Saturday, January 16

Targeting Child Soldiers

This is a difficult moral and ethical question son. And made me think. When you read the two examples quoted, leaving aside the legal points, I'm afraid I would have pulled the trigger in both cases. Just because a child is at rest doesn't mean the gun on his side will not be picked up. 
A boy was recently killed in USA. He was playing with a toy pistol which looks exactly like a real one. And somebody called the police. Who came in and almost immediately shot the boy. You can say the police are trigger happy. Or racist (the boy was black). But the question arises, where do you draw the line. 
Think about another problem with age. You were able to join the army by 16. But you aren't allowed to vote. So you can kill for your country but you can't vote for your leaders. Bit inconsistent eh? So the Tories are bothered by not wanting the voting age for the brexit referendum to be reduced. Why? Stupid excuses. 
Something to think about. 

Targeting Child Soldiers
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Despite the numerous volume on child soldiers in legal literature over the last few decades, very little has been said on targeting child soldiers. It seems to be something international lawyers would rather not talk about. The fact that legal literature doesn't say much about targeting child soldiers doesn't mean that no such practice exists, or that soldiers haven't discuss the matter. In 2002, the US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory organised a 'Cultural Intelligence Seminar' on the implication of child soldiering for US forces. One trigger for that discussion was the fact that the very first US soldier killed in Afghanistan reportedly was a Special Forces Sergeant shot by a 14-year-old boy. The year before, in Sierra Leone, a squad from the Royal Irish Regiment was taken prisoner by a group consisting mostly of armed children called the West Side Boys, as the British soldiers were hesitant to open fire. After they had been held hostage for two weeks, an assault was launched by an SAS unit supported by suppression fire from helicopters, leading to between 25 to 150 dead among the West Side Boys. Finally, during the civil war in Sri Lanka, a Government aircraft bombed what was deemed an LTTE training camp, killing a reported 61 minors, mostly girls. Although the LTTE was widely known to use child soldiers, and the specific facts were contested, the Sri Lanka Government was adamant that if a child took up arms, then he or she could be targeted and killed.
The phenomenon of child soldiers remains widespread, and their activities does include direct participation in hostilities. It is imperative that international humanitarian law provide guidance as to what opposing forces can do if they are confronted with that reality. In this piece, I suggest that there are elements in international humanitarian law that support adapting a child-specific approach to targeting. Under this approach, the fact that a potential target is a child should prima facie raise a doubt as to whether he or she is targetable. Although the doubt may be dissipated in light of available facts, overcoming the presumption of civilian status might require more than would be the case for an adult. In addition, even if a child is deemed targetable, the allowable means and methods must nevertheless reflect the protected status of children in international law.
Direct participation in hostilities for kids
The issue of targeting child soldiers raises two distinct legal questions: first, whether child soldiers are combatants like any other combatants and, second, if so whether the means used to target then follow the same rules as for adult combatants.
In order to discuss this, it is useful to consider two scenarios as ideal-type situations that give rise to the legal regulation of the targeting of child soldiers: a first scenario corresponds to a minor enrolled in the FARC rebels in Colombia, wearing a uniform, spotted by a government drone while having a nap against a tree, his gun lying next to him. A second scenario is one of a child wearing civilian clothes running towards government troops firing an AK 47 in the context of the civil war in Uganda. . In one case as in the other, can the government forces targets the child as if he or she were an adult?
Are these two child soldiers to be considered combatants under accepted principles of international humanitarian law? The starting points are articles 4(A) of the 1949 Third Geneva Convention and article 43 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, which provides for the definitional elements of what a combatant is under international humanitarian law, albeit overtly in the context of an international armed conflict. If a child is enrolled in the armed forces of a party to an international armed conflict, there seems to be no apparent basis in current international humanitarian law to characterize that child as anything other than as a combatant. For a non-international armed conflict, which would correspond to the situations in Uganda and Colombia that I provided as my two ideal-type scenarios, the legal concept of the combatant is contested. Article 1 of Protocol I defines the scope of application of the protocol as covering only conflicts between the states armed forces and "dissident armed forces or other organized armed groups", which implies that there is a legal concept of insurgent armed forces. Seeing this, it is possible that a child may be fully incorporated into the insurgent armed forces and, as such, be a 'regular' fighter on a footing prima facie equal to other armed participants in a non-international armed conflict. According to the ICRC Interpretive Guidance on Direct Participation in Hostilities, individuals who can be said to have a "continuous combat function" are not civilians in non-international armed conflict, and can therefore be targeted. There is nothing in the Interpretive Guidance that suggests that children cannot have a continuing combat function and, as a result, be combatants. In a short post, Frédéric Mégret suggests that children should be considered as non-combatant members of the armed forces and not targeted unless they are directly participating in hostilities, implying that there would be no continuous function possibility for children. The underlying assumption seems to be that, because of their age, children can never become combatant in the full sense of the concept. Somehow, that does not appear to square with the reality in the field in many armed conflicts in which, as with the West Side Boys unit in Liberia, children can become ruthless fighters on a strategic footing equal to adults. There may be space in international humanitarian law to reflect an imperative to treat child soldiers differently than adult ones, as I will suggest shortly, but not in the impossibility that a child may have a continuous combat function or, for that matter, be a member of the armed forces.
A somewhat different approach can be taken by inquiring whether a child is directly participating in hostilities. The standard is expressed as regards international armed conflicts in article 51(3) of Protocol I, and for non-international armed conflicts in Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Article 13 of Protocol II. According to the approach adopted by the ICRC in its Interpretive Guidance, individuals who do not have a continuous combat function are therefore to be seen as civilians that may temporarily lose their entitlement to protection against targeting. For individuals in this class, direct participation refers to a specific act that meets three distinct criteria: a threshold of harm, linked to the likely effect of the act on the enemy; direct causation, linking the civilian act to that harm; and a belligerent nexus, intentionally linking the act and harm to the conflict. According to this approach, an individual who is not a member of the armed forces or a fighter in an armed group remains a civilian entitled to protection against targeting, except for the time that this individual engages in acts that meet the three elements of direct participation as defined by the Interpretive Guidance. This 'revolving door' approach has been challenged by some as not flowing from accepted treaty and customary humanitarian law. Be that as it may, there is nothing in any of these elements that connects in a particular manner with children. This aligns with the 2015 US Law of War Manual which states that "whether a civilian is considered to be taking a direct part in hostilities does not depend on that person's age" (§ Decisions of the International Criminal Court and Special Court for Sierra Leone on the crime of recruiting and using child soldiers have confirmed, in that context, that children can directly participate in hostilities, and indeed have adopted a broad approach to participation. Although these courts did not articulate any ensuing consequences as regard the targeting of such children, they would seem to logically follow. Indeed, the ICRC explicitly confirms this in the commentary to the Interpretive Guidance, finding that "Children below the recruitment age may lose protection against direct attack" (page 60).
