Google Street View Depicts Mongolia - The Borgen Project
Since its launch in 2007, Google Street View, an extension of Google Maps, has provided users with realistic views of locations they might like to visit. People can actually navigate entire countries without leaving their homes thanks to these technologies and the number of popular tourist destinations has greatly increased.

Google Street View actually used their Google Trekkers—15 fixed-focus lenses with 360-degree panoramic shots every three meters—to capture incredibly important aspects of Mongolian culture. Nadaam, also known as the Three Games of Men, was going on in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar on July 11-13 this year as the Google Trekkers made their way through. They were joined by CNN who covered the story.

Nadaam is a type of Mongolian Olympics composed of archery, wrestling and horse racing. The horse racing event is particularly interesting because jockeys are generally ages five to thirteen and are raised to ride horses even before they can walk. According to residents, the competition itself focuses more so on the skill of the horses and their compatibility with their riders rather than the rider’s command over the horses.

“So far, Google has captured breathtaking landscapes across five cities and six provinces including Ulaan Baatar, Darkhan, Khenti, Dornogovi, and Selenge,” and they’ve been mapping the area since Oct. 2014. Though falling copper prices and low investor confidence has placed Mongolia in financial difficulties, Google hopes to raise tourism profiles.

“At Khursgul Lake, the second-largest freshwater lake in Asia, the team trekked across its frozen surface on a horse-drawn sled, providing breathtaking views of Mongolia’s landscape.”

Including its projects in Mongolia, Google Street View has also managed to capture remote islands, the Pyramids of Giza and the Amazon Jungle.

Anna Brailow

Sources: CNN, Sky
Photo: Discovery News

artsLast year, the U.K. Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure published a literature review that summarized research regarding poverty and its impact on people’s engagement with culture, arts and leisure. While it drew some fairly obvious conclusions, other findings were insightful and thought-provoking.

The first object of research was measuring how much poverty impacts people’s participation in sports. It found that adults who lived under the poverty line played fewer sports for far less time. These findings replicated those in similar studies in Canada and Australia. The lack of involvement in sports is believed to increase health risks such as obesity that are already present in lower income groups.

Some people blamed the lack of sports facilities provided in their neighborhoods. Financial and logistical barriers are a constraint. Sports equipment and transportation to and from facilities may cost extra money that the family cannot afford to spend. Moreover, parents who work more than one job find it difficult to take the time out to supervise their children, especially if their neighborhood is perceived as unsafe.

Another reason for poorer people’s reluctance to take part in sports is that they are simply not interested in them, as a study in Ireland concluded. Research in Australia demonstrated that even with ease of access to facilities and training, lower income children and adults were still less likely to play sports than their middle and upper income counterparts.

The second objective of the research was to determine how poverty impacts people’s engagement with arts, libraries and museums. Unsurprisingly, people living under the poverty line were less likely to be interested in or involved in their community’s culture. Even libraries, which are free and open to the public, see lower levels of engagement from poorer people. Children living in poverty are more likely to use the computer or TV for entertainment.

In addition to the obvious barriers of transportation costs and time constraints (for adults), poorer people frequently voiced the view that arts were for “other people and not for them.” They reported feeling out of place and uninterested. In their daily lives, art was perceived as being completely irrelevant.

To fight the main barriers to engagement in sports and culture — a dearth of facilities, extra costs and a lack of interest — the literature review recommends a few solutions: community-based solutions, personal and trusting relationships between mentors and participants, and lower costs.

– Radhika Singh

Sources: UK Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Art Council of Wales
Photo: PxHere

All You Need to Know About Soft PowerSoft power is a term that was coined in the late 1980s by Joseph S. Nye Jr., an American political scientist. As Foreign Affairs states, soft power refers to the ability of a country to influence and persuade others to do what it wants without the use of force or coercion. It’s the opposite of hard power, in which a country uses coercion and military strength in order to influence other countries. It relies on economic or cultural influences rather than military strength.

Soft power is an indirect way to exercise power and control. A country with a lot of it can convince other countries to adopt some of its morals, values and prominent institutions. Essentially, a country exerting a large amount of soft power can persuade other countries to want the same things it wants and therefore use their influence to advance its own political agenda. It is getting the outcome one wants through persuasion rather than coercion.

