Monday, November 17, 2014
It is time for 3QD's winter subscription drive. As you know, we are able to run the site only because our regular readers support us through subscriptions or one-time payments. Whichever you'd like to do, please take a couple of minutes and use the appropriate button near the top of the left-hand column to make a contribution.
We really cannot continue to award the prizes or for that matter do all the other things we do without your generous financial support.
So please do it now! Don't think, "Someone else will do it!"
New posts below.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Cam Simpson in Bloomberg Businessweek (Photograph by Reuters):
The group’s leaders portray themselves as akin to seventh century warriors thundering forth on horseback to expand their religious empire by sword. They call their car bombs “steeds” and their drivers the “death admirers, the knights of martyrdom.” But in many important ways they have much less in common with medieval warriors than they do with modern bureaucrats, and a successful attempt to defeat them may require understanding their logistics, their financing, and their management structure as much as their extreme theology.
It may sound bizarre for a group calling itself a caliphate, but the foundation of its management model, as identified by experts, is more akin to that of General Motors than it is to a religious dynasty from the Dark Ages. After decades, we may have arrived at the ultimate professionalization of terror.
During a routine January 2007 patrol in Anbar province, in a town along the Euphrates called Tuzliyah al Gharbiyah, a unit of U.S. Marines stumbled on a cache of nine documents in a roadside ditch. They included financial records, payrolls, supply purchase records, administrative records, and other details of fund flows into and out of a single local cell in Anbar of a group then calling itself the “Islamic State of Iraq.” Not long after, Iraqi militiamen working with the U.S. stormed a home in a town farther down the Euphrates. They found a computer hard drive holding ledgers with 1,200 files detailing the finances and operations of provincial-level managers overseeing the cell and others like it across Anbar province.
Taken together, the Anbar records allowed for a forensic reconstruction of the back-office operations of a terrorist insurgency from its local level up to its divisional headquarters. The data were handed over to the National Defense Research Institute of Rand Corp., a U.S. Department of Defense-funded think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif. Seven researchers set out to determine what the ledgers, receipts, memos, and other records meant. What they concluded in a 2010 report, written for then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, should be familiar to students of business management: The group was decentralized, organized, and run on what’s called the “multidivisional-hierarchy form” of management, or M-form for short.
James Booth’s new biography of Philip Larkin is not very exciting, perhaps because Booth has the sense to leave the exciting writing to Larkin. But it is very welcome. If you believe that Larkin (1922-85) wrote some of the best English-language poems of modern times, then it has been a trial to see his questionable track record as an everyday human being get in the way of his reputation as an artist.
The obfuscation happened in a hurry, only a few short years after Larkin’s death. His pair of distinguished literary executors, Anthony Thwaite and Andrew Motion, served him faithfully with a selection of his letters (edited by Thwaite) and a biography (written by Motion). Unfortunately for Larkin’s image — which had been fairly staid until then, the poet having lived a quiet and mostly provincial life as a university librarian — it became evident that he had indulged himself in racist and sexist language. It had not occurred to the executors that they might have prefaced their respective volumes with a health warning in capital letters pointing out what should have been obvious: that Larkin talked that way only in his private life; that he believed his letters to be part of his private life, too; and that in his public life he was courteous and charming to anyone he met, of whatever gender or racial background.
When Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize for literature in October, a lot of readers (myself included) were taken by surprise. Until now, he has been relatively unknown in the U.S., although he is a bestseller in his native France and winner of the Prix Goncourt who has published steadily since his first novel, "La Place de l'Étoile," appeared in 1968, and co-wrote the screenplay for Louis Malle's 1974 movie "Lacombe Lucien."
Like that film, much of Modiano's fiction has roots in the paradoxes of the Vichy era, which remains, for him, a matter of both personal and collective history. Born in 1945, he grew up estranged from his father, a black marketeer, and has called himself "a product of the dunghill of the Occupation, that bizarre time when people who should have never met did meet and by chance produced a child."
