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21 February 2017

How to Make Friends



Image result for friendship

In my experience, people (generally) want to be friends with other people who follow these general guidelines:

Be positive, not negative. While it’s OK to share your struggles with people (I recommend it), if you’re complaining all the time, and are generally negative about other people and life in general, then people get tired of the complaining and negativity. We have enough trouble in life without having friends who are negative all the time. That said, a good friend will always listen when you’re in need, so don’t take this as “never complain.” Instead, just generally try to be a positive person, and if you have struggles, also try to show how you’re tackling those struggles with a positive outlook.
Be interested & a good listener. Be interested in other people! Don’t make the mistake of only wanting to talk about your stuff, and being bored and unimpressed with what other people are doing. I try to find the interesting in everyone, even if they lead a relatively uneventful life, there’s something fascinating about them. When someone wants to talk, listen. If they only talk about themselves all day and don’t want to hear your stuff, then they probably aren’t going to be a great friend, but still give them a chance and be interested for as long as you can.
Be excited about life, have energy. We generally don’t want a friend who is bored all the time. Someone who is excited about life, interested in things, has good energy … that’s someone you’d by hyped to be around. Not super hyper, necessarily, but just containing a positive energy.
Do interesting things. If you’re excited about life, you manifest that by doing new things, learning, creating, exploring, trying out new experiences, meeting new people. If you are this kind of person, you’ll be interesting. If you shut out life, people might not be as interested.
Tell good stories. No one wants to listen to someone who tells long boring stories. After the first two such stories, people generally start tuning you out. So try to keep your stories shorter, unless you can tell people are interested. Find something interesting to hook their curiosity, and then draw them in with that curiosity until you satisfy it with a good ending. Practice your storytelling when you meet people, and try to get better at it. It’s not one of my strong points, to be honest, but I recognize that and am trying to be better.
Smile. I’m not saying you should have a fake smile, but a smile puts you in a friendly mood, versus frowning at someone. Don’t smile all the time, or at inappropriate times. Just generally have a smiling disposition, as it signals that you like the person (also try to genuinely like the person, moving away from tendencies to judge them or complain about them).
Put yourself out there, be willing to try things. Sing in public even if that scares you. Try new food, new experiences, new ideas. This open-mindedness attracts others who are looking to get the most out of life.
Be calm, not overly dramatic. While it’s great to have a lot of energy, people who are overly dramatic about little things can be a turn-off. So learn to react to most problems as if they’re not a big deal (because they usually aren’t), and handle them with calmness instead of overreacting.
Be authentic, don’t try to show off. All of the above recommendations might seem like I’m recommending that you be someone you’re not. I’m not recommending that at all. Instead, I want you to be an authentic version of yourself (there are lots of versions of ourselves) — but choose the version that is more in the directions recommended above, in general. If there is a positive and negative version of you, generally choose the positive version. But most importantly, don’t try to impress people all the time — if you’re confident in yourself, you don’t need to impress. Instead, be a genuine person, not just the “best you.” When this recommendation is in conflict with any of the above recommendations, choose this one.
Be happy with yourself & confident. This is just something that’s good to do for yourself. Be happy with who you are, even the flaws. If you are, you can be confident that you’re good enough when you meet someone else. People generally don’t respect someone who is constantly harsh on themselves. How can you learn to be happy with yourself? That’s a whole other post, but in general, become aware of any tendency to be harsh and critical of yourself, and don’t let yourself stew in those kinds of thoughts. Start to see the good in yourself, the genuine heart and caring nature, and let that be the story you tell yourself about yourself.
I don’t claim to be an expert at any of this (my friend Tynan is a much better expert, and wrote an excellent book you should check out), but this is what I believe to be true right now.

I hope this helps, and if you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, see it not as confirmation that you suck, but as an exciting new area for you to explore.

