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Friday, January 19, 2018

Russia Is Not In Good Financial Shape Now

https://www.stratfor.com/article/russias-fraying-financial-safety-net-hangs-thread

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Brave Swiss Diplomat Saved 62,000 Jewish People From The Nazis

Unsung Hero

The names of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, who risked their own lives and fortunes during World War II to help Europe’s Jews escape death at the hands of the Nazis, have been immortalized.
But what of the Swiss envoy Carl Lutz?
According to a recent investigation into war documents by the BBC, Lutz arrived in Budapest in 1942 to serve as neutral Switzerland’s vice-consul to Hungary. Hungary had already sided with Germany. But when the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, they expedited efforts to exterminate Hungary’s Jews by deporting them to Auschwitz.
Using his diplomatic resources, Lutz began fudging letters of Swiss diplomatic protection to save them. The Nazis granted Lutz permission to issue only 8,000 letters to individuals with a direct connection to Western powers, but he managed to duplicate the letters to save entire families.
Historians estimate that his efforts saved as many as 62,000 lives.
“It is the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War,” said Holocaust expert Charlotte Schallié.
After the war, though, Lutz was reprimanded for overstepping his authority rather than feted for his heroism – primarily due to Switzerland’s strict policy of neutrality.
“Ask most people in Switzerland about Carl Lutz, and the answer will be, ‘Who?'”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The World's Most Unusual Military Museum


The world’s unusual military museums

(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Sadat Museum #1 (Cairo, Egypt), 2009 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
They recall scenes from Dr Strangelove, or Thunderbirds: the photos taken by Jason Larkin have a simplicity and shared aesthetic that is almost childlike – or shot through a Hollywood filter. Yet these images were taken in military museums around the world, and they reveal how different countries remember war and conflict. “It’s too easily sanitised,” says Larkin. “There should be much more context and nuance.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Vietnam Military History Museum #2 (Hanoi, Vietnam), 2016 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

The British photographer isn’t aiming to be political, however. His Past Perfect series – currently on show at London’s Flowers Gallery and set to be published in a book later this year – focuses more on how these museums put together their displays. “I didn’t want to make too much of a commentary on propaganda,” he tells BBC Culture.

“What I became interested in was what really reinforces this view on history and what makes the public think that it’s true – the ways in which this history is being presented, the aesthetic choices being made by the curators and the museum staff.” Between 2008 and 2016, Larkin travelled to Cuba, Egypt, Israel, the UK, the US and Vietnam, looking at how museums in each country take on roles in “constructing ideologies and interpreting cultural identities”.
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Herzl Museum #1 (Jerusalem, Israel), 2014 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
He found striking differences in approaches to the curation of artefacts and memory. “Every country has their own way of presenting the past and their overarching approach to museums and displays,” says Larkin, commenting that in Israel “it’s much more about experiences and less about facts and artefacts – more about immersing the viewers in history”.

Although he started out photographing a range of museums in Egypt, he narrowed his focus once he got to Israel. “When I was there I decided that in somewhere like Israel, that has such a conflicting narrative and has had so much conflict with its development, it was more poignant to focus the series on just the museums that deal with conflict, war and militaries in all their different guises.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Museo de Batalla de Ideas (Cardenas, Cuba), 2016 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

Larkin discovered another slant in Cuba. “It’s about the revolutionaries, the first hundred or so that were part of the initial waves of revolution – everything they’ve touched and worn, everywhere they’ve been has been turned into a sort of memorial and canonised in glass cabinets,” he says. “It’s a way of presenting the past that really turns these individuals into folk heroes and legendary figures.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
City Museum (Da Nang, Vietnam) 2016 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
In Vietnam, meanwhile, he photographed ways in which weapons and war machinery have been repurposed. “Vietnam deals much more with responses to artefacts – there are a lot of sculptures, and a lot of artists being employed to reconfigure war remnants and put tanks on top of each other, turning shrapnel into sculptures.”

