Browsing articles from "March, 2017"

The Hardest Spelling Test Ever

Mar 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on The Hardest Spelling Test Ever

A Michigan teacher gave a spelling test. He was going over the answers, including: “S-P-E-E-K-U-Z-S-L-M-N, there are silent letters at the end of that one,” he said. It was an April Fools’ joke.

‘A Dream Come True’ As Baseball Player Joins The Majors

Mar 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on ‘A Dream Come True’ As Baseball Player Joins The Majors

After years in the minor leagues, Brock Stassi joined the Phillies. His brother wrote: “My brother is a prime example to everyone : chase your dream, prove the doubters wrong, and GRIND!!!!!!!!!”

Incendiary ‘Report’ Exposes Business-Suited Torturers

Mar 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Incendiary ‘Report’ Exposes Business-Suited Torturers


The Torture Report

War On Terror In A Graphic-Novel Narrative

Ernie Colón does a lot for a business suit. Two types of people populate The Torture Report, a new graphical adaptation of the 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques under George W. Bush. There are the detainees — usually nearly nude in frigid temperatures, their bodies wracked with agony — and there are the bureaucrats at whose mercy they suffer. These men are inevitably clad in that uniform of conservatism and civilization, the business suit. There’s even a besuited silhouette on the cover, hands shoved in his pockets, radiating placid certainty.

That certainty led the highest-ranking members of the CIA not only to authorize the use of brutal, often untested, dubiously effective interrogation techniques throughout the 2000s, but to mislead multiple branches of government and the media about their efficacy. They also led George W. Bush to authorize the techniques’ further use.

Colón and writer Sid Jacobson must have begun work on this project long before the election, and yet events have made it more timely than could have been imagined even a few months ago. President Trump takes an even stronger line on enhanced interrogation than Bush did, repeatedly saying “waterboarding works” and equating the practices explicitly with torture. Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein grilled Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, on apparently condoning waterboarding and other techniques.

This book is clearly meant to serve the same function as the duo’s best-selling collaboration, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, making hundreds of pages of documents and testimony live and breathe using comic-book-style illustrations. It might seem that the topic would prove well-suited for this treatment, given the obvious — if excruciating — visual interest it provides. But the results are mixed. This book is certainly an accessible and digestible depiction of what Scott Horton, author of 2015’s Lords of Secrecy, sums up in an afterword as “one of the most dysfunctional and embarrassing episodes in the history of American spycraft.” But numerous flaws dampen the book’s effectiveness.

Colón, an artist with wide-ranging experience working at top comics publishers, seems strangely daunted by the material. His drawings alternate between operatic and muddled. He’s at his best when he’s pointing up the divide between the tortured detainees and the bureaucrats who hold them at their mercy. The former are usually near-naked, while the bureaucrats, naturally, all wear the aforementioned suits. These guys could have come out of Get Your War On, David Rees’ early-2000s comic that used cheesy clip art of office workers to emphasize the absurdities of the War on Terror. They’re drawn the same way, and the irony is the same.

Colón’s depictions of the enhanced interrogation techniques themselves — among them facial slaps, abdominal slaps, “walling” (slamming the detainee’s head against a wall), stress positions, cramped confinement, sleep deprivation and waterboarding — aren’t as chilling as you might expect. The uneven quality and varying styles of the drawings keep the brutality at a remove. The most affecting representations are simple silhouettes of the men who were hung by their wrists for hours. Colón’s experiments with panel organization and point-of-view are more successful. Each page bursts with different shapes and arrangements of artwork, providing a sense of catastrophic momentum.

Jacobson has distilled and arranged the material in the report to create a powerful narrative. The effect of reading, again and again, that CIA assertions about the program “included inaccurate information” or “are not supported by CIA records” is potent. Still, Jacobson’s own (albeit highly understandable) bias occasionally undercuts his storytelling. He keeps throwing in exclamation points and editorializing asides. When he recounts how Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury authorized the use of 13 enhanced techniques in 2005, he adds a speech bubble reading, “Good to be back in action again!” It’s unclear who’s supposed to be speaking (or thinking) this, and it doesn’t mesh with the parts of the text hewing narrowly to the report.