By BY LEO BABAUTA ,


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20 February 2017

Defeating radical Islam - by By Daniel Pipes , the Islamophobe




Who is the enemy? It’s been over 15 years since Sept. 11, 2001, and this fundamental question still rattles around. Prominent answers have included evildoers, violent extremists, terrorists, Muslims, and Islamists.
As an example of how not to answer this question, the Obama administration convened a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group in 2010 and included participants who turned up such gems as: “Jihad as holy war is a European invention,” the caliphate’s return is “inevitable,” Shariah (Islamic law) is “misunderstood,” and “Islamic terrorism is a contradiction in terms because terrorism is not Islamic by definition.” The result? The group produced propaganda helpful to the (unnamed) enemy.
In contrast, then-candidate Donald Trump gave a robust speech in August 2016 on how he, as president, would “Make America Safe Again.” In it, he pledged that “one of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam.” Note: he said radical Islam, not some euphemism like violent extremism.
The goal of that commission, he said, “will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.” The commission “will include reformist voices in the Muslim community” with the goal to “develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners.”
On Feb. 2, Reuters reported that, consistent with the August statement, the Trump administration “wants to revamp and rename” the Obama administration’s old CVE effort to focus solely on Islamism. Symbolic of this change, the name Countering Violent Extremism will be changed to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” (or a near equivalent).
To make the most of this historic opportunity, the Middle East Forum has crafted a comprehensive plan for a White House Commission on Radical Islam for the administration to use. Here’s a summary of how we see the commission working and having an impact:
Structure. To be successful, all its members must be selected by the president. Too many commissions have included contrasting ideologies and agendas, grinding out sausagelike self-conflicting reports that displease the administration and end up discarded. Also, learning from the struggles of the Tower Commission, which lacked sufficient powers, and the precedent of the Three Mile Island Commission, which actually had them, the commission needs the power to subpoena documents, compel testimony and grant immunity.
Personnel. The commission should include a mix of experts on political violence and radical Islam, as well as elected officials, representatives of law enforcement, the military, the intelligence and diplomatic communities, technology specialists, Muslim reformers (as the president insisted), and victims of radical Islam. It should also include liaisons to those who ultimately will implement the commission’s recommendations: secretaries of the departments of state, defense, and homeland security, the attorney general, and the CIA director.
Mandate. The commission should expand on President Trump’s commitment to explain the core convictions of Islamists (i.e., the full and severe application of Shariah) to expose their networks, and develop new protocols for law enforcement. In addition, it should examine where Islamists get their resources and how these can be cut off; figure out how to deny them use of the internet; offer changes to immigration practices; and assess how political correctness impedes an honest appraisal of radical Islam.
Implementation. For the commission’s work to be relevant, it must coordinate with federal agencies to gather data and craft recommendations, draft executive orders and legislation, provide supporting documents, prepare requests for proposals, outline memos to state and local governments, recommend personnel, and work out budgets. Finally, the commission should be prepared that its reports may be used as evidence in criminal proceedings, such as was the case several times in the past (e.g., the Warren, Rogers, and Tower commissions).
The overall goal of the White House Commission on Radical Islam should be to bring the American people together around a common understanding of the enemy’s nature, how that enemy can be defeated, and specifics to accomplish this objective.
Perhaps this will start the long-delayed process of winning a war that has already gone on far too long. The United States has all the economic and military advantages; it lacks only a policy and a strategy, which the new administration, relying on a first-rate commission, can finally supply.
 Daniel Pipes (@DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. Christopher C. Hull (@ChristopherHull) is president of Issue Management, Inc.
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09 February 2017

What Exactly Is The 'Islamic' World?


The term Islamic refers to Islam as a religion. The term Islamicate refers to the social and cultural complex that is historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, even when found among non-Muslims. Islamic world | Britannica.com
The terms Muslim world and Islamic world commonly refer to the Islamic community (Ummah), comprising all those who adhere to the religion of Islam,[1] or to societies where Islam is practiced.[2][3] In a modern geopolitical sense, these terms refer to countries where Islam is widespread, although there are no agreed criteria for inclusion. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_world
While originally a religion and way of life, given the way the term “Islamic” is being tossed around like candy today, one could be forgiven for mistaking Islam for a country. According to particular groups both in the West as well as within the regions in which Islam has a marked presence, such as the Middle East, the people of the “Islamic” world speak the Islamic language, eat Islamic food, make Islamic films, write Islamic literature and produce Islamic art and architecture. In short, they are defined solely by a religion (which may or may not be theirs), their individual cultures and identities amounting to mere afterthoughts. Would it be easier to acknowledge the vast diversity—on every level—of the so-called “Islamic world” and the many peoples that comprise it, rather than use the term “Islamic” in every possible instance? Of course, after all, we don’t exactly use “Christendom” to define Europe and North America. But to ditch the term “Islamic” simply wouldn’t be convenient for certain groups, nor would it serve their interests.

