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Pope Francis’s Theory of Economics

pope-francis-graphic-biography-470

Karl Polanyi – Wikipedia

Karl Polanyi Quotes

The Great Transformation (book)

Karl Polanyi and Globalization – Z Communications

Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation – Notes from my library

Why Karl Polanyi Still Matters – On the Commons

“…To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society. For the alleged commodity, “labor power” cannot be shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused, without affecting the human individual who happens to be the bearer of this peculiar commodity.

In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity of “man” attached to the tag. Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rovers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed…”

― Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Pope Francis hints at rehabilitating liberation theology – condemned by his predecessors – and talk about casting off “the economic and social structures that enslave us”. He might be matched with a favorite political economist of anti-free market academics: Karl Polanyi.

Karl Polanyi is most famous for his book The Great Transformation, and in particular for one idea in that book: the distinction between an “economy being embedded in social relations” and “social relations [being] embedded in the economic system.”

According to Polanyi the Economy has to serve society, not the other way around. Economic activity, Polanyi says, started off as just one of many outgrowths of human activity. And so, economics originally served human needs. But over time, people (particularly, policy-making people) got the idea that markets regulated themselves if laws and regulations got out of their way.

The free market converts told people that “only such policies and measures are in order which help to ensure the self-regulation of the market by creating the conditions which make the market the only organizing power in the economic sphere.”

Gradually, as free market-based thinking was extended throughout society, humans and nature came to be seen as commodities called “labor” and “land.” The “market economy” had turned human society into a “market society.”

In short (as social sciences professors prepare to slam their heads into their tables at my reductionism), instead of the market existing to help humans live better lives, humans were ordering their lives to fit into the economy.

Pope Francis denounces, specifically, the complete rule of the market over human beings – not its existence, but its domination. “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest,” he writes. “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded,” and “man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”

He rejects the idea that “economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” Instead, he argues, growing inequality is “the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” which “reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.” And he repeats the exact language he used in an early address: “Money must serve, not rule!”

Where things get really interesting is when Pope Francis brings up the financial crisis. “One cause of this situation,” he writes, “is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person!”

It’s nothing new to say the financial crisis came from a lack of regulation. That’s a fairly popular analysis. But what Pope Francis is saying is more Polanyan, hearkening back to the idea that the tipping point has to do with the relationship between the market and society/humanity, and which is subordinate to the other.

Just as Polanyi argued that the extension of the market economy across the globe (through the gold standard) was the root cause of World War I (and you’ll have to go back to the original book for that, but it’s a beautifully, hilariously gutsy, Guns, Germs, and Steel kind of argument), Francis is arguing that failing to keep humanity at the center of our economic activity was the root cause of the financial crisis.

One of the tricky and crucial parts of Polanyi’s argument is that he doesn’t actually believe (at least, back in the 1940s, when he was writing) that we’re living in a world where the economy has become fully disembedded from society.

This “Utopia,” he writes, that many economic theorists and policymakers are foolishly striving for, “could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness.”

Pope Francis has a similarly gloomy view of global survival in the face of unchecked capitalism: “In this system, which tends to devour anything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

So what’s the way out? At the time Polanyi’s book was published, he was betting on social democracy being the answer, so long as governments worked together internationally. And you know what? That is pretty darn close to what the pope urges as well. He doesn’t think this can be solved with personal charity:

«Growth in justice … requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.

I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison … We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”. …

Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve.

If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few.

The parallels aren’t perfect. Polanyi has some ideas about the Gospels ignoring social reality that the pope might not be on board with. But for now, at least, Polanyi certainly looks like a closer fit for the pope than Marx. And the pope and Polanyi have this in common: They’re both surprisingly popular on liberal university campuses right now.

Pope Francis’s Theory of Economics

Pope Francis: Not so much a reformer as a revolutionary

Pope Francis hits out at global ‘cult of money’

Francis: ‘I Did Not Want to be Pope’

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The Decline of civilization

 

 

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James Hansen and where we are heading

scorched earth

James Hansen understands the Earth’s climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit.

“Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity” is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen’s first book.

From the book:

“The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism – the time for compromises and appeasement is over.”

“Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed.”

“Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period.”

“After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.”

“One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice.”

James Hansen Quotes – BrainyQuote

Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.)

In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his “outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena.”

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen’s personal experiences as a key player in field’s scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years.

Dr. Hansen’s writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it.

Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

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Hansen Study: Climate Sensitivity Is High, Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Make Most Of Planet ‘Uninhabitable’

James Hansen: We are on the verge of creating climate chaos

James E. Hansen Retiring From NASA to Fight Global Warming

James Hansen – The Guardian

James Hansen – Wikipedia

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Erebuni excavation

Erebuni was founded by King Argishti I in 782 BCE.

It was built on top of a hill called Arin Berd overlooking the Arax River Valley

to serve as a strategic military center and royal residence.

Erebuni excavation

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Mosaic as art, with focus on Syria

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Archaeological Discoveries:

Mosaics Documenting History and Civilization of Syria

Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It is a technique of decorative art or interior decoration. Most mosaics are made of small, flat, roughly square, pieces of stone or glass of different colors, known as tesserae; but mosaics, especially floor mosaics, may also be made of small rounded pieces of stone, and called “pebble mosaics”.

Most mosaics are composed of plaster and lime floor upon which the scenes to be portrayed are drawn with special colors and paints. Basalt stones are usually used to give the black color, limestone for the white color, alabaster for red color, granite for brown and reddish brown, shells for yellow and glass for other colors. Animal bones can also be used.

Who were the first people to stumble across the technique of painting colour and glazes onto thousands of minute individual pieces of terracotta tile (called tesserae), and gluing them together to form some of the most evocative imagery ever created by man?

Archeologists have pieced together conclusive evidence that suggests that the earliest known examples of mosaics made of different materials, found at a temple building in Abra, Mesopotamia, are dated to the second half of 3rd millennium BC. They consist of pieces of colored stones, shells and ivory.

Excavations at Susa and Chogha Zanbil show evidence of the first glazed tiles, dating from around 1500 BC. Painting with tiles as we understand it today, was not realised or practised until the times of Sassanid Empire and Roman influence.

In antiquity the Romans became the masters of this difficult and demanding technique. Executing work throughout the empire that after more than two thousand years, in locations like Rome, Ravenna, Sicily, Spain and Britain, still sing with a vibrancy of colour and design with narratives that entertain and amaze us today!

Their subject matter was as eclectic as the many locations in which you can find these works. In Sicily you can enjoy the famous mosaic, “Girls in Bikinis” at Villa Romana del Casale, from the first part of the 4th century A.D. The Irano-Roman mosaic floor in the palace at Bishapur, is from the 2nd century A.D. and is a lyrical masterpiece.

From gladiators fighting tigers, to meandering friezes of flowers and fruits, Rome’s love for pleasure and pain all found their way as subjects into the mosaics that continue to entertain us to this day. A visit to the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome will have you spellbound as you admire one great Roman mosaic after the other.

By the late 4th century A.D. with the Roman Empire a quickly fading memory, the arrival of Christian basilica’s provided more walls and vaults to occupy the masters of mosaic. The earliest examples of mosaic from this period that survive in Rome can be found at the church of Santa Pudenziana (reconised as the oldest place of Christian worship in Rome and rarely open to a visitor!) and the magnificent Mausoleum of Santa Costanza which is well worth a visit.

There is a scene, in mosaic in one of the apse in the Mausoleum that portrays Christ with the ideals of law and justice. He is shown with his apostles Peter and Paul along with a few sheep representing his role as Shepherd governing and leading his flock. He is shown giving Peter the scroll representing law, with the inscription, “DOMINUS LEGEM DAT,” or “The Lord is giving the Law.”

Christ is clothed in golden robes, suggesting his power and supremacy. He is shown rising above paradise, which further shows his dominance over both heaven and earth. There is still a visual and cultural ‘hangover’ from Imperial Rome seen in the toga’s worn by both Peter and Paul!

Perhaps the greatest cycle of Christian mosaics, and some of Rome’s earliest, that still shine their magic today can be found in the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore. The oldest surviving here are hard to see but are ever present as 27 panels that meander along both sides of the nave.

They are masterworks of great individuality representing Old Testament events most vividly of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt across the Red Sea. They were created before the Middle Ages when the language of mosaic design fell under the influence of a Byzantine narrative and dogma, as one can see in the Coronation of the Virgin, decorating the apse of the church.

It is a work of Jacopo Torriti from 1295 and whilst magnificent in scale and execution, the pre-determined style of the 12th century in church mosaic, lacks the joyous individuality of the mosaics of the nave. They have stood the passage of centuries, telling stories that still amaze and delight us today. The mosaics of Rome are testimony to many cultures and many moments in time and most of all, reminding us still that we are creatures of the stories of history and faith!