Despite these weaknesses, The Torture Report remains a deeply necessary book — particularly now, when the full report may never be made public. It shouldn’t require all the skill and passion of two experienced comics creators to bring information like this to the average reader, but such is the case in our saturated media climate. Flawed or no, this book will doubtless be a crucial resource for years to come.

Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.

Malaysia Sends Men Questioned In Murder Back To North Korea, Along With Kim’s Body

Mar 31, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Malaysia Sends Men Questioned In Murder Back To North Korea, Along With Kim’s Body

A van believed to be carrying the body of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, leaves the forensics wing of a hospital in Kuala Lumpur Thursday. Malaysia released the body along with men who had been questioned over Kim’s death.

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A van believed to be carrying the body of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, leaves the forensics wing of a hospital in Kuala Lumpur Thursday. Malaysia released the body along with men who had been questioned over Kim’s death.

AFP/Getty Images

A standoff over the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother has seemingly ended, after Malaysia released the body of Kim Jong-nam and allowed the departure of two men who had been questioned about his death.

The North Korean group traveled to China on their way home. Japan’s NHK News reports that they visited North Korea’s embassy in Beijing before continuing on to Pyongyang.

“One of the men is believed to be Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur,” NHK reports. “The other is thought to be Kim Uk Il, an employee of North Korea’s state-owned airline.”

As Merrit reported for the Two-Way yesterday, Malaysia’s prime minister said the move was “in exchange for the return of nine Malaysians who had been blocked from leaving North Korea.” When the swap was announced, Prime Minister Najib Razak also said a plane carrying the Malaysians had already taken off in Pyongyang.

The mutual release ends the two nations’ travel bans on each others’ nationals, a development that came after weeks of disagreement over the death of Kim Jong-nam.

Statue Of Soccer Star Gets Skewered On Social Media

Mar 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Statue Of Soccer Star Gets Skewered On Social Media

Cristiano Ronaldo is a talented and good looking soccer star from Real Madrid. A statue unveiled in his home country of Portugal attracted widespread criticism; some likened it to a Picasso painting.

Siberian Teenagers Get Resourceful

Mar 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Siberian Teenagers Get Resourceful

Police in Siberia recently found a den built into the snow there. The BBC described it as an improvised bar. Teenagers scavenged stuff to build it. Police said they drank, smoked and gambled.

Trump Will Host China’s President Xi In Florida On April 6

Mar 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Trump Will Host China’s President Xi In Florida On April 6

China’s President Xi Jinping will visit President Trump in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 6 and 7. Xi is seen here during meetings in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing earlier this week.

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China’s President Xi Jinping will visit President Trump in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 6 and 7. Xi is seen here during meetings in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing earlier this week.

Lintao Zhang/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit President Trump in Palm Beach, Fla., next week, for talks that will likely range from economic to security issues. The first meeting between the two leaders will stretch from April 6-7.

Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with China topped $347 billion, with total trade worth more than half a trillion dollars, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A Chinese spokesperson notes that before the visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, Xi will spend three days in Finland.

“This shows the importance China attaches to a future-oriented new type of partnership with Finland, and support for the EU,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, according to state-run Xinhua News.

Xi’s visit to Florida had been widely assumed, but China and the U.S. are now confirming details that emerged during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Beijing, in a trip that centered on North Korea’s nuclear threat.

From Beijing, NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports:

“China’s leadership has become increasingly irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and by the US decision to install an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.

“Beijing is also suspicious of U.S. intentions in Taiwan, which China claims as its own. Trump angered Beijing in December by taking a phone call from the Taiwanese president and calling into question the one-china policy. He later agreed to honor the policy.”

The White House says Trump and Xi “will discuss global, regional, and bilateral issues of mutual concern.”

