Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 2016

Next generations of kids on Mars. Here’s how they’ll survive

Note: This talk was supposed to explain how kids will survive on Mars, but it didn’t.

It sounds like science fiction, but journalist Stephen Petranek considers it fact: within 20 years, humans will live on Mars.

In this provocative talk, Petranek makes the case that humans will become a spacefaring species and describes in fascinating detail how we’ll make Mars our next home. “Humans will survive no matter what happens on Earth,” Petranek says. “We will never be the last of our kind.”

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
By Stephen Petranek. Technology forecaster
Stephen Petranek untangles emerging technologies to predict which will become fixtures of our future lives — and which could potentially save them. Full bio

Strap yourselves in, we’re going to Mars.

00:16 Not just a few astronauts — thousands of people are going to colonize Mars. And I am telling you that they’re going to do this soon. Some of you will end up working on projects on Mars, and I guarantee that some of your children will end up living there.

 That probably sounds preposterous, so I’m going to share with you how and when that will happen. But first I want to discuss the obvious question: Why the heck should we do this?

12 years ago, I gave a TED talk on 10 ways the world could end suddenly.

We are incredibly vulnerable to the whims of our own galaxy. A single, large asteroid could take us out forever. To survive we have to reach beyond the home planet.

Think what a tragedy it would be if all that humans have accomplished were suddenly obliterated. (It will be, no matter where is your next destination)

And there’s another reason we should go: exploration is in our DNA. (No kidding)

Two million years ago humans evolved in Africa and then slowly but surely spread out across the entire planet by reaching into the wilderness that was beyond their horizons.

This stuff is inside us. And they prospered doing that. Some of the greatest advances in civilization and technology came because we explored.

Yes, we could do a lot of good with the money it will take to establish a thriving colony on Mars.

And yes we should all be taking far better care of our own home planet.

And yes, I worry we could screw up Mars the way we’ve screwed up Earth. (No doubt about that Mr. DNA explorer)

01:53 But think for a moment, what we had when John F. Kennedy told us we would put a human on the moon. He excited an entire generation to dream.

Think how inspired we will be to see a landing on Mars. Perhaps then we will look back at Earth and see that is one people instead of many and perhaps then we will look back at Earth, as we struggle to survive on Mars, and realize how precious the home planet is.

 So let me tell you about the extraordinary adventure we’re about to undertake. (Mr. Jules Verne)

But first, a few fascinating facts about where we’re going. This picture actually represents the true size of Mars compared to Earth. Mars is not our sister planet. It’s far less than half the size of the Earth, and yet despite the fact that it’s smaller, the surface area of Mars that you can stand on is equivalent to the surface area of the Earth that you can stand on, because the Earth is mostly covered by water.

 The atmosphere on Mars is really thin — 100 times thinner than on Earth — and it’s not breathable, it’s 96 percent carbon dioxide.  (We destroyed even our much thicker atmosphere)

 It’s really cold there. The average temperature is minus 81 degrees, although there is quite a range of temperature.

A day on Mars is about as long as a day on Earth, plus about 39 minutes. Seasons and years on Mars are twice as long as they are on Earth.

And for anybody who wants to strap on some wings and go flying one day, Mars has a lot less gravity than on Earth, and it’s the kind of place where you can jump over your car instead of walk around it. (I just reserved a ticket, just to jump over my car)

 Mars isn’t exactly Earth-like, but it’s by far the most livable other place in our entire solar system.

 Here’s the problem. (Here we go)

Mars is a long way away, a thousand times farther away from us than our own moon. The Moon is 250,000 miles away and it took Apollo astronauts three days to get there.

Mars is 250 million miles away and it will take us eight months to get there 240 days. And that’s only if we launch on a very specific day, at a very specific time, once every two years, when Mars and the Earth are aligned just so, so the distance that the rocket would have to travel will be the shortest. 240 days is a long time to spend trapped with your colleagues in a tin can.

 And meanwhile, our track record of getting to Mars is lousy. We and the Russians, the Europeans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Indians, have actually sent 44 rockets there, and the vast majority of them have either missed or crashed. Only about a third of the missions to Mars have been successful. (My spacecraft is insured)

And we don’t at the moment have a rocket big enough to get there anyway. We once had that rocket, the Saturn V.

A couple of Saturn Vs would have gotten us there. It was the most magnificent machine ever built by humans, and it was the rocket that took us to the Moon. But the last Saturn V was used in 1973 to launch the Skylab space station, and we decided to do something called the shuttle instead of continuing on to Mars after we landed on the Moon.

The biggest rocket we have now is only half big enough to get us anything to Mars.

So getting to Mars is not going to be easy and that brings up a really interesting question … how soon will the first humans actually land here?

05:36 Now, some pundits think if we got there by 2050, that’d be a pretty good achievement.

These days, NASA seems to be saying that it can get humans to Mars by 2040. Maybe they can. I believe that they can get human beings into Mars orbit by 2035.

But frankly, I don’t think they’re going to bother in 2035 to send a rocket to Mars, because we will already be there.

We’re going to land on Mars in 2027. (The prediction of a journalist enamoured with Elon Musk)

And the reason is this man is determined to make that happen. His name is Elon Musk, he’s the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX.

Now, he actually told me that we would land on Mars by 2025, but Elon Musk is more optimistic than I am — and that’s going a ways — so I’m giving him a couple of years of slack.

 Let’s put a decade with Elon Musk into a little perspective. Where was this 10 years ago? That’s the Tesla electric automobile. In 2005, a lot of people in the automobile industry were saying, we would not have a decent electric car for 50 years.

And where was that? That is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, lifting six tons of supplies to the International Space Station.

10 years ago, SpaceX had not launched anything, or fired a rocket to anywhere. So I think it’s a pretty good bet that the person who is revolutionizing the automobile industry in less than 10 years and the person who created an entire rocket company in less than 10 years will get us to Mars by 2027.

Now, you need to know this: governments and robots no longer control this game. Private companies are leaping into space and they will be happy to take you to Mars.

And that raises a really big question. Can we actually live there?

NASA may not be able to get us there until 2040, or we may get there a long time before NASA, but NASA has taken a huge responsibility in figuring out how we can live on Mars.

 Let’s look at the problem this way. Here’s what you need to live on Earth: food, water, shelter and clothing. And here’s what you need to live on Mars: all of the above, plus oxygen.

So let’s look at the most important thing on this list first.

Water is the basis of all life as we know it, and it’s far too heavy for us to carry water from the Earth to Mars to live, so we have to find water if our life is going to succeed on Mars.

And if you look at Mars, it looks really dry, it looks like the entire planet is a desert. But it turns out that it’s not. The soil alone on Mars contains up to 60 percent water.

And a number of orbiters that we still have flying around Mars have shown us — and by the way, that’s a real photograph — that lots of craters on Mars have a sheet of water ice in them. It’s not a bad place to start a colony.

Now, here’s a view of a little dig the Phoenix Lander did in 2008, showing that just below the surface of the soil is ice — that white stuff is ice. In the second picture, which is four days later than the first picture, you can see that some of it is evaporating.

09:19 Orbiters also tell us that there are huge amounts of underground water on Mars as well as glaciers. In fact, if only the water ice at the poles on Mars melted, most of the planet would be under 30 feet of water.  (Not to worry, we will have the poles on Mars melt in no time)

So there’s plenty of water there, but most of it’s ice, most of it’s underground, it takes a lot of energy to get it and a lot of human labor.

This is a device cooked up at the University of Washington back in 1998. It’s basically a low-tech dehumidifier. And it turns out the Mars atmosphere is often 100 percent humid. So this device can extract all the water that humans will need simply from the atmosphere on Mars. (Why wait to land on Mars to use these devices? Billions of people are drinking totally polluted water)

Next we have to worry about what we will breathe. Frankly, I was really shocked to find out that NASA has this problem worked out. This is a scientist at MIT named Michael Hecht.

And he’s developed this machine, Moxie. I love this thing. It’s a reverse fuel cell, essentially, that sucks in the Martian atmosphere and pumps out oxygen. And you have to remember that CO2 — carbon dioxide, which is 96 percent of Mars’ atmosphere — CO2 is basically 78 percent oxygen.

 the next big rover that NASA sends to Mars in 2020 is going to have one of these devices aboard, and it will be able to produce enough oxygen to keep one person alive indefinitely.

But the secret to this — and that’s just for testing — the secret to this is that this thing was designed from the get-go to be scalable by a factor of 100. (What that mean again?)

Next, what will we eat? Well, we’ll use hydroponics to grow food, but we’re not going to be able to grow more than 15 to 20 percent of our food there, at least not until water is running on the surface of Mars and we actually have the probability and the capability of planting crops. In the meantime, most of our food will arrive from Earth, and it will be dried. (So only trained soldiers will be dispatched first?)

And then we need some shelter. At first we can use inflatable, pressurized buildings as well as the landers themselves. But this really only works during the daytime. There is too much solar radiation and too much radiation from cosmic rays. So we really have to go underground.

 it turns out that the soil on Mars, by and large, is perfect for making bricks. And NASA has figured this one out, too. They’re going to throw some polymer plastic into the bricks, shove them in a microwave oven, and then you will be able to build buildings with really thick walls. Or we may choose to live underground in caves or in lava tubes, of which there are plenty.

 And finally there’s clothing. On Earth we have miles of atmosphere piled up on us, which creates 15 pounds of pressure on our bodies at all times, and we’re constantly pushing out against that. On Mars there’s hardly any atmospheric pressure. So Dava Newman, a scientist at MIT, has created this sleek space suit. It will keep us together, block radiation and keep us warm. (No fashion industry on Mars?)

 So let’s think about this for a minute. Food, shelter, clothing, water, oxygen … we can do this. We really can. But it’s still a little complicated and a little difficult.

that leads to the next big — really big step — in living the good life on Mars. And that’s terraforming the planet: making it more like Earth, reengineering an entire planet.

