Archive for ‘World’

February 28, 2018

Bal Tashchit

Judaism and environmentalism

Bal tashchit [bahl tosh-keet] (‘do not destroy’) is a basic ethical principle in Jewish law. Deuteronomy 20:19–20 forbids cutting down fruit trees to assist in a siege.

In early rabbinic law however, the principle is understood to include other forms of senseless damage or waste. For instance, the Babylonian Talmud applies the principle to prevent the wasting of lamp oil, the tearing of clothing, the chopping up of furniture for firewood, or the killing of animals. In contemporary Jewish ethics, advocates often point to bal tashchit as an environmental principle.

February 10, 2018

Mafia State

oligarch

The term mafia state is a political buzzword to describe a system of government that is tied to organized crime, such as when government officials, police, and/or military take part in illicit enterprises. The term mafia is a reference to any organized crime groups strongly connected with the authorities.

According to US diplomats, a former officer of the Russian FSB secret service who specialized in organized crime, Alexander Litvinenko, coined the phrase ‘Mafia state.’ Both the Italian mafia and Japanese Yakuza have have, at times, established a close and friendly relationships with their respective governments.  Scholar of Law and Economics Edgardo Buscaglia describes the political system of Mexico as a ‘Mafiacracy.’ Buscaglia characterizes the condition between the state, the economy and organized crime in Mexico as a mutual interweaving.

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September 5, 2017

Pseudo-anglicism

Spanglish

Pseudo-anglicisms [ang-gluh-siz-uhms] are words in languages other than English which were borrowed from English but are used in a way native English speakers would not readily recognize or understand.

Pseudo-anglicisms often take the form of compound words, combining elements of multiple English words to create a new word that appears to be English but is unrecognizable to a native speaker. It is also common for a genuine English word to be used to mean something completely different from its original meaning.

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May 30, 2017

Alcohol Belt

vodka war

The alcohol belts of Europe are regions in Europe which are considered to be divided by association with either beer, wine, or hard liquor.

The alcohol belts refer to the traditional beverages of countries rather than what is most commonly drunk by the populace today, as in terms of drinking habits beer has become the most popular alcoholic drink in the whole world – including various parts of the wine and vodka belts.

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April 24, 2017

Gary Anderson

Recycling symbol

Container Corporation of America

Gary Anderson (b. 1947) is an influential graphic designer and architect. He is most well known as the designer of the ‘recycling symbol,’ one of the most readily recognizable logos in the world. His contribution to modern graphic design has been compared to those of early pioneering modernists such as Herbert Bayer. His design for a symbol to embody the concept of recycling has been compared to iconic trademarks such as those for Coca-Cola and Nike.

It has been called one of America’s ‘most important design icons’ and has helped to encourage global recycling. In some countries, such as the UK, the symbol carries such implicit meaning that it requires government permission to be used. Although the symbol is the most widely known of his accomplishments, Anderson has also made important contributions in the areas of urban planning and urban development.

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February 21, 2017

Vatnik

vatnik

Vatnik (Russian: ‘cotton-padded jacket’), a derivative of and often shortened to ‘vata’ (Russian: ‘batting’), is a derogatory social slang neologisms in Russian and Ukrainian languages, and an internet meme used in reference to individuals with pro-Russian jingoist and chauvinist views. In the original meaning, ‘vatnik’ (also ‘telogreika’) is a cheap cotton-padded jacket.

The meme was created by Anton Chadskiy under the pseudonym ‘Jedem das Seine.’ His associated picture of an anthropomorphic square-shaped quilted jacket similar to the cartoon character ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ was first posted on Russian social network ‘VK’ September 9, 2011. The meme went viral in 2012, but became much more widespread in society after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine started in 2014. Chadskiy, claiming he feared political persecution, left Russia in late 2014.

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February 20, 2017

Troll Army

pepe

The ‘web brigades,’ also known in English media as the ‘troll army,’ are state-sponsored anonymous Internet political commentators and trolls linked to the Russian government.

Participants report that they are organized into teams and groups of commentators that participate in Russian and international political blogs and Internet forums using sockpuppets (fraudulent accounts) and large-scale orchestrated trolling (harassment) and disinformation campaigns to promote pro-Putin and pro-Russian propaganda. It has also been found that Wikipedia articles were targeted by Russian internet propaganda activities.

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January 18, 2017

Mahjong

mahjong tiles

Mahjong is a four player game that originated in China during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Three-player variations of the game can be found in South Korea and Japan. The game and its regional variants are widely played throughout Eastern and South Eastern Asia and have a small following in Western countries.

Similar to the Western card game rummy (though played with small tiles instead of playing cards), Mahjong is a game of skill, strategy, calculation, and luck. It is not known when the conversion from cards to tiles took place precisely but it most likely occurred in the middle of the 19th century. Traditionally, Mahjong tiles were made of bone, often backed with bamboo. Bone tiles are still available but most modern sets are constructed from various plastics such as bakelite, celluloid, and more recently nylon.

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December 20, 2016

Post-truth Politics

fake news

brexit

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of ‘secondary’ importance.

While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the Internet. In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell cast a world in which the state is daily changing historic records to fit its propaganda goals of the day. Orwell is said to have based much of his criticism of this on Soviet Russian practices.

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December 15, 2016

Kompromat

wikileaks

fancy bear

Kompromat is the Russian term for compromising materials about a politician or other public figure. Such materials can be used to create negative publicity, for blackmail, or for ensuring loyalty. Kompromat can be acquired from various security services, or outright forged, and then publicized by paying off a journalist. Widespread use of kompromat has been one of the characteristic features of politics in Russia and other post-Soviet states.

One recent development has been the creation of specialized kompromat websites, most famously compromat.ru, which will, for a fee of several hundred dollars, publish any piece of kompromat on anyone. Such websites are occasionally temporarily blocked by Russian ISPs and their owners harassed by government agencies. The possibility that the email accounts of senior Republican Party leaders have been hacked by Russian intelligence services worries some observers that President Donald Trump and members of his administration will be vulnerable to manipulation by the Russian government.

December 14, 2016

Fancy Bear

spear-phishing

pawn storm

Fancy Bear is a cyber espionage group that cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has linked to the GRU, a Russian military intelligence agency. Likely operating since the mid-2000s, Fancy Bear’s methods are consistent with the capabilities of nation-state actors. The threat group is known to target government, military, and security organizations, especially NATO-aligned and Transcaucasian states (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan).

Fancy Bear is thought to be responsible for cyber attacks on the German parliament, the French television station ‘TV5Monde,’ the White House, NATO, and the Democratic National Committee. It’s behavior has been classified as an ‘advanced persistent threat.’ They employ zero-day (previously unknown) vulnerabilities and use spear phishing (forged websites and emails) and malware to compromise targets.

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December 13, 2016

Whataboutism

And you are lynching Negroes

Whataboutism is a term describing a propaganda technique used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the response would be ‘What about…’ followed by the naming of an event in the Western world.

It represents a case of ‘tu quoque’ (Latin: ‘you also’) or the ‘appeal to hypocrisy,’ a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.

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