April 5, 2020 § Leave a comment
The Netherlands’ Huge Flower Sector Wilts as Coronavirus Hurts Business
The Netherlands accounts for nearly half of the world trade in floriculture products and 77% of flower bulbs sold globally. Top destinations usually include Germany, the U.K., France and Italy. The Dutch exports overall are valued at $6.7 billion and the sector accounts for about 5% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to [Royal FloraHolland’s Michael] van Schie.
Now revenue has dropped by 85% since last month, the cooperative spokesman says.
. . . . .
The decline comes as the Netherlands battles the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 276 people have died in the Netherlands from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and the country has identified 5,560 cases of infection.
The Netherlands isn’t the only country whose flower sector is suffering. Kenya and Ethiopia are also important producers of roses, van Schie says. In Kenya, flowers are the second-largest source of currency after remittances. Seventy percent of cut flowers from Kenya are sold to Europe, most through an auction in the Netherlands. Farmers there are leaving their roses to rot.
March 8, 2020 § Leave a comment
“Who Is the Sandman?”
“It’s a bit difficult to trace his origins because stories about the Sandman are part of an oral tradition,” says Dr. Maria Tatar, professor of German Studies, Folklore, and Children’s Literature at Harvard University. “I don’t think you can trace the Sandman to Denmark or Germany. I feel confident that there are similar figures in other cultures because so many of the jolly, child-friendly creatures are shadowed by a disciplinary evil person. Who invented the Sandman? Who knows!”
The Sandman’s first foray onto the page was in 18th-century German dictionaries, which briefly described the German idiom “der Sandmann kommt”—”Sandman is coming”—which was used to tease particularly sleepy-looking children. The first story about the Sandman and his doings was published in 1818 by German writer E.T.A Hoffman. “Der Sandmann” begins with an exasperated nurse telling a story about a mythical creature who throws sand in the eyes of little children who won’t go to sleep, causing them to fall out of their sockets. The Sandman then collects the eyeballs in a sack and carries them to his home on the dark side of the moon, where he feeds them to his children.
“‘Der Sandmann’ became an important story in psychoanalytic circles because Freud made so much of it in his essay ‘The Uncanny,'” says Tatar. “Hoffman’s story is a fairy tale for grownups, really—his Sandman is this dark, predatory monster. It definitely wasn’t written for children.” . . .
Jesslyn Shields, How Stuff Works, January 28, 2019
October 16, 2019 § Leave a comment
“Student Uses Invisible Ink to Ace Ninja Report”
A Japanese student aced an assignment on ninja culture by making her own invisible ink from soybeans in a stealthy move that impressed her professor.
Eimi Haga, a member of Mie University’s ninja club, turned in an essay on a visit to a museum about the nimble assassins with an attached message to heat it before reading.
“I knew that I needed to take it home and put it above a stove,” said Yuji Yamada, who teaches Japanese history, including ninja culture.
“She replicated what is written in records of ninja art. She strived to prove what was written actually works and went through a trial-and-error process. I was impressed,” he said.
When the characters of Haga’s essay revealed themselves in the heat, Yamada—who had promised his students extra marks for creativity—decided to award her an A.
Toshifumi Kitamura, Japan Today, October 15, 2019
July 22, 2019 § Leave a comment
“The Good, Bad, and Irrecoverable—Romania’s Lost Children”
Nearly three decades ago, Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceaușescu fell, along with his state-run orphanages. The streets were flooded with unwanted children, some who were privately adopted, others who made homes in the sewers and streets. Today, with some reintegrated into society, some still homeless, and some dead, Ceaușescu’ children have grown up.
. . . . .
In the early 90s, street kids boomed as the children flocked to Bucharest, the only city with an underground rail system. Children would visit their family and friends back home, recruiting more children to the city. The average age was just seven-years-old.
“After Ceausescu’s fall it was complete chaos, and we call this chaos freedom,” explains NGO Save the Children social worker Leonard Andreescu.
Under Bucharests’s streets emerged Lord of the Flies-esque societies, organised systems with leaders. According to Andreescu, these systems were arranged “fantastically.”
“The sewer systems are warm, they hooked them up to water and power. They had a long string of lights down the tunnel systems—if you entered, but didn’t know the password, they would turn them off.”
