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Congressional Testimony

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James Cameron's Terminator 3 was the REALLY prophetic one. That's why Skynet sent a robot back to the 1990s to prevent him from ever making it, ultimately handing the franchise over to other directors.
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James Cameron's Terminator 3 was the REALLY prophetic one. That's why Skynet sent a robot back to the 1990s to prevent him from ever making it, ultimately handing the franchise over to other directors.

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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A statue of Saddam Hussein in front of the burning National Olympic Committee in Baghdad in 2003. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

With a special Iraq War edition, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.


How American High Schools Teach The Iraq War

Nick Robins-Early and Rebecca Klein
Huffington Post

American troops have been in Iraq longer than the average high school freshman has been alive. But for the most part, the deadliest U.S. military intervention since the Vietnam War remains a footnote in America’s social studies classrooms. Fifteen years after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, teachers and education leaders are still trying to find ways to teach students about an intervention that has yet to end.

The challenges teachers face are obvious: In a world where there is always too much to teach and standardized tests reign supreme, recent history tends to get left behind, even if this history is essential for understanding modern geopolitics. Content requirements in social studies classrooms vary by state. Beyond that, experts say the handling of this issue likely varies by district. Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history of education at the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed how some major textbooks handled the Iraq War for the war’s 10th anniversary and was impressed with the books’ complex and multi-sided perspectives on the issue. But in cash-strapped districts, outdated textbooks are the norm. [continue reading]

Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country

Sinan Antoon
New York Times

When I was 12, Saddam Hussein, vice president of Iraq at the time, carried out a huge purge and officially usurped total power. I was living in Baghdad then, and I developed an intuitive, visceral hatred of the dictator early on. That feeling only intensified and matured as I did. In the late 1990s, I wrote my first novel, “I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody,” about daily life under Saddam’s authoritarian regime. Furat, the narrator, was a young college student studying English literature at Baghdad University, as I had. He ends up in prison for cracking a joke about the dictator. Furat hallucinates and imagines Saddam’s fall, just as I often did. I hoped I would witness that moment, whether in Iraq or from afar.

I left Iraq a few months after the 1991 Gulf War and went to graduate school in the United States, where I’ve been ever since. In 2002, when the cheerleading for the Iraq war started, I was vehemently against the proposed invasion. The United States had consistently supported dictators in the Arab world and was not in the business of exporting democracy, irrespective of the Bush administration’s slogans. I recalled sitting in my family’s living room with my aunt when I was a teenager, watching Iraqi television and seeing Donald Rumsfeld visiting Baghdad as an emissary from Ronald Reagan and shaking hands with Saddam. That memory made Mr. Rumsfeld’s words in 2002 about freedom and democracy for Iraqis seem hollow. Moreover, having lived through two previous wars (the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 and the Gulf War of 1991), I knew that the actual objectives of war were always camouflaged by well-designed lies that exploit collective fear and perpetuate national myths. [continue reading]

Blowback: How Isis was Created by the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Mehdi Hasan
The Intercept

“YOUR BROTHER CREATED ISIS,” college student Ivy Ziedrich told a startled Jeb Bush after a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, in May 2015. The then-Republican presidential hopeful tried to defend his elder sibling, former President George W. Bush, by blaming the rise of the Islamic State on Barack Obama, “because Americans pulled back” from Iraq in 2011. It sounds a bit conspiratorial, right? Calling Dubya the creator of ISIS? The reality, however, is that Ziedrich’s accusation wasn’t far off the mark. Had it not been for Bush’s catastrophic decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, in defiance of international law, the world’s most feared terrorist group would not exist today. ISIS is blowback.

In this week’s episode of my six-part series on blowback, I examine the three ways in which Bush’s misadventure in Mesopotamia helped birth a group that the U.S. now considers to be one of the biggest threats to both U.S. national security and Middle East peace. [continue reading]

The Iraq War and the Inevitability of Ignorance

James Fallows
Atlantic

There’s a specific reason it is so hard to be president—in normal circumstances—and why most incumbents look decades older when they leave the job than when they began. The reason is that the only choices normal presidents get to make are the impossible ones—decisions that are not simply very close calls on the merits, but that are guaranteed to lead to tragedy and bitterness whichever way they go.

