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Into Middle America but Staying on the Fringe

Matt Gross

From the NY Times

DRIVING the back roads, you sometimes cross state borders unknowingly. Without the enormous “Welcome to ...!” signs you see on the Interstates, all you have to identify your new surroundings are subtle clues in the landscape — knobbier pine trees, say, or highways named for local heroes.

Wisconsin, however, announced itself with no such subtlety. After a weekend in Chicago, I’d driven west across Illinois, finally turning north amid the big estates near Forreston. Once I was over the state line, hills swelled up from the prairie, the sweet smell of manure wafted from dairy farms, and advertisements urged me to indulge in Cheddar cheese and frozen custard, bratwurst and ButterBurgers.

By the time I drove through New Glarus — a surreal town modeled on a Swiss village complete with chalet-style buildings and street signs in German — I knew I hadn’t simply entered a new state, but a new state of mind.

As culturally distinct as Wisconsin is, I was heading for a place that sat at yet another remove from mainstream America: Dreamtime Village, an intentional community of artists situated in the driftless hills of southwest Wisconsin (so called because they escaped the rough, cold touch of ice age glaciers).

Once known as communes, until the word became overly associated with hippies and other cultural relics of the 1960s and ’70s, intentional communities have a long history in this country, going back to the Shakers and even, I suppose, the Pilgrims. I’d long wanted to visit one, to see how utopian ideals were surviving in the more cynical America of today, and so I logged on to www.ic.org and searched for intentional communities in Wisconsin and Iowa. At first, I found what I had expected: devout Christians, pagan farmers and a polyamorous “family” (my wife, Jean, vetoed that one). Almost all, however, wanted serious members, not casual visitors like me.

"Unlikely Bedfellows" [Editor's Note: Oh Yeah?]

Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and higher education as a whole
have enjoyed a decidedly un-cozy relationship since the Vietnam War –
a fact that many in academe have found to be just fine with them,

But if the FBI and higher education still aren't the best of friends,
they appear to be interacting a lot more. Reports this week about a
nationwide FBI outreach program in which agents set up meetings with
college leaders to discuss strategies for safeguarding academic
research from unfriendly foreign interests have fueled growing
concerns that the two entities are cozying up in uncomfortable ways
these days in the name of national security.

And yet the reports have also raised awareness of the agency's
potential value as a resource as colleges confront the vulnerability
inherent in an open system producing reams of research on topics
intimately tied to America's economic and physical security.

"US Air Force Looked at Spray To Turn Enemy Gay"

Dan Glaister, London Guardian

"Make love not war" may be the enduring slogan of anti-war campaigners but
in 1994 the US air force produced its own variation on the philosophy.

What if it could release a chemical that would make an opposing army's
soldiers think more about the physical attributes of their comrades in
arms than the threat posed by the enemy? And thus the "gay bomb" was

Far from being the product of conspiracy theorists, documents
released to a biological weapons watchdog in Austin, Texas confirm that
the US military did investigate the idea. It was included in a CD-Rom
produced by the US military in 2000 and submitted to the National
Academy of Sciences in 2002. The documents show that $7.5m was requested
to develop the weapon.

The documents released to the Sunshine Project under a freedom of
information request titled "Harassing, Annoying and Bad Guy Identifying
Chemicals" includes several proposals for the military use of chemicals
that could be sprayed on to enemy positions. "One distasteful but
non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the
chemical also caused homosexual behaviour," says the proposal from the
Air Force's Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

The Pentagon did not deny that the proposal had been made: "The
department of defence is committed to identifying, researching and
developing non-lethal weapons that will support our men and women in

Aaron Belkin, director of the University of California's Michael Palm
Centre, which studies the issue of gays in the military, said: "The idea
that you could submit someone to some aerosol spray and change their
sexual behaviour is ludicrous."

"Karl Marx Is Back, Punting on Chinese Stocks"

William Pesek, Bloomberg

Karl Marx is back in China, and the philosopher is arguably bigger than ever.

Yes, yes, Asia's No. 2 economy is barreling ahead on the free-market highway. Beijing has even gotten hip to the private-equity craze, buying a $3 billion stake in Blackstone Group LP. Now that, as Milton Friedman might say, is capitalism.

