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An article is a stand-alone section of a larger written work. These nonfictional prose compositions appear in magazines, newspapers, academic journals, the internet, or any other type of publication.

Japan, Inc.: Winning the Most Important Battle

Posted by eGZact on June 19, 2008

IN 1953, a young businessman named Akio Morita made his first trip outside Japan to investigate export prospects for his struggling little electronics company. He was dismayed to find that in the sophisticated markets of the U.S. and Europe, the words Made in Japan were a mocking phrase for shoddiness. But in The Netherlands, he recalls, “I saw an agricultural country with many windmills and many bicycles, and yet it was producing goods of excellent quality and had worldwide sales power. I thought that maybe we Japanese could do it too.”

Indeed, they could. A month ago, Morita took off on his 94th or 95th transpacific trip (he has lost exact count). This time he came as the self-assured export chief and primary owner of Sony Corp., the firm that as much as any other has made Japanese goods synonymous with high quality as well as low price. In Chicago, he told security analysts that Sony last year rang up sales of $414 million, more than half from exports to 147 countries of radios, tape recorders, TV sets and other products. In London, he went over sales projections for the color TV sets that Sony began marketing in Britain last month: the company expects to sell 50,000 the first year at $480 each, v. $600 for the lowest-priced British-made sets. On the Continent, Morita checked on construction plans for a multimillion-dollar Sony distribution and service center to be located, fittingly, in The Netherlands.

The trip was not all triumphal procession, however. In the U.S., Morita ran into a storm of ill will, stirred up by a Government finding that “Japanese manufacturers” have been dumping TV sets—selling them in the U.S. at prices below those charged in Japan. For the time being, Morita says, Sony must post a 9% deposit with Washington on every TV set that it imports. Morita concedes that some Japanese TV makers practice dumping, but he insists that his company is not among them and contends that ‘U.S. Treasury officials admitted as much to him. “Although we are innocent,” he says, “we are being forced to act as if we were guilty.”
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10 ways you might be breaking the law with your computer

Posted by eGZact on May 29, 2008

Most Americans are aware of the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution’s fourth amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this means that the government cannot search your person, home, vehicle, or computer without probable cause to believe that you’ve engaged in some criminal act.

What many don’t know is that there are quite a few circumstances that the Courts, over the years, have deemed to be exempt from this requirement. One of those occurs when you enter the United States at the border. In April of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of Customs officers to search laptops and other digital devices at the border (the definition of which extends to any international airport when you are coming into the country) without probable cause or even the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other groups strongly disagree with the ruling. You can read more on the EFF Web site (

Meanwhile, be aware that even though you’ve done nothing illegal and are not even suspected of such, the entire contents of your portable computer, PDA, or smart phone can be accessed by government agents when you enter the United States. So if you have anything on your hard drive that might be embarrassing, you might want to delete it before crossing the border.

See the article (pdf) from TechRepublic: 10 ways you might be breaking the law with your computer


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Laptop Screens – Glossy versus Matte

Posted by eGZact on April 30, 2008

The discussions between glossy and matte laptop screens are almost as heated as Apple versus Microsoft and XBox versus PlayStation. Many people considering purchasing a laptop are frustrated by the matter. 

Glossy screens have a reflective coating underneath the screen. This reflective nature gives higher degrees of brightness and contrast. Colors really seem to “pop” with glossy screens. However, due to their reflective nature, the view on a glossy screen will frequently be polluted by glare from other light sources. 

With matte screens the user can almost visualize darkness between individual white pixels. To many people they perceive this as a “grainy” appearance. Glare is greatly decreased, at the cost of reduction in contrast and brightness. Subtle degrees of saturation are better perceived with the matte screens. 

For some people the higher brightness and contrast of the glossy screen actually causes eye strain. Other people find that the lower, diffusing contrast with a matte screen is more likely to cause issues. Improving backlight technology is balancing out the brightness and contrast issues on both sides of the argument. 

Complicating the issue more is that fact that some manufacturers are using glossy displays to hide cheaper LCDs. In the right conditions, glossy displays hide many, but not all, weaknesses in substandard LCD screens. This is why many inexpensive laptops now come standard with glossy screens. 

In a dark, glare-free room, the glossy screen will look better than the matte screen. However, most people do not always use laptops in ideal conditions. Fingerprints and smudges also show up on glossy screens more than matte.

My first laptop had a matte screen. Back then I am not sure I knew I had an option. For my second lappie, I purchased the glossy screen because the images and video in the demo room looked the best. However, after day-to-day use, I eventually decided that matte was best for me. 

I use my laptop everywhere. Frequently this includes bright lighting conditions that cause high glare situations. With my matte screen glare is never an issue. Do glossy screens look better? In perfect conditions they do indeed. However, matte screens offer me much more flexibility. Plus, with my glossy screen I was constantly having to clean it to remove fingerprints and smudges. With the matte they are barely noticeable. 

Obviously in the end it is a personal choice. Hopefully this article has helped to express the arguments on both sides. 

Good luck with your laptop purchase.


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Updated Web Browsers: Which One Works Best?

Posted by eGZact on April 21, 2008

Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox 3, and Micorosoft’s Internet Explorer 8 duke it out to be the program you use most on your PC.

Back when the earliest programs for viewing Web content simply browsed flat pages of images and text, the name browser truly fit the software.

But yesterday’s amateur pages have evolved into dynamic, content-rich portals and powerful online programs. For many online habitués, the do-it-all browser has become a PC’s single most important program.

Recognizing that fact, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and Mozilla’s Firefox are battling to win the nod as your browser of choice. So which one should you use–Safari 3.1, Firefox 3, or Internet Explorer 8?

