July 27th – International News Round-Up (Part II)

Society

Consumerist

Article on a study that was conducted on a wide range of consumers, all in the first world, on the kind of purchases they made with their money and how happy it made them. Apparently, these people gained more happiness If they produced time-saving devices/ services with their money.

I think it would be very interesting if someone tried to replicate this experiment in a third world-country. I think there’s a certain value attached to status items when people acquire money in a country that isn’t part of the first world.

Right Wing

Acting Man

Person who claims that the British were the best thing to happen to India. Real Uncle Tom vibes from this one.

Rightly Considered

Philosophical argument against the death penalty. Blog that is dedicated to right wing philosophers. Article on why the author considers the death penalty to be just: because some people deserve it. He also brings in the question of who authorizes said punishments. As an aside he also mentions that God and the Church can punish him.

UK

SPERI

With the UK leaving the EU, they will have to renegotiate with the SACU, a bloc of Southern African countries that includes Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa among its members. It’s imperative that they lock that down since they apparently quite a large amount to these countries. The article also points out that since the SACU negotiates as a bloc, this makes things a little more complicated, since there are varying levels of importance in these linkages.

LSE Blog

Does MP voting reflect what the MP believes or what his constituents believe? The article feels like since MPs voted for what their constituents felt like on a certain range of issues (free votes?), this would also extend to other issues. I’m not sure about this one. I think the behavior of members of the parliament are dictated by a much more complex array of preferences. One of which is the institution of the political party.

Iran

Al Monitor via The Iran Project

Inflation in Iran is set to climb a marginal amount (from 10.2% to 10.9%) in Rouhani’s second term. Iran’s cash economy seems to be one of the biggest reasons why the country struggles to keep inflation in check. Their central bank has to keep up the supply of money in the economy to ensure that it satisfies all potential transactions, and this can lead to inflation if left unchecked. The central bank is also looking to manage the interest rate so that they can manage the balance between investment and inflation.

Scotland & Catalan

Fair Observer

Scotland and Catalan are both countries within countries. Or at the very least that’s how the local population predominantly feels. They have both tried to hold referendums in the past. Article focuses on why the referendum attempts that they might attempt in the future need the support of the British and Spanish governments, even if it is by coercion.

Catalan National Day (Image Source: Wiki Commons)
Catalan National Day (Image Source: Wiki Commons)

Media

YouTube via Long War Journal

Watch an Al- Qaeda affiliated organization along the Syria-Lebanon border shoot down an armed Hezbollah drone. The drone is seen dropping its payload at various locations, before being shot down.

Israel

Al Jazeera

Israel has removed the metal railings at the Al-Aqsa mosque. They removed the metal detectors on Tuesday.  According to an Al Jazeera reporter, this is a very people centric movement and is not directly influenced by any political organization (read: Hamas). I posted a video of the protests outside the Al Aqsa mosque which was essentially Muslims praying on the street. Though, there has been media of major unrest around the area.

Middle East

National Interest

Iran is significantly important in the world at this moment. Back before the nuclear deal, Iran was just one bit of the “axis of evil”. The nuclear deal and the restrain that Iran and the United States showed in reaching it, changed all that. Iran sort of came out of the shadows of the world. Sort of. The problem is, with an Iran that could work with nuclear fuel came fear from majority Sunni Gulf States and Israel. The article details how the Iran issue is driving them together. This is a good example of how something can make it seem like there’s some modicum of co-operation, but it’s really more of an alliance of convenience. I think that if the Gulf States and Israel do come closer solely on the basis of the Iran issue, it would be like if you got married to someone just for the sex. Eventually you realize that it’s not enough. There needs to be much wider engagement between the two blocs.

United States

Vox

Skinny Repeal is essentially the only thing that the Republicans can get enough numbers behind to pass. Anything else is way too radical. All of them know that they would be impaled by their constituents if they repealed Obamacare wholesale. Not to knock Obamacare, but at this point of time, it really does not matter if Obamacare is the most splendid healthcare bill on the planet. As long as it does a half decent job and people perceive it as kind of fair, it’ll be nearly impossible to repeal. Healthcare and other government services are kind of like that. They’re massive and have such enormous amounts of inertia that it becomes political suicide to touch them.

Tech

Zero Hedge

The internet was around a long time before 1995, but it started to experience 100% growth year upon year from 1995 onwards. That’s the year Netscape was introduced. With respect to the article, I don’t think bitcoin has really had its Netscape moment yet, but time will tell.

July 25th – International News Round-Up (Part I)

Yemen

Long War Journal

Yemeni Houthi’s launched a Burkan-2 ballistic missile at an oil refinery in the city of Yanbu, in Saudi Arabia. The Ansar Allah website declared that this was a new phase in the conflict, though details as to what that means are still in the offing.

