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On Amish Time

Awhile ago, having just moved to Ohio from the east coast, I decided to spend New Year’s Eve with the Amish. Well, not really with the Amish but in the place where the Amish live: Amish country, the second largest tourist attraction in Ohio according to the brochures (1). The Amish don’t celebrate the new year however, nor do they celebrate Christmas on December twenty fifth. They celebrate “Old Christmas,” which is later, in January, and this seems to characterize a lot of what the Amish do: it’s not what the English do. (“English” is the adjective for the non-Amish. “Englisher” is the noun.) They’re on a different schedule.

It’s hard not to romanticize the Amish. Their food is delicious. They wear charming outfits (The bonnets! The beards! The wide-placket shirts!) and they ride around in black, horse-drawn buggies with big wagon wheels that harken back to a simpler time. That’s another thing the tourism brochures say again and again and it’s sort of true.

via On Amish Time — avidly.lareviewofbooks.org.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in North America

 

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Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It

In a few months, we will be commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta—commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered.

The first authoritative scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone in 1759. It was no easy task. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats”—a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

Blackstone’s edition actually includes two charters: the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. The former is generally regarded as the foundation of Anglo-American law—in Winston Churchill’s words, referring to its reaffirmation by Parliament in 1628, “the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land.” The Great Charter held that “No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned,” or otherwise harmed, “except by the lawful judgment of his equals and according to the law of the land,” the essential sense of the doctrine of “presumption of innocence.”

via Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It — www.thenation.com.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Europe, North America, Reportages

 

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The battle for the Middle East’s future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss

Its air attacks on Yemen are a historic and potentially fatal blow to the Kingdom and to the Middle East.

Who decided that this extraordinary battle should take shape in the poorest of Arab nations? The Saudis, whose King is widely rumoured in the Arab world to be incapable of taking decisions of state? Or the princes within the Saudi army who fear that their own security forces may not be loyal to the monarchy?

The “story” of Yemen appears simple. Houthi rebels, who are Shia Muslims, have captured the capital of Sanaa with the help – so say the Saudis – of the Iranians. The legitimate President – Abed Rabou Mansour Hadi – has fled to the Saudi capital of Riyadh from his bolthole in the old southern Yemeni capital of Aden. The Saudis will not permit an Iranian proxy state to be set up on their border – always forgetting that they already have an Iranian-proxy state called Iraq on their northern border, courtesy of the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. The real “story” is more important. Perhaps half of the Saudi army is of Yemeni tribal origin. Saudi soldiers are intimately – through their own families – involved in Yemen, and the Yemen revolution is a stab in the guts of the Saudi royal family. No wonder King Salman of Saudi Arabia – if he indeed rules his nation – wishes to bring this crisis to an end. But are his bombing raids on Sanaa going to crush a Shia Muslim rebellion?

via The battle for the Middle East’s future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss — www.independent.co.uk.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Middle East

 

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The reasons for our Arab wars lie deep

The latest war in the Middle East, the Saudi Arabian-led assault on Yemen to prevent the Houthi movement from taking full control of the country, has triggered a fascinating legal and ideological debate about the legitimacy and efficacy of the venture. The significance of this war in Yemen is not really about the legally authorized use of force to ensure a calm Arab future. It is, rather, mainly a testament to the marginalization of the rule of law in many Arab countries in our recent past.

The 10 Arab and Asian countries participating in the fighting have justified it on the basis of assorted legal mechanisms through the Arab League, the United Nations Charter and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which allow countries to come to the life-saving aid of governments threatened by domestic or foreign aggression. The more meaningful and lasting dimension of the Yemen conflict is its expansion of active warfare in collapsing states adjacent to the energy-rich region of the Arabian Peninsula.

via The reasons for our Arab wars lie deep — www.dailystar.com.lb.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Middle East

 

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Resolve it now

Yemen’s history is one of division and conflict, with occasional periods of shaky dominance by one region or religious or tribal grouping. Its most successful leaders have been skilled manipulators of its divisions, placating at one moment, bargaining at the next, using force at another, and constantly recalibrating their alliances in reaction to events. But such figures have been rare, and even they have fallen off the tightrope sooner or later. Like Afghanistan, Yemen is a country whose people recognise a common identity, and often act resolutely when foreigners intervene in their affairs, but who find it hard otherwise to overcome their differences. At this most fundamental level there is, unfortunately, nothing surprising about the recent breakdown of Yemeni state institutions and the country’s descent into something approaching civil war.

via resolve it now | Editorial — www.theguardian.com.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Middle East

 

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The Germanwings tragedy: inside the mind of a pilot

French prosecutors have reported that first officer Andreas Lubitz appeared to want to destroy the aircraft carrying 149 innocent people aboard Germanwings flight 4U9525. As a qualified pilot and a psychiatrist, I have since repeatedly imagined nightmare scenarios in that cockpit. Although we will never know what was truly going through Lubitz’s mind as the aircraft plunged, one of the many alarming aspects of this tragedy is that his depression is being quickly blamed.

Obviously depression cannot be the sole cause of a likely mass murder. Understanding this could yield many important lessons, and for now, the black box flight recorder will continue to yield vital information.

via The Germanwings tragedy: inside the mind of a pilot | Michael Bloomfield — www.theguardian.com.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in European Union, Reportages

 

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Caliphate Under Pressure: Is Islamic State in Trouble in Iraq?

The trip from Baghdad to Tikrit remains extremely dangerous. There may be bombs planted along the road and snipers occasionally lurk nearby. As such, nobody knows for sure which car Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban is traveling. His convoy, protected by heavily armed soldiers, is heading north, driving by walls and schools where the black flag of Islamic State (IS) is still flying. And it passes through empty villages and past trenches that reflect the ongoing fighting.The minister is headed for the front-line city of Tikrit, 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Baghdad, from which IS has been forced to retreat in recent days. Ghabban, 53, is a wiry man in a simple police uniform. He was jailed at the young age of 18 during the Saddam Hussein regime and later joined the Iran-founded Shiite Badr Party. Tikrit is a place of some significance for him. This is where the hated dictator was born and it is not far from where he is buried.

via Caliphate Under Pressure: Is Islamic State in Trouble in Iraq? — www.spiegel.de.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Middle East

 

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John Lanchester reviews ‘The Second Machine Age’ by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and ‘Average Is Over’ by Tyler Cowen · LRB 5 March 2015

In 1996, in response to the 1992 Russo-American moratorium on nuclear testing, the US government started a programme called the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative. The suspension of testing had created a need to be able to run complex computer simulations of how old weapons were ageing, for safety reasons, and also – it’s a dangerous world out there! – to design new weapons without breaching the terms of the moratorium. To do that, ASCI needed more computing power than could be delivered by any existing machine. Its response was to commission a computer called ASCI Red, designed to be the first supercomputer to process more than one teraflop. A ‘flop’ is a floating point operation, i.e. a calculation involving numbers which include decimal points (these are computationally much more demanding than calculations involving binary ones and zeros). A teraflop is a trillion such calculations per second. Once Red was up and running at full speed, by 1997, it really was a specimen. Its power was such that it could process 1.8 teraflops. That’s 18 followed by 11 zeros. Red continued to be the most powerful supercomputer in the world until about the end of 2000.

via John Lanchester reviews ‘The Second Machine Age’ by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and ‘Average Is Over’ by Tyler Cowen · LRB 5 March 2015.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Reportages

 

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El acorazado Maine regresa a La Habana

El acorazado Maine regresa a La Habana | Letras Libres.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in South America

 

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Suède : les prisons se vident

Suède : les prisons se vident – Libération.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Europe

 

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