The List

Tortured Reading

From the world's "best" travel guides, selections of the worst history and most contorted politics.

You're all ready for your big, foreign adventure: Bags are packed, tickets purchased, and you've dog-eared that copy of the Lonely Planet to guide you around paradise. But along with helping you find the best beaches and or a gem of a hotel, you might be getting a bit of historical revisionism as well. As Michael Moynihan writes in "Leftist Planet," his article in this month's Foreign Policy, our favorite travel books are a veritable buffet of "factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing."

"There's a formula to them," Moynihan writes. "A pro forma acknowledgement of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions." Here's a selection of some of the worst:

"Gora Sekirnaya: Literally 'Hatchet Mountain," Gora Sekirnaya is 10km northwest of the village and is infamous thanks to the torture Alexander Solzhenitsyn alleged took place there in his Gulag Archipelago (though scholars now dispute many of his claims)." - Lonely Planet: Russia and Belarus

"The [Museum of Communism's] politics are a bit simplistic -- the popular postwar support for the [Communist] Party is underplayed -- but it's worth tracking down for the memorabilia alone." - The Rough Guide to Czech Republic

"[Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's* book] Mao: The Untold Story is a massive and well-researched character assassination; indeed, it's hard not to suspect that axes are being ground." - The Rough Guide to Beijing

"The Gaza pullout, despite its vast political significance, was undermined when the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) returned a year later in Operation Summer Rain [sic]." - Lonely Planet: Israel & the Palestinian Territories

"Ahmadinejad was reported as saying Israel should be ‘wiped off the map'. The translation of what he actually said in Farsi has been widely debated, but the message that went out was fairly clear: Iran wants to nuke Israel. Fortunately, about 99% of Iranians - and perhaps even Ahmadinejad himself - don't want this at all." - Lonely Planet: Iran

"‘State sponsor of terrorism': Another old chestnut - Iran has long been accused of establishing and funding Palestinian ‘terror' groups Hezbollah and Hamas." - Lonely Planet: Iran

"Reforms by the young president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, may not have been as wide-ranging as many might have hoped, but there is certainly a feeling of optimism in the capital. Culture and tourism are high on the agenda and Damascus has responded with a flurry of art gallery and hotel openings (including the long-awaited Four Seasons)." - Lonely Planet: Syria

"Owned by faceless multimedia conglomerates, the majority of California's radio stations won't tell you anything particularly useful or insightful about the state - unless you're a fan of zealous political ranting, round-the-clock sports coverage or, more helpfully, traffic reports. It's best to skip most specialty stations on the AM frequency - although AM chat shows, with their often angry callers and hosts can be hilarious and illuminating, if not in the intended sense." - Rough Guide to the United States

"Svay Rieng Province: During the Vietnam War, American forces were convinced that this was where the Vietnamese communists' version of the Pentagon was situated. While there were undoubtedly a lot of Vietnamese communists hiding in Cambodia during much of the war, there was no such thing as a Pentagon." - Lonely Planet: Cambodia

"Syria was the original suspect [in the Lockerbie bombing]. But when Syria supported the Allies in the Gulf War against Iraq, suspicion suddenly shifted to Libya. One of the most credible theories was that the bombing had been ordered by Iran in retaliation for the shooting down of an Iran Air airbus by a US warship in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988." - Lonely Planet: Libya

"Soon after coming to power, Libya's revolutionary government decided that Libya was to be transformed into a modern nation. As part of this goal, entire communities were moved from Saharan oases into often custom-built accommodation, encouraged by free, modern housing with electricity, air-conditioning and integrated sewage systems." - Lonely Planet: Libya

"Cuba's Olympians are living proof that success at sport is not just about sponsorship, equipment and million-dollar contracts" - Lonely Planet: Havana

"Such uniqueness is a vanishing commodity in an increasingly globalized world. Grab it while it's still there." - Lonely Planet: Cuba

"So there was a way into the land on the edge of the world, that small pocket of mountains that the Western press was forever wailing to be a worry and a menace, this secretive, hermetic state referred to as Stalinist on good days, that final bastion of high ideals and base deeds." - Bradt: North Korea

"The village of Panmunjom sits bang in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. You'll see much the same from the north as the south, but with the propaganda reversed -- all of a sudden it was the US Army that started the Korean War and Kim Il-sung who won it. Interestingly, many visitors note that the cant is just as strong on the American [sic] side (though usually more balanced)." - Rough Guide to Korea

"Few people's historical legacy is simultaneously greater and more uncertain than that of Iosif Jughashvili, the Gori cobbler's son who went on to rule the largest country on earth for a quarter of a century. Few would question his achievements: were it not for the Soviet role in WWII, Nazi Germany would probably have won, and in the space of a decade he turned the Soviet Union from a peasant economy into a vast industrial powerhouse.... Yet the suffering of millions cannot be forgotten.... In a country [Georgia] that is still recovering from post-Soviet chaos, and where many still do not reap much material benefit from capitalism, it's perhaps not surprising that some still say they would like to see another Stalin in charge." - Lonely Planet: Georgia, Armenia, & Azerbaijan

*Correction, Aug. 13, 2012: The original version misspelled the authors' names. 

