Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Well, Those Refugees Fleeing Libya Have To Go Somewhere...

As Libyans struggle against the foreign mercenaries pouring in, refugees are pouring out:
  • Turkey is trying to extract 25,000 Turkish nationals, but at least one has already been killed.

If anything, a destabilized Libya will cause more and more refugees to flee north across the Mediterranean, like many European countries have feared and sought to prevent in recent years.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wealth Gap, Schmealth Gap

Here's three of many signs of the increasing chasm between the global rich and (increasingly) global poor:

1. Egypt's prosecutor general wants to freeze Mubarak's foreign assets.
Egyptian authorities so far have also sought freezes on the financial assets of a top businessman and former ruling-party official as well as four former cabinet ministers. All have been detained pending investigations. 
Scrutiny of the Mubarak family's wealth - speculation about its size ranges from $1 billion to $70 billion - intensified as his Feb. 11 departure opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at his regime.
2. Eight graphs of the shocking wealth distribution in the United States.

3. The 100-something dynasties and family enterprises that rule India like princely states.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Enter All Of The Light Femmes

Compare and contrast the following:

1. Kanye West's new video for "All Of The Lights" (2011)

2. The Enter The Void title sequence (2010)

3. The Une Femme Est Une Femme title sequence (1961)

Notice a pattern?

(via Fader)

What Protests Look Like As They Happen

In Bahrain, where peaceful protesters get shot.

In Libya, where soldiers are burnt for refusing to fire on protesters.

In America, where unions protest the government to keep collective bargaining rights.

In China, where protests are busted before they even develop.

And in several other countries with people fed up with the status quo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Food Riots Are Every Country's Future News Story

Although many Egyptians hated Mubarak and wanted real democratic elections anyway, the catalyst for the riots in Egypt (as well as Tunisia and other places) have been an increase in food prices amid poverty and dwindling resources.

Of course, this is what happens when everyone's reserves are part of the same market. Even President Evo Morales of Bolivia, considered a hero the poor, had to bail out of a public appearance over concerns for his safety:
Mr Morales was due to address a parade to commemorate a colonial-era uprising in the mining city of Oruro. 
But he and his team left the city to avoid a violent demonstration by miners throwing dynamite. 
There have also been protests in other Bolivian cities over the shortage of sugar and other basic foodstuffs.
But why ARE food prices so high worldwide now?

1. Economic manipulation caused by ethanol production, US monetary policy, and/or commodity speculation.

2. Bad weather ruining major agricultural output.

3. Bad farming practices, like in India and China where hundreds of millions of people are fed on grain produced by overpumping aquifers.

Regardless, December 2010 had the highest staple food prices on record. If these prices can't be lowered through economic reform or agrarian output, we will see more hungry rioters toppling governments across the world.

If Van Gogh's Can Go Bad, Is It Time To Rewrite Art History?

Scientists have discovered the chemical reaction that is changing yellow shades to brown on some Van Gogh paintings.
To find out, the researchers obtained three tubes of yellow paint from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp that were manufactured around the same time that Van Gogh was working. They spread samples of the still-bright paint onto glass slides and bombarded them with ultraviolet radiation for three weeks to mimic the process of aging.
Only one of the samples browned — and it did so in dramatic fashion, its color turning from daisy to coffee with milk, Janssens said. The brown layer was about a micron thick.
The cause?
And in the yellows that had browned, the team found their culprit in forcing the chromium change: barium sulfate. 
This suggests that this contaminant, combined with light exposure, is the source of the darkening, Janssens [says]: "We think the barium sulphate could have been part of a paint extender - something used to make the paint go further. The mixture of sulphate and chromate is very sensitive to darkening under UV light. Galleries should keep paintings containing chrome yellow out of any strong light or UV light." 
Which leads to an interesting point...
"This is the kind of research that will allow art history to be rewritten," because the colors we observe today are not necessarily the colors the artist intended, said Francesca Casadio, a cultural heritage scientist at the Art Institute of Chicago who was not involved in the work.
I imagine most artists and art patrons take the colors they see on a painting for granted as the original, and only have a passing understanding that paint ingredients consist of chemicals with complicated names - never mind the actual chemical properties.