This offers a chance to take a step back, and can give a more sophisticated take on conflict. 
“There are nuanced museums in most places,” says Larkin. “There are a couple of museums in Vietnam that are trying to present things in a more balanced way, and within the UK, the Imperial War Museum in London is incredibly nuanced – although there’s not much about contemporary conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s more artists’ responses, which is a comfortable way for museums to tackle something, presenting somebody else’s interpretation of it.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Imperial War Museum #2 (Duxford, UK), 2016 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

Yet Larkin believes “there are a lot of places that don’t do that” – including the UK. “The Imperial War Museum in Duxford, just outside Cambridge, is really just war machinery. Those spaces are sold very much as family days out – they can be entertaining, they put on big air shows – but most of the machinery on display is deadly, and has been used for deadly consequences.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Royal Air Force Museum #1 (London, UK), 2015 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

That hasn’t stopped him being drawn in. “I’ve got a one-year-old, and the last time I was in the Imperial War Museum in Duxford I thought: ‘I can’t wait til he’s two or three because I’ll definitely bring him along to these air shows, they’re amazing’.” He acknowledges the attraction of many of these spaces. “I can get pulled into it – it is awe-inspiring, being beneath a huge bomber – I’m not removing myself from it.”

But the way in which information is presented can be misleading. “It’s just a select few people at the top who get to decide on how museums are going to look,” he says. “There are a lot of people in the countries I’ve visited who would not agree with what’s in their museums – it’s just what the state or one rich influential group or the army want to say.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Museum of Fort San Carlos (Havana, Cuba), 2016 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

And what isn’t said can be as important as what is. “Rather than just having displays where you’re looking inside the mechanisms of a giant bomb, and admiring that engineering might, if you were to have a plaque next to it saying ‘this could destroy ten schools at once’, it might make people think.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
6th of October War Panorama #1 (Cairo, Egypt), 2009 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

Even the visual style in which war is depicted is significant. Some of the dioramas in Larkin’s images resemble toys, placing battles in an unexpected context. “There’s something interesting about that war panorama,” he remarks on an installation at the October 1973 War Museum in Cairo, “because it was painted by North Koreans – they built that museum for Egyptians, and their artists came over, because they’ve got a similar panorama in Pyongyang. It harks back to how the North Koreans see war – it’s a very American GI Joe style.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Churchill War Rooms #1 (London, UK), 2015 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

The cultural filter on war can mean that less overtly ideological museums are in fact more influential. “I think America owns the military aesthetic in many people’s psyches, we recognise an American military jeep before any other type of military equipment because it’s been so engrained in our visual memories through films and comic books.”

While captions hammering home a great military ‘victory’ are obvious in their intent, Larkin believes that “with the aesthetics it’s much more subtle, it’s like going to a movie in a way, you’re pulled in and think ‘I don’t really know what happened in that film or whether it was good or bad, but it was kind of enjoyable’. That tends to happen, and if you do that enough with certain scenarios, it becomes a form of propaganda.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Egyptian Military Museum (Cairo, Egypt), 2009 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

Larkin hopes that by photographing museums in this way, he can create a critical distance. Before this project, he says, “I’d never really questioned a museum space: I’d always taken it at face value, and taken their authority as the final word.”

But now “you’ve got to question why they need to run it in that way”, he argues. “That’s what photography and art allows – I’m taking pictures from the everyday world and then representing them elsewhere, and hoping that by doing that with a certain approach and aesthetic there’s a different type of engagement than what you get from actually being there.”
(Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)
Air Force Museum #1 (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam), 2016 (Credit: Jason Larkin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery)

Despite the need to question official narratives, however, there is a countering need to separate fact from fiction, especially in an era of ‘fake news’. “In some ways, it makes this project feel more relevant, but sadly it gets to this point where all truth is side-lined,” says Larkin. “All of a sudden people might look at my project and think you can’t trust anything anymore. But that’s so destabilising – where do we go from there, and who can lead us back into a place of authenticity?”

