“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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How America’s Top Industries Have Changed, 1990-2013

By Rani Molla 

The Wall Street Journal - July 28, 2014

The U.S.’s most dominant industries look a lot different than they did less than 25 years ago. From 1990 to 2013, the top industries by employment have changed from mostly manufacturing to mostly health-care and social-assistance jobs in the majority of states, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analysis of its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The states where retail jobs were most prevalent were located mostly in the West in 1990 and now reside predominantly in the Southeast.


According to the Labor Department, “The largest increase in healthcare and social assistance employment in the states occurred in 2009, as retail trade, manufacturing, and other industries showed declines with the onset of the most recent recession.” Health care surpassed manufacturing in number of jobs in 2004.

READ MORE.....

Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind

By Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

BBC -  2 December 2014 

Stephen Hawking: "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded"
Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain's pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence.
He told the BBC:"The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."
His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.
But others are less gloomy about AI's prospects.
The theoretical physicist, who has the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is using a new system developed by Intel to speak.
Machine learning experts from the British company Swiftkey were also involved in its creation. Their technology, already employed as a smartphone keyboard app, learns how the professor thinks and suggests the words he might want to use next.
Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.

READ MORE....

When will man become machine?

By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter

BBC News  - 27 December 2014   

"I think the development of full artificial intelligence [AI] could spell the end of the human race."
Professor Stephen Hawking's verdict on AI in a recent BBC interview wasn't exactly good news for the rest of us.
"Once humans develop AI it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded," he said.
Machines can already "outlive" the humble human many times over, according to tech editor, investor and author Michael S Malone who grew up in Silicon Valley.
"Every living thing has one billion heartbeats in its lifetime," he told the BBC.
"The modern micro processor goes through the equivalent of 5-10 billion operations per second.

READ MORE.....

China Focus: Property sector, farewell to "golden era"

English.news.cn - 2014-12-30

BEIJING, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- After years of breath-taking expansion, China's property sector is finally cooling down. However, buying a house is still an unaffordable option for Lyu Haoran, a post-1990 graduate in the western city of Lanzhou.
Lyu, 24, grew up during China's most prosperous decade. He now faces a housing market where ballooning prices make it harder for young people to buy a home.
The property sector has been an important driver of growth in the world's second-largest economy for most of the past decade, as housing prices soared and construction of new apartments mushroomed across the country.
"I cannot afford one now. I don't want to sacrifice the quality of my life just to afford an apartment, even if I have sufficient savings to pay the down payment," Lyu said. "Home-ownership is not my top priority and it seems not so important for our generation as it used to be for our parents."
A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) confirmed the change in the mind-set of young Chinese, most of those born in the 1990s like Lyu.


READ MORE....

The death of universities

By Terry Eagleton

The Guardian – December 17, 2014

Are the humanities about to disappear from our universities? The question is absurd. It would be like asking whether alcohol is about to disappear from pubs, or egoism from Hollywood. Just as there cannot be a pub without alcohol, so there cannot be a university without the humanities. If history, philosophy and so on vanish from academic life, what they leave in their wake may be a technical training facility or corporate research institute. But it will not be a university in the classical sense of the term, and it would be deceptive to call it one.
Neither, however, can there be a university in the full sense of the word when the humanities exist in isolation from other disciplines. The quickest way of devaluing these subjects – short of disposing of them altogether – is to reduce them to an agreeable bonus. Real men study law and engineering, while ideas and values are for sissies. The humanities should constitute the core of any university worth the name. The study of history and philosophy, accompanied by some acquaintance with art and literature, should be for lawyers and engineers as well as for those who study in arts faculties. If the humanities are not under such dire threat in the United States, it is, among other things, because they are seen as being an integral part of higher education as such.

READ MORE....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Imperialism and The Interview: The Racist Dehumanization of North Korea

by Jakob Pettersson

Monthly Review - 27.12.14

The haze of political chaos in America surrounding the Ferguson protests, the Torture Report, and the "relaxing" of US-Cuba relations has been broken by a media spectacle almost too ridiculous to comprehend.  A hacker group called the "Guardians of Peace" conducted a "cyber attack" on Sony Pictures Entertainment, leaking emails, documents, presentations, and information about the company.  The US government, and the vast majority of media, all agree that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is behind the attack, as a direct retaliation to the production of the movie The Interview, a goofball comedy depicting Seth Rogen and James Franco attempting to assassinate Kim Jong Un.  And given the general media narrative about the easily offended egos of the Kim family, such a story is perhaps not unbelievable to mainstream audiences.  However, the evidence seems to be flimsy at best -- as a Wired article points out.  Yet the media circus continues.  The narrative is just too powerful: a ruthless, eccentric, and egomaniacal dictator out to silence any criticism of his good name, regardless of how silly and "innocent" that criticism is.

But The Interview is not an innocent movie.  Originally, the movie didn't feature the DPRK, and was meant to portray a fake dictator and country, as in Sasha Baron Cohen's The Dictator.  A leaked confidential email from the hack, however, revealed that Sony had been in contact with the US-funded RAND Corporation, a key think-tank of the US "national security" establishment.  The movie was also, according to the leaked conversations, discussed with a "very senior [official] in [the] State."  Apparently, Bruce Bennett, a senior analyst at the RAND Corporation, reviewed the script as well.  The Sony executives expressed anxiety over North Korea's reaction to the movie's depiction of the brutal assassination of Kim Jong Un, but Bennett insisted that the assassination scene be left in:

READ MORE.....

