The Box That Built The Modern World

By Andrew Curry In Nautilus

Engineering: How shipping containers made distance irrelevant. 

“Think of the shipping container as the Internet of things. Just as your email is disassembled into discrete bundles of data the minute you hit send, then re-assembled in your recipient’s inbox later, the uniform, ubiquitous boxes are designed to be interchangeable, their contents irrelevant.

Once they enter the stream of global shipping, the boxes are shifted and routed by sophisticated computer systems that determine their arrangement on board and plot the most efficient route to get them from point to point. The exact placement of each box is a critical part of the equation: Ships make many stops, and a box scheduled to be unloaded late in the journey can’t be placed above one slated for offloading early. Imagine a block of 14,000 interlocked Lego bricks—now imagine trying to pull one out from the middle.

The container’s efficiency has proven to be an irresistible economic force. Last year the world’s container ports moved 560 million 20-foot containers—nearly 1.5 billion tons of cargo altogether. Though commodities like petroleum, steel ore, and coal still move in specially designed bulk cargo ships, more than 90 percent of the rest—everything from clothes to cars to computers—now travels inside shipping containers. “Reefer” containers, insulated and equipped with cooling units, carry refrigerated cargo and are plugged into power sources on ships or at dockside. Because the containers are all identical, any ship can move them.

Those already huge numbers are expected to grow. Increasingly, cargo companies are looking for ways to move bulk cargo in containers, fitting the steel boxes with bladders to transport liquid chemicals or cleaning them and using polypropylene liners to move anything from soy, corn, and wheat to salt and sugar.”

“By driving the cost of shipping internationally way down and the speed of global commerce way up, containers made the globalization of manufacturing possible. Yet for all the concept’s seeming simplicity, the actual process is fiendishly complex.

To get a sense of how the system works, imagine one of the containers aboard the Hong Kong Express, which is owned by German shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd. Asked to trace a product through a typical container voyage, Hapag-Lloyd spokesman Rainer Horn suggests a T-shirt sewn at a factory near Beijing, the kind you might buy at H&M.

Tagged, folded, and boxed, the T-shirt would be “stuffed” into a container with 33,999 identical shirts at the factory. Once sealed with a plastic tag and listed on a computerized manifest, the merchandise could pass through nearly three dozen steps before arriving at a discount clothing retailer’s distribution center near Munich. There’s the trucker who moves the box to a waiting ship in Xinjiang, the feeder ship that moves it to Singapore to be loaded onto a bigger Europe-bound freighter, the crane operator in Hamburg, customs officials, train engineers, and more.

Yet the container’s uniformity smooths each step of the way. Trucks and trains are fitted to haul the identical boxes; cranes are designed to lift the same thing over and over. The total time in transit for a typical box from a Chinese factory to a customer in Europe might be as little as 35 days. Cost per shirt? “Less than one U.S. cent,” Horn says. “It doesn’t matter anymore where you produce something now, because transport costs aren’t important.”

Posted By F. Sheikh


Understanding Huma By Emily Greenhouse


“Huma for Mayor,” many tweeted on Tuesday. Others, fancying themselves funny: “Free Huma.”

Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton, and more important for now, wife to Anthony Weiner, is certainly an object of some interest; Mark Jacobson, in a recent New York magazine cover story about Weiner, described a bird of a beauty heretofore unknown. (“Her brown eyes,” he wrote, “were pools of empathy evolved through a thousand generations of what was good and decent in the history of the human race.”) When Weiner resigned from Congress two summers ago, after being outed as a distributor of below-the-waist selfies, people flocked to Abedin, promising her solace and options. She received hardly a negative word in the press. When she stood by her man—“for me, for our son, for our family”—many of us told ourselves it was her life, her choice, and a brave one at that. She seemed the bearer of a wisdom that the masses could not know.


And then Tuesday, at the press conference following the revelation of Weiner’s post-resignation online tryst as Carlos Danger, Abedin took a turn at the microphone after her husband, who hadn’t quite offered a satisfying mea culpa. She didn’t look happy up there, exactly, but she couldn’t manage to pull off gravitas, either. Neither showed much energy or punch until afterward, at a forum hosted by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, where Weiner worked the room with panache, winning “rapturous applause” from activists in attendance. He’s a gifted politician, don’t forget.

