Webinar on Taiwan’s Election: What Happened and What’s Next? – US-China Institute

Three out of every four voters in Taiwan went to the polls on Saturday. On January 15 at 5pm PST, (January 16 at 9am in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China), the USC U.S.-China Institute will host a video conference looking at what the key issues were in the election and what the election means for Taiwan domestic policies, for cross-strait relations, and for U.S.-Taiwan relations. Please registerto join this online conference.

Taiwans President Tsai Ing-wen received a record 8.2 million votes, winning reelection with 57% of the ballots. Her Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) rival, Han Kuo-yu, received 39% of the vote. Tsais Democratic Progressive Party won 61 of the 113 seats in the legislature. The Kuomintang won 38 seats. Several small parties and independent also won seats. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement congratulating Tsai on her victory and Taiwan for once again demonstrating the strength of its robust democratic system. Xinhua, Chinas state news agency described Tsais election as a temporary counter-current. Xinhua blamed DPP cheating and said anti-China political forces in the West openly intervened and supported Tsai to contain China.

The discussion will be moderated by Clayton Dube, the director of theUSC U.S.-China Institute.Panelists will include:

Tom Hollihan, USCHollihan heads the USC Annenberg School doctoral program and observed the Taiwan election as a member of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs delegation. He is a specialist on political communication and is the author of several books including The Dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands: How Media Narratives Shape Public Opinions and Challenge the Global Order and Uncivil Wars: Political Campaigns in a Media Age.

Daniel Lynch, City University of Hong KongLynch taught international relations at USC for two decades before moving to Hong Kong where he teaches international relations and Chinese politics. His books include Chinas Futures: PRC Elites Debate Economics, Politics, and Foreign Policy, Rising China and Asian Democratization: Socialization to Global Culture in the Political Transformations of Thailand, China, and Taiwan. In addition to observing this election, Lynch spent two months in Taiwan in summer 2019 for his current research.

Shelley Rigger, Davidson CollegeCurrently a Fulbright Scholar based in Taipei and Shanghai, Rigger is especially well-known for her book,Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse,but shes also the author ofPolitics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy, From Opposition to Power: Taiwans Democratic Progressive Party,andTaiwans Rising Rationalism: Generations, Politics and Taiwan Nationalism.

Ray Wang, National Chengchi UniversityWangworks as an Associate Professor at National Chengchi University, Taiwan. Rays major research interests focus on human rights, religious freedom, and transnational advocacy networks. Currently he serves as the executive editor of Mainland China Studies (TSSCI). He is the recipient of an Excellent Young Scholar Research Fund from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (2018-2021) and a part of the research is published in the new book, Resistance under Communist China Religious Protesters, Advocates and Opportunists (Palgrave) in 2019.

Please register now to join the roundtable.

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Webinar on Taiwan's Election: What Happened and What's Next? - US-China Institute

52 ideas that changed the world – 31. Prison – The Week UK

In this series, The Week looks at the ideas and innovations that permanently changed the way we see the world. This week, the spotlight is on prison:

Oscar Wilde first saw the inside of a prison 13 years before he wroteDe Profundis, his famous 55,000-word letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, from his cell at Reading Gaol.

On seeing the state of the inmates at a jail in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1882, Wilde wrote of being confronted with poor odd types of humanity in striped dresses making bricks in the sun. All of the faces were mean-looking, which consoled me, for I should hate to see a criminal with a noble face.

By the time of his own incarceration for indecency, Wildes views had softened on those residing in prison. Reviewing a book of poetry composed behind bars by the anti-imperialist Wilfred Blunt, Wilde wrote that an unjust imprisonment for a noble cause strengthens as well as deepens the nature.

Wildes changing attitude to the jail population reflected a shift in the general perception of criminality. The prisons of Wildes Britain were a far cry from the rehabilitation-focused penal systems of the 21st century.

Prisons, which are often run by governments, are usually secure facilities (though not always) that constrain the movements and social interactions of prisoners. The notion was born out of the barbaric origins of the medieval torture chamber, but by the eighteenth centry it had shifted towards imprisonment with labour, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform.

This then changed again as prisons became more concerned with the concept of rehabilitation. This time prisons moved towards the modern mechanisms of criminal justice, what French philosopher Michael Foucault described as not a physical imprisonment, but an economy of suspended rights aimed at reshaping individual behaviour.

The earliest descriptions ofimprisonment corresponded closely with the spread of the written word and the formalisation of early legal codes. However, the earliest legal documents for example the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi dating from about 1750 BC focused on retribution from the victim, rather than state-led punishment as we now recognise it.

Plato began to develop ideas about rehabilitation and in Platos Lawsconsidered the laws role in making citizens virtuous. Plato dwelt on the suggestion that injustice is a disease of the soul that can be cured through punishment.

PlatosGreece did have prisons calleddesmoterion, meaning place of chains however they were used more for the holding of prisoners who had been condemned to death. The Ancient Romans also used imprisonment for the same purpose, and in 640 BC, the Mamertine Prison, known as the Tullianum, was erected.

The 400-year-old San Giuseppe dei Falegnami Roman Catholic church now stands on the site of the prison, but at the time it would have been a squalid series of dungeons in the sewers under Rome.

During the Middle Ages, prison conditions did not improve. Across Europe, brutal punishment was still prescribed to rule-breakers, with castles, fortresses and the basements of public buildings given over to housing the incarcerated.

As historian Patricia Turning writes inCrime and Punishment in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age, by the 13th century the right to imprison criminals gave a certain legitimacy to political administrations, from the king to regional counts to city councils.

Up until the late 17th and early 18th century, justice mostly involved performative displays of violence against criminals. Public executions and torture were widespread, with the Bloody Code imposing the death penalty for hundreds of often petty offencesin the United Kingdom.

In the 18th century, there was a shift away from public executions as public perceptions of violence began to shift. The Howard League notes that a more complex penal system developed during the period, including the widespread introduction of houses of correction. The first of these in the UK was Bridewell Prison - a complex in London that was originally built as Bridewell Palace, a residence for Henry VIII.

What precisely prisons were for during this time was divided between two philosophical outlooks. In From Newgate to Dannemora: The Rise of the Penitentiary in New York, David Lewis notes that Enlightenment ideas of utilitarianism and rationalism clashed, leading to discussion of whether prisons should be a deterrent or a site of moral reform (an early description of rehabilitation).

This divide was embodied by two prison reformers of the time: John Howard after who the Howard League is named and Jeremy Bentham. Bentham, a utilitarian, believed that the prisoner should suffer a severe regime, while Howard advocated for the rehabilitation of prisoners so that they could be reintroduced into society.

Bentham would go on to design the panopticon (pictured below), in which prisoners were under observation at all times.Over 200 years later, Foucault would use Benthams panopticon design as a metaphor for the modern disciplinary society, in which acts of violence had been replaced with efforts to reshape the behaviour of individuals.

The first state prison in England was the Millbank Prison, established in 1816 on the site of the current Tate Gallery in London, with a capacity for just under 1,000 inmates. In 1842, Pentonville Prison in London opened, kickstarting the trend for ever-increasing incarceration rates and the use of prison as the primary form of crime punishment.

In 1786 the state of Pennsylvania in the US passed a law which forced all convicts who had not been sentenced to death to be placed in penal servitude to do public works projects such as building roads, forts and mines. This inspired the rise of so-called chain gangs.

The notion of moral reformation took on a religious bent in Pennsylvania around this time. According to the 2004 bookVoices from Prisonon the life histories of black male prisoners in the US, 1790 saw the Walnut Street Jail in Pennsylvania begin locking its prisoners in solitary cells to reflect on their sins, accompanied by nothing but religious literature.

By the 1800s, prisons as a means of rehabilitation were becoming more mainstream, though the methods for reforming those behind bars were still harsh. Mary Bosworth writes in The U.S. Federal Prison Systemthat the Auburn system developed in New York confined prisoners in separate cells and prohibited them from speaking.

First introduced at Auburn State Prison, the system was modelled on the strictness of a school classroom, where pupils would be shaped and moulded by their teachers. The method became famous and is mentioned by French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America, based on a visit to the US.

In the early 1900s, major reforms began in the UKs prison system, spearheaded by the Liberal Home Secretary Winston Churchill, who had been imprisoned himself during the Boer War. He said: I certainly hated my captivity more then I have ever hated any other period in my whole life... Looking back on those days Ive always felt the keenest pity for prisoners and captives.

His biographer, Paul Addison, would later add that more than any other Home Secretary of the 20th century, Churchill was the prisoners friend.

Churchills reforms - unpopular though they were at the time - aimed to make prison more bearable and more likely to rehabilitate prisoners.The policy left Britain with one of the most liberal prison systems in the Western world, but by the mid-20th century this had been far outstripped by the Scandinavian penal system.

Sweden was the first country to wholeheartedly embrace the idea of rehabilitation not incarceration.In 1965 it introduced a criminal code that emphasised punishments that reduced prison time. The hugely progressive move included a focus on conditional sentences, probation for first-time offenders and the more extensive use of fines.

This influenced a shift in imprisonment across Europe, with France and the Netherlands following Swedens example and experiencing a rapid fall in prison numbers as a result.

In 2014, Sweden was able to close four of its56 prisons, as only 4,500 people out of a total population of 9.5 million were being held in jail. At the time,Swedish politician Nils Oberg told The Guardian that prison is not for punishment in Sweden. We get people into better shape.

The same year, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said that the UKs then Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, was introducing measures that amounted to a ramped-up political emphasis on punishment rather than real rehabilitation.

The damming response suggested that despite Britain leading the world in liberalising prisons in the early 1900s, by the turn of the 21st century it had fallen behind.The number of deaths in the ten worst prisons in England and Wales are increasing year on year, withunderstaffing, drug use, crumbling infrastructure and overcrowding all playing a role.

More than 11 million people are currently held in prison around the world - ranging from incarceration in the liberal penal system of Scandinavia, to the hidden detention sites of China and North Korea from which many never return.

The concept of imprisoning people ushered in a type of justice that focused less on the violent retribution endorsed in Britain's Bloody Code and later allowed for rehabilitation to become a vital part of modern criminal justice systems.

Just as Oscar Wildes attitude to criminals tempered, so too has societys, with polling in the US which houses 22% of the worlds prison population showing that 40% of people believe rehabilitation is the most important function of a prison system.

In the same poll, 53% supported the abolition of solitary confinement, a stark comparison to the uncompromising rules of the Auburn system or the authoritarianism of Jeremy Benthams panopticon.

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52 ideas that changed the world - 31. Prison - The Week UK

Rhythm, Divination, and Naming in Jay Wright’s Poetry – Hyperallergic

If such a conceit sounds heady, thats because it is. The book is the latest installment in Wrights ongoing effort to write a poetry of ideas, wherein matter takes on ritual proportions and Afro-Caribbean ritual thought responds to the exclusionary history of Western rationalism. His corpus is a formalist fantasia the way most rituals are. Every aspect of the page layout, typography, illustration, tense, soud, and symbol holds value in the divination process. To read Wright is to adopt the position, often thematized in his work, of the postulant, trembling into knowledge of Gods body, knowledge of his naming (Transfigurations 148). But if Wrights reader is a candidate seeking entrance into a rarified order, it is an ecumenical one, diasporic in scope. The name of the absolute is not written in the language of any single denomination or intellectual province. It is scrawled in a host of esoteric tonguestribal icon, variable equation, philosophical abstractionmaking the name less a stable thing and more an echo of entangled ideology.

