36 Hours in: Beijing

Justin Bergman explores Beijing, a few years past its 2008 Olympics and a few years before its next bid for the Winter Olympics in 2022. The article highlights the confluence of the modern and the traditional in a city of migrants. The writer explores the how the luxurious architecture and sports cars coexist with ancient Buddhist temples. He notes the street life, from clothes shacks to dumpling carts and game huts that serve local liquors. On the other hand gentrification has taken hold of the city, turning old factories into trendy cafes, ensuring neighborhoods are revamped for wealthier clients. Local shacks are eviscerated by new breweries developing craft beers. Yet, the claims are that developers are trying to retain the flavor of the neighborhoods, marrying the old to the new. One way or another, Beijing begs to be remembered.

Read an excerpt of the article written by Justin Bergman:

It seems like only yesterday that Beijing had its much-ballyhooed ‘‘coming out’’ party — the 2008 Summer Olympics — but things don’t slow down much in China’s frenetic capital. Already, the city is eyeing another Olympics bid (it is one of two finalists for the 2022 Winter Games) and planning a $13 billion airport that is expected to be among the busiest in the world when it opens in 2019. And yet compared with China’s other vertical megacities, Beijing is still a traditionalist at heart. The city may have fantastic new sculptural monuments designed by Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas, but to truly understand Beijing, one has to delve into the remaining hutong neighborhoods — traditional alleyways lined with courtyard homes — and smell the sweet potatoes roasting on coal fires in the winter. more

A counterterrorism officer and a Muslim comedian walk into a school

This article written by Katrin Bennhold begins with introducing Humza Arhad, a Muslim comedian, who, working with the police, mocks jihadis, in his efforts to prevent students from running of to Syria and joining the Islamic State. He asserts himself as a British citizen, who doesn't want people to lose their lives. He lays emphasis on religion and prays daily, but ridicules jihadis. He created ‘‘Diary of a Bad Man’’, a YouTube satire of life as a young British Asian that rapidly attracted a mass teenage following.

Read an excerpt of the article written by Katrin Bennhold:

Humza Arshad pokes fun at Pakistani accents and emotional soccer fans. He jokes about his weight, his voice and his own mother. But mostly, he laughs at jihadists. ‘‘Have you noticed how in those terrorist videos they’re always sitting on the floor?’’ Mr. Arshad asked a group of high school students the other day. ‘‘What’s up with that? I swear they can afford a chair.’’ And their pants: ‘‘Always coming up to here,’’ he said, pointing at his shin, ‘‘like, did you borrow this from your little brother or something?’’ Mr. Arshad, 29, is no ordinary comedian. A practicing Muslim in hip-hop gear whose YouTube videos have drawn millions of views, he is the centerpiece of the British government’s latest and perhaps cleverest effort to prevent students from running off to Syria and joining the Islamic State. more

The power of hope is real

Nicholas Kristof writes about the power of hope for the poor, in this article. Evidence shows that aid can overcome disease, boost literacy and save lives. Poverty causes stress and depression and lack of hope, and stress and depression and lack of hope, in turn, cause poverty. Researchers are now studying whether exposure to religion might have a similar effect, improving economic outcomes. A large-scale experiment shows, with rigorous evidence, what works to lift people out of the most extreme poverty. And it’s exhilarating that one of the lessons may be so simple and human: the power of hope.

Read an excerpt of the article written by Nicholas Kristof:

An awkward truth for bleeding hearts like myself is that there has never been much rigorous evidence that outside aid can sustainably lift people out of poverty. Sure, evidence is overwhelming that aid can overcome disease, boost literacy and save lives. But raising incomes is trickier — and the evidence in that arena has been squishier. Now that’s changing. A vast randomized trial — the gold standard of evidence — involving 21,000 people in six countries suggests that a particular aid package called the graduation program (because it aims to graduate people from poverty) gives very poor families a significant boost that continues after the program ends. Indeed, it’s an investment. more


Conflict and Ego

The article written by David Brooks openly examines the interplay between insult and response. It discusses the critical and crude nature of most reader’s comments on various articles. The author suggests responding to such a vituperative comment in a quiet and calm manner rather than in a derisive manner. The article states that the conversation becomes a battle of status as people hurl insult upon insult towards each other, making them more egoistic. Using Lincoln and ISIS as examples he enumerates the need to retaliate to such hate with peace, in order to avoid conflict. Thus we see the adverse affect “conflict” has on “ego”.

