Marco Mona

Australia
The Westralian fancy

Why would a roaring economy want to rock the boat by seceding? Seeking independence since its inauguration, Western Australia has had just one bizarrely successful attempt at separating from Australia.

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The Russian Revolution is often imagined as a seminal historic outburst in which Vladimir Ilich Lenin and his Bolsheviks overthrew the Tsar and took power in October 1917. In reality, the Russian Revolution was a long, labored process with roots in the 19th century.

Australia
Gaining from adversity

Despite a difficult transition from the full-steam-ahead economy of the past decade, Australia has the potential of not only surviving, but of profiting from the challenges to come. But this may come at a cost that some Australians consider too steep.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is suffering important political setbacks as a direct result of her open-door refugee policy. Even her faithful Berlin constituency has partly turned to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), raising fears of dire results in next year’s elections.

World economy
Steering the marque

In a world of acquisitions and mergers, the risk of getting swallowed by larger companies is ever present. Yet a small, historic automobile manufacturer, which has been defining the concept of design, luxury and style for over a century, is affirming its global position.

 

Still felix?
Australia, still felix?

In 1836 the explorer Thomas Mitchell, during an expedition to discover new areas to colonize, came across what is now Victoria and was so enchanted by the area he called it “Australia Felix.” Subsequently dubbed “the lucky country,” the continent that straddles three oceans has had a great run. But can its luck hold out?

Global Economy
Caught in the global food net

When international trade rationale exceeds our comprehension of local produce and domestic consumption, it can lead to a bitter flavored morsel that’s at best hard to digest.

New frontiers
If the wave breaks

Australia has managed to skirt the economic crisis successfully thanks largely to abundant resources and sound financial institutions. But the Aussies’ luck may be running out if politicians get too complacent.

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The former activist and President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was born in 1918. He helped bring an end to apartheid, proving to all that in a deeply divided country with serious racial problems it is possible to achieve social reconciliation with peaceful and political means. Throughout his life he has been a global advocate for human rights and an example to the world.
As a member of the African National Congress party beginning in the 1940s, he was a leader of peaceful protests. Once these were deemed futile, he called for armed resistance against the white minority’s oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa. His actions led to his imprisonment for nearly three decades and made him the face of the anti-apartheid movement both within his country and internationally. Released in 1990, he participated in the eradication of apartheid, and  then in 1994 became the first black president of South Africa, forming a multiethnic government to oversee the country’s transition. Since retiring from politics in 1999, he has remained a devoted champion of peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world.

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There are no native trees or mammals in the Falkland Islands, but there are lots of sheep. In fact, the sheep has pride of place on the island’s coat of arms – no surprise, since it is the third most important local industry. The mostly barren islands are home to about 60 species of birds, including five penguin species. Not only, but the elephant seal, the fur seal, and sea lions all like to breed there. The maritime sub-arctic to polar tundra climate, means it’s usually cold and nearly constantly windy and wet, with an average of 270 days of rainfall a year. Of the 776 islands in the Falklands archipelago, only two are inhabited by the roughly 3,000 or so islanders, also known as “kelpers,” fully fledged British residents according to the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act of 1983 – and intend to remain so, as evidenced by the recent referendum in which 99.8% voted in favor of remaining British. In clear disaccord with the Argentinian government, of course, which in fact claims them as their own, offering full citizenship, passport, and national documents of identification to anyone born on the islands. But who’s right? Although the islands lie approximately 450 km northeast of the southerly tip of Tierra del Fuego, supporting the geographical argument, they have been part of the British Overseas Territories since Britain in it’s great tradition of claiming territories with a flag, left a plaque there claiming its ownership in 1774. Still, this doesn’t seem to wash very well with the Argentinians, especially now that  sizeable deposits of oil have been found near the islands. Yet despite their theatrical ways of acquiring it, the Brits take their territoriality seriously, as evidenced by the “undeclared” war of 1982, when the Argentinian army invaded the Falklands, claiming them as their own and hoping the English would just give them up.
No chance, seems to be the answer.