“No civilization would tolerate what America has done”

Institutional racism. Rampant income inequality. A broken justice system. America may never be a great society

David Masciotra, AlterNet

Salon -  Monday, Dec 29, 2014

It seems police can get away with anything: choking men who have surrendered; shooting unarmed teens; knocking pregnant women to the ground. While the issues involving race, civil rights and the relationship between law enforcement and communities are essential for examination and correction, few are talking about how all of this fits into the larger pattern of America’s cultural decline and decay. America has become a society addicted to violence and indifferent to the suffering of people without power. Whenever there is a combination of a culture of violence and an ethic of heartlessness, fatal abuse of authority will escalate, and the legal system will fail to address it.
Critics are right to condemn the criminal justice system for its embedded inequities and injustices, but they are hesitant to condemn the actual jurors giving killer cops get-out-of-jail-free cards. These jurors are representational of America: ignorant and cold. They hear testimony from eyewitnesses claiming Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown while he had his hands in the air, and set Wilson free without trial. They listen to reports of three officers choking Robert Saylor, an unarmed man with Down syndrome who wanted to see a movie without a ticket, and they send the police back to work. They watch video footage of police choking Eric Garner in New York, and of two police officers brutally beating Keyarika Diggles, a woman in Texas, and they decline to make them pay for it.
Have they been programmed into cruelty and apathy by American schools, churches, families, politics, and pop culture?

READ MORE....

What Do Professors Do All Day?

Lisa Wade  

Professor of sociology based in Los Angeles

The Huffington Post - 04/25/2014

Anthropologists John Ziker, David Nolin, Matt Genuchi and Kathryn Demps decided to try to find out. They recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days. In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day. In total, he collected data for 166 days.
It's a small, non-random sample at just one university, but here's what he discovered.
All ranks worked over 40 hours a week (average of 61 hours/week) and all ranks put in a substantial number of hours over the weekends:


READ MORE....

White Americans who don’t finish high school have better job prospects than black Americans who go to college

Sonali Kohli

QUARTZ - December 28, 2014

The Great Recession might be over (in the US, at least) but it has left behind widened racial inequality in unemployment and wealth.
The unemployment rate for white Americans over 25 who had not finished high school was 9.7% in 2013. The unemployment rate for black Americans who went to college but didn’t graduate, meanwhile, was 10.5%. That’s an increase from 2007, before the recession:


This same trend can be seen among recent college graduates. Unemployment for black graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 was at 12.4% in 2013, compared to 5.6% for all college grads in that age range, according to a May report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (pdf). The number was even lower for white college graduates in the age range—4.9%, the study’s co-author told the New York Times.

READ MORE....

China Forms $32 Billion Energy Company to Help Clean Up Beijing

Bloomberg News Dec 29, 2014

China’s government said it merged Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co. and Jingmei Group into a new 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) business in line with its policy to improve efficiency in the energy industry and reduce pollution.
The merger of Beijing Energy and Jingmei, a coal supplier based in the capital, will improve electricity supply, Lin Fusheng, head of Beijing’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, said in a report by the official Xinhua News Agency today.
The merger took place yesterday, Beijing Energy, which invests in electricity projects, said on its website. The new company, Beijing Energy Group Co., will manage coal-fired power plants, renewable energy projects, heating supply and coal mine development, Xinhua reported.
“This is in line with a national scheme to combine coal, power and heating resources to boost energy efficiency and cut pollution,” said Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst with researcher North Square Blue Oak, by phone.

READ MORE...

The Tragedy of the American Military

The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win.

James Fallows

The Atlantic - January/February 2015

In mid-September, while President Obama was fending off complaints that he should have done more, done less, or done something different about the overlapping crises in Iraq and Syria, he traveled to Central Command headquarters, at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. There he addressed some of the men and women who would implement whatever the U.S. military strategy turned out to be.
The part of the speech intended to get coverage was Obama’s rationale for reengaging the United States in Iraq, more than a decade after it first invaded and following the long and painful effort to extricate itself. This was big enough news that many cable channels covered the speech live. I watched it on an overhead TV while I sat waiting for a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. When Obama got to the section of his speech announcing whether he planned to commit U.S. troops in Iraq (at the time, he didn’t), I noticed that many people in the terminal shifted their attention briefly to the TV. As soon as that was over, they went back to their smartphones and their laptops and their Cinnabons as the president droned on.

READ MORE.....

Critical Race Theory - Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the US (Essential Reading List)

  1. Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  2. From Different Shores: Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America by Ronald Takaki 
  3. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki
  4. Beyond the Melting Pot, Second Edition: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City by Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan
  5. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton
  6. THE PHILADELPHIA NEGRO by W.E.B. DuBois
  7. The Wretched of the Earth  by Frantz Fanon
  8. Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
  9. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (Critical Social Thought) by Michael Omi and Howard Winant 
  10. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness  by Michelle Alexander
  11. The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  12. The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation by Leo R. Chavez
  13. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations by Joe R. Feagin
  14. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing by Joe R. Feagin
  15. The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism by Rosalind S. Chou and Joe R. Feagin 
  16. Systemic Racism: A Theory of Oppression by Joe R. Feagin
  17. White Party, White Government: Race, Class, and U.S. Politics by Joe R. Feagin
  18. Latinos Facing Racism: Discrimination, Resistance, and Endurance (New Critical Viewpoints on Society)  by Joe R. Feagin and José A. Cobas
  19. Globalization and America: Race, Human Rights, and Inequality (Perspectives on a Multiracial America) by Angela J. Hattery and David G. Embrick (Editors)
  20. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America  by Ira Katznelson 
  21. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
  22. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement by Kimberle Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, Kendall Thomas (Editors)
  23. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins
  24. Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs by Deirdre A. Royster 
  25. The Crucible of American Indian Identity Native Tradition versus Colonial Imposition in Postconquest North America By Ward Churchill
  26. One Nation, Indivisible: Is It History?  Todd Bigelow/FTWP In Los Angeles, demographers see "white flight" beyond the suburbs and into rural areas. (By Todd Bigelow for The Washington Post) First in a series of occasional articles  By William Booth Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, February 22, 1998; Page A1
  27. Mexican Americans and the American Dream by Richard Alba
  28. We the People: Asians in the United States (CENSUS BUREAU REPORT)
  29. We the People: Blacks in the United States (CENSUS BUREAU REPORT)
  30. We the People: Hispanics in the United States (CENSUS BUREAU REPORT)
  31. We the People of Arab Ancestry in the United States (CENSUS BUREAU REPORT)
  32. How many Jews are there in the United States?  By Michael Lipka - PEW RESEARCH October 2, 2013. 
  33. A Portrait of Jewish Americans - PEW RESEARCH, October 1, 2013.
  34. Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora by Sarah M. A. Gualtieri.
  35. Brown Skin, White Masks by Hamid Dabashi. 
  36. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror by Mahmood Mamdani. 
  37. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People by Jack Shaheen. 