Such tensions are very much at work in "Suspended Sentences," a book that gathers three novellas originally published between 1988 and 1993 and now available in English for the first time. "I thought I'd written them discontinuously, in successive bouts of forgetfulness," Modiano has said of these efforts, "but often the same faces, the same names, the same places, the same sentences recur from one to the other.
When the media erases the crimes of US imperialism, they make future atrocities more likely.
Emanuel Stoakes in Jacobin:
In the final weeks of summer, a minor news item shed light on a corner of the recent past largely forgotten by those north of the Rio Grande. “Beatification of Oscar Romero ‘unblocked’ by Pope Francis” read the headline, referring to the martyred Salvadoran bishop whose path to sainthood had previously been obstructed by a Vatican wary of the late prelate’s political influence.
Romero, as the piece explains, was “one of the heroes of the liberation theology movement in Latin America”; his criticism of atrocities committed by the US-backed Salvadoran armed forces precipitated hisassassination at mass in March 1980.
Shortly before his killing, Romero wrote to President Carter pleading him to end military aid to the ruling junta, predicting that such support would “surely increase injustice here and sharpen the repression that has been unleashed against the people’s organizations fighting to defend their most fundamental human rights.”
Carter declined to directly reply, while Romero’s murder would prevent him from seeing his bitter prophecy not only fulfilled, but exceeded: El Salvador soon descended into outright civil war, a conflict that lasted for another twelve years, displacing over a million people and claiming the lives of 75,000, most of them killed by the regime.
In 1977, in a review for Der Spiegel of a short-story collection by Alexander Kluge, the poet and translator Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote: “Among well-known German authors Kluge is the least well-known.” What was true then is even truer now, still more so outside his own country. Born in 1932, starting out as a lawyer working for celebrated Frankfurt School theorist Theodor Adorno in the 1950s, then as an assistant to Metropolis director Fritz Lang, Kluge is a direct link to many of the giants of 20th-century German art and ideas.
He’s also a polymath who moves between literature, philosophy and the moving image with equal facility, and has made decisive contributions to each of those fields. He was a key figure behind the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962 that, like the similarly revolutionary Nouvelle Vague in France, championed expressive freedoms on screen, and incubated the New German Cinema associated with Fassbinder, Herzog and Wenders. He created the first German film school at Ulm, directed many important films – among them Yesterday Girl (1966), which won the Silver Lion at Venice, and developed a much-debated theory of montage cinema that, in the demands it placed on viewers, enacted his belief that “film is composed in the head of the spectator; it is not a work of art that exists on the screen by itself”.
Stoicism is making a comeback, writes Joe Gelonesi, who explores ‘Stoic Week’, a university exercise which challenges participants to apply the advice of the ancient Stoics to their daily lives. Now in its third year, it's an experiment with a growing international following.
Joe Gelonesi at the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
Although the original Hellenic school left few fragments, the great Roman Stoics, via Cicero, did a good deal to grow and magnify the tradition. Much of the modern Stoic urge is based on the ideas of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and the slave-turned sage Epictetus.
The idea of staring down the world in a Stoic glare runs deep in our cultural veins, but its more theory than practice. To adopt an authentic Stoic life amidst the daunting surplus of pleasure and experience in the modern west seems curiously out of tempo. Yet an experiment with a handful of university students has been exported to a global audience seemingly hungry to learn the ways of the Stoic.
In The Economist:
Since around 1970 the world’s most Roman Catholic continent has become steadily less so. This trend, much remarked, shows no sign of slowing down, according to an exhaustive new study by the Pew Research Centre, a self-described “fact tank” based in Washington.* This found that only 69% of adult Latin Americans are now Catholics, down from 92% in 1970. Protestants now account for 19%, up from 4%. Over the same period the share of those with no religious affiliation has grown from 1% to 8%—though most of these people still believe in God.