Read an excerpt of the article written by David Brooks:


Conflict and Ego By DAVID BROOKS If you read the online versions of newspaper columns you can click over to the reader comments, which are often critical, vituperative and insulting. I’ve found that I can only deal with these comments by following the adage, “Love your enemy.” It’s too psychologically damaging to read these comments as evaluations of my intelligence, morals or professional skill. But if I read them with the (possibly delusional) attitude that these are treasured friends bringing me lovely gifts of perspective, then my eye slides over the insults and I can usually learn something. The key is to get the question of my self-worth out of the way — which is actually possible unless the insulter is really creative. It’s not only newspaper columnists who face this kind of problem. Everybody who is on the Internet is subject to insult, trolling, hating and cruelty. Most of these online assaults are dominance plays. They are attempts by the insulter to assert his or her own superior status through displays of gratuitous cruelty toward a target. The natural but worst way to respond is to enter into the logic of this status contest. If he puffs himself up, you puff yourself up. But if you do this you put yourself and your own status at center stage. You enter a cycle of keyboard vengeance. You end up with a painfully distended ego, forever in danger, needing to assert itself, and sensitive to sleights. Clearly, the best way to respond is to step out of the game. It’s to get out of the status competition. Enmity is a nasty frame of mind. Pride is painful. The person who can quiet the self can see the world clearly, can learn the subject and master the situation. Historically, we reserve special admiration for those who can quiet the self even in the heat of conflict. Abraham Lincoln was caught in the middle of a horrific civil war. more

The curse of early marriage

Is an early marriage a boon or bane? What’s the difference between getting married early and getting married too young? The society in Dhaka, among other cities, believes that a daughter-in-law is someone to be scrutinized and a son-in-law to be exalted. Whether married early or late, a daughter-in-law’s status is reduced in her own house and her husband’s house once she is married. Young brides often lose out on their careers, education etc. once they tie the knot. It also gives rise to a series of social and health issues. Tahmima Anam feels that there is long way to go to reverse the age-old assumption that an adolescent girl is a problem to which the solution is marriage.


Read an excerpt of the article written by TAHMIMA ANAM :

It’s wedding season in Dhaka. The invitations have gone out — thick, gilded envelopes inviting people to functions at fancy hotels. Apartment buildings, sometimes even entire city streets, are festooned with fairy lights. A school friend of mine (I can’t use her name) married when we were both in our 20s. It was, by all accounts, a thoroughly modern love match. She had known the groom since high school; they had both attended college on the East Coast of the United States, and returned to Dhaka after completing their degrees. It was a fancy wedding, with imported flowers, D.J.s, matching outfits for the entire wedding party, a hotel reception, a three-tiered wedding cake and a honeymoon in Bali. As wedding gifts, they received a car and a furnished apartment. A few weeks after the wedding, my friend told me a story I’ve never forgotten. She said she had gone to her in-laws’ house for lunch and that her mother-in-law had cooked shrimp curry, a favorite of the newlywed couple. As the dishes were served, her husband’s mother announced: ‘‘Make sure you give the biggest shrimp to my son.’’ This surprised my friend, but she smiled obediently, as one is supposed to do in these situations, and served up the biggest shrimp to her husband. A week later, they were invited to lunch at her parents’ house. Shrimp curry was again on the menu. This time, it was her own mother who said, ‘‘Give the biggest shrimp to your husband.’’ In my view, this was the beginning of the end of my friend’s claim to equality. Perhaps that sounds petty — what’s a couple of shrimp? — but the story hints at a greater injustice. When my friend went to her in-laws’ house, she was asked to make a show of serving her husband when he was perfectly capable of serving himself, in a house where, technically, she was the guest and he the host. And then, even in her own home, her status was reduced. Equality, it seems, ends at the wedding gate. You couldn’t call her match an ‘‘early marriage’’ — that term is reserved for women who marry below the legal age of 18 (as a majority here do, some as young as 12) — but I believe she married too young. She was educated, chose her own husband, and went on to have a successful career. Yet there is a subtle form of hegemony masked by the pomp of a lavish wedding and a pretense of equality. And it dictates that a daughter-in-law is someone to be scrutinized and a son-in-law to be exalted. A recent study by the development organization Plan Bangladesh and the nonprofit International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, showed that 64 percent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18.  ...Read more