It bears noting that the recruitment age cut-off referred to in the Interpretive Guidance is 15 years old, as provided in article 77(2) of Protocol I, article 4(3)(c) of Protocol II, and Rule 137 of the ICRC study on customary law. Indeed, the structure of article 77 of Protocol I mirrors the general approach to the targeting of child soldiers under international humanitarian law: a first paragraph proclaims a duty to respect and protect children in armed conflicts; a second paragraph declares a duty of the belligerents not to enroll or involve children in hostilities; and three further paragraphs specify special protection for children that have been detained after taking direct part in hostilities. Perhaps as a lingering remnants of the distinction between Hague and Geneva law, international humanitarian law elides entirely the middle phase in which the child is taking active part in hostilities.
It was suggested by the author of one volume on child soldiers that children are 'civilian by nature'. There seems to be no basis for such a view. Upon closer consideration of applicable law, it appears that children can be combatants in largely the same way that an adult can. I offer this qualified statement to suggest that despite the analysis offered up to now, there are elements in international humanitarian law that support adapting a child-specific approach to targeting. Article 50(1) of Protocol I provides that "[i]n case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian." It is not unreasonable to offer that, as regards the application of both the continuous combat function and 'revolving door' principles, the fact that the individual in question is a child should prima facie raise a doubt as to whether he or she is targetable. That doubt may be dissipated in light of facts available to those making a determination of the targetability of the child in question, but it requires that a presumption of civilian status be overcome, in a manner that would not obtain for an adult. For the three elements listed in the Interpretive Guidance as constituting direct participation, this presumption would imply that the threshold of harm, the direct causation, and the nexus to the conflict are not met unless the facts are sufficiently clear to overcome the presumption that a child is not directly participating. Likewise, a presumption in favour of the civilian character of children would structure the understanding of what is required for a child combatant to unambiguously opt out or withdraw from direct participation in hostilities, lowering the evidentiary threshold that corresponds to a conclusion that a child has regained a civilian status. For example, an adult fighter in uniform running away from battle may not be considered as unambiguously opting out of hostilities, as this could be a mere strategic fallback, but that same behaviour by a child fighter would meet a lower threshold.
In conclusion on this point, direct participation in hostilities for kids does not exclude the possibility that a child may be a combatant, either continuously or periodically, but the test is comparatively more restrictive than for adults as a reflection of the presumption that children are civilians.
Means and ends
The fact that a child soldier can be a combatant or a civilian taking direct part in hostilities implies that this child soldier can be directly targeted. The conclusion that it is lawful to directly target child soldiers does not necessarily entail that it is lawful to target them as if they were adult soldiers. Here again, the moral intuition that children remain children even if they take direct part in hostilities has an impact on applicable legal standards.
The starting point is the principle that, even in war, a belligerent's right to injure its enemy is not unlimited. More specifically, treaty and customary international law proscribe superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering (Art. 35, Protocol I). In a general manner, this is taken as a statement that the injury and suffering that is lawful under international humanitarian law is limited by what is necessary to achieve a military objective. As a foundational statement of the laws of war, this principle has acted as the basis for the specific prohibition of a number of weapons over the last century and a half, including the prohibition of dum-dum bullets, poison, blinding lasers, anti-personnel landmines, etc. But the principle is offered in Protocol I as a broad rule that is meant to have an effect on the lawfulness of means and methods of war generally, and not merely as a basis for a decision by states to regulate specific weapons by way of subsequent agreement. At its broadest, the norm against superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering calls for an appreciation of the necessary use of any means or methods of war in every case, to balance the military advantage against the injury and suffering caused in the operation. Authors likes Dinstein and Meyrowitz have challenged the suitability of a balancing approach in this context, arguing that the principle does not call to import here a balancing that is required only in relation to the impact of an attack on civilians. Still, this suggests that if available means and methods of warfare can achieve the same military advantage while causing a lesser degree of injury or suffering, then international humanitarian law requires that they be used. For example, if a military radar station must be disabled in order to prevent detection of a military operation, and this can be achieved either by kinetic means (bombing the station) or cyberwarfare (a virus attack to disable the computers running the radar), then the latter option must be selected. This finds some support in Art 52(2) of Protocol I which restricts military objectives to those the destruction of which brings a definite military advantage. What could be termed the 'most favoured weapons' doctrine can be extended even further, to suggest that if it is possible to wound instead of killing, or to capture instead of wounding (or killing), then that must be done. Whether international humanitarian law really confers upon belligerent a licence to kill enemy combatants, and whether the rules are different in international and non-international armed conflicts, has generated an intense debate (on 'capture or kill', see eg the contributions of Melzer, Hays Parks, Schmitt, Goodman, Kretzmer).
What I want to suggest is that, regardless of the validity of a general duty to use the least injurious means or method of warfare in any category of armed conflict, such a duty ought to obtain when directing an attack against child soldiers who qualify as combatants or as taking direct part in hostilities. It speaks to the moral intuition that, even in the context of war, the intentional targeting of children is a calamity. In law, it reflects the multiple norms in international humanitarian law and international human rights that demand special protection for children against harm. A duty to use the least injurious means or method of warfare against a child soldier can find some support in the French version of the prohibition of superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering, which speaks of maux superflus. As noted by several authors, the French is actually the original, taken from the 1868 St-Petersburg Declaration and later reproduced in the 1899 and 1907 Hague Regulations. The notion of maux superflus appears broader than its English translation, in that maux can be taken to refer not only to injury or suffering, but also to an evil; indeed, the idea of a mal superflu necessarily evokes its pendant, the mal nécessaire. In other words, war may be a necessary evil, but evils unnecessary for the pursuit of the legitimate aims of war (also defined in the St-Petersburg Declaration) are illegitimate. Returning to child soldiers, direct targeting can be considered permissible only to the extent that it is a necessary evil, meaning that no viable option can be identified and that there is a tangible military necessity for this attack, otherwise it violates the treaty and customary prohibition of superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering.
To go back to the two scenarios I sketched at the start, it seems quite clear that a child fighter with the LRA running towards government troops while firing an AK47 can be directly targeted using lethal force. It seems unlikely that there is another way to stop the attack that involves merely wounding or capturing a child soldier in this context. The second scenario of a drone spotting a FARC child soldier in uniform taking a nap, on the other hand, demands that the specific military advantage of targeting this child be clearly demonstrated and, if that can be done, that there is no available alternative that would be less harmful to this child while maintaining the military advantage.
The aim of this approach is to avoid the pitfalls of moralising idealism and ruthless instrumentalism, to reflect both the reality that child soldiers can sometimes present a direct and significant threat and the moral impulse to try to shield children from war as much as possible.

