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08/11/2010

Magazine Roundup

Wired | El Pais Semanal | Outlook India | The Economist | Elet es Irodalom | Vanity Fair | MicroMega | Prospect | Open Democracy | The Times Literary Supplement | Polityka | The New York Review of Books

Wired 18.11.2010 (USA)

Internet censorship is alive and well in China. But it can be foiled, as Vince Beiser explains. The American Alan Huang, for example, who on a visit to China in 1999 was arrested as a member of the Falun Gong and only released two weeks later: "He's no charismatic revolutionary. But by 2002, he had assembled a dozen like-minded Falun Gong-practising colleagues. In the small garage attached to his four-bedroom bungalow, they developed a digital weapon for their compatriots back in China: a program designed to foil government censorship and surveillance. Dubbed UltraSurf, it has since become one of the most important free-speech tools on the Internet, used by millions from China to Saudi Arabia. A separate group of Falun Gong practitioners, it turned out, was working on something similar, and in 2006 the two groups joined forces as the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. Most GIFC members spend their days as cubicle-bound programmers and engineers at places ranging from Microsoft to NASA. But off the clock, at night and on weekends, they wage digital guerrilla warfare on the Chinese government's cyberpolice, matching their technical savvy, donated computers, and home-office resources against the world's second-largest superpower. Again and again, Beijing has attacked the firewall-beating programs; again and again, the scrappy band of volunteers has defeated those attacks."


El Pais Semanal 07.11.2010 (Spain)

"I had to decide whether or not to blow up ETA's entire leadership. I said no. I'm still not sure if I made the right decision." Spanish writer Juan Jose Millas engaged former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez in a long conversation: "You live the first twenty years of your life. The rest you survive. I have managed to resist the autobiographical urge. Political memoirs generally serve to exonerate their authors and lay the blame on others. Then there are the things one is not allowed to say. In the struggle for power, relations are played out under ground, like an iceberg where four-fifths remain invisible. With the exception of the Vatican where everything is beneath the surface. When you think how many people were involved in the putsch against the fledgling Spanish democracy on 23 February 1981... And then put yourself in Obama's shoes, having to take on Bush's entire security apparatus. ... Obama said he would dismantle Guantanamo within 10 months. From our outsider perspective he has failed. But it will take an entire legislative period to win back control over the security apparatus - there were just way too many secret flights and prisons, and the people involved are still part of the apparatus. Even in the most solidly grounded democracy, a war is being waged beneath the surface between civilian and military powers or rather those of the secret services."


Outlook India 15.11.2010 (India)
Burma is on the eve of new elections. These cannot be anything but farcical, writes Amartya Sen and demands that the international community take some real steps to help the oppressed Burmese. He offers some concrete suggestions: The UN should set a Commission of Inquiry and put an end to its softly softly approach to Burma; a trade embargo that targets industries in which the military is involved; a travel embargo for the members of the ruling military junta (who like to treat their age-related illnesses abroad); and finally, decisive reaction by the global community which continues to place its economic interests over the Burmese population: "First, it is hard to persuade governments like India, Thailand, or for that matter China, that their policies regarding Burma are valuationally crude and gross, if the western countries, which are sharp on rhetoric in denouncing Myanmar's rulers, do not do what is entirely within their power to do with their own Burmese involvement. Several European countries as well as countries elsewhere have strong business relations with Burma, for example, extensively in oil exploration and use. At a different level, neither the EU, nor the U.S., nor indeed Switzerland, Australia or Canada, has used the power of financial sanctions against the regime, demanding substantial change in their policies."


The Economist 05.11.2010 (UK)

The Economist looks at how legal Western businesses can learn from the Somali pirates: "The threat to life and liberty aside, Somali pirates' business model is impressive. Accor ding to the professor, each raid costs the pirates around 30,000 USD. On average one raid in three is successful. The reward for a triumphant venture, however, can be in the millions. The organisation behind the pirates would be familiar to many ordinary businesses. For a start, they have a similar backend - including the kind of streamlined logistics and operations controls that would be the envy of most companies. Their success has even prompted one village to open a pirate 'stock exchange', where locals can buy shares in up to 70 maritime companies planning raids. But Professor James of Henley Business School believes that the most important lesson firms can learn is one of strategy. He teaches his MBA class that one reason for the pirates' success is that they avoid 'symmetrical' conflict -challenging their targets head on by, for example, lining up against the Western navies patrolling the waters - battles they would surely lose. Instead, they use stealth and surprise, attacking targets at their weakest point."


