Brittney Sevenson ~ Chinese Unveil Mysterious 3D Printed Houses – Built Out Of Unique Material, Able To Withstand Devastating Earthquakes

villafeaturedIn the past, we’ve covered many unique uses of 3D printing being utilized in China. Whether it is the 3D printing of titanium medical implants, the creation of large scale 3D printed aircraft parts, or entire houses and apartment buildings fabricated through the use of 3D printers, the country certainly believes that this technology is the future of manufacturing. While we’ve reported on a company called WinSun in the past, who has developed a method of 3D printing large buildings, apparently they aren’t the only Chinese company trying to do this.

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Wecyclers – Bilikiss Adebiyi ~ Or How To Encourage People To Start Recycling

LivingHow do you make people feel recycling isn’t a problem but a solution? A problem solved by a young woman from Lagos…

“Most people in Lagos have no idea why there is such a fuss about recycling. So we devised an incentive system with gifts. People are mainly motivated by what they get in return. Once they start recycling, they notice all the other benefits – cleanliness, less flooding, less disease… and then they understand why it’s a good idea to carry on doing it.”
Who is talking the talk? Bilikiss Adebiyi, a native of Nigeria. This young woman had the privilege of studying at the prestigious MIT in Boston. And while she was there, an idea began to emerge.

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Papiaments ~ Basis van onze kennis en identiteit

Zaterdag 11 juli 2015 heeft de Stichting Akademia Papiamentu een lezing gehouden met als thema “Basis van ons kennis en identiteit”.

Gedeputeerde Clark Abraham heeft tijdens de opening aangegeven dat papiaments  belangrijk is en niet omdat men hiervoor heeft gekozen.
“Op het moment dat een persoon zich uit doet hij dit in het papiaments en hierdoor ben ik ten zeerste blij dat de stichting deze bijeenkomst heeft georganiseerd gezien dit nodig is niet voor anderen maar voor ons zelf”, aldus Abraham.
Verder heeft de gedeputeerde erop gewezen dat papiaments deel vormt van ons identiteit, ons cultuur en ons leven en voor deze reden is het belangrijk.

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Jessica Leber ~ See The Homeless Housing You Might Mistake For Luxury Condos

2010 Brook - Gorlin Architects

2010 Brook – Gorlin Architects

Housing for the homeless is not usually a place associated with sleek design. But the photos you see here all indicate otherwise.

The buildings are all run by Common Ground, a nonprofit that does the difficult work of trying to get the chronically homeless off of the New York City streets and into permanent homes. Since Common Ground opened its first 652-unit supportive housing residence in Times Square in 1991, it has been unique in its embrace of design and architecture as important elements of its work, right next to the services it provides.

“The message that we want to get across to people that have been dismissed and really have been isolated from society for years at a time is: ‘you matter’ and ‘you’re valued’ and ‘you should take pride in yourself,” says Common Ground CEO Brenda Rosen. “To that end, having a physical environment that you feel proud of goes a long way.”

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The Rise And Fall Of The “Up To The Mountains And Down To The Countryside” Movement: A Historical Review

The Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside (UMDC) Movement (上山下乡运动) was an important event in the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It changed the fate of a whole generation of Chinese and had far-reaching effects on the history of the PRC. As a nationwide urban-to-rural migration (i.e. the reverse of the urbanization process), it is also unique in human history for its complex origin and the wide scope of its impact (16 million urban youths and nearly every Chinese family), as well as its long duration, tortuous process, and contradictory attributes. However, compared to the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and other political events of the 1960s, the UMDC Movement is rarely known to people who are unfamiliar with Chinese history. Even in the area of Chinese Studies, the UMDC Movement has been misunderstood as a constituent part or a ramification of the Cultural Revolution. This paper reviews the process of the development of the UMDC Movement and analyses the social structural factors in its rise and fall in Chinese history.

