Monday Feb 20

Lil’ Kim


TIME, in its recent issue, featured the new North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un on its cover illustrated by Tim O’Brien. TIME executives have coined him “Lil’ Kim” as the title so blatantly blasts.

In the cover article titled, “Meet Kim Jong-Un,” information about his early life to his present day situation is covered. Kim is reported as being very smart and reliable, yet that his skills are not necessarily important - simply the ability to keep things at status quo will be enough in order to keep the North Korean regime from collapsing. In addition, the article features little tidbits like how Kim was an avid fan of the Chicago Bulls during his early years studying in Switzerland - so much so that he wore a jersey of Dennis Rodman around. Though this may well be compelling information on this 29-year-old successor, we may very well wonder why such a comically natured nickname such as “Lil’ Kim” must even exist. Isn’t it enough that he is now the leader of nuclear armed nation, capable of initiating World War III? The name-play is punny, but there really is no association (nor should there be) with actual ever-so-classy rapper Lil’ Kim and a dictator responsible for millions of citizens deprived of essential human rights. Also, don’t forget the accompanying words: “A look into the bizarre world,” aka the nation of North Korea.

It may be in our interest to think about what message this sort of cover sends out to those passing by newstands in both America and Europe. The nation is secretive, it’s true, and its leaders have or have had their set of particular interests from basketball to expensive liquor. But, to those of us not familiar with the nuclear arms situation in North Korea or the human rights situation there, this cover may be one of the few impressions we’ll ever have of this “bizarre” nation. Is that really fair?

Thursday Feb 2

WTO's Ruling of China's exports of rare earth minerals

China first made headlines in 2010 when it decided to cut exports of rare minerals to Japan.  Although the Chinese market makes up over 90% of the world’s rare minerals market, China has reduced their exports over the years by 17000 tons in the past ten years.  What is unclear is the incentive behind the cut in exports. 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled on Monday that the restrictions China has in place has violated the terms of the agreement they have with the WTO.  They have not met their quotas and some have accused of their actions as “disguised restriction on international trade” to drive up the price of rare minerals.  The heavy taxes they impose on these exports have also increased the overall cost of importing these minerals.  The question is now how the rest of the world can break China’s monopoly on these resources.  Although the outlook from The Economist may seem a bit optimistic, the writer expresses his sentiment on the future of rare minerals:

“Take the long view, though, and China’s policies seem destined to fail. Although the country produces over 90% of rare-earth minerals today, it controls less than half of the global resource base. Restricted supply and higher prices have already spurred the development of big mines in Australia and in America, where a large Californian mine called Mountain Pass reopened late last year. In time, this fresh supply will take market power away from China. For the Chinese, rare earths are simply not rare enough.”

Thursday Jul 14

China’s high speed trains: safe or not?


One of the most frustrating things about being a commuter student in NYC is 1: waiting for the subway, and 2: the speed of the subway (especially for me who is late to class 90% of the time…). Around the world, China has been boasting about its new trains, ones that can travel over 200 mph. Nowadays, passengers can get from Beijing to Shanghai, cities that are more than 800 miles apart in about 5 hours.

Yet the concern over China’s “high speed railway” is safety. While the MTA may be slow and often unreliable, I can definitely say that it is quite safe. At least there has never been any life threatening accidents while I’ve been a passenger. I can’t say the same about China’s new high speed train though. 

This week, an “unknown malfunction” halted the trains in the countryside between Beijing and Shanghai. The most appalling fact about this is that this malfunction is actually the third incident in the past four days. Clearly, the train system is quite dangerous. Perhaps China should spend some more time perfecting this technology before opening it up to its citizens. If given the choice, I would probably choose MTA and my life over the high speed railway and time.

source 1

source 2

Tuesday Jul 5

India’s Minister for Heath & Family Welfare does not apologize for homosexuality comments


As New York celebrated the success of its hard fought battle over gay rights, across the Pacific, India’s Minister for Heath & Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad offered his opinions on homosexuality. In a speech delivered Monday, July 4, at an H.I.V./AIDS prevention convention, Azad stated that “[homosexuality] is a disease which has come from other countries” and it is “unnatural and not good for India.”