12:59 That sounds like a lot of hubris, but the truth is that the technology to do everything I’m about to tell you already exists.

First we’ve got to warm it up. Mars is incredibly cold because it has a very thin atmosphere. The answer lies here, at the south pole and at the north pole of Mars, both of which are covered with an incredible amount of frozen carbon dioxide — dry ice. If we heat it up, it sublimes directly into the atmosphere and thickens the atmosphere the same way it does on Earth. (Fooling around again)

13:31 And as we know, CO2 is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now, my favorite way of doing this is to erect a very, very large solar sail and focus it — it essentially serves as a mirror — and focus it on the south pole of Mars at first. As the planet spins, it will heat up all that dry ice, sublime it, and it will go into the atmosphere. It actually won’t take long for the temperature on Mars to start rising, probably less than 20 years. (Please, don’t let this journalist land on Mars)

on a perfect day at the equator, in the middle of summer on Mars, temperatures can actually reach 70 degrees, but then they go down to minus 100 at night.

What we’re shooting for is a runaway greenhouse effect: enough temperature rise to see a lot of that ice on Mars — especially the ice in the ground — melt. Then we get some real magic.

14:27 As the atmosphere gets thicker, everything gets better. We get more protection from radiation, more atmosphere makes us warmer, makes the planet warmer, so we get running water and that makes crops possible. Then more water vapor goes into the air, forming yet another potent greenhouse gas. It will rain and it will snow on Mars. And a thicker atmosphere will create enough pressure so that we can throw away those space suits. We only need about five pounds of pressure to survive. Eventually, Mars will be made to feel a lot like British Columbia.

15:05 We’ll still be left with the complicated problem of making the atmosphere breathable, and frankly that could take 1,000 years to accomplish. But humans are amazingly smart and incredibly adaptable.

15:16 There is no telling what our future technology will be able to accomplish and no telling what we can do with our own bodies. In biology right now, we are on the very verge of being able to control our own genetics, what the genes in our own bodies are doing, and certainly, eventually, our own evolution.

We could end up with a species of human being on Earth that is slightly different from the species of human beings on Mars.

15:49 But what would you do there? How would you live? It’s going to be the same as it is on Earth. Somebody’s going to start a restaurant, somebody’s going to build an iron foundry. Someone will make documentary movies of Mars and sell them on Earth. Some idiot will start a reality TV show. (Listen, people running hotels in the Congo barely step outside the air-conditioned confine of the hotel and for fear of diseases)

 There will be software companies, there will be hotels, there will be bars.

 This much is certain: it will be the most disruptive event in our lifetimes, and I think it will be the most inspiring.

Ask any 10-year-old girl if she wants to go to Mars. Children who are now in elementary school are going to choose to live there.

16:35 Remember when we landed humans on the Moon? When that happened, people looked at each other and said, “If we can do this, we can do anything.” What are they going to think when we actually form a colony on Mars?

16:49 Most importantly, it will make us a spacefaring species. And that means humans will survive no matter what happens on Earth. We will never be the last of our kind.

 Seed bank to save Palestinian farming heritage in the Holy Land’s hills

 Vivien Sansour: “There is an old Palestinian idiom: “‘He who does not eat from his own adze cannot think with his own mind.’”

In the rocky hills of the Palestinian West Bank, farmers learned long ago how to adapt to extremes of climate that make spring the shortest season.

In a part of the world where agriculture was first practised, they found crops that could survive even if watered only by the occasional rain storm.

But a form of farming that informed both Palestinian culture and identity – seeping into the language, songs and sayings – has increasingly come under threat from a combination of factors, including manmade climate change, the incursion onto Palestinian land by Israeli settlement, and agricultural companies’ marketing of hybrid varieties to farmers.

Now, an initiative is being launched to save Palestine’s agricultural plant heritage, with the first seed bank dedicated to preserving traditional varieties used by farmers for generations – before they vanish for ever.

The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library – to be formally launched in June – is part of an effort both to educate Palestinians about traditional forms of agriculture in the Holy Land, which are in danger of being forgotten, and about the culture associated with them.

The seed library will preserve “heirloom” varieties particularly adapted to the West Bank.

Supported by the Qattan Foundation, the project is the brainchild of Vivien Sansour, who studied and worked abroad before returning to the West Bank city of Beit Jala.

She was inspired to launch the library after her experiences in Mexico and after working with farmers in the West Bank city of Jenin.

“I was away from Palestine for a long time,” said Sansour. “While I was away, what I remembered were the smells and tastes. When I came back, I realised that what I remembered was under threat and disappearing.

“That threat came from several things. From agri-companies pushing certain varieties and farming methods and from climate change. Places, too, where people would forage for edible plants – like the akub thistle – have come under threat because of issues like the spread of Israeli settlements.

“I realised that what was also under threat was something deeper – the connection to a sense of cultural identity. The songs women would sing in the fields. Phrases, even the words we use. So it is about preserving the local biodiversity, but it is also about the importance to Palestinian culture of traditional agricultural methods.”

Typical for many Palestinian villagers were allotment-style garden plots, known in Arabic as “pieces of paradise”, and the traditional multi-crop planting season known as ba’al.

“They are vegetables and herbs you plant at the end of the spring rains and usually before St George’s Day. The varieties were ones that became adapted over the years to work well in the West Bank’s climate and soil,” said Sansour.

The project, she hopes, will preserve strains including cucumber, marrow and watermelon, once famous throughout the region, that are in danger of dying out. “There is a kind of huge watermelon, known as jadu’i, that was grown in the northern West Bank. Before 1948, it was exported around the region. It was famous in places like Syria. It has almost disappeared. One of the most exciting discoveries so far is that we found some seeds for it. They are seven years old, so we need to see if they are viable.”

Andrew Bossone shared this link
In the birthplace of agriculture, traditional crops are dying out. But one woman has a plan to preserve them| By Peter Beaumont

Part of the project – which Sansour hopes will eventually be housed in a new science centre, the Qattan Foundation, in Ramallah – has seen teachers being trained in a pilot project to reintroduce students to old agricultural practices. One of these is Inam Owianah, who teaches 12to15-year-olds. “I am a science teacher,” she said. “Part of the curriculum is the growing cycle. I was invited to a workshop of the seed library.

“I wasn’t even sure what an heirloom variety was. And then I understood! It wasn’t just about the seeds, but about an intimate connection to our heritage. And the students started to understand that civilisation is not just about buildings but about a way of life. It was why my grandmother would save the best aubergines and courgettes for seeds for the next year,” said Owianah.

“I started asking my students to ask their grandparents and parents about the stories and sayings associated with the plants.”

On Sansour’s patch on the outskirts of the village of Battir, next to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway line where she will plant her own ba’al varieties in the coming

days, fennel, mallow, chard and mint are growing wild. On the stone walls she points out edible herbs.

Other plots around have already been cleared for the growing season with a glyphosate-based weed-killer. “You can see the difference,” she says, disapprovingly picking a handful of wild fennel from her own untreated plot to eat. “You can see how wild and lush it is, even before it is cleared for planting.

“There is an old Palestinian phrase,” she adds: “‘He who does not eat from his own adze cannot think with his own mind.’”

At what age will you be famous?

This goes out to all my current and former students who want to reach all their goals before they’re 21! Read through and breathe easy. You’ve got this!

Dave Rudbarg. April 23 at 6:56am · Jersey City, NJ, United States ·

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.

At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 28, Wayne Coyne ( from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.

At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.

Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.

Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first movie role at age 52.

Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made The Hurt Locker at age 57.

Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.

Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21.

Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet.

Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.

Never tell yourself you missed your chance.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.

You can do it. Whatever it is.

Cracked Wall Street code? Jim Simons

Jim Simons. Philanthropist, mathematician and cryptographer. He used math to break codes that could help explain patterns in the world of finance.Billions later, he’s working to support the next generation of math teachers and scholars. TED’s Chris Anderson sits down with Simons to talk about his extraordinary life in numbers

After astonishing success as a mathematician, code breaker and billionaire hedge fund manager, Jim Simons is mastering yet another field: philanthropy. Full bio

Chris Anderson (From TED): You were something of a mathematical phenom. You had already taught at Harvard and MIT at a young age. And then the NSA came calling. What was that about?

00:22 Jim Simons: Well the NSA — that’s the National Security Agency — they didn’t exactly come calling. They had an operation at Princeton, where they hired mathematicians to attack secret codes and stuff like that. And I knew that existed.

And they had a very good policy, because you could do half your time at your own mathematics, and at least half your time working on their stuff. And they paid a lot. So that was an irresistible pull. So, I went there.

 CA: You were a code-cracker.

 JS: I was.

CA: Until you got fired.

JS: Well, I did get fired. Yes.

 CA: How come?

 JS:  I got fired because the Vietnam War was on, and the boss of bosses in my organization was a big fan of the war and wrote a New York Times article, a magazine section cover story, about how we would win in Vietnam. And I didn’t like that war, I thought it was stupid. And I wrote a letter to the Times, which they published, saying not everyone who works for Maxwell Taylor, if anyone remembers that name, agrees with his views. And I gave my own views which were different from General Taylor’s.

But in the end, nobody said anything. But then, I was 29 years old at this time, and some kid came around and said he was a stringer from Newsweek magazine and he wanted to interview me and ask what I was doing about my views. And I told him, “I’m doing mostly mathematics now, and when the war is over, then I’ll do mostly their stuff.”

Then I did the only intelligent thing I’d done that day — I told my local boss that I gave that interview. And he said, “What’d you say?” And I told him what I said. And then he said, “I’ve got to call Taylor.” He called Taylor; that took 10 minutes. I was fired five minutes after that.

02:23 JS: But it wasn’t bad.

CA: It wasn’t bad, because you went on to Stony Brook and stepped up your mathematical career. You started working with this man here. Who is this?