Mosaic in Syria

The eastern provinces of the Eastern Roman and later the Byzantine Empires inherited a strong artistic tradition from the Late Antiquity. Similarly to Italy and Constantinople churches and important secular buildings in the region of Syria and Egypt were decorated with elaborate mosaic panels between the 5th and 8th centuries. The great majority of these works of art were later destroyed but archeological excavations unearthed many surviving examples.

Islamic architecture used mosaic technique to decorate religious buildings and palaces after the Muslim conquests of the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire. In Syria and Egypt the Arabs were influenced by the great tradition of Roman and Early Christian mosaic art. During the Umayyad Dynasty mosaic making remained a flourishing art form in Islamic culture and it is continued in the art of zellige and azulejo in various parts of the Arab world, although tile was to become the main Islamic form of wall decoration.

Syria has been famous for mosaic handicraft since very ancient times as walls of the mosques, churches and palaces were decorated with mosaic paintings dating back to several historical stages. The Syrian mosaic has been always known as ‘the art of eternity’ as it passed through several prosperous stages. Syria was a gate through which mosaic handicraft spread across the world.

The original Syrian mosaic was made of marble while during the reign of the Byzantine Empire, craftsmen used molten glass. A number of professional craftsmen are trying to revive this deep-rooted Syrian art, asserting that foreign and Arab tourists are very interested in buying the unique mosaic products as there are several mosaic shops in America, Canada, Europe and Australia in addition to the Arab countries.

Mosaic is a very difficult handicraft; it needs patience and relentless work. Mosaic paintings differ according to craftsmanship and preciseness and their prices differ according to the number of pieces they consist of, pointing out that mosaic paintings are used to decorate the walls and floors of houses, hotels and worship places.

Mosaic handicraft is an important source of outcome and one of the most important handicrafts that could be further developed, particularly due to the popularity and increasing demand for mosaic by Arab and foreign tourists which caused the craft to flourish, producing captivating masterpieces of impeccable precision and beautiful design.

Another type of mosaic is wood mosaic. The main body and structure of the mosaic pieces is made of beech or walnut wood. The handicraft uses various types of colored wood to make the veneer, such as rosewood, eucalyptus, walnut, almond and lemon wood, in addition to seashells which are imported from Asia. The veneers are made by cutting square or triangular pieces of wood into thin layers that are cut into smaller pieces in various shapes and then glued on the piece’s body. Hand-crafted mosaics may take more than two months to make.

Daraa Province is a cradle of the most beautiful Mosaic paintings in southern Syria. They provide an important reference for researchers interested in Houran Region civilization in southern Syria. Shedding light on the intellectual, economic, social and cultural development in the region, the number of mosaic paintings unearthed in Daraa Province reaches 25. Most of them are bath floors or murals in churches and royal palaces from Byzantine era.

Type, place, colors and stone sizes of the discovered paintings reflect the aesthetic taste of its makers and indicate the social and economic status of its inhabitants and their living conditions in the 5th and 6th centuries. The largest mosaic painting found in Syria was discovered in the city of Nawa in Daraa Province. It covers an area of 3 m3 and 13 cm.

The floral, animal and geometrical forms reflect the attempts of its creators to portray the nature of life and environment around. Grapes, laurel and roses plants were the most depicted images while the animals included wolves, dears, horses, ducks and roosters. Other paintings portrayed aspects of traditional art and heritage of the region particularly the straw plate. In some paintings, you can note that the human element is prevailing.

The small size of stones tells about creativity of its maker whose status enables him to afford high costs. The large size of stones indicates the economic deterioration in the Byzantine era and the decline of aesthetic taste in society which negatively affect the level of creativity.

Modern mosaics

Mosaics generally went out of fashion in the Islamic world after the 8th century. Similar effects were achieved by the use of painted tilework, either geometric with small tiles, sometimes called mosaic, like the zillij of North Africa, or larger tiles painted with parts of a large decorative scheme (Qashani) in Persia, Turkey and further east.

Noted 19th-century mosaics include those by Edward Burne-Jones at St Pauls within the Walls in Rome. Another modern mosaic of note is the world’s largest mosaic installation located at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, located in St. Louis, Missouri.[23] A modern example of mosaic is the Museum of Natural History station of the New York City Subway (there are many such works of art scattered throughout the NYC subway system.)