Ukraine's Facebook warriors

Ms. Anna Sandalova is a rising star of Ukraine and its soldiers. She uses facebook as a source to reach out to fellow Ukrainians to raise money and buy equipment for their underfunded army. David Patrikarakos writes that social Media, not so surprisingly, is the most trusted source of events and recent occurrences in Ukraine. It is also a means to take action. In its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, the independent research organization Transparency International ranked Ukraine 144th. The key is to fund the people, not just the government.

Read an excerpt of the article written by David Patrikarakos :

At an army checkpoint near the occupied city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Lt. Col. Natalia Semeniuk approached a convoy of two minibuses that had just arrived from Kiev. Slung over her shoulder was an AK-47 assault rifle. Clumps of long, brown hair poked out from beneath the beanie she wore to guard against the cold, which had dropped to about minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Colonel Semeniuk was meeting with Anna Sandalova, a former public relations executive and a founder of Help the Army of Ukraine, a foundation that uses Facebook to raise money to buy equipment for Ukraine’s desperately underfunded army. Ms. Sandalova has become something of a star in her country, especially to its soldiers. She supplies them with everything from body armor to night-vision goggles, to sleeping bags and food. Since her group was established in March, it has raised over $1.3 million, Ms. Sandalova told me, for the fight against the pro-Russian separatists who have occupied large parts of eastern Ukraine. An overwhelming majority of the money is crowdfunded from the Ukrainian people through Facebook. The process is simple: Ms. Sandalova liaises with army divisions fighting in the field. They tell her what they need and she posts their requests to Facebook. People donate via bank transfer into the foundation’s account, and Ms. Sandalova and her colleagues then drive the goods to eastern Ukraine personally. That day, the minibuses were filled to bursting. Clad in body armor and a helmet, Ms. Sandalova followed Colonel Semeniuk to a Ukrainian Army camp in the forest near Donetsk to make her first delivery. Canvas tents dotted the area, erected among thickets of trees covered with snow. Soldiers huddled together, talking and smoking. Some helped unload several mobile shower units. Dozens of these volunteer groups have sprung up as the fighting has intensified. ‘‘It’s all about networks,’’ Ms. Sandalova explained. ...Read more

Get to know yourself in social media

Numbers play an important role in todays world. Mainly to count the number of retweets, facebook likes or instagram followers. Our lives are centred around social media. However, the content posted by a lot of people on social networking site is vituperative, crass and critical. It only channels anger and gives way to insult. The article introduces an app call ThinkUp which tracks your social media account and gives vital information about it. ThinkUp shows the image that one is portraying on a social media site which comes across as harsh reality. Through personal experience, the author, Farhad Manjoo, says that the application helped him retweet and give importance to more insightful words. In modern times, where facebook helps employers with background checks, the need for this application is further amplified. 