How Intermarriage Created One of the World's Most Delicious Foods

It's fascinating how things come together son. One of my favourite foods since I started working in Singapore is Laksa. It is a totally delicious concoction of noodles tofu chicken prawns beans spices and and and. Add and subtract according to taste and location. Bloody heavy but oh good Lord so bloody delicious. 
By the way the best laksa you can get in London is a tiny Malaysian / Singaporean restaurant off Euston. It's a very basic place. Hardly 20 feet by 8 feet. And they've stuffed few rickety tables and chairs in there. They cook the food in the side of the restaurant and it's so bloody popular that people queue up for hours to get in. Cheap and cheerful. I'll take you there son. 
But this story of laksa is also connected to the spice trade. I'll let you read this story and the map. The author talks about how Indians came to south east Asia and it was fascinating to read how a Malaysian dish in Penang got called as Assam Laksa. 
The last piece is what really got my attention. I've talked about the peranakan culture - the amazing mix of Chinese and south East Indian Malay and Indian cultures. There's a museum in Singapore relating to this culture and it's quite an emotional museum. You can see people from mainland China coming over and then marrying locally. You can see their food. Their clothes. Furniture. The pain and bloodshed during the wars. Absolutely fascinating. And spices ran through it all. 
Hope your first week back at Oxford is working out well son

How Intermarriage Created One of the World's Most Delicious Foods
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Laksa is said to get its name from the Sanskrit word "lakh," which means 100,000. (Photo: InterContinental Hong Kong/Flickr)
A few things are definitive of an afternoon on the coasts of Southeast Asia: inescapable heat, the smell of the sea, and a steaming bowl of laksa. If you haven't been fortunate enough to sample laksa before, picture an addictively spicy noodle soup brimming with chillies, coconut milk, tamarind and fresh seafood. If you need additional convincing, laksa was ranked seventh on CNN's list of the World's 50 best foods in 2011.
There is nothing quite like laksa, and no two laksas are the same. The soup can be found in different iterations in four Southeast Asian countries, from the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia down to Singapore and Indonesia, but its origins are more elusive. Where did laksa really come from, and how did it spread through all the regions that now claim it as their own?
To begin tracing the laksa trail back through time, we need to plot its three modern variations—curry, Siamese, and Assam—on the map.
Curry laksa is spicy and likewise includes coconut milk. It is found in Malaysia's Malacca and Johor states, and pops up in Singapore as Katong laksa, and in Indonesia as Bogor, Cibinong and Betawi laksa, to name a few. Each region has added its own unique ingredients to the mix, such as kaffir lime leaves, shredded chicken, or even snakehead fish.

Curry laksa. (Photo: Alpha/Flickr)
Siamese laksa, found in Thailand, contains coconut milk and is informed by traditional Thai flavors such as red curry paste, while Assam laksa (which has tamarind but no coconut milk) is found in the Penang state of Malaysia.

Assam laksa. (Photo: Alpha/Flickr)
Because of all the different varieties, it's difficult to say whether laksa had a specific point of origin. The history of Southeast Asia has been one of trade, with the port cities of Singapore, Malacca and Penang being major stops along the spice route. As a result, laksa began popping up in multiple regions as the marriage of different cuisines brought over by traders.

A map showing the Silk Road in red and the spice trade routes in blue. On the right, the routes stretch from India down through the Strait of Malacca, past Singapore and Indonesia and up to China. (Photo: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons)
Southeast Asia had an early period of intense interaction with China and India, which largely influenced the culture of the region, and therefore its cuisine. According to Professor Penny Van Esterik in Food Culture in Southeast Asia, Indian traders arrived in Southeast Asia as early as 200 BC, while the Chinese had settlements in Indonesia by the 16th century.
The descendants of these Chinese traders were called the Peranakans, and the tradition of laksa was born out of the Peranakan desire to marry Chinese food with existing Southeast Asian flavors like coconut milk, and those brought over by South Asian traders, like chillies. Often, the desire to marry cuisines resulted from literal marriages between Peranakans and locals. In Indonesia, for example, the origin story of laksa traces back to the Chinese coastal settlements. Chinese sailors set out to find local wives, and these women began incorporating chilli peppers and coconut milk into Chinese noodle soup. Similarly, the arrival of laksa in Malaysia can be traced back to marriages of Chinese traders to local women in Malacca in the early 19th century.

A Peranakan wedding takes place in Penang, Malaysia in May 1941. (Photo: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons)
In Singapore, laksa arrived in the town of Katong when the Peranakans travelled down to the island from the Malaysian peninsula. Southeast Asian food expert Dr. Jean Duruz followed a laksa trail in Singapore to uncover that Peranakan laksa evolved with interaction with local Singaporeans. This happened via "[t]raditions of working for, or 'marrying into,' Peranakan families" as well as "rituals of exchange of festive foods and recipes between neighbors," writes Duruz in The Taste of Retro: Nostalgia, Sensory Landscapes and Cosmopolitanism in Singapore.
Of all the food that the Peranakans brought with them, it was laksa that spread most rapidly and extensively through trade channels in Southeast Asia. Why? Laksa's wide popularity is largely due to its adaptability, which makes it an appealing meal across many cultures and contexts. Even the name itself metaphorically empowers laksa's cultural flexibility. The word "laksa" originates from the Sanskrit word for one hundred thousand, and refers to the large variety of ingredients used in making the dish. Local women were able to manipulate the noodle soup brought over by their Chinese trader husbands to include their own plethora of existing ingredients. Because laksa was so easily adaptable into new varieties, it was able to serve as a bridge between cultures when traders and locals began intermarrying.
"The successful story of Laksa challenges the idea that people always like to eat familiar food," writes Veronica Mak Sau Wa in Southeast Asian Chinese Food in Hong Kong. There is nothing quite like laksa, and no two laksas are the same. Its unique adaptability is why it was able to build bridges between traders and locals on the Southeast Asian spice routes and continues to cross new borders today.