The fallout from the story has been about Weiner’s mayoral prospects, about whether or not his sexts were disgusting or disappointingly dull, and also about Abedin. This country can understand a redemption story: man screws up, talks endlessly to a therapist about family narratives and feedback loops, offers himself up, gets forgiven by loyal wife. Such tales form the highest peak on the great American mountain. But Weiner screwed up again. And, as he admitted this, Huma kept on standing by his side. What can we make of that? The feminist and activist Gloria Steinem postulated that “the Stockholm syndrome” might be responsible. The New York Posts cover cried, “Señora Danger … WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” as though a woman should be held responsible for sexual misdeeds one just expects from a man. (“Sure, Carlos Danger is a sleaze,” it noted in smaller print, “but his señora is no saint either. Huma Abedin happily lied to a public that had been nothing but sympathetic to her as she inexplicably stood by—and colluded with—Anthony Weiner.”)

Posted By F. Sheikh

Struggle Between Reformists and Old Guards Within Muslim Brotherhood

A worth reading article in NYT. It is true about many Muslim organizations, including many Muslim organization in USA. Islamists are a significant part of every Muslim Society, and they can neither be silenced by force nor excluded from a dialogue to find the common ground. ( F. Sheikh)

“As Essam Sultan, who represented the Brotherhood in the Egyptian lawyers’ syndicate, recalled: “We thought we were the only ones qualified to manage the affairs of the country, and that other opinions and viewpoints were always mistaken. But our interactions with others changed our convictions.” Likewise, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a doctor who became the Brotherhood’s leading progressive figure, explained that through engagement with the broader society, “we came to realize that the scope for agreement and cooperation was in fact quite broad.”

In Tunisia and Morocco, leaders with similar ideas ultimately rose to the top of Islamist parties and have shaped their direction ever since. But in Egypt, the reformists never gained more than a seat or two in the Brotherhood’s executive council, or Guidance Bureau. Instead, the Bureau remained the nearly exclusive preserve of a close-knit group of veterans whose prestige rested on their long history in the movement and their enormous sacrifices on its behalf. As they saw it, the young “upstarts” had no right to challenge their authority or demand a greater share of decision-making power.

Aboul-Ela Maadi, an Islamist active in the engineers’ syndicate in the early 1990s, explained that while he and other reformist leaders were busy holding conferences on democracy and human rights, the old guard was consolidating its control over the recruitment and socialization of new members. As Mr. Maadi ruefully observed, he and other reformist leaders failed to appreciate the importance of grass-roots outreach. Their own neglect of the Brotherhood’s base, Mr. Maadi explained, set the stage for the “great theft,” allowing the old guard to steal the loyalty of the younger generation from them.

Eventually, growing frustration with the old guard’s rigid ideas and autocratic management style prompted some of the Brotherhood’s most capable and dynamic leaders to leave the group and strike out on their own. The exodus of the reformists accelerated during the 2011 uprising against Mr. Mubarak and the political opening that followed it. Mr. Sultan, Mr. Aboul Fotouh, Mr. Maadi and other former Brotherhood members are now involved in new parties, and many Islamist youth who share their progressive outlook have left the Brotherhood to join them.”

“YET now, as a result of the army’s intervention, Mr. Morsi has suddenly been transformed from a tone-deaf and ineffectual leader to a hero of the Islamist cause. The Brotherhood is pitching itself as a victim of a conspiracy, rather than taking responsibility for its mistakes.

Some reformist figures inside and outside the Brotherhood who were openly critical of Mr. Morsi’s policies when he was in office have rallied to his side and joined in denouncing the military-imposed interim government. And those most inclined to acknowledge — and learn from — the Brotherhood’s missteps are unlikely to gain traction as long as the military seems bent on the Brotherhood’s destruction.

Had reformists in the Muslim Brotherhood gained the upper hand in 2011, Egypt’s transition might have taken a very different turn. The Brotherhood may not have run a candidate of its own for president, or if it had, it might have selected someone more disposed to compromise and consensus building than Mr. Morsi. Such a president would most likely have worked to strengthen ties with the secular opposition, rather than made the controversial moves that eroded its trust and good will.” Click link for article;

Posted By F. Sheikh

The Charitable-Industrial Complex By PETER BUFFETT

(Shared by Dr. Ehtisham)

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life. Click link for full article;