Within this corpus one finds all the clear markings of phone-number chunking. There is the early, narrative-driven work of The Homecoming Singer (1971), the mature eight-book cycle collected in Transfigurations: Collected Poems (2000), and the prolific late-career output five books following Transfigurations. (Surely a collected late poems is in the works.) The premise for The Prime Anniversary is laid out in the preceding volume, Disorientations: Groundings (2013). There, we find Wright adopting the familiar posture of the late poet: I ask you now to consider the old poet / as he sits in his Bradford garden (6). From this vantage, the venerable poet of Vermont takes stock: The old poet has done a study / of exploration, of rhythm as ethos. If rhythm is ethos, its message is perseverance. I would fasten myself to that rhythm, says Wright, an anniversary of salt and serenity. This is the anniversary referred to in the title of Wrights recent collection. Rhythm, for the poet, becomes transportive, carrying him into an ethereal plane.

The opening long poem delineates the prospect of a post-late poetics.

Truth: names travel a watery route to heaven,

so says Concha Mndez, or so she would have said,

if she had any regard for physics. Seven

witnesses report that ether surely has failed,

a small erasure hardly noticed at Quito;

lines in that atmosphere seem to circle and flow

tangent to themselves. What does geometry know?

In the past Wright has identified a single biographical figure or perhaps two to guide him through a collection. Here no single figure rises above the others. We have references like the one in this poem to Concha Mendez, which point back to the poets and musicians of Spains Generation of 27. These names run up against the names of Greek natural philosophersEmpedocles, Ptolemy, and Cleonidesin paratactic fashion, demanding the reader play along by offering some interpretation of their relation. One such interpretation might be that what connects these figures is their shared status as explorers. Wright, after all, described himself in the previous collection as conducting a study of exploration. Another interpretation is that they all exist as names, and thus build upon Wrights fascination with nominalization. If there is a truthfulness to poetry, the opening line suggests that it lies in the function names have in life and in the watery beyond. The names reference distinct individuals, but the poem celebrates them in the light of their ongoing contribution to human understanding. By virtue of their names, these explorers exceed earthly expiration. They endure in the language of the poem at hand; where, against a sea of abstractions, they stand out like shimmering buoys, enticing the reader to set keel to breakers and depart on their own exploratory study.

One may think this is a long way of saying that poets attain immortality through virtue of their reputations. But Wright is up to something different. He is less concerned with the name in and of itself, its referential function, than in the medium through which names pass on their path to perpetuity. As the poem above suggests, if one is to understand infinity as heavenly afterlife, literary pantheon, or mathematical concept one must first understand the milieu through which a projective phenomenon passes. Taking Wrights lead, we recall that the failure of ether was the failure of scientific consensus in the 19th century, when physicists assumed that since sound waves pass through air, and ocean waves pass through water, light must travel through some similar atmospheric jelly, which they dubbed ether. While little is obvious in this poem, the profound presence of measure and rhyme suggests that Wright considers rhythm to be the milieu of continuity. Less jelly, more Jelly Roll. Each return of the beat is an anniversary, as the title would suggest, and with each anniversary comes an encounter with that which makes a post-late poetics possible: a transition overtaking a terminus.

When describing rhythm and its folding of finite sensory experience into infinity, Wright reaches for evidence in the objective realm physics, geometry, and chemistry finding in such propositions a parallel to world mythology.

Do not be astonished if you hear a drumming,

or meet an unattended leopard in the bush.

The mask half in shadow, half in sunlight will bring

you through death; you might think of this as pull and push

of an electron, orbiting its own demise.

We know our scholars speak too often in disguise,

embrace Abaku, always sit to improvise.

Here the death ritual of the Abaku dramatizes scientific thought. The images at the opening refer at least in part to the belief that when a sovereign dies in the Cuban initiatory fraternity, his body is buried without any announcement to the members. Once the death is announced, the members go out in search of the body, which, the ritual insists, has been transformed into a leopard. When the leopard goes undiscovered, the animals spirit is said to find its way into the form of the sovereigns successor. The dance of the members and their masking rhymes with the staggered route of the diminished electron. Scattered insights and embodied belief come together over a beat. The essential pulse of the body lives on through the pulse of the drum, which is the pulse of the poem, as Wright extolls, Nothing overcomes the radiant iambic; / no one forgets the geometry of lyric.

In another sense altogether, the book suggests that what lies beyond late poetics is that very thing that existed before lyric became the poetic norm. Recalling the Greek conception of poetry as largely a dramatic genre, modern poets have for some time been interested in recovering the lost dialogic basis of poetic expression. This is evidenced by the numerous poets who embed playwriting within their concept of poetic practice. Amiri Baraka, T.S. Eliot, Robert Duncan, and Lorine Niedecker are but a few examples. The second half of Wrights book features one of the many theatrical works he has written over his career. Entitled The Geometry of Rhythm, the one-act play returns us to the foundational question that undergirds the book: in what ways does poetry survive the poet?

Grogach: You taught me the fragile geometry of self

Bivio: And you have taught me to live with my ambiguous rhythm

Grogach: Shall we exchange names?

Bivio: Lets do.

The various threads of the book are here woven into a light, yet taut, textile. Selfhood is not particularly well-suited for perpetuity, rhythm is not mere regularity, and names find their meaning in the ongoing exchange.

The Prime Anniversary (2019) by Jay Wright is published by Flood Editions.

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Rhythm, Divination, and Naming in Jay Wright's Poetry - Hyperallergic

Explained: Savitribai Phules impact on womens education in India – The Indian Express

Published: January 3, 2020 8:14:10 pm

Savitribai Phule, the social reformer who is considered to be one of Indias first modern feminists, was born on January 3, 1831. Among her accomplishments, she is especially remembered for being Indias first female teacher who worked for the upliftment of women and untouchables in the field of education and literacy.

Phule was born in Naigaon, Maharashtra in 1831 and married activist and social-reformer Jyotirao Phule when she was nine years old. After marriage, with her husbands support, Phule learned to read and write and both of them eventually went on to found Indias first school for girls called Bhide Wada in Pune in 1948. Before this, she started a school with Jyotiraos cousin Saganbai in Maharwada in 1847. Since at that time the idea of teaching girls was considered to be a radical one, people would often throw dung and stones at her as she made her way to the school.

Significantly, it was not easy for the Phules to advocate for the education of women and the untouchables since in Maharashtra a nationalist discourse was playing out between 1881-1920 led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. These nationalists including Tilak opposed the setting up of schools for girls and non-Brahmins citing loss of nationality.

Essentially, both Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule recognised that education was one of the central planks through which women and the depressed classes could become empowered and hope to stand on an equal footing with the rest of the society.

In his essay written for the Savitribai Phule First Memorial Lecture Hari Narke has written, In the social and educational history of India, Mahatma Jotirao Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule stand out as an extraordinary couple. They were engaged in a passionate struggle to build a movement for equality between men and women and for social justice. The Phules also started the Literacy Mission in India between 1854-55. According to Narake, the Phules started the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society for Truth-Seeking), through which they wanted to initiate the practice of Satyashodhak marriage, in which no dowry was taken.

Because of the role Phule played in the field of womens education, she is also considered to be one of the crusaders of gender justice, as one paper published in the International Journal of Innovative Social Science & Humanities Research has said. The paper also credits Phule as being one of the first published women in modern India, who was able to develop a voice and agency of her own, at a time when women were suppressed and lived a sub-human existence.

Even though her poems, which were written in Marathi, she advocated values such as humanism, liberty, equality, brotherhood, rationalism and the importance of education among others. In her poem titled, Go, Get Education she wrote:

Be self-reliant, be industrious

Work, gather wisdom and riches,

All gets lost without knowledge

We become animal without wisdom,

Sit idle no more, go, get education

End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,

Youve got a golden chance to learn

So learn and break the chains of caste.

Throw away the Brahmans scriptures fast.

Her books of poems Kavya Phule and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar were published in 1934 and 1982.

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Why A U.S.-Iran War Isn’t Going To Happen – The National Interest Online

Will Tehran and Washington let slip the dogs of war following last weeks aerial takedown of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corpss IRGC) Quds Force? You could be forgiven for thinking so considering the hot takes that greeted the news of the drone strike outside Baghdad. For example, one prominent commentator, the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, opined that the Middle East region (and possibly the world) will be the battlefield.

Color me skeptical. The apocalypse is not at hand.

Haass is right in the limited sense that irregular military operations now span the globe. Terrorists thirst to strike at far as well as near enemies in hopes of degrading their will to fight. They respect no national boundaries and never have. Frontiers are likewise murky in the cyber realm, to name another battleground with no defined battlefronts. The United States and Iran have waged cyber combat for a decade or more, dating to the Stuxnet worm attack on the Iranian nuclear complex in 2010.

The coming weeks and months may see irregular warfare prosecuted with newfound vigor through such familiar unconventional warmaking methods. Its doubtful Tehran would launch into conventional operations, stepping onto ground it knows America dominates. To launch full-scale military reprisals would justify full-scale U.S. military reprisals that, in all likelihood, would outstrip Irans in firepower and ferocity. The ayatollahs who oversee the Islamic Republic fret about coming up on the losing end of such a clash. As well they might, considering hard experience.

So the outlook is for more of the same. Thats a far cry from the more fevered prophecies of World War III aired since Soleimani went to his reward. To fathom Tehrans dilemma, lets ask a fellow who knew a thing or two about Persian ambitions. (The pre-Islamic Persian Empire, which bestrode the Middle East and menaced Europe, remains the lodestone of geopolitical successeven for Islamic Iran.)

The Athenian historian Thucydides chronicled the Peloponnesian War, a fifth-century-B.C. maelstrom that engulfed the Greek world. Persia was a major player in that contest. In fact, it helped decide the endgame when the Great King supplied Athens antagonist, Sparta, with the resources to build itself into a naval power capable of defeating the vaunted Athenian navy at sea. But Thucydides also meditates on human nature at many junctures in his history, deriving observations of universal scope. At one stage, for instance, he has Athenian ambassadors posit that three of the prime movers impelling human actions are fear, honor, and interest. The emissaries appear to speak for the father of history.

Fear, honor, interest. There are few better places to start puzzling out why individuals and societies do what they do and glimpse what we ought to do. How does Thucydides hypothesis apply to post-Soleimani antagonism between the United States and Iran? Well, the slaying of the Quds Force chieftain puts the ball squarely in the Islamic Republics court. The mullahs must reply to the strike in some fashion. To remain idle would be to make themselves look weak and ineffectual in the eyes of the region and of ordinary Iranians.

In fecklessness lies danger. Doubly so now, after protests convulsed parts of Iran last November. The ensuing crackdown cost hundreds of Iranians their livesand revealed how deeply resentments against the religious regime run. No autocrat relishes weakness, least of all an autocrat whose rule has come under duress from within. A show of power and steadfastness is necessary to cow domestic opponents.

But fear is an omnidirectional, multiple-domain thing for Iranian potentates. External threats abound. Iranians are keenly attuned to geographic encirclement, for instance. They view their country as the Middle Easts rightful heavyweight. Yet U.S. forces or their allies surround and constrain the Islamic Republic from all points of the compass with the partial exception of the northeastern quadrant, which encompasses the stans of Central Asia, and beyond them Russia.

Look at your map. The U.S. Navy commands the westerly maritime flank, backed up by the U.S. Air Force. Americas Gulf Arab allies ring the western shores of the Persian Gulf. U.S. forces remain in Iraq to the northwest, where Suleimani fell, and in Afghanistan to the east. Even Pakistan, to the southeast, is an American treaty ally, albeit an uneasy one. These are forbidding surroundings. Tendrils of U.S. influence curl all around the Islamic Republics borders. Breaking out seems like a natural impulse for Iranian diplomacy and military strategy.