Apple’s latest offering, Safari 3.1, preserves the company’s signature focus on clean design and smooth usability, but it lacks any phishing or malware filters.

For its part, Mozilla should have applied the finishing touches to Firefox 3 by the time you read this (I tested the feature-complete beta 5 release). From under-the-hood memory improvements to a major reworking for bookmarks, version 3 represents a big step forward.

Whereas the new Firefox and Safari browsers are ready to roll, Microsoft’s early beta of Internet Explorer 8 remains a work in progress. Bugs and rough edges are to be expected in a first beta intended for developers and testers. But IE 8 beta 1 provides a glimpse of new features such as WebSlices (which let sites create widgety snippets of information that you can view by clicking a bookmark button) and Activities (which add right-click menu options for looking up selected text and pages on map, translation and other sites) that will distinguish the browser Microsoft eventually releases.

Firefox, IE, and Safari are the three most popular browsers, according to Internet usage statistics, but they aren’t the only ones available. So I also took a separate look at two worthwhile, free programs–Flock and Opera.  

Author: Erik Larkin | PC World

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Prince Yasuhiko Asaka and Matsui Iwane

Posted by eGZact on January 21, 2008

Kill tally: 200,000-350,000 Chinese killed during the ‘Rape of Nanking’.

Background: The final collapse of the Chinese Imperial Government at the start of the 20th Century brings in a 30-year period of instability to China during which the nationalist Guomindang (Kuomintang or KMT – the National People’s Party, or Nationalist Party), headed by Chiang Kai-shek, battle the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), headed by Mao Tse-Tung, for ultimate control.

Across the East China Sea, Japan becomes progressively more nationalistic and militaristic, seeing in China an opportunity to expand on territory occupied in Manchuria (now Dongbei Pingyuan, north of Korea) and Shandong Province (across the Yellow Sea from Korea) after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and during the First World War.

The Japanese military is seeped in the tradition of unquestioning loyalty to the emperor. Commands from superior officers are regarded as equivalent to commands from the emperor himself. Military leaders have direct access to the emperor and the authority to transmit his pronouncements directly to the troops. The emperor is considered divine and the seat of ultimate power.

Mini biography: Born on 2 October 1887 in Kyoto, Japan. He is a member of the Japanese imperial family and uncle-in-law to Emperor Hirohito.

1908 – He graduates from the Japanese military academy and is commissioned into the army as a sub-lieutenant.

1920-23 – He travels to France to further his military studies.

1927-29 – Japanese troops are sent to China to obstruct attempts by the Guomindang to unify the country. In June 1928 officers in the Guandong Army, the Japanese Army unit stationed in Manchuria, begin an unauthorised campaign to secure Japanese interests and precipitate a war with China. Both the Japanese high command and the Chinese refuse to mobilise. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ferdinand Marcos

Posted by eGZact on December 21, 2007

Country: Philippines.

Kill tally: No reliable figures but the Philippines democracy and economy ruined and possibly thousands killed.

Background: Spain colonises the Philippine archipelago during the 16th Century, naming the islands after King Philip II and establishing Manila (on the northern island of Luzon) as the capital in 1571. The indigenous population is converted to Roman Catholicism, although Muslim Filipinos in the south and upland tribes in the north resist any challenge to their traditional religious beliefs.

When the United States takes control of the archipelago following the 1898 Spanish-American War independence activists wage a guerrilla war against the new colonialists. The rebels are brought under control and political reforms introduced as the country prepares for independence.

The self-governing Commonwealth of the Philippines is established in 1935. Full independence is scheduled for introduction after a further 10 years, but the timetable is interrupted by the Japanese occupation of the country during the Second World War. Independence is finally achieved on 4 July 1946, though as the date would imply, the US retains significant influence.

Mini biography: Born on 11 September 1917 in Sarrat in the llocos Norte Province at the northwestern tip of Luzon. Both his parents are teachers. After completing his schooling, Marcos enrols to study law at the University of the Philippines.

1939 – In April Marcos is arrested in connection with the 1933 murder of a political rival of his father and has to complete his law degree while in custody. He stands trial in September and is and found guilty. Read the rest of this entry »

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Josef Mengele

Posted by eGZact on November 1, 2007

AKA ‘Angel of Death’.

Country: Germany.

Kill tally: Directly responsible for the deaths of thousands at Auschwitz concentration camp.

Background: Following the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles penalises the defeated Germany, annexing land, imposing large war reparations, limiting the size of the German Army and blaming Germany and Austria-Hungary for starting the conflict. The new German Government, a coalition of left-leaning and centrist parties, attempts to rebuild the country but faces opposition from the right and extreme left. The instability is exacerbated by the failure of the domestic and global economies.

Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party exploits the situation, advocating national pride, blaming the Treaty of Versailles, the left, and Jews for the political turmoil and claiming to have a solution to the economic crisis. The Nazis reach a position from which they can seize power on 30 January 1933 when Hitler is appointed chancellor. More background.

Mini biography: Born on 16 March 1911 in Günzburg, Germany. His upper middle-class family are the proprietors of machine tools business. He is the eldest of three sons.

1930 – After finishing his schooling he studies philosophy at the University Munich, obtaining his degree in 1935, before going on to study medicine at the University of Frankfurt am Main, where he concentrates on physical anthropology and genetics. In 1931 he joins the Stahlhelm (Steel Helmets), an extreme right-wing and antisemitic organisation.

1933 – The Nazis reach a position from which they can seize power on 30 January when Hitler is appointed chancellor. Germany’s last election until after the Second World War is held on 5 March. Though the Nazis win only 44% of the vote Hitler persuades the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Law, allowing him to govern independently of the parliament for four years.

