A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens
Its important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. Im going to tell you that libraries are important. Im going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Im going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.
And I am biased, obviously and enormously: Im an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living through my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.
So Im biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.
And Im here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.
And its that change, and that act of reading that Im here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What its good for.
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldnt read. And certainly couldnt read for pleasure.
Its not one to one: you cant say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.
And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, its a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if its hard, because someones in trouble and you have to know how its all going to end thats a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, youre on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
I dont think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of childrens books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. Ive seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.
Daenerys will help the North if Jon bends the knee.
Image: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Warning: This article contains major spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happened in last night’s episode, then white walk away!
Since his arrival at Dragonstone, Jon Snow has been petitioning Daenerys for her help in the impending battle against the White Walkers. The queen has everything the North needs to have a fighting chance the army, the dragonglass, three fire-breathing dragons. The problem is that Dany and her council aren’t convinced that the legend of the White Walkers is real.
During last night’s episode, Jon showed Dany something that shook the queen and changed her mind about the army of the dead. Deep inside the dark caverns beneath Dragonstone were walls covered in pre-historic drawings of the First Men and the Children of the Forest fighting as one against their common enemy the White Walkers.
While Dany seemed convinced of the legitimacy of the ancient drawings pledging her support to the North if Jon bended the knee some fans weren’t buying it.
*Jon Snow, hiding paint brushes* hey guys I found these cave paintings
It’s obviously a joke, but perhaps there’s something to this comical fan theory. After all, Jon and Ser Davos werethe only two people at the caves when Daenerys arrived on scene. And it’s pretty convenient that Jon happened to stumble upon these cave paintings that proved that the White Walkers were a threat.
Hong Kong (CNN)Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized the Communist Party’s control over the military as he prepares for a key leadership reshuffle later this year.
Speaking Tuesday at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Xi said the military should “carry forward and implement the Party’s absolute leadership.”
“As comrade Mao Zedong once pointed out, our principle is to have the Party command the military, not the military command the Party,” Xi said.
Analysts say Xi has taken advantage of the PLA anniversary to firmly establish his personal authority ahead of a Party Congress around November, during which the next Politburo Standing Committee — the most powerful governing body in China, headed by Xi — will be revealed. An exact date for the congress has not been announced.
Speaking after the parade Sunday, Yvonne Chiu, an assistant politics professor at the University of Hong Kong, said Xi wanted to “remind the military that they pledge loyalty to the Party, not the country” and to send a message to the country “that the military is firmly onside with him, especially as they’re still pursuing the anti-corruption campaign, which continues to shake things up and cause uneasiness among the elite.”
While the congress will almost certainly give the 64-year-old Xi another five years as China’s top leader, it has been rumored he will seek to buck an established norm that leaders retire after two terms.
“The importance of the Party’s control over the military is an oft-repeated phrase, but Xi has emphasized it heavily during his tenure,” said Tom Rafferty, China manager at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
He added Xi has sought the backing of “a younger generation of military officers” for his reforms, even as former top generals have fallen foul of corruption investigations.
At the same time, a wide-reaching and highly popular anti-corruption campaign has brought down many of Xi’s rivals or potential successors. Typically the next Chinese leader would be obvious by the time of the Party Congress, as Xi was in 2007.
Last month however, Sun Zhengcai, widely seen as a rising star in the Party, was abruptly sacked as boss of Chongqing and placed under investigation for corruption. At 53, Sun was one of only a handful of senior Chinese officials capable of succeeding Xi under the current informal retirement age of 68.
While some have predicted Xi will break with the age cap norm — upheld during the last three leadership turnovers — as to allow himself and his allies to stay on, Chinese leadership analyst Bo Zhiyue told CNN in April that attempting to serve a third term might be more difficult.
“(Even if) he wants to be like Putin in Russia, to stay beyond his second term, we don’t know if this can be realized,” Bo said.
US-China tensions rising
While Tuesday’s speech was primarily focused on political matters — encouraging the PLA to root out corruption and follow Marxist military principles — Xi also referenced the army’s increasing role overseas.
China shows off new J-20 stealth fighter
“The People’s Army is an army with strong war capabilities,” he said, one that will “never allow any parties to separate any piece of land from China.”
(CNN)Democrats would like voters to believe the party’s slogan for its new economic agenda rolled out Monday, “A Better Deal,” describes a program aimed at fighting for regular people — even though it mostly rings like a sales pitch for a discounted item at a shopping mall. Worse, the specifics of the strategy are a path to more electoral failure, because “A Better Deal” embraces falsehoods about economic power while leaving a bankrupt system unchallenged.
