“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 WALL STREET JOURNAL - Dec 26, 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

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A New Century for the Middle East

BY Jeffrey D. Sachs

PROJECT SYNDICATE - DEC 19, 2015

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.

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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.

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

THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL SCIENCE - December 26, 2015

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.

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The Islamic State

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

CFR - November 16, 2015

Introduction  
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

THE GUARDIAN - DECEMBER 3, 2015

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”.

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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.

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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.

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The case for working less

THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

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.

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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.

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Is That Cappuccino You’re Drinking Really a Cappuccino?

By JOHN ORTVED

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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   

THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON - December 18, 2015 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

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


Beijing's Sanyuan Bridge to Be Retrofitted within 43 Hours


EUROPEAN REFUGEE CRISIS AND NEO-COLONIALISM


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

By Rebecca Onion

SLATE

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.

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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.

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BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2016 results announced

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

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION - DECEMBER 2, 2015

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.

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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.”

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

This New Coca Cola Ad Shows Mexico’s White Savior Problem

Telesurtv.net - 27 November 2015

A new Coca-Cola ad released earlier this week aims to send an important message to its white and Mestizo consumers in Mexico this Christmas: break with your comfort zone and bring civilization to Indigenous people.This, at least, is what their most recent advertisement seems to convey.  “81.6 percent of Mexican Indigenous have felt rejected for speaking another language,” the ad purports to inform while somber Indigenous faces fill the screen.  Fortunately for Mexico’s Indigenous, white Mexican hipsters are here to save them this Christmas with a “special message,” the ad tells us.  What follows next is a painful metaphor of ongoing colonialism in the country: white kids storm the Mixe Indigenous community, as if a crusade, distribute coke bottles and build a giant Coca-Cola Christmas tree for all to idolize.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3XIcEdIBVE

Like most white savior plots, the ad is all about having a huge emotional experience about Brown victimhood that urges European descendants to take up the moral duty to save the oppressed from their oppression. It is founded on a white egocentric myth that there is something that Brown people must need that only White people can give them.  In this colonial fairy tale Brown people can only be conceived as passive objects in need of white care, not active agents that might outright just reject white rescue missions.  In fact, for the Indigenous of Mexico, white people bringing Coca-Cola is not just a joyful Christmas ad, it is a reality of corporate and cultural domination and destruction.  “The video is a clear demonstration of the presence of transnationals in the Indigenous territories of Oaxaca. In the last years, these companies have increasingly been taking over natural, economic and now cultural resources from the communities,” Laura Melchor, a human rights advocate in Oaxaca, told teleSUR English.  Since 2000, Coca-Cola has worked with the Mexican government to privatize water resources, including aquifers and rivers that belong to Indigenous peoples. Coca-Cola even uses some of these simply to dump their industrial waste into public waters.  The increasing privatization of water has left well over 15 million Mexicans without access to drinking water, turning Mexico into the second top consumer of bottled water in the world. Horrifyingly enough, these too are mostly sold by the very same Coca-Cola company.

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What lies behind different reactions to Paris and Beirut attacks

The Conversation - November 16, 2015

Events of this past weekend shook the core of the world as ISIS struck not just in Beirut, but Paris as well. These attacks follow an equally brutal show of terror in January 2015 when Charlie Hebdo’s offices were targeted because of cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. France is also a country with a strong anti-immigration political rhetoric that actively discriminates against those who are different. The most renowned case was the controversy surrounding the hijab. ISIS has claimed responsibility for these attacks. World leaders have pledged support, solidarity and condemnation of terrorism. In the next few weeks we may even see a resurgence of rhetoric calling for more resources to fight this War on Terror. There is also the inherent risk that Islamophobia may take deeper root – not just in France but in Europe as a whole. Yet as the world consumed the messages of support, sentiments of outrage and condemnation of violence, some also asked: why such a strong show of support for Paris and not Beirut? The answer, seemingly, was that it is because Arab lives matter less than those of Europeans.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

One Word - Episode 25: Christopher Columbus (Native Americans)