Between this and the evidence for painted Roman statues, is it time assess how many works of art actually look the way they were painted? the meantime, keep your paintings out of the sunlight if you don't know where the paint came from.

Weapons of Mass Delusion

I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."
No comment. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Quote Or Not To Quote?

Generally, I like to write Culture Bore posts around a collection of connected links, and quote a bit from everything I link.

However, in the interest of readability (and copying the fantastic MetaFilter and Front Section blogs), I'm going to go much leaner on the article quotes, and let the mosaic formed by the related-link descriptions speak for themselves.

If you're reading this, any and all feedback on Culture Bore would be much appreciated.

The Protests Roll On Algeria, Bahrain, and Yemen, where protesters calling for their governments to step down clash with police forces.

Meanwhile, Iran braces itself for Green Movement-coordinated protests set for February 14th.

It's not just in the Muslim world. Italians across the country are protesting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's multiple sex scandals.

And union workers in Wisconsin are protesting the Governor Scott Walker's plan to strip collective bargaining from most public sector employees in order to save state money.

Starting to detect a pattern here?

School Daze

Texas Governor, Rick Perry, wants state-school bachelor's degrees to cost no more than $10,000.
"My answer is I have no idea how," McKinney, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, told the Senate Finance Committee. "I'm not going to say that it can't be done."
Tuition, fees and books for four years average $31,696 at public universities in Texas, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College is the cheapest, at $17,532. 
The governor's call for low-cost degrees comes as legislative budget writers and the governor himself have proposed deep cuts in higher education funding — cuts that would put pressure on governing boards to raise tuition, not lower it. 
But officials of some university systems — whose governing boards are fully populated by Perry appointees — nevertheless struck an upbeat tone, or at least a neutral one. As McKinney, a former Perry chief of staff, put it: "If it can be figured out, we've got the faculty that can figure it out." 
A spokesman for the University of Texas System said, "We look forward to reviewing details of the governor's proposal."

Meanwhile, BitTorrent and Khan University have partnered to freely distribute educational videos.
“We’re honored to support the Khan Academy’s vision of bringing knowledge and education to the world,” said Shahi Ghanem, chief strategist at BitTorrent. “The Khan Academy App is a perfect example of why we created our App Studio platform: to help content creators connect with our global user base.” 
“In this instance we also enjoy the benefit of empowering a partner to provide tens of millions of people with free access to world-class educational content. This is a truly worthy cause. We look forward to continuing our work with the Khan Academy and other socially conscious content creators as we foster new content distribution models.”

And hidden cameras in British Muslim schools have documented beatings...
In just two days of filming in December 2010, the camera recorded the teacher hitting children as young as six or seven at least ten times, in less than three hours of lessons.From what we could see, every ¬single blow was pretty much unprovoked. We soon realised that the beatings were routine. The behaviour of the boys, the way they flinched and backed away when he approached, indicated that they were long-accustomed to being hit and kicked as they studied.
...along with less-than-tolerant lesson plans.
We found children as young as 11 learning that Hindus have ‘no intellect’ and that they ‘drink cow p***’. 
And we came across pupils being told that the ‘disbelievers’ are ‘the worst creatures’ and that Muslims who adopt supposedly non-Muslim ways, such as shaving, dancing, listening to music and – in the case of women – removing their headscarves, would be tortured with a forked iron rod in the afterlife. 
In 2009 this school was praised by Government-approved inspection teams for its interfaith teachings. The report said that ‘pupils learn about the beliefs and practices of other faiths and are taught to show respect to other world religions’.

