July 19, 2010

Canada well known to Afghan would-be refugees

Filed under: Asia, Cancon, Economics, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:01

Strategy Page updates the story about the 17 Afghan military trainees who disappeared from their assigned quarters in Texas while on a language training course:

Now the air force has carefully checked their records and found that at least 46 foreign troops had walked away from their training courses in the last five years. All but two (one from Iraq, another from Djibouti) were Afghan.

These men had disappeared from a U.S. Air Force language school, where they learned enough English so they could attend U.S. military training courses. The media coverage implied that some of these guys could be terrorists, who joined the Afghan military, qualified for training in the United States, and then disappeared once you got there, so they could carry out attacks. But it appears the reason behind the disappearances was economic, rather than ideological or religious.

That does make a lot of sense, from their point of view: going from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest, the temptation to stay must be considerable. Of interest to Canadians:

After the first 17 missing Afghans was revealed, American immigration officials went looking for them. They soon reported that they had tracked down at least eleven of the missing Afghans, using just Facebook. These men had gone to Canada, using the military ID the U.S. provided them while in the United States. It’s easier to claim asylum in Canada, a fact widely known in Afghanistan (and often exploited by those leaving the country for a better life in the West.) U.S. officials believed they had located all but two or three of the missing seventeen Afghans, and expected to track down the rest soon.

In spite of the fears of pacifists in Canada, apparently our “warmongering” hasn’t seriously damaged our pre-existing reputation as a soft-touch for refugee claimants.

QotD: “Happy now, whiners?”

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

On Thursday, I hoped that Apple CEO Steve Jobs would admit there’s a problem with the new iPhone’s antenna and apologize for pretending there wasn’t. I didn’t get that apology. Not even close. Instead, in a defensive press conference at Apple’s headquarters on Friday, Jobs argued that the new iPhone offers terrific, out-of-this-world reception. He blamed the media for whipping up a frenzy out of a “fact of life” that affects every phone on the market. As Jobs sees it, the only problems with the iPhone 4 are the pesky “laws of physics,” which pretty much ensure that anyone who holds a mobile phone in her hands is asking for trouble. The only reason people have been focusing on the iPhone is that blogs keep singling Apple out, perhaps because “when you’re doing well, people want to tear you down.”

Still, if you want to be a total jerk about it and keep insisting there’s a problem with your magical iPhone, Jobs has an offer for you. “OK, great, let’s give everybody a case,” he said. Happy now, whiners?

Farhad Manjoo, “Here’s Your Free Case, Jerk: Apple’s condescending iPhone 4 press conference”, Slate, 2010-07-16

Germany’s premier boardgaming event

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Gaming, Germany — Nicholas @ 09:56

Tim Harford explains part of the reason for the boardgame market’s health in Germany compared to its weakness in the English speaking world:

In a sprawling convention centre in Essen, western Germany, the busiest day in the German board games calendar – Saturday at “Spiel” – is about to begin. Hall after hall of stands are piled high with board game boxes, most eschewing the garish graphics of the toy shop for evocative paintings of lands far off and times long ago.

A few minutes before the official start time of 10am, the doors are thrown open. There’s a rumble and then a roar as thousands of gamers surge into the hall, breaking and swirling around the stands, sweeping into the ­farthest corners of the halls, seeking out rare second-hand products or the hottest of the 500 new games being launched, or simply a good place to sit and play. The biggest stands resemble pavement cafés whose patrons grab games instead of coffee: they are filled with tables, each just big enough to seat four players and a board. Before long, the spaces in between the tables are colonised, too, with gamers sitting cross-legged around their boards.

Beyond the sheer number of enthusiasts, the striking thing is that they look, well, normal. The convention centre boasts nearly as many mothers with prams as heavy-metal-T-shirted, body-pierced teens. In one of the farthest halls, Dungeons and Dragons merchandise is on sale, and I counted more than one person wearing a sword and a cloak. But for the most part, the convention centre’s population wouldn’t look out of place on any German high street.

“If you go to a games convention in the UK, you’re generally surrounded by fat, smelly people with bad social skills,” says Martin Wallace, a British game designer at a boutique games publisher called Warfrog. “That’s not true here.”

Wallace recalls an occasion when a group of his gaming friends were too embarrassed to admit their identities to a pretty waitress back home in the UK. “One of us told her that we were stamp collectors. I thought: great. We’re lower than stamp collectors.” But in Germany, if the leading game designers travel incognito, it is to avoid being surrounded by ­admiring fans.

I once joked with a fellow gamer that it was a good thing that most gaming stores were in “bad” areas of town . . . because if someone recognized you there you could always say you were visiting the strip club or the porno magazine store (so much better than admitting you were a gamer). Protective coloration, so to speak.

Clearly German gamers don’t have anything like the same reputation that English gamers do.

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