And yet. However fervent about its geopolitical ambitions, the Iranian leadership will be loath to undertake measures beyond the intermittent bombings, support to militants elsewhere in the region, and ritual denunciations of the Great Satan that have been mainstays of Iranian foreign policy for forty years now. Iranian leaders comprehend the forces arrayed against them. A serious effort at a breakout will remain premature unless and until they consummate their bid for atomic weaponry. The ability to threaten nuclear devastation may embolden them to trybut that remains for the future.

Next, honor. Irregular warfare is indecisive in itself, but it can provide splashy returns on a modest investment of resources and effort. Having staked their political legitimacy on sticking it to the Great Satan and his Middle Eastern toadies, the ayatollahs must deliver regular incremental results. Direct attacks on U.S. forces make good clickbait; so do pictures showing IRGC light surface combatants tailing U.S. Navy task forces; so do attacks on vital economic infrastructure in U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia. And headlines convey the image of a virile power on the move.

The honor motive, then, merges with fear. Iranians fear being denied the honor they consider their due as the natural hegemon of the Gulf region and the Islamic world.

And lastly, interest. Mischief-making must suffice for Iran until it can amass the material wherewithal to make itself a hegemon. Its fascinating that Thucydides lists material gain last among forces that animate human beings. After all, foreign-policy specialists list it first. Interest is quantifiable, and it seems to feed straight into calculations of cost, benefit, and risk. It makes statecraft seem rational!

Theres no way to know for sure after two millennia, but it seems likely the sage old Greek meant to deflate such excesses of rationalism. Namely, he regarded human nature as being about more than things we can count, like economic output or a large field army. For Thucydides cost/benefit arithmetic takes a back seat to not-strictly-rational passionssome of them dark, such as rage and spite, and others brightthat drive us all.

And indeed, for Iranians material interest constitutes the way to rejuvenate national honor while holding fear at bay. Breaking the economic blockade manifest in, say, the Trump administrations maximum pressure strategy would permit Tehran to revitalize the countrys moribund oil and gas sector. Renewed export trade would furnish wealth. Some could go into accoutrements of great power such as a high-tech navy and air force.

In turn Iranian leaders could back a more ambitious diplomacy with steel. They would enjoy the option of departing from their purely irregular, troublemaking ways and competing through more conventional methods. Or, more likely, they would harness irregular means as an adjunct to traditional strategic competition. Material gain, in short, not just satisfies economic needs and wants but amplifies martial might. In so doing it satisfies non-material cravings for renown and geopolitical say-so.

And the American side? Repeat this process. Refract U.S. policy and strategy through Thucydides prism of fear, honor, and interest, consider how Iranian and American motives may intersect and interact, and see what light that appraisal shines into the future. My take: perhaps World War III will come one daybut today is not that day.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and the author of A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy, out last month. The views voiced here are his alone.

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Why A U.S.-Iran War Isn't Going To Happen - The National Interest Online

The Art of Resistance: Kabir Kala Manch gives us a timeless song of defiance in times of repression – Scroll.in

Even if they kill the body,They cannot kill thought,O religious mercenariesCan you stop the wheel of progress?

This opening verse of Sachin Malis Marathi song, Sampvila Deh Zari, sets the tone for a poetic but scathing evaluation of Hindutva fascism in India. Sung evocatively by Malis partner Sheetal Sathe, the song is a tribute to rationalist activist Narendra Dabholkar, shot dead in 2013, and Communist leader Govind Pansare, killed similarly in 2015. Both are suspected to have been killed by Hindu fundamentalists, who had threatened the activists in the past.

Mali and Sathe are former members of Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural troupe from Pune that performs songs and poems about caste oppression, rationalism, resistance and revolution. The couple, along with other members of Kabir Kala Manch, had been arrested in 2013 for alleged involvement with Naxalites. They are now out on bail, while the charges against them are yet to be proven.

Mali wrote Sampvila Deh Zari in 2015, while still in prison, as a song of defiance. Its verses are full of references to icons of rational, scientific and secular thought throughout history from philosopher Charavaka and Bhakti saint Tukaram to Galileo, Copernicus, Gandhi and communist playwright Safdar Hashmi. Religious fundamentalists may have tried to destroy all of them, Mali writes, but the ideas and ideologies they stood for continue to thrive.

Read all the articles in the Art of Resistance series here.

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The Art of Resistance: Kabir Kala Manch gives us a timeless song of defiance in times of repression - Scroll.in

How in the world did we get here? | TheHill – The Hill

Historians will write about this day, when the House of Representatives voted for just the third time in history to impeach a president. But history does not simply explode, it unfolds. The Dark Ages did not just happen, the Renaissance Era did not just dawn, and the Industrial Revolution did not just spark. Defining moments in history do not occur spontaneously. Their foundations are laid by disparate actors, crises, and movements.

When future generations look back at the state of our world, with the impeachment of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel didn't take lead on Trump letter to Pelosi: reports Trump endorses Riggleman in Virginia House race Lisa Page responds to 'vile' Trump attacks: 'Being quiet isn't making this go away' MORE in America and the sweeping victory of Boris Johnson in Britain, these events will most likely not appear sudden or surprising. They will instead be understood as a public response to frightening trends like global terrorism and financial inequality, a public response that will, over time, be accepted or rejected by the citizenry.

The impeachment vote today was triggered by two distant events that occurred on September 11, 2001 and September 15, 2008 that forever changed the world. The fall of the Twin Towers robbed America of its sense of security, as two oceans no longer protected us from dangers abroad. An anxious public was fertile ground for sensational journalism, and media outlets like Fox News capitalized on this. The cable networks made it seem like beheadings and Ebola would soon reach our shores.

The overwhelming fear stoked by politicians and reporting driven by ratings led us to a dangerous cycle of bungled foreign policy, sustained global terrorism, and xenophobia. Our catastrophic decision to plunge into the war in Iraq, propelled by anxiety and bad information, prolonged and complicated the war in Afghanistan. Mismanagement helped create the Islamic State, which fueled a refugee crisis that flooded Europe. The refugee crisis was met with alarm, and that alarm was translated into a sense of nationalism by European leaders like Viktor Orban in Hungary and Nigel Farage in Britain. A startling sequence was activated, in which many leaders encouraged the worse public impulses for political gain.

Meanwhile, the 2008 recession triggered by the fall of Lehman Brothers rattled our financial security. This radical economic change left working people with perpetual anxiety. Globalization, automation, and migration rapidly altered the job market. People woke up to neighborhoods whose landscapes transformed overnight, with fewer brick and mortar retailers, bookstores, and supermarkets. Suddenly people were told not to take a taxi, but order an Uber. At the same time, mechanisms to regulate our economy had failed us. Unchecked greed proved less than good. The middle class, the great stabilizing force in United States history, shrank and shriveled. This again created a panicked public eager for change.

In 2016, escalating frustration and fear mongering won the presidential election. Candidate Trump took advantage and used exaggeration to link Hillary Clinton to the wealthy elite, accusing her of rigging the economy against the working class, while falsely portraying himself as an outsider and a foil to the big banks. Trump spewed flagrantly racist language to blame immigrants for upheaval in the job market and fueled fears about domestic terrorism. A Democratic Party propelled by rationalism and five point proposals fell out of sync with an electorate moved by gut instinct.

In 2019, the latest victory for populism happened in the British election. But this does not guarantee the success of the movement it represents. The electorate in America is not Trumpian. It is swerving in search of the government it wants. In 2008, the electorate voted for change by electing Barack Obama as president. In 2010, it voted for change by electing a Tea Party Republican Congress to check him. In 2012, it voted for change by reelecting Obama to check the Tea Party Republican Congress. In 2014, it voted for change by adding more Senate Republicans to check Obama. In 2016, it voted for change by electing Trump in repudiation of both parties. In 2018, it voted for a Democratic House majority in repudiation of Trump.

This zigzagging shows us the degree to which change is responsive rather than rapid. Only when a movement and its consequences have come into the public eye do we choose to reject the status quo and move ahead with an alternative. Confronted by a future we do not care to contemplate, we are forced to consider how we got here and how to correct our course.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Nancy Pelosi knows she needs to protect the Democratic majority MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.

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How in the world did we get here? | TheHill - The Hill

Shriram Lagoo had courage to stick with the unconventional – The Hindu

Dr. Shriram Lagoo, who passed away on Tuesday aged 92, ruptured the complacency of the Marathi stage with his intelligence, logic and virtuosity. His contemporaries, many of them luminaries, describe him a complete actor who plumbed the depths of his roles to depict characters with subtlety.

His passion towards theatre coupled with his discipline, hard work and continual innovation of his craft throughout his nearly six-decade career invites comparison with the Holy Trinity of the English stage: John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier, whilst his experimental roles echo exponents of the American method school of acting like Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando.

I met him first in the early 1960s when I was 19, and he was playing an extremely demanding role in a play by Vasant Kanetkar I was immediately struck by his marvellous voice modulation and the brilliance of his application of logic to his craft, filmmaker Dr. Jabbar Patel told The Hindu. He observed how Dr. Lagoo had the method actors attitude towards humanity with the quest for truth forming the analytical base of the characters he essayed.

He was a keen observer of theatre in the West and diligently studied the greats of the British stage, as well as the American method actors. But his favourite was Paul Muni, the great 1930s actor of such films as The Life of Emile Zola and The Good Earth, said Dr. Patel.

Dr. Lagoos control over his craft, coupled with his intelligence, can only be rivalled by the legendary theatre pioneer Sombhu Mitra, he said. His voice had a great ring of melancholy and sadness. It was showcased to devastating effect in iconic roles consisting of long soliloquies like Udhwasta Dharmashala, where he essayed an embattled Marxist and in Kanetkars Himalayachi Saavli, where he made for a peerless Maharashi Karve, the renowned social reformer, says Dr. Patel. He said he was in awe of the late thespians 25-minute soliloquy as Socrates in Surya Pahilela Manus a role he tackled when he was well over 70 years of age.

Fondly recalling their days at Punes Caf Good Luck in the Deccan area, Dr. Patel spoke of Dr. Lagoos warmth. We used to meet there regularly, and he used to regale me with his stories and ideas over tea and bun maska we dubbed the place Good Luck University, said Dr. Patel, who directed Dr. Lagoo in Marathi films such as Samna (1974) and Sinhasan (1979). Both films featured the titans of Marathi screen and theatre: Dr. Lagoo and Nilu Phule. When Saamna, which dealt with grassroots corruption, was entered in the 25th Berlin International Film Festival, I recall the thunderous applause that greeted the performances of these two legends after the curtains came down, Dr. Patel said.

According to actor-director Amol Palekar, Dr. Lagoo was the Last of the Romans. He was a giant in retrospect, one realises what a stupendous actor, director and producer he was. On the one hand, he was a superstar of the commercial stage with his celebrated performances in plays like Natsamraat which ran to 400-500 performances. On the other, through his Rupaved Pratishthan, Dr. Lagoo produced only experimental plays. It took tremendous courage to achieve that, says Mr. Palekar.Speaking of Dr. Lagoos vision and commitment to theatre, Mr. Palekar said he admired the late actor most for his rationalism. He was an avowed atheist and despite enduring unending criticism, he had the guts to declare, Let God be retired, on a public platform He suffered censure, but he stood firmly by his principles and views, he said.

A sampling of three famous and controversial plays: Gidhaade, Garbo and Udhwasta Dharmashala, demonstrate Dr. Lagoos versatility and the complexity he brought to his craft, said Mr. Palekar.