Hitler is now the Führer, the dictator of the fascist Third Reich, an empire where the individual belongs to the state, and where the state is fully controlled by the Nazis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rafael Trujillo

Posted by eGZact on October 29, 2007

Full name Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina. AKA ‘El Jefe’ (the chief), AKA ‘El Chivo’ (the goat), AKA ‘Chapita’ (bottle top).

Country: Dominican Republic.

Kill tally: Around 20,000 Haitians killed in 1937. (Estimates of the number of Haitians killed vary from several hundred to 30,000.) An unknown number of Dominican dissidents and opposition figures killed during his 31-year reign.

Background: The Dominican Republic (República Dominicana) is established in February 1844. The Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Haiti occupies the western third.

Despite initial optimism a tradition of dictatorial “strong-man” (or “caudillo”) rule comes to be entrenched in the Republic, reaching its zenith 100 years later during the rule of Rafael Trujillo.

At the same time, longstanding tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti will assume a growing racial component as the fairer-skinned Dominicans come to feel threatened by and at the same time superior to their darker-skinned neighbours.

At the start of the 20th Century the United States begins to take a greater role in Dominican affairs, culminating in a US occupation that begins in May 1916 and continues to July 1924, when Horacio Vásquez Lajara is inaugurated as president and control of the country returns to the Dominican parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kim Il Sung

Posted by eGZact on October 29, 2007

AKA ‘Great Leader’, AKA ‘Eternal Leader’, AKA ‘Suryong’ (Supreme Leader).

Country: North Korea.

Kill tally: About three million killed in the Korean War. Between 600,000 and one million North Koreans needlessly starved to death due to the economic legacy of Kim’s regime. (Some reports claim that as many as three million starved.)

Background: From an early date Korean political culture is characterised by isolationism and a strong desire to maintain the country’s independence. China, though treated with deference, is kept at arm’s length and relations with other neighbours are discouraged. Among Westerners Korea comes to be known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’.

Nevertheless, the country is unable to stop encroachment by neighbours. Korea is made a Japanese protectorate in 1905 and is turned into a full colony of the growing Japanese Empire in 1910. By the 1940s there are about 700,000 Japanese in Korea, mostly working in government service. While the Japanese policies result in substantial economic growth, Koreans become second-class citizens within their own land.

Mini biography: Born on 15 April 1912 in Mangyongdae in the Pyongyang Province of northern Korea into what was probably a middle-class family. His birth name is Kim Song Ju. He is the eldest of three sons. Kim’s younger brother dies early. His youngest brother will serve with him until the mid-1970s. Kim’s father is a Christian and Kim attends church throughout his teens.

1919 – On 1 March a group of 33 intellectuals call for independence from Japan, sparking nationwide mass protests that continue for months despite harsh repression by the Japanese (the so-called ‘March 1st Movement’). The movement fails to win independence for Korea but does cause the Japanese to reform their administration. Read the rest of this entry »

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Slobodan Milosevic

Posted by eGZact on October 29, 2007

AKA ‘Butcher of the Balkans’.

Country: Serbia.

Kill tally: Up to 230,000 killed and three million displaced.

Background: The southern Slavic states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia begin to merge as a single nation following the First World War. But the legacy of a 400-year occupation by the Islamic Ottoman Empire and traditional tension between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians frustrate attempts for unity. Following the Second World War, Yugoslav communists led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito take control of the government, declaring the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia on 29 November 1945.

The veneer of Yugoslav stability begins to crumble when Tito dies on 4 May 1980. The prosperous northern states of Croatia and Slovenia start to agitate for autonomy. Macedonia and the Muslim majorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo repeat the call. Serbia has political power under the federation and does not want change. The poorer southern state of Montenegro supports the centralised federation and backs Serbia. More background.

Mini biography: Born on 20 August 1941 in Pozarevac, 60 km southeast of Belgrade, in Serbia, Yugoslavia. He is the second son of a former Orthodox priest from Montenegro and a Serbian communist schoolmistress. Both parents commit suicide, his father in 1962, 15 years after abandoning the family to return to Montenegro, and his mother in 1973. An uncle, his mother’s brother, also takes his own life.

While attending high school in Pozarevac Milosevic meets his future wife, Mirjana Markovic. A doctrinaire Marxist who comes to be known as the ‘Red Witch’ and the ‘Lady Macbeth of the Balkans’, Markovic has family connections to the upper echelons of the Tito government. She will be a driving force behind her husband. The couple marry in 1965. They will have two children, Marija and Marko. Read the rest of this entry »

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Francisco Franco Bahamonde

Posted by eGZact on October 29, 2007

AKA ‘El Caudillo’ (The Leader).

Country: Spain.

Kill tally: Tens to hundreds of thousands. One source says 500,000 killed in the Spanish Civil War, another claims two million executed alone. More sober estimates for executions put the figure at 35,000 killed either summarily or after a hasty court martial. According to military historian Antony Beevor, the figure for non-combatants and surrendered troops killed by Franco’s Nationalists during the war “must exceed 100,000 and may be closer to 200,000.”

Background: Spain becomes a republic in 14 April 1931 when King so XIII abdicates and goes into exile. However, the country is unable to maintain any political stability. A provisional administration is replaced first by a republican left government in October 1931 then a conservative government in November 1933 and finally by the Popular Front, a coalition of socialists and left republicans, in February 1936. Spanish conservatives become concerned that the Popular Front will turn the country into a communist state. The right-wing National Bloc openly appeals to the military to save Spain. The military acts in July 1936, sparking the Spanish Civil War.