The Chinese spokesperson was a bit more forthcoming, although Lu stuck to economic issues when he stated, “China hopes to make joint efforts with the United States to expand trade cooperation, properly settle trade frictions through dialogues, and maintain healthy and stable growth of trade and economic ties.”

“The President and the First Lady will also host President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan at a dinner on the evening of April 6,” the White House says.

As NPR’s Laurel Walmsley reported Wednesday when details about the visit were being confirmed, “The Government Accountability Office announced Tuesday that it will be examining the costs and security issues associated with Trump’s frequent visits to Mar-A-Lago. Senate Democrats introduced a bill last week that would call on the president to release logs of visitors to the White House and Trump’s private properties, including Mar-a-Lago — information that isn’t currently available.”

Albin Lee Meldau’s Unsettling Take On Mental Illness And Addiction

Mar 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Albin Lee Meldau’s Unsettling Take On Mental Illness And Addiction

Swedish singer-songwriter Albin Lee Meldau has a profoundly arresting voice that delivers an emotional gut punch with every brooding phrase.

In his chilling new video for the song “Lou Lou,” Meldau takes a single, wrenching scene and freezes it in time. Made with one unflinching, steadycam shot, it’s an uncomfortably intimate look at the moment paramedics arrive to save a woman who’s suffering a drug overdose. Nobody moves. Everything has stopped. It feels particularly helpless and hopeless.

“For me, this video is real,” Meldau tells NPR Music in an email. “It’s a dark story about being in the midst of addiction, mental illness and drug abuse. This song was written about a girl. Unfortunately in my country, she’s one of many.”

“Lou Lou” is from Meldau’s Lovers EP, released late last year. He’s since signed with Astralwerks with a full-length coming later this year.

Iceland May Have A Certain Way Of Celebrating A Soccer Win

Mar 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Iceland May Have A Certain Way Of Celebrating A Soccer Win

A lot of pregnant women have been going into labor in Iceland. It just so happens to be nine months after Iceland’s soccer team stunned England.

The Tahri That Binds: How A Sweet Rice Dish Connects A Woman To Her History

Mar 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on The Tahri That Binds: How A Sweet Rice Dish Connects A Woman To Her History

There are many rituals associated with the Hindu Sindh holiday Cheti Chand, which falls on March 29 this year. One that continues to hold meaning for the author is the consumption of tahri, or sweet rice, during langar, the communal meal at the end of the celebration.

Pooja Makhijani for NPR


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Pooja Makhijani for NPR

There are many rituals associated with the Hindu Sindh holiday Cheti Chand, which falls on March 29 this year. One that continues to hold meaning for the author is the consumption of tahri, or sweet rice, during langar, the communal meal at the end of the celebration.

Pooja Makhijani for NPR

I have always found it difficult to explain my family’s syncretic faith traditions to both white Americans and to other South Asians. We are Hindu Sindhis, originating from an area around the Indus River, in what is now modern southeast Pakistan. On our home altar, familiar Hindu idols — Lakshmi, Ganesh, Krishna — share space with images of the 10 Sikh gurus and Jhulelal. Jhulelal, a river deity, is not only the patron saint of Hindu Sindhis, but is also revered by Sufi Muslims. For many, my religion is an outlandish concoction of incompatible faiths. But one thing that brings it all together is our traditional foods.

My grandparents left newly formed Pakistan in 1947, after the Partition of British India, in one of the largest mass migrations in human history. They settled in refugee camps in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh before migrating to Pune, an Indian city with a large Sindhi diaspora and where my parents were born.

In independent India, my family felt spiritually alienated, because their practices were viewed as not “truly Hindu” by their new neighbors. As communities in exile often do, Sindhi Hindus formed tight-knit, transnational networks, and these practices, as well as language and food, became a vital connection to their roots.

After immigrating to the United States, my parents steadfastly held onto their “Sindhi-ness.” The Hindu Sindhi diaspora in the U.S. is small; according to the Census Bureau, fewer than 10,000 people of any and all faiths speak Sindhi. As a child, I was shuttled to Sindhi camps and conventions, spoken to only in Sindhi, and served unusual Sindhi dishes.