JS: Oh, [Shiing-Shen] Chern. Chern was one of the great mathematicians of the century. I had known him when I was a graduate student at Berkeley. And I had some ideas, and I brought them to him and he liked them. Together, we did this work which you can easily see up there. There it is.

 CA: It led to you publishing a famous paper together. Can you explain at all what that work was?

03:06 JS: No.  I mean, I could explain it to somebody.

03:12 (Laughter)

03:14 CA: How about explaining this?

03:16 JS: But not many. Not many people.

03:20 CA: I think you told me it had something to do with spheres, so let’s start here.

JS: Well, it did, but I’ll say about that work — it did have something to do with that, but before we get to that — that work was good mathematics. I was very happy with it; so was Chern.

It even started a little sub-field that’s now flourishing. But, more interestingly, it happened to apply to physics, something we knew nothing about — at least I knew nothing about physics, and I don’t think Chern knew a heck of a lot.

And about 10 years after the paper came out, a guy named Ed Witten in Princeton started applying it to string theory and people in Russia started applying it to what’s called “condensed matter.”

Today, those things in there called Chern-Simons invariants have spread through a lot of physics. And it was amazing. We didn’t know any physics. It never occurred to me that it would be applied to physics. But that’s the thing about mathematics — you never know where it’s going to go.

 CA: This is so incredible. So, we’ve been talking about how evolution shapes human minds that may or may not perceive the truth. Somehow, you come up with a mathematical theory, not knowing any physics, discover two decades later that it’s being applied to profoundly describe the actual physical world. How can that happen?  

04:49 But there’s a famous physicist named [Eugene] Wigner, and he wrote an essay on the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. Somehow, this mathematics, which is rooted in the real world in some sense — we learn to count, measure, everyone would do that — and then it flourishes on its own.

But so often it comes back to save the day. General relativity is an example. [Hermann] Minkowski had this geometry, and Einstein realized, “Hey! It’s the very thing in which I can cast general relativity.” So, you never know. It is a mystery. It is a mystery.

CA: So, here’s a mathematical piece of ingenuity. Tell us about this.

JS: Well, that’s a ball — it’s a sphere, and it has a lattice around it — you know, those squares. What I’m going to show here was originally observed by [Leonhard] Euler, the great mathematician, in the 1700s. And it gradually grew to be a very important field in mathematics: algebraic topology, geometry.

That paper up there had its roots in this. So, here’s this thing: it has eight vertices, 12 edges, six faces. And if you look at the difference — vertices minus edges plus faces — you get two. OK, well, two. That’s a good number. Here’s a different way of doing it — these are triangles covering — this has 12 vertices and 30 edges and 20 faces, 20 tiles. And vertices minus edges plus faces still equals two.

And in fact, you could do this any which way — cover this thing with all kinds of polygons and triangles and mix them up. And you take vertices minus edges plus faces — you’ll get two. Here’s a different shape. This is a torus, or the surface of a doughnut: 16 vertices covered by these rectangles, 32 edges, 16 faces. Vertices minus edges comes out to be zero. It’ll always come out to zero. Every time you cover a torus with squares or triangles or anything like that, you’re going to get zero. So, this is called the Euler characteristic. And it’s what’s called a topological invariant. It’s pretty amazing. No matter how you do it, you’re always get the same answer. So that was the first sort of thrust, from the mid-1700s, into a subject which is now called algebraic topology.

07:31 CA: And your own work took an idea like this and moved it into higher-dimensional theory, higher-dimensional objects, and found new invariances?

JS: Yes. Well, there were already higher-dimensional invariants: Pontryagin classes — actually, there were Chern classes. There were a bunch of these types of invariants. I was struggling to work on one of them and model it sort of combinatorially, instead of the way it was typically done, and that led to this work and we uncovered some new things.

But if it wasn’t for Mr. Euler — who wrote almost 70 volumes of mathematics and had 13 children, who he apparently would dandle on his knee while he was writing — if it wasn’t for Mr. Euler, there wouldn’t perhaps be these invariants.

CA: OK, so that’s at least given us a flavor of that amazing mind in there. Let’s talk about Renaissance. Because you took that amazing mind and having been a code-cracker at the NSA, you started to become a code-cracker in the financial industry. I think you probably didn’t buy efficient market theory. Somehow you found a way of creating astonishing returns over two decades.

The way it’s been explained to me, what’s remarkable about what you did wasn’t just the size of the returns, it’s that you took them with surprisingly low volatility and risk, compared with other hedge funds. So how on earth did you do this, Jim?

JS: I did it by assembling a wonderful group of people. When I started doing trading, I had gotten a little tired of mathematics. I was in my late 30s, I had a little money. I started trading and it went very well. I made quite a lot of money with pure luck. I mean, I think it was pure luck. It certainly wasn’t mathematical modeling.

But in looking at the data, after a while I realized: it looks like there’s some structure here. And I hired a few mathematicians, and we started making some models — just the kind of thing we did back at IDA [Institute for Defense Analyses]. You design an algorithm, you test it out on a computer. Does it work? Doesn’t it work? And so on.

CA: Can we take a look at this? Because here’s a typical graph of some commodity. I look at that, and I say, “That’s just a random, up-and-down walk — maybe a slight upward trend over that whole period of time.” How on earth could you trade looking at that, and see something that wasn’t just random?

10:08 JS: In the old days — this is kind of a graph from the old days, commodities or currencies had a tendency to trend. Not necessarily the very light trend you see here, but trending in periods. And if you decided, OK, I’m going to predict today, by the average move in the past 20 days — maybe that would be a good prediction, and I’d make some money. And in fact, years ago, such a system would work — not beautifully, but it would work. You’d make money, you’d lose money, you’d make money. But this is a year’s worth of days, and you’d make a little money during that period. It’s a very vestigial system.

10:55 CA: So you would test a bunch of lengths of trends in time and see whether, for example, a 10-day trend or a 15-day trend was predictive of what happened next.

11:05 JS: Sure, you would try all those things and see what worked best. Trend-following would have been great in the ’60s, and it was sort of OK in the ’70s. By the ’80s, it wasn’t.

11:19 CA: Because everyone could see that. So, how did you stay ahead of the pack?

11:26 JS: We stayed ahead of the pack by finding other approaches — shorter-term approaches to some extent. The real thing was to gather a tremendous amount of data — and we had to get it by hand in the early days. We went down to the Federal Reserve and copied interest rate histories and stuff like that, because it didn’t exist on computers. We got a lot of data. And very smart people — that was the key. I didn’t really know how to hire people to do fundamental trading. I had hired a few — some made money, some didn’t make money. I couldn’t make a business out of that. But I did know how to hire scientists, because I have some taste in that department. So, that’s what we did. And gradually these models got better and better, and better and better.

12:17 CA: You’re credited with doing something remarkable at Renaissance, which is building this culture, this group of people, who weren’t just hired guns who could be lured away by money. Their motivation was doing exciting mathematics and science.

12:30 JS: Well, I’d hoped that might be true. But some of it was money.

12:36 CA: They made a lot of money.

12:38 JS: I can’t say that no one came because of the money. I think a lot of them came because of the money. But they also came because it would be fun.

12:45 CA: What role did machine learning play in all this?

12:47 JS: In a certain sense, what we did was machine learning. You look at a lot of data, and you try to simulate different predictive schemes, until you get better and better at it. It doesn’t necessarily feed back on itself the way we did things. But it worked.

13:07 CA: So these different predictive schemes can be really quite wild and unexpected. I mean, you looked at everything, right? You looked at the weather, length of dresses, political opinion.

13:16 JS: Yes, length of dresses we didn’t try.

13:19 CA: What sort of things?

13:21 JS: Well, everything. Everything is grist for the mill — except hem lengths. Weather, annual reports, quarterly reports, historic data itself, volumes, you name it. Whatever there is. We take in terabytes of data a day. And store it away and massage it and get it ready for analysis. You’re looking for anomalies. You’re looking for — like you said, the efficient market hypothesis is not correct.

13:51 CA: But any one anomaly might be just a random thing. So, is the secret here to just look at multiple strange anomalies, and see when they align?

14:00 JS: Any one anomaly might be a random thing; however, if you have enough data you can tell that it’s not. You can see an anomaly that’s persistent for a sufficiently long time — the probability of it being random is not high. But these things fade after a while; anomalies can get washed out. So you have to keep on top of the business.

14:23 CA: A lot of people look at the hedge fund industry now and are sort of … shocked by it, by how much wealth is created there, and how much talent is going into it. Do you have any worries about that industry, and perhaps the financial industry in general? Kind of being on a runaway train that’s — I don’t know — helping increase inequality?

How would you champion what’s happening in the hedge fund industry?

14:53 JS: I think in the last three or four years, hedge funds have not done especially well. We’ve done dandy, but the hedge fund industry as a whole has not done so wonderfully. The stock market has been on a roll, going up as everybody knows, and price-earnings ratios have grown. So an awful lot of the wealth that’s been created in the last — let’s say, five or six years — has not been created by hedge funds. People would ask me, “What’s a hedge fund?” And I’d say, “One and 20.” Which means — now it’s two and 20 — it’s two percent fixed fee and 20 percent of profits. Hedge funds are all different kinds of creatures.

15:34 CA: Rumor has it you charge slightly higher fees than that.

15:38 JS: We charged the highest fees in the world at one time. Five and 44, that’s what we charge.

15:44 CA: Five and 44. So five percent flat, 44 percent of upside. You still made your investors spectacular amounts of money.

15:52 JS: We made good returns, yes. People got very mad: “How can you charge such high fees?” I said, “OK, you can withdraw.” But “How can I get more?” was what people were —

16:01 (Laughter)

16:02 But at a certain point, as I think I told you, we bought out all the investors because there’s a capacity to the fund.

16:10 CA: But should we worry about the hedge fund industry attracting too much of the world’s great mathematical and other talent to work on that, as opposed to the many other problems in the world?

