Link love: Cell Phone Culture

Cell phone culture
Photo by rorris
Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archives.

Popweekly: Digest for 05.31.10

大屯山 / Taipei

Taiwan’s tech firms are conquering the world–and turning Chinese

Taiwan is the best place in the world to turn ideas into physical form.
Taiwan is now the home of many of the world’s largest makers of computers and associated hardware. Its firms produce more than 50% of all chips, nearly 70% of computer displays and more than 90% of all portable computers. The most successful are no longer huge but little-known contract manufacturers, such as Quanta or Hon Hai, in the news this week because of workers’ suicides. Acer, for example, surpassed Dell last year to become the world’s second-biggest maker of personal computers. HTC, which started out making smart-phones for big Western brands, is now launching prominent products of its own.
Today Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park, the hub of Taiwan’s IT industry, is home to about 400 high-tech companies, chief among them TSMC with its huge “fabs”. Bigger than aeroplane hangars, these can cost more than $10 billion a pop and churn out three billion chips a year. Dozens of “fabless” chip firms, in turn, provide the designs. The most successful is MediaTek, whose chips power most of the mobile phones made in China.

Thai PM lifts curfew, keeps state of emergency

Thailand’s prime minister lifted a nighttime curfew in Bangkok and other areas on Saturday, saying that order has been restored 10 days after a violent confrontation with anti-government protesters killed more than a dozen people and left parts of the capital in flames.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, however, said a state of emergency would remain in force until security officials determined that it was safe to lift it. The emergency decree, imposed more than a month ago, curtails some civil liberties and makes it easier to deploy the military to keep the peace.
Abhisit, who spoke at a press conference for foreign journalists, also said he would not rule out an election before the end of his government’s term late next year, though it would be “difficult” to hold the polls this year.
His aide, Sirichoke Sopha, said the 10-night-old curfew was being lifted in Bangkok and 23 other provinces because there were no more fears of immediate flare-ups from anti-government “Red Shirt” protesters who occupied the heart of Bangkok for weeks in demonstrations that ended May 19 in a military crackdown.

Ignore At Your Peril: “He Fashion” Trend

If there’s one thing that stands out about China’s luxury consumers, it’s their age. According to a recent McKinsey study, 80% of wealthy Chinese shoppers are under 45, and are on average 15-20 years younger than their Japanese or Western counterparts. Earlier this year, Jing Daily pointed out that Hong Kong high-end retailers had begun to more aggressively court mainland China’s so-called “young tycoons,” 30- and 40-something entrepreneurs and executives who have benefited the most from China’s booming economy over the past 10 years.
It’s a sign of the times that contemporary China’s male elite is moving on from single brand worship to developing their own comprehensive style based on individuality. As the representatives of the new generation of Chinese jet-set, their preferences will have a far-reaching impact in many areas.

How the camera has made us all voyeurs

Candid street photography and military aerial reconnaissance may seem to have little in common, but they’re both examples of how the camera has made us more distant from each other and from the world around us, according to Sandra Phillips of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, who is the exhibition’s curator.
Looking at a photograph, we may see another person’s eyes, and their most private moments, without their being able to see us in turn. The person in the photograph may not even know that it exists, while the photographer – looking through an apparatus rather than directly at the other’s face – is in control of this one-way encounter.
Likewise, surveillance technology allows us to view the violence of war, or the potential violence of a political demonstration or a military installation, without putting ourselves in harm’s way. Photography, says Phillips, has made us think of distant watching and impersonality as normal.

AJ Jacobs: My colossal task burden

In one sense, task-juggling makes me feel great: busy, energised, fulfilled, as if I’m living three lives in the space of one. But I also know I’m scattered. I’m overloading my circuits. This overstimulated, underfocused world is driving us all batty. My mother – who complains when I click through my emails while talking to her on the phone (and by talking, I mean I toss out an occasional “uh-huh” or “sounds good”) – recently sent me an article about how multitasking is actually inefficient.
Hence Operation Focus. I’m going to recapture my attention span. I pledge to go cold turkey from multitasking for a month. Only single tasks. Uni-tasking. And, just as important, I’ll stick with each task for more than my average 30 seconds. I’ll be the most focused man in the world.