In Vijay Tendulkars Gidhaade (Vultures), Dr. Lagoo, along with the plays producer Pandit Satyadev Dubey, fought a long and bitter battle with the censors. In the end, the two fought it with such conviction and courage that they succeeded in changing the rules of the game and virtually overhauled the Censor Boards diktats, said Mr. Palekar.

As an actor, Dr. Lagoo never flinched from controversial and taboo topics as in Garbo, which dealt with female sexuality, he said. His roles in the motion pictures were no less stellar as a young person, I was privileged to work with him closely and learn so much from him. The affection that he showered on me is to be cherished, said Mr. Palekar.

On the actors humility, Mr. Palekar recalled how he directed Dr. Lagoo in the Marathi version of Edmond Rostands classic 19th century play Cyrano de Bergerac in the mid-1970s in Mumbai. While directing him, I pointed out a few shortcomings in his gait and walk he listened to me patiently and with such humility and then embraced me and said: Why didnt I meet you before It is incredible that such a great actor as he had the capacity to accept objective criticism, says Mr. Palekar, who performed with Dr. Lagoo in films as Ankahee and Gharonda.

Dr. Lagoos connect with social activism was seen in his close association with the late rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and the pivotal role he played in the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS). In 2000, well before the advent of gender activists, several activists, socially committed theatre and film artistes and grassroots leaders led by Dr. Dabholkar, Dr. Lagoo and farmers leader N.D. Patil had marched from Pandharpur to Shani Shingnapur to combat the ban on women entering temples.

While he was undoubtedly one of the greatest of all actors to grace theatre, he was an even greater individual and humanist. His social activities helped entrench MANS throughout Maharashtra. What is admirable is that a man with such a popular following fearlessly expressed and stood by unpopular beliefs throughout his life. He never compromised on them, says Dr. Hamid Dabholkar, son of the late Dr. Dabholkar.

Dr. Lagoos last rites will be performed on December 20. The thespian will be given a State funeral.

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Shriram Lagoo had courage to stick with the unconventional - The Hindu

Alliance Party defeats DUP in first declared result in Northern Ireland – Belfast Telegraph

Alliance Party defeats DUP in first declared result in Northern Ireland


The staunchly pro-Remain Alliance Party has taken Northern Irelands first Westminster seat in a major setback for the DUP.



The staunchly pro-Remain Alliance Party has taken Northern Irelands first Westminster seat in a major setback for the DUP.

Deputy leader Stephen Farry cruised to victory with a majority of almost 3,000 votes in the affluent Belfast commuter constituency of North Down.

The seat had been a key target for the DUP after outgoing independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon decided not to run again.

Mr Farrys victory provides further evidence of the so-called Alliance surge, coming as it does after a series of positive elections for the middle-ground cross-community party.

The result landed another blow to the DUP on what is shaping up to be a very disappointing election for the unionist party.

The predicted Conservative majority at Westminster will see the party lose its influential position as Westminster kingmaker while North Down is unlikely to be its only electoral setback in Northern Ireland.

The DUP also looks destined to lose its seat in South Belfast to the SDLP and it appears party deputy leader Nigel Dodds is in grave danger of losing his North Belfast seat to Sinn Feins John Finucane.

Sinn Fein sources are confident Mr Finucane has triumphed, a result that would represent a huge psychological defeat for unionism in the regions most hotly contested battleground seat.

Meanwhile in Foyle, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood looked well positioned to win the seat from Sinn Fein.

Mr Farry hailed his resounding vote as a blow against Brexit and pledged to work in Westminster to frustrate the EU exit.

We believe that there is no such thing as a good or sensible BrexitStephen Farry

This is a victory for the values that this constituency has been known for for many years, those of moderation, rationalism and inclusion, he said.

He added: They have come together behind a single cause, of sending out a very powerful message that the North Down area wants to Remain.

We believe that there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit.

Indeed, all forms of Brexit are damaging to the UK and to us in Northern Ireland and in particular the Boris Johnson deal.

The DUP is vehemently opposed to Mr Johnsons Brexit deal, claiming it will create economic borders down the Irish Sea and weakened Northern Irelands place within the union.

Long-standing DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who is on course to retain his East Antrim seat, insisted his party could still secure changes to the agreement despite the predicted Tory majority.

Obviously wed have preferred to be in a situation we were in the last parliament where we did have the influence and where it was fairly marginal, however for the country it probably wasnt a great thing because no decisions could be made, he said.

I still wouldnt be totally dismayed insofar as a big majority could actually mean that Boris Johnson can go in and be fairly bullish with the EU when it comes to negotiations, and if he does do that then many of the problems the current deal is going to cause Northern Ireland could disappear.

The election comes ahead of the latest bid to resurrect the crisis-hit institutions at Stormont.

Ahead of an anticipated round of negotiations on Monday, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle ONeill said: Whatever the results, Sinn Fein will be in the talks on Monday morning to work to secure a genuine power-sharing executive which is credible and sustainable to deliver good government and properly resourced public services to all.

Sinn Fein will continue to represent people where it matters and stand up against Brexit.

Turning to West Tyrone, Sinn FeinsOrfhlaith Begley retained her seat as was expected.

Describing it as an election of a generation, Ms Begley said that the people of the border constituency have made their views on Brexit heard.

The 27-year-old is the first woman to hold the seat, which has been in the hands of Sinn Fein since 2001.

Speaking after her win, she said: People have been very energised in terms of this campaign and people came out in their thousands to reject Brexit but also to reject Tory austerity.

They sent a very clear message that they see their future in a new Ireland for all.

Sinn Fein has made its voice count where it matters, in terms of Brussels, we have been there, in Dublin and we also travel to London on a regular basis.


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Alliance Party defeats DUP in first declared result in Northern Ireland - Belfast Telegraph

What Christians Miss When They Dismiss Imaginatio… – ChristianityToday.com

Imagine there is a heavenits easy if you try.

That may not be the way John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song, but in a way we cant blame them; Lennon and Ono were merely people constrained by the view of a modern age.

Today we tell our children, just use your imagination, in a way that betrays our dismissive attitude toward imagination. And why not? Imagination is not deep thinking, it is fantasya faerie romance that serious people, especially Christians, need not spend much time on.

Countercultural icons like Lennon and Ono embraced the concept of imagination because it gave them the freedom to paint a picture of something that cannot exist in our world. In doing so, imagination of this kind reached the end of the line.

There is more to imagination than fantasy. In fact, the church and its theology need imagination more than ever in the history of our world. Yet, as theologian Kevin Vanhoozer notes, we suffer today from imaginative malnutrition.

What is imagination? And why does the church and its theology starve for it today?

Imagination is not something that comes readily to mind when we open our Bibles. Before prescribing a hearty diet of imagination, some may say, The Bible is about real thingsfaith, love, sacrificenot idle human pursuits such as imagination. Others may wonder, Doesnt the Bible speak negatively of imagination in a few places?

Does the Bible talk about imagination? Not in any modern English version. But thats only half the story.

In all English versions, the word imagination only shows up notably in the King James Version (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 2:1; Romans 1:21), as well as in Bibles from that time period such as the Bishops Bible (1568). The word does not occur in Wycliffes Bible, the earliest English translation of the Bible from the late 14th century. And it doesnt occur in modern English translations after the King James Version, created in the early 17th century.

Before we look down on the King James Version, Luthers translation of the Bible into German in the mid-16th century also contains a word close in sense to our word imagination. All of these versions occur in a close time period. Confusion or conspiracy?

The meaning of imagination was changing. The Luther Bible, the Bishops Bible, and the King James Version came about in an age where the winds of philosophical change had blown. Swept away were the ideas held by Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus that undoubtedly influenced the thoughts of John Wycliffe; these new English versions were birthed in the age that produced the likes of Francis Bacon and Ren Descartes. Their perception of how people interacted with the world was brand new.

Francis Bacon, writing around the time as the King James Version, is indicative of this shift. Bacon believed that our imagination is tied to and limited by the physical senseswhat we see, touch, and taste. But imagination is a pleasure of the mind in Bacons words; it occurs when the mind links senses and experiences in a way not in the order of the natural world. And what does Bacon believe links our senses and experiences correctly ordered? Reason.

In Pauls powerful opening to his letter to the church in Rome, he explains how the invisible attributes of God are visible in the natural world, if people cared to look. Instead, people became vain in their imaginations as the KJV renders it. In early 17th century lingo: People chose to perceive the world through the falsity of imagination instead of the truth of reason.

John Lennon, welcome to the 17th century.

From there, Descartes created further separation between imagination and reason. In the 18th century, David Hume argued that unreasoned and unprovable ideas are fictions of the imagination. And by the 19th century, William James directly equates imagination with fantasy, which is why when my daughter Violet brings me her finely wrought colored scribbles, I pat her on the head and pronounce for all to hear that she has a good imagination.

Theres more to imagination than mere fantasy. What Hume doesnt grasp is what Plato already understood.

Plato may be the oldest philosopher in the Western tradition to reflect at length on imagination. He believed there were three instances of imagination that intruded on the minds of people. In one sense imagination is the ability to conceive new ideas out of old material. This is close to what we today call fantasy. When a great writer imagines faraway planets, she is conceiving of new worlds and new civilizations, but only in such a way as it relates to our old world and old civilization here on earth. It is new, but only to a degree.

In a second sense, Plato found that imagination is the ability to craft old ideas into new ideas. This is what we today might call reconceptualizing. When a great writer imagines a contemporary person loving others who are political enemies, he is crafting a new way of living, but only in such a way that is faithful and true to the original idea (Matt. 5:44).

This second type of imagination is what we long to return tofinding old truth in new expressions. It is what the modern master of true imagination J. R. R. Tolkien calls the power of giving to ideal creations the inner consistency of reality. It is the power to explain truth that defies simple explanation. Another master, Jesus, does this with his parables.

Let me give you a simple experiment you can try for yourself: Go and tell someone today why you chose to follow Jesus. Its a very old idea, and you will need to tap into your imagination to make it fresh for your audience.

Lets revisit the question: Does the Bible talk about imagination? Yes, it does.

John the Evangelist was an accomplished storyteller. His two main books, a gospel and an apocalypse, have attracted untold readers for two millennia. He natively understood what scriptwriters today tell their students: Show, dont tell.

John didnt write about imaginationhe imagined Gods engagement and invited us to be a part of it. Toward the end of his gospel, John recounts Jesus personal vision of the future for John and Peter. One to death and one to life. These are images that only become clear when lived out in close obedience and faithfulness to God. John and Peter are really no different from you and medisciples who follow the same yesterday and today and forever truth of God in a brand new direction in their unique time and place (Heb. 13:7).

Jesus also didnt speak about imaginationknowing Gods message, he applied imagination and taught it to his disciples. Jesus parables use both types of imagination to make his descriptions of Gods work more real than any reality any human can know. The kingdom of heaven? Human empiricism and rationalism are of little value here, but we hear the words of Jesus and know the kingdom is like a grain of a mustard seed. Even if we have never held a mustard seed in our hand, we get a glimpse of the kingdom by tapping into Jesus imagination.

From prophecy to apocalypse, from parable to origin story, the Bible speaks in a language brimming with imagination. For those with imaginations, let them imagine.

Back to Plato: There is a third instance of imagination, rarely discussed. Plato makes this remarkable admission: In moments of ecstatic vision, the imagination becomes the privileged recipient of divine inspiration. When God illuminates, we imagine.

We get a sense for what Plato means when we read the weird parts of the Biblethe prophetic and the apocalyptic. If we are tempted to think of Johns apocalypse as merely a kind of fantasy, we misunderstand it completely. Instead, it is exactly what Plato anticipated: a vision birthed of divine inspiration. Arguably, it is the most truly imaginativein all senses of the wordwork ever created.