Sociology of Islam Mailing List Subscriber Statistic

*  Country                  Subscribers
*  -------                  -----------
*  Algeria                            1
*  Armenia                            2
*  Australia                         32
*  Austria                            3
*  Bangladesh                         3
*  Belgium                           11
*  Bosnia and Herzegovina             1
*  Botswana                           1
*  Brazil                             3
*  Brunei Darussalam                  1
*  Bulgaria                           1
*  Canada                            75
*  Chile                              2
*  China                              1
*  Czech Republic                     1
*  Denmark                           17
*  ??? (EU)                           9
*  Egypt                              1
*  Finland                            6
*  France                            26
*  Germany                           90
*  Greece                             1
*  Hong Kong                          1
*  Hungary                            3
*  India                              3
*  Indonesia                          3
*  Ireland                            3
*  Islamic Republic of Iran          13
*  Israel                            20
*  Italy                             23
*  Japan                              9
*  Kenya                              2
*  Kyrgyzstan                         1
*  Lebanon                            5
*  Luxembourg                         1
*  Malaysia                           3
*  Mexico                             2
*  Morocco                            4
*  Netherlands                       28
*  New Zealand                        1
*  Nigeria                            3
*  Norway                             9
*  Pakistan                           8
*  Palestinian Territory              1
*  Poland                             3
*  Qatar                             20
*  Republic of Korea                  3
*  Russian Federation                 6
*  Saudi Arabia                       1
*  Singapore                          5
*  South Africa                       6
*  Spain                             30
*  Sweden                            20
*  Switzerland                        9
*  Thailand                           1
*  Turkey                            97
*  Uganda                             1
*  United Republic of Tanzania        1
*  United arab emirates               7
*  United kingdom                   113
*  United states                  1,562
*
* Total number of users subscribed to the list:   2319
* Total number of countries represented:            61
* Total number of local host users on the list:      0

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What the world thinks about climate change in 7 charts

By Richard Wike

PEW RESEARCH - November 5, 2015 

As world leaders prepare to negotiate a major climate change agreement later this month at the United Nations’ Paris 2015 conference, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that people around the world see the issue as a significant challenge and want their governments to take action. Here are seven key findings from the poll: 

1) Majorities in all 40 nations polled say climate change is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% believe it is a very serious problem. Still, the intensity of concern varies substantially across regions and nations. Latin Americans and sub-Saharan Africans are particularly worried about climate change. Americans and Chinese, whose countries have the highest overall carbon dioxide emissions, are less concerned.

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Noam Chomsky - Noam vs. Michel Foucault (Eng. subs)


Yale’s most popular course is a Harvard class

By Steve Annear

THE BOSTON GLOBE - November 17, 2015

On the gridiron this weekend, Harvard and Yale will clash as their long-running rivalry reaches its annual climax. But in the classroom, students from both Ivy League institutions have found computer compatibility.  Harvard University professor David Malan’s computer programming course, CS50, now has the highest enrollment numbers at both colleges. Malan helped Yale implement a pilot program modeled on his wildly popular Cambridge lectures at the New Haven school this fall. “For the first time in history,” Malan said, “students have classmates at Yale, or classmates at Harvard, respectively.”  After Malan brainstormed in the summer of 2014 with Joan Feigenbaum, the chairwoman of Yale’s computer science department, the course was finally approved at the Connecticut school that December.

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University Group Pushes 'Technology Transfer' in Tenure, Promotion

Inside Higher Ed - November 17, 2015

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is calling for public research universities to formally consider technology transfer issues in tenure and promotion decisions where applicable. In a report out today, APLU defines technology transfer loosely as “entrepreneurship, innovation and technology-based economic development activities,” and says that faculty members who participate in it should be credited in personnel decisions.
“A faculty member’s accomplishments in technology transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship are worthy of consideration in the review process for tenure and advancement,” the report says. “As with other forms of faculty work, it is essential that the evaluation of technology transfer activities weigh the likely impact of the work, its quality and its foreseeable societal benefit. When it is successful, technology transfer can invigorate the university and establish relationships with other private and public sectors that affirm the value of a research university.”