Mini biography: Born on 4 December 1892 in El Ferrol in Galicia, northwestern Spain. His full name is Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco y Bahamonde. Franco’s father is a paymaster in the Spanish naval administrative corps. His mother is a pious and conservative upper middle-class Roman Catholic.

1907 – At the age of 14 Franco enters the Infantry Academy at Toledo, graduating three years later and receiving his first commission as second lieutenant. Read the rest of this entry »

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Adolf Hitler

Posted by eGZact on October 28, 2007

AKA ‘Der Führer’ (The Leader).

Country: Germany.

Kill tally: Directly responsible for the deaths of over 46 million Europeans as a result of the Second World War.

Background: Following the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles penalises the defeated Germany, annexing land, imposing large war reparations, limiting the size of the German Army and blaming Germany and Austria-Hungary for starting the conflict. The new German Government, a coalition of left-leaning and centrist parties, attempts to rebuild the country but faces opposition from the right and extreme left. The instability is exacerbated by the failure of the domestic and global economies.

Mini biography: Born on 20 April 1889 in Braunau am Inn, Austria, into a lower middle-class family of peasant origins. His father, a customs official, is 23 years older than his mother, a domestic servant.

Hitler is dominated by his father and spoilt by his mother. His father dies in 1903, his mother in 1907. He has one half-brother, one half-sister, and one full-sister. In his youth, Hitler dreams of becoming an artist.

1903 – Following his father’s death, Hitler leaves school.

1907 – He goes to Vienna, the capital of Austria, where he attempts to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. However, he has only limited talent and is unable to gain admission to the Academy of Fine Arts, failing the entrance examination twice. In 1908, following the death of his mother, he moves to Vienna to live. Read the rest of this entry »

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Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic

Posted by eGZact on October 28, 2007

Country: Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Kill tally: Up to 200,000.

Background: The southern Slavic states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia begin to merge as a single nation following the First World War. But the legacy of a 400-year occupation by the Islamic Ottoman Empire and traditional tension between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians frustrate attempts for unity. Following the Second World War, Yugoslav communists led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito take control of the government, declaring the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia on 29 November 1945.

The veneer of Yugoslav stability begins to crumble when Tito dies on 4 May 1980. The prosperous northern states of Croatia and Slovenia start to agitate for autonomy. Macedonia and the Muslim majorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo repeat the call. Serbia has political power under the federation and does not want change. The poorer southern state of Montenegro supports the centralised federation and backs Serbia.

Mini biography: Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic.

Radovan Karadzic: Born on 19 June 1945 in Petnijca, a village near Savnik in the mountains of Montenegro. In 1960 he moves to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, where he studies medicine at the University of Sarajevo, graduating as a physician and psychiatrist. He also publishes poetry and books for children. In 1985 he is sentenced to three years imprisonment for embezzlement and fraud but never serves his time.

Ratko Mladic: Born on 12 March 1943 in the municipality of Kalinovik in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He pursues a military career in the Yugoslav People’s Army, rising to a command post. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saddam Hussein

Posted by eGZact on October 27, 2007

Full name Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti. AKA ‘Great Uncle’, AKA ‘Lion of Babylon’, AKA ‘Lion of Iraq’, AKA ‘Beast of Baghdad’. Saddam translates to ‘One Who Confronts’.

Country: Iraq.

Kill tally: Approaching two million, including between 150,000 and 340,000 Iraqi and between 450,000 and 730,000 Iranian combatants killed during the Iran-Iraq War. An estimated 1,000 Kuwaiti nationals killed following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. No conclusive figures for the number of Iraqis killed during the Gulf War, with estimates varying from as few as 1,500 to as many as 200,000. Over 100,000 Kurds killed or “disappeared”. No reliable figures for the number of Iraqi dissidents and Shia Muslims killed during Hussein’s reign, though estimates put the figure between 60,000 and 150,000. (Mass graves discovered following the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 suggest that the total combined figure for Kurds, Shias and dissidents killed could be as high as 300,000). Approximately 500,000 Iraqi children dead because of international trade sanctions introduced following the Gulf War.

Background: Following the First World War, Iraq is placed under British mandate. Iraqi nationalists, who believed their support for the British during the war would be rewarded with independence, rebel. Complete independence is finally granted in October 1932. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu

Posted by eGZact on October 27, 2007

AKA ‘Genius of the Carpathians’.

Country: Romania.

Kill tally: An estimated 5,000 killed during the 1989 revolution that ousted Ceausescu. Possibly thousands of deaths per year during the 1980s from deprivations caused by an unnecessary austerity program. Tens of thousands more lives ruined during Ceausescu’s reign.

Background: Romania achieves independence in 1878, becoming a constitutional monarchy. The Romanian Communist Party is banned in 1924 because of its ties with the Soviet Union but continues to operate underground. The country is occupied by the Germans during the Second World War and falls behind the Soviet Union’s ‘Iron Curtain’ at war’s end. With Soviet backing the Romanian Communist Party takes control of the government. The king is forced to abdicate. On 13 April 1948 the government proclaims the Romanian People’s Republic and adopts a Stalinist constitution.

Mini biography: Born on 26 January 1918 in the village of Scornicesti, 130 km west of Bucharest in southern Romania. His father is a peasant. When he is 11 Ceausescu moves to Bucharest, the nation’s capital, to work as a shoemaker’s apprentice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mao Tse-Tung

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

AKA Chairman Mao, AKA ‘The Great Helmsman’. (Tse-Tung can also be spelt Zedong. Translated the name means ‘To Shine on the East’.)

Country: China.