16:21 JS: Well, it’s not just mathematical. We hire astronomers and physicists and things like that. I don’t think we should worry about it too much. It’s still a pretty small industry. And in fact, bringing science into the investing world has improved that world. It’s reduced volatility. It’s increased liquidity. Spreads are narrower because people are trading that kind of stuff. So I’m not too worried about Einstein going off and starting a hedge fund.

16:53 CA: You’re at a phase in your life now where you’re actually investing, though, at the other end of the supply chain — you’re actually boosting mathematics across America. This is your wife, Marilyn. You’re working on philanthropic issues together. Tell me about that.

17:13 JS: Well, Marilyn started — there she is up there, my beautiful wife — she started the foundation about 20 years ago. I think ’94. I claim it was ’93, she says it was ’94, but it was one of those two years.

17:31 We started the foundation, just as a convenient way to give charity. She kept the books, and so on. We did not have a vision at that time, but gradually a vision emerged — which was to focus on math and science, to focus on basic research. And that’s what we’ve done. Six years ago or so, I left Renaissance and went to work at the foundation. So that’s what we do.

18:05 CA: And so Math for America is basically investing in math teachers around the country, giving them some extra income, giving them support and coaching. And really trying to make that more effective and make that a calling to which teachers can aspire.

18:20 JS: Yeah — instead of beating up the bad teachers, which has created morale problems all through the educational community, in particular in math and science, we focus on celebrating the good ones and giving them status. Yeah, we give them extra money, 15,000 dollars a year. We have 800 math and science teachers in New York City in public schools today, as part of a core. There’s a great morale among them. They’re staying in the field. Next year, it’ll be 1,000 and that’ll be 10 percent of the math and science teachers in New York [City] public schools.

19:06 CA: Jim, here’s another project that you’ve supported philanthropically: Research into origins of life, I guess. What are we looking at here?

JS:  I’ll save that for a second. And then I’ll tell you what you’re looking at. Origins of life is a fascinating question. How did we get here?

Well, there are two questions:

One is, what is the route from geology to biology how did we get here?

And the other question is, what did we start with? What material, if any, did we have to work with on this route?

Those are two very, very interesting questions. The first question is a tortuous path from geology up to RNA or something like that — how did that all work? And the other, what do we have to work with? Well, more than we think. So what’s pictured there is a star in formation. Now, every year in our Milky Way, which has 100 billion stars, about two new stars are created.

Don’t ask me how, but they’re created. And it takes them about a million years to settle out. So, in steady state, there are about two million stars in formation at any time. That one is somewhere along this settling-down period. And there’s all this crap sort of circling around it, dust and stuff. And it’ll form probably a solar system, or whatever it forms. But here’s the thing — in this dust that surrounds a forming star have been found, now, significant organic molecules.

Molecules not just like methane, but formaldehyde and cyanide — things that are the building blocks — the seeds, if you will — of life. So, that may be typical. And it may be typical that planets around the universe start off with some of these basic building blocks. Now does that mean there’s going to be life all around? Maybe. But it’s a question of how tortuous this path is from those frail beginnings, those seeds, all the way to life. And most of those seeds will fall on fallow planets.

21:32 CA: So for you, personally, finding an answer to this question of where we came from, of how did this thing happen, that is something you would love to see.

21:40 JS: Would love to see. And like to know — if that path is tortuous enough, and so improbable, that no matter what you start with, we could be a singularity. But on the other hand, given all this organic dust that’s floating around, we could have lots of friends out there. It’d be great to know.

22:05 CA: Jim, a couple of years ago, I got the chance to speak with Elon Musk, and I asked him the secret of his success, and he said taking physics seriously was it.

Listening to you, what I hear you saying is taking math seriously, that has infused your whole life. It’s made you an absolute fortune, and now it’s allowing you to invest in the futures of thousands and thousands of kids across America and elsewhere. Could it be that science actually works? That math actually works?

 JS: Well, math certainly works. Math certainly works. But this has been fun. Working with Marilyn and giving it away has been very enjoyable.

22:48 CA: I just find it — it’s an inspirational thought to me, that by taking knowledge seriously, so much more can come from it. So thank you for your amazing life, and for coming here to TED.

 Dima al Wawi (Palestinian girl of 12):

Released from Israel administrative detention law after 5 months of incarceration
 Note: Every night, Israel raffle a dozen Palestinian youths under its British administrative law
Nimati Emam's photo.
Nimati Emam's photo.
Nimati Emam's photo.
Nimati Emam's photo.

Nimati Emam added a collage.

12 years old Dima al Wawi, the youngest prisoner in Israeli jails, was released after serving a sentence of four and a half months.

Those pictures will haunt me forever.

The sadness, horror or rather numbness in her eyes, the agony of helplessness on her father’s face and and the hugs of her mother…
A child her age could still be fighting fictional monsters, and she had to endure the dirtiest ones alive.

Dima might have not been allowed her first sleepover yet, only to find herself laying down on a strange bed terrified of falling asleep.
What have they done to you?

This is legislated and publicized terrorism. This is not only a war crime, this is a violation of everything logical and human.

Israeli forces bury Palestinians kids alive

Nobody has doubt about the tyrant activities of Israeli forces in Palestinians around the world. They have started to increase it from the last 20 years. In the recent footage you can have the example of Israeli forces’ tyrant activities in which they are burying Palestinian kids alive.

There is no human right organization here to cover apartheid  activity of Israeli forces. On the other hand, those international human right organizations get activated when they see something in the Muslims countries. They get active when they see wrong in the Asia.

International organizations related to human rights are also Not activated when they have cruel activities against Muslims in Burma. They remained calm and enjoy their parties in Europe and America. They only have responsibilities to take actions against Muslims countries. They are not allowed to say something against the countries which are not Muslims.



They are also instructed to take actions against those countries which are Not involved in the interest of Europe and America. So you can say international organizations are not for human being they have been made just for their own interests, not for the welfare of the human being.

The process of discrimination had been started from the first day when they came into power but after the 9/11, it got harsh.

They started to target Muslims especially and do not want to help them in any case.

Same is the case in Palestine, children are dying in numbers but there is no response from all so called organizations.

12 Most beautiful mosques in the Middle East and North Africa

And the stories behind these mosques

There is no doubt that the Middle East and North African regions have a lot of history, influences and Islamic heritage.

With a wide variety of architectural buildings inspired by a vast number of influences, both regions have mosques that have stood the test of time and remain to this day, beautifully designed houses of worship.

What are the stories behind these mosques though? StepFeed decided to find out – Let’s just say that the stories are as equally fascinating as the buildings they represent.|By Nina Awad

1.The Great Mosque of Mohammed Ali Pasha in Egypt

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The mosque is situated in the Citadel of Cairo, which is located in the heart of the capital. Mohammed Ali Pasha ordered the mosque to be constructed between 1830 and 1848 in memory of his son, Tusun Pasha, who died in 1816. However, the magnificent building was not complete until Said Pasha’s reign in 1857.

The mosque wasn’t properly constructed and by 1899, the building was full cracks and holes within the walls. Yet, incomplete and inadequate repairs took place. In 1931, King Farouk deemed the mosque too dangerous and ordered a complete scheme of restoration before such a historical monument was lost.

The mosque is currently a great tourist attraction, for both domestic and foreign travelers.

2. Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Turkey

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Known as the Blue Mosque due to its famous blue tiles that embellish its interior walls, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 in Turkey’s capital, Istanbul.

After the huge defeat in the war with Persia between 1604 -1618, Sultan Ahmet I was determined to reassert the Ottoman power and decided to build a big mosque in Istanbul. The famous mosque would mark the first imperial mosque to be built in more than 40 years. Unlike his predecessors who built mosques using funding they gained from their wars, Ahmet I had to reallocate money from the treasury to fund his project, angering many Muslim jurists in the process.

3. The Umayyad Mosque in Syria

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Located in Damascus, the Umayyed is one of largest and oldest mosques in the world and it is considered to be the fourth holiest place in Islam by some Muslims.

In the year 634 and after the Arab conquest on Damascus, the mosque was built on the site of a shrine dedicated to John the Baptist, who is a prophet in the eyes of Christians and Muslims alike. A legendary story from the era stipulates that the somewhere in the building, John the Baptist’s head remains. Furthermore, Muslims believe that the Umayyad Mosque is the place where Jesus Christ will return at the end of days.

The tomb of Saladin, the medieval Muslim Ayyubid Sultan Saladin, stands in a small garden in the north wall of the mosque.

4. The Quba Mosque in Saudi Arabia

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The Quba Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in the world and had its first bricks were placed by Prophet Mohammed, is located in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. After leaving Mecca to head to Medina, Prophet Mohammed spent 2 weeks in the mosque in which he performed the “Hijra” prayers while waiting for his companion, Ali, to arrive from Mecca.

According to Islamic laws, completing two rakaāt of nafl prayers in the Quba Mosque is equal to performing one Umrah. A hadith told by Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, Al-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Hakim Al- Nishaburi state the prophet used to go to the Quba Mosque every Saturday and did two rakaāt. Afterwards, the prophet called on other Muslims to do the same and said “whoever makes ablutions at home and then goes and prays in the Mosque of Quba, he will have a reward like that of an Umrah.”

5. Hagia Sophia in Turkey

Circa 1900 photograph

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Hagia Sophia was Christian church that was later turned into an imperial mosque. Now however, the remarkable building stands as museum in Istanbul.

From the date of its construction in the year 537 until 1453, the building was a Greek Orthodox cathedral except for a short period of time between 1204 and 1261 when it was converted to Roman Catholic during the Latin Empire. Then the building served as a mosque from 1453 until its secularization in 1931.

The church housed a large number of holy artifacts and stood witness to the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius by Pope Leo IX in 1054. Also, during the conquering of Istanbul by the Ottoman Turks headed by Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered the church to transform to Islam and serve as a mosque, the Chrisitan cathedral had fallen into despair and had no choice but to oblige. The church sacrificed all holy monuments and removed mosaics depicting Jesus and Mary and they were replaced by Islamic artifacts such as mihrab and four minarets.