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Smoke gets in your eyes, but so does smog and the many ultra-fine particles suspended in the increasingly polluted air of major urban areas. The word “smog” was coined in the early 20th century from the words smoke and fog, and was intended to refer to what was sometimes known as pea soup fog, a familiar and serious problem in London from the 19th century to the mid-20th century, caused by the burning of large amounts of coal within the city. Modern smog, is a type of air pollution derived principally from emissions of vehicles with internal combustion engines. Industrial fumes, in addition react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog. Add the smoke from fires and the occasional ash eruption and you’ve got an excellent, albeit toxic, means of achieving spectacular and surreal photographic images of everyday life in major cities around the world.

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The Sunni-Shia divide has been a source of sectarian violence in Pakistan for decades. While the majority of Pakistanis are Sunni, there is a substantial Shia minority, which has borne the brunt of the violence, especially as the Sunni Taliban have grown in strength. Most recently, the terrible New Year’s resolution of Baloch ethnic separatists and Islamist fundamentalists – to spill more blood on the streets of Quetta, the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province – pushed the Hazara community too far, and after many days of protest and refusing to bury their dead, they forced Islamabad to finally act and sack the chief minister of the provincial government. Sunni extremists belonging to the Islamic fundamentalist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks and have been methodically executing members of the Hazara community, a Persian-speaking Shia minority whose ancestors came from Afghanistan.

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On average we each produce more than 250 kilos of recyclable materials annually – a confection of paper, plastic, aluminum, and a lot of other stuff that should not be buried in the depths of a landfill. Recycling firms are reprocessing not only such standbys as scrap metal, glass and newsprint, but everything from construction debris to worn out tires. Due to price increases from high demand for raw materials in developing countries and increased disposal costs of landfills and incinerators, recycling is fast becoming essential. And in most cases, the process of recycling products remains economically feasible when compared to manufacturing new products from scratch. Realizing the full value of materials through resource management can drive sustainable growth, which would not only be good for the environment, but critical to the economic competitiveness and resilience of a nation.

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Robots have been developed to replace humans in extreme or toxic environments and facilitate high-precision or repetitive tasks such as microsurgery or parts assembly. Robotic prostheses can be attached to bodies and increase human strength, give back mobility to the physically impaired, and we may soon be able to control or communicate with them by thought alone. In 30 years we have gone from mainframes occupying entire floors to computers in our pocket. With all the associated advantages of diminishing parts and technology costs, robots will no doubt experience an analogous development curve. In fact, a Russian media tycoon is personally financing research to overcome human mortality within the next 30 years (2045 Initiative) by developing “avatars” (humanoid robots) in which to digitally house our consciousness downloaded onto an artificial carrier, a concept that has made even the Dalai Lama enthusiastic.

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Mildewed colonial architecture and precariously maintained automobiles have become Cuba’s charming and instantly recognizable symbols, yet it is economically impoverished to the point where many fled by any means. As a sign of the times Cuba has recently made tentative new steps towards a slightly freer economic model. In the last year alone the government has issued over 300,000 new small business licences, legalized the private sale of property and lifted foreign travel restrictions for some sections of the population. Perhaps a new vision, ensuing from the demise of an outdated political ideology, could help the country find its way out of the economic quagmire it has been in for the last 50 years. Meanwhile, those who can, will take long holidays.

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The echoes of cheering and chanting are long gone, and the wind, from lifting the flags of nations, has given itself to the slapping of smashed boards and carrying the chirping of frogs from the disused Olympic swimming pools. Where once a nation’s pride shone for the world to see, padlocks and rusted gates lamely hide the evidence of a colossal waste, a sadly recurring
theme in post-Olympic site management as evidenced by the current state of a number of venues in Athens (where the Games were held in 2004) and Beijing (2008).