Right after the presidential election, I argued that the crisis facing Democrats, which was at least a decade of electoral losses in the making, boiled down to a failure to show voters any clear differences between the parties when it comes to propping up a failed economic system. As it now stands, it’s a system in which lobbyists shower both parties with money, tax cuts for business and keeping taxes too low on the wealthy are a bipartisan goal, health care is still something to leave in the hands of insurance companies and, above all, the glory of the “free market” is extolled by Democrats and Republicans.
Until Democrats display the strength to reject the system, they’ll continue to lose, and “A Better Deal” is just more of the same.
The stupefying foolishness of the plan is evident in three main points from Monday’s s outline offered in op-eds by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and three Democratic House members in which they purport to give the broad strokes of the party’s economic strategy.
Schumer specifically says the party will fight to increase “workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15.” He and the House Democrats also talk a lot about retraining workers to give them skills to get higher-paying jobs. Most of the rest of the mumbo-jumbo is the typical warmed-over “innovation” and “don’t we all love small business” standard fare that excites elite policy wonks but is largely irrelevant to voters.
Perhaps the most glaring omission here is that none of these party leaders use the word “union” even once. That isn’t entirely surprising: The typical party ethos going back to Bill Clinton has been to minimize the embrace of labor unions, beyond the occasional rhetorical gesture, except when it’s election season (read: when the party needs donations and campaign troops).
But the “Fight for 15” has been primarily funded by unions, some of whom frankly were dragged into the battle by other affiliated organizations who were less than inspired by the Obama administration’s and congressional Democrats’ support for a paltry minimum wage hike to $10.10. To the consternation of the Wall Street wing of the party, the Bernie Sanders movement made $15-an-hour a central part of its economic message, and forced $15-an-hour as a goal, into the party’s 2016 platform.
And if raising wages and preserving pensions is what Democrats want, they’re not going to get it without growing the power of unions. Unions built the middle class. Wages are low because, over the past several decades, employers have effectively stolen the productivity gains made by workers and only by revitalizing unions, publicly, aggressively and explicitly, will that change.
Schumer and the House Democrats compounded this problem Monday by perpetuating the myth that workers need more skills to get “high-paying” jobs and that politicians can ensure they get those skills by, you guessed it, that sure-fire election winner: giving a tax credit to companies. This has been an untenable proposition going back to the 1990s, when then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich flogged his elitist “symbolic analysts” solution, in which workers can all find a place in the creative and knowledge economies, which supposedly fix everything.
Reality is more difficult. Skills have nothing to do with the class warfare underway in the country. Workers are not dumb. It’s simple: There is no reason a retail worker, janitor or any worker who isn’t “highly skilled” can’t be paid a high wage, other than the lack of power to demand it through collective bargaining.
Even so, today’s Democrats, with the “A Better Deal” slogan, have the temerity to channel Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” by explicitly stating, as Schumer does in his op-ed, “Our better deal is not about expanding the government.” Shame on them. That position betrays a continued acceptance by Democrats of a decadeslong Republican talking point that demonizes government, adopts the idea that taxes are too high and puts blind faith in the “free market.”
Our problem has not been a growing government or a spending problem. It’s the priorities political leaders have set and how we raise money. And it’s a continued belief in “free market” neo-liberalism: a system that relies on market mechanisms, argues against expanding the role of the state and social services, and empowers corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of citizens.
To take the current policy debate around health care as the perfect example, a large majority of people support universal, single-payer health care, which would entail expanding government’s role. Yet, Schumer is trying to short-circuit universal health care as a party priority, even though it would end up saving businesses and average people hundreds of billions of dollars.
The ideological straitjacket “A Better Deal” creates goes deeper than a neglect of history or a refusal to empower citizens. It’s a failure of political philosophy and imagination. Its advocates say they want to protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare. But embracing a growing government would expand Social Security and Medicare, and, then, also fund free college education, and guaranteed annual incomes and a livable pension. We could fund some of that if, for example, we just cast off (a quarter-century after the Cold War ended) the government’s bipartisan priority to underwrite a bloated military and maintain the country’s prominence as the largest weapons merchant in the world, arming repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.
Of course, to do any of these things requires a political spine, and leaders who finally admit that the “free market” system cannot be fixed. Until the Democrats get this message, they might as well have a slogan closer to “Better Hygiene, Better Grammar, Better Front Lawns.” At least it won’t mislead.
(CNN)US President Donald Trump will make back-to-back phone calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, the White House announced Saturday night.
Trump and Abe will speak at 8 p.m. ET. Trump’s call with Xi will come 45 minutes later, according to a White House statement.
No information was provided as to what subjects the calls would cover, but they come after an eventful week in East Asia politics.
On Friday, Trump met in Washington with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and speaking alongside Moon at the White House declared that US patience with the North Korean regime “is over.”
