Iran’s Shanghai Dream – By Kevjn Lim July 25, 2016

The Perks and Pitfalls of Joining China’s Security Club

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In late June, during the 15th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a China-led security bloc, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the signing of the U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal and the lifting of UN sanctions meant that there were “no obstacles left” to Iran joining the SCO. But only a day earlier, the SCO as a whole and Beijing, by implication, had refused to process Iran’s application, and a month before that, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had recommended that the bloc focus first on India and Pakistan’s own slated accessions. During the same summit, Putin’s SCO representative Bakhtiyor Khakimov vaguely explained that “technical nuances” were to blame for the varying positions. What is at play is a deep disagreement between the SCO’s two main powers—Beijing and Moscow—over Iran’s bid for membership.

Tehran, which applied for full accession in 2008, has repeatedly pressed its case, but has only enjoyed observer status from 2005 until now. Iran’s hopes have been buoyed in the interim by noncommittal promises to admit it sometime in the future. In a 2010 summit document, the SCO officially nixed the longstanding moratorium on new admissions imposed little after the organization’s rebranding from the erstwhile Shanghai Five in 2001, but at the same time legally ruled out states under UN sanctions. Although Iran is no longer under UN sanctions, internal disagreements have continued to draw out the process. So why does Iran want to join an organization that isn’t ready to commit, and if it were to join, what would its membership betoken?

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Comic-Con 2016: the good, the bad and the unbearable – Dave Schilling Monday 25 July 2016 15.00 EDT

Comic-Con is merely the first taste of everything you won’t be able to shut up about for the next year or two, from Wonder Woman to Rihanna in Bates Motel

 Festival goers in cosplay attend Comic-Con International 2016 at San Diego Convention Center.

Comic-Con 2016 is over, but in my mind, it’s still going on. It’s been a full day since I left San Diego and the moist throng of sweaty pop culture enthusiasts, but I’m still unpacking all of the merchandise I bought (and the merchandise given to me by studios eager to hawk their latest big-budget gambles), washing the party stench out of my clothes, and breathlessly pondering casting announcements, flashy trailers and plot reveals. When you spend large portions of your everyday life following the progress of an in-production motion picture or TV show or comic book series, you’re essentially living Comic-Con year-round. For the truly dedicated fan in 2016, Comic-Con never ends.

Granted, there may not be muscle-bound men practically naked cosplaying as the Silver Surfer or spontaneous displays of brazen corporate synergy disguised by an open bar, but the real world is close enough to Comic-Con that I have a hard time getting my bearings when I come home. Right now, I’m trying to plan when to finally see Ghostbusters, where to hide my disturbing Mr Robot fsociety mask, and sort out why I need – like, really need – a Star Trek Beyond seat cushion. The advertisements, the single-minded focus on genre entertainment, the accursed Pokémon Go players blocking you from crossing the street – they’re all here. You’re stuck with it, for better or worse. Comic-Con, then, is merely the first taste of all the things you and your friends won’t be able to shut the hell up about for the next year or two. Some of those things are good. Some of those things are, unfortunately, quite bad. Here’s a sampling of what I witnessed in San Diego, organized for ease of digestion.

Good: all Marvel everything

Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B Jordan and Danai Gurira attend the Black Panther panel.
Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B Jordan and Danai Gurira attend the Black Panther panel. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Do I even need to say anything here? Black Panther didn’t even reveal any footage and the crowd was losing their minds. Doctor Strange looks like a real head-trip, plus Benedict Cumberbatch is clearly doing Tony Stark-lite with the delivery of his cheeky one-liners. Not what I expected, but I’ll take it. This panel had everything: smoke machines, laser-light shows, bad improv, good improv, Michael B Jordan and more Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 footage than anyone could have hoped for. Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel Studios team deserve a Presidential Medal of Freedom for constantly building up your expectations and still exceeding them.

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Misty Copeland on Protein and Unconventional Meditation – By Ashley Weatherford July 25, 2016 2:54 p.m.

Misty Copeland wearing Under Armour’s new crossback bra. — Photo: Courtesy of Under Armour

Misty Copeland wearing Under Armour’s new crossback bra. Photo: Courtesy of Under Armour

Labeling Misty Copeland a prodigy isn’t blown-up hyperbole; it’s a fact. She launched her ballet career at the age of 13 (geriatric in ballerina years) at a Boys and Girls Club and within a year skyrocketed to national acclaim. Last year, she became the first African-American woman to achieve principal status at the American Ballet Theatre. Through it all she’s become an author, executive produced her own documentary, and led the clarion call for diversity in ballet.

On the heels of Under Armour’s newest launch, a crossback bra, the Cut caught up with Copeland. The brand spokeswoman talked about how body types in ballet are evolving, how Instagram has become so important to her, and why she rejects the word celebrity.

