“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Murmurations of Starlings

The Atlantic - February 28, 2014

When starlings flock together, wheeling and darting through the sky in tight, fluid formations, we call it a murmuration. These murmurations can range from small groups of a few hundred starlings in a small ball, to undulating seas of millions of birds, blocking out the sun. I thought today would be a good day to just take a few moments and appreciate the simple beauty of murmurations, captured by various photographers over the past few years.

To see the photos.....

Partisan Infighting Hinders AIPAC's Iran Lobbying

BY John Hudson

Foreign Policy - FEBRUARY 28, 2014

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most powerful special interest groups in the United States, has an unusual problem on its hands.  On Sunday, March 2, it will welcome a record 14,000 attendees to Washington, D.C., for its annual policy conference. After two consecutive days of pro-Israel speeches, those supporters will storm Capitol Hill to lobby U.S. lawmakers. But according to sources inside and outside AIPAC, the group does not yet have a piece of legislation to pass for the issue it cares about most: Iran's nuclear program.  The absence of a bill or nonbinding resolution reflects AIPAC's bruising battle with the White House that left Democrats and Republicans bitterly divided on the traditionally nonpartisan issue. It's also leading to criticisms that the group doesn't have a clear legislative agenda ahead of its most important lobbying event of the year.

Read more....

Unsupervised robotic construction crew to build flood defenses

Homeland Security News Wire - February 28, 2014

On the plains of Namibia, millions of tiny termites are building a mound of soil — an 8-foot-tall “lung” for their underground nest. During a year of construction, many termites will live and die, wind and rain will erode the structure, and yet the colony’s life-sustaining project will continue. A Harvard University release reports that a team of computer scientists and engineers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, inspired by the termites’ resilience and collective intelligence, has created an autonomous robotic construction crew. The system needs no supervisor, no eye in the sky, and no communication: just simple robots — any number of robots — that cooperate by modifying their environment.
Harvard’s TERMES system demonstrates that collective systems of robots can build complex, three-dimensional structures without the need for any central command or prescribed roles. The results of the four-year project were presented this week at the AAAS 2014 Annual Meeting and published in the 14 February issue of Science.

Read more....

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Ivy League Schools Are So Bad at Economic Diversity

Elite universities should not be asking, “Why do we have so few low-income students?” but “How do we have so many wealthy ones?” 

By Robin J. Hayes

The Atlantic - Feb 27 2014

Yale Alumni Magazine’s cover announced this month that the university “seeks smart students from poor families.” As the illustration of a white man in a business suit reaching past low-hanging fruit demonstrates, Yale believes “they’re out there—but hard to find.” I guess my alma mater feels fortunate to have found me–a native of East Flatbush, Brooklyn and the descendant of a housekeeper, doorman, drug addict, and prisoner. I completed a Master’s and Ph.D there in African American Studies and Political Science in 2002 and 2006, respectively.
The article the cover refers to, “Wanted: Smart Students from Poor Families,” argues that decision-makers at this school and others (including Amherst and Vassar) are sincere in their efforts to both recruit more low-income students and make them “feel more at home” once admitted. The piece inadvertently reveals how the privileged point of view of trustees, administrators, and wealthy alumni donors present serious obstacles to these intentions ever manifesting into reality. Since graduating from Yale, I have taught courses at Williams College and Northwestern, published articles, as well as given lectures and trainings related to the politics of structural inequality. Here are three reasons why I believe elite universities and colleges continue to fail to economically democratize their student bodies.

Read more....

Does journalism have a future?


The Times Literary Supplement - December 18, 2013

People tend to have little sympathy with accounts of crisis in a trade or profession. It comes across as evidence of excessive self-preoccupation, or as a prelude to special pleading before government. Journalism’s difficulties seem to be drawing this kind of reaction from many people who aren’t journalists. Isn’t the press still a swaggering, even power-abusing actor in politics and society? Doesn’t it command vast attention and resources? Isn’t more news being read by more people than ever before?
Out of Print: Newspapers, journalism and the business of news in the digital age shows that something really has changed quite suddenly and dramatically in the press industry. George Brock is a veteran newspaperman, and his main concern in this clear-headed, synoptic and never whiny book is with the institutions where he has spent most of his career. In the United States, newspaper advertising revenue – the main source of economic support by far – was $63.5 billion in 2000. By 2012 it had fallen to $19 billion. (During the same period, advertising revenue at Google went from zero to $46.5 billion.) Employment in the American newspaper industry fell by 44 per cent between 2001 and 2011. In the European Union, newspaper revenue is falling by more than 10 per cent a year. In the UK, newspaper circulation has dropped by more than 25 per cent during the twenty-first century. It would be hard to think of another industry that is going through such a sudden collapse.

Read more....

Genetically Modified Babies


The New York Times - FEB. 23, 2014

BERKELEY, Calif. — AN advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration is set to begin two days of meetings tomorrow to consider radical biological procedures that, if successful, would produce genetically modified human beings. This is a dangerous step. These techniques would change every cell in the bodies of children born as a result of their use, and these alterations would be passed down to future generations.
The F.D.A. calls them mitochondrial manipulation technologies. The procedures involve removing the nuclear material either from the egg or embryo of a woman with inheritable mitochondrial disease and inserting it into a healthy egg or embryo of a donor whose own nuclear material has been discarded. Any offspring would carry genetic material from three people — the nuclear DNA of the mother and father, and the mitochondrial DNA of the donor.

Read more....

New Books on Social and Political Theories

The Middle Classes: Workers, not Owners

The New Left Review Project - February 20, 2014

In a recent Guardian article, Paul Mason discusses the rapid growth of a global ‘new middle class’ of educated, skilled and mostly non-manual workers as a result of globalisation. He argues that while rising incomes have lifted them out of desperate poverty, they now fight on issues such as corruption, democracy, urban infrastructure and healthcare.
The article was informative and refreshing in many ways, especially in situating the question of class globally rather than nationally, and in taking account of the universal shift from manual to non-manual work. But it also revealed the continuing confusion that bedevils public discussion about class – both here and in the rising economies of the global south. In particular, what do we mean when we speak of the middle class, ‘old’ or ‘new’, or indeed the plural ‘middle classes’? And if their defining characteristic is ‘middle’, what lies above and below them?
In most discussion, whether in mainstream academia or in the media – ‘classes’ are seen as separate groupings, based on a shifting amalgam of occupation, income, status and lifestyle. Usually these classes are understood to be arranged in a hierarchy. Social mobility is often a major concern, and it is measured by looking at how many people move upwards (or indeed downwards) from one such designated class to another.