Trump warns North Korea: US patience is over
The remarks were the latest sign that Trumpis growing increasingly frustratedwith the lack of progress in curbing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The programs are considered a grave threat to South Korea, Japan and the United States, which has thousands of troops stationed at bases in its two Asian allies. US officials are also worried that the US Pacific territory of Guam may also face a North Korean missile threat.
Trump has been seeking more pressure from China to curb the threats from North Korea, which has its biggest trading relationship with Beijing.
But the Trump administration last week sent signals that the US patience on Beijing’s efforts was shrinking.
The Treasury Department onThursday imposed new sanctions on a Chinese bank and several Chinese nationalswhile theState Department approved a $1 billion arms deal with Taiwan. Both moves appeared aimed at unsettling China.
The Taiwan arms sale, in particular, drew a strong response from Beijing.
China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, furiously denounced the sale in Chinese state media People’s Daily, saying it violated the agreed upon “one China” policy.
“China has made strong protests to the US and will reserve the right to take further measures,” state media quoted him as saying.
The announcement of the Taiwan arms deal came while Xi was in Hong Kong commemorating the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinafrom the United Kingdom.
China’s President issues ‘red line’ warning
In a statement marking that anniversary, the US State Department issued a statement saying the US was “concerned about any infringements on civil liberties” in Hong Kong.
In a speech in Hong Kong on Saturday, Xi warned against any challenges to Beijing’s authority in the territory, a special administrative region of China.
“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security … or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses a red line,” Xi said.
On Sunday, in a move that could further strain US-China relations, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea in a “freedom of navigation” exercise, US defense officials said.
It was the second such operation reported under the Trump administration. China strongly denounced a previous one in May, saying it boosted “regional militarization.”
And although there have been a huge number of fan tributes shared on social media, the following illustration posted by Instagram’s official account and drawn by illustrator Taryn Knight is particularly spell-binding.
Thors hammer might seem like just another superhero accessory, like Batmans grappling gun or Wonder Womans Lasso of Truth. Unlike those heroic paraphernalia, there is a lot more to Mjlnir than you might think.
For decades, Thor has become a popular mainstay of Marvel comics. He was a founding member of the Avengers, and starred in multiple comics titles before getting his own long-running series. His hammer, like any reliable friend, has been with him ever since. Mjlnir has proven to be an essential part of who Thor is over the decades in comics, cartoons, and live-action interpretations.
7 fascinating facts about Thors hammer, Mjlnir
1) Mjlnir wasnt created in a regular forge
Mjlnir has an origin story that could earn its own spin-off movie. Over the decades, the hammer has had a few different origin stories. The most recent version, as well as the one utilized in the Thor movies, explains that Mjlnir was forged in the heart of a dying star.
Theres actually a lot more to the story. The hammer was forged by dwarven blacksmiths named Eitri, Brok, and Buri. In the comics, Odin commanded the blacksmiths to construct a deadly and powerful weapon for Asgard. To do this, the blacksmiths summoned a magical forge located in the heart of a star. There, they painstakingly forged Mjlnir out of Asgardian metal. This metal is so indestructible, it would give Wolverines adamantium claws a run for their money.
2) Mjlnirs creation came with some serious casualties
The creation of Mjlnir wasnt just magicalit was also intense. So intense, actually, that Earth was nearly destroyed in the process. (Of course that wouldve made for a really short comic book.) The explosion caused by Mjlnirs creation was so deafening it wreaked havoc on Earth and ended up causing the mass extinction event that took out the dinosaurs in the Marvel universe.
Fortunately for Marvels heroes, Earth survived the blast. With Jeff Goldblums upcoming appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, it sounds like life found a way after all.
3) DC Comics introduced Mjlnir before Marvel
You read that correctly. Thor and his hammer, Mjlnir, were initially introduced by artist Jack Kirby in the 1942 short Adventure Comics, a subsidiary of DC Comics. That was twodecades before he was a Marvel superhero.
In the comic, Thor and his trusty hammer Mjolnar fought against the villain Sandman. Kirby liked the concept of Thor so much that he officially inducted Thor into the Marvel universe in the 1962 comic Journey into Mystery, for which Kirby shared credit with Stan Lee. The rest is Marvel history.
4) Thor is kind of a wimp without his trusty hammer
If youve seen Marvels Thor, youll remember that Thor was relatively useless without his hammer. It took him learning humility to earnthe right to wield Mjlnir, and that is when he became Thor. Thors armor, his ability to fly, his ability to command lightningyup, all because of the hammer.