Origens of Soft Fower

Power is the ability to get others to do what you want, and soft power is an essential form of power. Nye states that it can come from three resources:

  1. A country’s culture (where it’s attractive to others)
  2. A country’s political values (where it lives up to them at home and abroad)
  3. A country’s foreign policies (where they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority)

Its Importance

Soft power is important because, according to Foreign Affairs, it can be used to gain supporters and partners. For example, United States companies, institutions, churches, foundations and other institutions of civil society all play a part in projecting it, and the cultures and values that the United States have are a form of soft power that allows the U.S. to gain allies. Even things that one may not view as important, like Hollywood movies and American pop culture, are forms of it that can help shape other countries attitudes’ and choices in the long-run.

BBC discusses how soft power can be exerted in one of their articles, in which they talk about a woman named Iryna Olova who grew up in Kiev in the Soviet Union. Olova talks about how fascinated she was with movies such as the Wizard of Oz as a child and states that movies made her feel that America was a happy and sunny place. She eventually left Ukraine and moved her family to America. Even though parts of American culture, like movies, may seem inconsequential to International Relations, according to Nye and the theory of soft power, they are anything but. Some political scientists even say that it helped the United States win the Cold War.


According to Nye, the limitations of soft power are that it is not easily channeled toward a specific outcome and that it can have diffuse effects on the outside world.

Other Examples

In his book, “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics,” Nye gives some examples of it, including the high number of foreign students enrolled at United States Universities and the prominent consumption of American media products worldwide.

– Ashrita Rau

Sources: Foreign Policy 1, Foreign Policy 2 BBC, Diplomacy Education Oxford Dictionary 1, Oxford Dictionary 2 Foreign Affairs
Photo: Flickr

eating dogs
Around the world, people are becoming increasingly aware and disgusted by the market for dog meat. While some activists and international companies have deemed the practice as reflecting poorly on a country, it still seems entirely normal to some. Why do those in the United States consider eating dogs unnatural? How has the market for dog meat survived for so long long with the increasing opposition?

French actress and activist Brigitte Bardot discussed the more popular perspective during a Korean radio interview, where she stated: “Cows are grown to be eaten, dogs are not. I accept that many people eat beef, but a cultured country does not allow its people to eat dogs.”

Where the issue arises for most is the thought of eating an animal meant for companionship. While eating dog is taboo in the West, many countries raise dogs for the specific purpose of eating them. Therefore, the market for dog meat is just as natural as other livestock like pigs and cows.

In China, an annual dog meat festival, held each year in Yulin to celebrate the summer solstice, has attracted increasing negative attention. Those defending the practice asked protesters to explain why they ate beef in order to put it in perspective.

In Korean cities, dogs are raised as pets and are bought and sold for companionship. On the other hand, in the country’s rural areas, dogs are raised for their meat. The distinction does not come with breed but rather depends on where the dog is born.

There are also groups of people who do not have the option to eat what Americans consider traditional livestock. In India, cows are sacred and are thus off limits for being farmed and eaten. For Muslims and Jews, eating pig is forbidden.

Jonathan Safran Foer, a novelist and vegetarian, writes in his book Eating Animals, that euthanizing pets “amounts to millions of pounds of meat now being thrown away every year.”

He adds: “The simple disposal of these euthanized dogs is an enormous ecological and economic problem. It would be demented to yank pets from homes. But eating those strays, those runaways, those not-quite-cute-enough-to-take and not-quite well-behaved-enough-to-keep dogs would be like killing a flock of birds with one stone and eating it, too.”

There is still the unarguable fault in the dog meat industry, which is the current treatment of dogs before they are killed and the method of killing. Governments of nations who practice dog-eating are working on legalizing, licensing and regulating the industry so the methods become more humane.

Even this point has been argued by pro-dog meat people. While some facilities are inhumane in the treatment and killing of the dogs, there are plenty of slaughterhouses in the U.S. with horrid treatment and killing methods for the animals kept there.

If the process is legalized and regulated, dog meat can be added as an option for anyone to eat, and for those who have few options to begin with, this can make a difference.

However, even if eating dog becomes widespread and safe, will it be accepted? It is still considered a strange and barbaric idea in some cultures, but if the practice achieves universal acceptance, then it may make the process safe and widespread enough to feed more mouths than previously thought possible.