Link love: Mobile Behavior

I half love Beijing
Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archive

Popweekly: Digest for 05.24.10

Daily life in Kagbeni, Nepal
Daily life in Kagbeni, Nepal. Kagbeni (2810 m) is Tibetan-influenced settelment located in the valley of the Kali Gandaki River. Daily life seems to be a part of the silence and space which surrounds it. The river is older than the Himalayas and is one of the major rivers of Nepal.

Tourist Turbulence

Turbulence resulting from grave waves, wind shear, cloudiness, and engine failure due to volcanic ash are the least of your worries this summer.
A wave of social turbulence threatens vacation perfection, while visits to genocide sites, the European human right to a holiday, and cruises to post-disaster Haiti indicate that vacations and volatility are being packaged together. But what’s the extent of the threat, and where might you get hung for photographing butterflies?
In Bangkok, the government declared part of the capital a live-fire zone to deter protestors. One journalist described the chaos as a “21st century Sarajevo.” Throughout the turmoil the government claimed no civilians were being killed, only “armed terrorists,” but video footage disagrees, and an Italian photojournalist was among the dead as troops stormed the barricades. But this was no Tiananmen.
For now, tourists don’t seem fazed. Around 80 percent of vacationers are expected to maintain bookings, surely more now that the fighting has stopped and protestors are being bussed back to their homes largely in the north of the country. Hotels who feared loss of business blocked access to international news, leaving some guests unaware they were lodging within the live-fire zone. You said you were looking for an adventure. Here’s a bullet.

How a decade of discontent finally blew up in Bangkok

But the unrest that has consumed the popular vacation destination since the first spark of violence on April 10 is less surprising to the Thais themselves. Thailand’s idyllic image has overshadowed serious tensions that have been building for nearly a decade and finally exploded this month. Thailand’s rapid, globalization-driven economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s left out a large portion of the population, primarily those living in the rural north and northeast. By some measures the country actually suffers from worse income inequality than the neighboring Philippines, even though the former is generally thought of as a modernized country and the latter is often viewed as a semi-feudal, Latin American-style economy. But the emerging anger was as much about regional cliquishness as it was about class. Resentment built among Thais who might have been poor, but more importantly felt increasingly alienated from the country’s traditionally powerful institutions: the palace, the army, and the civil service, which tended to favor established networks of people from Bangkok schools, Bangkok companies, and Bangkok army training.

Two-wheel triumph

Armed with a netbook, medical supplies and a bicycle, Bangladesh’s InfoLadies are giving millions of poor people access to crucial information on their doorsteps that will improve their chances in life
Barefooted, some even stark naked, the kids follow her as if she were the Pied Piper of Hamelin. As boisterous cheers announce her arrival the women abandon their chores and elders jostle for attention. The men are on their best behaviour, teeming with a welter of anxious faces.
In the impoverished hinterlands of Gaibandha district in northern Bangladesh, a frail young woman on her bike is having a dramatic effect. And Luich Akhter seems to perpetuate her spell with perfection. In the sweltering post-monsoon heat that transforms the flooded nation into an open-air sauna, the 24-year-old looks immaculate as she negotiates her way through paddy fields, cows and mosquito-breeding ponds on a weekly visit into Panchpeer village.

13-year-old scales Mount Everest

A 13-year-old American has become the youngest climber to reach the top of Mount Everest.
A spokesman for Jordan Romero says the teen’s team called him by satellite phone from the summit of the world’s highest mountain 8,850 metres above sea level.
“Their dreams have now come true. Everyone sounded unbelievably happy,” a new statement on Romero’s blog said Saturday morning.
The teenager with long curly hair — who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa when he was 10 years old — says he was inspired by a painting in his school of the seven continents’ highest summits.

