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Archive for May, 2009

This teenager wants to fix the world

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

I am a teenager and often feel powerless when I see problems in the world. My monetary resources are limited, and I already volunteer one day a week at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. My social circle is broad but not numerous. I am schooled at home, so I can’t even talk to my classmates. Can you think of anything I can do to make a bigger difference?

Read responses

Everything you know about Iran is wrong

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What’s the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were “un-Islamic.” The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini’s statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Read on From Zakaria in Newsweek


Saturday, May 30th, 2009

‘Slumming’ was the name given to the thousands of white middle class voyeurs crossing boundaries of race, class and sexual orientation to trip into the worlds of the poor on their dorstep. There they learnt to drop the restraints of respectability and savoured an often salatious sense of sex and discovery in the period of prohibition. The jazz raged, the ‘pansies’ preened, but after the party what was the effect on the communities they visitied? Laurie talks to the author of Slumming, Chad Heap, and the writer Bonnie Greer about the impact that the wild white adventuring in urban areas had on sexual and racial politics in America.

Listen to this 30 minute piece from BBC4’s Thinking Allowed

How David beats Goliath

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

A non-stop full-court press gives weak basketball teams a chance against far stronger teams. Why have so few adopted it?

Gladwell from the New Yorker

What Makes Us Happy?

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.

Read this brilliant piece from the Atlantic

We’re All Torturers Now

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

In April of 2004, the world first learned that American soldiers in Iraq had abused detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. Images first revealed on CBS and in The New Yorker showed prisoners standing hooded on a box with wires attached to their hands and genitals; piles of naked prisoners stacked into a pyramid; and detainees forced to simulate sexual acts upon one another, often with grinning GIs on hand to point and offer a jaunty thumbs up.

The reaction to the Abu Ghraib scandal was swift and bipartisan. Within days, President George W. Bush had offered a public apology for “the terrible and horrible acts,” and his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, took “full responsibility” for the scandal, promising that the offenders would be brought to justice, because the victims “are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn’t do that.” With the exception of a handful of outliers—Rush Limbaugh said the abuse was “no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation,” and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., claimed to be “more outraged by the outrage than … by the treatment”—Americans reacted with almost universal surprise and revulsion.

Read On

Out of Africa?: Foreign aid is part of the problem, but so is corrupt politics

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Between 2002 and 2008, sub-Saharan Africa started growing again, buoyed like much of the rest of the world by the global commodity boom and Chinese investment. Thus ended one of the most dismaying periods in the continent’s recent history, a generationlong stretch during which most countries in the region saw per capita incomes fall, sometimes to levels not experienced since the end of colonialism.

read on from Francis Fukayama’s contribution to Slate

Supreme Court Rulings

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Here is the official list of Supreme Court opinions for the past 4 years.

Enjoy it here

Re-Stalinisation of Russia

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Laurie Taylor discusses what is being called the re-Stalinisation of Russia on today’s Thinking Allowed. According to exiled Russian academic Michail Ryklin, Putin’s Russia is turning the clock back and rehabilitating the most famous demon of the Soviet Union.

In a new book, he claims that although the Soviet Union proclaimed itself an aethist state, communism functioned as its religion, and when faith faded it was replaced by mass terror. But now memories of the terror and bloodshed have receded and Stalin is being reclaimed.

Listen to this 10 minute interview with Ryklin

Russia approves presidency bill

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

A bill to extend the presidential term from four to six years has been backed by Russia’s upper house of parliament after regional assemblies endorsed it.

All the Federation Council senators present backed the assemblies’ decision to lengthen the term, the last step in the legislative approval process.

Last month, both the lower house and upper house approved the bill.

The bill’s rapid progression is being seen as a sign Vladimir Putin may return to the presidency soon.

The changes needed the backing of at least two-thirds of the country’s regional legislatures but were approved unanimously, according to Russian news agencies.

Read on from the BBC