Pew’s study finds sharp variations from country to country. In four Central American countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua—barely half of the population is still Catholic. Though 61% of Brazilian respondents say they are Catholic, 26% are now Protestant. In many other countries there are still firm Catholic majorities. Whatever their denomination, most Latin Americans remain deeply religious. Only Uruguay stands out as a bastion of secularism—a tradition dating back more than a century.
Two things distinguish Latin American Protestantism. First, it is mainly a result of conversion (see chart). Second, two-thirds of Latin American Protestants define themselves as Pentecostal. Much more often than Catholics, they report having direct experience of the Holy Spirit, such as through exorcism or speaking in tongues. Indeed, the words “evangelical” and “Protestant” are used interchangeably in the region. Pew finds that Latin American Protestants are conservative on social and sexual issues, such as gay marriage and abortion. As Catholics become more liberal on such questions, that points to looming American-style “culture wars”.
What is causing the shift to Protestantism? Academics have several hypotheses. Some hold that Pentecostalism resonates with Amerindian and Afro-Latin American belief in the spirit world. But Pew finds that many Catholics as well as Protestants in Latin America hold such beliefs.
A second theory stresses the appeal of Protestantism to urban migrants. David Stoll, an anthropologist at Middlebury College in Vermont, notes that such people have moved away from their extended families, attenuating their networks of support. Evangelical churches tend to operate on “family-like principles”, he says.
Read the rest here.
Mohsin Hamid in The Guardian:
I believe in a human right to migration, as fundamental as the right to freedom of expression, or freedom from discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, religion or sexuality. I have come by this belief by migrating myself. (I’m inclined to prefer the terms migrant and migration to immigrant and immigration: the latter two seem to privilege the country of arrival; every immigrant is also an emigrant, and migrant encompasses both.) I was born in Pakistan. And I live in Pakistan. But when I was three I moved with my parents to Silicon Valley in California. I returned to Pakistan when I was nine for a decade, then spent most of my 20s on America’s east coast and most of my 30s in London. I possess a British passport and once possessed an American green card. My life has come full circle, geographically speaking. Twice.
Most of my education has been in the American system. I suspect this has contributed to my discomfort with a great deal of what I see practised around me in Pakistan. I have friends who are non-Muslim; non-Muslims are legally persecuted here. I have friends who are gay; homosexuality is legally proscribed here. An African friend once told me after visiting that Pakistan was among the most blatantly racist places he had ever been. Pakistani laws discriminate against women. Pakistani courts fail to deliver any semblance of due process. Pakistani presidents are frequently unelected generals. My largely American-educated self is continually brimming with disappointment. Yet my largely American-educated self is profoundly disappointed by America, too. This is partly because the US’s bellicose excesses in foreign policy become more visible the closer you are to where American bombs are hitting the ground. But it is also because I studied American history with American teachers and American law with American professors.
Laila Lalami in The New York Times:
“Hiding in Plain Sight” begins with a threat. One evening in Mogadishu, Aar, a logistics officer for the United Nations, receives a letter in the mail. It consists of a single, misspelled word, but it’s terrifying all the same: deth! Aar wants to return to his home in Nairobi on the first flight out, but at the last minute, he decides to stop by the office to pick up photos of his children. As he steps out with the pictures in hand, Shabab militants strike the building. A terrorist attack is a difficult place to start a novel. The writer must compete with a flood of words and images, most of them clichés. But the Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah is used to the challenges of turning fact into fiction. Over the last four decades, he has written about the homeland from which he was exiled, chronicling its contemporary history and struggles.
