“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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Better Life Index: Infographic shows what people around the world value most


The Independent - Wednesday 29 April 2015 

An infographic map has shown the main priorities in almost every country around the world based after a survey asked people what they value most in life.
The OECD Better Life Initiative has been collecting information on a continuous basis since 2011, and to date has received over 60,000 responses from over 180 countries.
The result, called the Better Life Index, is intended to allow viewers to compare well-being across countries, based on the 11 topics the OECD identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

LBJ’s Other War

Fifty years ago today, the United States invaded the Dominican Republic, continuing its sordid history in Latin America.

by Rory Fanning

JACOBIN - 4.28.15

Fifty years ago today, four hundred United States Marines landed on the shores of the Dominican Republic, beginning a fourteen-month occupation of the country.
Dubbing it “Operation Powerpack,” President Johnson’s administration sold the invasion with gruesome lies that played off mid-sixties anticommunist hysteria and a manufactured national security risk. On April 28, 1965, Johnson alerted the American public of the operation as it was happening in a brazen White House press conference, saying it was necessary to “protect American lives.”
The US had long viewed Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic’s brutal dictator, as an ally who helped offset the political influence of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. But after Trujillo’s assassination, Juan Bosch, a liberal reformer and one-time political prisoner, was elected president.


Robots are infiltrating the growth statistics

Scott Andes and Mark Muro

BROOKINGS | April 27, 2015

Robots remain an object of quizzical concern—and confusion. In early April the Third Way think tank published research by Henry Siu and Nir Jaimovich that attributes to robots and automation the fact that routinized jobs have all but vanished from the economic recovery.
And yet, in February, Larry Summers professed himself nonplussed that, for all of the anecdotal evidence that automation is altering the workplace and presumably increasing productivity, the “productivity statistics over the last dozen years are dismal.” In other words, something is failing to compute in the automation debate.
Especially frustrating has been the fact there hasn’t been much macroeconomic research on the impact of robots to persuade commentators to move from anecdote to analysis.


Private Surveillance Drones Take Flight Over Iraq

The Kurds have help from an American entrepreneur



It was a clear day in mid-March when a drone flew over the disputed city of Sinjar in northern Iraq, photographing Islamic State’s fighting positions.
When the drone landed after its 13-minute flight, a small crowd of Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers cheered and smiled. They were puzzled by this odd airplane with white polystyrene wings so small it could fit inside the trunk of a car. They had never seen anything like it before.
The flight plan had seven different points of interest to capture over nearly five miles of flight. The GoPro camera attached to the LA-300 UAV was also able to photograph the details of buildings used as weapons caches.
The Daesh — what Kurds call Islamic State — heard it flying over their heads and broadcasted an alarm by radio. The jihadis thought the United States was about to launch an air strike.


Corporate America’s Evolution on L.G.B.T. Rights

 By Richard Socarides

THE NEW YORKER - April 27, 2015

Twenty years ago, when I was working as a White House special assistant in Bill Clinton’s public-liaison office, one of my jobs was to rally support for the President’s initiatives. We often focussed on enlisting business leaders, among whom the President had many supporters, thanks in part to the country’s robust economy. When I tried, however, to get C.E.O.s to endorse Clinton’s gay-rights initiatives, which included expanding protections against employment discrimination and hate crimes, as well as appointing gays to positions requiring confirmation by the U.S. Senate, I got very few takers. Just getting executives to a meeting about gay rights was a challenge, even though they generally liked being invited to the White House. I remember one event, in particular, for which the best we could do was get a producer, who was gay himself, to represent the business community. The entertainment industry was, at the time, the only business that wanted anything to do with gay rights.

I was thinking about that era as I read the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of marriage equality by three hundred and seventy-nine major businesses and business organizations, in connection with four landmark cases that will be argued before the Court on Tuesday. The brief has been signed by a broad cross-section of American businesses from every region of the country, reflecting the commitment to the issue that has evolved, at first slowly and then forcefully, over the past decade. The brief argues that laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples “impose a significant burden on us and harm our ability to attract and retain the best employees.”


