Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master


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An old profile of Suleimani.

The prominence the soft-spoken Suleimani has achieved is especially striking given his origins. Born into poverty in the mountains of eastern Iran, he displayed remarkable tenacity at an early age. When his father was unable to pay a debt, the 13-year-old Suleimani worked to pay it off himself. He spent his free time lifting weights and attending sermons given by a protégé of Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was enamored with the Iranian revolution as a young man. In 1979, at only 22, Suleimani began his ascent through the Iranian military, reportedly receiving just six weeks of tactical training before seeing combat for the first time in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. But he is truly a child of the Iran-Iraq War, which began the next year.  He emerged from the bloody conflict a hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border—but more important, he emerged as a confident, proven leader.

The complete article

Stanley McChrystal — Foreign Policy

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The Fake Indian Princess Who Conned Marlon Brando into Marriage


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THE YEAR WAS 1957. He was the king of Hollywood, having won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954). She was a rising star with blue blood, an Indian princess, having played the survivor of a plane crash in The Mountain, starring Spencer Tracy. Together, they made a beautiful couple, with the world seemingly at their feet. That was until Marlon Brando realised that Anna Kashfi, the woman he had married, was actually Joan O’Callaghan, a Welsh butcher’s assistant who owed her exotic looks to her Anglo-Indian ancestry rather than a royal lineage. By 1959, they were divorced.

The complete article

Kaveree Bamzai — Open

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CAN BLOOMBERG KICK-START THE POLITICAL MACHINE HIS BILLIONS HAVE CREATED?


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Michael Bloomberg. Presidential candidate.

Bloomberg’s belated decision to run was motivated in large part by his growing alarm at Elizabeth Warren’s rise from the left. And Warren, trying to regain momentum, has been fast and loud in criticizing Bloomberg’s plans to spend tens of millions of dollars trying to make himself a legitimate candidate for the nomination. But Bloomberg—who is skipping the four February early-primary states to concentrate on Super Tuesday, on March 3, when 14 states vote—now needs to root for Warren or Bernie Sanders to emerge from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada as the leader for the Democratic nomination. “That way, he can draw a cleaner contrast as the centrist, experienced job-creator,” says Matt Paul, a Democratic strategist who Bloomberg consulted last winter, when he was first weighing a bid. “That has to be Mike’s play. If it’s Biden or Pete [Buttigieg] in front coming into Super Tuesday, it gets much harder.”

The complete article

Chris Smith — Vanity Fair

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Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo: The Nobel couple fighting poverty


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Nutrition is a conundrum in developing countries. The couple argue that things that make life less boring are a priority for the poor – a TV set, something special to eat, for example. In one location in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, where almost no one had a TV, they found the extremely poor spent 14% of their budget on festivals. By contrast, in Nicaragua, where 56% of the poor households in villages had a radio and 21% owned a TV, very few households reported spending anything on festivals.

Their work also suggested governments and international institutions need to completely rethink food policy. Providing more food grains- which most food security programmes do – would often not work and help little for the poor to eat better because the main problem was not calories, but other nutrients.

The complete article

Soutik Biswas — BBC

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Why Simone de Beauvoir didn’t believe in being ‘a strong woman’


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Whereas boys were brought up to believe that they could value their own independence and creativity and have flourishing personal relationships, on Beauvoir’s analysis, a woman’s education too often led her to feel ‘torn’ between choosing freedom and choosing love. ‘Woman’, she wrote, is ‘doomed’ to feelings of failure and guilt, because if she succeeded at conforming to mythical ideals of femininity she would be a mirage, not a person. She was expected to embody ‘an inhuman entity: the strong woman, the admirable mother, the virtuous woman, and so on’. Because femininity is so closely associated with prioritising the needs of others, with being likeable and giving, when a woman ‘thinks, dreams, sleeps, desires, and aspires’ for herself, she becomes less feminine – which, in the social currency of 1949 at least, meant she became a worse woman.

The complete article

Kate Kirkpatrick — Aeon

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The lessons of Stephen Schwarzman, boss of Blackstone


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In this age, we look up to billionaires. Well, another of those writing about how he became what he became.

Mr Schwarzman has little time in the book for the little guy. Other financiers wring their hands over the wealth gap between bosses and workers. Not him. He was a rare executive in America’s Business Roundtable not to sign a charter last month calling for an end to the shareholder-led model of capitalism. His private life appears to be one of lavish parties and glamorous schmoozing. Acknowledgments in the book stretch to 14 pages and he name-drops five American presidents, four French ones and China’s Xi Jinping.

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The Economist

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Greta Thunberg: The Crusader Kid


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The young shall change the world. Amen.

WHEN IT COMES to Greta Thunberg, people fall into one of three camps: they either love her, hate her or don’t know about her. Those who appreciate her are leaders like António Guterres (Secretary-General of the UN), US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Barack Obama. Those who dismiss her are the likes of Canadian businessman and politician Maxime Bernier, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and climate sceptic Bjørn Lomborg. But this much is clear, she is arguably the world’s best-known 16-year-old today.

The complete article

Nandini Nair — Open

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