The history of human philosophy from Plato to William James teaches us this: Imagination, rightly understood, is a way of knowingit sits between our senses, our experiences, our memory, and our heart, our intellect, our will. In order for us to know God well, and know our world well, we must engage our imaginations to inform our thinking and our actions.

We live in a world saturated with imaginationimagination of the fantasy sort. From virtual reality to sociopolitical echo chambers, we are awash in continual fantasies created by the world around us.

Many critical issues we face today are of the same form as those faced by previous generations of Christians: worshipping God effectively, loving our neighbors, living justly, building healthy family relationships, and making disciples. By using imagination, the church can develop a fresh voice on these issues while staying true to the cumulative wisdom of Scripture and the church over the last two millennia.

Is there a limit to the call to be imaginative? Yes. A fresh voice does not mean a new voice. Instead, it means using well the two types of imagination that we already see in use in the Bible: taking up old truth in new forms and living in a fresh way under the power of Gods Spirit.

Yet we face a world today that is accelerating away from the familiar issues faced by generations past. Science and technology bring a brave new world that requires a brave new Christians witness.

Should we use new technology such as a gene drive to cause the extinction of anopheles gambiae, a malaria-carrying mosquito species? Should we cause the de-extinction of woolly mammoths, and let those and other species repopulate the earth?

Should we edit the genes of babies, changing the human species? Should we self-edit our own genes, changing who we are? Should we alter the physical makeup of our bodies to become faster, smarter, more beautiful, more female, more male, more amphibian, more not?

It is our responsibility to engage in theological exploration of such imagined future, contends theologian Karen ODonnell, as part of our service to the public, both in the ecclesial community, and beyond.

To paraphrase Plato, we are best equipped to speak wisdom to these new challenges through moments of Holy Spirit illumination, during which our imagination becomes the privileged recipient of divine inspiration. And to paraphrase Tolkien, imagination gives us the power to bring the creations of human fantasy in line with the inner consistency of divine reality.

Lets look at an example: When we read about people biohacking their bodies, it is easy for us to engage our imaginationin Platos first sense, imagination as fantasy. We imagine a fantasy of what biohacking is, and we come to a conclusion about it. If so, we have only used the least important part of our imagination. What we want to do is engage the other two more important parts of our imagination: reconceptualizing the eternal truth of Gods message to people about what it means to be human in a new way, and awaiting a moment of inspiration from Gods Spirit to show us what biohacking might look like within the reality Scripture imagines.

As a result of the Enlightenment, we have expected God to inspire us only through our reason and our experiences. When we take off these filters, and we read the parables of Jesus, the writings of Johnin fact, much of the Biblewe begin to see that God wants to inspire our imaginations as well. When our imaginations are infused by the Spirit of God, we better see who God is and the challenges of the world around us.

With holy imaginations, we can see heavenits easy if we try.

Douglas Estes is associate professor of New Testament and practical theology at South University. He is the editor of Didaktikos, and his latest book is Braving the Future: Christian Faith in a World of Limitless Tech.

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What Christians Miss When They Dismiss Imaginatio... - ChristianityToday.com

For Johnsons Tories, the collapse of public trust isnt a problem its an opportunity – The Guardian

After a chaotic and surreal campaign, there was a comforting familiarity about the rituals of election night. Tories will rehearse their favourite fairytale that the party of Thatcher has finally rediscovered its 1980s mojo while Labour retreats to its own comfort zone, of bitter internal feuding. But amid all this drama, there is a danger that we might forget how deeply abnormal the Conservative election campaign has been, and how frighteningly unfamiliar the impending government could be.

The winning campaign strategy was simple: to make this the second referendum, to make it as exhausting as possible, and to make sure Labours offer of yet another referendum look more exhausting still. The Tories blank policy agenda beyond passing the existing Brexit deal in January was aimed directly at a group of voters who dont trust politicians, dont believe government can help them, and are done with listening to liberal elites bickering over the precise number of hospitals the Tories will or wont build.

For todays Conservatives, the collapse of trust in institutions isnt a problem its an opportunity. Get Brexit done, like Donald Trumps build a wall, was not a policy pledge so much as a mantra to identify with, for those who think the establishment is a stitch-up.

Two other ingredients were necessary. First, a rightwing big tent needed constructing, one that spreads all the way from Matt Hancock in the centre-right out to Tommy Robinson on the far right. Johnson repeatedly did just enough to communicate to former Brexit party voters that he was on their side. For the desperate men and women (but mostly men) living in the abandoned economic regions of the Midlands and north, for whom only a Trump figure would be enough to draw them to the polls, Johnson performed that role adequately. For well-off elderly voters, who had been seduced by Faragist visions of national identity, Johnsons dog whistles hit home. Study his apologies for past Islamophobic comments, and youll notice that theyre never apologies at all they are affirmations of his right to say what everyone is thinking.

Rebranded as the peoples government, there is no reason to expect it will embrace normal democratic scrutiny or opposition

Second, Johnsons media profile and contacts were leveraged to the hilt. By the end of the campaign, he was performing a kind of Jeremy Clarkson role obliterating any democratic dialogue or interrogation by dressing up as a milkman or driving a forklift truck. Boris began life as a construct of the Daily Telegraph and Have I Got News For You, but now exists as a genre of social media content. Unlike in the heyday of broadcast and print media, propaganda now has to be lively and engaging in order to work.

And so the election was not won by an ordinary political party, with policies, members and ideology. It was won by a single-issue new-media startup you might call it Vote Boris fronted by a TV star, which will now unveil a largely unknown policy agenda.

The 2016 referendum result, together with the Boris phenomenon, have created a Trojan horse, within which lurks who knows what. But the chances of it offering anything transformative to the former Labour voters of Blyth Valley or Bolsover, beyond the occasional culture-war titbit, are minimal.

One thing we do know is that the Vote Boris campaign was funded by hedge funds and wealthy British entrepreneurs just as they donated heavily to Vote Leave. But who knows what they get in return? It also seems safe to assume, on the evidence of Johnsons first few months in office, that his administration will be hostile to many basic norms of the constitution and the liberal public sphere. Meanwhile, a triumphant Dominic Cummings will have his eye on a drastic transformation of Whitehall and regulators, inspired by exotic forms of rationalism, game theory and the libertarian right.

If the new Johnson government sustains its unprecedented relationship with the media of the past six weeks threatening public service broadcasters, excluding the Daily Mirror from its campaign bus, seamless coordination with the conservative press, using Boris to distract from every unwelcome news item then it will be virtually impossible for it to be held to account for what it does. And having already rebranded itself as the peoples government, there is no reason to expect it will embrace normal democratic scrutiny or opposition.

A combination of Brexit, decades of neglect and political alienation in Labours heartlands, the new digital media ecology, and hints of frightening illiberalism could conspire to produce a form of democracy that looks more like Hungary or even Russia than the checks-and-balances system of liberal ideals. Its not that democracy will end, but that it will be reduced to a set of spectacles that the government is ultimately in command of, which everyone realises are fake but that are sufficiently funny or soothing as to be tolerated.

This may sound paranoid, but it is merely an extrapolation from the trends that are already in full sway. Just like Trump, Johnsons capacity to make headlines and change the subject means we can quickly forget how much damage he has already done, in less than six months instead we are locked in a perpetual present, squabbling over the details of what hes doing right now. Its important to keep track. Challenging this juggernaut will be a far larger and more complex project than anything Her Majestys opposition can do alone.

William Davies is a sociologist and political economist

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For Johnsons Tories, the collapse of public trust isnt a problem its an opportunity - The Guardian

American actor and film producer William Bradley Pitt Celebrate Their Birthday Today – Feature Weekly

William Bradley Pitt (conceived December 18, 1963) is an American on-screen character and film maker. He has gotten various honors and assignments including an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award as maker under his own organization, Plan B Entertainment.

Pitt previously picked up acknowledgment as a rancher drifter in the street motion picture Thelma and Louise (1991). His first driving jobs in huge spending preparations accompanied the dramatization films A River Runs Through It (1992) and Legends of the Fall (1994) and blood and gore movie Interview with the Vampire (1994). He gave widely praised exhibitions in the wrongdoing spine chiller Seven and the sci-fi film 12 Monkeys (both 1995), the last acquiring him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award assignment.

Pitt featured in Fight Club (1999) and the heist film Oceans Eleven (2001) and its continuations, Oceans Twelve (2004) and Oceans Thirteen (2007). His most noteworthy business triumphs have been Troy (2004), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005), World War Z (2013), and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Pitt got his second and third Academy Award selections for his driving exhibitions in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and Moneyball (2011). He delivered The Departed (2006) and 12 Years a Slave (2013), the two of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and furthermore The Tree of Life (2011), Moneyball, and The Big Short (2015), which were all assigned for Best Picture.

As an open figure, Pitt has been refered to as one of the most persuasive and influential individuals in the American media outlet. For various years he was refered to as the worlds most alluring man by different news sources, and his own life is the subject of wide attention. In 2000, he wedded entertainer Jennifer Aniston; they separated in 2005. In 2014, Pitt wedded on-screen character Angelina Jolie. They have six youngsters together, three of whom were embraced universally. In 2016, Jolie petitioned for a separation from Pitt, which was concluded in 2019.

Pitt was conceived in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to William Alvin Pitt, the owner of a trucking organization, and Jane Etta (ne Hillhouse), a school guide. The family before long moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he lived respectively with his more youthful kin, Douglas Mitchell (brought into the world 1966) and Julie Neal (brought into the world 1969).Born into a traditionalist Christian household,they was raised as Southern Baptist and later oscillate[d] among rationalism and skepticism. Pitt currently expresses that he was simply being insubordinate and that he clingto religion. Pitt has portrayed Springfield as Imprint Twain nation, Jesse James nation, having grown up with a ton of slopes, a great deal of lakes.

Pitt went to Kickapoo High School, where he was an individual from the golf, swimming and tennis teams.they took an interest in the schools Key and Forensics clubs, in school discusses, and in musicals. Following their graduation from secondary school, Pitt joined up with the University of Missouri in 1982, studying reporting with an emphasis on advertising.As graduation drew closer, Pitt didnt feel prepared to settle down. He adored moviesan entryway into various universes for me and, since films were not made in Missouri, he chose to go to where they were made. Two weeks shy of finishing the coursework for a degree, Pitt left the college and moved to Los Angeles, where he took acting exercises and worked odd jobs.They has named his initial acting legends as Gary Oldman, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke.

John Flint has interest in writing, Flint contributed to the school's newspaper and its humor magazine, eventually becoming the publication's editor, also he worked on some of social networking website. john is a best-author, he wrote number of books in his career and presently he is news editor on featureweekly.com


American actor and film producer William Bradley Pitt Celebrate Their Birthday Today - Feature Weekly

Connections: Humanism in South India and Beyond – The Humanist

Humanism will be the only ism in the future. That is what we are trainingfor.

These were among the opening words at the international Humanism & Self-Respect conference held at the MontgomeryCollege Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, last weekend. They were spoken by Dr. Sam Ilangovan,president of the hosting organization, Periyar International, a group dedicated to the teachingsand legacy of the twentieth-century Indian civil rights leaderPeriyar E.V. Ramasamy. Commonly referred to by his nickname, Periyar is revered in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu for championing humanism and challenging the caste system.

The American Humanist Association provided support for the conference, which featured presentations by a mix of US secular leaders, several Tamil scholars from Germany, and numerous South Indian humanists. Speakers from this last community (many of whom traveled from India) spoke of their history and about Periyars self-respect movement, which continues to push for the eradication of the caste system and is committed to female empowerment and economic and social equality for all.

US Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) addressed the several hundred in attendance (Silver Spring is part of his district, and hes also a strong supporter of humanism and the Congressional Freethought Caucus). America is a nation conceived with the idea of freethought, he said, noting that self-respect is partly about not allowing ourselves to be cowed or controlled by other peoplesideologies. He thanked the humanists before him for their continued fight for justice.

A panel on Humanism & Self-Respect in the US Diaspora featured several younger Tamil activists living in the United States who dispelled a number of misconceptions Americans have about Indians in general (e.g., people from India arent all vegans). They also reported on continued caste discrimination in the United States and efforts to add caste to the Civil Rights Act as a prohibited form of discrimination.

Roy Speckhardt presents the Humanist Lifetime Achievement award to Dr. K. Veeramani.

The Humanist Lifetime Achievement award was presented by AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt to Dr. K. Veeramani of India. Veeramani is the president of the Dravidar Kazhagam, a social movement dedicated to social reformation in Tamil Nadu. A social activist who worked alongside Periyar, Veeramani now publishes several rationalist magazines for children and young people. In his remarks to the younger panelists, he said the conscience of Periyar was being handed down to them to continue his legacy. He also closed the conference, echoing Ilangovans opening salvo in calling upon those present to seize the moment and fight for a world founded in humanism, justice, and self-respect.

In all, it was a humanist conference like none Id ever been to. Enthusiastic and at times bombastic announcements of speakers, programs, and new books were met with equal enthusiasm from the audience. There was an abundance of clapping, laughing, chatter, cell phonenoise, whistles, whoops, and baby cries. Accompanying the lively auditory stimuli was a beautifully adorned stage. The podium was covered in gold velvet drapery to which silk roses were pinned. Flower pots were placed along the front of the stage and on plenary tables covered in bright silks.At once feeling like a foreigner and a fellow humanist, I was fascinated and moved by this community and by their dedication to rationalism, equality, and human dignity.

As Westernhumanists, we tend to consider European enlightenment thinkers as the sole progenitors of the philosophy. Periyar Internationals Humanism & Self-Respect conference serves as a reminder that secular humanist ideals and principles have developed independently in other parts of the world, which only lends credence to their value and validity.

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Connections: Humanism in South India and Beyond - The Humanist

Phon(y)es – NDSU The Spectrum

The dangers of constant screen time PIXABAY | PHOTO COURTESYWill we get to the point where we will ever look away from our phones?

Are phones as spectacular as humans portray them to be and can we determine if the pros outweigh the cons? Phones are starting to take over lives. It is time to put phones down and take back what is rightfully yours: your mind.

Phones give impersonal access right in ones back pocket.

Humans are a social species. Phones put constant human interaction at the ends of our fingertips, but that is not enough. Phones cannot mimic nonverbal communication, phones cannot understand the feel of a room on a Friday night after a long week of classes.

The statement above is true. However, humans are dawning on the era of rationalism; a belief that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than an emotional response. This explains the attraction of a semi-emotionless communication system. The question is, is emotion a bad thing? The simple answer is no.

The purpose of phones is not to lend people a voice, but to take that voice away. Imagine a party where everyone is on their phone or laptop the entire time, thus defeating the purpose of having a party. This is not to say using these devices has to be a bad thing, but there is a time and a place for everything.

When you use your phone, you become your phone.

According to Forbes, on average, iPhone users spend a little over four and a half hours on their phones each day. The average American citizen spends roughly 10 hours and 39 minutes each day using smartphones, computers, tablets, or televisions.

To better understand this consider the fact that the average American sleeps for 6.8 hours a day, leaving them with 17.2 hours to be awake. Subtract the average screen time from the hours awake and Americans are left with 6.81 hours a day away from screens. That means the average American spends 62 percent of their day staring at a screen. Not enough time is being devoted to sleep or interacting with life appropriately. You can spend all day online reading about the taste of chocolate, but youll never understand its true beauty until you taste it.

Phones emit radiation.

The 5G crisis is slowly entering media talks. 5G is the fifth-generation cellular network technology. It is the newest cellular network technology. Phone companies such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all use 5G.

Thousands of independent studies have been conducted showing that 5G may have adverse health effects such as cancer and DNA damage. 5G is a major increase in wireless radiation from 4G, using 24 gigahertz (GHz) or more, exposing Americans to radiation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To this day, no safety studies have been conducted by the U.S. government. However, over 10,000 peer-reviewed independent studies have been conducted suggesting alarming implications like cardiovascular disease, learning and memory deficits, and cognitive impairment.


People should limit time in front of screens, especially their phones. The average American spends over half of their day looking at a screen, emitting themselves to potentially dangerous radiation. Humans are seeing adverse effects in regards to in-person communication skills due to the overuse and simplicity of texting.

Cellular networks are slowly taking control of our lives. Put your phone down and free your mind.

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Phon(y)es - NDSU The Spectrum

The Guardian view on a public health calamity: science facts need reinforcing – The Guardian

Freedom from fear of deadly disease is a luxury by historical standards, enjoyed by most British people. But luxury cultivates complacency. That is one explanation for a decline in the number of children receiving routine vaccinations. NHS data published this week showed a drop in uptake for the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab from 91.2% to 90.3% in England. It is the fifth consecutive annual decline. It takes the UK further from the World Health Organization target of 95% coverage the point of herd immunity where collective defence can snuff out contagion. Last month the WHO rescinded Britains measles free status only two years after that milestone was achieved. There were around 1,000 cases last year double the number recorded two years previously. Mumps is having a similar resurgence.

There is something uniquely disturbing about a society choosing to make itself vulnerable to infection. There is no new pathogen to defeat. The means of prevention are available on the NHS. Their rejection points to a different trend the spread of toxic misinformation online and disregard for science in a culture that has devalued rationalism and expertise. Suspicion of the MMR jab peaked around the turn of the century and scare stories about an association thoroughly debunked with autism. That falsehood was beaten back by facts at first, but now enjoys a second life online as part of a much bigger apparatus of fear and fraud. Parents looking to Google or Facebook for information about vaccinations encounter mounds of deceit, camouflaged in pseudoscience. Some of it channels profits to quacks and charlatans. Some is a gateway to paranoid sites on the extreme left and right of the political spectrum. Some people, for whatever reason, just dont trust vaccines, even though we wish they would. Tech giants have been reluctant to police this realm because the anti-vaxx culture feeds a lucrative advertising market in hokum. Social media companies claims to be responsible corporate citizens clash with their commercial interest in clickbait poison. Anti-vaxx content might not contain hate speech or glorify terrorism, but it is still a public health hazard and needs to be regulated accordingly. Belatedly, some firms are acting on the menace, but the measures are not enough.

Meanwhile, the need to restore herd immunity is forcing the government to consider more assertive measures: compulsory vaccination or a requirement for proof of immunisation as a condition of taking up places at nurseries and schools. Such measures would bring additional bureaucracy and risk of a counterproductive anti-state backlash. Those are significant objections, but not insuperable when the associated benefit is averting epidemics and saving lives. Ideally, information campaigns, coupled with more efficient postnatal care, would be sufficient to shore up defences against disease. Not all vaccine refusers are anti-science militants. Many are just bewildered and amenable to persuasion. With the right methods, more can be done to help facts win this battle before compulsion becomes necessary. But there could yet come a point when the government may have to draw a line and declare a minoritys refusal to be vaccinated is a luxury that our society can no longer collectively afford to indulge.

This article was amended on 1 October 2019. An earlier version omitted the word no in the last sentence.

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The Guardian view on a public health calamity: science facts need reinforcing - The Guardian

The Interest around Chandrayaan-2 hides the Gloomy Future of Research in (…) – Mainstream

Home > 2019 > The Interest around Chandrayaan-2 hides the Gloomy Future of Research in(...)

by Sambit Roychowdhury

Writing on the Chandrayaan-2, the space mission, the nations imagination is aflame with several excellent articles on the mission having already appeared in both the national as well as international media. Besides that my own area of research and expertise is far removed from the technical or scientific aspects of space missions, myself being basically a scientist. Apparently I have little to add to what has already been said about Chandrayaan-2. But the sayings and doings regarding the mission of important people, either attached to ISRO or the Government of India, and the associated media coverage, got me thinking about the place of scientific research in our societal priorities and the consequent percolation of rational scientific thinking among the masses.

At first glance, it would seem logical that all of us, belonging to the broader Indian scientific community, should welcome all this media attention around what is at its core a scientific endeavour. And it indeed makes one happy, especially knowing that the interest thus generated is hopefully inspiring many girls and boys in the remotest corners of India to think of a career in science and technology. At the same time I have a nagging discomfort within me about the whole issue as a scientist who has been trained in the Indian research ecosystem. Maybe it is due to the fact that vedic maths (whatever that means), seers and gurus have become part of the discussion due to the doings of some scientists and bureaucrats connected with the mission itself! Or is it because a government, which has shown scant regard for scientific views or rationalism, given the statements of its leaders and more importantly its policies, suddenly using the mission to showcase itself as a champion of scientific and technological progress? Or is it due to the chest-thumping jingoism of a nation regarding a technological feat (which was unsuccessful by the way), when irrational and unscientific customs rule our daily lives? There are deep socio-political and historical issues that lie behind these questionsthings I am not remotely capable of discussing with any rigour. Therefore I decided to look for some answers in numbers and data in order to try and find out about the state of research in India.

World Bank data for the twenty years between 1996 and 20161 reflect some worrisome trends for India regarding investment in Research and Development (R and D). Spending on R and D as a share of GDP was stagnant at around 0.7 per cent, and remains so today, whereas countries with GDP higher than that of India (according to the United Nations estimates), like theUSA, Japan, Germany, the UK and France, spend at least double that percentage of their GDPs on R and D. It is actually above 2.5 per cent of the GDP for the USA, Japan and Germanyall larger economies than India. And its even higher for countries like South Korea and Israel that invest over four per cent of their respective GDPs on R and D. Much more importantly for India, our neighbour Chinas R and D expenditure increased from around 0.5 per cent to two per cent during that same 20-year period, and continues to grow rapidly. In fact, the expenditure on R and D as a percentage of the GDP increased from 0.6 per cent to 1.5 per cent for all low and middle-income economies as a whole between 2000 and 2016, and the world average has increased marginally from around two per cent to 2.2 per cent.

During the same 1996 to 2006 period, Japan had more than 5000 researchers per million people. The USA, Germany, the UK and France increased their numbers from around 3000 to above 4000 researchers per million people. China increased the number of researchers per million people from below 500 to above 1000. And all this while the number of researchers in India per million people remained constant at around 150.2

We should also consider the quality of research output along with the quantity. Considering citations per document (a good measure of the quality of average research output) of all publications in all research areas between 1996 and 2018, India ranks 191st among all countries in the world.3 There is a small number of statistics which can skew the above ranking, given that it includes many countries which produce only a small number of research papers. If one only considers countries which have produced more than 10,000 publications during the above mentioned time period, India ranks 77th among 98 countriesa list that includes both high income as well as low and middle-income economies. Interestingly, of the six countries with GDP higher than India mentioned previously, China has a rank lower than India (82nd). Japan ranks 31st, while the other four are in the top 20.

So we find that Indias investment in R and D is well below the average and shows no signs of increase, the fraction of its population doing research is much smaller when compared to comparable or larger economies, and the quality of its research output is not great. This is a grim reality when it has been quantifiably demonstrated that investment in scientific research brings both short and long term economic benefits to a country [see, for example, 4 and 5]. And by research, I mean fundamental scientific research. A push towards doing only applied and mission-driven research that was a result of large budget cuts last year to Indias largest R and D organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is not going to improve things in any way.