Islamic relics stayed in the mosque till it was closed to the public for four years until its reopening in 1935 as a museum. Hagia Sophia’s fine architectural detail served as an inspiration for other mosques such as the Blue Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque.

6. The Shah Mosque in Iran

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The Shah Mosque is located in Isfaham, Iran, and has been renamed to Imam Mosque after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The initial construction of the building took part during the Safavids period and is among the best examples of Islamic architecture in the country. Often seen as the masterpiece of Persian architecture, it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its seven colored mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions that date back to 1611.

7. The Süleymaniye Mosque in Turkey

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Yet another Ottoman imperial mosque that is located in Istanbul is the Süleymaniye Mosque. Built on the orders of Sultan Süleyman, the groundbreaking construction began in 1550 and was complete by 1558.

One of Turkey’s most famous tourist attractions, the mosque beautifully blends Islamic architecture with Byzantine architectural elements. The elegentally designed mosque was burned in fiery flames in 1660 and was restored by Sultan Mehmen IV. Another part of mosque collapsed during an earthquake in 1766. During WW1, the mosque’s courtyard served as storage for weapons. Unfortunately, however, ammunition caught on fire under bizarre circumstances which caused further damage to the building. It wasn’t until 1956 that the mosque went under full restoration.

8. Al Aksari Mosque in Iraq

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The Aksari mosque is one of Shia Muslims’ holiest shrines in the world and is located in the city of Samarra, Iraq. Built in 944, the shrine had the remains of the 10th and 11th Shia imams Ali Al Hadi and his son, Hasan Al Aksari. Also buried within the holy mosque are Hakimah Khatun, Ali Al Hadi’s sister, and Narjis Khatun, Mouhammed Al Mahdi’s mother.

Both imams, Ali Al Hadi and Hassan Al Aksari, were under house arrest in a military camp called Caliph Al Mu’tasim and therefore, they are known as the Askariyyain or “Dwellers in the Camp.” Following their death, they were both buried in their house on Abi Ahmed street near the mosque.

Nasir Ad Din Shah Qajar, the king of Persia from1848 to 1896, ordered the latest remodeling of the shrine in 1868. However, the golden dome on that topped the shrine was destroyed in 2006 by extremists. In June 2007, the remaining minarets were destroyed and in July of the same year, a separate bombing destroyed the remaining clock tower.

9. Nasir Ol Molk Mosque in Iran

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Widely referred to as the Pink Mosque, the Nasir Ol Molk Mosque is located in Shiraz, Iran. The mosque was constructed during the Qajar era and remains under the protection of the Endowment Foundation of Nasir Ol Molk. Construction on the marvelous building began in 1876 and was complete in 1888 on the order of Mirzā Hasan Ali, a Qajar ruler.

The mosque includes a large number of colored glass and brilliantly portrays the traditional elements on Shia Islam such as the five concaved designs.

10. The Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Egypt

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The mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun, which is situated in Cairo, is one of the oldest mosques in the city surviving in its original form and design.

Ordered to be built by Ahmad in Tulun, Abbassif governor of Egypt from 868 to 884, the construction of this historic mosque began in 876 and was completed in 879. The mosque has undergone several restorations with the first recorded attempt of repairs in 1177 under the orders of Fatimid Wazir Badr Al Jamali, who inscribed the Shia version of the Shehahda on mosque’s walls. Improvements to the mosque were also observed in 1296 and most recently in 2004 under the orders of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

11. The Khamis Mosque in Bahrain

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Widely believed to be the first mosque built in Bahrain during the Umayyad era under the rule of Caliph Umar II, the Islamic monument is believed to have been founded in 692. However, an inscription on the walls of the mosque says that the foundation happened sometime during the 11th century.

The ancient building went through a complete restoration in the 14th and 15th centuries. The current monument however is composed of two main parts. The first is a prayer hall with a flat roof that is backed by wooden columns that go back to the 14th century. The second part was in addition to the flat roof and is rested upon thick arches that date back to 1339.

12. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayad Mosque

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Initiated by the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,

the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the largest, most impressive mosques to be built in the last 100 years.

With room for more than 7,000 worshippers in its main hall, it serves as the grand mosque for the UAE. Like the UAE itself, the mosque is a mix of regional styles and designs, with Persian, Moghul and Moorish inspirations.

And of course, being in the UAE, the mosque has some notable “biggest” claims: It has what is reportedly the world’s largest carpet (5,627 m2), the third-largest chandelier in the world (15 m in height) and the largest marble mosaic in the world (17,000 m2).

Rarely is there a better representation of a country in its grand mosque than the Sheikh Zayad is for the UAE.

If Not Now, When? Young Jews Refuse to Stay Silent on the Occupation of Palestinian territories

Transcend the impulse to use silence as armor

This Pesach (Passover), young Jews across the United States under the banner of IfNotNow are calling for a sea change in American Jewish consciousness and an end to American Jewish support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

On April 19, I stood with 100 young American Jews in the office lobby of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to say we support freedom and dignity for all Palestinians and Israelis.

This week, in New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago and San Francisco, hundreds of young American Jews are holding ritual protests and getting arrested to say we have had enough. I feel the yearning of a generation to tell a new story of what it means to be Jewish.

Standing with this community, I feel a call to end my own silence.

I used to think of myself as brave, speaking what is tacitly left unsaid, writing poetry about queerness and anger, war and assimilation.

But as I’ve grown into adulthood I’ve felt the corners of my jaw ache as I keep my mouth shut to stop the words of dignity and occupation rising in my throat from pouring out. And it has been painful.

I feel the yearning of a generation to tell a new story of what it means to be Jewish.|By Sammy Sass

I am surprised, but more to the point, I am disturbed. How did my voice dim and my jaw tighten and my hands begin to hesitate?

These lessons in silence are learned; and most devastatingly, I learned them from the place that once taught me to know myself by the power of my own voice: Judaism.

I feel a call to reawaken my voice.

The institutions that raised us have betrayed us. They have taught us bravery and then asked for silence in return.

Hebrew school encouraged dispute and dialogue, introduced me to my first lover and girls making sisterhood.

When I was a teenager, Jewish institutions hired me as a teacher, empowering me to believe in my capacity. My synagogue encouraged me at the age of 15 to read a Shabbat sermon about the unbelievability of God.

They gave me a monogrammed copy of The Jewish Book of Why on the day my brother and I became bnai’ mitzvah.

IfNotNow member leads a collective scream during the action. (Photo: Michelle Weiser) 

An IfNotNow member leads a collective scream during the action. (Photo: Michelle Weiser)

But my synagogue also put up a “We Stand With Israel” sign and taught me that to be American and Jewish meant to unquestioningly support a nation engaged in violent oppression and occupation.

Some American Jewish leaders say that those of us who have walked away from the institutions that raised us have betrayed Judaism. I say that these institutions have betrayed us. They have taught us bravery and then asked for silence in return.

The “We Stand With Israel” signs — and the authority behind them, which is far larger than my individual synagogue — are a defense against the increasingly warranted critique of Israel’s brutal military occupation and systematic disenfranchisement of Palestinian people.

And that defensiveness makes sense for a people with a history of persecution and suffering. It makes sense for Jews to feel scared. The signs are an attempt to protect unity and strength and resources.

But defensiveness, and the silence it requires, is not a way to heal. It is a way to dam the waters of a conversation that needs to be central to modern Jewish life.

IfNotNow is a movement that lets the waters flow. I am in this movement because I need to speak and transcend the impulse to use silence as armor.

Yesterday, as I stood with IfNotNow and said, “Dayenu, It has been enough,” I thought about Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt.

I thought about how it means the dark and narrow place. I imagined the slaves who left Egypt in the middle of the night carrying what they could of their possessions and their children on their backs. I imagined the joy and the luminous sense of possibility to be walking out of bondage.

But I also imagined the gut-wrenching sense of fear. I imagined a community of people walking away from everything they had ever known and how disastrous the present must have felt in order to risk stepping into a desert of total uncertainty.

In the Pesach story, the present disaster was slavery. As modern Jews, we again face Mitzrayim as we acknowledge the disaster of a Judaism associated with war, violent occupation and communal silence.

Choosing to walk through the dark and narrow place means choosing freedom and dignity for all — including Palestinians, Israelis and American Jews.

We have a choice to make. Choosing to walk through the dark and narrow place means choosing freedom and dignity for all — including Palestinians, Israelis and American Jews.

It also means choosing total change.

When the American Jewish consciousness, and the institutions that claim to represent us, choose this, a vibrant Judaism can be reborn. This risk will be rewarded, as we know a true freedom that does not rely on the bondage of others.

IfNotNow member is arrested for chaining herself to table inside AIPAC lobby. (Photo: Sam Boaz) 

An IfNotNow member is arrested for chaining herself to a ritual seder table inside AIPAC’s office lobby. (Photo: Sam Boaz)

In the Pesach story, the risk is rewarded as the Jews are delivered to the place we now call Israel. To retell this story without my heart breaking, I remember that Israel is a name, the second name of Jacob as told in the Torah.

After Jacob steals his brother’s birthright, betrays his father and leaves his home, an angel comes to him in the middle of the night to wrestle.

This angel is a metaphor as Jacob wrestles with himself and unflinchingly examines his past hurt, and the pain he has caused. Only then, after this night of redemptive self-awareness, is he renamed.

Israel, then, is one who wrestles.
Israel is not one who learns silence, or
one who lives in fear, or
one who does as told.
Israel is one who asks, who listens, who struggles, and heals.
This is the legacy that I reclaim.

I walk with IfNotNow through the narrow places toward an American Judaism that wrestles with the reality of the occupation.

And I walk with myself as I relearn my voice. I see the progression as our movement gains momentum across the country, and I know that no matter the pain of the change — the conversations with family, the bravery of words shared — this change is necessary.