Some modern mosaics are the work of modernisme style architects Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol, for example the mosaics in the Park Güell in Barcelona. Today, among the leading figures of the mosaic world are Emma Biggs (UK), Marcelo de Melo (Brazil), Sonia King (USA) and Saimir Strati (Albania).

Mosaics have developed into a popular craft and art, and are not limited to professionals. Today’s artisans and crafters work with stone, ceramics, shells, art glass, mirror, beads, and even odd items like doll parts, pearls, or photographs. While ancient mosaics tended to be architectural, modern mosaics are found covering everything from park benches and flowerpots to guitars and bicycles. Items can be as small as an earring or as large as a house.

In styles that owe as much to videogame pixel art and popculture as to traditional mosaic, street art has seen a novel reinvention and expansion of mosaic artwork. The most prominent artist working with mosaics in street art is the French Invader. He has done almost all his work in two very distinct mosaic styles, the first of which are small “traditional” tile mosaics of 8 bit video game character, installed in cities across the globe, and the second of which are a style he refers to as “Rubikcubism”, which uses a kind of dual layer mosaic via grids of scrambled Rubik’s Cubes. Although he is the most prominent, other street and urban artists do work in Mosaic styles as well.

Portuguese pavement (in Portuguese, Calçada Portuguesa) is a kind of two-tone stone mosaic paving created in Portugal, and common throughout the Lusosphere. Most commonly taking the form of geometric patterns from the simple to the complex, it also is used to create complex pictorial mosaics in styles ranging from iconography to classicism and even modern design. In Portuguese-speaking countries, many cities have a large amount of their sidewalks and even, though far more occasionally, streets done in this mosaic form. Lisbon in particular maintains almost all walkways in this style.

Despite its prevalence and popularity throughout Portugal and its former colonies, and its relation to older art and architectural styles like Azulejo, Portuguese and Spanish painted tilework, it is a relatively young mosaic artform, its first definitive appearance in a modernly recognizable form being in the mid-1800s. Among the most commonly used stones in this style are basalt and limestone.

Mosaic – Wikipedia

Early Byzantine mosaics in the Middle East – Wikipedia

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Controversial & Contemporary At ‘The Samawi Collection II’

UBIK (India) Installation 2011. Lenticular Lens (Three Layers)

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The world according to the Syrian artist Tammam Azzam I

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Azzam’s recent work all “coincides with particular events of the Uprising, depicting a variety of fractured and wounded maps of Syria, fallen chess pawns and other symbols reconfigured in powerful reflections of the turmoil facing his countrymen.”

Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1980, Tammam Azzam currently lives and works in Dubai. He is a young artist who has the ability to freeze a deeply painful, bloody moment & scream it out with art. Following the outbreak of violence in Syria, Azzam has used his artistic practice to reflect on the worsening situation in his homeland. He is bravely pointing out the ugly truth in Syria since March 2011.

Selected solo and group exhibitions include Ayyam Gallery Al Quoz, Dubai (2012, 2009); Ayyam Gallery DIFC, Dubai (2011); Ayyam Gallery Beirut (2010); Ayyam Gallery Damascus (2010). Azzam’s work is currently on display as part of the 30th Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on view until 24 November 2013. He will have his first UK solo exhibition this December at Ayyam Gallery London from 12 December – 30 January 2014, coinciding with a show of his work at Ayyam Gallery Beirut from 5 December 2013 – 30 January 2014.

After living in Damascus during the first seven months of the revolution, Azzam was forced to leave Syria with his family to escape conscription into the army. Following the loss of his studio due to the relocation, the artist – who was previously a prolific painter – has focused on using digital media. He has also increasingly referenced street art in his work, recognising both this and digital media as powerful and direct tools for protest that are difficult to suppress.

In early 2013, Azzam made headlines worldwide when his work Freedom Graffiti (2012) went viral on social media. He used one of the most iconic kisses in art – Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss – to highlight his country’s suffering, superimposing this powerful image of love over the walls of a bullet-ridden building in Damascus. The work was one of a series, Syrian Museum, in which Azzam inserted appropriated imagery taken from masterpieces of Western art history into photographic scenes of devastation across Syria. These images serve to focus attention on the destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage and to juxtapose the creative capacity of humanity with the damage it is also capable of inflicting. The series will be on show in London and a new presentation of Freedom Graffiti will be included.

