asia

‘War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.’ —Thucydides

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On January 2, 1977, the Shah of Iran made a painful admission about his country’s economy. “We’re broke,” he confided bluntly to his closest aide, court minister Asadollah Alam, in a private meeting. Alam predicted still more dangers to come: “We have squandered every cent we had only to find ourselves checkmated by a single move from Saudi Arabia,” he later wrote in a letter to the shah. “[W]e are now in dire financial peril and must tighten our belts if we are to survive.”

The two men were reacting to recent turmoil in the oil markets. A few weeks prior, at an OPEC meeting in Doha, the Saudis had announced they would resist an Iran-led majority vote to increase petroleum prices by 15 percent. (The shah needed the boost to pay for billions in new spending commitments.) King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud argued that a price hike wasn’t justified when Western economies were still mired in a recession — but he was also eager to place economic constraints on Iran at a time when the shah was ordering nuclear power plants and projecting influence throughout the Middle East. So the Saudis “flooded the markets,” ramping up oil production from 8 million to 11.8 million barrels per day and slashing crude prices. Unable to compete, Iran was quickly driven from the market: The country’s oil production plunged 38 percent in a month. Billions of dollars in anticipated oil revenues vanished, and Iran was forced to abandon its five-year budget estimates.

A damaging ripple effect persisted: Over the summer of 1977, industrial manufacturing in Iran fell by 50 percent. Inflation ran between 30 and 40 percent. The government made deep cuts to domestic spending to balance the books, but austerity only made matters worse when thousands of young, unskilled men lost their jobs. Before long, economic distress had eroded middle-class support for the shah’s monarchy — which collapsed two years later in the Iranian Revolution.

[…]

In November 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security consultant connected to Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that if “[i]f Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half … it would be devastating to Iran … [and] limit Tehran’s ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.” Two years later, at the height of the global financial crisis, the Saudis acted: They flooded the market, and within six months, oil prices had fallen from their record high of $147 per barrel to just $33. Thus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began 2009, an election year, struggling with the sudden collapse in government oil revenues and forced to slash popular subsidies and social programs. The election’s contested outcome was accompanied by economic contraction and the worst political violence in Iran since the fall of the shah.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

image { Evander Batson }

previously { The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong }

‘Death is the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing.’ —Aldous Huxley

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Leveraging the insight that periods, while a pain, also bring women together, JWT has created an augmented reality app that combines Chinese consumers’ love of technology, cute characters and selfies into a new branded platform for Sofy sanitary pads.

{ Campaign Asia | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

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Kurtz: [intercepted radio message] I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor

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{ Traditional rug-making techniques meet contemporary political imagery | full story }

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.

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Australia has begun exporting camels to Saudi Arabia.

More than 100 animals are being shipped from the Australian port city of Darwin and are due to arrive in Saudi Arabia in early July [2002].

The vast majority are destined for restaurant tables in a major camel-consuming nation.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Janet Biggs, Point of No Return, 2013 }

Your fear of capture and imprisonment is from millions of years ago

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{ 29-year-old Akari Aoki slowly creeps down the streets of Tokyo in her zombie persona | slideshow }

Give us that brisket off the hook. Plup.

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The most disturbing thing that ever happened at the Ueno Zoo was the systematic slaughter of the garden’s most famous and valuable animals in the summer of 1943. At the height of the Second World War, as the Japanese empire teetered on the brink of collapse, the zoo was transformed from a wonderland of imperial amusement and exotic curiosity into a carefully ritualized abattoir, a public altar for the sanctification of creatures sacrificed in the service of total war and of ultimate surrender to emperor and nation. The cult of military martyrdom is often recognized as a central component of Japanese fascist culture, but events at the zoo add a chilling new dimension to that analysis. They show that the pursuit of total mobilization extended into areas previously unexamined, suggesting how the culture of total war became a culture of total sacrifice after 1943. […] The killings were carried out in secret until nearly one-third of the garden’s cages stood empty, their former inhabitants’ carcasses hauled out of the zoo’s service entrance in covered wheelbarrows during the dark hours before dawn.