A Buddhist tale of Draupadi

Now this was a very curious retelling of a part of the Mahabharata. As you may recall son, draupadi is usually considered to be a wronged woman despite the polyandry aspects in the Hindu version of the Mahabharata, the longest poem in the world. And people get excited about the Iliad. Bah. 
But here's a fascinating alternative retelling of her tale from a Buddhist perspective. Now you've got to be careful. You see, these myths and legends and stories and Puranas also had a huge political overtone. If you were a Buddhist raja with Hindu subjects, then you want to shove out stories which tear down your idols and gods. So this kind of a story would be quite common. And vice Versa. There have been countless episodes of such literary looseness. 
But quite interesting to read though. If you get a chance son, do read the full Mahabharata. After all, that's the story where Karn is based. You should know it. Hope you've read mrityunjaya by now but the Mahabharata is the broader story. Absolutely fascinating :) will tell you why mamma and I named you after this amazing character. 

A Buddhist tale of Draupadi
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by Naomi
So, in actual fact Draupadī is not one of the shared characters that features in my research. (More on what is going in my project monograph shortly.) But while looking at some jātaka mentions of Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, et al, I came across the reference to Draupadī (there called Kaṇhā) in the Kuṇāla Jātaka. The verse, which is fairly well known, holds up Draupadī as an example of the wickedness of women, since despite having five husbands (listed with their names familiar from the epic) she still lusted after a sixth, a hunchback dwarf no less. What seems to be less known is that, hidden in the word commentary to the verses, and thus not included in the translation of Cowell et al, is a fuller prose narrative of Draupadī's misdemeanours. Although not strictly speaking of relevance to my current research, I couldn't resist bashing out a draft translation of this story, and share it with you here in case it is of interest, or entertainment value!
I translate the version as it appears in the CSCD edition on
Draupadi in the Kunāla Jātaka (536)
"I have seen, friend Puṇṇamukha, Kaṇhā of double-parentage and five husbands, set her mind on a sixth man, one who was barrel-like/headless (kabandha) and crippled."
And here too there is a further saying:
Kings A(tha)jjuna, Nakula, Bhīmasena, Yudhiṭṭhila and Sahadeva:
These were her five husbands. Yet the wife wished for more and got up to no good with a hunchbacked dwarf.
… [ some intervening verses ] …
[Commentary to the verses:] "I have seen" means: It is said that in the past Brahmadatta the king of Kāsi, with his army, seized the kingdom of Kosala and had the king of Kosala killed. He seized his chief wife, who was pregnant, and went to Vārāṇasī. There he took the chief wife as his own, and in due course she gave birth to a daughter. Now the king had no natural daughter or son, so he was pleased and said, "My dear, take a boon." She accepted it and set it aside.
Now that princess was given the name "Kaṇhā", and when she was of age her mother said to her, "My dear, your father gave me a boon, and I took it and set it aside. You should do as you please with it." She said to her mother, having no shame or remorse for her great lust, "Mama, there is nothing else lacking for me: hold a svayamvara ('self-choice') for the purpose of getting me a husband." She addressed the king. The king, having said, "She should take a husband according to her liking," had the svayamvara proclaimed. A great many men assembled in the royal courtyard, all adorned with ornaments. Kaṇhā took a basket of flowers and stood at the highest window, looking out, but she did not like anyone.
At that time Ajjuna of the family of King Paṇḍu, and Nakula, Bhīmasena, Yudhiṭḥila and Sahadeva, these five sons of King Paṇḍu, having learnt the crafts in the presence of a world-famous teacher in Takkasilā, were wandering around [thinking] "We will understand the conduct in the country." They entered Vārāṇasī and heard the hullabaloo inside the city. Enquiring, they found out what was happening. "We too will go there!" Looking like golden statues they went there and stood in a line. Seeing them, Kaṇhā became enamoured with all five of them, and having thrown garlands over all five of their heads she said, "Mama, I desire these five men." She again went to speak to the king. The king, though he was not pleased, because he had given the boon did not say "I will not have this!" He asked, "Of which family are you the sons?" and learning that they were the sons of King Paṇḍu he paid them honour and gave them their wife.
She, in a seven-storey palace, was filled by the power of lust. And she had one servant who was humpbacked and crippled. Having associated, because of her lust, with the five princes, after they had gone she seized the opportunity and, thoroughly inflamed, she sinned with the hunchback. Speaking with him she said, "There is nobody as dear to me as you. Having had the princes killed, I will have your feet annointed with the blood from their throats!" But to the others, when it was time for intercourse with the older brother she said, "You are dearer to me than these four. I would even abandon my life for you. I will have the kingdom given to you alone after my father's death." And when it was time for intercourse with the others it was the same plan. They were very pleased with her: "She is devoted to me, and the rulership is near."
One day she became ill, and they attended upon her, one sitting stroking her head, the others each taking a hand or foot, and the hunchback sat at her feet. While Prince Ajjuna, the oldest brother, was stroking her head, [in order to say]: "There is nobody dearer to me than you. While I live, I will live for you/as yours. When my father passes away I will have the kingdom given to you!" she favoured him by giving a sign with her head, while to the others she gave a sign with her hands or feet. And to the hunchback she gave a sign with her tongue: "You are so dear to me, I live for you!" And so they all understood the matter from her signs and what she had said to them before. The rest of them each understood only the sign given to himself, but Prince Ajjuna saw the movement in her hands, feet and tongue and thought, "Just as for me, she has given a sign to these others as well, and there is even intimacy between her and the hunchback." He took his brothers outside and asked, "Did you see the one with five husbands display a movement of the head for me?" "Yes, we saw." "Do you know the reason for this?" "No, we do not know." "This here is the reason. But do you understand the reason for the signs she gave to you with her hands and feet?" "Yes, we know that." "It is the same reason for me too. And do you understand the sign given with a movement of her tongue, to the hunchback?" "No, we do not understand that." Having explained this to them he said, "She has sinned with him." And though they did not trust him they summoned the hunchback and questioned him, and he explained the whole matter.
Having heard his words they had no more desire for her: "Oh women are evil and devoid of virtue! Having forsaken men like us, handsome and of good birth, she has done bad deeds with a hunchback of this bodily form and of contemptible family! What wise person would take pleasure in a woman, shameless and evil?" They reproached womenfolk in many ways, then, saying "Enough for us of the household life!" the five men entered the Himalayas, renounced, and set to work on kaṣina [meditations]. When their lives were over they went according to their kamma. And Kuṇāla, king of the birds, was at that time Prince Ajjuna.

