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Daily Archives: September 22, 2022

Music Video: I Feel the Earth Move

Global Times Editorial: The Strong Dollar Should Not Become a Sharp Blade to Cut the World

The US Federal Reserve will hold a new policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the decision on interest rate growth being the limelight. It is widely anticipated that the Fed will deliver at least another 75-basis-point interest rate hike to tame inflation. This might further increase the value of the US dollar against other currencies, which is at its 20-year high. Driven by the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes, the US dollar is viewed as “experiencing a once-in-a-generation rally.” For many countries in the world, this might be the beginning of another nightmare.

The meeting will witness the fifth time that the Fed will raise interest rates. The direct reason is to ease the high pressure of inflation in the US. But if people dig the root cause, this is an inevitable consequence of US’ blind and unlimited money printing to temporarily maintain “prosperity.” In other words, in the face of the deep-seated problems exposed by the 2008 financial crisis, Washington has been powerless, and unwilling as well, to solve them. Instead, it was extremely short-sighted to cover up the crisis and curry favor with the Wall Street, while taking advantage of the hegemony of the US dollar to quietly treat the crisis like dumping wastewater – draining it to the world.

A super strong US dollar and the fall of other currencies will, to a certain extent, ease the scorching inflation in the US economy, but the world will have to pay for it, which is often referred to as “when the US is sick, the world has to takes pill.” The ensuing severe inflation, economic recession and other problems have already appeared on a large scale in many countries. Thirty-six currencies around the world have lost at least one-tenth of their value this year, with the Sri Lankan rupee and Argentine peso falling by more than 20 percent, since the dollar strengthened.

This has not only worsened the already weak economies of Europe and Japan, but also forced a large number of developing countries to swallow the bitter pills of the economic recession caused by imported inflation. Countless families were impoverished overnight. This is a very abnormal situation that is not supposed to occur, but it is the cruel truth behind the US “containment of inflation.”

In fact, since the end of World War II, the US has used dollar hegemony to carry out “financial looting” or “export crises” against other countries several times. As a widely popular phrase in the West goes, the US enjoys the exorbitant privileges created by the dollar and the deficit without tears, and used the worthless paper note to plunder the resources and factories of other nations.

Each round of dollar appreciation in the past decades has been accompanied by extremely bad memories: The Latin American debt crisis broke out in the first round, Japan suffered from the “lost two decades” during the second round and the Asian financial crisis took place during the third. Particularly in the Asian crisis, which is still fresh in many people’s memories, more than 100 million middle-class people in Asia fell into poverty, according to the World Bank estimation. The strengthened dollar, time and again, cuts the world like a sharp blade.

Therefore, while the political elites in Washington boast of the “myth of the American system” and take credit for “alleviating the crisis,” thousands of poor families around the world are being trampled by them. They are not unaware of this, but still collectively choose to be indifferent and arrogant, as if this is the privilege that the “hegemon” should enjoy. As US former treasury secretary John Connally put it in the 1970s, “The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem.” Today, the dollar is once again the world’s problem. In a sense, it’s hard to believe that the “prosperity” of the US is clean and moral.

However, the crisis cannot be covered up forever. Washington keeps laying mines but never removes them, which will eventually explode the US itself. The incompetence of US financial policymakers has been exposed by the consecutive interest rate hikes that have contributed to the abnormal appreciation of the US dollar with the purpose of defusing the severe inflation.

For the US itself, what will rise accordingly are the cost of corporate financing, the pressure on residents to repay their loans, and the price of export production among others. Meanwhile, the credibility that the US dollar has as a global currency is being continuously exhausted by the US “beggar-thy-neighbor” policy. Now the anxiety and insecurity brought by the US dollar to the world has heralded the beginning of the decline of its hegemony – regarding Washington’s insatiable exploitation, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and other regions have explored the path of “de-dollarization,” leading to the inevitable diversification of the international monetary system.

The best way to restrain the rampaging hegemony is to practice true multilateralism. Whether it was the Asian financial crisis in 1997 or the global financial crisis in 2008, the world seemed to have stumbled more than once by the same stone, which, however, is not that firm anymore. The instability and fragility of international financial markets have once again become prominent. It is precisely at such times that the international community should be more determined to cooperate and build a reliable, systemic and long-term multilateral international financial system. This cannot wait.