It is relevant to note here that India does have gay rights. Homosexuality was legalized two years ago in a Delhi High Court ruling.

Azad’s comments have sent a wave of outcry from not only India’s gay rights activists, but internationally as well. 

Yet, Azad is refusing to issue an apology. He has since given a press conference in which he denies he made those allegations concerning homosexuality. Rather, he claims his words have been taken out of context, that in reality, he had been misquoted, therefore, there is no need for an apology. 

This is not the first time Azad has been the center of negative attention. In 2009, had adamantly encouraged supplying poor villages with electricity. His explanation: that electricity would discourage sex and encourage television watching so that India could better control its population. 

Hmm….. that’s quite interesting logic there….


Saturday Apr 23

Watch a burglary gone wrong! A Chinese burglar found himself holding on for dear life after failing to climb into a fifth story apartment window. Advice for next time: stick to first story apartments. 

Saturday Apr 16

The Dalai Lama wants to retire

The 75 year old Dalai Lama who is the political leader of Tibet at the moment has announced that he wishes to retire so that Tibet can elect a new leader. As a long time advocate of democracy, the Dalai Lama feels that despite much dissent on his decision, his retirement and the subsequent election of a new political head will prove most beneficial for Tibetans in the future. However, the decision to retire is not solely his; a committee (which CNN calls “the parliament,” I am unsure if that means India’s parliament or Tibet’s parliament) will be meeting in India to decide whether he should be allowed to make this action. 

This announcement by the Dalai Lama will surely raise more conflict between Tibet and China. If he should be granted the permission to retire and Tibet tries to hold elections for a new political leader, it will surely cause some sort of negative reaction from China. We have to wait and see how all this plays out!

Saturday Apr 2

From male soldier to female dancer, the story of Jin Xing


Jin Xing is one of the most prominent female dancers in China, but what sets her apart is the fact that she lived 27 years as a male. In a country that has been known to impede on thinking and acting outside of the norm, Jin Xing has overcome all odds to become the first person to undergo a sex change in China.

Read More

Saturday Mar 19

Footage of the tsunami in Japan.

Sports star Ichiro Suzuki quietly donates $1.23 million to Japanese relief efforts

In typical Ichiro Suzuki fashion, the Japanese major baseball player has donated 100 million yen to aid his home country after last week’s disasters. This amounts of about $1.23 million or 7% of his income this year. Suzuki is known to remain quiet about his generosity, offering no press conference or public remarks about his donations. He made a similar act last month when he donated 10 million yen to Japan to aid their relief efforts after the volcanic eruption in Miyazaki Prefecture.

The Seattle Mariners, the MLB team Suzuki plays for will also donate $100,000 in addition to matching any donations made by front office personnel or fans at their first regular season game.

This time of tremendous tragedy has brought out the compassion in so many people. For anyone who is willing to donate, NYU has a list of reputable and trusted charities. Even a little can help so many.

Saturday Mar 12

Donate $10 to Japan quake/tsunami relief by texting REDCROSS to 90999


The disaster in Japan is getting more dangerous as damage to nuclear plants threatens radioactive consequences and tens of thousands of people are missing. Blood supply is also lower in Japan compared to other countries, due to a lack of active blood donations. Help out now.

Monday Mar 7

Finding love across boundaries


Amidst the conflicts between the North and South Koreas, the optimistic matchmaker Choi Young-Hee seeks to reunite the people living on opposite sides of the border.

 ”From the bottom of my heart, I really hope for reunification,” she says.  In just five short years, she has arranged the marriages of 500 couples, hoping that her approach will create a new way for people to think of the other side, to emphasize that despite the obvious geopolitical problems they may be having, they are, after all, made up of “the same people.”  There is a strong sense of hope that the two countries can in time get by peacefully with one another.

Among the 500 marriages, Choi has had a great track record, with only three cases ending in divorce.  North Korean women desire the stability and the acceptance that a South Korean man can provide and South Korean men look for a more traditional Korean wife, as Choi believes.  Height, education, and job status are the criteria that Choi uses to determine who is set up with who, but she emphasizes the importance of a personality match. These marriages, as Kyung Lah, writer at CNN, suggests, are not borne out of the desire to reunify the two countries, but rather to show how there can still be love between people of (very) different backgrounds.