In Bon Voyage (2013), the newest body of work on show, Azzam highlights the fragility of political structures in the wake of revolution. Within his digital collages, brightly coloured bunches of balloons carry war-torn buildings lifted straight from the streets of Damascus high above some of the world’s best-known political headquarters and landmarks. The buildings below also teeter on the edge of destruction: the UN headquarters in Geneva lie poised to disappear into a sink hole, while a whirlpool in London’s the River Thames threatens to swallow up the Houses of Parliament.

In both Syrian Olympic and Exit (both works 2013) Azzam adopts the stencilled imagery common to street art, bringing together universally recognisable symbols on concrete-like surfaces to articulate the situation in Syria. In Exit, a row of armed soldiers stand to attention while a hunched over figure carrying a sack humbly edges out of the frame, echoing the continued exodus of Syrians from their homeland.

Meanwhile in Syrian Olympic, the artist combines sports-related symbols of the interlocking Olympic rings, sprinters and shooters, to comment on the perceived inaction of the international community. Similarly, through a new series of lightboxes, United Russia, United Nations and United States, Azzam questions the lack of support to the people of Syria with his repetition of the word ‘united’. The artist uses the predominant colours of Arab national flags – red, black and green – to propose a new flag order for a free Syria.

Almost two million Syrian children have been forced to drop out of school over the past year. This is ‘Classroom’ by Tammam Azzam (original photograph by Muzaffar Salman).

Love will always be stronger than hate, even when your world falls apart. Syrian artist Tammam Azzam pays homage to his beloved country by juxtaposing one of the most powerfully romantic piece in art history – Klimt’s The Kiss – on his hometown’s bullet ridden walls.

ht Tammam Dalis Sleep kb 130403 blog Tammam Azzam   The Syrian Museum

ht Tammam Gauguins Tahitian Women kb 130503 blog Tammam Azzam   The Syrian Museum

ht Tammam Van Gogh Starry Night kb 130503 blog Tammam Azzam   The Syrian Museum

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ht Tammam Matisses La Danse kb 130503 blog Tammam Azzam   The Syrian Museum

ht Tammam Andy Warhol Elvis kb 130503 blog Tammam Azzam   The Syrian Museum

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‘Cease Fire’

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The Historic Scale of Syria’s Refugee Crisis

The Syrian refugee crisis has exploded from about 270,000 people a year ago to today’s tally of more than two million who have fled the country. The pace of the diaspora has been characterized by the United Nations as the worst since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In addition, an estimated 4.25 million Syrians have been displaced within their country, bringing the total number forced into flight to more than six million.

Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt together have received more than two million refugees. In June, the United Nations asked other countries to receive 10,000 refugees by the end of this year. So far, about 1,200 Syrians have been referred to those countries for relocation. Thousands more have reached as far as Europe, smuggled across the Mediterranean Sea.

For Syrians desperate to find safety, escape persecution or avoid military service, a passport towards a better future may cost as much as $2,000 in the black market – the alternative is hopping through barbed wire across the border.

The Historic Scale of Syria’s Refugee Crisis

Lebanon struggles with desperate Syrian refugees

For Syrians, Passports are Solid Gold

Debt levels spiralling out of control as refugees from Syria slip further into poverty, says report

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Syrian art smuggled from the midst of civil war to show in London

Syria art

Tarek Tuma’s portrait of Hamza Bakkour, the 13-year-old boy shot in the face during a siege in Homs, February 2012. Photograph: Tarek Tuma/Mosaic Syria

Syrian art smuggled from the midst of civil war to show in London

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25 Most Intense Archaeological Discoveries In Human History

Alien Skulls

10 Weird and Grotesque Archaeological Finds

Twenty-five human skulls were found in a mass grave in Mexico with long skulls making them look like aliens.

Mexican villagers were digging into the ground when they found a mass grave, filled with 25 ancient corpses. Around half of the bodies had freakishly long skulls. Although some people were quick to suggest that the bodies were those of aliens, researchers believe that the skulls were reshaped on purpose – while their owners were still alive.

Children in the Central American cultures of 1,000 years ago had their skulls forced into odd shapes from a young age. Their heads were bound with flat boards, which put enormous pressure on their skulls. The pressure forced the bone tissue to grow upwards rather than outwards – resulting in something that looks a lot like an alien.

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