Flags of our Millennials & Selfies of Iwo Jima | Text Me Maybe | Russia’s Crumbling Foundation


““I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.” – Simone de Beauvoir

“No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” – Ibid.


Selfies From Iwo Jima: Inspiration can come from anywhere, and that’s no different for army recruitment ads. So in 2012 when the British Army entered into a 10-year recruitment and marketing contract worth millions with Capita, a London-based outsourcing company, and recruitment goals still weren’t being reached year after year, Capita looked back to a well-known, over 100-year-old World War I recruiting phrase — “Your Country Needs You”— for some inspiration. The idea emerged to portray modern-day derogatory labels sometimes applied to young people for attributes considered to be character flaws — like they’re just a bunch of ‘snowflakes’, or ‘self-interested Millennials’, or ‘binge gamers’ — as positive strengths from the army’s perspective. The new recruitment posters were rolled out by the British Army on Thursday, and they’re pretty darn clever.

In a statement the army said it saw “compassion in ‘snowflakes’, self-belief in ‘me me me Millennials’, and drive in ‘binge gamers’”. Capita also came up with new TV ads. In one a young woman is seen stacking up carts in a supermarket parking lot while her colleagues comment on how slowly she is working. “Millennials — useless” a co-worker says. Then the image switches to the cockpit of a military helicopter, and a voice on the radio intones: “Sounds like a perfectionist to me.”

Additional read: “The Army, in Need of Recruits, Turns Focus to Liberal-Leaning Cities: Army recruiters in Seattle can earn a Friday off for each new soldier they enlist. But in a city with a thriving tech industry and a long history of antiwar protests, the recruiters haven’t gotten many long weekends.” (NYT) Additional song: The Ballad of Ira Hayes.


Poverty Leads To Young Girls Sold As Brides: Underage marriage is illegal in Zimbabwe. But according to one organization, Girls Not Brides, families see little worth in girls. So despite the illegality, a family living in extreme poverty will often sell off their young daughters as wives, and often to much older men. For one intelligent 13 year old girl, her sale to a man three times her age ended her education, her health, and any hope for a brighter future. (Guardian)

At Least Call Them: Saudi Arabia may be undergoing a liberalization push, but restrictions on women remain in the Dark Ages. For example, Saudi men have been able to end their marriages without telling their wives. However a new law that went into effect Sunday purportedly aims to end that practice. Now Saudi courts will notify women by text message when they get divorced. And according to the justice ministry, “Women in the kingdom will be able to view documents related to the termination of their marriage contracts through the ministry’s website.” (Guardian) Additional read: “A Quiet Revolution: More Women Seek Divorces in Conservative West Africa.” (NYT)

Russian Building Collapse Reveals Russia’s Crumbling Foundation:An explosion Monday collapsed a high-rise apartment building in Magnitogorsk, Russia, killing 39 people and exposing a crumbling infrastructure in a country whose leadership is less interested in the welfare of its citizens than spending money to build up its military, develop new weapons, upgrade its nuclear stockpile and professionalize its intelligence agencies. (NYT) Additional read: “As American Sits In Moscow Jail, Russia Says U.S. Has Detained One Of Its Citizens” (NPR)

– “Bolton says Turkey must not attack Kurdish fighters once U.S. leaves Syria” (Reuters)

– “Southeast Asia wary of China’s Belt and Road project, skeptical of U.S.: survey” (Reuters)

– “‘Bashir will not budge:’ Nationwide protests in Sudan take aim at the president: Sudanese security forces have cracked down on mass anti-government protests, which began in Dec. 2018 and now threaten to unseat President Omar al-Bashir.” (WaPo)

– “‘We Were Eating Grass’: Syrians Flee As Fight Pushes On Against Last ISIS Remnants” (NPR)

– “At Least 30 Workers Killed In Afghanistan Gold Mine Collapse” (NPR)

– “Czech democracy ‘under threat’ from rising debt crisis: MPs to vote on new law to ease punitive collection system” (Guardian)

– “Ukrainian Orthodox Church Officially Gains Independence From Russian Church” (Guardian)


Modi’s Last Stand: 2018 saw the highest number of voters in 50 years, more than 110 million, cast ballots in America’s midterm elections. That’s a lot, but it pales in comparison to the 850 million who are estimated to be voting in India’s upcoming national election this New Year. It was less than five years ago that Prime Minister Narenda Modi was elected. He’s still very popular, but his party—the Bharatiya Janata, or BJP—not so much. Back in 2014 the BJP swept into office, fairly crushing the Congress party that had propelled India into independence decades earlier and ruled with a strangle-hold since. Four years later the Congress party has roared back to life, capturing major wins in state elections last December. Just months ago Modi looked invincible. Voters still adore the PM, but they are clearly ready and willing to vote against his political party for not improving their lives as promised.