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

China has become world's second largest vineyards: OIV

English.news.cn | 2015-04-29

PARIS, April 28 (Xinhua) -- China has become the world's second largest vineyard owner with about 800,000 hectares of vineyards all over the country, Jean-Marie Aurand, the director general of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), has said.  Spain remains in top place with its 1.02 million hectares of vineyards, while France dropped to the third place after China.  The global wine production in 2014 stood at 279 million hectoliters, of which China contributed 11.1 million hectoliters, said Aurand on Monday, adding that China's booming wine regions were the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Ningxia and Sichuan.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Here’s How Managers Can Be Replaced by Software

Devin Fidler  

Harvard Business Review - April 21, 2015

Fortune 500 executives spend a fair amount of time thinking about how automation and the Internet are changing the nature of employment, but they rarely wonder how technology will have an impact much closer to home: on their own jobs.
For the last several years, we have been studying the forces now shaping the future of work, and wondering whether high-level management could be automated. This inspired us to create prototype software we informally dubbed “iCEO.” As the name suggests, iCEO is a virtual management system that automates complex work by dividing it into small individual tasks. iCEO then assigns these micro-tasks to workers using multiple software platforms, such as oDesk, Uber, and email/text messaging. Basically, the system allows a user to drag-and-drop “virtual assembly lines” into place, and run them from a dashboard.


Francis Fukuyama: "The Origins of the State: China and India"

Conversations with History - Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Conversations With History - Francis Fukuyama

Samuel Huntington on the 'Clash of Civilizations'

Barack Obama’s welcome Kissinger realism

Edward Luce

The essence of diplomacy: when adversaries come to terms, neither gets everything they want

Financial Times - April 19, 2015

The biggest rap against Barack Obama’s foreign policy is that he is naive. Yet, as his presidency matures, Mr Obama is showing qualities one would normally associate with Henry Kissinger — the arch-realist of US diplomacy. Neoconservatives and liberals alike care about the internal character of regimes with which the US does business. Mr Kissinger stands apart from that tradition. The less Mr Obama preaches morality to foreigners, the more he distances himself from the exceptionalists — the more opportunities he creates. It is a welcome sign of a president with a learning curve. The chief example is Mr Obama’s evolution on the Middle East. In 2009, he went to Cairo to offer a new chapter in relations between the west and the Muslim world. His felicitous words went down well in the region but were quickly forgotten. Today Mr Obama gives fewer speeches but has a bigger appetite for deeds. The best measure is his recent framework nuclear deal with Iran. Much to the chagrin of his critics, the agreement is silent on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism abroad and repression at home. Its focus is on curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.


Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Academic Mailing List Virginia Tech

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Do grades matter? Depends if you’re asking Google or Goldman Sachs

BY Max Nisen

QUARTZ - APRIL 20, 2015

Goldman Sachs and Google are both thought of as companies that compete for talent. But they have different ways of spotting it.  One of the best-known—and surprising—results of Google’s internal research into hiring and success is that academic track records don’t really matter. In a New York Times interview (paywall), HR chief Laszlo Bock said university grades are “worthless as a criteria [sic] for hiring.” At the People Analytics Conference April 10-11 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school, Bock reiterated the point:     

"We did a bunch of analysis and found that grades are a little predictive your first two years, but for the rest of your career don’t matter at all." 

Other companies, however, have found something different. At the same conference, Goldman Sachs managing director and operations data lead Afsheen Afshar spoke about the investment bank’s own data-intensive efforts to see if it’s missing potentially interesting candidates. The result is a very different way of thinking about the grade-point averages that universities use to measure academic achievement: “GPA isn’t the whole story, but it is part of it,” Afshar said at a panel discussion. “Leadership went into the analysis thinking it might not mean anything, but it does matter.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The End of Development

BBC - MARCH 7, 2015

Anthropologist Henrietta Moore argues that the age of development is over and that we need new ideas on how to improve human lives.


Does the Development Industry really need new clothes?

Africa is a country - March 18, 2015

Maria Hengeveld 
(She is a graduate student at Columbia University. Previously she lived in Cape Town, South Africa) 