Take Barack Obama’s famed choice not to back up his “red line” promise in Syria, which was a focus of Jeffrey Goldberg’s “The Obama Doctrine” Atlantic cover story two years ago. The option Obama chose—not intervening in Syria—meant death and suffering for countless thousands of people. The option he rejected—intervening—would have meant death and suffering for countless thousands of the same people or others. Agree or disagree on the outcome, any such decision is intellectually demanding and morally draining. Normal presidents have to make them, one after another, all day long. (Why don’t they get any easier choices? Because someone else has made all of those before they get to the president.) Obama’s decision to approve the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound turned out to be a tactical and political success. When he made it, he had to weigh the possibility that it could end in world-publicized failure—like Jimmy Carter’s decision to attempt a rescue of American hostages in Iran, which ended in chaos, and which Carter later contended was what sealed his fate in his re-election run. [continue reading]

Why We Need to Remember the Iraq War—As Well as the Global Resistance to It

Phyllis Bennis
Nation

Fifteen years ago, on February 15, 2003, the world said “No to War”: Some 10 million to 15 million people, in hundreds of cities and dozens of countries all over the world, embraced the same slogan, made the same demand, in scores of different languages. A war against Iraq was looming, with Washington and London standing virtually alone in their false claims that Baghdad had amassed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. As we look at the consequences of that war today—Iraq still in flames, wars raging across the region—we need to remember.

Throughout 2002 and into 2003, while George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” raged across Afghanistan, Washington continued to build support for a war against Iraq. We need to remember how the mainstream media obediently fell—or eagerly jumped—into line with the propaganda churned out by the Dick Cheney–Donald Rumsfeld policy shops. The most influential papers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, led the way, helping to legitimize the spurious predictions of Iraqis welcoming US troops with sweets and flowers, of yellowcake uranium from Niger, of aluminum tubes that could “only” be used for nuclear weapons. Some among the liberal and independent media collaborated as well. Even Patrick Tyler of the Times (who coined the term “second superpower” to describe the February 15 mobilization) acknowledged years later the “grand deception in which we all share in the responsibility…. The military-industrial complex has its analogue in the press, the media-industrial complex.” [continue reading]





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infini
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The Solution is in Biology: A Startup Takes Biogas to the Kitchen

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Engineering for Change reports:
“The problem is not with the technology, but the science itself,” says Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe, founder of Vaayu-mitra, a startup from Pune, India, which is pioneering the idea of making your own green fuel.

Their product, named Vaayu, converts household food waste into biogas. Often delivered in canisters decorated with the catchy design of Pixar’s “minions,” this household device makes green fuel in your kitchen with simple resources and in a relatively short time.

“We often seek the solution to the problem of energy security via high-tech solar panels or huge wind mills. Whereas, a simple solution is present in biology,” Priyadarshan continues. “The biomass in and around us is the most abundant energy source in the world and is easily accessible. The non-biological solutions such as solar or wind are part of the solution. But they alone cannot save our future when it comes to energy security. We need a strong backing of biological sources to make everyone independent for their energy needs.
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infini
125 days ago
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Migration Means Reinvention – Even to Olympian

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Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana’s Olympic Skeleton athlete. Photo: BBC

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Feb 19 2018 (IOM)

Every Olympian, in their way, is a migrant—undertaking a life-changing journey towards their goal of athletic perfection.

Yet many are more migratory than others, particularly those from the world’s least developed countries who often must leave home to access the resources necessary to transform themselves into world-beating athletes.

Migrants born abroad often become citizens of the country under whose Olympic flags they compete. Others compete for their homelands, but only after training abroad to hone their competitive skills.

Such an athlete is Sabrina Simader—Kenyan born, but mostly Austrian bred, migrating with her mother to Liezen in the Austrian Alps, where she discovered a talent for snow sports. Sabrina is skiing for Kenya this year.

Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean is a 24-year-old cross-country skier representing Togo at the Games. She was born in Kpalimé, north of Lomé, the Togolese capita, moving to France at age four. Petitjean made her Olympic debut at Sochi in 2014; she trains in Canada and is the first Togolese to compete in cross-country skiing, entering both sprint and 10km disciplines.

Then there’s Ngozi Onmuwere, Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga—Nigeria’s bobsled team—three daughters of Nigerian émigré parents, each born in the USA (in, respectively, Texas, Illinois and Minnesota). All three began as track and field specialists, and then individually gravitated to winter sports.

While two already compete internationally for Nigeria in track and field, as a trio they became Nigeria’s first delegation to the Winter Olympics. Eritrea is the other African nation competing in the Winter Games for the first time.

Someone worth watching was Akwasi Frimpong, a Ghanaian national competing in the skeleton event. At the end of his run on Saturday—where he placed last—he broke into a joyous celebratory dance, delighting both fans in Korea and around the world as a joyful video of his antics went viral.

