Waxing philosophical, he spoke of every Syrian’s right to be ‘a full citizen, in every meaning of this word,’ and likened intolerant versions of religion to a computer operating system that needed to be updated. He promised that a new era of openness and dialogue was underway in Syria and said that he was thinking ahead about how to modernize Syrians’ mentality after a war that he believed his forces were assured of winning.”
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Bread Babies and Purple Drink: Ecuador's Spin on Day of the Dead
Amy E. Robertson | NPR
“Part of Ecuador's tradition includes guaguas de pan (bread babies), in which sweet bread dough is shaped into plump babies dressed with piped icing or bits of colored dough. Baskets of guaguas are for sale at the entrance to the cemetery, but many visitors bring their own, with extras to leave on tombstones.
Some say guaguas represent the deceased, and eating them is a way of remembering. Some believe they were created to replace the Indian tradition of mummification. Others think that the form of the baby is based on the indigenous belief that when a person dies, he or she regains the innocence of an infant.”
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Lebanon Has a New President (Not That it Matters)
Antoun Issa | Foreign Policy
“‘Kullun haramiyyeh’—‘they’re all thieves’—is the most common sentiment about Lebanon’s politics on the streets of Beirut. You’ll hear it from street vendors, waiters, students, teachers, architects, taxi drivers, doctors, Muslims, and Christians. It’s a view, in short, that unites this perpetually fragmented country.
So when Michel Aoun, the maverick general-turned-politician, achieved his long-held ambition of becoming president on Monday, most ordinary Lebanese reacted with indifference. The new president is just another name, another title, and another episode in the country’s endless—and ultimately meaningless—political drama.”
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The Emperor’s New Museum
Jiayang Fan | The New Yorker
“Liu’s extravagant hobby is the subject of considerable fascination in China, and is interpreted variously as a financial investment, a publicity stunt, a patriotic bid for the world’s attention, and an act of pure ostentation, such as one might expect from a tuhao. Liu told me that he thinks the museum fills a gap in China’s cultural life. Until recently, the country had few museums, and most of them were barely worthy of the name. ‘The mission of the Long Museum is to educate the Chinese public, and to present quality work that is on a par with other state-of-the-art museums around the world,’ he said. He spoke of giving China a cultural prestige commensurate with its wealth: Western museums are full of Chinese art, but China has few Western art works of the calibre of the Modigliani.
Liu’s buying spree is one of many developments that are turning Shanghai, China’s most Westernized city, into a global center for art. But it is also a demonstration of China’s brute purchasing power. ‘If a Westerner bought these Western masterpieces, people would think it was very normal,” he told me. “But, because they were bought by an Asian, and not just a Japanese but a Chinese person—‘ He looked up, his eyes full of impish pride. ‘After all, isn’t that why you are here?’”