Source : Global Times

Video: Most Popular Websites Since 1993

A Prehistory of Social Media

Kevin Driscoll wrote . . . . . . . . .

Over the past few years, I’ve asked dozens of college students to write down, in a sentence or two, where the internet came from. Year after year, they recount the same stories about the US government, Silicon Valley, the military, and the threat of nuclear war. A few students mention the Department of Defense’s ARPANET by name. Several get the chronology wrong, placing the World Wide Web before the internet or expressing confusion about the invention of email. Others mention “tech wizards” or “geniuses” from Silicon Valley firms and university labs. No fewer than four students have simply written, “Bill Gates.”

Despite the internet’s staggering scale and global reach, its folk histories are surprisingly narrow. This mismatch reflects the uncertain definition of “the internet.” When nonexperts look for internet origin stories, they want to know about the internet as they know it, the internet they carry around in their pockets, the internet they turn to, day after day. Yet the internet of today is not a stable object with a single, coherent history. It is a dynamic socio-technical phenomenon that came into being during the 1990s, at the intersection of hundreds of regional, national, commercial, and cooperative networks—only one of which was previously known as “the internet.” In short, the best-known histories describe an internet that hasn’t existed since 1994. So why do my students continue to repeat stories from 25 years ago? Why haven’t our histories kept up?

The standard account of internet history took shape in the early 1990s, as a mixture of commercial online services, university networks, and local community networks mutated into something bigger, more commercial, and more accessible to the general public. As hype began to build around the “information superhighway,” people wanted a backstory. In countless magazines, TV news reports, and how-to books, the origin of the internet was traced back to ARPANET, the computer network created by the Advanced Research Projects Agency during the Cold War. This founding mythology has become a resource for advancing arguments on issues related to censorship, national sovereignty, cybersecurity, privacy, net neutrality, copyright, and more. But with only this narrow history of the early internet to rely on, the arguments put forth are similarly impoverished.

What this origin story leaves out are the thousands of people running highly local networks of personal computers (PCs) who created early online communities at a grassroots level. Because they foreshadowed the intensely personal and interactive blogs, forums, and social media platforms that emerged later, exploring how these communities developed and sustained themselves not only provides a fuller history of the internet, but offers insights into how we might build healthier online communities that are more just, equitable, and inclusive.

BIRTH OF THE MODEM WORLD

Even though most people access the internet through a personal computing device such as a laptop or smartphone, personal computers—or microcomputers, as they were also known at the time—are virtually absent from the conventional telling of internet history. ARPANET, which connected a limited number of large, powerful research computers, predated consumer PCs by nearly a decade, and the internet protocols (TCP/IP) that allow computers to communicate were not widely available for Macintosh or Windows until the mid-1990s. To understand how the internet became a medium for everyday life, we need a history that accounts for the creation of personal computer networks and their convergence with the internet.

At the core of this history is a rather strange peripheral: the dial-up modem. In the 1980s, “modem” referred to a device for converting a stream of digital pulses from a computer into an audible signal for transmission over a standard telephone line, allowing computers to relay information via telephone. But modems did not become a standard feature of personal computers until the mid-1990s, and as a result, the modem became a technology of distinction among computer enthusiasts in the 1980s. Modem owners knew themselves as a separate class of computer users, capable of traversing the emerging byways of cyberspace. The networks that they frequented came to be known, collectively, as the “modem world.”

The modem world developed in parallel to the ARPANET family of networks. Whereas ARPANET was created by professional researchers in university and government labs, the modem world was driven by community-oriented amateurs and entrepreneurs—hobby radio groups, computer clubs, software pirates, and activist organizations. Despite their shared interest in computer networking, these were, with rare exception, distinct spheres of social and technical activity.

