Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blood Red Temples of the Maya (Link Round-Up 7/22/12)


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Super rich (illegally) hiding up to $32 trillion in offshore accounts
"What's shocking is that some of the world's biggest banks are up to their eyeballs in helping their clients evade taxes and shift their wealth offshore," said Christensen. 
"We're talking about very big, well-known brands - HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America, UBS, Credit Suisse - some of the world's biggest banks are invovled...and they do it knowing fully well that their clients, more often than not, are evading and avoiding taxes." 
Much of this activity, Christensen added, was illegal.
Vietnamese soliders kill rare monkeys, post pictures to Facebook
The photos showed one of the monkeys, believed to be pregnant, being made to smoke a cigarette before it was tortured and killed. 
Col Nguyen Van Hai, head of Tay Nguyen Command's Military Prosecutor's Office, told the Voice of Vietnam that the soldiers had been detained and were being questioned.
South African vendors evicted, riots and looting against foreign-owned businesses result
A riot broke out in Thaba Nchu, Free State. Many black people started attacking Chinese, Indian and Pakistani shops on Sunday night. This morning [July 2] around 10am, a couple of dozen people started attacking our factory and other factories in the district. We fought back and the black people failed. But the Indian furniture factory next door has been raided as they don't have enough security. In the black town, all our Chinese clients' shops were emptied last night.
Mexico's student movement takes on widespread election fraud
Four days after the elections, members of the movement stated that the elections “are not nor will they be accepted,” because “election day was plagued by irregularities” that they themselves documented, and they consider to be sufficient proof that the elections were undemocratic. “We reject the electoral process, which was corrupt from the beginning, with institutions that were deliberately incapable of preventing and sanctioning countless anomalies.”
Mayan temple with large, carved faces discovered in Guatemala
"With the play of light on these things, the faces would have been extremely dramatic," said Taube, of the University of California, Riverside (UCR),who also was not involved in the project. 
Project leader Houston added that the masks' color—crimson, according to paint traces—would have also helped them stand out. "With that bright red pigment, it would have had a particularly marked effect at dawn and at the setting of the sun," Houston said. 
Blazing red and perched on high, the Temple of the Night Sun was meant "to see and to be seen," Houston said.
The Islamists in Mali, Timbuktu, and the battle over "real" Islam
Destroying rival gods is nothing new. The ancient Romans called the practice damnatio memoriae. A new emperor would lop off the heads of his divine predecessor’s statues or re-carve the nose or chin on a face to reflect his own. This was, at its roots, a turf battle over power, and that’s what’s happening in Mali right now, where Ansar al Dine is one of several rival groups that has seized control of the north. Ansar al Dine considers Sufi Islam illegitimate because it involves the veneration of saints, as well as singing and dancing. Most Sufis, who make up the majority of Africa’s nearly 500 million Muslims, see it differently. They view their ecstatic prayers as authentic in contrast to what many call “Arabized Islam,” the newly imported and militant form of the faith that has gained ground in Africa, as elsewhere, over the past several decades. 
This struggle reflects the complicated bid within Islam today over who is a legitimate believer and who isn’t—a clash within that is increasingly influential in determining the religious future of the world’s nearly two billion Muslims. Yet for Ansar Dine, which currently controls a region just shy of the size of Texas in northern Mali, Sufis are really just the means to create a public relations coup. Destroying tombs, flogging inadequately veiled women, imposing an arbitrary hudud, the Islamic criminal code—all of these actions are tools in their bid to grab the world’s attention, to identify with the putative glories of other international Islamist movements (including Al Qaeda), and in so doing, prove the reach of their own global power.
Why words like "liberal" and "extremist" don't entirely apply in the new Arab democracies
We need better terms that this, or perhaps more terms than merely liberal, secular (these two sometimes wrongly used interchangeably) and Islamists. Let's start with Islamists: a wide range of people fall under this label, with different views. Arguably the Muslim Brotherhood tendency deserves in own label, due to its relative ideological coherence and strength. Salafis are also diverse, since only a segment engage in politics, but that segment is pretty reliably ultra-conservative. And then there are new variants of Islamism usually described as "moderate" which is not quite satisfactory either, especially when the Brothers in particular often use this word to describe themselves. So we may have:
  • Ikhwani Islamist for Muslim Brothers; 
  • Salafi Islamist for the various Salafi parties, who are mostly socially ultra-conservative; 
  • Wasati Islamist for individuals like Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh or the Wasat or Egyptian Current parties.
The show HBO should make about the (complicated) history of  70's race relations 
In the blockbusting storyline, you’ll find a lot of bad guys. Thing is, not all of them were white. White realtors and black realtors often worked in collusion, the white realtor targeting and harassing white residents, the black realtor lining up the prospective black tenants who’d be used to flood the neighborhood. Some black realtors even went door-to-door in white neighborhoods themselves, inquiring about properties for sale. They knew full well that the color of their skin would incite a panic in white residents, producing a slate of properties they could pick up on the cheap. And because black homebuyers were being denied fair mortgage credit at banks, black-owned banks and mortgage brokers enjoyed a captive, inflated market; their clients often had nowhere else to go.

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