The exhibition Past Perfect is on view at Flowers Gallery, London until 13 January 2018.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Netherlands: Learning To Fall

Learning to Fall

“Learning to fall” is taking on a literal meaning in the Netherlands, where 18.5 percent of the population is now 65 or older.
In 2016, almost 4,000 Dutch seniors died as a result of a fall, a 38-percent increase from 2014, the New York Times reported.
“My main problem is I’m very afraid of falling,” said 85-year-old Hans Kuhn, who lives alone in her two-story house near Amsterdam.
To ease her fears, Kuhn has enrolled in a class for seniors that teaches them how to fall properly.
Virtually unheard of a decade ago, the courses have become so common throughout the country that they’re now government rated and partially covered by health insurance.
Monitored by trained physiotherapists, students spend weeks traversing obstacles and doing exercises to build strength and balance until they’re confident enough to practice falling on foam mats.
The courses also provide comic relief and a social setting for elderly students otherwise isolated in their homes, said Saskia Kloet, a program manager at VeiligeheidNL, an institution that offers falling courses.
“Naturally, they are not interested in courses on falling at first,” she said. “But once they see that they can do it, then it’s fun.”
Click here to see the seniors in action.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A New Drug For Type-2 Diabetes Also Helps Alzheimeri's Patients

DISCOVERIES

Two Birds, One Stone

Sometimes, a highly sought solution gets its start in an unlikely place, suggests new evidence that a drug for type 2 diabetes can also decrease the effects of Alzheimer’s.
In a study published recently in the journal Brain Research, scientists examined the effects of a new “triple action” medication that combines three different drugs used for type 2 diabetes for its impact on dementia.
Stymied insulin production – the defining factor of type 2 diabetes – has long been known to be linked to brain degeneration, and previous reports on the effects of diabetes drugs on combating dementia have shown positive results.
But this new, multi-action drug showed even more promising results than those previously seen. Mice with genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer’s blazed through maze tests and displayed slower degeneration of nerve cells after being injected with the new drug.
Though some researchers remain skeptical, lead researcher Christian Holscher of Lancaster University in the United Kingdom thinks the drug “holds clear promise” of quickly being used on Alzheimer’s patients since it’s already cleared for human use – a sentiment echoed by British Alzheimer’s societies, the Independent reported.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Some Fairy Tale Places Around The World

Fairy Tale Places 




 
We may be familiar with the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal, and other such famous landmarks. In fact, they are visited by hundreds of people every day. Their iconic photos are all across the internet, all depicting different angles, lighting, and visitors in them. There are over a hundred famous places across the globe that are deemed to be must-sees. But these are just the tip of the iceberg.
The world is full of wonderful, spectacular places to be seen and explored. If you're looking for less-known destinationsthat are equally impressive as the famous landmarks, then this list is for you. Not only are these places absolutely incredible to see, but your friends and family probably have not been to these destinations, which makes your stories refreshing and all that much more impressive.

Beautiful flowers hanging off the balconies in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence, France.

After the rain in Bibury, England, United Kingdom.

A quaint little town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber, located in Germany.

A magnificent waterfall in Gásadalur, Faroe Islands.

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The breathtaking view in Hallstatt, Austria.

A beautiful, sunny day in Bagnone, Italy.


Manarola, one of the five famous Cinque Terre towns in Italy.

A quiet, traditional town called Gokayama in Japan.

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Waves crashing against the shore of the small fishing town of Hamnøy in Norway.

Local residents tending to their daily tasks in Eguisheim, France.

Mother nature takes over this abandoned fishing village in the Shengsi Islands, China.

Clouds wrapping themselves around the towering mountain in Renndølsetra, Norway.

The Winter Wonderland in Shirakawa, Japan.

The impressive island that is Monemvasia, Greece.

One of the many beautiful mountain villages in China.

Gorgeous roses lining the exterior walls of houses in Penne, France.

The incredible view in this small town in Oia, Greece is simply breathtaking.

The spectacular Foroglio Waterfall can be seen from this quaint little town in Foroglio, Switzerland.

The small town of Bled stands proudly in front of the Julian Alps in Slovenia.

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These snow-covered houses in Røros, Norway look just like something out of a Christmas tale.

Be sure to SHARE these incredible places with your friends and family.