The predominant form of PC networking was the bulletin board system, or BBS. Hosted on off-the-shelf microcomputers running homebuilt software, bulletin boards systems provided a low-cost infrastructure for people interested in exploring the possibilities of online community. The earliest BBSs were populated by microcomputer enthusiasts trading technical information and chatting about their hobby. Later, they linked a more diverse group of PC owners, including communities bound together by interests and identities that were otherwise excluded from mainstream media systems. Dial-up BBSs made community networking accessible to the grassroots and the peripheries of computer culture.

The modem world is not without a mythology of its own. By most accounts, BBSs emerged out of the famously snowy winter of 1978, when Ward Christensen and Randy Suess created the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS, using a home-built S-100 microcomputer and a brand-new Hayes modem. Christensen and Suess were members of a local microcomputer club, known as the Chicago Area Computer Hobbyist’s Exchange, or CACHE. The club’s newsletter was a vital source of information—but club members had to be cajoled into submitting new articles, and there was no easy way to provide access to earlier issues. Inspired by a cork bulletin board used for public notices at CACHE meetings, Christensen and Suess set about building an online database of newsletter articles. They installed the system at Suess’s place and had it running by early February. Almost immediately, hobbyists from outside Chicago began to call in to check out the system and swap messages with one another, transforming the “computerized” bulletin board into a public forum. Within a few months, CBBS was fielding dozens of calls from around the country, and new bulletin boards had sprouted up in Atlanta and San Francisco.

CBBS was the archetypal dial-up BBS. It was a clever technical system with an accessible interface and friendly personality. The CBBS “host” computer was hooked up to a single telephone line and could handle just one user at a time. To get online, potential users needed a telephone modem and some kind of data terminal. Early on, most people called in from paper-based teleprinters, but these were soon replaced by PCs with video displays and “terminal emulation” software. Upon successfully connecting to CBBS, the user’s terminal would spring to life, hammering out “welcome to cbbs/chicago … ward and randy’s computerized bulletin board system.” The welcome message also included instructions on navigating the system and encouraged new users to call Christensen or Suess at home to report any problems with the hardware or software. They were told to jump right in: “Feel free to leave a message on any hobbyist computer related subject.”

The functional simplicity of CBBS belied its power as an organizing tool for the hobbyist community. In November 1978, Byte magazine ran a special issue on communications featuring an article by Christensen and Suess that explained the technical architecture of CBBS and invited readers to take the system for a spin. Thousands of readers did, and soon new bulletin boards were being announced around North America and Europe. Each new BBS tweaked the core concept of the computerized bulletin board, adding features for trading files or playing games, implementing rules regarding user behavior, and expressing the local culture and personality of its owners. Most were free to use, save for the cost of placing a long-distance call. BBS enthusiasts ran their phone bills into the hundreds of dollars just to experience these novel outposts on the burgeoning electronic frontier.

CREATING COMMUNITIES, ONE BBS AT A TIME

The movement grew beyond hobbyists in 1979, when two new commercial online services launched with the hope of attracting PC owners. By the end of the year, The Source, based in Northern Virginia, boasted 3,000 customers dialing from 260 US cities. Subscribers paid an hourly rate of $15 during the day and $2.75 at night for access to international news, stock market data, real estate listings, and restaurant reviews. Meanwhile, the time-sharing firm CompuServe Inc. created MicroNET, an online service aimed at personal computer enthusiasts. Whereas The Source emphasized access to information, MicroNET promised access to computing power. From 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., MicroNET subscribers paid $5 per hour to write and run programs on mainframe computers attached to the CompuServe network. Yet it was neither information nor access to computers that kept subscribers paying the hourly fees. CompuServe and The Source became important community spaces for early modem owners. The discussion forums, software archives, and “CB simulator” chat channels on these systems served as a kind of informal backbone to the emerging network of local BBSs.

The summer of 1983 brought the rise of a new stereotype: the tech-savvy teen. In movie theaters, the Cold War thriller WarGames showed its two young protagonists using a modem and microcomputer to change their grades, download games, and almost start World War III. It was the first time that Hollywood had depicted computers and computer networks as tools of exploration, play, personal identity, and teen mischief. Over the next year, BBSs and commercial services alike saw a surge in new users as teens attached modems to their home computers. But what did the middle-aged hobbyists and teen newcomers have to say to each other? And what teenager could afford to pay for the commercial services? Soon, modem-equipped teens were hosting bulletin boards of their own, adapting the technology to meet their interests and needs.

