After Sundiata, the most famous ruler of the Mali empire is Mansa Kankan Musa I, who came to power several decades after the death of his legendary predecessor. Musa was not the first emperor of Mali to embrace Islam; unlike the Soninke and the Soso, Mande royalty adopted the religion relatively early.

However, Musa’s hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) of 1324–25 drew the attention of both the Islamic world and Europeans, who were unprepared for the lavish wealth and generosity that the Malian king displayed during his stopover in Egypt.

Accompanied by an enormous entourage, Musa apparently dispensed so much gold in Cairo that the precious metal’s value plummeted and did not recover for several years thereafter. The Mali empire, previously little known beyond the western Sudan, now became legendary in the Islamic world and Europe. The image of Mansa Musa bearing nuggets of gold was subsequently commemorated in maps of the African continent.

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Jin Jin City: China’s luxury ghost town | Via

Artist/photographer Andi Schmied chose one of these Chinese new towns as the subject for a project that goes beyond merely capturing a desolate townscape. Jing Jin City, 100 miles from Beijing, is a luxury resort town consisting of some 4000 villas, a Hyatt Regency resort spa and amenities such as a golf course and a horse racing track. It is not really a ghost town, however, since it is partially populated, but many of the villas remain in various states of completion.

The city is mainly inhabited by gardeners and guards, both of whom are engaged in the task of trying to keep up Jing Jin City’s appearances by holding off nature and other unwanted elements. At the day’s end, their role shifts from workers to residents of the town. As Schmied explains: “they are sleeping in the villas that they are employed to guard, making structures out of unused materials, improvising furniture and modifying the interiors on a daily basis. Inside double-height living rooms, guards build sculptures out of window panes. During winter they break through the ice to go fishing on the frozen river that separates the golf course from the largest villas.”

The Extreme Centre: A Warning

The extreme centre is a form of government that arose out of neoliberal economics and exists today in virtually the whole of Europe, North America and Australia. It consists of a bloc of the centre right, the centre and the centre left effectively acting on behalf of financial capital.

It may rule in different countries under different names, but it is essentially the same thing, the politics they defend and the basic policies they implement are the same. It really doesn’t matter whether the Conservatives or Labour are in power in the United Kingdom, or, say, the UMP or the Socialists in France.

They may differ on some minor issues, but on all the key themes such as America’s wars, austerity, the defence of the financial system, they’re in agreement. And that is what I call the extreme centre…

1. Universal Healthcare Is Great for Free Enterprise and Great for Small Businesses

The modern-day Republican Party would have us believe that those who promote universal healthcare are anti-free enterprise or hostile to small businesses. But truth be told, universal healthcare is great for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed in France, Germany and other developed countries where healthcare is considered a right. The U.S.’ troubled healthcare system has a long history of punishing entrepreneurs with sky-high premiums when they start their own businesses. Prior to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, many small business owners couldn’t even obtain individual health insurance plans if they had a preexisting condition such as heart disease or diabetes—and even with the ACA’s reforms, the high cost of health insurance is still daunting to small business owners. But many Americans fail to realize that healthcare reform is not only a humanitarian issue, it is also vitally important to small businesses and the self-employed.

2. Comprehensive Sex Education Decreases Sexual Problems

For decades, social conservatives in the U.S. have insisted that comprehensive sex education promotes unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But in fact, comprehensive sex education (as opposed to the abstinence-only programs that are common in the American Bible Belt) decreases sexual problems, and the data bears that out in no uncertain terms. Public schools in the Netherlands have aggressive sex education programs that America’s Christian Right would despise. Yet in 2009, the Netherlands had (according to the United Nations) a teen birth rate of only 5.3 per 1,000 compared to 39.1 per 1,000 in the U.S. That same year, the U.S. had three times as many adults living with HIV or AIDS as the Netherlands.

3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense in 2015

No matter how severe the U.S.’ decline becomes, neocons and the Tea Party continue to espouse their belief in “American exceptionalism.” But in many respects, the U.S. of 2015 is far from exceptional. The U.S. is not exceptional when it comes to civil liberties (no country in the world incarcerates, per capita, more of its people than the U.S.) or healthcare (WHO ranks the U.S. #37 in terms of healthcare).

4. Adequate Mass Transit Is a Huge Convenience

When it comes to mass transit, Europe and Japan are way ahead of the U.S.; in only a handful of American cities is it easy to function without a car. New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC are among the U.S.’ more mass transit-oriented cities, but overall, the U.S. remains a car culture—and public transportation is painfully limited in a long list of U.S. cities. Many Americans fail to realize that mass transit has numerous advantages, including less air pollution, less congestion, fewer DUIs and all the aerobic exercise that goes with living in a pedestrian-friendly environment.

5. The Bible Was Not Written by Billionaire Hedge Fund Managers

Christianity in its various forms can be found all over the developed world. But the U.S., more than anywhere, is where one finds a far-right version of white Protestant fundamentalism that idolizes the ultra-rich, demonizes the poor and equates extreme wealth with morality and poverty with moral failings.