Courtney Prentice

Sources: Slate, CNN 1, CNN 2, CNN 3, Wall Street Journal
Photo: CNN

There is a prevailing belief that people living in poverty- people who struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis- are somehow all alike in their mentalities and circumstances. According to this conviction, impoverished individuals are of not only their own socioeconomic class, but essentially, also of their own breed as distinct entities from mainstream, above-poverty line Americans. Disturbingly, this myth known as the culture of poverty has infiltrated many cultural institutions in America, such as education, government, and even entertainment.

An important question to investigate is the origins of this faulty poverty paradigm. How exactly did this flawed yet widely-prevailing notion of America’s poor develop? For starters, the phrase “culture of poverty” traces back to 1961 in Oscar Lewis’ book “The Children of Sanchez” in which Lewis explored small Hispanic communities. In his ethnographic observations, Lewis noted that these communities were violent, disjointed, and short-sighted, proposing that perhaps these characteristics are applicable to all impoverished groups. Decades after the publication of Sanchez, Lewis’ findings, rather being associated with the nation’s poor, are used to define the nation’s poor.

However, Lewis’ work is not the sole contributor to engineering the modern-day culture of poverty myth. Researchers propose that this myth is actually a conglomerate of smaller stereotypes regarding the poor. These stereotypes have managed to remain extant in America through multiple platforms such as media and entertainment in which excessive focus is placed on negative traits that, although universal, have been used to strictly classify the impoverished.

Two poverty myths in particular have been extensively circulated throughout society. For instance, poor people are commonly regarded as unmotivated and unfocused. However, there is no direct empirical evidence that the poor have weaker work ethics than others who are more socioeconomically well off. According to the Economic Policy Institute, since many impoverished adults, especially those with children, hold more than one job, and therefore work more hours per week than other Americans.

Furthermore, poor parents are often regarded as having little regard or interest in the academic well-being of their children due to their perceived lack of care for the institution of education as a whole.  However, although low-income parents value their child’s success as much as higher-income parents, they are less likely to attend school functions. This trend is not necessarily due to differences in attitudes but is more likely due to differences in availability. Since lower-income parents spend more hours per week at work, they have less free time to allocate outside of the work-place.

Therefore, the culture of poverty is not an accurate reflection of the poor, but rather, reflects cultural stereotypes that have no true basis in fact. Many social forces such as social mobility and government assistance (or lack of) play a role in shaping poverty. However, it is important to note that inheritance can work both ways. An individual can inherit his or her family’s wealth just as easily as an individual can inherit his or her family’s poverty.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: ASCD, NPR
Photo: New York Times

The Patrick and Anna M. Cudahy Fund is a foundation that grants money to nonprofit organizations involved in social and youth services, education, art and culture.

The premise of the fund dates back to the early 1920s, when Articles of Association were drawn to break ground on the Alice Dickson Cudahy Clinic. This clinic was created to provide free services to dependent family members of employees at the Cudahy Brothers Company. Some of these free services included medical attention, and education on matters such as child welfare, domestic science and social hygiene. The clinic was able to open on August 1, 1923, thanks to a $19,270.77 donation made by Michael F. Cudahy.

On August 22, 1935, the name of the organization was changed to the Michael F. Cudahy Fund. Upon this change, the association broadened its spectrum of philanthropy efforts to include the severely poverty-stricken and ill. On September 29, 1943, the name of the organization was once again changed, this time to the Patrick and Anna M. Cudahy Fund, in honor of Michael’s parents.

Today, the Fund primarily assists youth organizations located in Wisconsin and Chicago, though some money is granted to charities involving public interest and environmental conflicts. The Fund also accepts international requests affiliated with U.S. nonprofits.

– Meagan Hurley

Sources: Business Journal, Cudahy Fund

How African Artists Broke Through the Global Art World
African art sells for modest amounts in comparison to other contemporary works of art, so why are international collectors and enthusiasts racing to secure as much of it as they can? If worldwide critical acclaim and prestigious awards are any indications, African art could become a profitable investment.

With the South African country of Angola taking the Golden Lion award for best national participation at the Venice Biennale art exhibit, African art has generated extraordinary buzz amongst curators and collectors. The Bonham auction house in London holds the only annual sale dedicated to African art, and the house’s website notes that there has been “an explosion of interest” in recent years for the artwork.

