a university in the top 10. The Indian Institute of Science leads the country’s 16 institutions in 16th place.
Although South Africa has just six universities represented, it is the only country outside China with more than one institution in the top 10; the University of Cape Town is fourth and the University of the Witwatersrand is sixth. Stellenbosch University lies just outside this elite group in 11th place.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

BRICS and Chains: Creating a “Common Information Space”

David Bandurski

DECEMBER 2, 2015

On Monday and Tuesday this week, as a noxious cloud of pollution sat across a broad swathe of northern China, the country’s immense environmental challenges made international headlines, even as China’s president attended climate talks in Paris. The irony, not at all lost on Chinese, was a sore point for propaganda officials. They scrambled against all odds to position the story, purging snide posts on social networks and pushing knottier questions, like why the government hadn’t issued a “red alert,” onto trusted state news sources, like the official Xinhua News Agency.  Meanwhile, at the headquarters of Xinhua News Agency, just two blocks west of Tiananmen Square, media representatives from the world’s five emerging national economies, known collectively as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), gathered to discuss — according to their Chinese hosts — how to strengthen the “international discourse power” of the member nations. They claimed — in any case, their hosts claimed — to “support the voices of the developing world.”