Weekend Edition

November 21st, 2014

Kim’s rear world

November 21st, 2014


US businesswoman and celebrity Kim Kardashian PHOTO/Daily Mail

Nature endowed us all with many body parts
and with various desires filled our hearts
but many human bodies covet what they lack
and so some of those suffer medical thwack

plastic surgery has been around in some form
but has now hit the people like a big storm
it’s a billion dollar industry, still going strong
which attack people with a beautiful prong

The plastic surgeons, cosmetologists, fashion designers, and people associated with the beauty industry have grown big and powerful. They have penetrated the minds of a large section of society and have created in that section a desire to look in a certain way, and so the body shapes, sizes, and their color (it’s white, of course) are decided by them and then imposed on people.

Kim Kardashian, a TV personality, businesswoman, celebrity, and much more, is as usual in the news again. This time on a far bigger scale than the previous one. A magazine called Paper has published some of her pictures, covered and uncovered. She has been capitalizing on her body, particularly her derriere, for a long time. In the above pictures, the size of Kardashian’s rear may create an impression that it is an extraterritorial matter. But please rest assured that her rear world is within the boundary of her geographical makeup and is well within her jurisdiction.

The debate about Kardashian’s assets, especially her bottom, focuses on whether it’s real or has been enhanced. The reason this time around it’s is in the news is because of the above photos. The question from this author is not if her backside is real or not, but whether her booty has any aesthetic value which deserves an attention of such great degree.

Before proceeding any further, it would be gentlemanly or ladylike to acknowledge that it is good etiquette to refrain from commenting on someone else’s anatomy. But Kardashian’s life and her physical wealth are so public and open, through news media and herself, that it would not be wrong to express a frank opinion.

There is nothing wrong in having plastic surgery done if a body is deformed or any of the body parts are too little or too big. But then if the reduction or enhancement is done in proportion to the body size, the result will no doubt beautify, or at least, de-uglify, the person. On the other hand, too large or too little change could result in insurmountable shame.

Some benefits of big butt cannot be ruled out, such as its function as a table, which one can observe from one of the above pictures, where a glass of champagne is sitting on Kim’s rear. But as far as aesthetic value is concerned, one is hard pressed to find it in Kardashian’s rear world. That world seems very unnatural. (This is also true about men and women with extra big muscles which are not eye pleasing.) However, one can always counter argue with a point that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No doubt, there is a section of people who prefers XL size. However, the great increase in the number of people going crazy after her bum is due to the news media outlets’ hunger for titillating stories and Kardashian’s own desire to stay in the news all the time in this extremely competitive world. Due to this, Kardashian’s rear world is able to conquer the internet but not the aesthetic world.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Capitalism, inequality and globalization: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century

November 21st, 2014


I. The Piketty Argument

Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-first Century embodies an immense amount of empirical research into the distribution of wealth and income across the population for a number of advanced capitalist countries going back for over two centuries. In particular Piketty has made extensive use of tax data for the first time to arrive at several important conclusions in his magnum opus which has deservedly attracted much international attention, both in academic circles and among the public at large.

The conclusions themselves are quite striking. Central to them is the finding of a U-shaped curve relating to a number of key variables, viz. wealth distribution defined as the share of the top 10 percent (or the top 1 percent) in total wealth in each of the countries studied; income distribution defined in a similar manner; and the wealth-income ratio. Each of these variables, quite high (or rising) until the first world war, undergoes a sharp drop during the war and remains more or less low until 1945, after which it begins to increase, and in the more recent decades particularly sharply.

The period between 1914 and 1945 in short represents a remarkable break, which, not surprisingly, created an impression that capitalism had become more egalitarian, that inherited wealth had ceased to matter as much as before, that the individual’s “ability” rather than patrimony determined in the new situation his or her position in the socio-economic hierarchy, and so on. To be sure, the bottom 50 percent of the population in most capitalist countries hardly owned much wealth at any time, and hence hardly earned any income from wealth; but the period 1914-1945 threw up a middle class which raised its share of wealth and income at the expense of the rich, of the very top decile for instance.

Monthly Review Zine for more

Male escorts

November 21st, 2014


PHOTO/Ozgur Albayrak/Gallery Stock

Is the growing market for male escorts a sign of female sexual liberation or just a re-run of the same old stereotypes?

In the middle of every month, when the moon is full, and straight after payday, Louise meets Tom in a smart hotel in north Sydney to indulge in what she calls ‘my little ritual’. She lays out a bottle of her favourite Champagne, a box of chocolates and a punnet of fresh strawberries, and dresses thoughtfully for their rendezvous, in a mini?skirt or tight jeans.

What follows is tightly programmed: Louise is paying for Tom’s time, and for a hefty fee this smooth-talking 48-year-old escort with greying temples will wine, dine and massage her. He’ll also make love to her. Their last meeting lasted six hours. ‘We sit down, we talk, we have a drink,’ says Louise. And sex? ‘A few times.’ She giggles. ‘Three, four. I lost count.’ Tom provides relief from her humdrum career in accountancy – it’s all about her. ‘I spend practically the whole day before in the spa and the hairdresser,’ she explains coquettishly. ‘It’s fun. It’s just treating myself.’

In What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire (2013) the American writer Daniel Bergner argues that female sexuality is as animalistic – if not more so – than male. ‘We’d rather cast half the population, the female half, as a kind of stabilising force when it comes to sexuality,’ he explains. The idea that monogamy is more suited to women is no more than a ‘fairy tale’. Bergner claims another misnomer is that visual stimulus is not especially important for the average woman. Studies with a vaginal plethysmograph (a tool used to measure blood-flow and lubrication) have shown that female response to visual stimuli is visceral, immediate and, in some cases, more pronounced, to a wider variation of sexual images than with men.