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These almost exact architectural plagiarisms of European cities, landmarks and villages are popular destinations among middle-class Chinese, even serving as backdrops for weddings and photos. But they are largely empty. Built for a small elite, they have thus far failed to attract a sufficient number of the hoped-for residents that would justify their enormous expense. And not everyone in Europe is happy about being xeroxed, the Austrian village of Hallstatt being a prime example. Still, this form of high-handed flattery signifies a major turn in China: where once examples of European influence were seen as embarrassing evidence of Chinese submission to foreign powers, they have now become symbols of Chinese economic dominance.

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The 1989 democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square had a significant impact in shaping Western views China. Of particular significance was the iconic image of “Tank Man,” the unknown rebel who became immortalized in the West as a symbol of civil resistance. China’s image at the time, of a country undergoing modernizing reforms and an ally against the Soviet Union, was replaced by that of a repressive and bloody authoritarian regime. The protests were frequently invoked to argue against trade liberalization as evidence that China was a threat to world peace and US interests. That was 23 years ago. Today China has become a leading economic force on the planet and its citizens enjoy more freedom and opportunity than ever. Can this terrible event have marked the fork in the road of Chinese modernization?

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Myanmar is ranked 176th out of 180 for corruption, the infrastructure is in complete disrepair, and the country is the second largest grower of opium in the region. Yet investors are quietly shuffling in, attracted by the untapped potential of its natural resources and its strategic location in Southeast Asia, bordered by India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand. The government, keen to open up to foreign investment capital, has ushered in a sort of burmese “glasnost,” releasing many political prisoners and allowing political parties to form and take part in elections which finally led Aung San Suu Kyi to power. The changes have been so fast that many doubt the underlying intent that is driving these reforms, but Suu Kyi’s position as opposition leader promises to give democracy an irreversible momentum. The US resumed diplomatic relations with Myanmar on January 13, 2012 and in April the EU lifted sanctions for one year as a show of goodwill. If the Economist Intelligence Unit’s prediction comes true, the end of  Western sanctions will see Myanmar’s trade links expand beyond Asia, leading to export revenue increases of around 12% in 2014-16, and a way out of poverty.

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According to UN estimates about 11,000 people have been killed and many more displaced since protests began on the January 26, 2011 and developed into a nationwide uprising. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the overthrow of his government, and an end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule. Now, more than a year after the uprising began, the country is unraveling, with a sectarian civil war being fought between the opposition dominated by Sunni Muslims, and the minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, who constitute the governing elite. So far Assad still has support from Iran, Russia and China. The recent UN peace plan seemed the only hope for ending the violence, but less than a day into the cease-fire, fighting and government shelling began anew, causing hundreds of deaths. The ouster of Assad and his government would do little to resolve Syria’s deep socio-economic issues, but it could bring an immediate end to the violence and lay the foundations for democracy in this torn nation. That is, of course, if the external powers involved will allow it.

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Iran remains a country torn by the revolution of 1979. It is also a country divided by gender. There is a chasm between the way people are meant to behave and the way they actually live.
Caught between tradition and isolation, Iran’s repressed youth yearn for social change and modernity. Yet if recent election results are any indication, the theocrats in power seem to be consolidating their dominant position.

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New York, 1944. America has recovered from the depression of 1929 and entered a fight in which the old world is violently receding and giving way to the new. But in the very emblem of the modern metropolis it’s business as usual. Window-shopping, movies, theatre and pony rides in the park are the activities that express the dreams and hopes of millions who sought in New York’s vertiginous architecture the opportunity to reach new heights. To this day it remains a model to imitate.

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Transnistria is a narrow strip of land located mostly between the Dniester River and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine. After the dissolution of the USSR, tensions between the Moldovan government and the breakaway unrecognized state’s authorities in Tiraspol escalated into a military conflict that started in March 1992 and was concluded by a ceasefire in July 1992. It is governed as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR). Transnistria’s sovereignty is not recognized by any United Nations member state and it has no diplomatic relations with any of them. Yevgeni Shevchuk, who won the 2011 presidential elections, is widely seen as the candidate of the province’s disaffected youth, who are fed up with a state of affairs that locks its 500,000 people in a time-warped world of red stars and Lenin statues, and giving them passports that no other country recognizes.