From 1967 to 1979, more than 16 million[i] Chinese urban youths were sent to the countryside to engage in agricultural production. This was known as the Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement (上山下乡运动). Those 16 million participants, who were named Zhiqing (educated youth 知青) after this movement, lived and worked in the countryside as ordinary agricultural labourers during their teenage years. In the early 1980s, when most Zhiqing eventually returned to the city, they were immediately faced with the residual issues of the UMDC Movement as well as the challenge of readjusting to urban society.

The UMDC Movement not only changed the fate of a whole generation of Chinese but also had far-reaching effects on the history of the People’s Republic of China. However, in overseas Chinese Studies, much less attention has been given to the UMDC Movement than to the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). For many researchers, the UMDC Movement is a constituent part or a ramification of the Cultural Revolution.[ii] In terms of the relationship between the two historical events, the Zhiqing Office of the State Council announced an official conclusion in 1981:
“First of all, the ‘UMDC’ was a major experiment carried out by the Communist Party fromthe 1950s, based on fundamental realities of the country, which then had a large population, a weak economic foundation, and employment difficulties; it was not the result of the Cultural Revolution. Second, the ‘UMDC’ was aimed primarily at resolving employment problems; during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution, it evolved as a political movement under the ultra-left ideology and resulted in serious mistakes in practice.”[iii] (Gu 1997, pp. 283–285)

As indicated in the above quotation, the UMDC Movement was characterized by its complex origin, tortuous process, and contradictory attributes. Simply associating it with the Cultural Revolution has led to the neglect of these historical facts. Therefore, to clarify the unique and significant position of the UMDC Movement in Chinese history, this paper reviews its rise and fall and further argues that its origin, development, and termination were all rooted in structural and fundamental contradictions of Chinese society, as well as the evolution of these contradictions under different historical circumstances.

Another theme of this chapter is to identify the Zhiqing’s position in the history of the UMDC Movement and in Chinese society. The UMDC Movement created the Zhiqing group – a whole generation of youths who have been allocated “Zhiqing” as their collective identity. Based on the historical review, this chapter argues that the constitution of the Zhiqing group and the connotation of the Zhiqing identity both underwent transformations at different stages of the UMDC Movement.
To summarize, a comprehensive historical review lays the foundation for an advanced understanding of the UMDC Movement and Zhiqing. The following sections present a clear development process, including a pre-movement phase and three distinct stages of the UMDC Movement.

Pre-Movement Phase: 1953–1965
Mobilizing and organizing the Chinese youth to engage in agriculture can be traced back to the 1950s. After 1953, the problems caused by the country’s overheated economy became acute. Large numbers of rural youths rushed into the cities to search for jobs. To alleviate employment pressure in the cities, the state sought to encourage these rural youths to go back to their home villages and engage in agricultural production. Those rural youth were called HuixiangZhiqing to distinguish them from the subsequent Zhiqing – urban youth. Because they were originally from the countryside, their return was regarded as normal and they were not entitled to a resettlement fee or other preferential treatments which were provided to urban youth when they settled down in the countryside. In addition to urban unemployment, another influencing economic factor was the development of agricultural cooperatives. Mao Zedong, the major promoter of rural collectivization, emphasized his opinion that educated young people should move to remote rural areas to make contributions to the nation and achieve personal development.[iv]

Another significant development in the 1950s was youth reclamation teams, which were arranged, organized, and guided directly by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League. The two models used for these teams were the Beijing Youth Voluntary Reclamation Team(北京市青年志愿垦荒队) and the Shanghai Youth Voluntary Reclamation Team (上海市青年志愿垦荒队).[v] Driven by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, youth reclamation teams soon spread throughout the whole country as a new trend. However, they came to an end in 1956 because of economic deficiency and poor management (Ding, 1998, pp.60–68). Moreover, the majority of the urban youths in these reclamation teams failed to adapt to intense farm work and harsh conditions, and they did not settle down in the countryside as they were supposed to (Ding, 1998, p. 60).