“The Burkan-2 ballistic missile, which is akin to a Scud, is a relatively new missile design for the Yemeni rebel group. The Burkan-1 was introduced last year with a reported range to hit Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, approximately 800km away. Yanbu, however, sits 300km north of Jeddah. This indicates a longer range for the Burkan-2 missile.”

Turkey

Hurriyet Daily News

Turkey’s EU Minister has said that easing tension between the EU and Turkey is of significant importance. His call for a revival of ties comes as Ankara and Berlin have ramped up their offense against the other.

“Turkey will be represented by Çelik and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the political dialogue meeting, which EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn will also attend.”

The elephant in the room will be Turkey’s anti-terror law and its treatment of human rights activists.

Society

Defense One

A former Army Captain on Dunkirk and how watching this particular movie and engaging with more cinema that deals with issues that affect soldiers could be significantly important to a generation that is so far removed from the horrors of war as we knew it. With a possible military surge immanent under Trump, she feels that these are questions we need to ask.

Media

Al- Aqsa Agitation

Video that is allagedly from Al- Aqsa mosque. Shows a Israeli officer kicking a Muslim protestor.

United States

Fox Trot Alpha

A bill that is to be proposed in the United States Congress is all set to sanction Russia for meddling in the 2016 Presidential elections. The article explores what an incredibly difficult position this puts Trump in. What compounds the situation is that he has repeatedly maintained that the meddling did not actually occur. You can’t engage with something that you have maintained does not exist.

Shadowproof

Democrats have consistently let down the people of the United States. I get that they are trying to carve out an economic and social space for themselves and stand for something other than opposing Donald Trump, but general statements will only make things worse. Once again, the Democrats seem like a party without a strong message, and a conflicted leadership that is too far removed from middle America.

Chuck Schumer (Image Source: Wiki Commons - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/Charles_Schumer_at_the_Intrepid_Museum.jpg/1166px-Charles_Schumer_at_the_Intrepid_Museum.jpg)
Chuck Schumer (Image Source: Wiki Commons)

China

National Interest

On China and how the Chinese government’s use of soft power could be beneficial in creating an idea of Chinese society in the minds of the world.

“In 2013, Joseph Nye, the originator of the concept of soft power, chastised the Chinese government for relying solely on state-sponsored programs to expand China’s cultural influence. China, Nye wrote, was making “the mistake of thinking that government is the main instrument of soft power,” rather than recognizing that more lasting influence comes from civil society.

On a more irreverent note, the CCTV facebook page is awash with pictures of pandas. They do use the panda well, as something that represents the country. I’m not sure how ethical loaning animals is.

July 24th – International News Round-Up (Part II)

Economics

MPRA

Study that explores the empowerment of women by various means and how this affects the child birth decision.

Egypt and Palestine

Daily News Egypt

The League of Arab States is to meet to decide how best to handle the escalating situation at the Al- Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

“On Friday, Egypt called on Israel to immediately stop the violations and security measures against Palestinians in Jerusalem after three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces at the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

In a separate incident, Omar Abdel Razek, a Hamas lawmaker was arrested.

Al Aqsa Mosque
Al Aqsa Mosque (Image Source: Pixabay)

Artificial Intelligence

Motherboard

Google researchers, Hui Fang and Meng Zhang, tried to test if they could write an algorithm, that could mimic the composition skills of a professional photographer. They started by defining the different aesthetic aspects of “good” photographs and then tried to make the program learn to do it in an automated manner. Apparently, it turned out semi-professional.

Sociological/Political

Aeon

Essay on the permeating effect of cold war philosophy and the big red scare of the post- WWII years in the United States.

Alt-Right

Daily Stormer

Where will the alt-lite fall? Is occupying the grey space in-between the resistance and the alt-right really worth the effort?

Society

Vogue

Tamara Shopin on growing up in New York City, the curious characters and how it shaped her.

“Whatever the opposite of helicopter parents, that’s what my parents were,” Shopsin remarks. Her childhood was refreshingly free-range; the Shopsin kids soaked up the magic of The Store—the only rule was don’t touch the meat slicer—bounced around the neighborhood, and consorted with its many characters. “Things the rest of the country found odd or disgraceful were welcomed with open arms in the Village,” she writes. “It became a symphony of oddities, and acted as a magnet for the country’s fringe people.”

Tech

Fair Observer

Basic productivity tools have not changed much over the past 2 decades. Soundcloud discussion and article on the state of productivity and what can be done to improve it.

Iran

RT

Iran and Iraq have signed an MoU that will improve military cooperation and also help the countries battle against extremism and the threats of terrorist violence. The Iraqi defense minister also praised the Iranian Popular Mobilization Forces and stressed their legitimacy.

“The main credit [in the Mosul victory] goes to the Iraqi soldiers, people’s militia, Iraqi air force,” al-Maliki underlined.

He added that he “regrets and denies [Americans] claiming the victory [in Mosul] is their achievement” which Washington now plans to use as a way to establish military bases on Iraqi territory in order to maintain influence in the region.”