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­The launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union in 1957 marked the beginning of the utilization of space for science and commercial activity. During the Cold War, space was a prime area of competition between the USSR and the US, reaching its climax with the race to the moon in the 1960s. In 1964 the first TV satellite was launched into a geostationary orbit in order to transmit the Olympic games from Tokyo. Since then, the number of objects in Earth orbit has increased steadily – by two hundred per year on average. Currently, the US Strategic Command monitors 12,771 satellites and other objects of about 10 centimeters in diameter orbiting the earth. Out of these 12,771 objects only 872 are active satellites, while most of the remaining 11,899 monitored pieces are dysfunctional and considered “space debris.” While our lives on earth depend more and more on GPS satellite support, the space they are imbedded in becomes increasingly cluttered. As an American general puts it: “Our space architecture is very fragile.”

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North Korea is one of the most literate countries in the world, with an average literacy rate of 99%. Yet in its 2010 report, Reporters Without Borders ranked its freedom of the press as 177th out of 178. Food rations, housing, healthcare, and education are offered by the state for free, and the payment of taxes has been abolished since April 1, 1974. The average official salary is equivalent to $12 per month, and many hospitals and clinics lack essential medicines, equipment, running water and electricity. Despite this North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world, fissile material for nuclear weapons, and the capability to deploy nuclear warheads on intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

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General Khatool Mohammadzai is 45, a parachutist with 572 jumps, and has been wearing the Afghan Army’s uniform for more than a quarter of a century. Not only, she is also a woman and mother.

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The Berlin Wall was erected in the dead of night on August 13, 1961 to prevent East Germans from leaving, and for 28 years this physical division between East and West Germany became the symbolic boundary between democracy and communism during the Cold War. Its demolition in 1989 marked the beginning of a new Germany and set the conditions for the construction of a new Berlin, now one of the most vibrant, open-minded and artistic capital cities in a unified Europe.

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Images of ordinary moments in the lives of most Western youth are not shocking in themselves, only these are taken in that strip of land where democracy and terrorism are fighting it out daily with stones, bombs and rockets. Our impression of life in Gaza is one of a nebulous cacophony of violence and pain, yet even there, the energy of youth seeks creative expression.

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According to Inca nomenclature, Ollanta Humala, winner of the recent elections in Peru, is the “warrior who looks at everything.” His father founded an ultranationalist doctrine that exalts the Inca past and whose aim is to establish a government with “full nationalist social inclusion” in which power is exercised by the traditionally marginalized Indians. The Yawar Fiesta or Blood Festival in Coyllurqui in the Peruvian Andes is held on July 28, Independence Day. This celebration symbolizes the clash between the indigenous people (represented by the condor) and the Spanish (represented by a bull).

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What we possess says a lot about who we are. How would we be recognized by our most intimate belongings? These images, shot on forensic tables in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, show what is being used to try and piece together the puzzle of Bosnia’s mass graves.

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Nearly ten years after the tragedy of  9/11, the new  World Trade Center is nearing its long awaited completion, and America celebrates the demise of the planet’s most wanted terrorist, mastermind of the destruction of the Twin Towers.

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De-industrialization, economic crisis, the housing bubble, recession, off-shore capitalization, inflation,
t-model ford, the glorious past.

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Members of nomadic tribes in Inner Mongolia are rapidly shifting from traditional herding life to the realities of a modern China. Lured by the promise of material comfort and education for their children, in some cases whole families migrate together, facing long journeys and language difficulties which put a heavy emotional strain on the child and the family. Photographer A Yin who lives in Ujimiqin, a vast area in a Chinese controlled region near the border with the independent country of Mongolia, has documented the lifestyle of nomadic tribes for the last 20 years. In this series of images taken only a few years apart, first in their native lands and then in their new urban reality, A Yin depicts a poignant chronicle of the vanishing nomadic culture of Inner Mongolia.

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The region near the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident, now dubbed by locals as the “Chernobyl Riviera,” is teeming with wildlife and fast becoming a popular tourist attraction.

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Tunisia’s popular uprising sparks fears of a domino effect in the region