Elet es Irodalom 05.11.2010 (Hungary)

The EU might regard its cultural heritage as secondary or outdated but this heritage still determines much of EU policy today, historian and orientalist Mihaly Dobrovits explains in an interview. This - perhaps intentional - memory lapse means that no one is in a position to tell immigrants how they are supposed to integrate. Angela Merkel's comment that multiculturalism had failed, illustrates for Dobrovits "just how lacking in ideas the Europeans are. Only five or ten years ago, multicultural Europe was not only regarded as dogma, in Germany, for example, there was even a debate about whether German culture should really be the dominant culture and whether Turkish immigrants needed to learn German at all. Now we are issuing Europe's Muslim immigrants with an ultimatum without being able to define concrete the cultural parameters, beyond language skills, which we want them to follow. We cannot require them to adhere to European religious and historical traditions, when we no longer know what these are let alone follow them ourselves."

Vanity Fair 01.12.2010 (USA)

Where does art end and abuse begin? Michael Shnayerson tries to get to the bottom of the problem with a closer look at the life and work of Larry Rivers, who is undergoing something of a renaissance, eight years after his death. Rivers rose to fame in 1953 with his painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" He never married, had countless lovers of both sexes (including the poet Frank O'Hara whom he painted here in his boots), who frequently lived together. In the 70s and early 80s he made a film "Growing", in which he tried to reveal the "meaning of breasts in a girl's life", as he put it, using his two adolescent daughters as subjects. His youngest daughter, Emma, who feels the film is child pornography and has ruined much of her life, wants the film destroyed. The rest of Rivers' family and entourage see the film within the context of the time as part of the artist's quest to break taboos and sexual boundaries. The elder of the two daughters in the film, Gwynne, doesn't want the film destroyed but cannot forgive her father for making it: "'Why don't you start by singing a song for me?' Rivers asked Gwynne, as she recalls. 'So I would practice a song, and I was proud of getting it captured on film.' Then would come the uncomfortable part. 'To go from singing a song for your father and then to suddenly be told to take off your shirt the dread in my stomach when I heard those words drowned out the lovely feelings of performing for my dad - it broke down to what he really wanted to see: my breasts.' One of the first times, she remembers, she sang the Beatles' 'Yesterday' - 'which seemed apropos, because my childhood was a real childhood, and then suddenly it wasn't."

MicroMega 04.11.2010 (Italy)

"Unheimlich" - film critic Giona A. Nazzaro uses the German word to describe the almost invisible and yet radically new narrative technique in David Fincher's film "The Social Network": "On the one hand he seems to want to hold on to cinematic traditions, on the other hand he is creating a new modality of seeing and identification within the narrative contraints. The moment where Fincher's approach makes itself felt to the full is the boat race scene which is filmed in cubistic brilliance. And yet what we see is not a boat race and not cinema as we know it. 'The Social Network' not only sets to keep pace with the web, it is looking for a new form of cinematic narrative whose inspiration is not a train pulling into the station, as it was for the Lumiere brothers, but the movements of an egoshooter in an online game."

Prospect 20.10.2010 (UK)

Faisal Islam enters the wonderful world of "quantitative easing" a.k.a money printing. One of the most fascinating bits of information in this fascinating article is that even the experts have no idea of the consequences of their QE applications. Weird things happen, like when the Bank of England starts buying up state debt with the magic green stuff: "The mechanism by which the Bank bought government debt was convoluted, for operational and legal reasons. On any given morning the debt management office (DMO), an arm of the treasury, sold billions of pounds worth of British gilts to the world. Then in the afternoon, barely 400 metres away, the Bank held a reverse auction where it, in effect, bought up billions of similar government debts. Under EU rules it would have been illegal for the DMO and the Bank to trade with one another. So instead the City stepped in, making profits on trading both sides of this bizarre monetary merry-go-round for over a year."