Kill tally: 14 to 20 million deaths from starvation during the ‘Great Leap Forward’. Tens of thousands killed and millions of lives ruined during the ‘Cultural Revolution’.

Background: The Chinese begin to emerge as a distinct civilisation around 2500 BC. China develops as an imperial power in 221 BC when rival states are unified under the First Emperor. The following 2,000 years will see a succession of dynasties, although strict cultural traditions will gradually suffocate innovation and development. The increased influence of Western powers during the 19th Century and expansionary incursions by the Russians and Japanese further weakens the imperial system, which is also faced with growing internal dissent.

The republican revolution begins among discontented army units in Wuchang in Hubei Province on 10 October 1911 and quickly spreads. By late November 15 of country’s the 24 provinces have declared their independence. On 12 February 1912 the last Manchu emperor, the child Puyi, abdicates. On 10 March Yuan Shikai, the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army, is sworn in as provisional president of the Republic of China at a ceremony held in Beijing.

Mini biography: Born on 26 December 1893 in the village of Shaoshan in Hunan Province, in China’s south. His family are prosperous peasant farmers. He has two younger brothers and one sister.

Mao lives with his mother’s family in a neighbouring village until he is eight. He then returns to Shaoshan to begin his education. When he is 10 he runs away from school. Following his expulsion from at least three other schools, his father refuses to continue to pay for his education. Read the rest of this entry »

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Benito Mussolini

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

AKA ‘Il Duce’ (The Leader).

Country: Italy.

Kill tally: Over 400,000 Italians killed during the Second World War. At least 30,000 Ethiopians killed during Italian occupation of Ethiopia.

Background: The factious Italian confederation emerges from the First World War on the side of the victorious Allies and with its eastern African colonies in Eritrea and Somalia in tact. But serious economic problems plague the state. Inflation escalates and unemployment climbs. The political climate is also destabilised as left and right groups from around the country resume their struggle for influence.

Mini biography: Born on 29 July 1883 near Predappio in the Forli Province of Romagna, in northeastern Italy, into a working class family. His father is a blacksmith, his mother a school teacher.

1901 – After a difficult childhood during which he is twice expelled from schools for attacking fellow students but easily passes his exams, Mussolini obtains a teaching diploma and works for a year as a schoolteacher at Gaultieri, northeast of Parma, until he is dismissed.

1902 – By now a committed socialist, he emigrates to Switzerland, where he gains a reputation as a journalist, public speaker and political agitator. He is arrested and imprisoned several times. Read the rest of this entry »

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Picasso: Protean and Prodigious, the Greatest Single Force in 70 Years of Art

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

There was Picasso the neoclassicist; Picasso the cubist; Picasso the surrealist; Picasso the modernist; Picasso the ceramist; Picasso the lithographer; Picasso the sculptor; Picasso the superb draftsman; Picasso the effervescent and exuberant; Picasso the saturnine and surly; Picasso the faithful and faithless lover; Picasso the cunning financial man; Picasso the publicity seeker; Picasso the smoldering Spaniard; Picasso the joker and performer of charades; Picasso the generous; Picasso the Scrooge; even Picasso the playwright.

A genius for the ages, a man who played wonderful yet sometimes outrageous changes with art, Pablo Picasso remains without doubt the most original, the most protean and the most forceful personality in the visual arts in the first three-quarters of this century. He took a prodigious gift and with it transformed the universe of art.

Henri Matisse and Georges Braque, two painters with assured stature in modern art and both his close friends, were also original; but both developed a style and stuck pretty much to it, whereas Picasso, with a feverish creativity and lavish talent lasting into old age, was a man of many styles whose artistic life revealed a continuous process of exploration. He created his own universe, investing it with his own human beings and his own forms of beasts and myths.

“For me, a picture is neither an end nor an achievement but rather a lucky chance and art experience,” he once explained. “I try to represent what I have found, not what I am seeking. I do not seek–I find.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Mao Tse-Tung: Father of Chinese Revolution

Posted by eGZact on October 25, 2007


HONG KONG, Sept. 9, 1976–Mao Tse-tung, who began as an obscure peasant, died one of history’s great revolutionary figures.

Born at a time when China was wracked by civil strife, beset with terrible poverty and encroached on by more advanced foreign powers, he lived to fulfill his boyhood dream of restoring it to its traditional place as a great nation. In Chinese terms, he ranked with Chin Shih-huang, the first Emperor, who unified China in 221 B.C., and was the man Chairman Mao most liked to compare himself to.

With incredible perseverance and consummately conceived strategy, he harnessed the forces of agrarian discontent and nationalism to turn a tiny band of peasants into an army of millions, which he led to victory throughout China in 1949 after 20 years of fighting. Along the way the army fought battles as big as Stalingrad and suffered through a heroic march as long as Alexander’s.

Then, after establishing the Chinese People’s Republic, Mao launched a series of sweeping, sometimes convulsive campaigns to transform a semifeudal, largely illiterate and predominantly agricultural country encompassing almost four million square miles and a fifth of the world’s population into a modern, industrialized socialist state. By the time of his death China had manufactured its own nuclear bombs and guided missiles and had become a major oil producer.

With China’s resurgence, Mao also charted a new course in foreign affairs, putting an end to a century of humiliation under the “unequal treaties” imposed by the West and winning new recognition and respect. Finally, in 1972, even the United States abandoned its 20 years of implacable hostility when President Richard M. Nixon journeyed to Peking, where he was received by a smiling Mao.

