- Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico– A story in the New York Times Wal Mart de Mexico and how it used bribes to bypass, manipulate, or acquire zoning and licensing permits for stores in Mexico, including around historic landmarks.
- Ramesses III’s Throat Was Slit– A new cat scan on the mummy of Ramesses III reveals a deep cut in the throat that likely would have caused death instantly, thereby suggesting that that was what caused his death. Likewise, a DNA test on a desecrated body found near the dead Pharaoh, confirms that it was a blood relative and probably his son.
- The Entourage in Antiquity– At PhDiva, classicist Sarah Bond discusses some of the ways that paying for and having an entourage was a symbol of status in the ancient world…not unlike the modern world.
- Defining Learning Expectations-An essay on Inside Higher Ed that looks at the set of standards for skills that students should be able to learn in history classes, while leaving the specific facts up to the instructor.
- Why Workers Are Losing The War Against Machines– An article in the Atlantic that has a somewhat misleading title. Instead of looking at manual labor against the machines (as the followers of Ned Ludd attempted), the article gives a solid, if somewhat basic, account of the ways in which technology disproportionately benefit those people who are already in positions of power or have the technology. In short, those with the resources and training/ability can maintain some level of control over the product and with the rapid growth of communication, the net effects of the decisions made by relatively few people are magnified. There are exceptions, but the article argues that those few who can rise into the category of “superstars” are fewer than in the past while the underlying, structural gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing. Despite the somewhat misleading title, the article provides some figures and a straightforward walk-through of information that has been popping up in fits and starts for a few years (at least).
- Buried Christian Empire in Yemen Casts New Light on Early Islam– A report in Spiegel about an archaeological find in Yemen that further suggests a Christian kingdom that may have exerted influence over Mecca in the years leading up to Mohammed’s birth. It also discusses in passing the environmental conditions and plagues of Arabia during the latter part of the period of the kingdom. As a detailed report and discussion the article is pretty deficient (or, alternately, it tries to let the reader know too much and does it in terms that are too vague), but as a thought piece and article blurb it is interesting.
- Panel Recommends Varying University Tuition Based on Degrees, Job Prospects– In Florida there is a proposition to vary how much university tuition is by further subsidizing STEM degrees over humanities degrees. According to the panel chair there would not be any elimination of programs because “There will always be a need for them, but you better really want to do it, because you may have to pay more.” On one hand, I am sympathetic to their attempts to draw people to those degrees since there is a sense that the future is coming from them. On the other, doesn’t offering people money to take those degrees lead more people to them for the wrong reasons (particularly because many of those jobs already pay more)? I also disagree with the premise that this will not discourage students from going into the humanities since many students already receive pressure from their family to study something that will get them a job out of college and some hiring decisions for college departments are made on the basis of enrollment. If the cost of a humanities degree is higher than sciences then enrollment will likely dip, thus stagnating the department if not killing it outright.
- Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar– A report in the economist of yet another part of the world that is experiencing ethnic cleansing over religious/cultural/immigration issues. The violence is being carried out against against the Rohingya, an ethnic group considered illegal immigrants by the Myanmarese government after being deprived of citizenship in 1982.
- The Problem with Rape Exemptions– An article in the Atlantic about how the extreme debate over whether candidates support the right to an abortion when a woman has been raped and the subsequent adoption of “rape exemptions” as a liberal marker misses the point. The article focuses on the onus of proving rape, but briefly notes the more insidious problem that desperately fighting for just this one acceptable version of an abortion starts out by limiting the woman’s right to choose in any situation and comes in asking for this one concession, rather than requiring lawmakers to have a good reason for each and every limit they place.
- Yemen: Journey to a land in limbo– A profile in the London Financial Times about Yemen since the Arab spring. The tagline from an activist is that the government is not strong, but neither are the people free.
- Nobs and Natives– A review of the book Prairie Fever about British Aristocrats who journeyed into the American west during the 19th century and their efforts to buy or steal land and reaffirm their racial superiority over the indigenous Americans.
- The Middle East’s Belly Dancing Recession– A story in the Atlantic with the tag line “how the Arab Spring has hobbled one of the world’s oldest dance forms.” Of course, the article actually examines the economic fallout from reduced tourism after the Arab Spring. Belly dancers, particularly those who moved to the middle east because of heightened job prospects as part of the tourism industry, have been hit hard and are considering leaving the area.
- A Critic’s Case for Critics Who Are Actually Critical-An op-ed in the New York Times that suggests that while nobody likes to be criticized, having these flaws is part of what it is to be human, and that real criticism is not petty putdowns, but thoughtful response.
- Ira Glass: By the BookAn interview in the Sunday Book Review with Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life.” He says that he would like to meet Edgar Allen Poe, but “I don’t have a question, but dude just seems like he could use a hug.”
- Siberian princess reveals her 2,500 year old tattoos-From the Siberian Times, an ancient mummy is being returned to the Altai Republic. Research and tests on her body reveal significant tattoos. There is a local movement to prevent further archeological digs in the area, particularly since the mound where this mummy was found is a sacred burial ground (though the ethnic group in antiquity is not at all related to the present inhabitants).
- Yemen: Days of Reckoning– A feature in National Geographic that examines the massive upheaval that is taking place in Yemen.
- Roman Frontiers-A feature in National Geographic that looks at the limes or boundaries of the Roman Empire. It charts a rather standard line on most of the issues here (except Hadrian’s beard), though the claims that the frontier strategy could not withstand a large, determined foe, is misleading since it seems that the Roman opponents around the time that the frontiers collapsed were actually weaker than Roman enemies of earlier times, but the Romans were proportionally even weaker. The article offers the Roman walls as a comparison to some of the wall-building today, but the lack of ability and lack of space for the author to actually grapple with the socio-political and economic causes for Roman decline makes the comparison superficial. There probably are comparisons to be drawn, but a deeper understanding and explanation of both the Roman frontiers and the modern situations (including intent, maintenance, and determination about keeping the walls impermeable) is needed before the comparison can really work.
- America’s Worst Historians-Via Jonathan Jones, a story in Salon about plagarism and the perpetuation of histories that lack rigorous standards, but are popular because of the ease of reading and catchy premises.
- Alcohol Apartheid: The New Turkish Laws that Segregate Drinkers– An article in the Atlantic about some new laws in Istanbul that seek to make certain neighborhoods in the city “dry,” thereby segregating drinkers to certain areas rather than tolerating a mixture of secular and religious groups (and tourists) that, in some ways, defines Istanbul.
As always, comments encouraged. What else is out there?