Boko Haram : Where to begin?


boko-haram-flag-1024

Boko Haram explained.

When I travelled to Maiduguri last November, a journey I wouldn’t have contemplated two years earlier, I couldn’t get to Gwoza, Boko Haram’s former capital – a five-hour drive south-east from Maiduguri: Boko Haram may have been in retreat, but there had been no ‘final crushing’ and the roads were still unsafe. I couldn’t do the three-hour drive south to Chibok either: some lecturers from a local university had recently been abducted. But I did make a 14-hour roundabout journey to the town, with many military checkpoints along the way. It turned out that the story wasn’t in Chibok any longer. But if I hadn’t made the trip I might never have understood that the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in 2014 is now a slow-burn revenue source, not just for the military, but for numerous NGOs: this once insignificant town is full of white four-by-fours, driven by aid workers.

The complete article

Adewale Maja-Pearce — London Review of Books

Image source

The Childless City


txwidhqogg5ewnnvu75xq0bvl_2014-07-27-15-26-34

Kids are increasingly becoming rare sight in burgeoning cities.

Ultimately, everything boils down to what purpose a city should serve. History has shown that rapid declines in childbearing—whether in ancient Rome, seventeenth-century Venice, or modern-day Tokyo—correlate with an erosion of cultural and economic vitality. The post-family city appeals only to a certain segment of the population, one that, however affluent, cannot ensure a prosperous future on its own. If cities want to nurture the next generation of urbanites and keep more of their younger adults, they will have to find a way to welcome back families, which have sustained cities for millennia and given the urban experience much of its humanity.

The complete article

Ali Modarres & Joel Kotkin — City Journal

Image source

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2018


trump-865711

The world being so interconnected, any conflict in any part of the world has massive repercussion.

The most ominous threats in 2018 — nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and a spiraling confrontation pitting the United States and its allies against Iran — could both be aggravated by Trump’s actions, inactions, and idiosyncrasies. U.S. demands (in the North Korean case, denuclearization; in Iran’s, unilateral renegotiation of the nuclear deal or Tehran’s regional retreat) are unrealistic without serious diplomatic engagement or reciprocal concessions. In the former, Washington could face the prospect of provoking a nuclear war in order to avoid one, and in the latter, there is the possibility of jeopardizing a nuclear deal that is succeeding for the sake of a confrontation with Iran that almost certainly will not.

The complete article

Robert Malley — Foreign Policy

Image source

Europe’s best nature holidays


maxresdefault

Reprieve from summers.

Slovenia’s Lake Bled

The blue-green vividness of Slovenia’s Lake Bled in the country’s north-east is so picturesque that it almost looks fake. One TripAdvisor reviewer even likened it to a ‘cream cake’, possibly owing to the lake’s small island, Bled Island, which boasts a 17th-century church, and is well worth the pletna (boat) ride over to see its Gothic frescos.

The complete article

Stephen McGrath — The Spectator

Image source

These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race


national-geographic-cover-april-2018-race-adapt-590-1

Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

And yet 50 years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., racial identity has reemerged as a fundamental dividing line in our world.

Factory Made


Workers put the finishing touches to new

As per Wikipedia, “Wage slavery is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.”

Moreover, the word “factory” itself was connected in its etymology to the slave trade. In the early modern era, distant commercial outposts were known as “factories,” after the “factor,” the presiding merchant. The most notorious “factories” were the castles and prisons operated by Europeans on the coast of West Africa, where the African slave trade met the transatlantic slave trade, and whence many millions of enslaved people began the Middle Passage to the Americas. In Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World, Joshua B. Freeman doesn’t dwell on the bleak fantasies of slaveholders or the connections between early-modern colonial slavery and the rise of industry.

The complete article

Padraic X. Scanlan — The New Inquiry

Image source

Facebook will lose 80% of users by 2017, say Princeton researchers


636540322600000000

There was a Princeton study in 2014 which compared Facebook to an infectious disease. According to the study, Facebook will lose 80% of its users by 2017. The prediction seems to have missed its mark. But, really?

In this paper we have applied a modified epidemiological model to describe the adoption and abandonment dynamics of user activity of online social networks. Using publicly available Google data for search query Myspace as a case study, we showed that the traditional SIR model for modeling disease dynamics provides a poor description of the data. A 75% decrease in SSE is achieved by modifying the traditional SIR model to incorporate infectious recovery dynamics, which is a better description of OSN dynamics. Having validated the irSIR model of OSN dynamics on Google data for search query Myspace, we then applied the model to the Google data for search query Facebook. Extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.

The complete study

Image source