Under Armour’s campaign is all about support. What has been the most significant source of support in your career?

I’ve struggled with body-image issues and finding a way to fit in and create a new path for the typical body type of a ballerina. I’ve had so many issues throughout my career finding the right support — even in something like finding leotards to fit a larger butt. But beyond the physical, I’ve had incredible mentors throughout my career that have gotten me to this place. In the beginning, my first ballet teacher Cynthia Bradley was the person who discovered me and took me into her home so I could get the right training and become a professional dancer. As an adult, Susan Fales-Hill and Victoria Rowell were two incredibly strong black women who were there at times when I had so many doubts and struggled with body image issues and being African-American in an elite company that was mostly white. And then of course Raven Wilkinson, who is an African-American ballerina who joined the [Ballet] Russe in the 1950s. Just to be able to see someone like her who succeeded, it changed my mind as to what was possible for me.

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World’s First Geologic Map Was Far Ahead of Its Time – By Peter Hessler PUBLISHED JULY 25, 2016

A map drawn on papyrus more than 3,000 years ago helped spur the search for mineral wealth in modern Egypt.

Pieced together from many fragments, the map shows a nine-mile (15-kilometer) stretch of Wadi Hammamat, a valley that included a stone quarry and gold mine.  -- PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JAMES HARRELL, UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO

Pieced together from many fragments, the map shows a nine-mile (15-kilometer) stretch of Wadi Hammamat, a valley that included a stone quarry and gold mine.

If you’re searching for gold in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, you should bring water, a spare tire, an exploration geologist, and a good map. By 10:30 a.m. we’d already made use of all four. The left rear tire of our SUV had blown out on a rough desert track, but the spare held up, and now our small convoy had successfully deposited the geologist and the map atop the rocky, sandy soil of a place called Abu Zawal.

The geologist was named Leonard Karr, and the map was a printout from Google Earth. It was covered with Karr’s handwritten annotations, which to a layman were almost as mysterious as hieroglyphs: “flat felsik dikes,” “dead fresh,” “foliated black rock.”

Karr is employed by Aton Resources Inc., a Canadian company formerly known as Alexander Nubia, which hopes to strike it rich in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, the high wasteland that separates the Nile Valley from the Red Sea. In modern corporate terms, Aton Resources is a pioneer, one of a small handful of mining companies active in Egypt. Only one firm is currently mining, but all of them are following in the tracks of pharaonic miners, inspired by one of the most remarkable documents that the ancient Egyptians left to posterity.

Meet the guy who outsmarted everyone by applying for DNC protest permits months ahead – Vice News Published on Jul 25, 2016

Billy Taylor, a 31-year-old landscaper and Bernie or Bust activist, applied more than six months in advance for protest permits in various locations in an effort to crowd out would-be pro-Clinton supporters during the Democratic National Convention.

VICE News follows Taylor as he organizes Sanders activists ahead of the week of planned protests.

Read “Democrats on the defensive over email hack as DNC begins” –

Giant Corporations Are Reaping Billions From Federal “Small Business” Contracts – JOSH PARKINSON JUL. 25, 2016 6:00 AM

So says this advocacy group for actual small businesses.


Verizon Communications is the largest wireless provider in the United States, with 177,000 employees and $91.7 billion in sales last year, and yet it somehow managed to wrangle more than $107 million in federal “small business contracts” last year through the US Small Business Administration.

Verizon isn’t the only gargantuan company the SBA deems eligible for assistance. In 2015, according to a recent lawsuit by an advocacy group for actual small businesses, the SBA counted contracts with 150 other Fortune 500 companies in its fulfillment of the federal government’s small business contracting obligations.

“The Small Business Administration has become perverted…at some point their mission changed to helping government and contractors circumvent” the law.

“The Small Business Administration has become perverted,” says Lloyd Chapman, founder of the American Small Business League, which filed the suit in May. “At some point their mission changed to helping the government and contractors circumvent the Small Business Act.”

Congress created the SBA in 1953 with its passage of the Small Business Act, legislation designed to “maintain and strengthen the overall economy” by giving the small fry of the business world a leg up. The definition of “small” varies by industry, from a maximum of 100 to 1,500 employees and revenues of $750,000 to $38.5 million. (Chapman, noting that the average American business has just 16 employees, says these caps are too high.) In any case, federal research shows that such businesses are key to supporting the middle class: Although they employ less than half of all private sector workers, they create 70 percent of net new jobs. They also tend to buck the offshoring trend and are seen as a counterbalance to income inequality because they spread wealth around to millions of entrepreneurs. “The Small Business Act is the largest economic stimulus program for the middle class in US history,” Chapman proclaims. “And we are its protectors.”

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