THE LAST WAVE (1977) TRAILER


Friday, December 26, 2014

German Parliament Approved a Proposal to Develop a Next Generation Tank

Defence Blog - Dec 25, 2014

German Parliament approved a proposal to develop a new generation of tanks, program will be included in the medium-term planning of the German Ministry of Defense.
The decision comes amid tense of “Ukrainian crisis” situation where the number of Leopard 2A6 tanks 225/7 that the Bundeswehr aims to maintain operational would become suddenly rather inadequate.
The explanatory memorandum of document speaks of great importance that the armored units have German Army, they must be supported in the future by equipping a new generation of tanks, especially since the German military industry would be able to deliver such of product.
Development of the new tank could be the subject of cooperation between France and Germany, followed sometime around March 2030 Leopard becomes operational.

READ MORE...

A tangled web Who goes online, and where

The Economist - Nov 8th 2014

THE internet looks like an adman’s dream. Counting how many times an advert on a bus shelter has been viewed is impossible; counting clicks on a blinking banner ad is a doddle. But knowing where each click came from, and how many people are clicking, is harder than it appears.
Firms dedicated to click-counting put code on websites that reports the times, origins and frequencies of visits, or get consumers to install it buried in browser plug-ins or mobile apps. These record web-users’ digital calling-cards: the internet-protocol (IP) addresses of the devices they are using. But to assume that each IP address represents a single user in its country of registration is a wild oversimplification.

READ MORE....

The Real Christmas Village Is in China

Stockings and fake trees aren't made by elves. They're made 150 miles southwest of Shanghai, in the city of Yiwu.

Heather Timmons

The Atlantic - Dec 25 2014

The Chinese city of Yiwu, about 250 kilometers from Shanghai, is often referred to as China’s “Christmas village” thanks to the massive amount of holiday-related merchandise made there. Xinhua, China’s state-news agency, claims that 60 percent of the world’s Christmas goods come from Yiwu. The products are often assembled by hand in primitive conditions.
Unknown Fields Division, a “nomadic design studio” that’s exploring the source of consumer goods, traveled to Yiwu with photographer Toby Smith to see the locals at work, and has just released a short, enlightening video of what they found:


As the video shows, making the world’s Christmas decor is a messy, labor-intensive affair that relies more on human beings than automation. “From a health and safety perspective the exposure to harmful chemicals and solvents is disturbing,” Smith told Quartz. “I also witnessed manufacturing techniques with machines that could easily be criticized from a Western vantage point. However the social working environment, working hours and general atmosphere of the factory was actually more pleasant than I have experienced in other manufacturing sectors.”
 
READ MORE....

Dennis Rodman's Big Bang in Pyongyang Trailer


Thursday, December 25, 2014

World Economic Forum Reports

The World Economic Forum publishes a comprehensive series of reports which examine in detail the broad range of global issues it seeks to address with stakeholders as part of its mission of improving the state of the world. Besides reports on its key events and standalone publications such as the Global Competitiveness Report, the Global Risks Report and the Global Gender Gap Report, the Forum produces landmark titles covering the environment, education, individual industries and technologies.

YOU DOWNLOAD THE REPORTS.......

World Economic Forum - Forum Academy


Hyperconnectivity


The Global Gender Gap Report 2014


Where does the money go? Remittances around the world visualised

The Guardian - Tuesday 5 February 2013

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How Our 1989 Invasion of Panama Explains the Current US Foreign Policy Mess

The road to Baghdad started in Panama City, 25 years ago. 

By Greg Grandin

MOTHER JONES | Tue Dec. 23, 2014

As we end another year of endless war in Washington, it might be the perfect time to reflect on the War That Started All Wars—or at least the war that started all of Washington's post-Cold War wars: the invasion of Panama.
Twenty-five years ago this month, early on the morning of December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, sending tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft into Panama to execute a warrant of arrest against its leader, Manuel Noriega, on charges of drug trafficking. Those troops quickly secured all important strategic installations, including the main airport in Panama City, various military bases, and ports. Noriega went into hiding before surrendering on January 3rd and was then officially extradited to the United States to stand trial. Soon after, most of the US invaders withdrew from the country.
In and out. Fast and simple. An entrance plan and an exit strategy all wrapped in one. And it worked, making Operation Just Cause one of the most successful military actions in US history. At least in tactical terms.

READ MORE....

Top Five China Books of 2014

LAURA CHAN
 
 
As the editor of ChinaFile’s Books section, I have the privilege of meeting and interviewing some amazing writers covering China today—academics, journalists, scholars, activists. Based on these conversations, we create short videos of the authors describing their inspiration, research, and hopes for their work. Since ChinaFile’s launch in early 2013 we have amassed a library of roughly 150 of these author videos on the site. I invite you to peruse them.  
 
In no particular order, the following five books represent what I loved most in reading about China this year. 
 
China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa 
 
by Howard W. French  
 
China’s engagement with Africa remains dynamic, complicated, sometimes fraught, and Howard French investigates this relationship with the complexity and nuance the subject deserves. He is a terrific storyteller and weaves together fascinating portraits of the individuals on the ground remaking this relationship—both those who have set out from China in search of a better life and the Africans who are most directly affected.
 

