Background only: how Rangoon looked quite recently

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For discussion tomorrow: whether China can do what many outsiders hope, and be the deus ex machina in the tragedy of Burma. It's pretty to think so, and to hope that Chinese intervention might spare Burmese monks and civilians from what looks like impending crackdown or massacre from the heavily-armed thugs who rule the country. I fear it's not realistic to think that China can or will play such a role. More later.

For now, street scenes from Rangoon, four months ago:

Rangoon city hall, with its somewhat eerie combination of British-colonial and traditional Burmese design. This appears in the background of many current protest videos. Here is how it looked on a weekday midmorning this May:

Entrance to internet cafe (although "foreign" email services like Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc were all forbidden, and general services more tightly censored than in China):

Local transport:

School books for sale:

Local toothpaste ad:

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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