The Huixiang Zhiqing and the youth reclamation teams were the predecessors of the Zhiqing. Apart from this successive relationship, the dilemmas they faced in the 1950s continued to influence the UMDC Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequent history has demonstrated that these dilemmas, revealed later as inherent problems of the UMDC Movement, had determined in advance its direction and final results.

Of those dilemmas and problems, the most significant one was the employment issue, which cyclically intensified alongside general economic fluctuations. This was relevant with regard to the contradiction between population growth and development in the economy and education, as well as shortcomings in population, economy, and education policies. The second and consequent problem was that employment pressure and other social problems in the cities were often shifted to the countryside. Lastly, turning educated young people into simple labourers objectively resulted in a waste of human and education resources. Initially, it was hoped that young people would contribute to rural construction by exploiting their knowledge and skills and transforming the rural society with advanced urban culture. However, most urban youths failed to settle down in the countryside. So the ironic fact was that “educated young people were less capable than illiterate peasants” (Ding, 1998, p.63). It is clear now that this was due to the poor production conditions, which stopped these young people from using their advantages. However, in that particular historical period, these young people’s failure and resistance were interpreted ideologically as the weakness and individualism of the bourgeoisie.[vi]

After a few years of try-outs, in 1956, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the state decided to adopt mobilizing youth to the countryside as a conventional method to address the employment issue. This time, the urban youth became the target for mobilization. On 23 January 1956, the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee (中共中央政治局) issued an “Outline of National Agricultural Development from 1956 to 1967 (draft)” (1956 年到 1967 年全国农业发展纲要[草案]). According to Article Thirty of the Outline, graduates of urban secondary and primary schools, except for those who had managed to enter into further studies and those who had found jobs in the cities, should respond to the call and go down to the countryside and up to mountains to join in agricultural production and participate in the great cause of socialist agricultural construction. For the first time, “Down to the Countryside and Up to the Mountains” (下乡上山) appeared in an official document as a set term, though the sequence here was contrary to the later well-known expression, “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” (上山下乡).

In 1958, under the impact of the Great Leap Forward, the implementation of “Down to the Countryside and Up to the Mountains” was halted suddenly. By the end of 1962, the number of idle urban youths had reached 2 million.[vii] Soon, the UMDC work was brought back onto the agenda. In October of 1962, the Agriculture and Forestry Office of the State Council (国务院农林办) held the “Reporting Conference of Resettling Urban Redundant Staff and Young Students in State Farms, Forest Farms, Pastures, and Fisheries (关于国营农林牧渔场安置家居大中城市精简职工和青年学生的汇报会议). Zhou Enlai attended the meeting and delivered a speech. In this speech, he pointed out that resettling the urban population in the countryside was an effective solution to the problem of surplus labour forces in the city. Participants discussed a series of practical issues, including the target and methods of resettlement, expenditure, and resources, as well as corresponding policies, plans, and safeguards. At this meeting, the Leading Group of Resettlement Work of Agriculture and Forestry Office (农林办安置领导小组) was founded, which was the predecessor to the Leading Group Office of Zhiqing UMDC (知识青年上山下乡领导小组办公室). Read more

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Purifying Islamic Equities ~ The Interest Tax Shield

Photo: Arab Bank headquarters in Amman, Jordan

Arab Bank headquarters in Amman, Jordan

This paper seeks to add to the debate regarding the appropriate methodology to purify tainted components from shari’ah compliant equities. Based on the Qur’anical prohibition against riba and an analysis of the purification methodology recommended by AAOIFI Shari’ah Standard 21, this paper highlights shortcomings in Standard 21 and references the corporate finance literature to argue for the need to also purify the interest tax shield from debt. Purification is a pivotal element of the Islamic investment process yet Standard 21 permits a loose interpretation which causes portfolios to be under-purified. Standard 21 also makes no mention of the interest tax shield from debt even though the benefits there from are at odds with the principles of social justice in Islam. That there is no mention of the interest tax shield from debt in the (limited) literature on the purification of Islamic equities is puzzling. This paper has implications for the Islamic funds industry as well as for compliant Muslim investors.