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Irish Journalist Blows Open The Paris ISIS False Flag on RT


A New Report: "Anxiety, Nostalgia, and Mistrust”

Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey ‒

"Anxiety, Nostalgia, and Mistrust”

http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/PRRI-AVS-2015-Web.pdf

PRRI’s sixth annual American Values Survey explores attitudes toward the 2016 election, economic inequality, racial tensions, immigration, and more.

Tony Benn - Arms Sales To Iraq


A New Chinese Movie: Goodbye Mr Loser 《夏洛特烦恼 Opens October 9th in the US & Canada!

video

If he’d had the time after meeting American captains of industry in Seattle and Barack Obama at the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping might have ducked out at the close of his United Nations appearance and into a New York movie theater to check on how China’s other soft power ambassadors—its movies, not its pandas—are playing to American audiences.
Struggling to get off the ground, as it turns out.
Though Hollywood studio films are making greater returns than ever at China’s box office—despite imports being limited to —market forces pigeonhole screenings of Chinese-language films from the People’s Republic into a small but growing group of U.S. theaters that dedicate a few screens to serving an audience made up almost exclusively of diaspora Chinese and Chinese students studying abroad.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

From Beirut, This Is Paris: In A World That Doesn't Care About Arab Lives

Elie Fares

HUFFINGTON POST - 11/15/201

When a friend told me past midnight to check the news about Paris, I had no idea that I would be looking at a map of a city I love, delineating locations undergoing terrorist attacks simultaneously. I zoomed in on that map closer; one of the locations was right to where I had stayed when I was there in 2013, down that same boulevard.
The more I read, the higher the number of fatalities went. It was horrible; it was dehumanizing; it was utterly and irrevocably hopeless. 2015 was ending the way it started -- with terrorists attacks occurring in Lebanon and France almost at the same time, in the same context of demented creatures spreading hate and fear and death wherever they went.
I woke up this morning to two broken cities. My friends in Paris who only yesterday were asking what was happening in Beirut were now on the opposite side of the line. Both our capitals were broken and scarred, old news to us perhaps but foreign territory to them.

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The Islamic State’s trap for Europe

By Harleen Gambhir

THE WASHINGTON POST - November 15, 2015

The writer is a counterterrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.  Last week, President Obama said that the Islamic State is “ contained ” in Iraq and Syria, but the group’s attacks in Paris soon afterward showed that it poses a greater threat to the West than ever. The Islamic State is executing a global strategy to defend its territory in Iraq and Syria, foster affiliates in other Muslim-majority areas, and encourage and direct terrorist attacks in the wider world. It has exported its brutality and military methods to groups in Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Now it is using tactical skills acquired on Middle Eastern battlefields to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash that will generate even more recruits within Western societies. The United States and its allies must respond quickly to this threat.  The Islamic State’s strategy is to polarize Western society — to “destroy the grayzone,” as it says in its publications. The group hopes frequent, devastating attacks in its name will provoke overreactions by European governments against innocent Muslims, thereby alienating and radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the continent. The atrocities in Paris are only the most recent instances of this accelerating campaign. Since January, European citizens fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have provided online and material support to lethal operations in Paris, Copenhagen and near Lyon, France, as well as attempted attacks in London, Barcelona and near Brussels. Islamic State fighters are likely responsible for destroying the Russian airliner over the Sinai. These attacks are not random, nor are they aimed primarily at affecting Western policy in the Middle East. They are, rather, part of a militarily capable organization’s campaign to mobilize extremist actors already in Europe and to recruit new ones.

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DOCUMENTARY: Earth 2025 : POPULATION EXPLOSION - AFTERMATH


Sunday, November 15, 2015

World leaders gather in Antalya for G20 summit

CCTV.com  11-15-2015 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has held a welcoming ceremony for the leaders attending the G20 summit in Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is joining other world leaders in seeking ways to find new impetus for global economic development. The two-day summit will also focus on security issues and the Syrian conflict after the terrorist attacks in Paris. The summit will also consider the refugee crisis, climate change and tax avoidance.
The gathering offers the first possibility of a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin since Russia launched its air campaign in Syria.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