The Death of the Open Web

The app. store is curated data. You pay to rid yourself of the noise so inherent in the browser, in a format that can be highly designed and enjoyable. If you fancy a taste of information noise the browser is just a finger away. The iPhone has forced more to design minimally for the screen.
The Web is a teeming commercial city. It’s haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and signs of urban decay abound in broken links and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies and hucksters roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble seems to dominate major sites.
People who find the Web distasteful — ugly, uncivilized — have nonetheless been forced to live there: it’s the place to go for jobs, resources, services, social life, the future. But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there’s a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web’s opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.

Link love: Mobile Culture

Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archives.

Popweekly: Digest for 05.17.10

Tokyo Narita Airport
Tokyo International Airport

Volcanic ash cloud cancels flights across Britain, again

Flights have been cancelled across large parts of Britain today because of a “rapidly encroaching” volcanic ash cloud that threatens further disruption for travellers ahead of a planned British Airways strike.
Some airlines reacted angrily to today’s move, with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic calling the closure of Manchester airport “beyond a joke”. He accused air traffic chiefs of overreaction and called on the government to intervene to “avoid doing further unnecessary damage to the UK economy and lives of travellers”.
Forecasters and Nats expect a change in wind direction to take the ash spewing from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano away from Britain, although this could change if the intensity of eruptions increases. As things stand, the cloud is expected to lie over London tomorrow before drifting out of UK airspace on Wednesday.

Dispatch From Dubai – Mr. Armani’s Dream Hotel

Five years in the making, repeatedly delayed by financial and then natural disaster, the city’s most hotly anticipated hotel finally opened last week. At the event, the atrium was crowded with well-dressed journalists, camera crews and assorted hand-shakers, along with Armani Hotel staff and representatives of Emaar, the construction consortium responsible for the hotel, the Burj Khalifa and, indeed, the entire $20 billion development in which we all stood.
And it was on the fifth floor that the first hints of disappointment sunk in. The sleek, silvery Burj Khalifa may be the world’s tallest building but its innards are surprisingly cramped. I’m only 5 feet 6 inches tall, but the corridor ceiling felt oppressively low and the walls so close that passing another guest will count in some cultures as an intimate experience.
Adding to the claustrophobia, everything is decked out in dark wood. There are no door handles and the doorbells and room numbers are set flush into the walls. It’s sleek and it’s smooth, but the over-riding impression is more of a walk-in closet than a hotel corridor.

Inside the New Flight Rules

Although airline executives predicted “unintended consequences” and widespread cancellations if planes were required to return to the terminal after sitting on the tarmac for three hours, there have been no reports of this happening in the two weeks after the rule took effect. And tarmac delay problems have declined significantly ever since government officials signaled they would take action after the Rochester incident.
In fact, other provisions in the new rules may ultimately have an even bigger impact on travelers. The Transportation Department is also requiring carriers to better inform passengers about frequently delayed flights before a ticket is purchased, improve processes for dealing with complaints and develop more transparent customer service plans.
Other rules regarding topics like baggage fees and fare advertising are in the works, and the Transportation Department expects to issue a proposal in June soliciting comments on its next round of regulations.

Bangkok: A city divided by protests

Where once there was certainty that the monarch would intervene, there is now concern about the health of the 82-year old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Old lines of authority and allegiance are fracturing. Police have been seen joining the protesters, government ultimatums have been ignored, peace talks have fallen apart. Mainstream red-shirt leaders and some government figures appear united in their wish for a negotiated settlement. But hardliners on each side appear to have gained ascendancy. And a violent, almost paramilitary, edge has come to the streets in recent days – whether aligned to either side is unclear.