A Longing For Lentils, Or How I Learned To Find Home Where The Daal Is

Once a year, we went to Ved Mandir, a run-down, drafty temple in central New Jersey to celebrate Cheti Chand, the Sindhi New Year and a celebration of the birth of Jhulelal. There, my aunties and uncles sang passionate devotional songs in praise of Jhulelal, and danced the ecstatic chhej (a Sindhi folk dance).

As I got older, I categorically rejected all these trappings of my subculture. It was much easier to be a “mainstream” Indian and to assume more conventional Hindu practices. But now that I’m an adult — and a parent — I’m reclaiming all the quirky bits of my culture and faith.

Jhulelal is known by various names and worshiped in many forms; his shrine in Pakistan receives both Hindu and Muslim pilgrims. But this white-bearded saint who sits on fish and whose image is found in nearly all Sindhi homes was originally a marginal deity for a particular group of Sindhis who prayed to the Indus River, according to Steven Ramey, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama and author of Hindu, Sufi or Sikh: Contested Practices and Identifications of Sindhi Hindus in India and Beyond.

After Partition, however, the singer Ram Panjwani, known as a cultural ambassador of the Sindhi community, recast Jhulelal into a Sindhi icon. “Panjwani] consciously popularized Jhulelal as a Hindu Sindhi deity,” says Ramey. Panjwani set Muslim and Hindu spirituals about the glory of Jhulelal to music. These hymns were then published and distributed among the diaspora.

How A Broken-Hearted Young Girl Found Healing In Her Grandmother's Vadais

There are many rituals associated with the holiday Cheti Chand, which falls on March 29 this year, but two continue to hold both nostalgia and meaning for me: pallao payan, when devotees hold their garment hems, or the ends of their mother’s sari, as I once did, to pray to Jhulelal, and the consumption of tahri or sweet rice, during langar, the communal meal at the end of the celebration.

During langar, we sit cross-legged on the floor while volunteers scoop heaps of this sticky, aromatic rice onto our plates. Tahri is complex in flavor. Its varying ingredients — sugar or jaggery, fennel seeds, cardamom, and caraway seeds — give it a sweet, bitter, peppery and earthy taste. Its perfume is sharp and slightly aggressive.

Because of Sindh’s location on the Silk Road, its cuisine has been influenced influenced by Persian, Arab and central Asian cooking. The Mughal Empire’s Muslim rulers’ decadent staples, such as saffron and pistachios for example, are showcased in tahri. During langar, tahri was often served with sai bhaji, a green, leafy vegetable and lentil stew, or bhee aloo, lotus stem and potato curry, both considered comfort foods for this uprooted population.

A spoonful of tahri instantly transports me to the Cheti Chand functions of my childhood — of family members chanting, “Jeko chawundo Jhulelal, tehnija theenda bera paar (Whomever calls the name of Jhulelal, their ship will safely reach the shore),” while greeting each other on that special day.

This week, I’ll be cooking bowlfuls for my daughter, who has a sweet tooth. She, too, may turn away from all of this one day. But I’m doing my best to hold onto that which has survived through war, migration and globalization, just as my own parents and grandparents did.

The author’s tahri, from a family recipe

Pooja Makhijani for NPR


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Pooja Makhijani for NPR

The author’s tahri, from a family recipe

Pooja Makhijani for NPR

Tahri

This family recipe comes to us from the author.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 cardamoms pods
  • few strands of saffron
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • ¼ cup silvered almonds, chopped pistachios, and chopped cashews (for garnish)
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (for garnish)
  1. Heat ghee over medium heat in heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté cardamom pods and rice until cardamom is fragrant and rice is coated.
  2. Add water, saffron, fennel seeds, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Cook until water has reduced by half, and rice is half-cooked.
  4. Add sugar, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until rice is cooked.
  5. Garnish with nuts and caraway seeds.

Pooja Makhijani is a New Jersey-based journalist, essayist, and children’s book writer. Visit her online home at poojamakhijani.com.

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