In his first novel, “From a Crooked Rib,” he wrote about a nomad girl who flees her family’s camp after they attempt to arrange a marriage for her with an older man. That book was followed by a trilogy, Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship, which explored the parallels between colonialism, patriarchy and dictatorship in Somalia, then still under Mohammed Siad Barre’s rule. Another trilogy, Blood in the Sun, examined the effect of internecine conflict, foreign aid and sexual violence on ordinary families. Though different in style from the Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun or the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, his work shares with them a preoccupation with capturing snapshots of a country in rapid transition. “Hiding in Plain Sight” may begin with a terrorist attack, similar to the one that shook the United Nations compound in Somalia last year, but this is not a novel about violence. It is, instead, a novel about grief and love.
Cutting in the cane fields
it was something we were used to:
after all, we were farmers.
We’d gather every morning
before setting out,
then cutting all day
in the jungle and marshes.
We’d come back exhausted,
well worthy of beer
and brochettes. Our wives
turned their backs in bed.
In those days was beef
and ribsteak in plenty.
We bore the knives ourselves:
We feasted like the elegant kings
to whom were given
such bloody instructions
they jumped to the life to come.
by Steve Ely
from The Poetry Review, 104:1, Spring, 2014
Friday, November 21, 2014
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore in Edge:
I'm Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from University College London. Today I'm going to be talking about the adolescent brain, which is the focus of my lab's research. I'm going to talk about the history of this young area of science, and I'll also tell you about some of the current questions for the future in this area. I did my PhD on schizophrenia, and I also did a post-doc on schizophrenia. I became interested in the fact that schizophrenia is a devastating psychiatric disease that has its onset right at the end of adolescence. Normally people develop schizophrenia, on average, between about 18 and 25 years. This is interesting because it's a developmental disorder, but it develops much later than most developmental disorders. I became interested in whether that might be something to do with brain development during the teenage years going wrong in people who go on to develop schizophrenia.
This was about 12 years ago. Back then, I delved into the literature and, to my surprise, there was little known about how the human teenage brain develops. There were a handful of studies back in the year 2002, a small handful, but they were intriguing because even though there were only a few of them, they all pointed to significant and protracted development of the brain right throughout adolescence and into the 20s. This was an interesting finding because, prior to those papers, most neuroscientists would have assumed, and the dogma at the time I was an undergraduate and a graduate, was that the human brain stops developing some time in childhood and doesn't change much after mid to late-childhood. What these papers suggested was that the dogma was completely wrong. In fact, the human brain continues to develop significantly across almost the whole cortex throughout the teenage years, and even into the 20s.
Jeff Yang in Quartz:
That’s one way of looking at Koenig’s enterprise—as pure cultural tourism, exploitative of the people and communities involved for the sake of streaming-audio melodrama. And it’s not an inaccurate one, either: There’s something deeply uncomfortable about how the show treats these people — the Korean American deceased, the Pakistani American convicted killer, the black friend whose testimony led to that conviction, and all of their friends and loved ones—as mere characters, “colorful” in both senses of the word, for the sake of engaging and enthralling millions of listeners each week. Families have been destroyed by this case. A young man has spent over a decade in prison. And there is, still and forever, a dead young woman, who no doubt would have liked to be remembered for more than just her death (and her Sweet Valley High-esque diary).
But as Kang himself writes, there’s a more charitable way to view the podcast—“one in which Koenig has been intentionally presented as a quixotic narrator with Dana, her occasional sidekick on the show, playing the role of Sancho Panza,” he notes, admitting that “There’s ample evidence that this is what’s the show is striving for.”
This, to me, is the core of the show’s appeal, and the reason why I, like millions of other listeners, have become obsessively fascinated with it. Yes, there’s something a little freaky and white-savior-complex-y about “Serial.” But throughout the series, Koenig has very consciously forefronted her ethno-cultural ignorance, the things that compromise her as a reporter and an actor in this drama, in ways that I think very few white journalists choose to do.
Read the full article here.
From the website of the Oxford Dictionaries:
So, what does vape mean? It originated as an abbreviation of vapour or vaporize. The OxfordDictionaries.com definition was added in August 2014: the verb means ‘to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device’, while both the device and the action can also be known as a vape. The associated noun vaping is also listed.