The Unintended Reformation: Contents and discontents of (post)modernity

By Brad S. Gregory

The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion and Public Sphere 
February 27, 2014

The Unintended Reformation is an unusual work of history in deliberately focusing as much on the present as on the past, and in emphasizing the ongoing importance of the Reformation era for understanding the Western world today. Having considered issues related to the book’s genre, method, and assumptions in the first part of my response and others related to its historical arguments and omissions in the second part, the principal focus of the final part of my response will be the reactions of the forum participants to my description and assessment of the present. I will also take up speculation about my supposed agenda, and the book’s lack of ideas for solving contemporary problems.

As I noted briefly in the first part, it is quite possible that someone could agree with my description of our contemporary hegemonic institutions and ideological hyperpluralism but evaluate them differently than I do in my book. In that case we would simply disagree about what is desirable and what is not, presumably as a function of more basic beliefs, as different evaluative expressions within our current hyperpluralism. On this point, I will first simply repeat what is also apparent in the book, namely that its argument is neither a blanket condemnation of modernity nor a thoroughgoing lament about the contemporary Western world (James Chappel’s “Weltschmerz”). Second, the three contemporary practical concerns I mention in the Introduction—a conspicuously uncivil public sphere and political life (especially in the U.S.), global climate change, and a frequently nonchalant attitude in the academy about the alleged lack of non-subjective moral norms—are an attempt to appeal to readers’ moral awareness. I hope that many readers share my (and many others’) view that these are serious problems. Those who do not will obviously be unmoved by my appeal to them and will instead view their invocation as oddly alarmist or exaggerated, as will others who find unproblematic the conditions endured by millions of factory workers in poor countries, for example, or the incoherence of undergraduate education in research universities. In that case we disagree about what is good and bad—which reinforces my point about the subjectivization of morality as a sociological reality but vitiates the force of my moral appeal. I happen to think (and imply in the book) that those who are unperturbed by the subjectivization of morality are naïve, doubly so given the ever more astonishing biotechnological possibilities that may well be around the corner, a concern also expressed by Jürgen Habermas and others. But if someone relishes the prospects of a transhumanistic future, for example, in which individual choice is extended limitlessly via a liberal eugenics to embrace whatever cybernetic innovation and genetic engineering can facilitate, I am afraid I do not know how to reach such a person from my own moral vantage point. But I do not think this describes most readers.

Read more.....

Xi calls for socialism to fill China's spiritual void

Xinhua - 2014-02-26

Chinese president Xi Jinping has reiterated the importance of "core socialist values," urging deep understanding and comprehensive implementation of the moral doctrine nationwide.
While presiding over a high-level meeting on this issue on Monday, Xi asked for widespread publicity of the values, which he called the "moral and ideological foundation" for socialist China,in order to guide morality.
Xi said authorities should make use of various opportunities and occasions to create circumstances for the promotion of these values.
Core socialist values comprise a set of moral principles summarized by central authorities as prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship.


Exporting the Anti-Gay Movement

How sexual minorities in Africa became collateral damage in the U.S. culture wars

By Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma 

The American Prospect - April 24, 2012

In October 2010, a banner headline ran on the front page of the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone: “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” Subheadings warned of these people’s dark designs: “We Shall Recruit 1,000,000 Kids by 2012,” and “Parents Now Face Heartbreaks as Homos Raid Schools.” One of the two men pictured on the front page was David Kato, an outspoken leader of Uganda’s small human-rights movement. Inside the newspaper, his name and home address, along with those of other LGBT Ugandans, were printed. The article called for the “homos” to be hanged.
Three months later, after numerous threats, Kato was bludgeoned to death in his Kampala home. Police said the motive was robbery, but human-rights advocates did not believe the official story. At Kato’s funeral, an Anglican priest condemned homosexuality. Kato’s death was international news, making him the highest-profile victim of the anti-gay hysteria that has enveloped much of sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. Although U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has joined other Western diplomats in being openly critical of African political leaders who fail to defend the rights of their LGBT populations, the crisis afflicting sexual minorities on the continent has its origins in the United States. Pejorative attitudes toward LGBT people in Africa have long been widespread. But the recent upsurge in politicized homophobia has been inspired by right-wing American evangelicals who have exported U.S.–style culture-war politics.


Who Tried to Silence Drone Victim Kareem Khan?

By Murtaza Hussain

The Intercept - 25 Feb 2014

In the early morning hours of February 5, a group of armed men – some dressed in Pakistani police uniforms – appeared at Kareem Khan’s home, awoke him and his family at gunpoint, and took him away in an unmarked vehicle. Khan was hooded, shackled around the wrists and ankles, and driven for hours, eventually arriving at a building where he was thrown into a windowless holding cell. There he stayed for more than a week, during which he was subjected to sensory deprivation and physical abuse. Khan says he was repeatedly beaten on the soles of his feet and threatened with death by his captors. He was kept hooded and shackled for most of the day, and fed only dry bread and water.
“I thought I would never get out,” Khan later told his Pakistani lawyer, Shahzad Akbar. “…I thought I would become one more among thousands of ‘missing persons’ in Pakistan.”

Read more....

Boeing is making a spy phone that self-destructs

By Nick Stockton 

Quartz - February 26, 2014

Boeing has filed papers with the FCC to develop a smartphone for people in the business of secrets. The phone, simply called “Black,” will run an Android-variant operating system, be compatible with other technology, and—like any good spy phone—will self-destruct if you try to figure out its secrets.

This filing comes two years after the original news leaked that the company was working on the smartphone, which will support all the world’s major communications (GSM, LTE, and WCDMA), storage (USB, HDMI, SIM), and wireless (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi) standards.
Read more.....

The Secret Auden

Edward Mendelson

The New York Review of Books - March 20, 2014

W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it.