If you don’t work in the international development field, it may have escaped your attention but we currently find ourselves in the dawn of a new global development epoch. As the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in September 2015, their replacement – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – will soon take over.
The ultimate goal of this brand new set of global standards and targets is to put in place the strategies, principles and partnerships to make this world a more equal and just place over the next fifteen years. The recently released synthesis report offers a (provisional) blueprint of what sustainability will look like. Its ultimate aim? Ending poverty, transforming lives and protecting the planet. The first goal is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere”.
The word sustainable shows up no less than 199 times in the report’s 34 pages (plus 12 hits for sustainability). As it stands, there are seventeen goals, 169 targets and six essential elements (dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice and partnership) that will guide the allocation of trillions of development dollars and shape national policies of member states (though the extent of the latter will differ in each country). With ambitions this high, the SDGs are worth speculating about, as evidenced by a slew of recent op-eds and blog posts.
With fifteen years of the MDGs behind us, an evaluation of their impact seems a logical starting point to assess the new agenda’s potential to drive positive change. Yet, as some commentators have pointed out, there are some notable differences between the two agendas. One major difference between the old and the new set of goals is the process to create them. Unlike the ten MDGs, which were established by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a handful of confidantes, the SDGs are the product of huge rounds of global consultations. A consequence of the more inclusive approach of the SDGs, as some governments and human rights NGOs have lamented, is that the new goals and targets are too many, and lack both clarity and direction. For economics professors Abhijit Banerjee and Varad Pande, who wrote about it in the New York Times, it will be challenging to balance ambition with practicality.  Former World Bank Economist Charles Kenny is skeptical about the impact of the MDGs and, by implication, the potential of the SDGs. According to him, the MDGs may have led to an increase in aid – but it’s not clear they always led to progress. One critical problem of the new agenda, Kenny argues, is that the goals lack a clear rationale on what, exactly, they will accomplish and how.
Similarly, Duncan Green, an advisor for Oxfam, argues that we lack the actual evidence to show that the MDGs influenced government policies. Drawing on the findings of a report called Power of Numbers, he points to the limitations and unintended consequences of measuring justice and human well being with quantifiable targets. One example, offered by the report and cited by Green, is the MDGs’ focus on gender parity in education, the workforce and the political sphere. “’These narrow targets were a dramatic change from the more transformative understanding of “gender equality” that had emerged from the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women and the civil society movements of the 1990s.” With regards to education, the MDGs’ preoccupation with raising primary school access, often hailed as one of its greatest achievements, has been singled out for its detrimental effect on the quality of education, as many schools lack the resources and teaching staff to actually accommodate the newcomers. While it’s important to get all children in school, enrollment and attendance rates don’t tell us much about what they’ve learned in class.
William Easterly, currently a Professor at NYU and famous for his skepticism towards development aid, told the New York Times that development experts “mistake development for an engineering problem” when in reality development progress only happens “when people identify problems and push for solutions through their political systems.” He recently shared on Devex that the SDGs mirror the development community’s “fetish with action plans.” To him, the excessive usage of the term sustainability in a global framework that tries to please everyone rendered the project somewhat empty. Yet even he admits that both the MDG and the SDG share the potential to spur “advocacy and motivation.” However, with the efforts and budgets that are invested in the SDGs, they should amount to a great deal more.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ibn Khaldun, Islam’s Man for All Seasons By Benedikt Koehler

CapX - 19 April 2015

Tensions tearing at the basis of Islamic societies are never more acute than when stoked in the name of Islam. Idealists invoking Islam as a lever for change spark upheavals that time and again hand power to cynics. Looking for an explanation why Islamic societies wallow in paralysis, some suggest Islamic societies stagnate because Islam itself does not admit of contemplating change in society, that Islam, to put it simply, comes without a toolkit for handling social change. To think so is tempting – but wrong.
The very agenda of social sciences, why and how change occurs in society, was mapped by Ibn Khaldun who produced a coherent body of analysis of why societies rise, peak, and wane. Ibn Khaldun spread himself across so many disciplines and spheres of work, one wonders how so many activities fit into a single CV. Ibn Khaldun was born in 1332 in Tunisia to a family with a tradition of diplomatic service in Spain and the Maghrib, and he initially followed in his family’s footsteps into a diplomatic career that took him to act as lead negotiator in several diplomatic missions, but he fell from favour at court and chose to move to Egypt where he served as a senior judge until his death in 1406.



Obama’s long & passionate Monday with Saban, Foxman, Hoenlein and other Jewish leaders demonstrates power of Israel lobby US Politics 
Philip Weiss on April 14, 2015

‘Everything Hillary Clinton will do will always be for Israel’ — Saban warns the Republicans US Politics 
Philip Weiss on April 18, 2015 

Univision owner: 'When Hillary Clinton is president...' 
By Eddie Scarry | April 17, 2015

Battle of the billionaires: Adelson vs. Saban

When Sheldon Adelson goes to bat against Haim Saban in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, one thing's for sure: It's not good for Israel.