Perhaps nowhere has the term “Islamic” been more abused and misapplied than in the realm of art, both contemporary and historical. Walking through museums in North America and Europe, I’m often left scratching my head when I see, for instance, pre-Islamic artifacts from Sassanian Iran in the “Islam” section, as well as secular works celebrating Iran’s pre-Islamic past, such as folios from the Book of Kings epic. In more contemporary settings, I can’t help but ask myself when looking at pop art from Lebanon where on earth the connection to Islam is. Not surprisingly, more often than not, there isn’t any. When a contributor to my publication asked a curator from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2015 what she meant by the term “Islamic art” (the show on display was titled “Islamic Art Now”), she candidly replied that “It here has nothing to do with religion, or religious art, per se.” Well, I’ll be damned.

To avoid condemning the dastardly West à la Edward Said, I should say that those within the Middle East and elsewhere have also been adding to the conundrum. Take, for example, a glitzy museum in a tiny Persian Gulf nation (I won’t name names) with a massive lack of local art and artifacts. If it simply limits itself to objects pertaining to its own country, it would be hard pressed to fill its museum, or even provide a basis for its existence. If it uses the term “Islamic,” though, it can easily fill its sparkling halls with goodies from Iran, Syria, India, Spain and elsewhere. “Behold the glories of the Islamic world,” they can tell their visitors. Problem solved.

Regardless of the culprits, the way in which the term “Islamic” is being misused and thrown about is incredibly frustrating and problematic, as not only does it perpetuate the idea of a monolithic Islamic “other,” but also strips the diverse peoples of the Middle East and elsewhere of their individual cultures, heritages, languages, religions (yes, many others are practiced in the “Islamic” world, too), modes of expression and ways of life; in short, it robs them of their identities, packaging them solely as “Muslims.” In certain cases, such as calligraphy in editions of the Koran, it would be perfectly acceptable and appropriate to use a term such as “Islamic;” but even then, there are Persian, Turkish and Arabic schools of calligraphy, which need to be duly acknowledged. Even mosques, the images of which are perhaps first conjured when the word “Islam” is uttered in the West, present a problem. Many Iranian mosques have been built upon Zoroastrian fire temples, for example, and contain elements that are indigenously Iranian. Can an Iranian mosque, then, be spoken of in the same context of one in Timbuktu simply because of a connection to a religion—and one practiced so differently in both places, at that? To quote Robert Byron in his classic 1937 travelogue, “The Road to Oxiana”—

… The Kala-i-Dukhtar at Firuzabad provides another Sassanian prototype for Persia’s next most important contribution to Mohammedan architecture after the dome on squinches: the ivan or open-fronted hall. This form, more than any other, changed the character of the early mosques … Its vagaries have changed the face of every town in Islam, and it was pleasing, I thought, to find myself hanging on to an old nut-tree and eating an orange in the place where the idea began.”

If we in the West don’t refer to Andy Warhol as a “shining example of Christian art,” or speak of Mark Rothko’s paintings as representing Jewish modernism—that is to say, if we don’t define them by the religious traditions into which they were born—then why do we do so when it comes to Iranian, Arab and Turkish artists for example? Why does everything—art, architecture, music, cuisine, you name it—fall under the label of “Islamic” when it comes to regions such as the Middle East? To take things even further, the auction house Christie’s now refers to “Middle Eastern” art as Iranian, Arab and Turkish in its sales in Dubai. Perhaps they have realized something so basic that others have yet to.

In short, the term “Islamic,” particularly in the context of arts and culture, has been abused, exploited and misapplied by many. While in some instances it may be appropriate, in most of the ones I’ve seen, it’s inaccurate, misrepresentative, plain wrong and even ridiculous (Islamic cuisine? Really?). With the term being blindly accepted and bandied about by many, and with major exhibitions like the de Young Museum’s “Fashion of Islam” (because the people in question dress Islamic, too) in the pipeline, it’s high time we all questioned the use and applicability of the term “Islamic” and re-examined its flagrant abuse by those in both the West and the “Islamic” world. Indeed, the time has come to stop defining a vast chunk of earth by a single word, and rather acknowledge the contributions of its myriad peoples and their respective cultures.
What Exactly Is The 'Islamic' World?  by Capital Flows, forbes.com

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08 February 2017

What's behind the Great Wall of America?

Trump's false advertising routine for a Mexican border wall provides an apt excuse for lucrative militarisation schemes.

One of the ultimate functions of heavily fortified borders is to rally populations against a perceived enemy and thus redirect attention from national shortcomings and unsavoury behaviour - which in the case of the US happens to entail the wanton violation of other people's borders, both militarily and economically.

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