Anyone who's ever lived in London, New York, Chicago, or any one of 20 other cities around the world knows that Time Out is an indispensable guide to going out on the town. The arts and entertainment magazine lists events and reviews of museum exhibitions, theater performances, movies, clubs, restaurants, and anything else you can think of as a way to spend your free time. It's all in good fun, and totally apolitical, right?
Not according to China. The country's General Administration of Press and Publications, which is in charge of censoring media it deems threatening to the government, has banned the June issue of Time Out Beijing. The agency's offical reason for banning the distribution of the English-language magazine is that it lacks a proper license. But the publisher of Time Out, which is headquartered in London, has implied that it's all part of Beijing's crackdown on foreign influences in the runup to this summer's Olympics. The real test will be whether the magazine is allowed to go to press in August, when foreigners are flooding the city for the games. In the meantime, Internet users can still access the Web site to get their fix on what to do in Beijing.
With airfares continuing to skyrocket and all the bad news about airlines going bankrupt, there's actually one potential bright spot in the world of air travel: China and Taiwan are holding official talks about the possibility of charter flights across the Taiwan Strait. Led by Chiang Pin-kung (right), chairman of the quasi-governmental Straits Exchange Foundation, a 19-member delegation from Taiwan arrived in Beijing Wednesday for four days of discussions. Relations between the two sides have warmed considerably since Ma Ying-jeou, who favors closer ties with the mainland, was elected president of Taiwan in March.
This week's talks are the first time in nearly a decade that there have been formal negotiations between China and Taiwan. It's not Chiang's first visit to Beijing, though. Three years ago, I interviewed him in Taipei shortly after he returned from Beijing, where he was visiting as a member of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) party (but not as an official from Taiwan's government -- a fine distinction that's all too important in delicate cross-Strait relations). His visit was frowned upon by then-President Chen Shui-bian, who was in favor of the island's independence. Chiang told me that his goal was to develop relations with the mainland in a way that would benefit Taiwan's economy, and not to get overly bogged down in politics. But now with a KMT president in office, he's free to engage in both politics and economics.
This week's talks will probably focus exclusively on economic ties, however. Polls show that Taiwanese prefer to maintain the status quo of de facto independence, but want the economic opportunities that closer ties with China will provide. And the Chinese are not about to do anything drastic politically -- not with all international eyes on them after the earthquake and ahead of the Olympics in August. So, for this round, just expect lots of handshakes, photo ops, and quite possibly, a little more friendliness in the skies.
Fans of the NBC show "The Office" know that the TV show is based on a British series of the same name that first aired on BBC back in 2001. What they might not know is that similar to telenovelas, reality shows like "Big Brother," and other TV genres, it's truly gone global. The French have "Le Bureau," the Quebecois have "Le Job," the Germans have "Stromberg," and Chileans are about to air their own version of the show too.
What viewers might not realize is that the show is actually, well, "Japanese" in origin. On "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend, series creator Ricky Gervais talked about how the Asian version first inspired him. Then he presented the following clip. Enjoy!
While reading an article yesterday in the Washington Post about the cost of caring for sick pets, I stumbled across this:
Americans spend an enormous sum on health care for their dogs, cats, birds, fish, ferrets, gerbils, lizards, potbelly pigs and other assorted pets: more than $24.5 billion in 2006 alone, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. (If you're into comparing vast amounts of money, that's greater than the gross domestic product of more than half of the world's countries.)
Well, I am into comparing vast amounts of money, so chew on this: The U.S. pet healthcare economy is about the size of Bahrain or Botswana's GDP.
"The Simpsons" is inappropriate for children, but "Baywatch Hawaii" is alright. At least that's what the government of Venezuela says. The National Telecommunications Commission opened an inquiry last week, saying that viewers had complained about "The Simpsons" and that the network airing it could be held responsible for violating the country's Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. On Friday, channel Televen said it was yanking the yellow cartoon family from its 11 a.m. slot, and replacing it with the babes in bikinis of Baywatch.
I guess it doesn't sound totally crazy if you think about it from a cultural perspective. After all, Bart is constantly disrespecting his parents, and I suppose one might not want young kids to get that message. But beauty on the beach... is that a universal Venezuelan value, no matter the age? At any rate, don't have a cow, man! Televen still might still choose to air "The Simpsons" in a different time slot.
Q: Who was Adolf Hitler?
If you answered "C," congratulations! You are now as smart as one quarter of 17-year-olds in the United States.
A new survey released by the non-profit group Common Core found that teenagers in the United States live in "stunning ignorance" about history and literature. That's something we could have told you awhile ago. In "Lost in America," a feature story in the May/June 2006 issue of FP, Douglas McGray wrote:
[S]urrounded by foreign languages, cultures, and goods, [young Americans] remain hopelessly uninformed, and misinformed, about the world beyond U.S. borders."
In his piece, he writes that we hear all the time about how America's youth lags behind in science and math tests. But they lag equally, if not more, in the liberal arts and social sciences. And it's just as dangerous. As the world becomes more and more globalized, it's crucial that our citizens today and tomorrow have a deeper understanding of history and culture.
Thankfully, Common Core has taken on this cause. The organization is composed of both Democrats and Republicans, who may not agree with each other about education reform policy. But they do agree on one thing: America's schools need to teach more about the liberal arts. Right on.
With the race for the Democratic presidential nomination entering the homestretch, more and more people are talking about superdelegates, who may be crucial in determining whether the party's choice will be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But what are these superdelegates? Who gets to be one? Are you as confused about them as I am?
Rick Klau, an employee at Google, took on a personal project to help clarify things. He set up SuperDelegates.org, a wiki-style Web site that not only tells you how the Democratic Party's superdelegate system was developed, but also lists who all 795 of them are and whether or not they've pledged their vote to Clinton or Obama. Even cooler, Klau has done an overlay on Google Maps, so you can see where they're from and whether they're still undecided or are leaning toward one of the candidates. Check it out here.
The Public Policy Institute of California has just issued a surprising new report finding that immigrants to the Golden State are far less likely to commit serious crimes than those who are native-born. The study finds that even though foreign-born residents make up 35 percent of California's population, they make up only 17 percent of those incarcerated. Among men aged 18-40, the most likely to commit crimes, immigrants make up an even lower percentage. Native-born Americans in that age group who were born in the Untied States are 10 times more likely to be in county or state prison than immigrants. Hopefully, the study will put some xenophobia to rest.
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