The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now

There are two ways of looking at this problem son. Well three ways. When you and Diya were born, I didn't have parental leave. And mamma didn't work so the question of leave didn't exist. But if fathers leave was available, then I would have loved to take it. Spend more time with you. 
When you have your kids, son, make sure you take the full amount. Don't worry about the future son. Or career. The time you spend with your new born baby and your wife is so precious that it will keep on giving you happiness through your entire life time. 
Secondly, there's the USA situation. I find it very strange that USA doesn't do it and it's not mandatory like in other countries. Very strange. Then again there's no demographic pressure either. Their birth rates are good. But the republicans are a dying breed anyway so entropy will take care of the nay Sayers. 
Thirdly as an economist, you will know that this has a cost. Paid parental leave means that the company gets hit twice. First with the loss of the mother's time and then the cost of maternity cover or if the role isn't covered, then lack of productivity. This, when aggregated, means there is a cost of this. Sometimes it can be handled. Sometimes it can't and ends up being very painful. So the studies that this article talks about say there's no impact. Or they couldn't measure it. Or they were able to manage the impact.
Finally remember that the unmarried people in the office have started to complain. Why should they bear the cost of somebody who is taking a lifestyle choice? It's a fair question. 
Difficult decisions son. When you will become a manager, you'll have to deal with these questions. 
Missing you. And remembering the bestest day in my life when you were placed in my arms :)
Love you

The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now
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Each one of these women went back to work less than two months after giving birth due to the financial toll of unpaid maternity leave. (Kate Milford)

Benrahou had to attend to another crisis: she was the mother of a very sick baby, and her carefully constructed paid maternity leave had disintegrated.
Leigh Benrahou began laying plans to have a second child almost as soon as she had her first, a daughter named Johara, in 2011. Benrahou, 32, wanted to time the next birth so that when she returned to work, her mother, who works at an elementary school and has summers off, could babysit. Most importantly, Benrahou wanted to spend as much time as she could with her new baby while also keeping her relatively new job as the registrar at a small college.
While her husband, Rachid, 38, earns enough at a carpet cleaning company to cover their mortgage and food, without her paycheck they'd be forced to live close to the bone. And if she quit her job, Benrahou, who has a masters in nonprofit management, would take a big step backward in what she hoped would be a long career in higher education.
So Benrahou, who has wavy dark blond hair, blue eyes and a tendency to smile even through difficult moments, set about what may be the least romantic aspect of family planning in the United States: figuring out how to maximize time with a newborn while staying solvent, employed and, ideally, sane.
Only in America
Most people are aware that Americans have a raw deal when it comes to maternity leave. Perhaps they've heard about Sweden, with its drool-inducing 16 months of paid parental leave, or Finland, where, after about 9 months of paid leave, the mother or father can take—or split—additional paid "child care leave" until the child's third birthday.
But most Americans don't realize quite how out of step we are. It's not just wealthy, social democratic Nordic countries that make us look bad. With the exception of a few small countries like Papua New Guinea and Suriname, every other nation in the world—rich or poor—now requires paid maternity leave.
Paid parental leave frees mothers and fathers from choosing between their careers and time with their infants. For women, still most often the primary caregivers of young children, this results in higher employment rates, which in turn translates to lower poverty rates among mothers and their children.
Research shows that paid leave can also be a matter of life and death for children. By charting the correlation between death rates and paid leave in 16 European countries, Christopher Ruhm, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia, found that a 50-week extension in paid leave was associated with a 20 percent dip in infant deaths. (The biggest drop was in deaths of babies between 1 month and 1 year old, though mortality of children between 1 and 5 years also decreased as paid leave went up.)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 13 percent of U.S. workers have access to any form of paid family leave, which includes parental leave and other time off to care for a family member. The highest-paid workers are most likely to have it, according to BLS numbers, with more than 1 in 5 of the top 10 percent of earners getting paid family leave, compared to 1 in 20 in the bottom quartile. Unionized workers are more likely to get benefits than nonunionized workers.
What do the rest of American women do without a law that guarantees this basic support? Some new mothers who don't get paid leave quit their jobs, which can leave them desperate for income and have serious consequences in terms of work opportunities and lifetime earnings. Others may choose not to have children (though it's impossible to definitively quantify how the difficulty of integrating work and childbirth factors into those decisions). And some try to stitch together their own paid leaves through accumulated vacation time and personal days, or through independently purchased insurance policies.
The best-laid plans
Though her employer doesn't offer paid leave, Benrahou figured she'd create her own, taking time away from work through the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles new parents to up to 12 weeks off, unpaid. She knew all about the law's loopholes—that, for instance, it only applies to workplaces that have at least 50 employees. Hers did; she wouldn't have taken the job if it hadn't. She knew, too, that she had to have worked for her employer for at least 12 months to qualify. That part was trickier.
She had started her job in February 2014, which meant that she wouldn't qualify until the following February. She counted back nine months from then and got to May, but then, to be safe, tacked on another two months in case the baby came early, so: July. That's when she and Rachid would start trying for a second.
Then there was money. Reluctant to lose 12 weeks of income, Benrahou decided to opt into her employer's disability insurance policy, paying roughly $40 a month into the plan so she could receive 60 percent of her salary for up to six weeks of her maternity leave, plus an additional $1,000 toward the cost of her hospital stay. She would also save up her two weeks of annual paid vacation time.
Numbers crunched and policy purchased, Benrahou went off birth control on schedule in July and became pregnant within a month. But her carefully laid plans started to go awry in her 20th week, when she was diagnosed with placenta previa, which can result in early delivery. Despite some bleeding and cramping, and several brief hospital stays that used up her sick days, Benrahou stuck to her plan, working as much as possible after her diagnosis in order to save her precious vacation time. But, in late December, her water broke. Though her due date was April 1, Leigh Benrahou gave birth by C-section on Christmas Eve—too soon to qualify for FMLA leave or any payoff from her disability insurance.
Ramzi Benrahou was born at 26 weeks and just over 2 pounds. Knowing that 20 percent of babies born at his gestational age don't survive, Leigh spent the first hours after the delivery singularly focused on her tiny son's survival. He needed oxygen, since his lungs weren't fully developed. And, when he was whisked away for medical attention, Benrahou had to attend to another crisis: She was the mother of a very sick baby, and her carefully constructed paid maternity leave had disintegrated. So, freshly stitched up and still groggy from anesthesia, she spread out her medical fact sheets, insurance policy papers and lists of phone numbers on her hospital bed and began to grapple with her new reality. Though her college was on winter break, which put off her return by about a week, Benrahou realized she'd have to go back to work when classes resumed on January 6, less than two weeks after giving birth.
Less than a month
Like Benrahou, most U.S. women end up returning to work sooner than they'd like—sometimes just weeks or days after having a baby. Just how soon they're going back is difficult to determine. We know that most employers don't offer paid leave, but no federal agency collects regular statistics on how much post-childbirth time off, paid or unpaid, women are actually taking.
Census data on employment patterns among first-time mothers show that between 2005 and 2007, more than half who worked during their pregnancy were back on the job within three months of giving birth. A 2008 study by the Department of Health and Human Services' Maternal and Child Health Bureau, meanwhile, found that the average length of maternity leave, when taken, was 10 weeks. But more recent data is scarce, even though the recession left many women living on razorthin margins, ratcheting up the pressure to rush back to work after giving birth.
How are new mothers faring in today's age of austerity? Data analyzed for In These Times by Abt Associates, a research and evaluation company, provides a window into these experiences. Abt went back to a 2012 survey it conducted for the Department of Labor of 2,852 employees who had taken family or medical leave in the last year, looking specifically at the 93 women who took time off work to care for a new baby.
Nearly 12 percent of those women took off only a week or less. Another 11 percent took between one and two weeks off. That means that about 23 percent—nearly 1 in 4—of the women interviewed were back at work within two weeks of having a child.
The educational divide between those who took shorter and relatively longer leaves is striking: 80 percent of college graduates took at least six weeks off to care for a new baby, but only 54 percent of women without college degrees did so.