I learned about it mostly by chance, so it may have been far more extensive than I or anyone ever knew. Once at a party I met a woman who belonged to the same Episcopal church that Auden attended in the 1950s, St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery in New York. She told me that Auden heard that an old woman in the congregation was suffering night terrors, so he took a blanket and slept in the hallway outside her apartment until she felt safe again.

Read more....

7 signs America has regressed — to the 19th century

Workers aren't unionized, and some pols are now advocating child labor. It's like the U.S. has gone back in time

RJ Eskow

AlterNet -

Of course they shut the Federal government down. Tea Party Republicans long for the days when there were no government authorities to enforce laws and restrain the power of unchecked wealth, the days when there was no Justice Department, no SEC, no other agencies protecting Americans from the misdeeds of bankers and corporate titans.
But it already seems as if our entire country has secretly been transported back in time. We may think we’re living in the 21st century, but all the signs suggest we’re living in an earlier and harsher era.
Here are seven signs the United States of America has returned to the 19th century.
1. Wall Street can “send your man around to see my man” again.
Shocked by newly elected President Teddy Roosevelt’s moves against Wall Street, J. P. Morgan went to the White House. “If we have done anything wrong,” said Morgan, “send your man to my man and they can fix it up.”
“That can’t be done,” said Roosevelt. “We don’t want to fix it up,” his Attorney General added, “we want to stop it.” The year was 1902, and 19th-century privilege was over for Wall Street. Now it’s back, and so are the “men”—and as the recent foot-dragging over female Fed chair candidate Janet Yellen highlights, they almost always are men.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pentagon Will Cut Services and Benefits To Soldiers While Protecting Profits of Defense Industry

William Hartung: Those who fight the wars will face cuts, but not high- ranking military personnel or the companies that build weapons

The Real News - February 25, 2014

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.  On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined a Pentagon budget that will reduce the size of the military and curtail certain weapons systems. The proposal is an alternative to across-the-board cuts which will be implemented because of the so-called sequester.  Now joining us to discuss this is William Hartung. William is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.  Thank you so much for joining us. 

WILLIAM D. HARTUNG, DIRECTOR, ARMS AND SECURITY PROJECT, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Yes. Thanks for having me.  NOOR: So let's start off by getting your response to this proposal by Chuck Hagel. So even though the military personnel are going to get cut, the defense budget, the Pentagon's five-year plan, would boost spending by as much as $115 billion over spending caps set in the sequester. So what's happening, basically, is that even though the fighting force is one of the smallest it's been since World War II, the budget is near historic highs. Give us your response.

Read more....

Is San Francisco losing its soul?

The big pay cheques of the tech boom are changing the City by the Bay as Twitter and Google millionaires take over its bohemian haunts. Could this be the end of the city as we know it?

By Zoë Corbyn

The Guardian - February 24, 2014

Poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti came to San Francisco in 1951 because he heard it was a great place to be a bohemian. He settled in the Italian working-class neighbourhood of North Beach with its cheap rents and European ambience. And before long he put the city on the world's counter-cultural map by publishing the work of Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. But despite his status as world and local literary legend, the 94-year-old co-owner of the renowned City Lights bookshop and publishing house doesn't feel so at home in the City by the Bay anymore.
He complains of a "soulless group of people", a "new breed" of men and women too busy with iPhones to "be here" in the moment, and shiny new Mercedes-Benzs on his street. The major art galley in central San Francisco that has shown Ferlinghetti's work for two decades is closing because it can't afford the new rent. It, along with several other galleries, will make way for a cloud computing startup called MuleSoft said to have offered to triple the rent. "It is totally shocking to see Silicon Valley take over the city," says Ferlinghetti, who still rents in North Beach. "San Francisco is radically changing and we don't know where it is going to end up."

Read more....

Denmark Bans Ritual 'Halal' and 'Kosher' Slaughter, Stirs up Animal vs Religious Rights Debate

By Divya Avasthy 

International Business Review - February 22, 2014

Halal and kosher meat will no longer be produced in Denmark, where the ritual slaughter has been banned after years of campaigning by animal welfare groups.
Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Agriculture and Food, backs the decision with certainty of his conscience, even as he is widely quoted by the media as saying, "animal rights come before religion".
The statement has stirred up much controversy and debate from Jewish and Muslim religious groups, which are not willing to take non-halal/kosher meat on a "platter".
Animals in most countries are required to be stunned before slaughter to avoid excruciating pain at the time of death, but Jewish and Muslim rituals require the animal to be conscious during slaughter. Their legs and stomachs shiver, their necks twist and their bodies convulse painfully.

Read more....

Hollywood: Chronicle of an Empire

We examine the dominance of the US entertainment industry and its power to shape perceptions about culture and society.

Al-Jazeera - 24 Feb 2014

"Entertainment is part of our American diplomacy," US President Barack Obama told a crowd last year at a DreamWorks Animation facility. In 2013, it was the Hollywood production Iron Man 3 that made the biggest splash globally, bringing in over $1bn at the box office. In fact, the top 500 grossing films of all time are Hollywood productions.
Hollywood has increasingly made huge inroads into other countries’ box office markets with its blockbusters and studio investments. While countries like China limit the number of foreign films that can be shown at theatres annually, and other countries rely on government assistance to buoy local industries and counter Hollywood’s influence, the US still finds a way to woo non-American audiences.
But at a time when Hollywood’s global reach has never been greater, and as it rakes in millions of dollars each year, what does the dominance of the US entertainment industry say about its power to shape perceptions about society, culture and history? And does this economic and diplomatic might make Hollywood a chronicle of American power?
Empire heads to California to speak to leading directors, producers, film critics and cinema historians to decipher how Hollywood interacts with and affects the rest of the world.

Read more....