As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity. You are thirty times more likely to come across the word vapethan you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.
Usage of vape peaked in April 2014 – as the graph below indicates – around the time that the UK’s first ‘vape café’ (The Vape Lab in Shoreditch, London) opened its doors, and protests were held in response to New York City banning indoor vaping. In the same month, the issue of vaping was debated by The Washington Post, the BBC, and the British newspaper The Telegraph, amongst others.
Carl Zimmer in The Loom:
Feathers are like eyes or or hands. They’re so complex, so impressive in their adaptations, so good at getting a job done, that it can be hard at first to believe they evolved. Feathers today are only found on birds, which use them to do things like fly, control their body temperature, and show off for potential mates. The closest living relatives of birds–alligators and crocodiles–are not exactly known for their plumage. At least among living things, the glory of feathers is an all-or-nothing affair.
But the more we get to know feathers, the more we can appreciate how they evolved. The general rule is that complex things–be they feathers, hands, or eyes–take a very long time to evolve. As I wrote in National Geographic in 2011, the fossil record has gone a very long way in helping us to understand how feathers took on the form we see today. Birds evolved from dinosaur ancestors, and those ancestors already had feathers. Feathers started out as simple filaments, turning to fuzz, and then diversifying into a lot of different forms–including the ones that eventually let birds take to the air.
Now a new study in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution offers an even deeper look into the history of feathers.
Today's selection -- from The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), commonly known as Lord Byron was one of the greatest British poets, an aristocratic and flamboyant celebrity known for huge debts and numerous love affairs with both sexes. Romance was absent though when it came to his marriage. He needed money and married a wealthy aristocrat named Annabella Milbank. The marriage crumbled when Lady Byron discovered her husband's infidelity: "Lord Byron ... noticed a reserved young woman who was, he recalled, 'more simply dressed.' Annabella Milbanke, nineteen, was from a wealthy and multi-titled family. The night before the party, she had read [his poem] Childe Harold and had mixed feelings. 'He is rather too much of a mannerist,' she wrote. 'He excels most in the delineation of deep feeling.' Upon seeing him across the room at the party, her feelings were conflicted, dangerously so. 'I did not seek an introduction to him, for all the women were absurdly courting him, and trying to deserve the lash of his Satire,' she wrote her mother. 'I am not desirous of a place in his lays. I made no offering at the shrine of Childe Harold, though I shall not refuse the acquaintance if it comes my way.'
"That acquaintance, as it turned out, did come her way. After he was introduced to her formally, Byron decided that she might make a suitable wife. It was, for him, a rare display of reason over romanticism. Rather than arousing his passions, she seemed to be the sort of woman who might tame those passions and protect him from his excesses -- as well as help payoff his burdensome debts. He proposed to her halfheartedly by letter. She sensibly declined. He wandered off to far less appropriate liaisons, including one with his half sister, Augusta Leigh. But after a year, Annabella rekindled the courtship. Byron, falling more deeply in debt while grasping for a way to curb his enthusiasms, saw the rationale if not the romance in the possible relationship. 'Nothing but marriage and a speedy one can save me,' he admitted to Annabella's aunt. 'If your niece is obtainable, I should prefer her; if not, the very first woman who does not look as if she would spit in my face.' There were times when Lord Byron was not a romantic. He and Annabella were married in January 1815."Byron initiated the marriage in his Byronic fashion. 'Had Lady Byron on the sofa before dinner,' he wrote about his wedding day. Their relationship was still active when they visited his half sister two months later, because around then Annabella got pregnant.
Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
El Greco is confusing. He is one of the few universally acknowledged great artists of history who does not fit into any of the established art movements or categories. Given his time period (late 16th – early 17th centuries), his art should fit into the early Baroque. But it does not. One characteristic of all the artists we now call Baroque is a fidelity to the physical presence of bodies. Think of Caravaggio’s light-splashed naturalism, the glow on the cheeks of the young boy-models that he dressed up in all manner of costumes. Or think of Rubens’ fleshy obsession with the might and heft of the human form, the huge canvases like giant meat towers made of bodies laboring at some common task.
