“A bus designed for people who never take buses”: how London’s Routemaster became a £300m white elephant |City Metric

The article has an interesting take on tradition vs modernity.

http://www.citymetric.com/transport/bus-designed-people-who-never-take-buses-how-londons-routemaster-became-300m-white

Summary:  Routemasters were the iconic London buses that were decommissioned in 2004. To revive this cultural icon, Transport for London (TfL) reportedly spent £11.4m to get the new Routemasters designed. Each new bus cost £375,000 (which was almost double the price of a normal bus at £190,000), were heavier and thus less environmentally friendly, could carry fewer passengers due to its design, caused discomfort for the passengers (too hot in summer, and too cold in winter), and cost more to run (a conductor is needed in addition to the bus driver due to the possibly unsafe open design at the back).

Questions:

  • Should cultural icons or traditions be preserved at all costs?
  • If traditions are allowed to die out, what might the repercussions be?
Advertisements

Minneapolis Somali man using cartoons to counter ISIS recruitment | MPR News

Read here: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/11/24/daily-circuit-average-mohamed

The videos, aimed at ages 8 to 16, often directly respond to videos already online.

“We take the ideology piece by piece, value for value, and we create that counter-narrative,” he said on The Daily Circuit. “That counter-narrative is meant to question, challenge and agitate minds into not accepting what has been told in the propaganda videos that these organizations of extremism keep on creating.”

Ahmed said he’s taking the videos to mosques, community youth organizations and even families dealing with a family member joining an extremist group. He said it’s important to reach the siblings in this moment to help them understand other ways to look at their religious beliefs.

Source: https://youtu.be/7vJ-SlxjRrQ

Source: https://youtu.be/j_1F_yGw7SQ

The Bloody Truth About Vampires | National Geographic

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/vampires-europe-new-england-halloween-history/

Often, these legends arose from a misunderstanding of how bodies decompose. As a corpse’s skin shrinks, its teeth and fingernails can appear to have grown longer. And as internal organs break down, a dark “purge fluid” can leak out of the nose and mouth. People unfamiliar with this process would interpret this fluid to be blood and suspect that the corpse had been drinking it from the living. (Read “Archaeologists Suspect Vampire Burial; An Undead Primer.”)

Bloody corpses weren’t the only cause for suspicion. Before people understood how certain diseases spread, they sometimes imagined vampires were behind the unseen forces slowly ravaging their communities. “The one constant in the evolution of vampire legend has been its close association with disease,” writes Mark Collins Jenkins in his book Vampire Forensics. Trying to kill vampires, or prevent them from feeding, was a way for people to feel as though they had some control over disease.

Questions:

  • What are some superstitions in your culture? Why do people still believe in them despite scientific explanations?
  • Do you think that superstitions can be good forpeople? Should they be continued?

The Skype sex scam – a fortune built on shame | BBC

Read here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37735369?

The “23-year-old Lebanese girl” who seduced Samir on Skype was almost certainly a young man from Oued Zem – a small town in central Morocco that has become known as the capital of the “sextortion” industry.

The Oued Zem scammers trawl Facebook for victims, and as soon as a man answers a video call – either on Skype or, increasingly, within Facebook itself – they activate software that shows the victim a pre-recorded video of a girl downloaded from a porn webcam site.

They are so familiar with this video that they are able to chat-message their victims at exactly the points where the girl appears to be typing on the keyboard.

“We ask him to take off his clothes and to do obscene gestures,” says one young scammer I will call Omar.

“It’s crucial that his genitals are visible while he’s doing these gestures. This is filmed with his face on screen so the video looks credible. When we’ve got the recording we upload it to YouTube and send it to him in a private message. That’s when the threatening starts. We spend 20 minutes chatting, 20 minutes for the video, and 20 minutes threatening – threatening and negotiating. They all pay.”

He adds: “The weak point of Arabs is sex. So you look for their weaknesses, and you exploit them. The other weakness is when they are married, for example. You can exploit that. Then there are the really religious guys. You see someone who looks like a sheikh, carrying the Koran, and you think, ‘There’s no way he’ll fall for this – but let’s try him anyway.’ And when you try, he falls for it.”