Monday, February 24, 2014

All Cities Are Not Created Unequal

By Alan Berube

Brookings - February 20, 2014

That challenge is front and center in America’s big cities today. Obama’s speech followed a series of municipal elections in November 2013 in which inequality figured prominently as a campaign issue. Foremost among these was in New York City, where Bill de Blasio won a landslide election after campaigning to address what he called a “Tale of Two Cities.” Similar themes were sounded in the successful campaigns and first days in office of Marty Walsh in Boston, Ed Murray in Seattle, and Betsy Hodges in Minneapolis. The “Google Bus” in San Francisco’s Mission District has shone a spotlight on growing economic divisions within that city. And income inequality will no doubt be a central issue in mayoral elections during the next couple of years in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Inequality may be the result of global economic forces, but it matters in a local sense. A city where the rich are very rich, and the poor very poor, is likely to face many difficulties. It may struggle to maintain mixed-income school environments that produce better outcomes for low-income kids. It may have too narrow a tax base from which to sustainably raise the revenues necessary for essential city services. And it may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out.

Read more.....

Remittance Flows Worldwide in 2012 U.S. top sending country; India top receiving country

Please select a country on the map

Patterns of global migration have shifted in recent decades and those changes, along with the ups-and-downs of the economy, have also resulted in changes in the flow of remittances —the money that many migrants send back to families in their countries of origin.
International migrants sent $529 billion in remittances back to their home countries in 2012, according to the World Bank. The United States is the number one sender of international remittances, accounting for nearly a quarter of them (23.3%). India ranks at the top of all countries that receive remittances, with $69 billion in 2012.
Tracking remittances worldwide is difficult because many countries do not track funds that are sent or received. Based on data it is able to collect, the World Bank has used a statistical model to estimate the amount of money coming from each sending country to each receiving country. Because these numbers are estimates, there is some room for error.

Read more.....

Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level


The New York Times - FEB. 23, 2014

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.
The proposal, described by several Pentagon officials on the condition of anonymity in advance of its release on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.

Read more....

Computers to surpass human intelligence by 2029

One of America’s head inventors and futurists, Ray Kurzweil, is claiming that computers will be so advanced by 2029 they will be capable of telling us jokes and even flirting. Kurzweil has been known for his bold forecasts about the tech world.
His inventions include speech-recognition machines, scanners, and synthesizer keyboards. For one prediction he had made in 1990, he declared that within 10 years’ time a computer would win in a chess game playing a human. Just seven years later, Garry Kasparov, a grand master at chess, was defeated by the computer known as Deep Blue. The top expert for Google also predicted the wide usage of the Internet.
Kurzweil said, during an interview with The Observer, that a decade ago experts in artificial intelligence (AI) believed that computers would not overtake human being for hundreds of years. "And a pretty good contingent thought that it would never be done,” he added.

Sci-Fi Short Film: "Lost Memories" by - Francois Ferracci

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mark Andrejevic: We Are All “Lab Rats” Online

PBS - February 18, 2014

[With social media, are] kids in a reality show and they are not aware that they are in a reality show?

… On reality TV, in general the terms of production are available, and there you see what’s happening, whereas [in the] online and social media context, there is a huge apparatus that’s collecting information, but it’s largely opaque and invisible. You don’t see it. You can see traces of it when you look for airplane tickets to go to Las Vegas, and then all of a sudden ads for hotels in Las Vegas are popping up on the websites that you visit. …

The opacity of the mechanism that tracks, sorts and mines all the data that you provide is very high. People just aren’t aware it’s going on. You can tell them so they know intellectually, but it’s just not there in the process when you’re online and doing things. It seems to fade into the background.

Google, there was a time when they would say that they’ve kept a record of every search that’s been entered in Google, and if you had that in the foreground of your brain every time you went to Google, it might impact some of the things that you typed into the window. But even if somebody told you that, after a while you’d kind of forget because it’s just not present in the environment.

Read more....

Freedom to discriminate?

Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

Russia Today - February 21, 2014

The Arizona state Senate approved legislation Wednesday permitting businesses in the state to refuse service to potential customers based on an owner’s religious beliefs, infuriating equal rights advocates who claim the bill legalizes LGBT discrimination.
The bill, known officially as Senate Bill 1062, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, which voted along strict party lines. State Democrats proposed eight amendments to the bill in an attempt to stop what they decried as discrimination against the gay and lesbian community, but each of those efforts failed.
The most polarizing part of the bill reads, in part:
“'Exercise of religion' means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

Read more....

The Menace Across the European Continent Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism


Counterpunch -  January 29, 2014 

The violence on the streets of Ukraine is far more than an expression of popular anger against a government. Instead, it is merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism that Europe has seen since the fall of the Third Reich.  Recent months have seen regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition and its supporters – protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union that was seen by many political observers as the first step towards European integration. The protests remained largely peaceful until January 17th when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed brutal violence on the police, storming government buildings, beating anyone suspected of pro-government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev. But who are these violent extremists and what is their ideology?

Read more.....

Can Privacy Be Saved?

By David Cole

The New York Review of Books - March 6, 2014

When the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) first authorized the National Security Agency in May 2006 to collect and search the telephone metadata records of every American—including every number we call, how often we call, when we call, and how long we talk—it did not even write an opinion justifying its decision. Judge Malcolm J. Howard, one of eleven federal judges hand-picked by the chief justice of the Supreme Court to serve on the FISC, simply issued a secret ten-page order, largely comprised of the rules and regulations under which the program was to operate. The order included no discussion whatever of whether the program was constitutional. It asserted formulaically that the government had satisfied the requirements of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but included no explanation of how the program did so.

Read more....

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ukraine: 'The dictatorship has fallen.' But what will take its place?

It was a day of incredible drama throughout Ukraine. After a week of bloody protests the president finally fled, the police melted away and the opposition seized control. Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released and addressed huge crowds in Kiev.

Shaun Walker and Harriet Salem 

The Observer, Saturday 22 February 2014

As one disgraced president fled Kiev in the early hours of Saturday morning, so another aspiring one had landed in the city by evening. Within a few hours of being released from her prison hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Yulia Tymoshenko had flown to Kiev and was being wheeled into Independence Square to address the crowds.
Hunched in a wheelchair, needed because of back problems, but with a resolute expression and her hair pulled into her trademark plait, she yelled rousing words from the stage to the crowd, telling them they must stay in central Kiev until their work was over, and those responsible for the violence are punished.

Read more....