OpenDemocracy 05.11.2010 (UK)

Amal Nasr, who has lived with her family in Gaza since 2000, describes the various dress codes which women in Gaza are expected to observe depending on which area they live in and which class they belong to. "Many, with the permission of the Palestinian Authority, have come to Gaza over the years from the Palestinian Diaspora scattered in many Arab and foreign countries. These families have brought social change with them. Many of these refugees were less religiously conservative than mainstream Gazan society, which has led to increasing clashes over lifestyle. For example, there are disputes over the hijab, with women walking around without the hijab being subjected to hostility, particularly in overpopulated places such as Jabalia and Beit Lahya. Amiera Najar, 32 years old says, 'I sometimes have harsh words flung at me; people judge me and even threaten me. I have certainly been advised to wear the hijab in certain places if I want to avoid hostile reactions.' Such obligations are not enforced. But if the majority wears the hijab to indicate modesty out of social convention, women in a minority are soon under pressure to fall into line."


Times Literary Supplement 3.11.2010 (UK)

Difficult and obscure, radical and extreme, the poetry of J.H.Prynne just might be the most restless music of our time, writes Robert Potts: "His latest volume, 'Sub Songs', a handsome small press production in a very large format similar in size to a volume of sheet music continues to blend his favourite fierce ingredients: ominous developments in biotechnology; political, erotic and philosophical questions about identity and difference; terror and warfare; the role of song in various human and animal contexts; complicity and agency. The criss-cross of contradictory movements and bitten-off phrases resembles late Beckett as much as anything else he has written. (...) . It is still possible to say what these poems are about; it remains unlikely that anyone will or can be sure what they mean." (Here an example from 1998, "Rich in Vitamin C".


Polityka 05.11.2010 (Poland)

Mariusz Janicki gives a drastic description (here in German) of the increasingly aggressive political fighting in Poland, that is at its most vicious between former conservative allies, Donald Tusk's Civic Platform (PO) and Jaroslaw Kaczynski's Law and Justice Party (PiS). "The objective is always the same dragging the opponent through the mud. There is certainly no danger of any of the 'reconciliation kitsch' that Tusk spoke of. No one is remotely interested in such things. This game is too enthralling and too important in the struggle for power. This is not a conflict about the budget, the health system or the pension system, this is a fight for the future of Poland. This war will not end until one of the sides has been crushed. Two armies are locked in battle with no option of a draw, no option of a ceasefire.


The New York Review of Books 25.11.2010 (USA)

Writer Zadie Smith did not see the Facebook film "The Social Network" as an unflattering portrait of Mark Zuckerberg, so much as a terrifying portrait of ourselves. "500 million sentient people are trapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore". In a long essay she lists her misgivings about Facebook which has tamed the world wild web: "Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it's a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don't look more free, they just look more owned."

William Easterly reveals the dirty secret of development aid: "Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, the nations and organizations that donate and distribute aid do not care much about democracy and they still actively support dictators. The conventional narrative is that donors supported dictators only during the cold war and ever since have promoted democracy. This is wrong... Paul Biya, the dictator of Cameroon, is marking his twenty-eighth year in power in 2010 by receiving the latest in a never-ending series of loans from the International Monetary Fund with imaginative labels like 'Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities.' Biya, whose government also enjoys ample oil revenues, has received a total of 35 billion USD in foreign aid during his reign. There's been neither poverty reduction nor growth in his country: the average Cameroonian is poorer today than when Biya took power in 1982."

Mark Lilla, Ronald Dworkin and Jonathan Raban write about the mid-term US elections. David Bromwich keeps a close eye on the demagogues Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

The reviews cover the exhibition in the Vienna Albertina "Picasso: Peace and Freedom" and two new Bob Dylan biographies by Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus, plus James Baldwin's collection of writings "The Cross of Redemption".
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