At the same time he brooked no opposition to his control. To consolidate his new regime in the early 50’s he launched a campaign in which hundreds of thousands were executed. In the late 50’s, despite criticism from other party leaders, he ordered the Great Leap Forward, ultimately causing widespread disruption and food shortages. Throughout his years in power he toppled one of his rivals after another in the party. In the Cultural Revolution he risked throwing the country into chaos. Read the rest of this entry »

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Joseph Stalin

Posted by eGZact on October 25, 2007

AKA ‘Koba’, AKA ‘Uncle Joe’. Stalin translates to ‘Man of Steel’.

Country: Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR – Soviet Union).

Kill tally: Approximately 20 million, including up to 14.5 million needlessly starved to death. At least one million executed for political “offences”. At least 9.5 million more deported, exiled or imprisoned in work camps, with many of the estimated five million sent to the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ never returning alive. Other estimates place the number of deported at 28 million, including 18 million sent to the ‘Gulag’.

Background: The vast Russian Empire is thrown into turmoil in March 1917 after Tsar Nicholas II abdicates and the Imperial Government is replaced by a Provisional Government led by moderate socialist Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky.

The Bolsheviks, a network of communists headed by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and inspired by the writings of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, are opposed to the Provisional Government’s plan to establish a bourgeois democracy in Russia. They seize government in a coup d’état staged on 6 November, the so-called ‘Bolshevik Revolution’. (By the old Julian calendar the coup took place on 24 October and is therefore also known as the ‘October Revolution’.)

Civil war follows as the anticommunist ‘White Army’ battles the communist ‘Red Army’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Study Suggests Biological Basis for Lesbianism

Posted by eGZact on October 25, 2007

Scientists reported the first strong physiological evidence that lesbian and bisexual women may be biologically different from heterosexual women.

The researchers at the University of Texas in Austin found that, compared with heterosexual women, the hearing of homosexual and bisexual women tends to be a bit more like that of men.

The findings suggest that homosexual and bisexual women develop in subtly different ways than heterosexual women. Therefore, their brains may also form differently, accounting for their sexuality, the researchers said.

“It’s an indication that other brain sites have also been masculinized,” said Dennis McFadden, a professor of experimental psychology who led the study in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is the latest to come from the controversial investigation into whether homosexuality has a biological basis. Previous research has found, for example, that a part of the brain believed involved in sexuality appears smaller in homosexual men than in heterosexual men. But no such findings have been reported about homosexual or bisexual women. Read the rest of this entry »

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Passion, bitterness and feminism

Posted by eGZact on October 19, 2007

‘What did you do in the revolution, Mum?’ ran the line on a 1970s poster, and the answer, ‘Oh, I danced’, nicely illustrates a mood in the Women’s Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and ’70s. In fact, joy was still swirling on the dance floors of feminism in the early 1980s and even then revolution figured in dreams. But from the mid-’70s, the Women’s Liberation Movement was also increasingly fraught with fragmentation and internal strife. Joy’s partner was often anger. Early feminists were frequently fuelled by fury. We were righteously and passionately angry about the myriad myths of women’s so-called inferiority. We shouted from the rooftops that women were oppressed and exploited throughout the world, and it was male power that benefited from the status quo. We scared ourselves with the realisation of how much needed to be changed — in society and in ourselves.


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The Satanic Verses and the Demonic Text

Posted by eGZact on October 18, 2007

Have you thought upon Lat and Uzza

And Manat, the third, the other?

Shall He have daughters and you sons?

That would be a fine division!

These are but [three] names you have dreamed of, you and your fathers.

Allah vests no authority in them.

They only follow conjecture and wish-fulfillment,

Even though guidance had come to them already from their Lord

The Satanic Verses forces us to face and experience the painful problems hidden at the limits of our individual and collective identities, as demonic elements have done in various cultures from time immemorial.

Read full article here: The Satanic Verses and the Demonic Text

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The Nature of Dominance

Posted by eGZact on October 13, 2007

Dominance is a state of mind, like honor it is a gift one gives oneself. It is a particular way of viewing the world. To begin with it is a matter of accepting responsibility not only for your own actions but also anyone under your discipline as submissives. In the not to distant past this responsibility was expressed in the Code Duello, in which a gentleman was held responsible for not only the honor of his behavior but also for the behavior of his household. This responsibility is the source from which all Dominants, from the Old Guard to today, receive their right to dominate. Until a Dominant understands this basic principle he or she is, to my mind, not worthy of the submission of anyone. This is a very dogmatic stand, I understand, but one need not spend a lot of time in the scene to see how important this concept is.