A New Book: The Emergence of Social Democracy in Turkey

The Emergence of Social Democracy in Turkey:
The Left and the Transformation of the Republican Peoples' Party 

By Yunus Emre

I.B. Tauris, 2014

The RPP (Republican People's Party) stands as Turkey's main opposition party - one of two major political blocs, second only to Erdogan's ruling AK Party. Also known as the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), it was the founding party of Ataturk's republican regime and had a history of hostility towards leftist parties. Despite this, by the mid-1960s, the RPP had re-orientated itself as left of centre, as the growing influence of the left inside the RPP pushed it in a new direction. This is hailed as the entry point of social democratic politics into Turkey, and is the focus of Yunus Emre's impressively researched book. He tracks the fluctuations in Turkish politics from the single-party period to the making of a new regime following the 1960 coup, looking at the place of both the RPP and the left in this trajectory, making this essential reading for scholars of Turkish politics and modern history.
Yunus Emre is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Kültür University. He holds a PhD from the Atatürk Institute of Modern Turkish History, Bogaziçi University, Turkey.

The olive oil effect

Spain is exporting its way out of economic intensive care

By Jason Karaian

Quarzt - February 22, 2014

Its banks are a mess and unemployment is rampant. So why are officials from Spain’s economic ministry all smiles?
Thanks to record-setting exports and a fall in imports, Spain chopped its trade deficit in half last year, according to data published by the ministry (link in Spanish). Overall, exports grew by 5.2% in 2013, one of  the better performances from a large European economy. (The UK managed only 1% export growth, Germany and Italy saw exports stagnate, and France saw sales slide by 1.6%.)
Read more....

Chevron’s Lobbyist Now Runs the Congressional Science Committee

By Lee Fang

The Nation - February 21, 2014

For Chevron, the second-largest oil company in the country with $26.2 billion in annual profits, it helps to have friends in high places. With little fanfare, one of Chevron’s top lobbyists, Stephen Sayle, has become a senior staff member of the House Committee on Science, the standing congressional committee charged with “maintaining our scientific and technical leadership in the world.”
Throughout much of 2013, Sayle was the chief executive officer of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying firm retained by Chevron to influence Congress. For fees that total $320,000 a year, Sayle and his team lobbied on a range of energy-related issues, including implementation of EPA rules under the Clean Air Act, regulation of ozone standards, as well as “Congressional and agency oversight related to offshore oil, natural gas development and oil spills.”
Sayle’s ethics disclosure, obtained by Republic Report, shows that he was paid $500,000 by Chevron’s lobbying firm before taking his current gig atop the Science Committee.

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China's economic statecraft: turning wealth into power

By Dr James Reilly 

Lowy Institute for International Peace - 27 November 2013

China today is using economic statecraft more frequently, more assertively, and in more diverse fashion than ever before. Yet fears of Chinese economic coercion should not be overdrawn. In many cases, China’s use of economic statecraft has been counterproductive. China’s domestic challenges and Australia’s considerable economic advantages limit Australia’s vulnerability to potential economic coercion from its largest trading partner.

Key Findings
  • China’s socialist legacy, augmented by its state-led development model, enables Chinese leaders to deploy a combination of economic carrots and sticks to advance their diplomatic agenda.
  • Competing domestic interests, rising regional anxiety, and economic challenges at home limit the effectiveness of China’s economic statecraft.
  • Suspicions that the Chinese government will manipulate its trade and investment to undermine Australian autonomy or security are overblown.

Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?

By Joshua Rothman

The New Yorker - February 21, 2014

A few years ago, when I was a graduate student in English, I presented a paper at my department’s American Literature Colloquium. (A colloquium is a sort of writing workshop for graduate students.) The essay was about Thomas Kuhn, the historian of science. Kuhn had coined the term “paradigm shift,” and I described how this phrase had been used and abused, much to Kuhn’s dismay, by postmodern insurrectionists and nonsensical self-help gurus. People seemed to like the essay, but they were also uneasy about it. “I don’t think you’ll be able to publish this in an academic journal,” someone said. He thought it was more like something you’d read in a magazine.
Was that a compliment, a dismissal, or both? It’s hard to say. Academic writing is a fraught and mysterious thing. If you’re an academic in a writerly discipline, such as history, English, philosophy, or political science, the most important part of your work—practically and spiritually—is writing. Many academics think of themselves, correctly, as writers. And yet a successful piece of academic prose is rarely judged so by “ordinary” standards. Ordinary writing—the kind you read for fun—seeks to delight (and, sometimes, to delight and instruct). Academic writing has a more ambiguous mission. It’s supposed to be dry but also clever; faceless but also persuasive; clear but also completist. Its deepest ambiguity has to do with audience. Academic prose is, ideally, impersonal, written by one disinterested mind for other equally disinterested minds. But, because it’s intended for a very small audience of hyper-knowledgable, mutually acquainted specialists, it’s actually among the most personal writing there is. If journalists sound friendly, that’s because they’re writing for strangers. With academics, it’s the reverse.
Professors didn’t sit down and decide to make academic writing this way, any more than journalists sat down and decided to invent listicles. Academic writing is the way it is because it’s part of a system. Professors live inside that system and have made peace with it. But every now and then, someone from outside the system swoops in to blame professors for the writing style that they’ve inherited. This week, it was Nicholas Kristof, who set off a rancorous debate about academic writing with a column, in the Times, called “Professors, We Need You!” The academic world, Kristof argued, is in thrall to a “culture of exclusivity” that “glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience”; as a result, there are “fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.”

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations

By Zheng Wang

Columbia University, 2012

How could the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) not only survive but even thrive, regaining the support of many Chinese citizens after the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989? Why has popular sentiment turned toward anti-Western nationalism despite the anti-dictatorship democratic movements of the 1980s? And why has China been more assertive toward the United States and Japan in foreign policy but relatively conciliatory toward smaller countries in conflict?  Offering an explanation for these unexpected trends, Zheng Wang follows the Communist government’s ideological reeducation of the public, which relentlessly portrays China as the victim of foreign imperialist bullying during “one hundred years of humiliation.” By concentrating on the telling and teaching of history in today’s China, Wang illuminates the thinking of the young patriots who will lead this rising power in the twenty-first century.  Wang visits China’s primary schools and memory sites and reads its history textbooks, arguing that China’s rise should not be viewed through a single lens, such as economics or military growth, but from a more comprehensive perspective that takes national identity and domestic discourse into account. Since it is the prime raw material for constructing China’s national identity, historical memory is the key to unlocking the inner mystery of the Chinese. From this vantage point, Wang tracks the CCP’s use of history education to glorify the party, reestablish its legitimacy, consolidate national identity, and justify one-party rule in the post-Tiananmen and post–Cold War era. The institutionalization of this manipulated historical consciousness now directs political discourse and foreign policy, and Wang demonstrates its important role in China’s rise.