Pumping in the parking lot

What's it like to be back on the job in the first weeks after having a baby?
For Natasha Long, who was back three weeks after her third child, Jayden, was born in 2012, the worst part was missing out on bonding time with her son.
Long, who was 29 at the time, was determined to make sure Jayden got breast milk. But the factory where she worked, ACCO Office Supplies in Booneville, Mississippi, didn't have a lactation room. So when she was on breaks, she had to run out to her truck. She sat in the cab, worried that someone might see her, and pumped, while tears rolled down her face and over the plastic suction cups attached to her breasts.
Long cried because she wanted to be holding her baby rather than sitting in the parking lot of a factory in her old Yukon Denali. But exhaustion clearly also played a role in her emotional state. Her job was simple—to place stickers with the company logo on the bottom right-hand corner of plastic binders and then box up the binders. But the shifts were long—from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.—and she put in four or five a week. Because the factory was an hour's drive from her home in Okalona, Mississippi, Long had only 10 hours left in the day to do everything else, including tend to her three children, spend time with Jayden's father, and sleep. By the time she got back in the evening, her children, who were being looked after by her father during the day, were on their way to bed. To pump breast milk before leaving for work, she had to get up at 4 a.m.
After just a few days of this crazed schedule, Long began to develop strange symptoms, including a headache that never seemed to go away and a choking sensation that left her feeling breathless. She started biting her fingernails to the quick—something she'd never done before—and crying a lot. "I felt like I was alone," says Long. "I wanted to fall off the face of the earth." Long had never been depressed. But when she went to the doctor, he surmised that her physical symptoms were rooted in her mental state, which was itself rooted in her schedule. When her doctor said he thought she was depressed, Long worried that if child welfare authorities found out, they might take her children away. She had seen other people's children put in foster care. But when her doctor prescribed her antidepressants, she took them.
Long is not the only one to suffer emotionally from a quick return to work. Research has shown that longer maternity leaves, whether paid or unpaid, are associated with a decline in depressive symptoms, a reduction in the likelihood of severe depression, and an improvement in overall maternal health, according to a working paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research. One national study of 1,762 mothers found that a one-week increase in maternity leave was associated with a 5 to 6 percent reduction in depressive symptoms from six to 24 months after birth. Another found that women who took less than eight weeks of paid leave experienced more depression than those who had longer leaves and were in worse health overall. Mothers who work more than 40 hours a week, as Long was, were more likely to be depressed than those who worked 40 hours or less, according to a study by Child Trends, a research center.
Women who go back sooner also tend to breastfeed less, which cuts into the benefits breast milk confers, including better immunity and lower rates of childhood obesity, allergies and sudden infant death syndrome. It was only through heroic efforts that Long was able to breastfeed Jayden until he was 1.
Shorter maternity leaves may also have a negative effect on the development of early motor and social skills and even, later, on vocabulary, according to several studies. So far, Jayden, 3, hasn't shown signs of missing any developmental milestones. What nags at Long is the thought that her absence in those first few months might have affected their relationship. He refuses to call her "mama," and although there's no research to indicate this would be a result of failed early bonding, she still fears that's the reason.
Too busy to fight
For low-income women, the lack of paid maternity leave is just one of many missing supports to help them stay afloat while bringing new life into the world. By the time Jayden was born, pregnancy had already put Long in a perilous financial situation. She was on bed rest for the last four and a half months of her pregnancy. Big Dollar, where she worked at the time, didn't fire her for not coming in—but it didn't pay her, either. So Long filed for public assistance, which required her to attend classes. Though Mississippi is supposed to exempt people who are physically unable to take such classes, and Long's doctor had warned her to stay off her feet, she says she was denied benefits when she didn't attend.
Family members pitched in to pay for her groceries and rent while she was unable to work, but by the time Jayden was born (healthy, at 37 weeks), Long knew she had reached the limit of their generosity. When she went back to work at the dollar store, they offered her only reduced hours. It wasn't enough to repay her debts, so she went to an employment agency, made no mention of her days-old baby, and got her job at ACCO.
Other social supports are glaringly absent for U.S. mothers, especially poor ones, who fill waiting lists for scarce subsidized childcare spots and underfunded early education classes. In comparison, Sweden and Denmark spend roughly 10 times what we do on childcare per person.
Without adequate options or support, low-income workers, who are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck and less likely to have access to any type of leave, often have little choice but to power through. As our data confirm—and as finances dictate—less educated women, who tend to have lower-paying jobs, are likely to take less time off after having children. Often, that means not just going back to work early, but going back to very long work hours, very early.
Raven Osborne, for instance, a 22-year-old single mother in Tupelo, Mississippi, went back to work just one week after her first child, Kylan, now 2, was born in August 2013. In addition to being a full-time college student, Osborne was waitressing full-time at IHOP, but her earnings—tips plus a base salary of $2.13 an hour—weren't enough to cover her rent, car payments and daycare costs. Perhaps ironically, her tips were much higher—sometimes more than $100 a shift—when she was visibly pregnant. But once she had the child, they went down again, so Osborne added a few overnight shifts at Texaco when Kylan was four weeks old, leaving the baby with his grandmother. Working upwards of 60 hours each week, the new mother barely saw her son, except when she got home from work, when she often fell asleep holding him. She could have taken unpaid leave from IHOP but chose not to because she needed the pay.
This winter, Osborne returned to work four weeks after her second child, Anthony, was born. Now she's working full-time at a debt collection agency on top of several shifts at the nearby Coles supermarket.
"I don't like asking for help" is how Osborne explains the frantic pace she's kept up during her first year-and-a-half of motherhood. Her mother pitches in by watching the kids when she can, though she, too, has two full-time jobs—one at Walmart and another as an aide at a retirement community.
Clearly, women with low earnings are the least likely to have a financial cushion that allows them to forgo a paycheck. But it's not only those on the bottom of the pay scale who can't afford to take unpaid leave. More than 2.5 million employees need time off from work to care for themselves or another but can't afford to take it, according to a 2012 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Tracy Malloy-Curtis, a fundraiser at a nonprofit in New York City, could have taken more time off, unpaid but with job security, after she had a baby a few years back. ("It's a civil rights organization," she explains, though she doesn't want to name it because she still works in the field.) Instead, Malloy-Curtis, who is 43, married, and the primary breadwinner in her family, went back five and a half weeks after having a son—and a complicated C-section—for fear she otherwise could not afford to pay her mortgage and cover the other basic costs of her life.