Dual Engagement: The Saudi Factor in an Iran Rapprochement

Andrew J. Bowen

The National Interests - December 24, 2014

As the last pillar of America’s dual containment policy crumbles with an Iranian nuclear deal on the distant horizon, President Obama risks a further break down in relations with Saudi Arabia. This comes at a time when Washington requires both Riyadh and Tehran’s support in advancing its core national interests: ensuring a free-flow of oil to global markets through the Gulf, preventing nuclear proliferation, and curtailing the emergence of ISIS and local Al Qaeda affiliates from threatening America’s homeland and its interests and personnel abroad.
Washington’s long engagement in the region has been based on strong relations with key regional states, including Saudi Arabia and Israel. These stable alliances have enabled the U.S. to advance its core interests, and avoid the temptation of extension, despite the brief reckless adventurism of the Bush administration. Entering office in 2009, President Obama has muddled between realism and liberal interventionism in an attempt to pivot the U.S. away from the unilateralism of his predecessor andto vaguely leading with others. 

READ MORE....

Ruble Swap Shows China Challenging IMF as Emergency Lender

By Ye Xie

BLOOMBERG - Dec 23, 2014

China is stepping up its role as the lender of last resort to some of the world’s most financially strapped countries.
Chinese officials signaled on the weekend they are willing to expand a $24 billion currency swap program to help Russia weather the worst economic crisis since the 1998 default. China has provided $2.3 billion in funds to Argentina since October as part of a currency swap, and last month it lent $4 billion to Venezuela, whose reserves cover just two years of debt payments.

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The Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state, professor warns

By Peter Holley

THE WASHINGTON POST - December 16, 2014

For some, the Elf on the Shelf doll, with its doe-eyed gaze and cherubic face, has become a whimsical holiday tradition — one that helpfully reminds children to stay out of trouble in the lead-up to Christmas.
For others — like, say, digital technology professor Laura Pinto — the Elf on the Shelf is “a capillary form of power that normalizes the voluntary surrender of privacy, teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance and” [deep breath] “reify hegemonic power.”
I mean, obvs, right?
The latter perspective is detailed in “Who’s the Boss,” a paper published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in which Pinto and co-author Selena Nemorin argue that the popular seasonal doll is preparing a generation of children to uncritically accept “increasingly intrusive (albeit whimsically packaged) modes of surveillance.”

READ MORE.....

China Focus: Oh, Christmas! Let's have some fun!

ICross China - 2014-12-23

BEIJING, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Although a majority of Chinese people do not have a Christmas break, the country's youth have been increasingly getting into the holiday spirit.
Different from family reunions that often mark the celebration in the west, Chinese observe the day by getting together with friends, shopping, giving gifts and romance.
SANTA CLAUS COMING INTO TOWN
On Wednesday, 7-year-old Guo Xunyu's primary school teacher is throwing a party to celebrate the western holiday. The children will sing songs, eat snacks and play games with her classmates at primary school.
"It is a wonderful time for our kids to sit around, as well as for us parents to communicate," said Gao Yajie, one of the parents who helped arrange the activity. "After all, the children are too busy with their daily school work."

READ MORE.....

Monday, December 22, 2014

This shit's got to go! By Jacque Fresco


Wang Jianlin, China's property tycoon, finds golden path to billions

By Matthew Miller

BEIJING

Reuters - Tue Dec 23, 2014

Wang Jianlin built Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co into China's most powerful real estate firm with a mix of savvy political instincts and army-bred discipline, carefully navigating the country's government-led business environment.
"Remain close to government, and away from politics," Wang, 60, and now a billionaire, told Reuters this month. "It means deal more with the authorities," he said, referring to the Communist Party and the government, "And less with individuals."
In 1988, Wang left the army and borrowed 1 million yuan ($161,000) to start a real estate company in Dalian, northeast China. He attracted global firms such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Macquarie Group as partners.

READ MORE....

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Santa's real workshop: the town in China that makes the world's Christmas decorations

Inside the ‘Christmas village’ of Yiwu, there’s no snow and no elves, just 600 factories that produce 60% of all the decorations in the world

Oliver Wainwright

THE GUARDIAN - Friday 19 December 2014 

There’s red on the ceiling and red on the floor, red dripping from the window sills and red globules splattered across the walls. It looks like the artist Anish Kapoor has been let loose with his wax cannon again. But this, in fact, is what the making of Christmas looks like; this is the very heart of the real Santa’s workshop – thousands of miles from the North Pole, in the Chinese city of Yiwu.
Our yuletide myth-making might like to imagine that Christmas is made by rosy-cheeked elves hammering away in a snow-bound log cabin somewhere in the Arctic Circle. But it’s not. The likelihood is that most of those baubles, tinsel and flashing LED lights you’ve draped liberally around your house came from Yiwu, 300km south of Shanghai – where there’s not a (real) pine tree nor (natural) snowflake in sight.

READ MORE....

Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies By Mallory Ortberg

The New Yorker -  December 18, 2014

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.
“Bambi”
The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.
“Old Yeller”
A farm animal ceases to be useful and is disposed of humanely. A valuable lesson for children. —Four stars.
“Lady and the Tramp”
A ridiculous movie. What could a restaurant owner possibly have to gain by giving away a perfectly good meal to dogs, when he could sell it at a reasonable price to human beings? A dog cannot pay for spaghetti, and payment is the only honest way to express appreciation for value. —One star.
 
READ MORE....

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Economists Can Learn From Humans

By Chandrahas Choudhury 

BLOOMBERG - Dec 14, 2014

Every year now for more than three decades, the World Bank has published the World Development Report, a survey and synthesis of current thinking on a major theme or debate in development economics.
These reports, which are produced by the bank’s Research wing, are collaborative ventures integrating the work of many hands; they are rarely very striking in their style or bold in their judgments. Although their aim is to set the agenda for development economics, they generally are not very efficacious in establishing new concepts or paradigms (one exception was the “dollar a day” baseline for poverty proposed by the Australian economist Martin Ravallion in the 1990 report).