It's interesting, then, that China's markets in some respects are looking more like the kinds envisioned by Marx than by laissez-faire champion Friedman.

Richard Rorty, Philosopher, Dies at 75

Patricia Cohen, New York Times

Richard Rorty, whose inventive work on philosophy, politics, literary
theory and more made him one of the world’s most influential
contemporary thinkers, died Friday in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 75.

The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Mary
Varney Rorty.

Raised in a home where “The Case for Leon Trotsky” was viewed with the
same reverence as the Bible might be elsewhere, Mr. Rorty pondered the
nature of reality as well as its everyday struggles. “At 12, I knew that
the point of being human was to spend one’s life fighting social
injustice,” he wrote in an autobiographical sketch.

Venezuela's Oldest Private TV Network Played Major Role in Failed
2002 Coup

Bart Jones, Los Angeles Times

BART JONES spent eight years in Venezuela, mainly as a foreign
correspondent for the Associated Press, and is the author of the
forthcoming book Hugo! The Hugo Chavez Story.

May 30, 2007

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez's refusal to renew the license of
Radio Caracas Television might seem to justify fears that Chavez is
crushing free speech and eliminating any voices critical of him.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect
Journalists and members of the European Parliament, the U.S. Senate
and even Chile's Congress have denounced the closure of RCTV,
Venezuela's oldest private television network. Chavez's detractors
got more ammunition Tuesday when the president included another
opposition network, Globovision, among the "enemies of the homeland."

But the case of RCTV — like most things involving Chavez — has been
caught up in a web of misinformation. While one side of the story is
getting headlines around the world, the other is barely heard.

Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran

Brian Ross / Richard Esposito, ABC News

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert
“black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and
former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the
sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a
“nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan
that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda,
disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international
financial transactions.

Dead anarchist becomes cause célèbre in Italy

Peter Kiefer

From the International Herald Tribune

Until this week, Passannante's skull and brain - preserved in formaldehyde -
were on display at a criminology museum in Rome in what ranked as one of
Italy's more macabre showcases. It was a strange punishment in a
museum-loving society for someone who tried to kill the king of Italy 120
years ago.

At the anarchist's death, the head and brain were removed to be studied by
sociologists, an act in keeping with the scientific eugenicist theory made
popular at the time by a criminologist named Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso
believed that criminality was inherited and could be identified by physical

For the last 70 years the brain and skull have been in a neon-light display
case, framed by old anarchist manifestos on the second floor of the
Criminology Museum, just off the Via Giulia.

But this week the skull and brain were to leave the museum in front of
reporters and photographers, for burial with the body, under pressure
brought by an eclectic group of hundreds of petition signers. Instead, on
Thursday, under a cloak of secrecy, the remnants were whisked away and
buried in his hometown in the Basilicata region of southern Italy.

Islamic street preachers

Riazat Butt

From The Guardian

From Boston to Lahore and beyond, the tentacles of taqwacore - aka Islamic punk rock - are spreading. And it's giving disenfranchised young Muslims a voice

There can't be that many female playwrights who are deaf, punk and Muslim, so Sabina England is something of a find. With a lurid Mohawk and leather jacket slathered with slogans, she looks every inch the rebel and has an attitude to match.
Sabina, who says she lives in the "shitty midwest of the United States" or the "HELL-HOLE OF BOREDOM AND YUPPIES", is part of a subculture that, until a few years ago, existed only on paper.

The Taqwacores - a novel about a fictitious Muslim punk scene in the US - has spawned an actual movement that is being driven forward by young Muslims worldwide. Some bands - such as the Kominas - have a cult following. Others, such as Sabina, are virtually unknown. In a brief email exchange, she lays out some harsh truths.

Solve et Coagula writes:

"Who Will Shape the Agenda?"
World Economic Forum (WEF)
Discussion Streams Direct from Davos, Switzerland

Watch the Discussion "Who Will Shape the Agenda?," direct from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

The global economy is in the midst of a historic shift. The integration of economies and markets around the world impacts the work of every significant actor — from government to the media to business. However, managing the balance of power and co-dependencies between the three can in large part define the strength and health of a modern democracy.

How are the responsibilities of government, the media and business leaders shifting?


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