Unlike the nationwide commercial services, BBSs tended to serve a local population of users since few hobbyists could afford to routinely call long-distance. System operators were keenly aware of the local nature of BBS culture. In a sense, sysops were inviting strangers into their homes. With the host computer sitting on a nearby desk or in a closet, they could hear the whirr of the hard drive and see the flickering lights of the modem as callers dipped in and out. Most boards encouraged the use of pseudonyms, or “handles,” but relationships between users and sysops frequently crossed the boundary between on- and offline. Many sysops hosted parties at their homes or a favorite watering hole where users of their BBS could hang out. These opportunities for face-to-face interaction shaped the social norms of the BBS. Trolling and flame wars took on a different character when the person on the other side could be your neighbor, classmate, coworker, or friend.

Through the 1980s, the distribution of BBSs roughly followed the distribution of people. Modem owners living in densely settled cities had a broader choice of local BBSs to call than people living in smaller towns did. In metropolitan areas, the concentration of boards encouraged sysops to specialize, resulting in BBSs that served communities of interest within the city. People who wanted to talk about amateur astronomy found their way to one board; people who wanted to trade pirated software found another. Those who were interested in both topics could create separate profiles on each board, thereby selecting, revealing, and disclosing different aspects of their online identities. No such luck for rural users: if you were the only amateur astronomer in your area, there might not be anyone on the local boards for you to chat with.

To bring users from different regions together, the modem world needed a way for users of one BBS to communicate with users of another without the burden of long-distance dialing. In 1984, the first BBS-to-BBS connections radiated out of the Bay Area home of Tom Jennings, a microcomputer expert, dog lover, skateboarder, and queer punk. With the help of John Madill, a BBS sysop in Baltimore, Jennings developed a technique that allowed two BBSs running his “Fido” software to automatically fetch messages and files from one another. After a year in operation, more than a hundred Fido BBSs were active on the network and “FidoNet” became an open standard for exchanging files and messages between BBSs. Soon, “netmail” messages were bouncing from Maryland to St. Louis, Texas to Hawaii, England to Indonesia. With its open standards and clever design, FidoNet became a platform for experimentation. Sysops organized new methods for efficiently routing messages and created “gateways” to exchange mail with corporate and university networks. By the end of the decade, the international FidoNet had become a people’s internet, unmatched for its low barriers to entry and global reach.

On average, the demographics of the modem world fit the stereotype of the 1980s computer geek: young, white, middle-class males. But as PCs became more common, BBS technology spread beyond enthusiasts to serve other groups of people with a more urgent need for alternative media. By the start of the 1990s, BBS networks organized around shared identities, cultural interests, and political commitments had become especially vibrant spaces for socializing, organizing, and sharing resources. AfroNet offered wide-ranging discussions of Black interest. GayCom connected BBSs for gay and lesbian people. TGnet was dedicated to transgender identity, health, and culture. AEGIS carried information about living with HIV and AIDS. PeaceNet, EcoNet and GreenNet supported the peace and environmentalist movements. Of course, we should avoid an overly romantic portrayal of this period. The political potential of BBS technology was also embraced by white power groups, militias, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, and other right-wing extremists. Some of the earliest coverage of BBSs on television focused on the adoption of BBSs by neo-Nazi groups in the United States and Canada. Misogyny, homophobia, and white supremacy plagued the modem world, just as they do today’s social media platforms.

ON-RAMPS TO THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY

From Alaska to Bermuda, Puerto Rico to Saskatchewan, every telephone area code in the North American Numbering Plan played host to at least one dial-up BBS. In 1991, when future vice president Al Gore described the “information superhighway,” many longtime computer users imagined a souped-up network of BBSs. At the time, only about a fifth of Americans had access to a computer at home, and even fewer knew how to get online. Initially, BBSs promoted themselves as a local, friendly alternative to costly nationwide systems like CompuServe, Prodigy, or America Online. They would be the on-ramps, rest stops, and service stations on the information superhighway.