A major problem is that India’s economy is exploding, but not enough jobs have been created to keep up with population growth. An estimated one million Indians will turn 18 every month for the next several years and unemployment has been inching upward. Last March India’s railway ministry advertised 100,000 jobs, but received 20 million job applications. And in a country where some 70% of the population still has involvement with agriculture, steep declines in staples such as chickpeas, onions and oilseeds has had unhappy farmers marching on Delhi five times in the past year. One expert predicted that if Modi’s party gets any more desperate “there may be a temptation to shift towards more polarizing issues such as national security and internal threats.”

Additional Reads: “Indian PM lampooned for ‘manufactured’ interview:Narendra Modi accused of being afraid of media after rare interview that failed to ask tough questions” (Guardian) “India’s railroads had 63,000 job openings. 19 million people applied.” (WaPo) “Protests Erupt In Southern India After Women Defy Centuries-Old Temple Ban” (NPR)


Finders Keepers: The Trump administration believes Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan can stay in his new role “indefinitely” without being nominated to permanently replace Jim Mattis, who left the post in December. Legal experts are split over whether possible constitutional challenges to that scenario would succeed. (WaPo) Additional read: “Why did Trump’s love affair with US generals turn sour?” (BBC)

And Here Comes A Trump Text or Tweet: Record numbers of migrant families continue to stream into the US, overwhelming border agents and leaving holding cells dangerously overcrowded with children, many of whom are falling sick. Two Guatemalan children taken into US custody died in December. Parts of the federal government remain shut down over President Trump’s demand for money to build a wall on the southern border. Now that Democrats have taken over the House, chances of that happening or of reaching a consensus with the White House on changes to US immigration laws grow more remote daily. On January 4, the president said he is considering declaring a national emergency to build the border, without approval from Congress. (WaPo)

– “Trump: ‘May declare a national emergency’ to build wall” “No, Trump Cannot Declare an ‘Emergency’ to Build His Wall” Well, that was fast. (CNN & NYT)

– “Park Service takes ‘extraordinary step’ of dipping into entrance fees to bolster operations at popular sites: Critics say the unprecedented move, which comes as trash and other problems mount, could be illegal” (WaPo)

– “Is Mitt Romney the man to lead a Republican rebellion against Trump?:Utah senator’s criticisms raise prospect of a challenge in a party that has all but reshaped itself in Trump’s image” (Guardian)

– “A Trump County Confronts the Administration Amid a Rash of Child Cancers” (NYT)


Old News and Wisdom From and For the Ages: “Oldest American Man on Record Dies at Age 112” (Gizmodo) “The world’s oldest woman was 122 when she died. A researcher says she was lying about her age.” (WaPo) “Secrets of Happiness from the Oldest of the Old: A journalist spent a year following six people 85 and older. He found life lessons for all ages.” (Kiplinger) “Here’s your 2019 fitness inspiration: She’s 95 and is doing the splits” (LA Times) “These 4 New Yorkers Are Experts in Living. What Do They Know That We Don’t?: In 2015, we began following six people over age 85. Last year the four remaining showed that old age is not what you think.” (NYT)

The Apple Falls From The Tree: “Why My Chinese Dad Switched From an iPhone to a Huawei: And what that tells us about the fate of Apple in China.” (NYT) “Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom: But for now, while investors might be unhappy with the company’s short-term sales, the rest of us should cheer it as a sign of progress in giving customers what they want: sturdy, reliable phones that don’t become obsolete as soon as a new model arrives.” (NYT) “Is This the End of the Age of Apple?: We need the next wave of innovation, and we need it now.” (NYT) “Apple’s iPhone Warning Comes Years Too Late: The company has reached the end of its denial phase.” (Bloomberg)

Time to Read and Be Creative With the Classics: “Freed From Copyright, These Classic Works Are Yours To Adapt” (NPR) “How to Download the Books That Just Entered the Public Domain: Public Domain Day was yesterday, but you were probably hungover, so here’s how to download the tens of thousands of books that became legal to download for free in 2019.” (Motherboard)

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