El Greco, by contrast, painted unnatural bodies. They aren’t the sorts of bodies that exist in this, our world. El Greco’s bodies are longer and stretchier than those we encounter in daily life. He portrayed the human form as you might see it in a vision or a mystical trance. He looked at painting, it would seem, in the same way that his contemporary — the great mystic Saint Theresa of Ávila — looked at prayer. They were both seeking spiritual ecstasy.
Except, there is no evidence that El Greco had any interest in spiritual visions or mystical ecstasies. Instead, he read boring tracts of Counter-Reformation theology and studied Renaissance art theory (we still have his library). El Greco was no Baroque painter, but he was no mystic either.
What to do with an artist who slips through every explanation?
It was a priest who first convinced me to read Dubliners. On the face of it, this might seem strange. Joyce had a lifelong hatred of clergymen, and claimed the sight of one made him physically ill; in “The Sisters,” the opening story of Dubliners, he chose a senescent priest as the first, and arguably most disturbing, of the many images of decay and paralysis that pervade the book. But in the Dublin of my teens, the priests were running the show; it was even possible for priests to be celebrities, and it was the most famous of these who took my class on retreat at the end of Transition Year, in June 1991.
Joyce writes about a religious retreat in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in which an unnamed preacher terrifies the boys with a lengthy description of the torments of hell. Ours wasn’t like that. There were beanbags and unlimited biscuits; the celebrity cleric, who had become famous in the sixties as the Singing Priest and latterly hosted a hugely popular radio show, spoke to us like we were his friends. Even though the retreat consisted for the most part of the usual list of prohibitions—don’t do drugs, don’t have sex—his gravelly voice and inner-city accent gave him a convincing authenticity.
There were official trips, and there were unofficial trips. The official trips were faintly ridiculous, ‘assessment’ visits to the ‘field’ – in reality, twenty minute convoys to Sadr City, the Shi’ite district notorious for its poverty, to be surrounded by people as soon as we stepped out of those big white SUVs, and to step back in twenty minutes later when we realised we weren’t going to be able to assess a damn thing.
An old woman plucked at my sleeve and begged me to help her son find medical help, to help him get better, but I knew from looking at him that it wasn’t medical help that he needed. I recognised the look in his eyes, the stutter in his walk, the slump in his shoulders, from when I had worked with children with severe learning difficulties. He would never get better, and I didn’t know which – if any – of the NGOs descending on Iraq could offer that kind of help; it seemed unlikely that this poor boy and his mother would be a priority in this collapsing country.
The unofficial trips were paradoxically more rewarding: reminders that this was a country with a culture that went beyond the slums of Sadr City. That was easy to forget when you were skim-reading situation reports on the inbound flight from Amman, painfully aware of your own ignorance in the face of what you were being asked to do.
The cult of the Thirty-Seven Nats is unique to Burma. A loose form of spirit worship has existed in this part of the world for countless centuries, but in the eleventh century, King Anawratha, the father of the Burmese nation, found himself in a reforming mood. A zealous Buddhist convert, Anawratha tried to outlaw his people’s popular folk religion—and succeeded instead in institutionalizing it. Acknowledging that the old beliefs wouldn’t die, he assembled a royal court of the spirits, bringing many of the best-known nats into the temples he’d begun building around Bagan and making them vassals to the Buddha. “Men will not come for the sake of new faith,” Anawratha reputedly said. “Let them come for their old gods and gradually they will be won over.” A thousand years later, Buddhism and nat worship exist side by side, one represented by gleaming, golden-spired pagodas and sprawling monasteries, the other by small shrines in homes and villages and along the sides of dirt roads. This highly local communion with the spirits
There is a pantheon of spirits in Burma, and at its top are the Thirty-Seven Nats, mytho-historical figures from the country’s ancient past. Stories about the Thirty-Seven often portray them as rebels and mischief-makers, nobles who willfully disobeyed their king and suffered death at his hand.