But the process of privatizing the state-sponsored internet was messy. Lacking any central authority or advocacy organization, the interests of BBS users and sysops were hardly considered at all. Compounding that lack of representation, longtime internet advocates were generally unfamiliar with the technology and culture of dial-up networks. The ARPANET family of networks ran on a fundamentally different infrastructure from consumer-oriented BBS networks, and relatively few people were expert users of both. BBSs were not so much ignored by institutions of power as they were overlooked.

Between 1994 and 1995, the World Wide Web—and not the BBS—became the public face of cyberspace. On television and in print, journalists touted graphical browsers like NCSA Mosaic and Netscape Navigator as the internet’s future. As hype mounted, investment capital flooded the data communications industry. But instead of BBSs, the money and attention flowed to firms linked to the nascent Web. Finally, when a moral panic over “cyberporn” threatened to burst the dot-com bubble, BBSs provided a convenient scapegoat. BBSs were old and dirty; the Web was new, clean, and safe for commerce. To avoid the stigma, enterprising BBS operators quietly rebranded. Seemingly overnight, thousands of dial-up BBSs vanished, replaced by brand-new “internet service providers.” In the United States, the term “BBS” fell out of use.

EXPERIMENTING WITH THE FUTURE

The people who built the modem world in the 1980s laid the groundwork for millions of others who would bring their lives online in the 1990s and beyond. Along with writing code and running up their phone bills, BBS operators developed novel forms of community moderation, governance, and commercialization. When internet access finally came to the public, former BBS users carried the experience of grassroots networking into the social Web. Over time, countless social media platforms have reproduced the social and technical innovations of the BBS community.

Forgetting has high stakes. As the internet becomes the compulsory infrastructure of everyday life, the stories we tell about its origins are more important than ever. Recovering the history of the modem world helps us to imagine a world beyond—or perhaps after—commercial social media, mass surveillance, and platform monopolies. Endlessly modifiable, each BBS represented an idiosyncratic dream of what cyberspace could be, a glimpse of the future written in code and accessible from your local telephone jack. Immersing ourselves in this period of experimentation and play makes the internet seem strange again. By changing how we remember the internet’s past, we can change our expectations for its future.


Source : Issues

Japan Intervenes to Prop Up the Yen for First Time in 24 years

Junko Ogura, Emi Jozuka and Kathleen Benoza wrote . . . . . . . . .

Japan tried to shore up the value of its currency Thursday by buying yen and selling US dollars for the first time in 24 years.

The yen had earlier plunged to its lowest level since 1998 after the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates aggressively while the Bank of Japan kept its rates in negative territory in a bid to boost its fragile economic recovery. The currency has lost about 20% this year against a surging US dollar.

“In the current foreign exchange market, we are seeing rapid and one-sided movements against the backdrop of speculative activities,” Japan’s vice finance minister for international affairs Masato Kanda told reporters on Thursday.

“The government is concerned about these excessive fluctuations and has just taken decisive action,” he added.

Thursday’s decision marks the first time since 1998 that the Japanese government intervened in the foreign exchange market by buying yen.

Earlier Thursday, the Bank of Japan announced that it would maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy, reinforcing its outlier status among G7 nations that are raising interest rates to tame inflation.

The central bank held interest rates at minus 0.1%, just hours after the Fed made history with its third straight three-quarter percentage point rate hike, taking benchmark US rates up to between 3% and 3.25%.

That initially sent the yen plunging to 145 to the US dollar. Those losses were reversed following news of the intervention, however, and the yen was last trading at around 141, up 2%.

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters at a press conference that the currency intervention had some effect and that Japan would not accept excess volatility in the market.

But he declined to comment on whether the intervention was conducted with US support, saying only that Japan was in “regular contact with countries concerned.”

Japan was believed to have been selling dollar-denominated assets it holds, such as US Treasuries, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

Japan last intervened to support its currency during the Asian financial crisis in 1998. But it had intervened more recently — in November 2011 — to prevent the yen appreciating too rapidly against the dollar, public broadcaster NHK reported.


Source : CNN