Introduction: From Tank Man to China's New Patriots 
1. Historical Memory, Identity, and Politics 
2. Chosen Glory, Chosen Trauma 
3. From All-Under-Heaven to a Nation-State: Humiliation and Nation-Building 
4. From Victor to Victim: The Patriotic Education Campaign 
5. From Vanguard to Patriot: Reconstructing the Chinese Communist Party 
6. From Earthquake to Olympics: New Trauma, New Glory 
7. Memory, Crises, and Foreign Relations 
8. Memory, Textbooks, and Sino-Japanese Reconciliation 
9. Memory, Nationalism, and China's Rise

The Shadow Lobbying Complex - The Nation

Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?  On paper, the influence-peddling business is drying up. But lobbying money is flooding Washington, DC like never before. What’s going on?

By Lee Fang

The Nation - February 19, 2014

It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I found myself hanging around the House-side entrance to the Capitol building, hoping to interview lawmakers during the protracted government shutdown in October. The members had been called by the Republican leadership to open just one slice of the government without authorizing funds for the Affordable Care Act, a partial solution that had rallied Democrats in opposition. As dusk settled in, I lingered to interview the representatives as they walked in and out of what everyone considered at this point to be a scene of political theater.

While I waited, a small crowd gathered, composed of men and women in business attire, creating something of a receiving line where they could exchange pleasantries with members of Congress as the latter made their way from their offices across Independence Avenue to cast a perfunctory vote. The city, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers sent home from the job, was far from dead. On Capitol Hill, the real financial engine of Washington, the selling of access and policy hummed along at full speed, and I was in the midst of it.

Many of the people assembled around me, I noticed, were former lawmakers and their associates. Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle was there, along with officials from his firm DLA Piper, to escort a group of international attorneys into a meeting with lawmakers. Men who said they were with Alston & Bird, another law firm heavily involved in lobbying, convened a few feet away. A cluster of businessmen with the credit-rating firm Experian prepped their own series of meetings with congressional staff.

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A New Book: Capitalism in the Age of Globalization The Management of Contemporary Society

By Samir Amin

Zed Books, 2014

Samir Amin remains one of the world's most influential thinkers about the changing nature of North-South relations in the development of contemporary capitalism. In this highly prescient book, originally published in 1997, he provides a powerful analysis of the new unilateral capitalist era following the collapse of the Soviet model, and the apparent triumph of the market and globalization.
Amin's innovative analysis charts the rise of ethnicity and fundamentalism as consequences of the failure of ruling classes in the South to counter the exploitative terms of globalization. This has had profound implications and continues to resonate today. Furthermore, his deconstruction of the Bretton Woods institutions as managerial mechanisms which protect the profitability of capital provides an important insight into the continued difficulties in reforming them. Amin's rejection of the apparent inevitability of globalization was prophetic, as years later we have seen markets and supply chains more integrated than ever.

A landmark work by a key contemporary thinker.

Table of Contents
Foreword by John Bellamy Foster
Preface to the critique influence change edition
1. The Future of Global Polarization
2. The Capitalist Economic Management of the Crisis of Contemporary Society
3. Reforming International Monetary Management of the Crisis
4. The Rise of Ethnicity: A Political Response to Economic Globalization
5. What are the Conditions for Relaunching Development in the South?
6. The Challenges Posed by Economic Globalization: The European Case
7. Ideology and Social Thought: The Intelligentsia and the Development Crisis

Ukraine's bloodiest day: dozens dead as Kiev protesters regain territory from police

Corpses on Kiev's Independence Square as police deploy snipers and use live ammunition  In pictures – violent clashes in Kiev       

By Ian Traynor in Kiev    

The Guardian, Thursday 20 February 2014    

The conflict over Ukraine's future escalated on Thursday into the bloodiest day of violence since protests began, as the opposition routed thousands of riot police to regain control of central Kiev amid signs that the power base of embattled president Viktor Yanukovych was under threat.
Dozens died and hundreds were injured in a day of dramatic violence that turned into a seesaw contest and saw thousands of riot police scuttling from territory they seized on Tuesday. The day ended with thousands of Kiev residents patiently building city centre barricades in the cold and the dark. Police deployed snipers and used live ammunition in a menacing escalation of the violence.

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Book Review: Education and Social Justice in a Digital Age by Rosamund Sutherland

LSE Review of Books - February 20, 2014

Reviewed By Claire Forbes

Against the backdrop of an education system in constant flux – between a wistful nostalgia for the rigour of the three Rs, Latin, and Classics on the one hand, and a bright eyed optimism for technocratic project-based learning on the other –  the publication of Rosamund Sutherland’s Education and Social Justice in a Digital Age could not be more opportune. Sutherland’s initial inspiration for this book was to highlight the ‘persistent and pervasive’ injustices (p.1) within the English education system; namely what she sees as the divide between the private and state education sectors. In challenging current policy and practice, Sutherland argues that to achieve a ‘socially just’ system of education, curricula should focus upon formal knowledge, rather than be purely skill-based. As such, she questions both the role and value of high stakes testing and purports the need to integrate digital technologies more fully within the classroom to enhance learning and cognition. Her view is one of ‘shared responsibility for the education of all young people in order to build a stronger and more just society’ (xii), a notion which permeates her narrative as she puts forth her vision of an education system enabling equity for all.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mark Andrejevic: We Are All “Lab Rats” Online