So, how does one live with this lofty ideal? To begin with a Dom must live up to his own standards. As anyone whose life has been touched by the military knows, one cannot expect to discipline anyone until one is disciplined oneself. Sobriety, moderation and rationality are the marks of the successful Dom(me)s I’ve met over the years. While this might seem to be more the code of the vanilla Boy Scout, you have to understand it within the context of what we do. In the scene you can be all kinds of evil things and express all kinds of destructive emotions, but underneath it all you have to understand that underneath it all there is a human being who has placed their well being under your care and trusts that you will be careful of it. This trust is the wellspring of his or her submission and to violate it, by destructive, inconsistent behavior is to risk losing that trust, which will lead, inevitably, to the loss of the sub, if not worse. How can you take responsibility for his or he behavior if your own behavior is erratic and careless? How can he or she prop his or her accountability against a wall with is rotten? The wall is your control, which must be consistent and unbending. You must view the relationship, within the parameters you have set between or among yourselves, rather like the training of a child or perhaps even more cogently, an animal. The sub has placed his or her humanity at your disposal, his or her responsibility as a person, so that you can return them to the animalistic state from which subspace arises. You must make sure that no mistreatment is a part of that experience, the wall must hold firm. Now, what do you, the Dominant, get out of the experience? To begin with, there is the obedience. This sounds so simple, but for all but the most exceptional contemporary woman this is extremely difficult, particularly for women. She has been taught to break the molds of the old society, which set up an antique model of womanhood, and, finding that she wants, however temporarily, to be placed back in that mold, is something of a shock. Many women who love the physical sensations of what we do have trouble realizing that obedience is the first requirement (at least for most Dom(me)s) for anyone I’m going to play with, for safety reasons if nothing else. If your partner is having trouble understanding this I would suggest that you view this as your first assignment in training. It is rather similar to gentling a horse. Take it slowly, expect and make sure not to reinforce resistance and never let the subject divert from your goal, to get her to obey. (Ancillary to this you have to make sure you do not ask unreasonable things. Expecting someone to declares herself submissive to suck your cock on the first date certainly falls into this category.)Submission is the yin to the Dominant’s yang. It is the passive compliment to dominance and the fulfilling principle that propels the Dominance. They cannot exist without each other but their natures are not opposites. The nature of submission does not remove this responsibility; one does not become a victim. One becomes a receiver, both the sexual instrument and the audience that experiences the concert. For this reason a submissive is expected to obey, to follow the lead of the Dominant partner. Submissiveness is about giving up one’s control, one’s personhood for the time being in order to receive the reward of subspace.

Just as one must think of training a submissive rather like training an intelligent animal so one must think of oneself as a submissive as someone who seeks to return to the animal part of humanity. Not everyone’s fantasy of submission is about being turned into an animal, it is a rather specialized branch of S/m, but everyone who submits in the end wants to lose one’s control, to become an animal which only feels, doesn’t think or manipulate, just feels. It is the loss of control that is the great attraction of submission. The classic and very true cliché of the high-powered man who goes home to become a little boy is the prime example of this. I suspect that the greater empowerment of women is part of what has brought more female masochists into the scene. They make decisions all day so they like nothing better than to come home and have all the decisions taken away from them. It is the eternal paradox of S/m that some of our strongest, most powerful people are the ones who submit.

This loss of control, however, goes deeper than domestic responsibilities. Describing the submissive experience within the scene of erotic torture is very difficult. One must begin in the right frame of mind, submissive, pliant, ready to accept anything, no matter how unpleasant. You must set yourself that you will not call your safe word, no matter how unpleasant what you are feeling. Then you have to let go of your intellect, let your mind feel all those sensations and the results are climaxes that take you beyond the mundane world of sight, sound and feeling and into the nether realm of pure sensation where no culture, no society, no words stand between you and the universe. This is the understanding that is the nature of submission. This is the paradox of S/m. While the submissive receives all the sensation, the Dominant does all the work. He or she receives that sense of power that comes from being able to control. He or she receives the homage due all that work, but in the end it is the submissive who gets to touch heaven.



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Defining Bullshit

Posted by eGZact on October 10, 2007

A philosophy professor says it’s a process, not a product.

“We live in an era of unprecedented bullshit production,” observes Laura Penny, author of the forthcoming (and wittily titled) Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit. But what is bullshit, exactly? By which I mean: What are its defining characteristics? What is its Platonic essence? How does bullshit differ from such precursors as humbug, poppycock, tommyrot, hooey, twaddle, balderdash, claptrap, palaver, hogwash, buncombe (or “bunk”), hokum, drivel, flapdoodle, bullpucky, and all the other pejoratives favored by H.L. Mencken and his many imitators? The scholar who answers the question, “What is bullshit?” bids boldly to define the spirit of the present age. 

Enter Harry G. Frankfurt. In the fall 1986 issue of Raritan, Frankfurt, a retired professor of philosophy at Princeton, took a whack at it in an essay titled “On Bullshit.” Frankfurt reprinted the essay two years later in his book The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Last month he republished it a second time as a very small book. Frankfurt’s conclusion, which I caught up with in its latest repackaging, is that bullshit is defined not so much by the end product as by the process by which it is created.

Eureka! Frankfurt’s definition is one of those not-at-all-obvious insights that become blindingly obvious the moment they are expressed. Although Frankfurt doesn’t point this out, it immediately occurred to me upon closing his book that the word “bullshit” is both noun and verb, and that this duality distinguishes bullshit not only from the aforementioned Menckenesque antecedents, but also from its contemporary near-relative, horseshit. It is possible to bullshit somebody, but it is not possible to poppycock, or to twaddle, or to horseshit anyone. When we speak of bullshit, then, we speak, implicitly, of the action that brought the bullshit into being: Somebody bullshitted. In this respect the word “bullshit” is identical to the word “lie,” for when we speak of a lie we speak, implicitly, of the action that brought the lie into being: Somebody lied. 

By Timothy Noah

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Dawn of a thirsty century

Posted by eGZact on October 9, 2007

The amount of water in the world is limited. The human race, and the other species which share the planet, cannot expect an infinite supply.

Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, admittedly. But most is too salty for use. Only 2.5% of the world’s water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers. Of what is left, about 20% is in remote areas, and much of the rest arrives at the wrong time and place, as monsoons and floods. Humans have available less than 0.08% of all the Earth’s water. Yet over the next two decades our use is estimated to increase by about 40%.

Water shortages set to grow
In 1999 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that 200 scientists in 50 countries had identified water shortage as one of the two most worrying problems for the new millennium (the other was global warming). We use about 70% of the water we have in agriculture.

But the World Water Council believes that by 2020 we shall need 17% more water than is available if we are to feed the world. So if we go on as we are, millions more will go to bed hungry and thirsty each night than do so already.

