“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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Decline of International Studies Why Flying Blind Is Dangerous

By Charles King

Foreign Affairs - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In October 2013, the U.S. Department of State eliminated its funding program for advanced language and cultural training on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Created in 1983 as a special appropriation by Congress, the so-called Title VIII Program had supported generations of specialists working in academia, think tanks, and the U.S. government itself. But as a State Department official told the Russian news service RIA Novosti at the time, “In this fiscal climate, it just didn’t make it.” The program’s shuttering came just a month before the start of a now well-known chain of events: Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the descent of U.S.-Russian relations to their lowest level since the Cold War. The timing was, to say the least, unfortunate.

The end of the United States’ premier federal program for Russian studies saved taxpayers only $3.3 million—the cost of two Tomahawk cruise missiles or about half a day’s sea time for an aircraft carrier strike group. The development was part of a broader trend: the scaling back of a long-term national commitment to education and research focused on international affairs. Two years ago, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences warned of a hidden crisis in the humanities and social sciences. “Now more than ever,” the academy’s report concluded, “the spirit of international cooperation, the promotion of trade and foreign investment, the requirements of international diplomacy, and even the enhancement of national security depend in some measure on an American citizenry trained in humanistic and social scientific disciplines, including languages, transnational studies, moral and political philosophy, global ethics, and international relations.” In response to lobbying by universities and scholarly associations, Title VIII was resuscitated earlier this year, but it came back at less than half its previous funding level and with future appropriations left uncertain. Given the mounting challenges that Washington faces in Russia and eastern Europe, now seems to be an especially odd time to reduce federal support for educating the next cohort of experts.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The man who was caged in a zoo

In 1904, Ota Benga was kidnapped from Congo and taken to the US, where he was exhibited with monkeys. His appalling story reveals the roots of a racial prejudice that still haunts us

By Pamela Newkirk

The Guardian - Wednesday 3 June 2015

The black clergymen who had been summoned to Harlem’s Mount Olivet Baptist Church for an emergency meeting on the morning of Monday 10 September 1906, arrived in a state of outrage. A day earlier, the New York Times had reported that a young African man – a so-called “pygmy” – had been put on display in the monkey house of the city’s largest zoo. Under the headline “Bushman Shares a Cage With Bronx Park Apes”, the paper reported that crowds of up to 500 people at a time had gathered around the cage to gawk at the diminutive Ota Benga – just under 5ft tall, weighing 103lb – while he preoccupied himself with a pet parrot, deftly shot his bow and arrow, or wove a mat and hammock from bundles of twine placed in the cage. Children giggled and hooted with delight while adults laughed, many uneasily, at the sight.
In anticipation of larger crowds after the publicity in the New York Times, Benga was moved from a smaller chimpanzee cage to one far larger, to make him more visible to spectators. He was also joined by an orangutan called Dohang. While crowds massed to leer at him, the boyish Benga, who was said to be 23 but appeared far younger, sat silently on a stool, staring – sometimes glaring – through the bars.
The exhibition of a visibly shaken African with apes in the New York Zoological Gardens, four decades after the end of slavery in America, would highlight the precarious status of black people in the nation’s imperial city. It pitted the “coloured” ministers, and a few elite allies, against a wall of white indifference, as New York’s newspapers, scientists, public officials, and ordinary citizens revelled in the spectacle. By the end of September, more than 220,000 people had visited the zoo – twice as many as the same month one year earlier. Nearly all of them headed directly to the primate house to see Ota Benga.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

How to shrink a city

Many cities are losing inhabitants. Better to manage decline than try to stop it  '

The Economist - May 28th 2015

ONE of the biggest challenges for the world this century is how to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who will flock to cities, especially in emerging economies.

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Map: The U.S. is bound by treaties to defend a quarter of humanity

By Adam Taylor

The Washington Post - May 30, 2015

The United States is bound by a number of treaties that could, in theory, force it to get involved in a war if an ally is attacked. Consider, for example, the situation in Ukraine, a non-member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. If a NATO ally were to find itself under similar threat from Russia, the U.S. may find itself duty bound to war.
Or alternatively, cast your mind to the South China Sea and its territorial disputes. If China were to engage militarily with the Philippines at some point in the near future, the U.S. may well be expected to step in to protect its ally: Since 1951, the U.S. and the Philippines have had a bilateral agreement for mutual defense.
It goes without saying that war with either Russia or China would be a very big deal – especially if that war is on behalf of a third party. This becomes more startling when you realize that, thanks to various treaties and deals set up since 1945, the U.S. government might be legally obligated to defend countries containing 25 percent of the world's population.

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Men adrift

Men adrift  Badly educated men in rich countries have not adapted well to trade, technology or feminism

THE ECONOMIST - MAY 2015

KIMBERLEY, a receptionist in Tallulah, thinks the local men are lazy. “They don’t do nothin’,” she complains. This is not strictly true. Until recently, some of them organised dog fights in a disused school building.
Tallulah, in the Mississippi Delta, is picturesque but not prosperous. Many of the jobs it used to have are gone. Two prisons and a county jail provide work for a few guards but the men behind bars, obviously, do not have jobs. Nor do many of the young men who hang around on street corners, shooting dice and shooting the breeze. In Madison Parish, the local county, only 47% of men of prime working age (25-54) are working.
The men in Tallulah are typically not well educated: the local high school’s results are poor even by Louisiana’s standards. That would have mattered less, in the old days. A man without much book-learning could find steady work at the mill or in the fields. But the lumber mill has closed, and on nearby farms “jobs that used to take 100 men now take ten,” observes Jason McGuffie, a pastor. A strong pair of hands is no longer enough.

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Printing a human kidney

TED2011 · Filmed Mar 2011

Surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrates an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. Using similar technology, Dr. Atala's young patient Luke Massella received an engineered bladder 10 years ago; we meet him onstage.

WATCH THE VIDEO.....