American made … Chinese owned

About a mile past the Bountiful Blessings Church on the outskirts of Spartanburg, S.C., make a right turn. There, tucked into an industrial court behind a row of sapling cherry trees not much taller than I am, past a company that makes rubber stamps and another that stitches logos onto caps and bags, is a brand-new factory: the state-of-the-art American Yuncheng Gravure Cylinder plant. Due to open any day now, it will make cylinders used to print labels like the ones around plastic soda bottles. But unlike its neighbors in Spartanburg, Yuncheng is a Chinese company. It has come to South Carolina because by Chinese standards, America is darn cheap.
But for hundreds of Chinese companies like Yuncheng, the U.S. has become a better, less expensive place to set up shop. It could be the biggest role reversal since, well … when Nixon went to China. “The gap between manufacturing costs in the U.S. and China is shrinking,” explains John Ling, a naturalized American from China who runs the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s business recruitment office in Shanghai. Ling recruited Yuncheng to Spartanburg, and others too: Chinese companies have invested $280 million and created more than 1,200 jobs in South Carolina alone.

Link Love: Mobile Culture

Small pieces, loosely joined.

Popweekly: Digest for 05.10.10

A relative browses through a name list of high school students in Beichuan who survived the powerful earthquake, at a coliseum housing the homeless in the city of Mianyang, north of Chengdu in Sichuan Province – Oengna source

China’s Arranged Remarriages

Two years later, Beichuan is a ghost town encircled by razor wire and Chinese soldiers. Most survivors still live in temporary housing, the blue-roofed aluminum cities that dot the earthquake zone. Some, like Yang and Xue, moved to Anchang, which is serving as the county seat until construction is completed on a new one, which will be known as Yongchang, or Eternal Prosperity. This replacement city, rising on the flood plain 15 miles south of Beichuan, is a small part of the $440 billion that China has reportedly spent on relief and reconstruction. Sichuan, whose armies of poor migrant workers helped fuel the economic boom in eastern China, is now receiving government largess, from housing, roads and infrastructure to the creation of a new industry: “earthquake tourism.”
Looming over the physical reconstruction, however, has been another question: How can society rebuild? In China, one answer has been to pair grieving men and women to create instant families that will help ensure social and economic stability. For Westerners, marriage choices tend to be based on individual notions of love or romance, or at least that is how we see it. But in Sichuan, marriage is, first and foremost, about family and community. Families shattered by the earthquake are not just personal tragedies; they are a fissure in the foundation of society.

Volcanic ash flight misery continues

Last month, ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano shut down airspace across Europe for five days. Recent images have shown activity in the volcano increasing and emitting ash up to 20,000ft (6,000m). The current wave of disruption could carry on into next week if northerly winds bring ash over western Scotland and Ireland. Passengers are urged to check details of their flights before travelling to the airport. Frances Tuke from Abta – which represents travel agents and tour operators – said the majority of airspace will be open and although some flights have been delayed, people were still able to fly. Eurocontrol said that approximately 24,500 flights were expected to take place within Europe “which is about 500 below average for a Sunday at this time of year”.

Rising sea levels threaten Taiwan

Mountains cover two thirds of Taiwan, but the heart of the island’s economy is concentrated in the remaining third, which stretches down the west coast and consists mostly of flat land near sea level.
This part of Taiwan is home to a string of populous cities, several industry zones, three nuclear power plants — and a petrochemical complex, built in the 1990s by Formosa Plastics Group for over 20 billion US dollars.
“If the sea levels keep rising, part of Taiwan’s low-lying western part could be submerged,” said Wang Chung-ho, an earth scientist at Taiwan’s top academic body Academia Sinica.

Coroner rules messages contributed to schoolboy’s death

“Young teenagers especially should not be texting each other late at night,” he said. “Not only is this disruptive to their sleep patterns, but it is also conducive to causing emotions to run wild.”
Ryan said texting was different from other forms of communication because people could not read body language or interpret a tone of voice.
“These clues to a person’s emotional state are not available to someone who simply receives a text message,” he said. “For that reason, people who send text messages should carefully consider the effect on the recipient.”
Heather Powell said teenagers should be allowed phones only if they were mature enough to understand the consequences of using them and called on parents to take more control. Via textually.

Charting Creativity: Signposts of a Hazy Territory

As for Dr. Jung, his research has produced some surprising results. One study of 65 subjects suggests that creativity prefers to take a slower, more meandering path than intelligence.
“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”
Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain. This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, Dr. Jung suggested, “might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty and more creativity.”