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Why Michel Foucault is the libertarian’s best friend

By Daniel W. Drezner

The Washington Post - December 11 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

There’s an interesting interview over at Jacobin Magazine of Daniel Zamora, who has written a book about Michel Foucault’s fascination with neoliberalism in the latter stages of his intellectual life. The whole thing is worth a read, but there are a few parts that stand out:
Foucault was highly attracted to economic liberalism: he saw in it the possibility of a form of governmentality that was much less normative and authoritarian than the socialist and communist left, which he saw as totally obsolete. He especially saw in neoliberalism a “much less bureaucratic” and “much less disciplinarian” form of politics than that offered by the postwar welfare state. He seemed to imagine a neoliberalism that wouldn’t project its anthropological models on the individual, that would offer individuals greater autonomy vis-à-vis the state….
Foucault was one of the first to really take the neoliberal texts seriously and to read them rigorously. Before him, those intellectual products were generally dismissed, perceived as simple propaganda. For Lagasnerie, Foucault exploded the symbolic barrier that had been built up by the intellectual left against the neoliberal tradition.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pope Francis’s China Problem

Jonathan Mirsky

The New York Review of Books - December 15, 2014

China-watchers, friends of Tibet, and admirers of Pope Francis were amazed and disappointed last week when the Pope announced he would not be meeting the Dalai Lama during the Tibetan leader’s visit to Rome. The Dalai Lama was there with other winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, who—ironically—had gathered in Rome after a planned meeting in South Africa did not take place because Pretoria refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa. In the end, the pope declined to meet with any of the Laureates. In view of Francis’s extraordinary reputation for open-mindedness, how could this be?

READ MORE...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wheat People vs. Rice People

Why Are Some Cultures More Individualistic Than Others?

The New York Times - DEC. 3, 2014

AMERICANS and Europeans stand out from the rest of the world for our sense of ourselves as individuals. We like to think of ourselves as unique, autonomous, self-motivated, self-made. As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz observed, this is a peculiar idea.
People in the rest of the world are more likely to understand themselves as interwoven with other people — as interdependent, not independent. In such social worlds, your goal is to fit in and adjust yourself to others, not to stand out. People imagine themselves as part of a larger whole — threads in a web, not lone horsemen on the frontier. In America, we say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In Japan, people say that the nail that stands up gets hammered down.

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A New Book: Foucault and Politics A Critical Introduction - Mark G. E. Kelly

Edinburgh University Press, 2014

This book surveys Michel Foucault’s thought in the context of his life and times, utilising the latest primary and secondary materials to explain the political implications of each phase of his work and the relationships between each phase. It also illustrates how his thought has been used in the political sphere and examines the importance of his work for politics today.
One of the most prominent theorists in the contemporary humanities and social sciences, Foucault is known as a radical thinker who disturbs our understanding of society. He also presented a moving target, continually changing his concerns and his apparent position. So, until now, comparatively little attention has been given to his politics.

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Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession

By Rakesh Kochhar and Richard Fry

PEW Research - December 12, 2014

The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines. The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010. The current gap between blacks and whites has reached its highest point since 1989, when whites had 17 times the wealth of black households. The current white-to-Hispanic wealth ratio has reached a level not seen since 2001. (Asians and other racial groups are not separately identified in the public-use versions of the Fed’s survey.) Leaving aside race and ethnicity, the net worth of American families overall — the difference between the values of their assets and liabilities — held steady during the economic recovery. The typical household had a net worth of $81,400 in 2013, according to the Fed’s survey — almost the same as what it was in 2010, when the median net worth of U.S. households was $82,300 (values expressed in 2013 dollars).

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China, Kazakhstan to sign $10b deals during Li's visit

Xinhua - 2014-12-14

ASTANA - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will kick off his first official visit to Kazakhstan on Sunday. The two sides are expected to sign about 30 cooperative agreements worth $10 billion during his two-day trip.
Li is scheduled to meet Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, hold the second regular meeting between the China-Kazakhstan heads of government together with his Kazakh counterpart Karim Masimov, and attend the 13th prime ministers' meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
In a signed article published by the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper on Saturday, Li said that he has expected to visit Kazakhstan for a long time, hailing it as a good neighbor of China.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Indigenous Research Methodologies

Bagele Chilisa    

University of Botswana

Sage - 2012

Responding to increased emphasis in the classroom and the field on exposing students to diverse epistemologies, methods, and methodologies, Bagele Chilisa has written the first textbook that situates research in a larger, historical, cultural, and global context. With case studies from around the world, the book demonstrates the specific methodologies that are commensurate with the transformative paradigm of research and the historical and cultural traditions of third-world and indigenous peoples.

Chapter 1. Situating Knowledge Systems
Chapter 2. Discovery and Recovery: Reading and Conducting Research Responsibly
Chapter 3. Whose Reality Counts? Research Methods in Question
Chapter 4. Postcolonial Indigenous Research Paradigms
Chapter 5. Theorizing on Social Science Research Methods: Indigenous Perspectives
Chapter 6. Culturally Responsive Indigenous Research Methodologies
Chapter 7. Decolonizing the Interview Method
Chapter 8. Participatory Research Methods
Chapter 9. Postcolonial Indigenous Feminist Research Methodologies
Chapter 10. Building Partnerships and Integrating Knowledge Systems

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming World Disorder

By LEE SMITH

The Weekly Standard - Dec 8, 2014

Bret Stephens is the Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs columnist. He is also author of a new book, America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming World Disorder, detailing the Obama administration’s foreign policy blunders. Recently I spoke with Stephens about his book, how this White House has caused trouble for America abroad, and if there’s hope on the horizon.
Lee Smith: Is retreat a choice?
Bret Stephens: Yes—at least this retreat is. Barack Obama came to office determined to scale down America's global commitments for the sake of what he likes to call "nation building at home." He is the president who, King Canute-like, commanded the tide of war to recede and declared that al Qaeda was on a path to defeat. Obama has fulfilled the promise of George McGovern's 1972 run for president: Come Home, America.

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The Chinese Century.