Kevin Jaako via Flicker

The List

Jobs of the Future

As technology shifts the workforce, some surprisingly traditional jobs are on the chopping block. Two words: medical robotics.

In 1945, when more than 15,000 Manhattan elevator operators and maintenance workers went on strike, New York's skyline simply shut down. Business ground to a halt for a full workweek, causing Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to desperately appeal for the strikers to return to work. Today, of course, the elevator operator is another casualty of automation, along with the likes of the professional typist and the switchboard operator. But though fears of a robot army displacing hordes of human laborers have so far proved premature, today's global workforce is at a moment of major upheaval (even putting aside widespread unemployment).

We're still not quite at Ray Kurzweil's "singularity" -- the move to a world where humans are more integrated with digital and automated technologies -- but get ready: Many jobs we now take for granted will soon disappear, while others will emerge that are simply unimaginable today. Here's a look at five jobs that may be on the chopping block and what might replace them:

Market researcher —> Predictive data analyst

Every minute YouTube users upload 48 hours of video, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content, and Google receives 2 million search queries, according to the business analytics company Domo. As Big Data gets even bigger, fewer people will be needed to collect information, and more people will be needed to analyze and discover the value stored within these billions of terabytes. Some of the sexiest and best-paying jobs of the next 10 years will belong to the likes of Internet statisticians and data miners, people who don't just crunch raw numbers but analyze their hidden patterns to shape business decisions.

Visionary: Andrew Pole, statistician for Target and leading practitioner of consumer behavior prediction.

Hospital orderly —> Medical roboticist 

In this summer's sci-fi blockbuster Prometheus, an astronaut climbs into a fully robotic surgical pod to have an alien baby removed by cesarean section. Although extraterrestrial cross-breeding is a ways off (let's hope), advanced medical robots are rapidly evolving to keep up with an aging global population. Japan leads the way in robot innovation to care for its growing elderly population, including rehabilitative and therapeutic robots from Honda and Toyota. Medical roboticists will be needed to design, build, and operate these intelligent devices, which will increasingly replace humans -- and provide more precise care -- in doctors' offices and hospitals.

Visionary: Catherine Mohr, director of medical research at Intuitive Surgical, which develops cutting-edge surgical robots and procedures.

Teaching assistant —> Educational technologist

While public university systems in many countries are plagued by inadequate funding, higher education as a whole is one of the fastest-growing sectors: 170 million people were enrolled in higher ed in 2009, a 160 percent increase from 1990. And online education, once derided as correspondence classes for those who couldn't get into a four-year college, is booming. Software coders and curriculum developers will be needed to design online courses that deliver memorable learning in a new virtual medium. On the heels of Udacity and MIT's OpenCourseWare, new educational platforms have emerged that require the virtual curation of online, collaborative student groups, facilitating a multidirectional learning process. Rejoice! The days of tweed-jacketed professors droning on in lecture halls are nearly over.

Visionary: Salman Khan, founder of the popular, free online education platform Khan Academy, which features more than 3,000 videos teaching everything from basic algebra to the French Revolution.

Construction foreman —> Smart engineer

Bricks and mortar aren't what they used to be. Construction represents more than $7 trillion of the world's economic output, and it's expected to grow to $12 trillion by 2020, as emerging markets bulge in China, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. And new transportation systems -- from driverless cars to maglev trains -- require infrastructure to be updated and reinvented. In developed countries, creaking urban centers will be retrofitted -- or replaced -- with new, sustainable technologies and materials. And with the development of "smart houses," already in the works from Microsoft, new types of engineers, designers, and construction workers will be needed to seamlessly integrate and install digital technology in our homes.

Visionary: Sebastian Thrun, who led development of the Google self-driving car.

Tour guide —> Space navigator

There's almost nowhere you can't get to by plane or boat these days. And with a flourishing private space race, a ride above Earth's atmosphere soon won't be solely for astronauts (or the ridiculously rich). The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration predicts space tourism will be a billion-dollar industry within the next 10 years. Virgin Galactic has more than 500 reservations for suborbital flights, slated to launch as soon as next year. And the space venture company Bigelow Aerospace plans to open a space hotel in 2016. It may sound like something out of an Isaac Asimov novel, but if there's one thing we know about the future of the workforce, it's that wherever professionals and technologists are going, sci-fi writers have already been.

Visionary: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, poised to be the first suborbital space tourism company.

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