6. Learning a Second or Third Language Is a Plus, Not a Character Flaw

In the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries, becoming proficient in two or three foreign languages is viewed as a sign of intellect and sophistication. But xenophobia runs so deep among many neocons, Republicans and Tea Party wingnuts that any use of a language other than English terrifies them. Barack Obama, during his 2008 campaign, was bombarded with hateful responses from Republicans when he recommended that Americans study foreign languages from an early age. And in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich’s campaign ran an ad in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney for being proficient in French.

7. Union Membership Benefits the Economy

In 2014, a Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans approved of labor unions while 71% favored anti-union “right to work” laws. Union membership is way down in the U.S.: only 6.6% of private-sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, belonged to unions in 2014 compared to roughly 35% in the mid-1950s. The U.S.’ overall unionization rate (factoring in both public-sector and private-sector workers) is 11.1%, which is quite a contrast to parts of Europe, where overall union rates range from 74% in Finland and 70% in Sweden to 35% in Italy, 19% in Spain and 18% in Germany. That is not to say unionization has not been decreasing in Europe, but overall, one finds a more pro-labor, pro-working class outlook in Europe. The fact that 47% of Americans, in that Gallup poll, consider themselves anti-union is troubling.

8. Paid Maternity Leave Is the Norm in Most Developed Countries

The U.S. continues to lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternity leave. Paid maternity leave is strictly voluntary in the U.S., where, according to the organization Moms Rising, 51% of new mothers have no paid maternity leave at all. But government-mandated maternity leave is the norm in other developed countries, including the Netherlands (112 days at 100% pay), Italy (140 days at 80% pay), Switzerland (98 days at 80% pay) and Germany (98 days at 100% pay).

9. Distrust of Oligarchy Is a Positive

In February, the Emnid Polling Institute in Germany released the results of a poll that addressed economic and political conditions in that country: over 60% of the Germans surveyed believed that large corporations had too much influence on elections. ThE survey demonstrated that most Germans have a healthy distrust of crony capitalists and oligarchs who take much more than they give. Meanwhile, in the U.S., various polls show a growing distrust of oligarchy on the part of many Americans but with less vehemence than in the German Emnid poll.

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Universal Basic Income

An universal basic income is a form of social security system in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere. (Imagine if you will, if the government simply gave every citizen over the age of 18 $35,000 every year. If you have a job, you make more.

Congrats, no more poverty in your country. No more need to fund welfare. No more food stamps. No more unemployment. The government doesn’t need to pay for ANY of those systems any more OR pay the salaries of anyone who worked for those systems. Right there you’ve payed for a lot of the system simply by diverting preexisting costs.

Basic income systems have been promoted within the context of capitalist systems, which would be financed through a negative income tax or taxes on business.

People from all walks of life and all philosophies suppose Universal Basic Income. It is more efficient than more welfare systems, making is popular with some conservative groups. It alleviates economic stresses on groups impacted by wage gaps and pay gaps, go social justice advocates often support it. It is a step towards socialism, so it is popular with leftists.  

The wikipedia article on Basic Income.

The Reddit for Basic Income

Basic Income.Org

Thinking Utopian: How about a universal basic income?

The Economic Case for a Universal Basic Income (Part 1 of a series)

How Universal Basic Income Will Save Us From the Robot Uprising


What would you do if you lived in a country with Universal Basic Income? What would you do, if you didn’t have to sell your labor to survive? How would you spend your time? What would you be free to do? What interests could you explore? 

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This latest front rebukes those who say that raising the minimum wage does little to address what ails the American middle class. First, it underscores the obvious: that battling against decades of bad economic policy must necessarily be a multi-pronged affair, with no single action able to solve everything at once. But second, it starkly highlights how much of the problem can be traced to a single source—the profoundly misguided notion that giving even more money to rich people would produce prosperity for all. Instead, the exact opposite has happened.

A thriving middle class is the cause of growth. The middle class creates rich people — not the other way around

There have been endless attempts at shifting from our market-based economy to something more egalitarian and enlightened, but nothing has stuck and some of the larger scale efforts have turned into horrific disasters. Anti-capitalists of various stripes haven’t stopped coming up with theories about how this system could finally fall, however. One of these theories is called accelerationism—the idea is that hyper-stimulation of the market on a mass scale will end with the collapse of capitalism. Consume like crazy, only drink from styrofoam, and throw handfuls of dead batteries into our oceans so the impending apocalypse can hurry up and get over with.

The spread of this idea is rooted in Marx’s belief that capitalism can’t sustain itself forever and will eventually fizzle out. The means by which people will bring about its end are unclear, but that’s where the ideas about accelerationism come from. Accelerationism is essentially the belief that the best way to shorten capitalism’s lifespan is to push it to the extreme. If normal capitalism is Mick Jagger, accelerationism is Jim Morrison.