Today, one person in five across the world has no access to safe drinking water, and one in two lacks safe sanitation. Today, and every day, more than 30,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthdays, killed either by hunger or by easily-preventable diseases. And adequate safe water is key to good health and a proper diet. In China, for example, it takes 1,000 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of wheat.

Inefficiency behind water crisis
There are several reasons for the water crisis. One is the simple rise in population, and the desire for better living standards. In China it takes 1,000 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of wheat.
Another is the inefficiency of the way we use much of our water. Irrigation allows wastage on a prodigal scale, with the water trickling away or simply evaporating before it can do any good. And pollution is making more of the water that is available to us unfit for use. The Aral Sea in central Asia is one of the starkest examples of what pollution can do, to the land as well as the water.Increasingly, governments are seeking to solve their water problems by turning away from reliance on rainfall and surface water, and using subterranean supplies of groundwater instead. But that is like making constant withdrawals from a bank account without ever paying anything into it.

Looking for solutions
And using up irreplaceable groundwater does not simply mean the depletion of a once-and-for-all resource. Rivers, wetlands and lakes that depend on it can dry out. Saline seawater can flow in to replace the fresh water that has been pumped out.
Pumping groundwater is like making constant withdrawals from a bank account without ever paying anything into it. And the emptied underground aquifers can be compressed, causing surface subsidence – a problem familiar in Bangkok, Mexico City and Venice.

There are some ways to begin to tackle the problem. Irrigation systems which drip water directly onto plants are one, precision sprinklers another.There will be scope to plant less water-intensive crops, and perhaps desalination may play a part – though it is energy-hungry and leaves quantities of brine for disposal.
Climate change will probably bring more rain to some regions and less to others, and its overall impact remains uncertain.

But if we are to get through the water crisis, we should heed the UNEP report’s reminder that we have only one interdependent planet to share.
It said: “The environment remains largely outside the mainstream of everyday human consciousness, and is still considered an add-on to the fabric of life.”

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
Story from BBC NEWS:


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“The gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords.”

Posted by eGZact on September 26, 2007



The Mind of an Islamic Terrorist

The mind of an Islamic terrorist is difficult for a Western person to comprehend. What could lead a person to cause his or her own violent death is a question that is frequently raised. It is contrary to every human emotion that we have. Yet, we know there are hundreds of Islamic fundamentalists who are willing to kill and be killed for Allah.

An important reason is the promise that the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords. During Muhammad’s life, like today, there were many individuals who eagerly anticipated killing and dying in the Cause of Allah. The following is an account from the ancient classic Islamic text by Imam Muslim. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unmasking “An Inconvenient Truth”

Posted by eGZact on September 11, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth puts Al Gore at the vanguard of a growing worldwide movement that claims there is a planetary emergency from global warming. It is claimed that the looming Armageddon is of our own doing because of the burning of fossil fuels that are causing a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The more developed a country’s economy then the more it is to blame, and the more it behoves that country to change its profligate ways. An Inconvenient Truth is a call to arms for government and community action to fight a perceived emergency.

The planetary emergency is presented as a logical extension of recent climate change.

Dramatic photos of glacier retreat and other graphics conjure up an image that the earth is changing as it has never changed before. It is claimed that the impacts of climate change are already being felt in biosphere responses that are leading to species loss, disease explosion and landscape destruction.

Much of Al Gore’s evidence for his claims lacks credibility when examined without the emotive baggage of impending disaster, blame and simplistic political solutions.

Continue reading on:

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Oded Balilty wins Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography

Posted by eGZact on September 10, 2007

Associated Press – April 16, 2007

NEW YORK — Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty has won The Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for his picture of a lone Jewish woman defying Israeli security forces in the West Bank.
It’s the 49th Pulitzer for the world’s oldest and largest news cooperative and the 30th awarded for AP photos.Balilty’s photo shows a Jewish settler struggling with an Israeli security officer during clashes that erupted as authorities evacuated the West Bank settlement outpost of Amona, east of the Palestinian town of Ramallah, on Feb. 1, 2006.

Thousands of troops in riot gear and on horseback clashed with hundreds of tone-throwing Jewish settlers holed up behind barbed wire and on rooftops in this illegal West Bank settlement outpost that Wednesday, after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the demolition of nine homes at the site.”It is a stunning single image that captures the chaos and emotion of that evacuation,” said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. She also cited the work of an 11-photographer AP team, including Balilty, that was a Pulitzer finalist in the same category for their work covering the conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah.AP President and CEO Tom Curley praised both the Pulitzer Prize winner and the AP finalist team, which included Balilty, Kevork Djansezian of Los Angeles, Matt Dunham of London, Sebastian Scheiner of Israel, Kevin Frayer of Jerusalem, Mohammed Zaatari of Lebanon, Hussein Malla of Beirut, Lefteris Pitarakis of London, Pier Paolo Cito of Rome, Baz Ratner of Israel and David Guttenfelder of Tokyo.”Their success in the breaking-news photo category enhances the truly spectacular and enduring contribution made by AP photo journalists over decades,” Curley said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Literature Held Hostage

Posted by eGZact on August 27, 2007

The Holy War Against Salman Rushdie Turns 10. By Gregory McNamee

FEBRUARY 8, 1999:  IN THE FALL of 1988, the Anglo-Indian writer Salman Rushdie published what was then his fourth novel, a fantastic, sprawling allegory of the lives of immigrant Muslims in England. Like Rushdie’s earlier novels, The Satanic Verses combined literary seriousness with whimsical slapstick to criticize life in the so-called First World. The book was issued to a handful of critical notices, seemingly condemned to the quiet fate that most books that aspire to be seen as literature enjoy today.
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