Salaheddin El-Kennan, a labour activist, does not blame the town’s young men for making money from extortion. He points the finger at the state-owned company that mines phosphate in the surrounding countryside but employs very few local people.

“I chose not to go down the route of scamming because I consider it incompatible with our Moroccan and Islamic values,” he says.

“But unemployment rates in our town are higher than in the rest of Morocco. Nationally, unemployment is at 8.7%, while in our town we estimate that it’s as high as 60%. With the lack of employment, and no apprenticeship schemes in the city, many people look for other ways to make money.”

Omar said he was not proud of what he does, and that he wanted to stop scamming.

Questions:

  • Are cases like this common in your country/hometown?
  • Why do you think more people have fallen prey to these conmen?
  • What can be done to change the situation?

Perceptions

Source: https://www.facebook.com/playgroundenglish/videos/359205304412806/

Questions:

  • What was your first impression of the girl in the hijab/tudung?
  • Do you think that women should/can be as aggressive as men?
  • What do you feel about people who don’t dress/behave in a similar way to other people?
  • What is your opinion of Kubra Dagli?
  • Why has she created a controversy?

With its tourists behaving badly, China embarks on some soul-searching | Today

http://www.todayonline.com/chinaindia/china/its-tourists-behaving-badly-china-embarks-some-soul-searching

Two young Chinese tourists carve their names on the Great Wall. Hundreds of picnickers leave their garbage moldering on the banks of the Yellow River.

Such episodes during the recent National Day holiday have produced a flurry of photographic postings and a spasm of soul-searching in China, highlighting anxieties over the habits and image of tourists at home and abroad in a nation that is increasingly cash-rich but, some say, short on manners and experience with the outside world.

Questions:

  • When you travel, how do you behave? Do you expect things to be similar to your country? Do you say things like, “We do this better/differently where I come from.”
  • What is ideal behaviour from a tourist?
  • Although tourism can improve the economy, there can be negative effects as well. What are some negative effects that tourism/tourists bring?

The World’s Largest Pyramid Is Hidden Under A Hill | IFLScience

http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/the-worlds-largest-pyramid-is-hidden-under-a-hill/

What looked like a giant mound of earth and grass was actually a colossal pyramid. In fact, according to reports, it is the largest monument ever built. Legend has it that the locals covered the monument with soil themselves when they heard about the Spanish invaders sweeping through the Americas.

Questions:

  • Are there any important archaeological sites in your hometown/city/country?
  • Have there been sites that were recently discovered?
  • Why are they important?
  • Given a choice between spending money on preserving artefacts and increasing the educational standards in a country, which do you think is more important?

Rare Giraffes Killed for their Tails | National Geographic

Short Video Source: https://www.facebook.com/natgeo/videos/10153895512948951/

Longer Video Source: https://youtu.be/FCFVkqoektU?list=PLivjPDlt6ApQ8vBgHkeEjeRJjzqUGv9dV

Read more here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-giraffes-garamba-national-park-poaching-tails/

Fewer than 2,000 now roam central Africa, according to Julian Fennessy, co-director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, a Namibia-based organization. Garamba’s Kordofans represent the last population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “If the number slips in half, then we’re in a real dire situation,” Fennessy says. “Every single giraffe is valuable.”

Congolese usually kill the giraffes for one body part: their tails, considered a status symbol in some communities. Meanwhile men from neighboring South Sudan target the giraffes for their meat to feed impoverished villagers. But the massive bodies (giraffes can grow to 18 feet and weigh up to 3,000 pounds) of the three giraffes were intact—only the ends of their tails were missing.

According to Leon Lamprecht, joint operations director for African Parks, men “use the tail as a dowry to the bride’s father if they want to ask for the hand of a bride.” The long black hairs are often turned into fly whisks.

The Chinese through Abbasid eyes | Middle East Eye

http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/1000-years-ago-chinese-through-abbasid-eyes-1745528673

The recently translated Accounts of China and India by Abu Zayd al-Sirafi and other chroniclers gives a fascinating insight into the interconnectedness and mobility of the Abbasid era. For today’s readers, removed in time and place, some of the writers’ observations may seem bizarre and implausible. But in most of their akhbār  – credible reports of what they saw and heard –  one can easily recognise modern Indians and Chinese.