Maybe in order to improve we should get back to the basicsschool and university education. Quantitatively the percentage of Indias adult population with higher educational attainment has increased from 2.6 per cent in 1983-84 to 8.15 per cent in 2009-10.6

But what about quality? No Indian university or institute has made it to the top 200 in the latest Times Higher Education rankings.7 And India simply refuses to participate in the Programme for International Student Assess-ment8 which tests 15-year-old students from all over the world in reading, mathematics and science, after Indian students performed miserably in it.

I can dig deeper and throw up more statistics regarding the quality of schooling that an average Indian student receives, a depressing exercise which has already been done by people much more competent than me and is out there for any interested person to look up. And I did not even come to the ever-present elephant in the roomthe effect of caste on who ends up getting a chance of becoming a researcher in India. Just to give one statistic, between 1983-84 and 2009-10 higher educational attainment for adults belonging to the Scheduled Castes increased from 0.6 per cent to 3.9 per cent, and Scheduled Tribes from 0.55 per cent to 2.8 per cent.6 This, in spite of the policy of affirmative action (reservations), is being introduced for enrolment in higher education. Compare these numbers to the numbers for the entire adult population of India for the same period mentioned above, and the fact that people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes comprise more than a quarter of Indias population. There also existsa religious divide, with the higher educational attainment within Muslims changing from around 1.5 per cent to 3.8 per cent during the same period, when Muslims constitute roughly 14 per cent of Indias population.

So to add to the fact that there is no effort to increase investment in research and enhance the number of researchers, we find that our school and university education is not up to the mark for creating future researchers, and due to caste and religious faultlines we are not tapping into a large fraction of the talent pool. Without improvement in R and D, we will stand by while other nations will march past us in terms of economic development and overall societal progress.

As a nation we will be left miserably ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of a fast- changing world, that is, dealing with climate change, use of genetic engineering, use of intelligent machines for betterment of industry and society, tapping into the resources to be found in the Moon and Mars, to name just a few. We need to start a debate about the future of research in our country and make it an issue in the domain of public consciousness. Sadly there does not seem to be any concerted effort to do this either by the government or the media, both of whom satisfy themselves with rare achievements like Chandrayaan-2 which are few and far betweenand will become even rarer if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.


1. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/GB.XPD. RSDV.GD.ZS

2. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/research-and-development-expenditure-of-gdp~

3. https://www.scimagojr.com/countryrank.php~

4. Science economics: What science is really worth Colin Macilwain, Nature 2010.

5. Rates of return to investment in science and innovation Frontier Economics, 2014.

6. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0049085715574178~

7. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2020/world-ranking~

8. http://www.oecd.org/pis

The author, a Ph.D. in astronomy from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, whose research area is far distant and faint galaxies,did research studies at the Max Plank Institute, Germany. He is now ona post-doc assisgnment at the Swinburne Instutute, Melbourne. He can be contacted ate-mail: sambit.rc[at]gmail.com

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The Interest around Chandrayaan-2 hides the Gloomy Future of Research in (...) - Mainstream

Highlights from ARTBO 2019, the Colombian Art Fair, and Beyond – Cultured Magazine

Art that offers a reflection on sociopolitical issuesfrom climate change to instability and authoritarianismwas everywhere in Bogot this fall, as the 15th annual ARTBO art fair opened in the Colombian capital. I think art has a possibility of creating or nurturing citizens and individuals that are more sensitive, or more critical, and have the capacity to put themselves in someone elses shoes, said ARTBO director Mara Paz Gaviria when the fair opened last week. I dont believe that art has a particular role in society, I just strongly believe in the possibility of the arts, and what it can express about society, and about our conflicts. So, with that in mind, heres our pick of the standout artists at the fair, and at the National Salon of Artists show, which runs concurrently at museums around Bogot until November.

Carolina Caycedos Apariciones at the National Salon of ArtistsThis nine-and-a-half-minute film by Los Angeles-based Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo is featured in the National Salon of Artists and is on display until November 3 at MAMBO, the Bogot Museum of Modern Art. For the film, Caycedo stages a series of encounters between indigenous and Afro-Latino dancers and the spaces of LAs Huntington Library and Gardens. Its a beautiful work about colonialism, hierarchies of information, the naivet of trying to organize the world, and the rebellion of the past. The dancers move through the institution like ghosts from past worlds; or the physical embodiment of traditions of knowledge that arent yet archived, performing rituals of joy and divination.If youd like to see more, the artist talks about this piece in a video produced for the Huntington here.

A still from Manuel Correas La Forma del Presente (The Shape of Now).

Manuel Correas La Forma del Presente (The Shape of Now) at ARTBOOne of the standout works of ARTBO was presented in the fairs Artecmara section for emerging Colombian artists. London-based, Medelln-born Manuel Correas 70-minute documentary The Shape of Now is about the conflict that has raged in Colombia since the 1960s between the government, guerrillas including the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and drug cartels, which has claimed an estimated 260,000 lives, and the ensuing peace process. Correas film is about how historical memory is constructed, and depicts the human need to define past events in order to move on from them. He follows survivors of war, ex-combatants from all sides, professors, scientists, a photojournalist and a peace negotiator as they wrestle with what has taken place, and with the nature of truth itself. Certain scenes are so surreallike a group of mothers of the disappeared who travel to prisons to perform plays about the conflict for audiences that include some of the same fighters who may have taken their sonsthat they merit comparison to the 2012 documentary about Indonesian war crimes The Act of Killing. The film is also memorable for a logician who explains how truth exists beyond binary categories, and for neuroscientists who attempt to study ex-combatantss levels of empathy by attaching electrodes to their heads and asking them questions like, When you watch a movie, do you identify with the protagonist?

Teresa Margolless Chircalero en un pozo de Juan Fro. Courtesy of the artist and mor charpentier.

Teresa Margolless Chircalero en un pozo de Juan Fro at mor charpentier gallery at ARTBOConceptual artist Teresa Margolles examines the causes and consequences of violence in her works, with a particular emphasis on death and the body. Born in Mexico, she originally trained as a pathologist and holds a degree in forensic medicine and science communication from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Both forensics and communicationespecially the need to speak for those who have been silencedare key themes in her work. This photograph, titled Chircalero en un pozo de Juan Fro, or Brickmaker in a well at Juan Fro, depicts a moment in the production of 3,000 clay bricks when and holds up a shroud that has been soaking in the water. The shroud was used to cover the bodies of people killed in recent violence on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, and the bricks were fired in a kiln in the border town of Juan Fro, where guerrillas previously incinerated the bodies of war victims. This chircalero, like the dead, stays invisible behind his shroud.

Adriana Bustoss Burning Books IXII. Courtesy of Galera Nora Fisch.

Adriana Bustoss Burning Books IX at at ARTBOArgentinian artist Adriana Bustoss process is heavily informed by research, and her work often incorporates found images she uncovers from various archives. By placing these images in new contexts, Bustos generates new meanings, and she often returns to themes of the construction of femininity, science and rationalism versus magical thinking and the censorship of ideas. In her Burning Books series, she painstakingly draws and places on bookshelveswhich she identifies by searching library records for suppressed titles. The resulting work questions the limits and consequences of censorship.

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Highlights from ARTBO 2019, the Colombian Art Fair, and Beyond - Cultured Magazine

How Far to Hope: A Review of Oslo at TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago – Newcity Stage


When the world is, as it is now, in a state of complete disarray and chaos, the impulse to say Dont worry, things will get better, can potentially come off as naive or privileged or foolish or just downright incorrect. Call it cynicism, call it rationalism, call it being just plain realistic. Seeking hope in a hopeless world just doesnt seem as possible these days.

Not impossible, mind you. Just less possible. Theres a difference.

Moving on, though: lets talk about historical fiction.

The creation and presentation of a work that reflects on a previous historical event has many intentional and unintentional purposes. It works as document of that event, especially if it is from a lesser-known historical perspective. It also works as a means of creating engagement with a history that otherwise might not have been: we are naturally drawn towards narrative and conflict. Finding a means to further inject these values into a piece of history only increases our engagement with the events.

But the unintendedor perhaps secretly intendedrepercussions of a historical drama can be to show how Not Good/Very Bad things used to be while highlighting Just How Far Weve Come since the event in question. Something like the movie Green Book comes to mind, a recent example of how 1960s racism was a Much Worse Racism and shouldnt we be happy that things are So Much Better Now? I mean, things are better now, right?

Oslo, J.T. Rogers Tony-Award winning play about the back-channel negotiations of the Oslo Accords in 1993, isnt that naive. It is true that, in recounting the gripping events of how Norwegian diplomats Mona Juul (a superb Bri Sudia) and Terje Rd-Larsen (a charming Scott Parkinson) brought together representatives from the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organization to begin peace discussions, you get the sense this is indeed going to be a play about a monumental event that shaped history and made everything Good, Again. But by the end of its almost three-hour running time, the play (and especially director Nick Bowlings production of it) is fully aware that, no, things are not So Much Better Now. There is still a major Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are still governments acting maliciously and innocent people being murdered and a conflict between two peoples being weaponized by external forces for political gain. And there is seemingly no end in sight to it all.

Again, seemingly. Not impossible. Just less possible.

The play, produced by TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago, has been brought to Chicago in a practically seamless production, navigating a thirteen-actor ensemble through a cavalcade of scenes: mostly people talking in rooms or talking over the phone or talking outside in the snow. Theres a lot of talking. But the good kind! The kind that reminds you Yes, this is a play, and plays are about people talking, and the talking is engaging and good. Oslo navigates within the confines of what we have traditionally been told is a plays function to exceedingly excellent results. What it lacks in boundary-breaking format, it makes up for in detailed performances, sharp writing and expert craftsmanship.

Jeffrey Kmiecs barebones set combined with with Mike Tutajs subtle projections do a great job of transporting us to a myriad of locations. Christine Pascuals costumes are as dignified or as frumpy as the character wearing them warrants. Andre Pluess music is gripping and provides plenty of forward momentum. Jesse Klugs lights are specific and clear. Its a well-packaged clean production about an inherently messy topic. The dissonance is certainly not lost.

Oslo stands as a beacon of possibility in a world where that is not always a guarantee. Its final momentscemented by Sudias reticence to accept a happy endingmay just bring you close to tears. This desire for hope within hopelessness is just one piece of the puzzle of our world. To see Oslo is certainly not an invitation to start and finish ones engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict then and there. Your work is never done, as well it shouldnt be. But it begs you to consider, in the smallest way, that peace is possible. That hope is possible.

We were not there in 1993. We are not there now.But the possibility. The possibility is there. Somewhere. Do you see it? (Ben Kaye)

TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 East Chestnut, broadwayinchicago.com, $35-$95. Through October 20.

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How Far to Hope: A Review of Oslo at TimeLine Theatre Company and Broadway In Chicago - Newcity Stage

Hitler the Progressive | Peter Hitchens – First Things

Has the mass murder of Europes Jews eclipsed the other significant horrors of Hitlers Germany? Does it matter? And is it possible to address this without being accused by the thought police of belittling the Holocaust? Let me try.

These questions are raised in the greatest film released in the past year, Never Look Away. Made by the aristocrat Florian von Donnersmarck, the director who created the masterpiece The Lives of Others, it has yet to attract the cult following rightly achieved by his first major work. I think it ought to.It is beautiful, immensely powerful, and packed with thoughts about goodness, the temptations of power and evil, and the nature of art.The films depictions of the morally complicated yet triumphant birth of a baby amid misery and ruin, and of the cynical use of abortion in a fathers evil attempt to end his daughters love affair, are firmly on the side of humanity, and should be treasured in their own right.