Without fanfare—indeed, with some misgivings about its new status—China has just overtaken the United States as the world’s largest economy. This is, and should be, a wake-up call—but not the kind most Americans might imagine

 
When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the United States could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever. In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history. Comparing the gross domestic product of different economies is very difficult. Technical committees come up with estimates, based on the best judgments possible, of what are called “purchasing-power parities,” which enable the comparison of incomes in various countries. These shouldn’t be taken as precise numbers, but they do provide a good basis for assessing the relative size of different economies. Early in 2014, the body that conducts these international assessments—the World Bank’s International Comparison Program—came out with new numbers. (The complexity of the task is such that there have been only three reports in 20 years.) The latest assessment, released last spring, was more contentious and, in some ways, more momentous than those in previous years. It was more contentious precisely because it was more momentous: the new numbers showed that China would become the world’s largest economy far sooner than anyone had expected—it was on track to do so before the end of 2014.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

What is hiding behind Islamic State?

Nadim Shehadi

Chatham House - December 2014, Volume 70, Number 6

In early 18th-century Aleppo there was a schism in the Greek Orthodox Church, and a new sect emerged called the Melkite Church, in communion with Rome. The Melkites, also called Greek Catholics, needed their own church, but it was illegal to build a new church in the lands of the Ottoman Empire; however, if a Christian church already existed, it was protected and it was forbidden to tear it down.  To build their church, the Melkites resorted to a trick that is practised to this day and that may help explain the complex phenomenon that we call Islamic State. The illegal new church was built in hiding, inside a hangar or a large barn, away from the eyes of the law and of rival sects. After a while the Melkites were betrayed and the barn had to be torn down, revealing a fully built church. Once it was out in the open, the church acquired legitimacy and permanency.

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Slavoj Žižek: What is freedom today?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Turkmenistan ups oil production to 4.5 million tons – Oil Ministry

AKI Press - 08.12.2014

Bishkek (AKIpress) - oil rig Turkmenistan’s state concern Turkmenoil has produced 4.4 million tons of oil during 10 months of 2014, according to the Ministry for Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources.
The number of the developed sites with hydrocarbon resources exceeded 25, the Ministry noted.
Turkmenoil is a state company that develops over 600 oil and oil and gas deposits such as Chekishler, Garadurun, South Kamyshlydja, Nebitlije, located in the west of Turkmenistan.
Over the years of Turkmenistan’s independence the oil company has increased oil production from 5 million metric tons up to 8 million metric tons annually.

The dark side of the impact agenda

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION - 4 December 2014

There has been a great deal of discussion, much of it critical, of the impact agenda in higher education and in the research excellence framework.
We have been cautioned that this agenda might prioritise lower over higher quality research if it has demonstrable social reach, that the role of ethics is unclear (so researchers might be facilitating questionable policy agendas or corporate practices) and that the impact of much valuable exploratory and theoretical work (often in the arts and humanities) is almost impossible to assess.
But thus far nobody has really explored the potential effect on individual researchers who “have impact”.
As the REF 2014 loomed on the horizon, I was asked to submit an impact case study about my research on “lad cultures” and sexual violence in higher education.

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What the Guy Next to You at the Coffee Shop Is Furiously Typing

By Alex Watt

The New Yorker - December 3, 2014  

O.K., so my ex just walked in and she’s with her new boyfriend and I really really really don’t want to be drawn into a conversation with them or even say hello or that her new haircut looks nice and that I’ve actually always been super-attracted to women with short hair like her friend Mitzi so I guess I’ll just type away at this blank doc I’ve had open for over an hour well I guess it’s not blank anymore ha ha wow does it feel good to laugh again oh she’s laughing now too god is it at me has she already seen right through me pretending that I’m finally having a breakthrough with my novel grtuxbvf sorry looked up from the computer for a second and I could tell from his expression when she squeezed his arm that this isn’t the first time he’s made her laugh it took me months to get used to her arm squeezes because her grip is surprisingly strong and always triggered memories of that time I got stuck in the machine they sometimes have at the supermarket that lets you take your own blood pressure it was very traumatic and would definitely be incorporated into my novel if doing so wouldn’t violate the terms of the settlement after all that settlement is the very thing that allows me to spend my days writing the Great American Novel and buying that fancy coffee with the leaf thing in the foam and tipping when the cute barista smiles at me wow if only Stephanie could see me with that cute barista holy cow is she still laughing irudhxkcnsyweq was his joke about how they’re taking way too long to order and should just leave or how stupid he looks in that suit I don’t know if it’s Armani but he sure looks ArFUNi in it ha ha man I’m glad Stephanie can’t read this because her head would probably explode from all the laughing ha ha and also because she would know that I’m not hard at work on the novel I told her I was almost done with in the five minutes of small talk we shared before she said that she was definitely done with me at this very coffee shop at the very table klirtufmbshzpokmevxrp she is now sitting at with her new boyfriend oh come on who is this guy oh great now my hands are totally cramping up ugh is this how you know heartbreak is real when you can feel it in your hands note “the heartbreak was so real he could feel it in his hands” would make a great opening line for my novel maybe I can just sneak into the bathroom and hang out there until they’re gone cool cool looks like the toilet is totally free for me to ueuajdbzbqqoe fantastic the person who ordered a red eye and a bran muffin just walked in there boy am I trapped I’ll tell you I haven’t felt this trapped since I got stuck in that blood-pressure-testing machine though now that I think about it I also felt pretty trapped when Stephanie asked me to imagine how she felt in our relationship when we were sitting at that table mdmxhxsoajkrenxxh where she is now smooching Captain Moneybags who probably doesn’t have to get his arm stuck in anything to pay his rent big deal at least I had the decency to keep my eyes open when we kissed not like this jerk who’d rather stare at his eyelids what are they lined with golden Picasso paintings and pictures of caviar ha ha oh man that was probably my chance to sneak out of here unnoticed O.K. this is getting ridiculous it’s time for me to swallow my pride and go tell them how well my novel is coming along yeah this is it the moment I show Stephanie that I’m doing all right actually more than all right I have this life thing figured out and I’m putting myself out there and writing more than ever I’m a good well-adjusted guy and I’m going to prove that right now. After I check Facebook.