Popweekly: Digest for 05.03.10

Red Shirts
Photo by Stive Yann

Message Battle Heats Up in Thai Crisis

Viewers of Thai soap operas now have a choice: they can follow the over-dramatized acting and weepy plot lines of shows like “The Glass Around the Diamond” or they can read pro-government political messages scrolling on the bottom of the screen.
“The Thai people love peace but when we go to war, we are not fearful,” reads one of the dozens of messages broadcast on two government channels exhorting people to oppose the protest movement that has paralyzed parts of Bangkok for more than seven weeks.
“Sometimes the Thai people have to fight bad Thai people,” says another.

US oil spill ‘threatens way of life’

The BBC’s Andy Gallacher, in Louisiana, says the slick is threatening some of America’s most important eco-systems. The Louisiana wetlands host a multi-billion-dollar fishing industry and is a prime spawning area for fish, shrimp, crabs and oyster beds. Forecasters said there would be no let up on Sunday of the strong winds that have been pushing the oil towards the Louisiana shore. Andrew Gowers, from BP, said the oil firm had launched the “largest maritime mop-up operation ever mounted, by far”. He told the BBC they had a flotilla of 76 boats trying to contain the spill, as well as a million feet of booms and five planes spraying oil dispersants.

Sudan’s tea ladies serve memories of happier times

The tea ladies come before the sun, lighting fires, shaking jars, spooning sugar. They hum and sing, lost women marked with tribal symbols, far from home. They sit and wait, kettles hissing in ember and ash, the great day beginning, rolling off the Nile like a damp, smothering cloth.
Khadiga Salim takes a breath. She has hopped two buses and spent two hours traveling from the slums to downtown Khartoum. She’s been here 16 years, since gunshots and cattle raiders chased her family from their farm in Darfur. Her sister brought her into the trade, told her, on these streets, my dear, a tea lady is the best you can be.
Wet, smooth and swift, her hands dart from jar to sifter, stoking the fire, the silver kettle blackening. Life has gone by selling tea to friends and strangers on a patch of sidewalk barely wider than her lap. This city turned hard and the man she married ended up no good, but her voice is pretty, like a hymn drifting down from a high wire, soothing the men in white turbans who sip from slender glasses.

Biggest World Expo ever opens in Shanghai

To celebrate its emergence as a global power, China is throwing a party — the largest-ever world expo, a six-month extravaganza that kicked off Saturday with hundreds of thousands visitors.
While many in the West view world fairs as overblown trade shows, China sees the Shanghai World Expo as a way to burnish its image by mobilizing its masses and vast resources to create another jaw-dropping spectacle on the heels of the Beijing Olympics two years ago.
The significance China attached to the expo can be measured by the vast sums it spent in preparation. No official tally has been disclosed but local media put the total costs at $58 billion, substantially more than the estimated $42 billion spent on the Beijing Olympics.
“This is the message: ‘No one can do this but China and we are the future,’ ” said Debby Cheung, group managing director of Ogilvy Public Relations in China.

Taiwan’s creativity on display at Shanghai expo

The contribution of Taiwan’s cultural and creative circles to the staging of the event has been significant. While local designer Wu Yoken designed the Shanghai World Expo’s mascot–a plump sky blue cartoon stick figure called “Haibao,” another local standout, C.T. Cao, has been the leading creative force behind the production team for the Shanghai General Motors’ futuristic SAIC-GM Pavilion at the expo.
See also: Shanghai Expo designer denies mascot copy of Gumby

Link Love: Mobile culture

Link love
Small pieces, loosely joined.

  • Too cool: The Sartorialist – At the Flea Market with Rei, Tokyo p.1, p.2, and p.3.

From the archives:

Popweekly: Digest for 04.26.10

The Lucky Camera Shop
The Lucky Camera shop, Tokyo. Fantastic little shop probably founded in the late 1940s and stuffed from floor to ceiling with classic camera gear. In the back streets behind the giant Shinjuku station, near ‘Green Peas”. By John Gulliver.