These countries speak English as a second language best

by Bethan McKernan in discover

THE INDEPENDENT - NOV. 5, 2015

Nearly two billion people - that's almost one in three people - study English as a non-native language.  In the developing world, English is less of a foreign language skill and more a tool synonymous with development, expanding a country's economy and increasing its connectedness to the rest of the world.  And for small countries with few native-language speakers, it also makes sense to learn a little of the world's lingua franca for business and policy making.  The English Proficiency Index has just released statistics on where English is learned around the world and quality of teaching to find the countries with the highest proficiency of English as a second language:


All five Nordic countries come top of the rankings, with at least 65 per cent of the population fluent in English.
Eastern and German-speaking Europe fill out the rest of the list.
The only non-European countries to feature are highly-developed city state Singapore, and its neighbour Malaysia, as well as Argentina.
You can read the full report here.

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Tuition and Fees, 1998-99 Through 2015-16

This table shows the "sticker prices"—published tuition and required fees—at more than 3,100 colleges and universities for the 2015-16 academic year. Click the institutions' names to see historical data back to 1998.

THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION - November 4, 2015

If an institution charges in-state and out-of-state residents the same rate, the amount is repeated in the "Out-of-state" columns so that readers can sort institutions accordingly. Many institutions, including most community colleges, do not offer room and board. In those cases, the "Total" columns repeat the tuition and fees figure.
The figures represent charges to first-time, full-time undergraduates based, typically, on a nine-month academic year of 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours. The data do not reflect the cost of attendance at an institution after grants and other student aid are considered. That net cost is lower than the published fees shown. Room-and-board fees charged by colleges may represent differing numbers of meals per week and so may not be comparable among institutions.
Historical data are in real dollars by default, but can be adjusted for inflation, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics national figures, using the toggle button in the expanded historical view.

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US Navy operations send muddled message to China

Demetri Sevastopulo and Geoff Dyer

FINANCIAL TIMES - November 7, 2015

When a US warship recently sailed near a Chinese-controlled artificial island in the South China Sea, it signalled the White House was finally taking a tougher stance on Chinese behaviour in the waters.
Beijing described the move as an illegal incursion into the waters around Subi Reef, which is also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam. Washington labelled it a freedom of navigation exercise that was aimed at demonstrating that the US does not recognise Chinese claims in the area.
High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. 
But following months of debate inside the Obama administration, the White House had actually chosen the option that involved the least provocative actions by the US Navy, partly to avoid antagonising China too much ahead of a climate change conference in Paris where Chinese co-operation will be crucial.
According to five people familiar with the operation, the USS Lassen conducted what is known under international law as innocent passage when it sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, which could leave the legal significance of the US manoeuvre open to different interpretations.

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Has the World Lost Faith in Capitalism?

A new survey suggests that restoring confidence in free enterprise will mean ensuring that the same rules apply to everyone