Yes, Thor is very strong and exhibits great physical pose. However, Mjlnir is an essential part of what makes Thor well, Thor. This is what separates Mjlnir from the gadgets on Batmans utility belt. In the comics, Batman often fends for himself when his utility belt is taken away by criminals and villains. Wonder Woman still has superhuman strength when shes without her lasso.
Thors demigod status makes him hard to hurt, but his offensive moves are rendered almost useless without Mjlnir, which is the best argument for why the hammer is such a quintessential part of who Thor is.
In early iterations of the Thor character, he had an alter ego, and hed sometimes come to Earth under the assumed identity of a doctor named Donald Blake. Thor could change his identity at will thanks to Mjlnir, while the hammer itself would transform into a walking stick for Blake.
In these early versions of the character, and in the more recent comic with Jane Foster, if the hammer is out of Thors grip for more than 60 seconds, Thor reverts back to the identity of a normal person. This part of Thors character, which has been an integral part of the comics for decades, was decidedly ignored for the films.
6) Thor isnt the only one who has wielded Mjlnir
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers have a light-hearted scene where each of them try to pick up Thors hammer. No one is able to do italthough pure-hearted Steve Rogers comes close. Later in a pivotal scene, the newly born Vision picks up the hammer and hands it over to Thor. Its a small but important moment: Vision is able to show his worthiness to the Avengers, and most importantly to a stunned Thor.
In the comics, Vision isnt the only one who has wielded Mjlnir. Captain America has proved his worthiness and wielded the hammer before, thus explaining why the film version of Rogers could almost do it in Age of Ultron. X-MensStorm, Odin, and most recently Jane Foster have all proved they are worthy enough to wield the mighty Mjlnir. Which brings us to Mjlnirs current companion.
7) Jane Foster is the current wielder of Mjlnir
Thor has wielded Mjlnir in the comics for decades. However, after a recent comic book incident with Nick Fury, he was deemed unworthy to wield the hammer. The person who was deemed worthy instead?
Jane Foster, a popular human ally from Thors trusted inner circle. This event was so significant it even changed the inscription on Thors hammer. The original inscription described: He who holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” When Jane picked up the hammer, it read: Whosoever holds this hammer, if she be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor. It looks like even Mjlnirs words are capable of making a sizable and impressive impact.
While the dethroned old Thor sulked off under the moniker Odinson, the new female Thor took up his title and heroic ways. Her identity was kept secret to comic-book readers for a while until it was recently revealed. With Jane Foster wielding Mjlnir in the comics, the implications could be enormous. Chris Hemsworth will eventually step down as the mighty Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and having a female Thor in the comics could be a pathway for Natalie Portman, who plays Jane Foster in the movies, to wield the hammeror even perhaps Tessa Thompson, who appears in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.When it comes to Mjlnir, the hammer gets to choose its master.
One highlight stands head and shoulders above all the rest from the Golden State Warriors’ 132-113 drubbing of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night: Steph Curry, feinting and probing against the smothering defense of LeBron James before knifing to the rim for a layup against the much bigger man.
The play instantly lit the internet on fire with emphatic reactions. It stood out for several reasons: the size difference between the two stars; as an illustration of Golden State’s dominance through two games in this year’s Finals; and finally, as a bit of revenge for a vicious block James had against Curry in last year’s Finals matchup.
But upon further review, there is a problem: The play technically shouldn’t have counted at all because Curry double-dribbled. How do we know this? Thanks to a clip the NBA itself shared on social media.
First, here’s the play in question, which came early in the third quarter Monday night. Watch Curry struggle to free himself from James before finally getting the separation he needs to sneak in two points.
It’s remarkable and nearly impossible to spot his double-dribble when viewing at game speed. Curry gets the advantage he’s seeking around the seven-second mark of this clip, using a head and shoulders fake near the three-point line to get James off balance before he drives to the rim.
Remember that moment.
Now, the NBA has something called a “Phantom Cam,” which is basically a camera that shoots super-slow motion in super-high quality. They use the “Phantom Cam” to create cool clips that are sharable on social media and did just that with Curry’s drive on James.
Let’s pay careful attention to the 22-second mark of this clip, though it corresponds to the seven-second mark of the first clip we showed you, the moment when Curry found his advantage on James.
But slowed down and from an alternate angle, we see this:
It turns out Curry didn’t just get James with a head-and-shoulder fake that made the Cavs star briefly expect an outside shot was coming. No, it turns out Curry was able to trick James because he actually put two hands on the ball as if he was going to shoot before double-dribbling to begin his drive to the rim.
Now, a missed call on one drive to the hoop is not even close to being the worst of Cleveland’s problems losing games one and two by a combined 41 points proves that beyond a doubt.
But perhaps Cavs fans can take solace in one small mercy: Sunday night’s viral highlight wasn’t quite what it seemed.