“Created by artists from a multitude of cultures,” the site explains, “African contemporary art reflects the complex heritage of this dynamic continent and demonstrates tremendous potential for investment.”

El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor and teacher at the University of Nigeria, is among the acclaimed African artists whose work has generated such enthusiasm. Channeling his Ghana heritage, many of his works incorporate either clay or wood in conjunction with local goods from his culture, such as Igbo palm mortars and Ghanaian trays. Some of his famous works blend common items together to form monumental and fluid sculptures. For example, his 2007 sculpture “Dusasa II” is a 361.6 lb melding of plastic disks, aluminum, and copper wire. One of his most recent works, “TISA-TISA—Searching for Connection,” was entirely constructed using recycled materials.

El Anatsui’s work is currently featured in museums such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the British Museum in London. He has also created a wall-hanging sculpture for the Royal Academy in London after receiving an invitation to the establishment. In an interview with Gulf News, El Anatsui explained how art has always existed as expression of cultures such as his, and it’s thanks to advances in modern communications that awareness of other cultures has increased.

Angolan photographer Edson Chagas has also garnered international attention after his showpiece Found Not Taken allowed his home country to take the Golden Lion award. A documentary and commentary on consumerism and capitalism, Found Not Taken compiles years of photos taken in Luanda: the city Chagas was born. Although he studied photography in London, he always intended to continue his projects from his home country. Chagas hopes the award will spark more interest in both his work and the art of other Angolan artists.

This increased exposure has allowed Cameroonian curator Koyo Kouoh to secure funding in London for a contemporary African art fair. She notes that African artists are using their art to “promote their country,” and the international focus on countries such as Angola is “not just on war anymore.” Modern art plays an important role in the common perception of cultures and societies, so Africa’s rising popularity will increase awareness of the continent’s triumphs and struggles on a global scale. With economies on the rise in many of Africa’s countries, citizens such as Chagas hopes their governments will take this opportunity to provide stronger education in the arts to train a new generation of artists.

– Timothy Monbleau

Sources: BBC, BBC Economy on the Rise,
Bonhams, Poetics of Line, Golden Lion Award, Metropolitan Museum of Art The British Museum, Gulf News, Tree Hugger, Contemporary And
Photo: skunkandraven

Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering abroad is a great way to make a difference while also exploring new places. The exposure to other cultures, languages, and ways of life creates mind-opening experiences. Waking up day-to-day in an area of need, one begins to appreciate the gifts of his/her own culture as well as appreciate the benefits of a new culture. The friendships made with other volunteers and community members are an added bonus. Here are just some benefits of volunteering abroad:

Utility Maximization and Altruism:

People, by nature, are utility maximizers who engage in certain behaviors in order to derive happiness and satisfaction. In this case, the certain behavior is volunteering. Volunteering instills a sense of “giving back,” or rather giving ones own resources (time, money, services, etc.) to help those less fortunate. Overseas volunteering is truly meaningful in this area. Leaving one’s comfort zone to venture to another country to help out makes this act of giving even more poignant. According to, anyone who decides to volunteer abroad must meet only one important qualification: the urge to make a positive change in the world.

Learn New Languages:

While volunteering abroad, every day is an opportunity to learn the native language. A stroll by a fruit stand is an opportunity to engage the attendant in conversation and learn new vocabulary, even if it is just learning the names of different fruits. Often times English speakers are asked to teach English as a second language which requires relearning grammar rules and usage. What could be so terrible about relearning subject-verb agreement? These better English skills can prove useful in the long run.

Eat Something Different for a Change:

Americans are accustomed to the usual selection of food that is inspected, regulated, processed and enhanced for flavor. Many foreign countries do not face these government expectations with their foods. Volunteers may try fruits, veggies, herbs and meats they never experienced before. Some meals are served fresher and are much cheaper than what most Americans are use to. Some foods are an unexpected treat, and others may be frightening—a fresh fruit with maggots, anyone? Nevertheless, a new menu can yield new favorites, new ways of cooking, and an appreciation for food in its simplest form.

The Cure and Better Manners:

Overseas volunteering is an excellent cure for the “ugly American” syndrome. Volunteers typically receive thorough education about gestures, body language, and conversation to avoid offensiveness. The lessons are a humbling experience and can make a volunteer think twice about how their behavior appears to others in their own culture.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: USA Today,