I know that I cannot remain where I am, and American Judaism cannot remain as it is. I know that we have a choice to make, and I ask: If not now, when?

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Help Truthout keep publishing stories like this: They can’t be found in corporate media!

Sammy Sass

Sammy Sass is a writer and artist from Boston who has been talking, listening and creating for as long as she has had hands to write and words to ask.

Her work is about raising our voices, because within our stories lives the power to create personal, communal and social freedom.

Through speaking, then sharing, then listening, we can heal our planet from the hurt that comes from silence.

Susie’s Senior Dogs
Tonnie Ch shared this link Humans of New York

Susie passed away yesterday evening. She came into my life quite unexpectedly five years ago. I was photographing in Brooklyn one evening when I saw the coolest little dog sitting on a stoop.

I sat down to pet her, and after a few minutes, her owner told me that he was unable to care for her anymore. He asked if I could take her. I was broke at the time. I was sleeping on a friend’s couch. And everyone that I asked told me that it was ‘not the right time’ for a dog.

But I was so charmed by Susie, and the whole encounter seemed so fated, that I offered to take her.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Susie was twelve years old at the time and didn’t need much. I’d never had a dog before. It was a new experience. I was introduced for the first time to a dog’s unexplainable and unconditional love.

After a few weeks, it seemed that Susie’s only concern in life was staying as close to me as possible. There was now a joyous reunion waiting for me at the end of every workday. And I learned that there are few greater blessings than a wildly happy dog greeting you at the door.

Over the last few years, my fiancé Erin developed her own relationship with Susie. As many of you know, Erin started a nonprofit called Susie’s Senior Dogs, which seeks to place older dogs in loving homes.

Older dogs have the hardest time getting adopted. Because there is such a demand for young dogs, so many senior dogs are either euthanized or forced to spend the remainder of their lives in a shelter.

Over the past few years, Susie’s Senior Dogs has placed several hundred senior dogs into homes. There is a warm and active community of people who follow the page. In fact, I think that half the people who come to my book signings are more excited to meet Erin than me.

So it’s been a tough few days, but Erin and I are both very thankful that Susie came into our lives. She was such a special friend.

Susie was my introduction to the love of dogs. And she helped Erin discover her purpose in life. So in a way she’s going to stick around forever. I encourage everyone to follow Susie’s Senior Dogs, and consider allowing an older dog to change your life as well.

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Humans of New York's photo.

 $2 Trillion Project to Get Saudi Arabia’s Economy Off Oil? The dreams of a nut case of a Saudi Prince?

Any coverage of a person, good or bad, is a free ad for the individual.

I hate to be contributing to the false image of a crazy younger prince generation of the Saudi Kingdom, who is appointed as minister of defense and has used his position to already commit war crimes in Yemen, the eastern province in the Saudi Kingdom and in Syria.

This bolding and tall 31 years old “Mr. Everything,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is usually shown with his Saudi keffeyeh (head scarf) to hide his head, is getting ready to rule as the dictator King since his father Selman is a very sick person.

 $2 Trillion Project? Nuts. Saudi Kingdom is about to borrow money for its budget deficit. And oil prices are Not about to rise anytime soon. Iran and Iraq have increased their output, and to be followed by Libya soon.

 $2 Trillion Project? Nuts. On the assumption that this most obscurantist of kingdoms can withdraw its wealth from the US. As if any sate ever managed to siphon out the wealth it stashed in the US financial institutions. All these current fictitious restrictions on Iran are meant to delay for decades retrieving the Shah’s wealth from the USA, the Iran people’s money

Karim A. Badra shared this link. April 21 at 3:15pm ·
Eight hours interview with “Mr. Everything,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Early last year, at a royal encampment in the oasis of Rawdat Khuraim, Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia visited his uncle, King Abdullah, in the monarch’s final days before entering a hospital.

Unbeknown to anyone outside the House of Saud, the two men, separated in age by 59 years, had a rocky history together. King Abdullah once banned his brash nephew, all of 26 at the time, from setting foot in the Ministry of Defense after rumors reached the royal court that the prince was disruptive and power-hungry.

Later, the pair grew close, bound by a shared belief that Saudi Arabia must fundamentally change, or else face ruin in a world that is trying to leave oil behind.

For two years, encouraged by the king, the prince had been quietly planning a major restructuring of Saudi Arabia’s government and economy, aiming to fulfill what he calls his generation’s “different dreams” for a postcarbon future.

King Abdullah died shortly after his visit, in January 2015. Prince Mohammed’s father, Salman, assumed the throne, named his son the deputy crown prince—second in line—and gave him unprecedented control over the state oil monopoly, the national investment fund, economic policy, and the Ministry of Defense.

That’s a larger portfolio than that of the crown prince, the only man ahead of him on the succession chart. Effectively, Prince Mohammed is today the power behind the world’s most powerful throne. Western diplomats in Riyadh call him Mr. Everything. He’s 31 years old.

“From the first 12 hours, decisions were issued,” says Prince Mohammed. “In the first 10 days, the entire government was restructured.”

He spoke for eight hours over two interviews in Riyadh that provide a rare glimpse of the thinking of a new kind of Middle East potentate—one who tries to emulate Steve Jobs, credits video games with sparking ingenuity, and works 16-hour days in a land with no shortage of sinecures.

Last year there was near-panic among the prince’s advisers as they discovered Saudi Arabia was burning through its foreign reserves faster than anyone knew, with insolvency only two years away.

Plummeting oil revenue had resulted in an almost $200 billion budget shortfall—a preview of a future in which the Saudis’ only viable export can no longer pay the bills, whether because of shale oil flooding the market or climate change policies.

Historically, the kingdom has relied on the petroleum sector for 90 percent of the state budget, almost all its export earnings, and more than half its gross domestic product.

On April 25 the prince is scheduled to unveil his “Vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” an historic plan encompassing broad economic and social changes. It includes the creation of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which will eventually hold more than $2 trillion in assets—enough to buy all of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Berkshire Hathaway, the world’s four largest public companies.

The prince plans an IPO that could sell off “less than 5 percent” of Saudi Aramco, the national oil producer, which will be turned into the world’s biggest industrial conglomerate. The fund will diversify into nonpetroleum assets, hedging the kingdom’s nearly total dependence on oil for revenue.

The tectonic moves “will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil,” the prince says. “So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil.”

For 80 years oil has underwritten the social compact on which Saudi Arabia operates: absolute rule for the Al Saud family, in exchange for generous spending on its 21 million subjects. (And over 5,000 princes and princesses)

Now, Prince Mohammed is dictating a new bargain. He’s already reduced massive subsidies for gasoline, electricity, and water.

He may impose a value-added tax and levies on luxury goods and sugary drinks. These and other measures are intended to generate $100 billion a year in additional nonoil revenue by 2020.

That’s not to say the days of Saudi government handouts are over—there are no plans to institute an income tax, and to cushion the blow for those with lower incomes, the prince plans to pay out direct cash subsidies. “We don’t want to exert any pressure on them,” he says. “We want to exert pressure on wealthy people.”

Saudi Arabia can’t thrive while curbing the rights of half its population, and the prince has signaled he would support more freedom for women, who can’t drive or travel without permission from a male relative.

“We believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to obtain,” the prince says.

One former senior U.S. military officer who recently met with the prince says the royal told him he’s ready to let women drive but is waiting for the right moment to confront the conservative religious establishment, which dominates social and religious life. “He said, ‘If women were allowed to ride camels [in the time of the Prophet Muhammad], perhaps we should let them drive cars, the modern-day camels,’ ” the former officer says.

Related Story: Saudi Prince Says No Problem With Religious Authorities on Women

Separately, Saudi Arabia’s religious police have been banned from making random arrests without assistance from other authorities.

Attempts to liberalize could jeopardize the deal that the Al Saud family struck with Wahhabi fundamentalists two generations ago, but the sort of industries Prince Mohammed wants to lure to Saudi Arabia are unlikely to come to a country with major strictures on women. Today, no matter how much money there is in Riyadh, bankers and their families would rather stay in Dubai.

Many Saudis, accustomed to watching the levers of power operated carefully by the geriatric descendants of the kingdom’s founding monarch, were stunned by Prince Mohammed’s lightning consolidation of power last year.

The ascendance of a third-generation prince—he’s the founder’s grandson—was of acute interest to the half of the population that’s under 25, particularly among the growing number of urbane, well-educated Saudis who find the restrictions on women an embarrassment. Youth unemployment is about 30 percent.

But supporting reform is one thing, and living it another.

Public reaction to the economic reboot has been wary, sometimes angry. This winter, many Saudis took to Twitter, their favored means of uncensored discourse, to vent about a jump of as much as 1,000 percent in water bills and to complain about the prospect of Saudi Aramco, the nation’s patrimony, being sold off to finance the investment fantasies of a royal neophyte.

“We’ve been screaming for alternatives to oil for 46 years, but nothing happened,” says Barjas Albarjas, an economic commentator who’s critical of selling Aramco shares. “Why are we putting our main source of livelihood at risk? It’s as if we’re getting a loan from the buyer that we’ll have to pay back for the rest of our lives.”

Albarjas and other Saudi skeptics believe public investors, leery the state will always have other priorities for Aramco besides maximizing profits, will demand a steep discount to invest in its shares. They also wonder why Saudis should trust unaccountable managers of the sovereign wealth fund to bring in high returns any more than Aramco’s executives.

The company’s size is staggering. It’s the world’s No. 1 oil producer, with the capacity to pump more than 12 million barrels a day, more than twice as much as any other company, and it’s the world’s fourth-biggest refiner.

Aramco controls the world’s second-largest oil reserves, behind Venezuela (I sought it was Iraq?); but in contrast to that country’s expensive-to-tap Orinoco Belt, the oil in Saudi Arabia is cheap and easy to obtain. Aramco is also one of the most secretive companies on earth—there are no official measures of financial performance.