"Physically, I was a wreck," she says. An infection around her C-section wound hadn't yet healed when she went back to work. "I was still bleeding, my incision wasn't closed." Pus dripped down her leg under her work clothes.
Those who do take leave may find themselves penalized afterward. Jackie Wheeler took six weeks of paid maternity leave after her son, Enzo, was born in 2011. Wheeler, who lives in Westminster, Colo., was working at the front desk of a local branch of Chase Bank. Though her son had severe medical problems as a result of being born early, Wheeler had intended to go back to her job. Before giving birth, she says, she had even been talking with her boss about interviewing for an assistant manager position. "I saw myself as moving along in the company," she says.
But after she returned to work and Enzo was released from the hospital, she took another six weeks of leave. At that point, her boss told her he thought it was best that she resign—if he didn't fill her position right away, he said, corporate headquarters would eliminate it. And Wheeler was too overwhelmed at the time to challenge him.
The birth of hope
While, in the United States, the lack of time off can too often turn new motherhood into a distressing ordeal, most other cultures treat this immediate post-natal period as a sacred time, when both the new mother and baby receive help and special attention. Throughout history and all over the world, people have tended to carve out a minimum of at least six weeks in which women are exempt from responsibilities other than child care, according to Malin Eberhard-Gran, a Norwegian public health scholar who has compiled a cross-cultural comparison of post-natal practices.
In some Muslim traditions, new mothers spend the first 40 days after birth in their mothers' homes, for instance. Many Latin American cultures also bracket during the same period, known as la cuarantena (from the Spanish word for "forty"), and exempt women from work responsibilities. In some other countries, women are granted special treatment for even longer. Traditionally, women in Japan and India go to their mothers' homes for several months after giving birth. And today, by law, the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—democracies with market economies—provide an average of more than a year of paid leave.
Here in the United States, advocates have been fighting for a century to get new parents just a few weeks off with pay. But the tide may be turning. In 2002, California became the first state to pass a paid family leave law, which provides workers who need to care for a new baby with 55 percent of their usual weekly pay, to a limit of $1,104 for up to six weeks. New Jersey passed a similar law in 2008. And in 2013, Rhode Island granted workers up to four weeks off with pay for "family care," including care of a new baby. Despite dire warnings from business interests, most employers in New Jersey and California (where programs have been in effect long enough to be studied) haven't found that paid leave has hurt productivity, profitability or turnover. (Full disclosure: I was a co-author of the New Jersey study).
The Obama administration is attempting to build momentum for paid sick leave, one of the main ways women piece together paid maternity leave. In the 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to send him a bill guaranteeing U.S. workers seven days of paid sick leave—but in early August, Senate Republicans blocked a Democrat-sponsored bill to do so. In the meantime, Obama has an executive order in the works that will extend a week of paid sick leave to all federal contractors, and his adminstration has issued $1.25 million in grants to study how paid leave programs can be developed in states. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has been outspoken on the issue, has spearheaded a #leadonleave campaign, in which he and White House aide Valerie Jarrett travel the country to boost local paid leave policies.
But, so far, even a Democratic administration committed to the issue hasn't been enough to overcome resistance to it. When bills have been debated in states, Republicans have been so vehement that paid leave is bad for business and a "job killer" that legislation at a federal level has been assumed to be a no-go. And, at least until very recently, congressional Republicans have mostly scoffed at Democratic efforts. But for the first time, a bill proposed by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) this spring that would provide benefits for workers who take time off to care for a new baby or sick family member was met with a counterproposal from Republicans, which would allow hourly workers to put overtime toward paid leave.
The issue is also clearly gaining ground in certain states, where at least ten family leave proposals have been introduced since March. Though Republican presidential candidates have had little to say about the issue, Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both come out as strong proponents of paid leave. While Sanders has been more specific about his plan, calling for 12 weeks off, with pay, both are making a moral case to which there is no politically sound retort: Families need paid time off to take care of their new babies. Men, women and children will gain from this basic human dignity.
Barreling ahead
After three months, Leigh Benrahou only has a blurry recollection of her first weeks back at work just days after her premature son was born. "I remember walking really slow and wearing stretch pants and just making it happen," she says hazily. She spent those early days cutting a path between the college; the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where Ramzi spent four months and underwent two stomach surgeries; her 3-year-old daughter's daycare center; and her home, where, despite her exhaustion, she found it difficult to sleep.
At work, Benrahou tended to the needs of her students, whose questions about enrollment requirements and course changes occasionally provided distraction from her own, far graver problems. But mostly it was surreal—and painful—to be there. Climbing stairs was difficult because of her recent surgery. And pretty much every time she closed the door to pump breast milk, she wound up crying. Harder still was being away from her tiny baby, whose health was still so uncertain. Every time she got a call from the hospital when she was at work—and there were many—her stomach clutched.
"They say it's like being on a roller coaster, [having a child] in the NICU," says Benrahou. "But a roller coaster is fun. I wanted to throw up all the time."
Benrahou didn't throw up, though. Instead, like so many other American women, she barreled ahead, doing her best to both take care of her newborn and remain employed. Though she never got to take leave when and how she had planned, she was recently able to take 12 weeks off through the FMLA under the category of caring for a sick relative—in this case, her infant son. And now the woman who so painstakingly planned her family's future doesn't know what's ahead. Ramzi's long-term prognosis is unclear; he's still on oxygen and has a feeding tube. About a quarter of babies born at 26 weeks go on to have lasting disabilities.
Benrahou's hope is to keep working. And mostly she remains upbeat. But sometimes she can't help but wonder whether Ramzi's early birth was preventable; and whether continuing to work after her diagnosis so she could make the best of her miniscule amount of time off brought about Ramzi's early delivery. It certainly wasn't the way she planned it.
This article was supported by the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Lessons Learned