{ University of California Press | PDF }

This unprecedented ceremony known as the “Memorial Service for Martyred Animals” was held on the zoo’s grounds where nearly a third of the cages stood empty. Lions from Abyssinia, tigers representative of Japan’s troops, bears from Manchuria, Malaya and Korea, an American bison, and many others had been clubbed, speared, poisoned and hacked to death in secret. Although the zoo’s director had found a way to save some of the condemned creatures by moving them to zoos outside Tokyo, Mayor Ōdaichi Shigeo insisted on their slaughter. Ōdaichi himself, along with Imperial Prince Takatsukasa Nobusuke and the chief abbot of Asakusa’s Sensōji Temple, presided over the carefully choreographed and highly publicized “Memorial Service”, thanking the animals for sacrificing themselves for Japan’s war effort.

{ The Times Literary Supplement | Continue reading }

art { Ito Shinsui, After the bath, 1917 }

This is what we have heard from him and are declaring to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

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{ How to fix global warming before it’s too late | Is it too late to prepare for climate change? }

Even though the ways languages grasp the world may vary widely from one language to another, they all build, in fact, the same contents, and equivalent conceptions of the world. Any text in any language can be translated into a text in another language.

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On October 9th South Koreans celebrate the 567th birthday of Hangul, the country’s native writing system, with a day off work. South Korea is one of the few countries in the world to celebrate its writing system. […]

The day commemorates the introduction of the new script in the mid-15th century, making Hangul one of the youngest alphabets in the world. It is unusual for at least two more reasons: rather than evolving from pictographs or imitating other writing systems, the Korean script was invented from scratch for the Korean language. And, though it is a phonemic alphabet, it is written in groups of syllables rather than linearly. How was Hangul created?

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

photo { Ray Metzker }

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak

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Singapore is inequality on steroids, as you might expect from a high human capital, high information tech, growing financial center.

Seventeen percent of the population are millionaires, and that is not counting real estate wealth, which is substantial.

The H&M in the shopping district is closing, because the rent was doubled and it is being replaced by luxury retailers.

{ Marginal Revolution | Continue reading | Part 2 }

photo { Thomas Prior }

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
 and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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Back in 1978, the Chinese politburo enacted the “one-child policy”, whose main purpose was to “alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems” in China as a result of the soaring population. According to estimates, the policy prevented more than 250 million births between 1980 and 2000, and 400 million births from about 1979 to 2011. And while not applicable to everyone, in 2007 approximately 35.9% of China’s population was subject to a one-child restriction.

Regardless of the numbers, things are about to change: with the Chinese economy now having peaked and suddenly finding itself in rapid deceleration with excess credit growth providing virtually no boost to marginal growth, the Chinese government is forced to reexamine 35 years of social policy in order to extract growth from the one place where for nearly 4 decades it had tried to stifle: demographics. 

According to the 21st Business Herald which cited sources close to the National Population and Family Planning Commission, China may relax its one-child policy at end-2013 or early-2014 (read end) by allowing families to have two children if at least one parent is from a one-child family. A plan for allowing all families to have two children after 2015 is also being reviewed.

{ ZeroHedge | Continue reading }

‘I feel an army in my fist.’ –Schiller

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In Japan, where palm reading remains one of the most popular means of fortune-telling, some people have figured out a way to change their fate. It’s a simple idea: change your palm, change the reading, and change your future. All you need is a competent plastic surgeon with an electric scalpel who has a basic knowledge of palmistry. […]

From January 2011 to May 2013, 37 palm plastic surgeries have been performed at the Shonan Beauty Clinic alone. Several other clinics in Japan offer the surgery, but almost none of them advertise it.

{ The Daily Beast | Continue reading }

photo { Brendan Baker }