At the heart of the story is a Dickensian mystery of unrevealed guilt, quite unbelievable but based upon a true story. The original evil act destroys a beautiful young woman, suffering from some unknown mental illness, who is caught by Hitlers eugenics program. Even if you think you know about this sordid corner of National Socialism, which begins with steely pseudo-rationalism and ends in rank murder, the relatively gentle portrayal of this crime and the others happening alongside it will greatly shock and distress you.But it, and other elements of this film, ought also to waken the consciences of many on the self-described progressive left.

For these progressives, the Nazi era has been both a sort of moral scripture and a source of certainties.With increasing force since the 1970s, the left has managed to associate the Hitler period with the political and moral right. Here, they insist, is every aspect of conservatism in full power. Behold, they say, the evils which follow from conservative thought, from love of country and martial strength. See here how the ideas behind immigration controls or sexual conservatism also lead inescapably to the Yellow Star and the Pink Triangle, the death camp, the gas chamber, and the crematorium.

Above all, when it studies the mass murder of Europes Jews it can assert with relief that nothing of this kind stains our hygienic and enlightened society, which put an end to everything of this sort nearly eighty years ago. Indeed, we all can assert thiswhich is interesting given that many conservative European societies, whatever their faults, never engaged in racial mass murder and in many cases bravely resisted and frustrated it when it was imposed on them by occupying invaders.

This fact complicates the simple logic which has permitted so many liberals, for so long, to cry Fascist! at conservatives, and so silence and marginalize them. It might cause the more intelligent progressives to consider, with a little more care, what National Socialism actually was. If it was what they say it was, why was it so hostile to the Christian church, a body which modern liberals tend to see as a force for conservatism?And why did Nazis and Communists cooperate, most spectacularly in that great ignored spasm of cynicism, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939the most astonishing political event of the twentieth century and the least known?

We are told that Stalin did it out of bitter necessity, to buy time, and that there was no true friendship or alliance in it.The awkward truth is that it was far warmer than that. There was a joint Nazi-Soviet victory parade in Brest Litovsk. Everyone in the pictures of this event looks happy (the unhappy people had already been shot or locked up). And the Soviet NKVD secret police, the essence of Communism, the sword and shield of the Communist Party,then staged a prisoner exchange with Hitlers Gestapo, likewise the very core of National Socialist fervor. If you admit these things, then you are in historical trouble, and it is trouble which the film Never Look Away helps to foment.

For some background it is worth turning to Julia Boyds fascinating Travellers in the Third Reich. This work is unusual in that it discusses just how similar Communism and National Socialism were, in some respects.She quotes Denis de Rougemont, a Christian Swiss writer and cultural theorist.De Rougemont began by thinkingthat Hitlers state was a regime of the right. But during a lengthy stay in Frankfurt as a visiting professor, he found himself involuntarily questioning this. What unsettled him, writes Boyd, was the fact that those who stood most naturally on the rightlawyers, doctors, industrialists and so onwere the very ones who most bitterly denounced National Socialism. Far from being a bulwark against Communism, they complained,it was itself communism in disguise [my emphasis].

De Rougemont recounted: They pointed out that only workers and peasants benefited from Nazi reforms, while their own values were being systematically destroyed by devious methods. They were taxed disproportionately, their family life had been irreparably harmed, parental authority sapped, religion stripped and education eliminated.

A lawyers wife complained to him, Every evening my two children are taken over by the Party. This experience was not all that different from what was happening at the same time to the children of Soviet parents.The Nazis, being utopian fanatics more concerned with the future than the present, were prepared to pay quite a high price for taking over the minds of the young. As Thomas Manns daughter Erika pointed out in her excoriating book on the subject, School for Barbarians, the quality of education was gravely damaged under the Hitler regime, which (as left-wing regimes also often do) promoted or protected bad but politically acceptable teachers, and polluted the teaching of all arts and historical subjects. It believed it was more urgent to teach the young what to think than to show them how to think.

Hitler himself taunted his opponents for their powerlessness against him. They might rage at him as much as they liked, but When an opponent declares I will not come over to your side I say calmly Your child belongs to us already . . . What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing but this new community. He was so nearly right.

As for the defeated left, a startling number of them came over to the new camp almost immediately. De Rougemont spoke to a renegade Communist who had switched sides and joined the Hitlerites, who said,

National Socialism was egalitarian and horribly modern. It sided with children against parents and (often) teachers. It built super-highways, gigantic holiday camps, space rockets, and jet engines. It planned to create mass car ownershipthough tanks, in the end, came first.In military matters it was open to the newest ideas and encouraged innovation and initiative. It poured resources into the movie industry, developed television, and sponsored a type of Godless modern architecture which can still be seen in the Berlin Olympic Stadium and the remnants of the Nuremberg parade grounds.Its leaders embraced sexual freedom.

And then there were Hitlers eugenics schemes, portrayed so heartbreakingly in Never Look Away. These were conducted in public at the beginning, and even endorsed by noisy propaganda campaigns in the media. And they were far from unique: Nazi Germany, in this case, was following the democracies.Hitlers eugenics squads began in ways that the rest of the world (at the time) could not easily object to. Compulsory sterilization of the supposedly mentally unfit was introduced in Germany a few months after National Socialism came to power. But several free and enlightened countriesincluding Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.had also permitted it in various forms, and would in some cases carry on doing so into our own era.

It was a progressive cause, embraced at the time by the progressives progressive, H. G. Wells. Marie Stopes, the great apostle of contraception in interwar Britain, was alsolike many among the progressives of the timea keen eugenicist.In 1935, she attended a Congress for Population Science in Nazi Berlin. In August 1939, she even sent Hitler a volume of her dreadful poems, accompanied by a treacly epistle about love. Yet all this has been forgotten amid continuing progressive admiration for Marie Stopess embrace ofwhat are nowadays known as reproductive rights. Marie Stopes International, a powerful and flourishing modern organization, still bears her name as it campaigns for and defends those reproductive rights.

Am I saying (someone will accuse me of this) that modern abortion and contraception campaigners are Nazis, or inheritors of Nazis?Certainly not. I regard any such claim as ridiculous rubbishas ridiculous as the claim that modern patriotic conservatives, skeptical about mass immigration, are Nazis or inheritors of Nazis.

My point is wholly different.It is that all ideas must be argued on their merits, and that all attempts to establish guilt by association should be regarded with suspicion. And that those who wish to use the Hitler era as a way of depriving others of legitimacy should understand that this period, precisely because it cast aside therestraints of Christian morality and duty, liberated many ideas from ancient, sometimes despised limits which turned out, in the end,to be wise and kind.

Peter Hitchensis a columnist for theMail on Sunday.

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Hitler the Progressive | Peter Hitchens - First Things

CULTURE Florence Tennis Club – The Florentine


Deirdre Pirro

September 18, 2019 - 16:19

Originally the largest park in Florence, the Cascine was a Medici hunting and farming estate, which passed to the grand duchy of Lorraine with the death of the last Medici in 1737. Although it had occasionally been open to the public for special events during the 18th century, it only became an actual public park during the brief reign of Elisa Baciocchi, grand duchess of Tuscany and Napoleons sister; it continued to be so after the City of Florence acquired the property in 1869. By the late 19th century, the 18 hectares of woods, tall trees, shady paths and lawns became a place where the townsfolk strolled, who gained easy access to the green space between 1880 and 1897 thanks to Florences original tramway, which linked the Cascine and the city centre (much like todays tram to Scandicci). It was the place to see and be seen, especially among the aristocracy and the ex-pat community. Even Queen Victoria in her carriage could often be seen there when on holiday in Florence.

TheCascine quickly became the ideal setting for ex-pats, nostalgic for the sports and pastimes they enjoyed back home; here they sought to recreate them. The first race horse meeting was held in the park in 1852 at the racecourse organized by the fabulously rich Russian count Anatole Demidoff and the Societ Anonima Fiorentina. In 1859, a shooting range was created, followed several years later by clay pigeon shooting facilities, and in 1870, a club of velocipedists, or speed cyclists, was inaugurated, using a flat dirt track until, in 1894, it was transformed into what is still the concrete velodrome for bike races.

With 30 founding members, some Florentine and others English, the Florence Tennis Club was founded in 1898, the fifth club to become part of the Italian Lawn Tennis Association established in 1894. Games were initially played on the grass until two clay courts were built. At the time, nets, posts, rackets and other equipment were furnished by the Anglo-American Supply Stores in via Cavour. The mens dress code on court was modelled on the English cricket style, whereas for womenclub membership was open to them from the very beginningthe required style was rigidly Victorian, meaning they were encumbered to play in long skirts, tight bodices and vexatious hats. Tournaments were held for men from 1900 and for women from 1902, when Florence became the first club in Italy to allow women to compete. In fact, a cup is dedicated to Rhoda de Bellegarde de Saint Lary, a club member and the winner of the first and second Italian womens championships in 1913 and 1914. She would die of Spanish flu in 1918 while serving as a Red Cross nurse during World War I.

The classical, red brick, then single-storied, clubhouse with its white door and window frames was designed by architect Pietro Berti and gifted to the club by the wealthy industrialist and first president, Count Giovanni Cosimo Cini, in 1900. There, in May 1910, representatives from the 12 most important Italian tennis clubs met and inaugurated the Italian Tennis Federation, voting in Florence club member Piero Antinori as president.

Over the years, the public has been entertained with tournaments featuring many Italian champions like Nicola Pietrangeli, Lea Pericoli and Adriano Panatta, in addition to international stars including Ille Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis and Roy Emerson. Five Davis Cup challenges (in 1933 with Yugoslavia, 1958 with India, 1959 with South Africa, 1962 with Russia, and 1993 with Australia) were contested on the Florentine courts and, since 1976, the International City of Florence Juniors Tournament has been held there at Easter every year, whose winners include Jennifer Capriati and Roger Federer.

In November 2003, the Florence Tennis Club joined the prestigious Association of Centenary Tennis Clubs, one of the 7 Italian clubs and only 79 clubs worldwide that are over 100 years old. Today, this verdant and tranquil oasis comprises 560 members, 10 red clay courts, two padel (a cross between tennis and squash) courts and a football pitch. The mens and womens changing rooms are in the clubhouse, although the small wooden hut used for that purpose when the club first opened can still be seen on the grounds. The clubhouse also houses two card rooms and a reading room with a bar.

In the 1950s, a glass-enclosed restaurant was added and, during the summer, another restaurant is open near the swimming pool built in 1939 by Gherardo Bosio, a major exponent of Italian rationalism architecture. A well-equipped gym and sauna were made available to members in 2011. Professional tennis coaches teach courses, from beginners to advanced, for youths and adults from September until June, while summer camps are organised for children and adolescents between the ages of 4 to 16.

From July 18 to 21, 2019, the Florence Tennis Club proudly hosted the 7th International City of Florence Wheelchair Tournament with about 40 competitors from Italy, Malaysia, Australia, Colombia, France, Austria, Spain, England, Turkey and China, an important date on the international calendar for disabled athletes and for the city. Prior to this, the Florence Club hosted two national wheelchair tournaments in 2011 and 2012, as well as an earlier international wheelchair tournament in 2013.

This month, excitement among spectators is already mounting as tennis fans flock to the Cascine to watch the revived second edition of the Florence Tennis Cup Tuscan Airports Trophy, as part of the ATP Challenger Tour. From September 23 to 29, the tournament will take place at the Florence Tennis Club with national and international players vying for 75,000 dollars in hospitality and prize money.

With 30 founding members, some Florentine and others English, the Florence Tennis Club was founded in 1898, the fifth club to become part of the Italian Lawn Tennis Association established in 1894.

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CULTURE Florence Tennis Club - The Florentine