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China to train 30,000 overseas Chinese language teachers

Xinhua - 2014-12-07

BEIJING - Plans to train about 30,000 overseas Chinese teachers by the end of 2017 were announced on Sunday.
Better curricula, improved textbooks and standard testing for students are also on the agenda, Qiu Yuanping, head of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council told the third World Chinese Language and Culture Education Conference.
There are more than 60 million overseas Chinese in about 200 countries and regions, and some 20,000 schools of Chinese language and culture overseas. However, many schools lack guidelines, textbooks and financial support.
At the two-day conference, Qiu said the office will help establish 100 demonstration schools by the end of 2017 and support another 200 that are in need or emerging.
The conference, which started Sunday, attracted about 600 representatives from about 50 nations and regions.

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China airport construction going global

Xinhua - December 08, 2014

BEIJING, Dec. 7 -- A new airport in Lome, capital city of Togo, will be completed on Dec. 25, the latest global cooperation for China's aviation industry.
This project has cost 150 billion U.S. dollars, including a terminal with three boarding bridges, a viaduct to the terminal and expanding the parking lot, said Hong Shangyuan, general manager of China Airport Construction Group Cooperation (CACGC).
In the past six decades, CACGC has built 200 airports, mainly in China, but since 2000, they have built airports in the Comoros, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Laos, Angola and Tanzania.
Hong estimates that China's aviation industry will see 1.3 billion trips per year and the number of airports will reach 400 by 2030.
Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said that investment in the aviation industry generates more in a shorter time and provides more stimulation to related industries, compared with other transport sectors.

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Education Isn't the Problem—Inequality Is

The American school system today is an offshoot of an increasingly class-driven society.

Matt Phillips

The Atlantic - Dec 3 2014

Since its birth, the United States has always defined itself as an egalitarian meritocracy, fundamentally distinct from the class-ridden societies of Europe.
And at times, this has been true. On the eve of the country's Revolution, the income distribution of American colonists was far more equal than it was of those of Great Britain. “Indeed, New England and the Middle Colonies appear to have been more egalitarian than anywhere else in the measurable world,” wrote economic historians in a 2012 paper. (To be clear, it’s difficult to consider a slave-holding society egalitarian at all. It was brutally unequal. But from an income-distribution perspective, American colonists—meaning white men—were better off than their counterparts in Europe.)

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Xiaomi smartphone taps into US market

China Daily, December 8, 2014 

Xiaomi Corp, the world's third-largest smartphone manufacturer, will launch its new smartphone in Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that falls in January 2015 in Las Vegas, the first-ever appearance of the fast-growing Chinese IT company in the US market.
According to the Economic Daily News in China, Xiaomi might launch its newest flagship smartphone Mi5 their newest flagship that has high-end specifications but with a low-end price, like most of the smartphones that have come out of China.
It was reported that the new smartphone will may pack a Quad 5.7-inch HD display, a powerful Qualcomm chipset as well as fingerprint scanning tech by default.
According to a report from International Data Corporation (IDC), Xiaomi's smartphone shipment in the third quarter 2014 ranked the third after Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
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China's exports rise 4.7% in Nov.

China's exports rose 4.7 percent year on year to 211.66 billion U.S. dollars in November, customs data showed on Monday.
Imports stood at 157.19 billion U.S. dollars, down 6.7 percent, the data showed.

The New Republic and the Beltway media's race problem

by Max Fisher

Vox - December 5, 2014

There's little doubt that The New Republic's young owner, Chris Hughes, treated its beloved editor, Frank Foer, poorly. Hughes' new CEO, Guy Vidra, criticized Foer's leadership while sitting right next to him at an all-staff meeting. Hughes hired a replacement before firing Foer — which Foer had to learn about through rumors. Hughes, a newcomer to journalism who bought his way, publicly humiliated Foer, along with also-fired literary editor Leon Wieseltier. It's an ugly, unkind way to treat an editor, an employee, and the well-respected leader of a newsroom. Much of the publication's masthead, outraged, has resigned in solidarity and protest.  But Hughes' predecessor, Marty Peretz, did much worse. In the years of Peretz's ownership, from 1974 to 2007 and then partially until 2012, he gave himself the title of editor-in-chief and regular space in the magazine and on its website, which he frequently used to issue rants that were breathtaking in their overt racism. The columns typically came during periods of turmoil for the minorities he targeted: often blacks and Latinos, later focusing especially on Muslims and Arabs.

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Grand Strategy Is Bunk

By James Carden

The American Conservative • December 3, 2014

Since the 1990s, the teaching and advocacy of “grand strategy” has become something of a cottage industry. Degree programs and courses are on offer at Duke, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the City University of New York, Temple University, Columbia University, Bard College, MIT, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The country’s leading grand-strategy program, Yale University’s, is supported by a $17.5 million endowment and has received generous backing from the legendary financier Roger M. Hertog.
Yale’s program is apparently so well-heeled that in recent years it has been able to recruit such luminaries as retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Henry Kissinger, and New York Times columnist David Brooks to hold forth on the wisdom and rightness of America’s foreign-policy master plans.

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Who Defines the Next Economic Giants?

By JIM O’NEILL

The New York Times - DEC. 4, 2014

Turning Point: Investors retreat from emerging markets
What actually constitutes an economic giant?
We all know that the United States is one — its economy still makes up some 20 percent of global gross domestic product despite a modest relative decline in recent years. But who else? And does the word “giant” refer only to economic size, or should it also be reflective of a country’s wealth, its people’s prosperity and other measures of their lifestyle — perhaps even their freedoms?
It isn’t easy to make simple distinctions, other than for the United States, which on virtually all criteria is easily at the top of such a group, and looking into the future — at least the next 20 to 30 years — seems set to remain so.

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China vows to boost nuclear power in eastern coasts

Chinese authorities are planning to build more nuclear power plants along the eastern coastline with safety guaranteed.
They are also mulling the possibility of nuclear power plants in the inner part of the country.
The National Development and Reform Commission is also promising to encourage private investments to take part in the sector.
The decisions were released during a press conference of the NDRC on Thursday.

Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer – Review

Bettina Stangneth's disturbing account of Adolf Eichmann's years in exile reveals the full extent of his cynicism, inhumanity and moral self-deception

Richard J Evans

The Guardian - Friday 17 October 2014

Before the war, Adolf Eichmann, born in 1906, was the acknowledged "Jewish expert" of the SS, in charge of carrying out various schemes to remove the Jews from Germany, such as encouraging – or forcing – them to emigrate, or transporting them to Madagascar. When the Germans invaded first Poland in 1939, then the Soviet Union two years later, Eichmann organised the concentration of the millions of Jews who lived in eastern Europe into ghettos, and then ensured they were taken, along with Jews from every part of Europe under Nazi control or influence, to camps such as Auschwitz, to be murdered. After Germany's defeat, Eichmann went underground and then escaped to Argentina, where he joined a number of other senior Nazis in exile, living under an assumed name. During the 1950s, however, his whereabouts were discovered, and, in 1960, he was kidnapped by Mossad agents and smuggled out to Jerusalem, where he was put on trial for mass murder, found guilty, and, in 1962, hanged.
During his trial, as he sat in the bullet-proof glass box that served as the dock, Eichmann did not give the impression of being a monster, a sadist or a thug. He presented himself, on the contrary, as an ordinary, reasonable man. He was not personally, physically brutal or violent. When he had visited the scenes of extermination, he had clearly felt rather queasy. Yet here was a man who, notoriously, had said towards the end of the war that if Germany lost, he would "leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had 5 million enemies of the Reich on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction".

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China releases online videos documenting Nanjing Massacre

Xinhua - 2014-12-07

BEIJING - China's State Archives Administration (SAA) released a 10 minute video on its website on Sunday documenting the Nanjing Massacre.
The video, which includes residents' diaries and photos taken by foreign residents at the time, is the first of a seven-part video series scheduled to be released one per day. Sunday's video also features photos taken by invading Japanese troops at the time.
The archives are valuable documents revealing Japanese troops' crimes against humanity, which urge the world to permanently end anti-human atrocities, an accompanying statement said.
The video was released ahead of China's first National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims, which falls on Dec. 13.
Japan invaded northeast China in September 1931, followed by full-scale invasion that started on July 7, 1937. Around 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or injured during the war which continued until 1945.

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The Two Faces of Azerbaijan’s Government

Azerbaijan's leaders like to pretend that they’re friends of the West. Time for a reality check.     

By Altay Goyushov
a faculty member at Baku State University (Azerbaijan) and currently Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.    

Foreign Policy - December 6, 2014

Azerbaijan’s most famous investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is the latest in a long list of Azerbaijani activists to become political prisoners. Ismayilova, a journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has just been sentenced to two months of administrative detention on charges of driving a fellow reporter to attempt suicide, following, an accusation that observers called “ridiculous.” Ismayilova, a long-term critic of the government who has published numerous reports about official corruption, was denounced as a “traitor” by the head of the presidential administration Ramiz Mehdiyev in a lengthy anti-American treatise that appeared a day earlier.
The article denounces United States democracy assistance efforts as undermining foreign states, and refers to domestic civic organizations as a “fifth column.” Mehdiyev attacks Ismayilova by name, accusing her and her collaborators of devising “anti-Azerbaijan programs” that are “the equivalent of working for foreign security services.” In November, Ismayilova was prevented from participating in a Helsinki Commission hearing on corruption where she was supposed to testify, and earlier in the year she was accused of leaking information to U.S. intelligence officials following a meeting with U.S. Senate staffers.

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BLACK COFFEE - GOLD IN YOUR CUP - Discovery/History/Science (documentary)


Do Americans Care About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

Well, one thing’s for sure: Evangelical Christians worry more about Israel’s Jewishness than American Jews.     

By Shibley Telhami

Foreign Policy - December 5, 2014

Israel is in the midst of political turmoil with the Knesset voting to dissolve itself and calling for new elections in March, just as most Israelis and Palestinians seem to have lost any hope for a two-state solution. But even more critical than new elections is a proposed controversial “nationality law” that could significantly tilt Israel toward Jewishness over democracy. And the Palestinians are on the verge of asking the United Nations to recognize a state of Palestine forcing the Obama administration to make decisions it wants to avoid. But how does the American public feel about these issues? Do Americans care at all?
A poll I conducted on Nov. 14-19 among a nationally representative sample of 1,008 Americans (fielded by GFK) reveals that, in the absence of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, 71 percent favor Israel’s democracy over its Jewishness. This holds to varying degrees across party lines: 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Independents, and 60 percent of Republicans.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Russia's Brain Drain Is Astounding

Elena Holodny     

Business Insider - Dec. 2, 2014

Russia is experiencing another major brain drain.  Although emigration trended downward from 1997 to 2011, there was a sudden spike in people leaving the country around the third term of President Vladimir Putin, according to Rosstat, Russia's federal state statistics service.  In 2012, almost 123,000 people left, and in 2013, more than 186,000 got out.  Additionally, a UN report showed that 40,000 Russians applied for asylum in 2013 — 76% more than in 2012.  The biggest bombshell of all is that since April 2014 — a month after Russia annexed Crimea — 203,659 Russians have left the country.

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Cuba’s extraordinary global medical record shames the US blockade

Seumas Milne

The Guardian - Wednesday 3 December

Four months into the internationally declared Ebola emergency that has devastated west Africa, Cuba leads the world in direct medical support to fight the epidemic. The US and Britain have sent thousands of troops and, along with other countries, promised aid – most of which has yet to materialise. But, as the World Health Organisation has insisted, what’s most urgently needed are health workers. The Caribbean island, with a population of just 11m and official per capita income of $6,000 (£3,824), answered that call before it was made. It was first on the Ebola frontline and has sent the largest contingent of doctors and nurses – 256 are already in the field, with another 200 volunteers on their way.
While western media interest has faded with the receding threat of global infection, hundreds of British health service workers have volunteered to join them. The first 30 arrived in Sierra Leone last week, while troops have been building clinics. But the Cuban doctors have been on the ground in force since October and are there for the long haul.

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