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL - Nov. 6, 2015
If you want to find people who still believe in “the American dream”—the magnetic idea that anyone can build a better life for themselves and their families, regardless of circumstance—you might be best advised to travel to Mumbai. Half of the Indians in a recent poll agreed that “the next generation will probably be richer, safer and healthier than the last.”
The Indians are the most sanguine of the more than 1,000 adults in each of seven nations surveyed in early September by the market-research firm YouGov for the London-based Legatum Institute (with which I am affiliated). The percentage of optimists drops to 42 in Thailand, 39 in Indonesia, 29 in Brazil, 19 in the U.K. and 15 in Germany. But it isn’t old-world Britain or Germany that is gloomiest about the future. It is new-world America, where only 14% of those surveyed think that life will be better for their children, and 52% disagree.
The trajectory of the world doesn’t justify this pessimism. People are living longer on every continent. They’re doing less arduous, backbreaking work. Natural disasters are killing fewer people. Fewer crops are failing. Some 100,000 people are being lifted out of poverty every day, according to World Bank data.
Life is also getting better in the U.S., on multiple measures, but the survey found that 55% of Americans think the “rich get richer” and the “poor get poorer” under capitalism. Sixty-five percent agree that most big businesses have “dodged taxes, damaged the environment or bought special favors from politicians,” and 58% want restrictions on the import of manufactured goods.
These findings don’t mean that Americans are necessarily ready to give up on free enterprise. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, they think that capitalism is absolutely the worst economic system—except for all of the others that have been tried from time to time. Forty-nine percent still agree that free enterprise is the best system for lifting people out of poverty; only 18% disagree. And by 61% to 12%, Americans agree that unemployment is a bigger social problem than the existence of a “superrich” elite. 
Friends of capitalism cannot be complacent, however. The findings of the survey underline the extent to which people think that wealth creation is a dirty business. When big majorities in so many major nations think that big corporations behave unethically and even illegally, it is a system that is always vulnerable to attack from populist politicians.
John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, has long worried about the sustainability of the free enterprise system if large numbers of voters come to think of businesses as “basically a bunch of psychopaths running around trying to line their own pockets.” If the public doesn’t think business is fundamentally good, he has argued, then business is inviting destructive regulation. If, by contrast, business shows responsibility to all its stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, suppliers and the wider community—“the impulse to regulate and control would be lessened.”
Mr. Mackey wants businesses to focus on maximizing purpose as much as profit. He highlights how, for Southwest Airlines, the mission is to give more Americans the ability to see the world. That aim is communicated from the top to the bottom of the company. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information so that it is universally accessible. For his Whole Foods chain, it is about helping people lead longer, healthier lives through better food choices.
Of course, many big businesses see close connections with government as part of their purpose and as a blessing rather than a curse. In his recent book, “The Great Divide,” the economist Joseph Stiglitz identifies those capitalists who have found innovative ways of persuading the government to protect their market status. He calls this phenomenon “socialism for the rich.”
Michael Gove, a minister in Britain’s Tory government who represents a different brand of politics from Prof. Stiglitz’s, has reached similar conclusions. He makes a distinction between the “deserving rich” who work hard and creatively, adding value to society, and an “undeserving rich” who feast on government interventions, rig rules and sit on each other’s remuneration committees.
Banks are uppermost in the minds of most people when we think of crony capitalism. We remember how some banks quickly punished small-business people or private households when they fell into financial distress. But when those same banks and financial institutions got into trouble seven years ago, they were bailed out by the taxpayer, and a different set of rules seemed to apply.
For today’s pessimism about capitalism to be overturned, people must think that the same rules apply to everyone. For capitalism to enjoy the public’s confidence, we need a system where the rich can get poorer as well as the poor richer. There must be snakes as well as ladders in the boardroom board game.
Which capitalists are still popular? Another global survey conducted by YouGov seeks to identify the world’s most popular person each year. The winner for the past two years hasn’t been a celebrity or sports star. It hasn’t been Barack Obama or even the pope. It has been Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and a transformational philanthropist.
Those who are determined to restore faith in capitalism won’t just champion figures like Bill Gates and John Mackey. They will be tough on the crony capitalists who cheat emissions regulators or fix financial markets. When capitalism is seen to be both fair and effective, it can be popular again.

Don't misinterpret Quran to have more than one wife, says HC

Ahmedabad, Nov 5, 2015 

In a strongly-worded order, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday said the Quran was being misinterpreted by Muslim men to have more than one wife and the provision of polygamy was being misused by them for "selfish reasons".  The high court also stated that time has come for the country to embrace the uniform civil code as such provisions are in violation of the Constitution.  Justice J B Pardiwala made these observations while pronouncing the order related to section 494 of IPC, which deals with punishment for having more than one wife. The petitioner, Jafar Abbas Merchant, had approached the high court to quash an FIR against him filed by his wife who alleged that he got married to another woman without her consent.  In the FIR, she invoked section 494 of IPC (marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) against Jafar.  In his plea, Jafar, however, claimed that the Muslim Personal Law allows Muslim men to marry four times and hence the FIR against him does not stand legal scrutiny. In the order, Pardiwala noted "the Quran is being misinterpreted by Muslim men to have more than one wife."  "When the Quran allowed polygamy, it was for a fair reason. When men use that provision today, they do it for a selfish reason. Polygamy finds mention in the Quran only once, and it is about conditional polygamy," the order said.

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