The Islamic funds industry is estimated at 5.5 per cent (Ernst & Young, 2011) of the over $1.0 trillion (Wilson, 2009) global Islamic finance industry. Although small in comparison with the conventional funds industry, the potential growth from targeting the largely untapped Muslim market (estimated at 23 per cent of the world’s population) has garnered significant attention (Hassan and Girard, 2011). But the nascent Islamic funds industry is already at a crossroads. There are a number of issues which could derail its early promise – chief among these is confusion about how to purify Islamic portfolios to ensure shari’ah compliance.

Purification refers to the need to quantify and donate to charity all impure components deemed unacceptable under shari’ah principles and teachings (Elgari, 2000). Impure components include riba, which in modern Islamic finance has become synonymous with interest-related activity and is unequivocally prohibited in the Qur’an. Because nearly every company in the world receives/pays interest on its cash/debt balances, the practical effect of an absolute interpretation of the prohibition against riba is that the funds industry is, ipso facto, off limits for Muslim investors (Moore, 1997; McMillen, 2011). As a result, the shari’ah Supervisory Boards (hereafter SSBs) that determine the compliance of any investment have had to make a number of compromises to allow some permissible variation from absolute shari’ah principles. While some research has been done relating to the construction and application of Islamic stock screens, there is a paucity of literature about how haram elements resulting from permissible variation should be purified.[i],[ii] Although the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) recommends one method for purging impure amounts in Shari’ah Standard 21 Financial Papers (Shares and Bonds) (hereafter S21), the terminology used throughout is not consistent and, in certain sections, lacks specificity. Also, not all jurists adhere to AAOIFI standards such that several methods are used in practice. The result is that, even for those adhering to AAOIFI standards, differing interpretations are possible, meaning that confusion remains and haram components go unpurified. To some shari’ah scholars, the entire permissibility of an Islamic fund hinges on purification, so this lacuna needs to be addressed (Elgari, 2000).

This paper discusses the unequivocal prohibition against riba in the Qur’an and the hadith, and its impact on commercial activity in the Islamic world. It documents how the practice of permissible variation has evolved in the Islamic funds industry to allow a degree of deviation from absolute concepts and analyses some of the various current methodologies suggested for purging the consequent impurities from Islamic portfolios, with a focus on S21. Given what is at stake for the nascent Islamic funds industry, this chapter also suggests a comprehensive methodology for the purification of prohibited components which includes the need to also purify the benefits from the interest tax shield from debt −the benefits of which to the firm are well understood in the corporate finance literature.

Islam and Commercial Activity
Islam is a complete way of life, a lifestyle which constitutes a part of every Muslim’s cultural and spiritual identity (Abbasi, Holman,andMurray, 1989; DeLorenzo, 2002). Islam aims at striking a balance between individual freedoms (including commercial activities, Qu’ran 62:10) and ensuring that these freedoms are conducive to the growth and benefit of society at large (Ebrahim, 2003). Indeed, the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Islamic custom and practice) place tremendous stress on justice. All leading jurists therefore, without exception, have held that justice is a central indispensable ingredient of the maqasid al-shari’ah, or the goals of Islam (Chapra, 2000). In economics, justice can be interpreted to mean that resources are used in a manner that ensures, inter alia, the equitable distribution of income and wealth and economic stability (Chapra, 2000). Since the emergence of post-independence Muslim states in the global economy in the 1960s, there has been much debate about how commercial activity, and for this chapter the Islamic funds industry specifically, can be organized to conform to Islamic justice and shari’ah. Chapra (2000) contends that these goals cannot be realized without a humanitarian strategy which injects a moral dimension into economics — the prohibition against riba is part of this moral dimension. Read more

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