If this weekend's bungled car bombing in Times Square has got you thinking about other "might have been's," check out Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann's rundown of the most serious attempted terrorist attacks since 2004 from their "Almanac of al Qaeda" feature in the most recent print issue of FP.
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Data rockets across South Korea's broadband network at an average clip of 14.58 megabits per second. This makes the country's network the fastest of any in the world. (In comparison, the average American broadband connection chugs along at a sluggish 3.88 megabits per second, almost four times slower than what you'd find in Seoul.)
While South Koreans have been quick to embrace the many benefits fast broadband internet connections provide, increased use of a quicker, more efficient internet has brought with it new problems for South Korean society. Chief among such problems is an addiction to internet video games. According to a Washington Post article, in 2006, approximately 2.4 percent of 9 to 39-year-olds in South Korea suffered from full-blown addiction; another 10.2 percent were classified as borderline addicts.
Apparently the situation has only gotten worse. In 2005, a South Korean man died after a marathon 50-hour video game session, and in March, 2010, a South Korean couple allowed their three-month old baby to starve to death while they were occupied playing an on-line video game. In response, the Korean government has begun experimenting with a teenage video game curfew that will block young gamers' access to 20 different popular on-line role-playing games (RPGs) for 6 hours a day, every day.
Whatever happened to the good old days of underage drinking and loitering?
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As anyone who's attended a Bob Dylan concert in the past decade knows, the man ain't what he used to be. But it's not just the music that's changed (many fans complain that during shows Dylan alters the arrangements of his songs beyond all recognition); it's also his thinking on the relationship between art and commerce (read: "selling out").
But all the same, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for his fans with news that his upcoming East Asia tour has been cancelled following the cancellation of shows in Shanghai and Beijing.
Most media outlets have explained the cancellation as the result of Beijing's intervention. According to this narrative, Chinese government officials refused to grant Dylan permission to play in China because they feared the potentially subversive effects of his music on Chinese listeners.
While the dramatic appeal of this explanation is obvious -- it rehabilitates Dylan's protest singer-songwriter image, and imagines him as a poet-hero determined to challenge Beijing's censorship and authoritarianism -- as was the case with Google's pullout from China, there might be a simpler, more cynical explanation to be had: greed.
The Chinese government did not deny Bob Dylan permission to play in China. It was the Taiwanese promoter's outlandish financial requests that made the tour unrealistic."
While we'll probably never know which explanation is correct, Mexico's certainly seems to jive better with the fact that Dylan cancelled the entire tour rather than just the China shows.
Food for thought next time you're considering another one of Dylan's Greatest Hits album.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Update: Thanks to a reader's comments, the post below has been edited to reflect that all three band members were born in Afghanistan.
New York City has the National. Minneapolis-St. Paul has the Hold Steady. Portland has the Shins. And Kabul has... Kabul Dreams?
While the aforementioned American cities are famous among music fans for the popular indie rock bands they've produced, if you're looking for the indiest city in the world for indie rock music, you might have to go Kabul, birthplace of Afghanistan's only rock band, Kabul Dreams.
Formed less than a year ago, Kabul Dreams is the result of a musical friendship formed between three young men who had returend to their native Afghanstian after having lived abroad as refugees: singer/guitarist Suleman Qardash, who had previously lived in Uzbekistan; bassist Siddique Ahmed, who had previously lived in Pakistan; and drummer Mujtaba Habibi, who had previously lived in Iran.
Already, the band has enjoyed great success in Kabul. It regularly plays concerts in the city's one and only nightclub to an audience of Western aid workers and diplomats. But the band, fresh off a 1,000 person show at a contemporary Asian music festival in Delhi and Jaipur, India, may soon outgrow the Kabul club scene. "We are aiming for big things," said Ahmed. "A record label, an international tour," Qardash added.
As for the band members' opinions on Afghan politics, Ahmed said that "They are talking about pulling out foreign troops. Nobody likes troops from another country in their country, but everybody knows that if the troops leave, the [Afghan factions] will start fighting each other again because that's their nature, that's what they do." Given the U.S. State Department's emphasis on cultural diplomacy and exchange, who knows what's in store for Kabul Dreams. (I'm hoping that Pitchfork will dispatch a foreign correspondent to keep us up-to-date.)