Read an excerpt of the article written by Farhad Manjoo:   

Anil Dash, a longtime tech entrepreneur and blogger, was recently studying a list of the top words he had used on Twitter over the course of a month during the fall. Mr. Dash has half a million followers on Twitter, and like a lot of people in tech and media circles, he uses the social network to chat with colleagues, to pontificate about technology, politics and pop culture, and to participate in a lot of in jokes. Over the years Mr. Dash has also found himself in the middle of some of the most loaded controversies that have roiled that network. But when he looked at the list of his most-used words for that month, he decided that many of his tweets were too combative, and he wasn’t proud of that. ‘‘A lot of it was me dealing with ‘gamergate’ folks,’’ he said in an interview, referring to the past year’s antifeminist activist campaign by some video game enthusiasts. ‘‘I’m like: ‘God, I’m wasting my life. Why am I spending time on this? There are so many other things I could be doing.’’’ But, he added: ‘‘Seeing it was a revelation. I decided I’m just not doing it anymore. I immediately blocked five people, and it made my life better in 10 seconds.’’ Mr. Dash has been thinking about his behavior on social media for a while. Together with Gina Trapani, the former editor of the blog Lifehacker, he is a co-founder of ThinkUp, a year-old subscription service that analyzes how people comport themselves on Twitter and Facebook, with the goal of helping them become more thoughtful, less reflexive, more empathetic and more professional — over all, better behaved. In addition to a list of people’s most-used words and other straightforward stats like follower counts, ThinkUp shows subscribers more unusual information such as how often they thank and congratulate people, how frequently they swear, whose voices they tend to amplify and which posts get the biggest reaction and from whom. Some of this may sound trivial. But after using ThinkUp for about six months, I’ve found it to be an indispensable guide to how I navigate social networks. Every morning the service delivers an email packed with information, and in its weighty thoroughness, it reminds you that what you do on Twitter and Facebook can change your life, and other people’s lives, in important, sometimes unforeseen ways. ThinkUp is something like Elf on the Shelf for digitally addled adults — a constant reminder that someone is watching you, and that you’re being judged. That is the point. ‘‘The goal is to make you act like less of a jerk online,’’ Ms. Trapani said. ‘‘The big goal is to create mindfulness and awareness, and also behavioral change.’’ She pointed out that people often tweet and update without any perspective about themselves. That’s because Facebook and Twitter, as others have observed, have a way of infecting our brains. ...Read more

Sex ed, European style

How different is the western world? Pamela Druckerman's article answers this keen question in one major field: parenting. The articles shows the essential difference between American parents and European parents, especially in the matter of Sex Education. While sexual intercourse is dramatised in America, it is normalised in Europe. Contrary to what most sexologists advice, American parents try and avoid the "sex ed talk" until they feel their children are completely ready. Whereas in Europe parents have lots of age appropriate talks with their children to keep them aware. Through the article and her book, Duckerman concludes that "if you treat teenagers as if they’re responsible, they can live up to that".


Read an excerpt of the article written by Pamela Druckerman-

One of the many problems with parenting is that kids keep changing. Just when you’re used to one stage, they zoom into another. I realized this was happening again recently, when my 8-year-old asked me about babies. She knows they grow in a mother’s belly, but how do they get in there to begin with? I wasn’t sure how much to reveal, so I stalled. ‘‘I’ll tell you soon,’’ I said, adding, ‘‘it involves penises.’’ I didn’t want to shock her or shatter her innocence. Like any good American, I’d assumed that one day (many years hence) we’d have that stilted conversation in which I’d reveal the strange mechanics of sex, and she’d tell me that she already knew all about it. Since I live in France, I decide to investigate how Europeans approach this. Do parents give their kids the birds-and-bees talk, too? Is the subject any less awkward here? Is there some savoir-faire to help me navigate this next phase and beyond? I begin my research at a Parisian science museum with an exhibition, Zizi sexuel l’expo, (its English title is Sex — Wot’s the Big Deal?) to teach 9- to 14-year-olds about sexuality. There’s advice about kissing. (Do turn your head sideways, ‘‘especially if you’ve got a big nose.’’ Don’t do the ‘‘coffee grinder,’’ where you spin your tongue in the other person’s mouth.) In the puberty section, I’m asked to identify a smell (it’s armpit) and step on a pedal that makes small white balls — representing sperm — fly out of a pretend penis. There’s also a whole section on how complicated love is. One sign explains that ‘‘loving someone sometimes makes you happy and sometimes makes you really sad. .... read more.