PBS - February 18, 2014

… On reality TV, in general the terms of production are available, and there you see what’s happening, whereas [in the] online and social media context, there is a huge apparatus that’s collecting information, but it’s largely opaque and invisible. You don’t see it. You can see traces of it when you look for airplane tickets to go to Las Vegas, and then all of a sudden ads for hotels in Las Vegas are popping up on the websites that you visit. …
The opacity of the mechanism that tracks, sorts and mines all the data that you provide is very high. People just aren’t aware it’s going on. You can tell them so they know intellectually, but it’s just not there in the process when you’re online and doing things. It seems to fade into the background.
Google, there was a time when they would say that they’ve kept a record of every search that’s been entered in Google, and if you had that in the foreground of your brain every time you went to Google, it might impact some of the things that you typed into the window. But even if somebody told you that, after a while you’d kind of forget because it’s just not present in the environment.
Nobody goes on a reality TV show to make friends, but people go on these social media sites thinking that they are doing one thing, and they are in fact doing another.
… In some respect, what’s happening in the online digital environment — it’s the platform for reality, for communication, for interaction — has all become part of this information-gathering apparatus. So we start to live in environments where maintaining certain types of social connections — networking professionally, finding information that we need for work or for leisure or for sociality — all of those infrastructures become commercialized and take place on private platforms in ways that are new and unique that didn’t exist before.

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The Muslim Martin Luther? Fethullah Gulen Attempts an Islamic Reformation

A New Cold War? Ukraine Violence Escalates, Leaked Tape Suggests U.S. Was Plotting Coup

Democracynow.org - Thursday, February 20, 2014

A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street battles have erupted between anti-government protesters and police. Last night the country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. But hours later, armed protesters attempted to retake Independence Square, sparking another day of deadly violence. At least 50 people have died since Tuesday in the bloodiest period of Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history. While President Obama has vowed to "continue to engage all sides," a recently leaked audio recording between two top U.S. officials reveal the Obama administration has been secretly plotting with the opposition. We speak to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, "Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War," is out in paperback. His latest Nation article is "Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."

To listen this episode....

Network (1976) - Ned Beatty - "The World is a Business"

US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake

The US push to topple the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro once again pits Washington against South America

By Mark Weisbrot            

theguardian.com, Tuesday 18 February 2014

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that's not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week's demonstrations in Venezuela. They described "the recent violent acts" in Venezuela as "attempts to destabilize the democratic order". They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

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West Has Blood on Its Hands in Ukraine

By Leonid Bershidsky

Bloomberg - Feb 19, 2014

Kiev, a typically quiet city of 2.8 million, saw more deaths last night than in any single day since World War II. At least 25 people were killed, and hundreds were gravely injured, many losing eyes or limbs, in what may be the beginning of full-blown civil war on the eastern border of the European Union.

It is easy to blame Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, as Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt did in a tweet: "We must be clear: Ultimate responsibility for deaths and violence is with President Yanukovych. He has blood on his hands." Because police officers died of gunshot wounds, it is equally easy to accuse radical protesters, as the Russian Foreign Ministry did in this statement: "Blood was spilled in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities last night as a result of criminal activity by radical opposition forces."

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

World's longest free Wi-Fi zone in Patna

By Faizan Ahmad

The Times of India | Feb 20, 2014

If you have an internet-enabled device and you are anywhere on the stretch from NIT-Patna on Ashok Rajpath to Danapur, you can now access the internet free of cost.  Once known as a backward state, Bihar has made a strong bid for a mention on the world's infotech map as chief minister Nitish Kumar unveiled the 20km free Wi-Fi zone, the longest across the globe, at a function christened e-Bihar summit in Patna on Wednesday. Kumar also unveiled a 'city surveillance and dial 100' scheme under which at least 100 CCTV cameras installed in different localities of the state capital became operational. A state data centre has also been opened for storing of the 'data' collected by these cameras.

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Prince Charles Criticised For Taking Part In Saudi Arabian Sword Dance

By Charlotte Meredith

The Huffington Post UK  |  19/02/2014

Prince Charles has been criticised for joining members of the Saudi royal family and taking part in an Ardah or sword dance in a stadium in the capital Riyadh.  Sword in his hand and wearing traditional robes, the Prince of Wales looked "painfully awkward" as he took part in a ceremony to celebrate cultural life in Saudi Arabia.  But human rights groups have slammed the move, saying the royal "should be under no illusions that outside of the palatial royal residences of Riyadh and Doha, the human rights situation in both countries is desperately bad."

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Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life

By Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings 

Times Higher Education - 23 January 2014  

Beset by turmoil, an inimitable critic wrote as if from the future. Joanna Hodge on a material force

Reading Walter Benjamin is notoriously a hazardous affair: the range and variety of his writings seduce his readers into finding only that which they themselves have sought out. Theodor Adorno and Gershom Scholem, Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Derrida have fallen foul of this rule, to greater and lesser extents. Writing about him is even more challenging: his writings are inimitable, both in the rigour with which they anatomise their material, and in the elegance and efficacity of their experiments with form, to do justice to that material. His writings display a cumulative effort to develop modes of presentation adequate to the turmoil of his times. They are innovative to the limit in ways that still startle and challenge. This study, subtitled A Critical Life, admirable in so many ways, appears to duck this challenge by opting for the classical, chronological form of intellectual biography, starting with a birth on 15 July 1892 and ending with the emblematic suicide in 1940.

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For a theory of destituent power

Giorgio Agamben

Public lecture in Athens, 16.11.2013

Invitation and organization by Nicos Poulantzas Institute and SYRIZA Youth 

A reflection on the destiny of democracy today here in Athens is in some way disturbing, because it obliges to think the end of democracy in the very place where it was born. As a matter of fact, the hypothesis I would like to suggest is that the prevailing governamental paradigm in Europe today is not only non democratic, but that it cannot either be considered as political. I will try therefore to show that the European society today is no more a political society: it is something entirely new, for which we lack a proper terminology and we have therefore to invent a new strategy.

Let me begin with a concept which seems, starting from September 2001, to have replaced any other political notion: security. As you know, the formula “for security reasons” functions today in any domain, from everyday life to international conflicts,  as a password in order to impose measures that the people have no reason to accept. I will try to show that the real purpose of the security measures is not, as it is currently assumed, to prevent dangers, troubles or even catastrophes. I will be consequently obliged to make a short genealogy of the concept of “security”.