Shanghai’s Back on Top of the World

For China’s most dynamic, most cosmopolitan and sassiest city, this is a time to celebrate. After decades of hibernation following the founding of Mao Zedong’s People’s Republic in 1949, Shanghai is returning to its roost as a global center of commerce and culture. This year Shanghai, as host of Expo 2010, is squarely in the international spotlight. The fair opens May 1, and organizers expect more than 70 million visitors over six months.
Shanghai’s style is to do things big. Its population of 19 million makes it one of the largest metropolises on the planet. More than 750 foreign multinational companies have offices in the city. The skyline counts more than 30 buildings over 650 ft. (200 m) tall. Stroll down certain streets, and you can easily imagine that you are in midtown Manhattan — so much so that on visiting the city in 2007 for the MTV Style Gala, Paris Hilton was moved to declare, “Shanghai looks like the future.”
Yet Shanghai is still trying to determine what that future should be.

The neighborhood is a powerful– but often overlooked– resource for changing the world

The neighborhood is the basic building block of the commons– indeed, of human society itself– and successful efforts to make the world a better place usually start right there.
This might strike you as archaic, a throwback to the time when men wore fedoras and everyone walked to church on Sunday mornings. Yet the age of globalization actually makes neighborhoods more important than ever. After spending all day connecting with Facebook friends in Kyoto, Krakow and Kokomo, virtual globetrotters are eager for face-to-face contact in a real place, like a coffee shop, park, town square or other form of local commons.
Neighborhoods– whether in cities, suburbs or small towns– are the level of social organization at which people interact most regularly and naturally, providing a ready-made forum for tackling serious issues together. Even if the neighbors abhor our political views or artistic tastes, we nonetheless share a bond. When a crisis occurs (a rash of burglaries) or opportunities arise (plans to revitalize the park), these are the people who stand beside us to make improvements for the future.

Tokyo’s goal: Be the greenest

These private-sector companies are part of a very public push by Tokyo’s metropolitan government to turn this dense urban area, home to 13 million people, into the world’s most eco-friendly mega-city.
In addition to reducing solid waste, Tokyo over the last few years has unveiled a slew of environmentally conscious initiatives. Those include toughened environmental building standards, cash incentives for residents to install solar panels, and a plan for greening the city, including planting half a million trees and converting a 217-acre landfill in Tokyo Bay into a wooded “sea forest” park.
The most ambitious effort yet kicked off this month, when Tokyo launched a mandatory program for 1,400 of the area’s factories and office buildings to cut their carbon emissions 25% from 2000 levels by the end of 2020. The plan includes a carbon cap-and-trade system, the first ever attempted by a metropolitan area. The mechanism sets limits on emissions and requires those who exceed their quotas to buy pollution rights from those who are under their caps.

How the volcano eruption exposed the vulnerability of the global supply chain

A century ago, even 30 years ago, an eruption from Iceland wouldn’t have affected menus in Florence or auto assembly in Tennessee. But things have changed. The just-in-time mentality dictates that factories and retailers build superefficient, lengthy supply chains and keep as little capital and warehouse space as possible tied up in inventory. Globalization has meant that companies now source components and products from all over the world. The upshot: When there’s a small disruption anywhere, the machinery of global capitalism slows down. And when there’s a disruption in Europe, look out. The slow-growing region is a highly globalized economic powerhouse. “Europe is the biggest exporter in the world and the second biggest importer,” said Eric Chaney, chief economist at AXA Group. And while container ships are the workhorses of global trade, plenty of really valuable stuff crosses the Atlantic in airliner cargo bays. By Tuesday, with flights from Europe having been canceled for a few days, the automaker Nissan was suspending some production at its factories in Tennessee and Mississippi. The culprit: a lack of pneumatic sensors made in Ireland.

Link Love: Mobile culture and more

Shanghai luggage
Trapped in an alley behind Nanjing Lu
Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archives

Link Love: Small Bits

Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archives.

