By Hanna Ingber, GlobalPost
The woman most likely to become China's next first lady is not exactly a shy housewife. Like Bruni, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Peng is a beautiful and often glamorous celebrity, famous in her own right. A famous Chinese folk singer who also holds the rank of major general in the army's musical troup, Peng has donned elaborate costumes and heavy makeup to perform in front of hundreds of millions of people.
Check her out on Google Images.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Peng likely did not accompany her husband, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinpin, on his trip to Washington this week to meet with President Barack Obama because she did not want to outshine him. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of World Politics Review. For more from WPR, sign up for a free trial of their subscription service, get their weekly e-mail, or follow them on Twitter. Rex Brynen is Professor of Political Science at McGill University and co-editor of the PAXsims blog on conflict simulation.
By Rey Brynen, World Politics Review
When former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was sentenced to death for espionage by an Iranian court earlier this month, he was accused, among other things, of helping to make video games. In his televised “confession,” Hekmati stated that, after working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from [the] CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East.” He added, “The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world and Iraq that what the U.S. does in Iraq and other countries is good and acceptable.”
Needless to say, neither Hekmati’s alleged confession nor his conviction means the charges are true. Rather his arrest is better seen as yet another indicator of the escalating geopolitical tensions between Tehran and Washington. Still, the incident highlights the extent to which video games and international politics have increasingly intersected in recent years. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Imagine if you flicked on your television and found that the government had cancelled American Idol, 30 Rock, The Office, and Dancing with the Stars. That's essentially what happened in China, where last week Beijing eliminated a staggering two-thirds of all prime-time entertainment. What in the world is going on?
Supergirl looks and feels like American Idol. But the Chinese talent show was pulled for being too vulgar, and too Western. It's one of 88 entertainment shows that have been canceled. Other programs that have survived have had to change. Censors have ensured the dating show "If You Are the One" is now less racy - gone are the Western-style discussions about sex.
Why all the cuts?
Beijing reportedly wants to combat what it calls "excessive entertainment" and "a trend towards low taste."
These orders came from the very top - from President Hu Jintao. In an essay published in a party magazine last week, Presdient Hu claimed that "hostile international forces" were plotting to "Westernize and divide China." FULL POST
As we approach New Years, publications are spinning out top 10 to top 100 lists at rapid speed. TIME.com has an impressive array of them. The Awl has put together the 15 most delightful Internet films of 2011.
Two of them struck me; through time-lapse photography, they offer a sense of the scale and wonder of the world. (Both are worth watching in full-screen mode.)
The first is by Terje Sørgjerd and is called "The Mountain." Take a look at 00:32 to see the Milky Way through a sandstorm.FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
If you're a citizen of the world, which you probably are if you're on this site, you might want to check out a book called Don't Get Me Wrong: The Global Gestures Guide. The book is all about how different hand gestures mean different things in different places.
For instance, here in the United States, if you want two sugars in your coffee, you might make a certain gesture at the barista. That same gesture means "eight" in China. And the same hand signal with a little movement added means "not good" in Italy.
Put those fingers on your forehead, and it means "loser" in many parts of the world. But let's go back to Italy for a second. I would suggest being very careful with your gestures there. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura may very well have made enemies out of married Italian men on Inauguration Day in 2005. Why?
Well, they flashed the cameras with the symbol of the Texas longhorns - the hook 'em horns. In some parts of the world, it's the symbol for "Rock On." Unfortunately, in Italy it means, "Your wife is cheating on you."
Check out the video above to see the signals.
A statue of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, complete with trademark turtleneck jumper, jeans and sneakers, has been unveiled in a science park in Budapest, Hungary, two months after his death. FULL POST
Peggy Noonan quoted a a poem during today's GPS. Did you catch it? It's William Butler Yeats' (1865-1939) The Second Coming. Here's the text:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Editor's Note: The following post was originally published in The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.
The Chinese-language website bbs.eduu.com is a popular platform for Beijing’s middle-class parents to discuss their one obsession: the education success of their only child. Most threads focus on securing a spot at a reputable junior high, a rite of passage of hostingguanxi (networking) dinners and customizing bribes so stressful that Chinese parents have likened it to their D-Day – the one battle that wins a war and defines a generation. Make no doubt about it: These Chinese parents, whose child is their full-time pre-occupation, are proud of their battle scars.
It’s common among Beijing’s middle-class for the mother to quit her job to focus on child-rearing full-time. These mothers rally around the flag not of Amy Chua, but of Lin Weihua who published the original battle hymn of the tiger mother, Harvard Girl. Harvard Girl revolutionized parenting in China by bringing scientific management to child abuse: According to Lin Weihua, to increase your child’s patience and endurance, you should make her stand on one leg for half an hour, and clasp ice until her hand turns purple. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat, and The Life You Can Save. For more from Singer, visit Project Syndicate's website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Peter Singer
U.S. President Barack Obama’s doctor confirmed last month that the president no longer smokes. At the urging of his wife, Michelle Obama, the president first resolved to stop smoking in 2006, and has used nicotine replacement therapy to help him. If it took Obama, a man strong-willed enough to aspire to and achieve the U.S. presidency, five years to kick the habit, it is not surprising that hundreds of millions of smokers find themselves unable to quit.
Although smoking has fallen sharply in the U.S., from about 40% of the population in 1970 to only 20% today, the proportion of smokers stopped dropping around 2004. There are still 46 million American adult smokers, and smoking kills about 443,000 Americans each year. Worldwide, the number of cigarettes sold – six trillion a year, enough to reach the sun and back – is at an all-time high. Six million people die each year from smoking – more than from AIDS, malaria, and traffic accidents combined. Of the 1.3 billion Chinese, more than one in ten will die from smoking. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative, new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. This article was originally published in Die Welt.
Imparting information is language’s most important function – and a recent study published in Language rates just how efficient English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin-Chinese and German are at doing just that.
Three French linguists at the University of Lyon recorded 59 people, divided equally among men and women, reading five-sentence texts identical in meaning at a normal speed in their mother tongue. Then they computer-edited out the pauses and counted syllables and information per time unit and language. The goal was to draw conclusions about how fast a specific density of information could be communicated in the seven languages. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Juliette Kayyem is a former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government and a foreign policy columnist for the Boston Globe. She tweets @JulietteKayyem.
By Juliette Kayyem - Special to CNN
This last week, policymakers and presidential candidates debated the wisdom of President Obama's decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of this year. By this weekend, the Pentagon's buildup of resources in the Gulf - a "just in case" strategy - suggested that abandonment (the term used by Obama's critics) was not the right way to describe our efforts.
Whatever the contours of the continuing wars, the real battles still loom in the military. And it isn't just about the budget and what the debt ceiling commission will do in the next few days. The real battle is over military and veteran suicides. To put this in perspective: Based on the years between 2005 and 2010, service members take their lives at a rate of one every 36 hours; the Veterans Administration now estimates that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes. FULL POST