Saudi Arabia’s economy will probably expand 1.5 percent in 2016, the slowest pace since the global financial crisis, according to a Bloomberg survey, as government spending—the engine that powers the economy—declines for the first time in more than a decade.

The state still employs two-thirds of Saudi workers, while foreigners account for nearly 80 percent of the private-sector payroll.

Some past diversification drives in Saudi Arabia have been conspicuous failures. The $10 billion King Abdullah Financial District, for example, begun in 2006, sits largely unleased. A ghostly monorail track snakes through some 70 buildings, including five brand-new glass-and-steel skyscrapers. Some construction workers abandoned the project recently, claiming they hadn’t been paid.

“Ultimately, everyone knows what the demographics imply for Saudi Arabia,” says Crispin Hawes, a managing director at Teneo Intelligence. “Those demographics don’t look any nicer now than they did 10 years ago. Without real fundamental economic reform, it is incredibly difficult to see how the Saudi economy can generate the employment levels it needs.”

Prince Mohammed won’t go into details about any planned nonoil investments, but he says the gargantuan sovereign fund will team up with private equity firms to eventually invest half its holdings overseas, excluding the Aramco stake, in assets that will produce a steady stream of dividends unmoored from fossil fuels. He knows that many people aren’t convinced. “This is why I’m sitting with you today,” he says in mid-April. “I want to convince our public of what we are doing, and I want to convince the world.”

Prince Mohammed says he’s used to resistance, hardened by bureaucratic enemies who once accused him of power-grabbing in front of his father and King Abdullah. He says he studies Winston Churchill and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and will turn adversity to his advantage.

It could all read as just another millennial’s disruption talk if the prince didn’t have a clear path to power or speak so freely in ways that shock the petro-political world order.

The likely future king of Saudi Arabia says he doesn’t care if oil prices rise or fall. If they go up, that means more money for nonoil investments, he says. If they go down, Saudi Arabia, as the world’s lowest-cost producer, can expand in the growing Asian market.

The deputy crown prince is essentially disavowing decades of Saudi oil doctrine as the leader of OPEC. He scuttled a proposed freeze of oil production on April 17 at a suppliers’ meeting in Qatar because arch-rival Iran wouldn’t participate.

Observers saw it as extremely rare interference by a member of the royal family, which has traditionally given the technocrats at the Petroleum Ministry ample room for maneuver on oil policy. “We don’t care about oil prices—$30 or $70, they are all the same to us,” he says. “This battle is not my battle.”

To interview the deputy crown prince, you don’t check in with the receptionist. The perimeter begins at a downtown Riyadh hotel, awaiting the call from the office of palace protocol.

The evening of March 30 is spent on standby; the word comes at 8:30 p.m. Three Mercedes-Benzes arrive. Even headed to an interview about thrift, there’s no escaping decadence: The cars appear brand-new, with seats wrapped in plastic and safety belts that have never been used.

The caravan heads to the royal compound in Irqah, a cluster of palaces surrounded by high white walls where the king and some of his relatives live, including Prince Mohammed. Armed guards, checkpoints, and metal detectors are all bypassed. No one even checks IDs.

In his office, Prince Mohammed wears a plain white gown and nothing on his head, revealing longish dark curls and a receding hairline—an informality that many Saudis would find endearing when official photos were later published online. A marathon discussion and interview begins, with him listening to questions in English and responding immediately in detail in Arabic. He repeatedly corrects his interpreter.

At 12:30 a.m., it’s dinnertime. The reporters are joined at the table by the prince’s economic team, including the chairman of Aramco; the chief financial regulator; and the head of the sovereign wealth fund.

As conversation loosens over the meal, Prince Mohammed asks Mohammed Al-Sheikh, his Harvard-educated financial adviser and a former lawyer at Latham & Watkins and the World Bank, to give an update on Saudi Arabia’s fiscal condition.

During the oil boom from 2010 to 2014, Saudi spending went berserk. Prior requirements that the king approve all contracts over 100 million riyals ($26.7 million) got looser and looser—first to 200 million, then to 300 million, then to 500 million, and then, Al-Sheikh says, the government suspended the rule altogether.

A journalist asks: How much was wasted?

Al-Sheikh eyes a running recorder on the table. “Can I turn this off?” he says.

“No, you can say it on record,” Prince Mohammed says.

“My best guess,” says Al-Sheikh, “is that there was roughly between 80 to 100 billion dollars of inefficient spending” every year, about a quarter of the entire Saudi budget.

Prince Mohammed picks up the questioning: “How close is Saudi Arabia to a financial crisis?”

Today it’s much better, Al-Sheikh says. But “if you’d asked me exactly a year ago, I was probably on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.”

Then he tells a story that no one outside the kingdom’s inner sanctum has heard.

Last spring, as the International Monetary Fund and others were predicting Saudi Arabia’s reserves could stake the country for at least five years of low oil prices, the prince’s team discovered the kingdom was rapidly becoming insolvent.

At last April’s spending levels, Saudi Arabia would have gone “completely broke” within just two years, by early 2017, Al-Sheikh says. To avert calamity, the prince cut the budget by 25 percent, reinstated strict spending controls, tapped the debt markets, and began to develop the VAT and other levies. The burn rate on Saudi Arabia’s cash reserves—$30 billion a month through the first half of 2015—began to fall.

Al-Sheikh finishes his fiscally mortifying report. “Thank you,” the prince says.

A second interview, on April 14, takes place at King Salman’s farmhouse in Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh.(I guess this was the 18th century capital of the tribe before Ibrahim Pasha entered and destroyed)

When the Mercedes caravan gets snarled in freeway traffic, a call from the front seat produces a police escort out of thin air. The reporters pull into a narrow lane running along a high wall that looks like the mud-brick bulwark of a desert castle. The property, where King Salman and his son have offices, sits atop a small hill in the heart of the Al Sauds’ ancestral lands.

This time the prince talks about himself.

Growing up, he says, he benefited from two influences: technology and the royal family. His generation was the first on the Internet, the first to play video games, and the first to get its information from screens, he says. “We think in a very different way. Our dreams are different.”

His father is an avid reader, and he liked to assign his children one book per week, and then quiz them to see who’d read it.

His mother, through her staff, organized daily extracurricular courses and field trips and brought in intellectuals for three-hour discussions. Both parents were taskmasters.

Being late to lunch with his father was “a disaster,” the prince says. His mother was so strict that “my brothers and I used to think, Why is our mother treating us this way? She would never overlook any of the mistakes we made,” he says. Now the prince thinks her punishments made them stronger.

The prince had four older half-brothers he looked up to, he says. One was an astronaut who flew on the space shuttle Discovery, the first Arab and Muslim to reach outer space. Another is the respected deputy oil minister. A third became a university professor with a Ph.D. from Oxford in political science, and the fourth, who died in 2002, founded one of the largest media groups in the Middle East.

All of them worked closely with King Fahd because he was their father’s full brother, the prince explains, “which allowed us to observe and live” the heady atmosphere of the royal court.

Prince Mohammed saw two possible versions of himself: one who pursued a vision of his own, and one who adapted to the court as it was.

“There’s a big difference,” he says. “The first, he can create Apple. The second can become a successful employee. I had elements that were much more than what Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates had. If I work according to their methods, what will I create? All of this was in my head when I was young.”

In 2007, Prince Mohammed graduated fourth in his class from King Saud University with a bachelor’s degree in law.

Then the kingdom came knocking. He resisted at first, telling the director of the Bureau of Experts, which serves as the cabinet’s legal adviser, that he was off to get married, earn a master’s degree overseas, and make his fortune. But his father urged him to give the government a chance, and Prince Mohammed did so for two years, focusing on changing certain corporate laws and regulations that “I had always struggled with.”

His boss, Essam bin Saeed, says the prince showed a restless intellect and no patience for bureaucracy. “Procedures that used to take two months, he’d ask for them in two days,” says Saeed, who now works as a minister of state. “Today, it’s one day.”

In 2009, King Abdullah refused to approve Prince Mohammed’s promotion, in theory to avoid the appearance of nepotism.

A bitter Prince Mohammed left and went to work for his father, then governor of Riyadh. He stepped into a viper’s nest.

As Prince Mohammed tells it, he tried to streamline procedures to keep his father from drowning in a sea of paperwork, and the old guard rebelled. They accused the young prince of usurping power by cutting off their contact with his father and took their complaints to King Abdullah.

In 2011, King Abdullah named Prince Salman defense minister but ordered Prince Mohammed never to set foot inside the ministry.

The prince worried his career was over. “I’m saying to myself, ‘I’m in my 20s, I don’t know how I fell into more than one trap,’ ” he says. But given how things have turned out, he’s grateful. “It’s only by coincidence I started working with my father—all because of King Abdullah’s decision not to grant my promotion. God bless his soul, he did me a favor.”

The prince resigned his government post and went to work reorganizing his father’s foundation, which builds housing, and started his own nonprofit aimed at fostering innovation and leadership among Saudi youth.

In 2012 his father became crown prince. Six months later, Prince Mohammed was named his chief of court. Gradually, he worked his way back into King Abdullah’s good graces, taking on special assignments for the royal court that called for sharp elbows.

As the prince privately began planning for his father’s eventual reign, the king came to him with a huge assignment: Clean up the Ministry of Defense.

Its problems had defied solutions for years, the prince says. “I told him, ‘Please, I don’t want this.’ He shouted at me and said, ‘You’re not to blame. I’m the one to blame—for talking to you.’ ” The last thing Prince Mohammed wanted at the time was more powerful enemies. The king issued a royal decree naming the prince supervisor of the office of defense minister and member of the cabinet.

He brought in Booz Allen Hamilton and Boston Consulting Group and changed the procedures for weapons procurement, contracting, information technology, and human resources, says Fahad Al-Eissa, director general of the defense minister’s office.

