Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lonely Planet: Bad Historians, Half-Decent Guidebooks (Link Round-Up 8/15/12)

[photo by Jason Prechtel, taken in March 2009 with Lonely Planet South America guidebook in hand]

Why do Lonely Planet guidebooks gloss over dictatorships?
TO ESTABLISH THE quality of the political education they're serving up to a new generation of travelers, it's useful to begin by skimming their guidebooks for undemocratic countries like Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
There's a formula to them: a pro forma acknowledgment of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions. Throughout, there is the consistent refrain that economic backwardness should be viewed as cultural authenticity, not to mention an admirable rejection of globalization and American hegemony. The hotel recommendations might be useful, but the guidebooks are clotted with historical revisionism, factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing.
The other "preserve-or-demolish" Chicago architecture debate: Prentice Women's Hospital
Far too often, cities are faced with either-or propositions when it comes to older buildings: either save them and forego new development or tear them down and get the new development you need. Chicago, in this instance, could have both, since it’s possible to preserve Prentice for a new use and still allow Northwestern to expand its facilities. It just takes some imagination. And that’s just what seems lacking right now in the nation’s first city of architecture.
The forgotten Arab Spring in Western Iran 
If the West did attack Iran, do you think it would be a good chance for the Ahwaz to rise up?
Yes, but they’d need to finish the job. If the Ahwazis and other ethnic groups rose up, then the West left, Iran would take revenge on us by killing thousands. The regime is like a cancer on the world, and while it's still in power, there won’t ever be lasting peace in the region.
Iran threatens to cut itself off from the internet
“We have identified and confronted 650 websites that have been set up to battle our regime — 39 of them are by opposition groups and our enemies, and the rest promote Western culture and worshiping Satan, and stoke sectarian divides,” conservative cleric Hamid Shahriari said in March. “We are worried about a portion of cyberspace that is used for exchanging information and conducting espionage.”
To that end, Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Technology has announced the launch of a domestic intranet — a completely closed loop that would leave Iranian citizens without online access to the rest of the world.
Russian AK-47 factory thrives on American sales 
“Typically, an American family will have five or six short- and long-barreled guns,” Mr. Kuzyuk, a former director of the Boston Consulting Group in Moscow, said in an interview. “Some collectors have more than 20 guns.”

And in the United States, Izhmash cannot be underpriced by Chinese competitors. The federal government has banned most imports of Chinese handguns and rifles since 1994.

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