So here's an article which I strongly disagree with. And also another reason why the USA will lose in the Middle East again and again. 
First of all, I absolutely hate this idea of national service and conscription. That's a clear violation of individual rights. So the general is talking out of his arse. 
Second, his recommendation for teams of teams is rubbish. Clearly shows that he has no idea about running a business. You need to make organisational life sustainable. You need governance. You need processes. You need technology and data. Teams of teams. Rubbish. This will work in very limited circumstances and for a limited period of time. 
And finally thinking that ISIS is a motorcycle gang just shows the man is a blithering idiot with no idea of history or Islam. For 1400 years, Islamic warriors and priests  have constantly tried to impose their views by force. Constantly. On their own people or on others or both. There hasn't been a single year in recorded history that this fight hasn't happened. The dream and desire for a caliphate. An idealised Jerusalem if you will and if you don't mind the pun. 
How did they get sorted? By giving them a right royal thumping. And then religiously thumping people who dare raise anything against secularism. All this education business is bollocks. Hasn't worked in 1400 years and will not work in the future. 
His views about China exhibit a shocking level of ignorance. He says it will become bigger than USA and to fix it we need to educate Americans? What? So China rose because of education? Bloody hell. The man is a moron. But people pay tons of money to listen to him. You can fool some people some of the time eh? 
Hope you're having fun son. I'm missing you :) 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Lessons Learned
(via Instapaper)

Sunday, January 10

The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History.

this book review was spot on, a great book which has now gone on my wish list. Quoting the salient bits

Botticini and Eckstein state on the first page of their book that their goal is to answer some basic questions: “Why are there so few Jewish farmers? Why are the Jews an urban population of traders, entrepreneurs, bankers, financiers, lawyers, physicians and scholars? When and why did these occupational and residential patterns become the distinctive features of the Jews? Why did the Jewish population shrink from 5–5.5 million at the time of Jesus to 1–1.2 million in the days of Muhammad? ... When, how and why did the Jews become the ‘the chosen few’?”

(1). The authors identified three major patterns in Jewish history. First, literacy grew and spread among the predominantly rural Jewish population of antiquity and at the same time there was a slow but significant process of conversion from Judaism that caused a significant drop in the Jewish population during the first half of the first millennium. Second, literate Jews had a comparative advantage over nonliterate populations in urban skilled occupations (e.g., crafts, trade, and money lending): urbanization and the development of a commercial economy gave them the opportunity to earn pecuniary returns on their investment in literacy and education. Finally, the Jewish diaspora was to a large extent voluntary and the result of Jews’ search for new opportunities in crafts, trade, commerce, money lending, banking, finance, and medicine.

The basis for all (or most) of these conclusions, the authors claim, is actually quite simple. The destruction of the Temple by the Romans ultimately transformed Judaism from a temple cult based on ritual sacrifices to a religion whose main norm required every Jewish man to read and study the Torah in Hebrew and to send his sons from the age of six or seven to primary school or synagogue to learn to do so (2). Literacy gave Jews an advantage but it was not without a price. Tuition required a significant investment, and not all Jews could or did invest in education. Many of the offspring of Jews who were unable or unwilling to pay for education therefore converted. Those who received an education and remained in the Jewish fold became the “Chosen Few”—and the ancestors of the modern Jewish population. The educational advantage of the Jews together with their exceptionally well-developed system of contract law gave them a competitive advantage over non-Jews and enabled them to thrive in urban environments. To prove this thesis (and related points), the authors survey key elements of 1400 years of Jewish history in about 275 pages.

And then some stupid people want to construct temples again (Ayodhya) and some take pride in being the custodian of temples. Learn, you idiots, learn!

The Wandering Hat: Iterations of the Medieval Jewish Pointed Cap

this was an absolutely fascinating paper. The abstract

From the twelfth to the seventeenth century, a cone-shaped hat called a pileus cornutus served as a distinguishing sign for Jews in the German-speaking regions of the Holy Roman Empire. What did the hat signify previously, and how did its meaning change after it was imposed on Jews by decree in the thirteenth century? This study traces its history as far back as Greek antiquity, when a pointed “Phrygian” hat was used as a means of identifying barbarians. Traveling on to Rome, where it was known as a pileus, the hat rose to prominence as a symbol for emancipated slaves. Its imposition on Jews in the Middle Ages was a turning point. Thereafter, the hat began to appear in representations of an increasing variety of deceiving figures, real and mythical, including heretics, criminals, and dwarfs. Following the course of the pileus not only sheds light on an intriguing singular phenomenon; it also stands as a paradigmatic example of a “traveling concept” and helps to refine our understanding of cultural transfer—of culture as transfer.

the paper traces the evolution of this fascinating hat. Some examples from the paper

But when I saw this, I felt I had seen these hats before and my daughter helped identifying it..