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In a speech today at a Labour Party rally held in his old constituency of Sedgefield, former Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly threw his weight behind incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown. While some may have been surprised or even amused by Blair's endorsement of Brown, given their strained relationship, what I found most interesting was Blair's description of Conservative Leader David Cameron's campaign slogan "Time for Change" as "the most vacuous [slogan] in politics."
"Time for Change." Sound familiar? The slogan, of course, sounds eerily like Barack Obama's "Change We Can Believe In." But the Tories haven't just cherry-picked a popular catchphrase from the Obama campaign; in addition, they've hired a number of campaign strategists and consultants who've worked with candidate and President Obama, including media-savvy former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.
What's so risible about Blair's comment is the awkward position in which it puts him: by mocking Cameron's "Time for Change," he also mocks Obama's "Change We Can Believe In." There just really isn't any way to simultaneously skewer "Time for Change" and hold up "Change We Can Believe In" as a paradigm of pith and profundity. Not exactly the nicest way to thank the guy who awarded you "first friend" status, is it?
On the other hand, maybe Blair's comment will throw some cold water on "change" enthusiasts. The change conceit does, after all, make for a vacuous campaign slogan. Given the highly polarized contemporary political atmosphere in the United States and the United Kingdom, to say that electing a president or prime minister from the opposition represents Change is nothing but an empty truism.
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For anyone who just can't wait any longer for the premier of the next season of Mad Men, the next best thing might be following the Ukrainian political scene.
Not to be outdone by President Yanukovich, who told Yulia Tymoshenko during a February campaign event that she should either take responsibility for herself or "demonstrate her whims in the kitchen," last Friday Prime Minister Mykola Azorov declared that:
Some say our government is too large; others that there are no women.... There's no one to look at during cabinet sessions: they're all boring faces. With all respect to women, conducting reforms is not women's business."
At the very least, Yanukovich and Azorov are true to their word: there's not a single woman to be found among the government's cabinet ministers. I wonder what Alexandra Starr would have to say about this.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Think mustard gas is bad?
In possible contravention of long-standing international conventions on the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons, the Indian military has announced the addition to a new weapon to its arsenal: chili grenades.
Made from bhut jolokia -- the spiciest chili pepper in the world, according to the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records -- the grenades are expected to be "effective nontoxic weapon[s]... [whose] pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hideouts."
I urge readers to be on the lookout for one of these things at the next international weapons exhibition they attend.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
During his campaign President Obama pledged to repeal the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. While the issue wasn't an immediate starter for the administration, Obama revisited it in his 2010 State of Union address, where he again called for a repeal of the policy.
In response, Congress has begun to hold prominent hearings on the possible repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." While the hearings certainly have a marquee aspect to them -- both Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and General David Petraeus have appeared to testify -- much of the testimony has been cautious and, well, pretty tepid.
Enter retired General John Sheehan, who served as a Supreme Allied Commander in NATO from 1994-1997. These three years marked the height of fighting in the former Yugoslavia, and also saw what is arguably the single greatest atrocity committed during the entire Yugoslav Wars: the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre, during which the Bosnian Serb army murdered more than 5,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
How did this happen? Why were the Dutch peacekeepers stationed in Srebrenica for the express purpose of protecting its civilians incapable of doing so? While historians and Dutch officials agree there were multiple problems with the peacekeeping operation, today General Sheehan introduced a completely novel one.
During testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Sheehan explained that the presence of gay servicemen in the Dutch peacekeeping battalion was "part of the problem" with Srebrenica. In disbelief, Committee Chairman Carl Levin asked Sheehan to clarify: "Did the Dutch leaders tell you it [the fall of Srebrenica] was because there were gay soldiers there?" Sheehan affirmed that they had.
Reeling from Sheehan's comments, Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende said that "these remarks should never have been made," while retired General "Henk" van den Breemen, one of the Dutch leaders Sheehan implicated as having claimed that gay servicemen were to blame for Srebrenica, denied Sheehan's allegation and described his remarks as "total nonsense."
Being able to speak your mind freely is one of the perks of retirement, I suppose. Whether it's one that should always be exercised, however, is an entirely different matter.
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