Aeon for more

The leading Terrorist state

November 20th, 2014


United States flag IMAGE / Shutterstock

“It’s official: The U.S. is the world’s leading terrorist state, and proud of it.”

That should have been the headline for the lead story in The New York Times on Oct. 15, which was more politely titled “CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels.”

The article reports on a CIA review of recent U.S. covert operations to determine their effectiveness. The White House concluded that unfortunately successes were so rare that some rethinking of the policy was in order.

The article quoted President Barack Obama as saying that he had asked the CIA to conduct the review to find cases of “financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.” So Obama has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.

The first paragraph of the Times article cites three major examples of “covert aid”: Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact, each case was a major terrorist operation conducted by the U.S.

Angola was invaded by South Africa, which, according to Washington, was defending itself from one of the world’s “more notorious terrorist groups” – Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. That was 1988.

In Cuba, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, President John F. Kennedy launched a murderous and destructive campaign to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba – the words of Kennedy’s close associate, the historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his semiofficial biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for the terrorist war.

The atrocities against Cuba were severe. The plans were for the terrorism to culminate in an uprising in October 1962, which would lead to a U.S. invasion. By now, scholarship recognizes that this was one reason why Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev placed missiles in Cuba, initiating a crisis that came perilously close to nuclear war. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later conceded that if he had been a Cuban leader, he “might have expected a U.S. invasion.”

Truth Out for more

Barbie needs a new accessory: Retirement home

November 20th, 2014


Mattel’s Barbie next to Nickolay Lamm’s rendition of ‘normal’ Barbie IMAGE/Nickolay Lamm

Mattel came out with Barbie in 1959, when full-figured women defined beauty and thinness wasn’t glorified. Barbie was big, but Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood stars were bigger. Ever since Twiggy, she’s been dangerous.

I have worked with eating disorders for 29 years, and my clients often cite Barbie as an early trigger. So I’d be happy to see Barbie slip off the toy shelves and fade into nostalgic mass memory.

Since she turns 56 in the spring, maybe her next accessory should be a luxury retirement house.

It could happen: Barbie’s sales have been suffering while Disney Princess, American Girl, and Zombie doll sales seem to be getting stronger.

Or maybe Barbie just needs new contours.

Look what happened earlier this year when artist Nikcolay Lamm offered a virtual rendition of Barbie with the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman. The 3-D model went viral. Lamm, who at one point struggled with an eating disorder, set up a Kickstarter account and raised $109,000.00 in the first 24 hours, enough money put the doll into small-scale production in November.

Womens E News for more

The rise of unreason

November 20th, 2014


Some 300 years ago the age of reason lifted Europe from darkness, ushering in modern science together with modern scientific attitudes. These soon spread across the world. But now, running hot on its heels is the age of unreason. Reliance upon evidence, patient investigation, and careful logic is giving way to bald assertions, hyperbole, and blind faith.

Whether or not he actually believed his words, Modi knew it would go down well. In 1995, parts of India had gone hysterical after someone found Lord Ganesha would drink the milk if a spoon was held to his trunk. Until the cause was discovered to be straightforward capillary action (the natural tendency of liquids to buck gravity), the rush towards temples was so great that a traffic gridlock resulted in New Delhi and sales of milk jumped up by 30pc.

Dawn for more

(Thanks to Mansoor Gowani)

Samar by Yasmine Hamdan

November 19th, 2014

Link TV & You Tube

Widow of slain ‘African Che Guevara’ seeks answers

November 19th, 2014


More than 27 years after African hero Thomas Sankara’s assassination, his widow, Mariam Sankara, tells FRANCE 24 she hopes the fall of former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré will pave the way for an investigation into his death.

The neat hedges and clean streets of the southern French city of Montpellier are thousands of miles and a world away from Burkina Faso, where protesters last month evoked the spirit of African hero and homeboy Thomas Sankara in their successful bid to oust longstanding Burkinabe strongman, Blaise Compaoré.

But it’s right here in Montpellier, on Allée Thomas Sankara – a street named after the iconic African revolutionary figure – that Mariam Sankara, his widow, welcomed the fall of Compaore.

“Like everyone else, I want this transition to run smoothly,” said Mariam Sankara in an interview with FRANCE 24. “This is not a coup d’état. The military may have taken over, but that doesn’t mean it’s a coup d’état because the people have won. It’s the people who fought this battle. The military are now there to ensure their safety.”

France 24 for more

The mysterious world of the deaf (book review)

November 19th, 2014


Deaf-mute children learning to hear through their vibratory senses at a school in Zurich, 1955 PHOTO/René Burri/Magnum Photos

I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth (Dutton, 390 pp., $26.95)

Experts in language acquisition say that the first three years of a child’s life are the most crucial in developing the conceptual frame to build fluent language. By the time Miss Black began to learn language (and Sign language is as delicate, sensitive, and complete a means of expression as any spoken language) that critical period was past. She didn’t say as much, but she’d been living with the consequences of that delay ever since. It was there in her lack of involvement with the hearing world, in her inability to find satisfying work, in the clumsy handwriting with which she communicated.

In I Can Hear You Whisper Lydia Denworth makes what she calls “an intimate journey through the science of sound and language.” That critical window of language acquisition, so detrimental to Miss Black, was of immense significance to Denworth: when her son was about a year old she learned that he was very hard of hearing and might soon be deaf. She had noticed something was amiss because the development of his language was much slower than it had been for her other two sons.

The New York Review of Books for more