OU EST LA VIE DU NUIT?
Paris struggles to reverse new reputation for dull nightlife. (Der Spiegel)
TURNING A HEALTH-CARE EDICT UPSIDE-DOWN
The Breast Brouhaha (Gail Collins, New York Times)
Somewhere between the reports that Pap smears and tests for prostate cancer aren’t all they were cracked up to be and the news that a high fiber diet doesn’t do anything to prevent cancer, the health establishment began looking decidedly nonomniscient. Then this week, a federal task force reported that most women don’t need annual mammograms.
Even more fascinating, they suggested that doctors stop telling their female patients to self-examine their breasts for lumps.
If you happen to be a woman, particularly a somewhat obsessive woman, this is huge news. The to-do list just got one item shorter. Now if dentists would just decide to withdraw the flossing directive, we may have enough additional spare time to learn Spanish.
GENDER AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Poor women bear the brunt of climate change. (Der Spiegel)
Living in the most marginalized areas and dependent on agriculture to survive, it is the poor who are in the front line of climate change. Given that most of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women, they are in the most vulnerable position, said the United Nations Population Fund report, The State of World Population 2009.
In addition, women are more likely than men to die in natural disasters, especially among poorer people. "With the possibility of a climate catastrophe on the horizon, we cannot relegate the world's 3.4 billion women and girls to the role of victim," a report co-author said.
Celebration earlier this year of 60th anniversary of People's Republic of China, Polishing nation's world image a priority for President Hu Jintao (pictured above). -AFP
Beijing's great PR offensive. (Der Spiegel)
China's E4.4-billion global media plan includes a continued crackdown on "subversive" Internet bloggers but also using the Internet to broadcast the state-run CCTV-9 worldwide; new English-language editions of party newspapers to enhance regime's image; and development of global conventional TV networks.
Marilyn Monroe's determined role in boosting Ella Fitzgerald's career. (Times of London)
They are Boston; Houston; Huntsville, Ala.; Fort Collins, Colo; and Seattle. They have in common high-skilled workers, focus on clean tech, and above-average quality of life. (Christian Science Monitor)
Can we make a model of Czechoslovakia's 1989 non-violent "Velvet Revolution"? (Timothy Garten Ash, New York Review of Books)
Across the intervening years [since 1989], dramatic events in places including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, South Africa, Chile, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Burma were tagged with variants of adjective + revolution. Thus we have read about singing (Baltic states), peaceful, negotiated (South Africa, Chile), rose (Georgia), orange (Ukraine), color (widely used, post-orange), cedar (Lebanon), tulip (Kyrgyzstan), electoral (generic), saffron (Burma), and most recently, in Iran, green revolution. Often, as in the original Czechoslovak case, the catchy labeling has been popularized through the interplay of foreign journalists and political activists in the countries concerned.
These events could, with widely varying degrees of plausibility, be described as attempts—by no means all of them successful—to make a 1989 kind of peaceful, negotiated regime change, including elements of mass protest, social mobilization, and nonviolent action. Velvet revolution, it seems, has not just a past but also a present and perhaps a future. Starting as the moniker for a single historical event—the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989—it has cast off the definite article to become simply "velvet revolution": the genus VR.
GLOBAL HUNGER'S LAND RUSH
Is there such a thing as agro-imperialism? (Andrew Rice, New York Times Magazine)
Because much of the world’s arable land is already in use — almost 90 percent, according to one estimate, if you take out forests and fragile ecosystems — the search has led to the countries least touched by development, in Africa. According to a recent study by the World Bankand the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organization, one of the earth’s last large reserves of underused land is the billion-acre Guinea Savannah zone, a crescent-shaped swath that runs east across Africa all the way to Ethiopia, and southward to Congo and Angola.
Foreign investors — some of them representing governments, some of them private interests — are promising to construct infrastructure, bring new technologies, create jobs and boost the productivity of underused land so that it not only feeds overseas markets but also feeds more Africans. (More than a third of the continent’s population is malnourished.) They’ve found that impoverished governments are often only too welcoming, offering land at giveaway prices. A few transactions have received significant publicity, like Kenya’s deal to lease nearly 100,000 acres to the Qatari government in return for financing a new port, or South Korea’s agreement to develop almost 400 square miles in Tanzania. But many other land deals, of near-unprecedented size, have been sealed with little fanfare. (Photo: Farm worker on Indian-owned rice and corn farm in Western Ethipoia. By Simon Norfolk,New York Times.)
SHOPPING PSYCHOLOGY AND THE CASHIER'S LIFE
Please enter your PIN. (Rachel Bowlby, London Review of Books)
When self-service came along, this supplanted scene looked different depending on how you regarded the new practice. For one side it became a spectacle of old-fashioned dirt, disorder and rip-offs. Now, thankfully, the customer was in control and could pick out the things she wanted, in her own time: no shoddy goods slipped in, no waiting about, no grubby hands on her potatoes and no intrusively personal attention to what she was buying. For defenders of the old procedure, the same story spun itself the other way round. Self-service meant the blandness of plastic packaging and the loss of human familiarity, of the shopkeeper who knew and cared about his stock and his customers. It also meant that you were doing the work yourself.
SPYING FOR THE STATE
It began with opening other people's mail: A history of MI5. (Bernard Porter, London Review of Books) Photo: Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, 1965.
For most of the 19th century, espionage was thought to be a low and foreign practice that the British – or at any rate the English – should not stoop to in any circumstances. This was for a number of reasons: because it used deception, which was immoral; because the state could not always be relied on not to abuse it; and because it was counter-productive, since foreign espionage was often claimed as a cause of war, and domestic surveillance was considered intrinsically damaging to the trust people needed to have in their governments, and in each other, if they were to be content and thus politically stable.
Economists chronically fail by discounting human behaviour. (John Gray, London Review of Books)
Each of these manifestations of animal spirits shows behaviour being driven by forces other than reason. None of them offers rational grounds for action in any sense that most economists would recognise. Even so, the authors insist, these responses must enter into any account of how economies actually work. If economists have failed to explain repeated crises, it is because they have interpreted economic activity through an unreal model of rational decision-making. Thinking of human behaviour in this way allows them to claim a high degree of precision for their discipline, which is presented as a kind of applied mathematics. But they have left psychology out of their equations.
Left to right: Timothy Geithner, treasury secretary; Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisors; Barack Obama; and Lawrence Summers, chief economic adviser.
Obama's economic team rescued the global financial system, with remarkable finesse. (David Brooks, New York Times)
THE IRREPRESIBLE GOURMAND
Our fixation with cookbooks. (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker)
THE SPLENDID TABLE - CHRISTMAS EDITION
The art of carving, Italian treats, Christmas breakfast, the perfect cheese board, and Roast Pheasant with Chestnut Dumplings and other recipes galore. (Times of London)
THE END IS NIGH (NOT)
Six 2012 end-of-the-world myths debunked. (National Geographic)
FEASTS FOR THE EYES
"High Fashion - The Conde Nast Years, 1923-1937." (Until Jan 3.) More than 200 photographs from Steichen's fashion photography work for Vogue and Vanity Fair.
Actress Joan Bennett, 1928. Vogue cover, 1923.
MoMA celebrates "Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity." (Until Jan. 25.)
Features more than 400 works reflecting the school's productions, including industrial design, furniture, architecture, graphics, photography, textiles, ceramics, theater design, painting, and sculpture, including works by Walter Gropius, Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Also see excerpt of New Yorker exhibit review. And Time on the impact of Bauhaus.
Oskar Schlemmer, Bauhaus Stairway, 1932.