The 32-year-old athlete is the first West African to compete in the skeleton event. Born in Kumasi, Ghana, he started life in a modest home with his grandmother and nine other children. At the age of eight he arrived in The Netherlands, joining his mother who emigrated earlier. Frimpong spent years as an irregular migrant, living without proper documentation until his early twenties.

Frimpong’s journey recalls countless attempts by other West Africans to reach Europe, many of whom fall prey to the hazards of irregular routes, especially through Libya. Lack of information about legal channels puts migrants’ lives at risk as they face detention and abuse by unscrupulous smugglers. Just in 2018, 2,562 migrants from West African countries have voluntarily returned home from Libya.

Led by IOM, the Aware Migrants information campaign aims to inform migrants of the dangers of irregular migration by sharing testimonies of returnees, but also through music. In November last year, Ghanaian rapper and songwriter Kofi Kinaata became IOM’s first Goodwill Ambassador.

As part of the Aware Migrants campaign, Kinaata will release a song aimed at encouraging Ghanaian youth to value their lives and not take unnecessary risks in chasing illusionary greener pastures.

Speaking to CNN, about the many challenges he overcame on his way to the Olympics, Frimpong said, “I hope I can motivate kids in Ghana to chase their dreams.”

The post Migration Means Reinvention – Even to Olympian appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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infini
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Elements of Handpainted Graphic Design and Signage

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The first time I went to Africa, my research companion, a South African designer, very apologetically mentioned the use of handwritten signage in his country. We were there on behalf of Samsung, and our global design research team included members from Seoul, Singapore, and Pretoria.

“Its all rather primitive over here” he said, but I fear my heart was captured.

Look at this signage and graphic design for a radio station in western Kenya. It has its own balance and harmony. It’s primitive only if you believe that fonts must generated by computers, and laser cut in acrylic before it can be used. Mass production is as modern as automation and takes away the unique beauty of the best of the signage that I’ve seen.

There will, of course, always be the aspirational ones, and the ambitious will do their best to satisfy. Some succeed very well indeed.

Look at this set of shops – each has its name written in a unique font, or handwriting style, while the whole still manages to convey the brand being advertised with a semblance of coherence. A true artist at work.

My favourite, however, is this one from the wall of an agro-vet dealer’s store. In a context where language and literacy tends to vary across a spectrum of facility, clearly communicating that you can get your cows artificially inseminated here is a bonus. The use of colour and the ombre backgrounds show the work of an artist.

And finally, this combination of a stencil – used for the desktop computer, and calligraphy – though the letter spacing may or may not have been deliberate, holds a position in its own right. That might not even be a stencil but the whole piece is crafted with care.

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infini
148 days ago
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A Look at the Amazing Expandable "Wax Trucks" of National Ski Teams

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Countries with competitive ski teams have something like Formula One pit crews for their skiers. Teams of technicians apply different types of waxes, powders and chemicals to the bottom of skis to compensate for ever-changing snow conditions, all seeking the perfect balance between grip and glide. The Norwegian team even hauls a 2,000-pound grinder around so they can etch different patterns into the undersides of the skis.

At Pyeongchang each country's wax teams are operating out of on-site cabins provided for them. But when competitions are within driving distance of the home country, each country's ski team fields their own wax truck. Sweden first came up with the idea in 2008 with this beast:

Inside is a workshop kitted out with an air ventilation system:

The sides of the truck expand to create a roomy and well-lit workshop:

When rival Team Norway saw what Sweden had done, they developed their own truck to one-up them. It expands sideways, backwards and upwards, creating a second level. The workshop is downstairs, and upstairs is a freaking observation deck and a lounge for the athletes:

Photo by Noah Hoffman
Photo by Noah Hoffman
Photo by Noah Hoffman
Photo by Noah Hoffman

Here's a tour of the downstairs. Sadly they don't show us the lounge:

In 2013 Team Canada wanted in on the action, so they purchased Sweden's original truck and gave it a new paint job:

Here's a tour inside the now-Canadian truck:

Sweden upgraded to a newer model that I couldn't find exterior shots of, but here's a tour of the interior of their wax truck 2.0:

The U.S. Ski Team finally got a wax truck last year. And for once, we Americans actually went small.

Image by Matt Whitcomb

"The Team US one went to cost around 600,000 U.S. dollars," writes the Daily Skier website (based in Germany, to explain the odd English), "and, while quantum leap for the US team, it is a relatively modest affair compared to the others in use. Some models are reputed to be much, much more expensive."

I think we can all agree that Norway wins this one.

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infini
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