One possible way to sketch such a genealogy would be to inscribe its origin and history in the paradigm of the state of exception. In this perspective, we could trace it back to the Roman principle Salus publica suprema lex, public safety is the highest law, and connect it with Roman dictatorship, with the canonistic principle necessity does not acknowledge any law, with the comites de salut publique during French revolution and finally with article 48 of the Weimar republic, which was the juridical ground for the nazi regime. Such a genealogy is certainly correct, but I do not think that it could really explain the functioning of the security apparatuses and measures which are familiar to us. While the state of exception was originally conceived as a provisional measure, which was meant to cope with an immediate danger in order to restore the normal situation, the security reasons constitute today a pemanent technology of government. When in 2003 I published a book in which I tried to show precisely how  the state of exception was becoming in western democracies a normal system of  government, I could not imagine that my diagnosis would prove so accurate. The only clear precedent was the Nazi regime. When Hitler took the power in february 1933, he immediately proclaimed a decree suspending the articles of the Weimar constitution concerning personal liberties. The decree was never revoked, so that the entire Third Reich can be considered as a state of exception which lasted twelwe years.

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Professors, We Need You!

By Nicholas Kristof

The New York Times - FEB. 15, 2014

SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.
The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.
One reason is the anti-intellectualism in American life, the kind that led Rick Santorum to scold President Obama as “a snob” for wanting more kids to go to college, or that led congressional Republicans to denounce spending on social science research. Yet it’s not just that America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also marginalized themselves.
“All the disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public,” notes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and now the president of the New America Foundation.

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Public Sociology in the Age of Twitter

By Chris Prener  

Work in Progress - February 19, 2014  

Over the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote a widely read piece asking where the public intellectual has gone. For those of you who may have missed the editorial, Kristof argues that the culture of PhD programs and the tenure process have forced the academy inward, celebrating dense prose published in little-read, high-priced journals. He notes that academics have been slow to embrace blogging and the use of social media platforms. Kristof also argues the research academics produce has far fewer consequences or conclusions for policy and the public than it has in the past, meaning that the “public intellectual” is a dying breed.  Almost immediately, the various public intellectuals that Kristof couldn’t find took to their blogs and Twitter accounts with gusto, reminding him and us that there are indeed many academics that have made a point of sharing their work on public platforms. Perhaps my favorite response comes from a guest post at Tenured Radical. The writer argues that, as a public university professor, she works as a “public intellectual” every day of the week. Kristof has re-tweeted many of the critiques, creating a running dialogue about his piece on his Twitter feed.

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MA in Visual Sociology

This programme is designed for students who are interested in new ways of exploring and understanding the social world through the use of visual, sensory and other experimental approaches. It allows you to study sociological issues alongside innovative methods.

The MA will enable you to intervene in and represent the social world by developing the ability to undertake empirical research and present it publicly in a variety of media and materials.
You will engage with sociology as an inventive research practice, orientated towards the creative deployment of research methods.

Programme overview

The MA in Visual Sociology provides an introduction to the range of debates in visual and sensory sociology, encouraging you to build on these by using visual and sensory methodological practices to carry out critical social research in your areas of interest, whether this is science and technology, contemporary capitalism, gender and sexual cultures, human rights, globalisation or other aspects of social life.
The programme combines lectures and seminars with practical sessions and workshop-based projects in which you develop a hands-on approach to sociological research, providing a skill base in methods which could be used in public sector contexts, art/media research, design or commercial application.
As well as presenting your ideas through writing, during the course you will have the opportunity to produce a range of different outputs including exhibitions, visual models and film/video. Critical feedback sessions function as a testing ground for individual projects.
Themed projects allow groups of students to further develop a portfolio of research outputs geared to a variety of audiences. The dissertation allows you to undertake a substantive research project geared to your individual interests.
You will have access to the Visual Media Lab, which offers post-production and editing stations, as well as equipment for photography and video. Students can also borrow equipment from College-wide Media Equipment Centre.
The MA is based in the Department of Sociology, the joint top Sociology department in the UK, home of The Methods Lab and at the forefront of research using live methods. It is taught by staff with a wide range of experience in both Sociology and interdisciplinary research, including visual and experimental approaches.

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More than 500 Indian workers have died in Qatar since 2012, figures show


As Qatar construction boom gathers pace ahead of 2022 World Cup, Indian government confirms scale of death toll

The Guardian, Tuesday 18 February 2014

More than 500 Indian migrant workers have died in Qatar since January 2012, revealing for the first time the shocking scale of death toll among those building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.
Official figures confirmed by the Indian embassy in Doha reveal that 237 Indians working in Qatar died in 2012 and 241 in 2013. A further 24 Indians have died in January 2014.
These come after the Guardian revealed last month that 185 Nepalese workers had died in Qatar in 2013, taking the total from that country to at least 382 over two years.
Human rights groups and politicians said the figures meant Fifa could not "look the other way", and should be leading demands for Qatar to improve conditions for the estimated 1.2 million migrant workers fuelling a huge construction boom.
The figures from the Indian embassy show that 233 Indian migrants died in 2010 and 239 in 2011, taking the total over four years to 974. Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in December 2010, there have been 717 recorded Indian deaths.

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Cairo’s GrEEK Campus Underscores Egypt’s Tech Revolution

A block away from Cairo’s Tahrir Square where a political revolution took place a couple of years ago, a digital transformation is underway at Egypt’s first tech park, the GrEEK Campus.
“The idea started with a conversation”, said Ahmed El-Alfi, chairman of Sawari Ventures and founder of the project. One of the Sawari portfolio companies, located across the street from another chip design company, told Mr. El-Alfi about the conversations that they were having together that sparked ideas for collaboration. The next day Mr. El-Alfi started looking into putting more companies next to each other, “because the heart of technology is cool conversations.”
The project was launched last November by hosting the Egypt Rise-Up Summit where tens of startups and hundreds of entrepreneurs came to present their work and learn from each other.
While the event took place on the GrEEK campus, entrepreneurship is not all “Greek” to Egyptians. Talaat Harb, the late Egyptian financial business magnate, set an example in starting the first Egyptian Bank and Insurance Company in 1920.