Read more

Sunday Feb 27

Recap: Revolt of the Week


Perhaps February is in fact the maddest month of the year, as there have been protests across Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Greece, and more muted rumblings in Iran, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and of course Wisconsin.

If you are only a casual observer of the news, it may seem like the Middle Eastern/African/Arab/Islamic world has been spontaneously erupting into demonstrations and revolt.  There may appear, if we are to trust popular entertainers such as Fox News or MSNBC; to be a sort of organic causality between riots- a cause celebre that has managed to unite people who clearly distrust each other (see Wikileaks as Saudia Arabia, defender of the faith, asks the United States to invade Iran).

I would like to plead, therefore, for the opposite case that superficial similarities in terms of political structures, religious beliefs and skin color do not necessarily make analogous existential crisis.

Though presenting and being presented as a unified front, the Middle East is home to diverse peoples (socially, culturally and religiously because not all Islams are made the same) and - ye gods yes-  different political systems as well. Despite the triumphant narratives of the “democratic domino effect in the Middle East”#; what is happening is much more reflective of (and frankly can’t be understood without) national contexts, frustrations and passions. This section will be dedicated to compiling information on the historical background of, world response to, and general factual progression of the ongoing revolts in the Middle East/African/Arab/Islamic regions.


According to the CIA, Bahrain was formed in 1783 by the al-Khalifa family who conquered the land from Persia. The family’s power was cemented by signing treatises with the British in the 1800’s, effectively turning them into a protectorate and part of the empire. Independence was formerly attained in 1971.

As Ambrose Pierce so astutely pointed out war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Not that the United States government, regardless of administration, is likely to bear arms against a country that among other things, houses the U.S. 5th fleet and 4,200 U.S. troops protecting the Gulf pipeline that supplies military maneuvers in Afghanistan. The U.S. military and nominally the State Department have ties to the ruling monarchy, and as of 1991 are committed to a bilateral defense pact. The U.S. government is to be “consulted” in times of “security threats” to the tiny ruling family, so for now the U.S. is calling for a peaceful resolution to the protests.    

Happening Now:

So far, the Bahraini Royal family seems to be refraining from militarizing the situation further, aware no doubt of the old adage that the fewer unarmed protesters you shoot, the less angry people become. The military, responding to the royal family, initially went in like gangbusters on February 14th 2011, showering protesters in Pearl Square (the main square in the capital of Manama) with tear gas from helicopters and firing into the crowd on mourners, as well as medics and reporters#.

The Royal Family has since allowed Pearl Square to be occupied by thousands of protesters, and ordered the military to withdraw. In a further gesture of “goodwill” the monarchy claims to have released about 300 prisoners on February 23rd 2011, 100 of whom were “political prisoners”. Lawyers for prisoners accused of sedition against the state are concerned that these releases may only be temporary. On the same day the crown prince annouced that he was open to dialogue with the protesters, as his father King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa goes to seek advice from King of Saudia Arabia.

Possible Roots of Protest:

Nine out of ten U.S. and U.K. news outlets agree that this is a demand by the Shi’ia population of Bahrain (the majority of the 526,000 citizens) for more representation from the Sunni Royal family. A noted blogger and activist Ali Abdulemam was released Februrary 23rd, claims that the arresting officers slandered his religion during his interrogation and incarceration in jail. There has been sustained outcry over the last decade against the absolute monarchy, which has resulted in dozens of arrests.

Additionally, outside of  the U.S. media’s favorite explanation for tension in any Islamic country, youth unemployment has been and is a huge problem in Bahrain, at 15% unemployment. The situation is so acute that the Bahrani government officially pursues an anti-migrant worker policy to promote job growth for nationals within Bahrain. Reportedly, as the fiscal crisis worsens, funding for outside projects is drying up.   

BREAKING NEWS: The Bahrani king has ousted four members of his cabinet, including two members of the royal family as protests continue.