I once spent
Thousands of dollars
Who was benefitting
Was it I
Or my therapist
Who had the unfortunate
Name – Jasnow
Jazz now – pay later
millions of moments
I think I get
Closer to my problems
Washing the dishes
by Bill Schneberger
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Carrie Arnold in Nautilus:
If you chose to save the cuter animals rather than those less attractive, you are not alone. You are part of a conservation trend spotted by Simon Watt, a British evolutionary biologist, science writer, and founder of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, a regular comedy show “dedicated to raising the profile of some of Mother Nature’s more aesthetically challenged children.” When it comes to saving species, Watt has found, humans choose the cute ones over the ugly ones, the panda over the stick insect, the tiger over the blobfish. While Watt has given conservation an injection of humor, the numbers support his message.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are over 1,200 threatened mammalian species in the world, and over 300 are near threatened. But only 80 species are used by conservation organizations to raise funds and nearly all of them can be described as large, furry, and cute, according to a 2012 analysis by Bob Smith at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom.
Cute species get more research attention—and more studies are published about them. Between 1994 and 2008 over 100 studies were published on the cute and cuddly meerkat, but only 14 studies were published on the less cute African manatee, found ecologists Rudi van Aarde and Morgan Trimble. Maria Diekmann, founder and director of Namibia’s REST (Rare and Endangered Species Trust), whose conservation efforts focus on non-charismatic animals such as the Cape Griffon vulture and ground pangolin, says it’s hard to compete with the more majestic rivals for money. “These aren’t the dynamic, large, fundraising-appealing animals,” she says. “I wouldn’t say that other conservation organizations are rolling in money, but in general, if you’re working to save elephants or rhinos, you’re doing okay.”
Human impulse to preserve animals based on their aesthetic appearance is not a frivolous choice driven by an overload of panda posters and Facebook leopard pictures. Our desire to save the cuter creatures is caused by the illusion that we are assuring our own species’ survival. “The reason we are so attracted to cute animals appears to be the same mechanism that drives us to protect our babies,” says Janek Lobmaier, a psychologist at the University of Bern in Switzerland.
Read the rest here.
One of the main challenges in creating a museum of Jewish life in Poland is to judge how much to say about non-Jewish citizens of Poland and, given the Shoah, about anti-Semitism throughout Poland’s thousand-year history. As I have argued in the TLS before (June 15, 2012), Poland has made enormous progress in acknowledging the devastating presence of historic anti-Semitism on its land, but there is still a long way to go. Although the museum itself is a public-private partnership, it was Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute that raised $45 million in donations and had responsibility for the core exhibition. The Institute selected first-rate historians to inform it, including Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Antony Polonsky. Within the broadly well-judged parameters they set up, what you take away after a brief visit to such a dense exhibition is likely to reflect who you are and what you are looking for rather than what is on offer. If there is one nation that may leave the museum with a sense of grievance, it is perhaps the Ukrainians, whose most visible presence – though not the only one – is through the seventeenth-century Cossack uprising against Poland that was also a pogrom.
The museum itself is far more than its core exhibition. The scope of the project is breathtaking. The museum has an active online presence and a virtual shtetl portal that is an archive of documents of Jewish life. There is also a big and busy educational programme (currently sponsored by a multimillion dollar grant from Norway) that caters to teachers, pupils, families and even nurseries. A touring museum visits Polish towns, where it works with the councils to make the visit part of broader, well-advertised events. There are temporary exhibitions, films, performances, seminars (including one on another community destroyed by the war, the Roma), walks, bike rides and such initiatives as the wearing of a yellow daffodil badge in April to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.