Unfortunately, even education is political. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Not-So-Invisible Hands Guiding the Egyptian Protests

Despite fears of a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated, Islamist state replacing President Mubarak, the Egyptian anti-Mubarak opposition is far more complicated (and economically-driven) than most observers realize.
In the case of the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s, the "bazaaris of Tehran" - the medium-sized merchants and shop owners - ended up serving as the crucial "swing vote", moving the Iranian Revolution from left to right, from a socialist uprising toward the founding of an Islamic republic. In the case of Egypt, the social and political force of women and youth micro-entrepreneurs will lead history in the opposite direction. These groups have a highly developed and complex view of the moral posturing of some Islamists - and they have a very clear socio-economic agenda, which appeals to the dynamic youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. 
The progressive groups have a linked network of enterprises, factories, identities and passions. They would go to any length to prevent the reemergence of police brutality and moral hypocrisy that have ruled them for the past generation. The women and youth behind theses micro-businesses, and the workers in the new Russian, Chinese, Brazilian, Gulf and Egyptian-financed factories seem to be united. And they grow more so each day. 
Micro-entrepreneurs, new workers' groups, and massive anti-police brutality organisations obviously do not share the same class position as Sawiris and Badrawi and the rich men in the "Council of the Wise". Nevertheless, there are significant overlaps and affinities between the interests and politics of nationalist development-oriented groups, the newly entrepreneurial military - and the vitally well-organised youth and women's social movements. This confluence of social, historical and economic dynamics will assure that this uprising does not get reduced to a photo opportunity for Suleiman and a few of his cronies.
It's hard to predict what will happen in the coming days and weeks, but if Mubarak has lost the support of Egypt's economic backbone, it's hard to see him lasting much longer.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

(Global) Sexx Laws

A member of a popular Indonesian band has been jailed over two leaked sex tapes.
Ariel, the frontman of the rock band "Peterpan," was the first high-profile offender of the pornography law that went into effect in 2008 and carries a maximum penalty of 12 years.
The first video surfaced on several websites last year and went viral through social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. It allegedly featured Ariel and girlfriend Luna Maya -- a model and TV journalist who interviewed Hillary Clinton on her show "Dahsyat" during the U.S. secretary of state's visit to Indonesia in 2009.
After the release of the second video allegedly featuring Ariel and Cut Tari -- a soap opera star and TV journalist -- the term "Ariel Peterporn," a spin on the singer's name and his band, became a top trending topic on Twitter.

He may be getting off easy compared to two Iranian pornographers recently given death sentences.
"Two administrators of porn sites have been sentenced to death in two different (court) branches and (the verdicts) have been sent to the supreme court for confirmation,'' Dolatabadi said, without naming the two convicts.
Last December, Canada expressed concern over the reported death sentence handed down to an Iranian-born Canadian resident for allegedly designing an adult website. 
Saeed Malekpour, 35, was convicted of "designing and moderating adult content websites,'' "agitation against the regime'' in Tehran, and "insulting the sanctity of Islam,'' according to an online campaign calling for his release. 
Malekpour was detained in Iran after returning in 2008 to visit his ailing father. He was sentenced to death in December.

Meanwhile, an Irish group is looking to reform the country's prostitution laws.
Speaking at a press conference at Buswells Hotel in Dublin, the group called on the incoming Government to introduce legislation that would penalise people who buy sex, while decriminalising those who sell sexual services
The group says women and children continue to be trafficked into prostitution in Ireland because it remains profitable.

And while various American states (and fast-food chains) battle over the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions, gay Ugandan citizens and refugees fear for their own lives.
After the murder of the gay Ugandan activist David Kato and with a chilling warning from Ugandan MP David Bahati ringing in her ears, she says she fears her life is over. Bahati, the author of a bill which would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, intervened in Namigadde's case to warn her she should "repent" or be arrested on her return.
Speaking from Yarl's Wood, Namigadde, 29, says: "My life is in danger. I don't know what will happen to me. I'm very scared. I haven't eaten, I haven't slept."
She knows from experience what returning to her country will mean for her, she says. "I'll be tortured, or killed, if I'm sent back. They've put people like me to death there."

And finally, a song that sums up the reoccurring theme of these news stories.

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