Of the original children living in the streets, Andreescu estimates only 300 remain, with most of these now being adults. But this doesn’t indicate an improvement in social services, said Andreescu.
“One third are dead. One third are reintegrated into society. And one third still live on the street.”
Samantha Dixon, Euroviews, April 27, 2017
April 17, 2019 § Leave a comment
“Bauhaus Movement: Every Time You Sit Down, Thank the German Art School”
Every time you plop yourself down in a chair at work, rush to your favorite seat in class, or lounge at your desk at home, you can think the Bauhaus Movement. The Bauhaus was originally a German arts school started in 1919, whose teachings eventually developed into an art and thought movement that inspired a generation of artisans, architects, and designers around the world. [April 12] was the centennial celebration of Bauhaus, and Google marked the occasion with a front-page doodle.
Hungarian furniture designer Marcel Breuer was one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus. He was quickly recognized for his carpentry skills, and in short order became the head of the school’s carpentry shop. Eventually, Breuer designed two pieces of furniture that changed chair design forever: the Cesca Chair and the Wassily Chair.
The Cesca was the first chair made out of a combination of tubular steel and caned seating that was also mass-produced, and has since become a common chair in offices and homes. . . .
[The Cesca] eventually became the blueprint for countless chairs after it. Cara McCarty, the former associate curator at the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art considered it to be a pivotal invention in furniture design.
“It’s among the 10 most important chairs of the twentieth century,” she told The New York Times in 1991.
Danny Paez, Inverse, April 12, 2019
January 26, 2019 § Leave a comment
“More than 145,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Return to School in Bangladesh Refugee Camps as New School Year Starts”
More than 145,000 Rohingya refugee children living in camps in south-east Bangladesh are now attending UNICEF-supported learning centres, as a new school year begins.
Following a huge effort from the humanitarian community to construct a network of around 1,600 Learning Centres throughout the camps—providing vital access to education for children who fled violence in Myanmar—attention is now turning to providing education for thousands of other children who still lack access.
The aim is to eventually reach 260,000 children with education this year through an extended network of 2,500 Learning Centres run by 5,000 teachers and Rohingya volunteers.
. . . . .
“Many children have suffered traumatic injuries from gunshot wounds and extreme violence, restricting their mobility and access to services. We see many children with mixed learning abilities, physical disabilities, visual impairment and speech difficulties,” said Iffat Farhana, Education Officer, UNICEF Cox’s Bazar. “Each of these children has a right to education. With more Learning Centres and more teachers, UNICEF hopes to reach every child to help them learn, grow and realise their potential.”
. . . . .
It is estimated that there are about 500,000 children under the age of 18 living in the camps, with about 300,000 aged 3 to 14.
About 700,000 Rohingyas fled persecution in Myanmar at the end of 2017, bringing the total population of the refugee camps close to a million people.
(UNICEF, January 24, 2019)
(featuring scenes from Shaolin Tagou, the largest Kung Fu school in China, with over 35,000 students)
November 24, 2018 § Leave a comment
“Indonesia’s Citarum: The World’s Most Polluted River”
Every day, no less than 20,000 tons of waste and 340,000 tons of wastewater, mostly from 2,000 textile factories, are disposed directly into the once clear and pristine waterways of the Citarum River. No wonder the fish are largely gone in the third-biggest river in Java.
To illustrate how dirty the Citarum River is, at some places we cannot even see the water. Its surface is completely covered by the unimaginable amount of waste, trash, and dead animals floating on it. If we are lucky enough to glimpse the water, we will see it is colored due to the excessive amount of toxic chemicals being dumped into the river by industries. Not surprisingly, since 2008, nearly 60 percent of the river’s fish species have been destroyed.
. . . . .
Over the years, successive governments have vowed to clean the Citarum, but they mainly failed because such efforts were only partially done. However, in February, after visiting the location, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo declared a seven-year Citarum cleansing program with a final goal of making Citarum water drinkable by 2025. The program will also be supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), which in 2009 had already committed to provide $500 million to fund the Citarum’s rehabilitation.
(Dikanaya Tarahita and Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, The Diplomat, April 28, 2018)