Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Learnin' or Drug Sellin' (Link Round-Up 6/26/12)


Yasiin Bey, the Muslim rapper formerly known as Mos Def
For Bey, retiring “Mos Def” is nothing at all like when, in the late 1970s, folk singer Cat Stevens abandoned his music career when he became a Muslim and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Islam, who returned to pop music as simply “Yusuf” with a 2006 album release, told The New York Times that he originally gave up music because its permissibility for Muslims “was just a gray area, so I stayed out in order to avoid conflict.”

Bey, however, seems to have come into his Islam through music. His father’s deeper impact notwithstanding, his conversion can be attributed largely to the influence of the pioneering hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. And though members of the group would not credit themselves with Bey’s becoming a Muslim, they were there when it happened—“so there,” deejay Ali Shaheed Muhammad told me. Bey declared himself a Muslim at Battery Recording Studios on 25th Street in New York City surrounded by members of Tribe during the making of their 1996 album Beats, Rhymes and Life.
Chicago rap is on the rise despite (or because of) a spiking youth homicide rate
Today, the perception is that street violence in Chicago has become more chaotic and that there are innocent victims and collateral damage. (According to the New York Times, homicides are up by 38 percent from just a year ago.) Much of what has made Keef's controversial music resonate so widely throughout the city is that his young age and seemingly reckless lyrics — dense with references to local sets, cliques, neighborhoods, and gangs — appear to epitomize this very sense of having lost control of the younger generation.
American kids are too spoiled to function
In the L.A. families observed, no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.
21-Year-Old British man faces death penalty in UAE over selling marijuana
Drug dealing is one of six serious crimes that carry a maximum penalty of death under federal law. The others are terrorism, rape, espionage and converting from Islam.

However, experts yesterday stressed that in every instance in which a lower court has issued a death sentence for drugs crimes over the past five years, the penalty has been overturned by higher courts.
Should the world follow Uruguay's plan to sell marijuana?
Late last week, the small and stable South American nation of Uruguay (pop. 3.3 million) proposed legalizing and monitoring marijuana sales — making the government, in fact, the sole legal seller. The purpose of the unprecedented bill, which Uruguayan President José Mujica calls an anticrime measure, is to preempt the often violent black market where marijuana is illegally sold (marijuana use itself is legal in Uruguay) and channel the $750 million that Uruguayan pot users spend on the drug each year into public coffers. “The traditional [interdiction] approach hasn’t worked,” Mujica said. “Someone has to be the first” to try this.
Chinese educational system can't produce innovation
In 2010, an international standardized test found that junior high school students in Shanghai had outperformed their peers in rest of the world in math, science, and reading, beating the U.S. averages by a wide margin. Many in the West saw it as an alarming indication of their own decline, but in many ways it was a sign of the amazing growth of Chinese education over past three decades, rebuilt from shambles after the decade-long Cultural Revolution ended in 1976. So far, it has served China phenomenally: its nine-year compulsory education system, installed in 1986, has boosted the country's literacy rate to around 92 percent (it was 67 percent as of 1980) and prepared millions of eligible young people for the rapidly expanding workforce. Now, however, as the economy shows signs of cooling, Chinese leaders are trying to engender more domestic innovation.

They hope to see an educated workforce, rather than toiling on factory floors or sitting in the cubicles of Western companies' Chinese branches, found their own businesses or brands that will sell to domestic as well as international buyers. They want domestic moviegoers to stop purchasing bootleg DVDs of Western blockbusters, and for foreign viewers to start raving about Chinese films. But the nation's education system, instead of channeling the youthful energy of China's next generation, seems to be blocking it.
Brazilian prisoners can read books for reduced time in jail
Inmates in four federal prisons holding some of Brazil's most notorious criminals will be able to read up to 12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics to trim a maximum 48 days off their sentence each year, the government announced. 
Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and write an essay which must "make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing," said the notice published on Monday in the official gazette.

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