Popweekly: Digest for 04.12.10

Bangkok redshirts
Red Shirt Army, Bangkok, Thailand

Violence Erupts in Thai Streets

Antigovernment protesters repulsed an attempt by the military to disperse them on Saturday in fierce running battles filled with tear gas, gunfire and explosions in the worst political violence in nearly 20 years.
With both sides armed and aggressive, 18 people were reported dead and more than 650 wounded. The violence opened the door to continuing tension after more than three years of turmoil that has included a military coup, months of protests and the closing of Bangkok’s airports.
After a month of nonviolent tolerance, the failure of the government to end the latest protests by force left it with few options. Protest leaders, standing on a makeshift stage after the military withdrew, rejected a government plea for talks and repeated their demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down and call a new election.

Foreign brides in Taiwan

Three to a table, the children bend to their coloring books, their tousled black hair absorbing the winter light from the window. It’s chilly in the unheated classroom, but Hsu Wen-zhen has kicked off her pink flip-flops and is circling words with a yellow crayon. She looks up and flashes a cheeky smile.
At playtime, Wen-zhen blends in with her classmates at Shihding Elementary School. But on this once-homogenous island, she represents change: She’s half-Vietnamese, her mother part of a surge of foreign brides over the past two decades. Taiwan has registered 420,000 marriages to foreigners since 1987, the vast majority between a Taiwanese man and an overseas woman.
At this school, 20 of the 80 students have a foreign parent. In Wen-zhen’s first-grade class, says her teacher, it’s close to half. They are the new Taiwanese, growing up among an ethnic-Chinese population of 23 million that is more accustomed to outward than inward migration.

A Guiding Voice Amid the Ruins of a Capital City

Whoever controls Mogadishu, controls Radio Mogadishu, and since the station opened in 1951 that has meant nattily dressed Italian administrators, a short-lived democratic government, a military dictator, various warlords and assorted thugs, Islamist sheiks and now a weak but internationally recognized transitional government that does not have a grip on the capital but is ensconced in the hilltop neighborhood where the station is.
Radio Mogadishu’s 100 or so employees are marked men and women, because the insurgents associate them with the government. The journalists eat and sleep here, rarely venturing out. Most get paid a few hundred dollars a month. Some, like the station’s senior political correspondent, Abdi Aziz Mahamoud Africa, strut around the compound in baggy jeans and Western-style jerseys that could get them killed in other parts of town.
A platoon of Ugandan soldiers, part of the African Union peacekeeping mission here, is hunkered down behind sandbags at the station’s gate, the business end of their rifles trained on the warren of shot-up streets and blasted-out homes outside. Few people even live here anymore. Somalia has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism, with more than 20 journalists assassinated in the past four years. “We miss them,” Mr. Africa said about his fallen colleagues.

Police seize video footage, mobile phones to remove all traces of repression

Al Jazeera TV’s Cairo bureau chief, Hussein Abdel Ghani, told Agence France-Presse that his cameramen were searched and their video footage was confiscated. Many demonstrators said the mobile phones they had used to take photos or record video were also confiscated.
Egyptian and international NGOs said about 90 people were detained, including a journalist working for Egyptian Dream TV who was taken to one of the national security buildings in Madinet Nasr before being released.

The feminine front line of the Arab art market

It’s mid-morning at the Madinat Jumeirah, a luxury resort in Dubai. Dozens of well-dressed women sit on white couches, waiting. They include artists, gallerists, auction-house directors and local collectors, most of them princesses or wives of the well-off. They’ve been waiting an hour. Suddenly, 20 or so women, dressed in traditional Islamic abayas, enter the room and move through the crowd like black smoke. Her Highness Sheikha Manal, daughter of Dubai’s ruler, has arrived.
This is Ladies Day at Art Dubai, the biggest contemporary art fair in the Middle East. Sheikha Manal has come to attend talks by Judith Greer, an American collector, and Venetia Porter, a curator of Islamic art for the British Museum. The fair itself hasn’t yet opened, but a select group of women is always given a chance to preview and learn about the art on their own, without men. In a culture notoriously dismissive of women, one could easily assume Ladies Day to be a sideshow. But that would be wrong.