Previously, the legal department had become “marginalized,” which resulted in bad contracts that became “a big source of corruption,” Al-Eissa says. The prince strengthened the law department and sent back dozens of contracts for revision. Many weapons purchases had been misconceived and inappropriately vetted, with no clear purpose.

“We are the fourth-largest military spender in the world, yet when it comes to the quality of our arms, we are barely in the top 20,” Al-Eissa says. So the prince created an office to analyze arms deals.

He also started spending a few days a week at King Abdullah’s palace. He tried to push through several new reforms. “It was very difficult to do with the presence of a number of people,” he says. “But I remember to this day there’s nothing I discussed with King Abdullah that he didn’t give the order and implement.”

Less than a week after King Abdullah died and King Salman took the throne, he issued a decree naming Prince Mohammed defense minister, chief of the royal court, and president of a newly created council to oversee the economy.

Three months later, the king replaced his half-brother as crown prince—a former intelligence chief who’d been appointed deputy crown prince by King Abdullah just two years earlier—and placed his nephew and son in the line of succession. The king’s decree said the move had been approved by a majority of the Al Saud family’s Allegiance Council. Prince Mohammed was given control over Saudi Aramco by royal decree 48 hours later.

The prince divides his time between his father’s palaces and the Defense Ministry, working from morning until after midnight most days.

Courtiers claim his relationship with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, is good; they have neighboring camps at the royals’ desert encampment. Prince Mohammed takes frequent meetings with the king and spends long sessions with consultants and aides poring over economic and oil data. He also greets foreign dignitaries and diplomats and is the main prosecutor of Saudi Arabia’s controversial war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

For all the prince’s talk of thrift, the war has cost a fortune. “We believe that we are closer than ever to a political solution,” he says about the conflict. “But if things relapse, we are ready.”

He’s awakened most mornings by his kids, two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 1 to 6. That’s the last he sees of them. “Sometimes my wife gets upset with me because I put so much pressure on her for the programs that I want them to have,” he says. “I rely mainly on their mother for their upbringing.”

Prince Mohammed has only one wife and isn’t planning on marrying more, he says. His generation isn’t so into polygamy, he explains. Life is too busy, compared with past eras when farmers could work a few hours a day and warriors could “take spoils once a week and had a lot of spare time.”

Working, sleeping, eating, and drinking don’t leave a lot of time to open another household, he says. “It’s tough [enough] living with one family.”

In Prince Mohammed, the U.S. may find a sympathetic long-term ally in a chaotic region. After President Obama met the prince at Camp David last May, he said he found him “extremely knowledgeable, very smart, and wise beyond his years.” The prince visited Obama at the White House in September to air his disapproval of the U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran, and the two men were likely to meet again on April 20 when Obama visits King Salman in Riyadh.

In March, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina met Prince Mohammed in Riyadh with a delegation from Congress. The prince emerged wearing his traditional gold-laced robe and red headdress and confided to Graham that he wished he’d worn something else.

“He said, ‘The robe does not make the man,’ ” Graham says. “He obviously understands our culture.” Graham says the men spoke for an hour about the “common enemies” that Israel and Saudi Arabia have in Islamic State and Iran; innovation and Islam; and, of course, the epic economic changes.

“I was blown away; I couldn’t get over how comfortable meeting him was,” says Graham. “What you have is a guy who sees the finite nature of the revenue stream and, rather than panicking, sees a strategic opportunity. His view of Saudi society is that basically it’s now time to have less for the few and more for the many. The top members of the royal family have been identified by their privilege. He wants them to be identified by their obligations instead.”

Changing the royal optics in a country where thousands of Al Sauds live opulently off the national coffers won’t be easy, but Prince Mohammed is willing to try. “The opportunities we have,” he says, “are much bigger than the problems.”

With Glen Carey, Deema Almashabi, Vivian Nereim, Wael Mahdi, Javier Blas, Alaa Shahine, Riad Hamade, Matthew Philips, and Zainab Fattah

(Update: Clarifies a description of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel.)

The real reason Dilma Rousseff’s enemies want her impeached

The story of Brazil’s political crisis, and the rapidly changing global perception of it, begins with its national media.

The country’s dominant broadcast and print outlets are owned by a tiny handful of Brazil’s richest families, and are steadfastly conservative. (Like in most countries?)

For decades, those media outlets have been used to agitate for the Brazilian rich, ensuring that severe wealth inequality (and the political inequality that results) remains firmly in place.

Indeed, most of today’s largest media outlets – that appear respectable to outsiders – supported the 1964 military coup that ushered in two decades of rightwing dictatorship and further enriched the nation’s oligarchs.

This key historical event still casts a shadow over the country’s identity and politics. Those corporations – led by the multiple media arms of the Globo organisation – heralded that coup as a noble blow against a corrupt, democratically elected liberal government. Sound familiar?

Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff: a target of the rich and powerful. Photograph: Fernando Bizerra Jr/EPA

For more than a year, those same media outlets have peddled a self-serving narrative: an angry citizenry, driven by fury over government corruption, rising against and demanding the overthrow of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, and her Workers’ party (PT). The world saw endless images of huge crowds of protesters in the streets, always an inspiring sight.

But what most outside Brazil did Not see was that the country’s plutocratic media had spent months inciting those protests (while pretending merely to “cover” them). The protesters were not remotely representative of Brazil’s population. They were, instead, disproportionately white and wealthy: the very same people who have opposed the PT and its anti-poverty programmes for two decades.

Slowly, the outside world has begun to see past the pleasing, two-dimensional caricature manufactured by its domestic press, and to recognise who will be empowered once Rousseff is removed. It has now become clear that corruption is not the cause of the effort to oust Brazil’s twice-elected president; rather, corruption is merely the pretext. (Or the tip of the iceberg?)

Rousseff’s moderately leftwing party first gained the presidency in 2002, when her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, won a resounding victory. Due largely to his popularity and charisma, and bolstered by Brazil’s booming economic growth under his presidency, the PT has won four straight presidential elections – including Rousseff’s 2010 election victory and then, just 18 months ago, her re-election with 54 million votes.

‘Flowers for democracy’ demonstration against the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff
Pinterest Women carrying flowers take part in a ‘flowers for democracy’ demonstration against the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

The country’s elite class and their media organs have failed, over and over, in their efforts to defeat the party at the ballot box.

But plutocrats are not known for gently accepting defeat, nor for playing by the rules. What they have been unable to achieve democratically, they are now attempting to achieve anti-democratically: by having a bizarre mix of politicians – evangelical extremists, far-right supporters of a return to military rule, non-ideological backroom operatives – simply remove her from office.

Indeed, those leading the campaign for her impeachment and who are in line to take over – most notably the house speaker Eduardo Cunha – are far more implicated in scandals of personal corruption than she is.

Cunha was caught last year with millions of dollars in bribes in secret Swiss bank accounts, after having falsely denied to Congress that he had any foreign bank accounts. Cunha also appears in the Panama Papers, working to stash his ill-gotten millions offshore to avoid detection and tax liability.

It is impossible to convincingly march behind a banner of “anti-corruption” and “democracy” when simultaneously working to install the country’s most corruption-tainted and widely disliked political figures.

Words cannot describe the surreality of watching the vote to send Rousseff’s impeachment to the Senate, during which one glaringly corrupt member of Congress after the next stood to address Cunha, proclaiming with a straight face that they were voting to remove Rousseff due to their anger over corruption.

As the Guardian reported: “Yes, voted Paulo Maluf, who is on Interpol’s red list for conspiracy. Yes, voted Nilton Capixaba, who is accused of money laundering. ‘For the love of God, yes!’ declared Silas Camara, who is under investigation for forging documents and misappropriating public funds.”

But these politicians have overplayed their hand. Not even Brazil’s Masters of the Universe can convince the world that Rousseff’s impeachment is really about combating corruption – their scheme would empower politicians whose own scandals would be career-ending in any healthy democracy.

Eduardo Cunha
Pinterest Eduardo Cunha was caught last year with millions of dollars in bribes in secret Swiss bank accounts. Photograph: Andressa Anholete/AFP/Getty Images

A New York Times article last week reported that “60% of the 594 members of Brazil’s Congress” – the ones voting to impeach Rousseff – “face serious charges like bribery, electoral fraud, illegal deforestation, kidnapping and homicide”. By contrast, said the article, Rousseff “is something of a rarity among Brazil’s major political figures: she has not been accused of stealing for herself”.

Last Sunday’s televised, raucous spectacle in the lower house received global attention because of some repellent (though revealing) remarks made by impeachment advocates. One of them, prominent rightwing congressman Jair Bolsonaro – widely expected to run for president and who a recent poll shows is the leading candidate among Brazil’s richest – said he was casting his vote in honour of a human-rights-abusing colonel in Brazil’s military dictatorship who was personally responsible for Rousseff’s torture. His son, Eduardo, proudly cast his vote in honour of “the military men of ’64” – the ones who led the coup.

Until now, Brazilians have had their attention exclusively directed towards Rousseff, who is deeply unpopular due to the country’s severe recession. Nobody knows how Brazilians, especially the poor and working classes, will react when they see their newly installed president: the pro-business, corruption-tainted nonentity of a vice-president who, polls show, most Brazilians want impeached.

Most volatile of all, many – including the prosecutors and investigators who have led the corruption probe – fear that the real plan behind Rousseff’s impeachment is to put an end to the ongoing investigation, thus protecting corruption, not punishing it.

There is a real risk that once she is impeached, Brazil’s media will no longer be so focused on corruption, public interest will dissipate, and the newly empowered faction in Brasilia will be able to exploit its congressional majorities to cripple that investigation and protect themselves.

Ultimately, Brazil’s elite political and media classes are toying with the mechanics of democracy. That’s a dangerous, unpredictable game to play anywhere, but particularly so in a very young democracy with a recent history of political instability and tyranny, and where millions are furious over their economic deprivation.

Note: A razão real que os inimigos de Dilma Rousseff querem seu impeachment




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