By Avner Hopstein   

Hareetz | Apr. 20, 2015

Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban, a major donor and fundraiser for the Democratic Party and one of those closest to the Clintons, was not happy with the results of the 2008 election campaign. He apparently foresaw U.S. President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech, the agreement with the Iranians and perhaps even the present frigid atmosphere in relations between Jerusalem and Washington. I met with him in December 2008, a moment before Obama assumed office, for an interview in his home in Malibu.
The view was breathtaking. A waiter offered me a soft drink, and Saban hissed: “And me you don’t bring anything. They always screw the blacks.” This comment led to a discussion of the new president. “I’m very, very worried,” he said repeatedly. He said that he had heard from people close to Obama that he intended to subject Israel to new standards of work with the administration, commenting that Obama’s attitude towards the Middle East would probably be diametrically opposed to that of his predecessors. He was apparently still disappointed at Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the primaries. He explained that he hadn’t raised money for Obama. After politely praisingObama, he added that his relationship with him was “much less warm” than his rapport with the Clintons. In their home he walks around barefoot and in shorts.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Interview: Bandung Spirit still plays positive role in building int'l order: Cambodian FM

by Xue Lei, Li Hong

English.news.cn   2015-04-20

PHNOM PENH, April 20 (Xinhua) -- The spirit of the 1955 Asian- African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, remains relevant and has played a positive role in building a more equitable and rational international political and economic order, said Cambodian deputy prime minister and foreign minister Hor Namhong.
In a written interview with Xinhua ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference on April 24 in Bandung, Indonesia, Hor Namhong said the Bandung Principles, which incorporated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, were adopted at the 1955 Asian-African Conference and subsequently endorsed at the 1961 Non-Aligned Movement Summit, of which late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk was one of the founders.
"Although the Bandung Principles were established in the Cold War era, I am of the view that it remains as relevant as ever with its growing significance and roles in today's critical juncture," Hor Namhong said.
"The evolution of international relations in the past six decades proves that the Bandung Spirit has not only become open and inclusive principles of international law, but embodies the values of sovereignty, justice, democracy and rule of law."


Global Issues


U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons

Jonathan Masters

CFR - July 15, 2013

The debate over gun control in the United States has waxed and waned over the years, stirred by a series of mass killings by gunmen in civilian settings. The killing of twenty schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 prompted a national discussion over gun laws and calls by the Obama administration to limit the availability of military-style assault weapons. However, compromise legislation that would have banned semiautomatic weapons and expanded background checks was defeated in the Senate in April 2013 despite extensive public support.
Gun ownership in the United States far surpasses other countries, and recent mass shootings in particular have raised comparisons with policies abroad. Democracies that have experienced similar traumatic shooting incidents have taken significant steps to regulate gun ownership and restrict assault weapons. They generally experience far fewer incidents of gun violence than the United States.


Who rules the world of sport?

Comparing the numbers behind the three biggest events in the sports world - London 2012, Brazil 2014 and 2015 Cricket WC 

Hafsa Adil, Konstantinos Antonopoulos

Al-Jazeera | 15 Apr 2015


Friday, April 17, 2015

The New Great Game - How US Domination in Middle East Has Declined

BRICS Development Bank won’t rival China-led AIIB, but complement

RUSSIA TODAY - April 17, 2015

The BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), both seen as alternatives to US – led institutions, will not compete, but rather complement each other, said the head of the Central Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina.
Nabiullina made the statement Thursday in Washington where she is attending the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
"I don't think there's less energy (around the BRICS bank). We didn't feel that. To the contrary, all the representatives of all the countries ... were very motivated to reach speedy practical results," she said.
Both development institutions have been gaining popularity and are seen as a counterbalance to the IMF and World Bank. President Obama has reacted insisting the US should make the rules for the global economy, and not China. The US and Japan have not applied for the membership in either of the new development banks.
Also in Washington Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that the BRICS New Development Bank will be launched before the BRICS summit in Ufa scheduled for July 9-10.


The Wonderfully Elusive Chinese Novel

Perry Link


The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei, Vol. 5: The Dissolution by an unknown author, translated from the Chinese by David Tod Roy Princeton University Press, 556 pp., $39.95

In teaching Chinese-language courses to American students, which I have done about thirty times, perhaps the most anguishing question I get is “Professor Link, what is the Chinese word for ______?” I am always tempted to say the question makes no sense. Anyone who knows two languages moderately well knows that it is rare for words to match up perfectly, and for languages as far apart as Chinese and English, in which even grammatical categories are conceived differently, strict equivalence is not possible. Book is not shu, because shu, like all Chinese nouns, is conceived as an abstraction, more like “bookness,” and to say “a book” you have to say, “one volume of bookness.” Moreover shu, but not book, can mean “writing,” “letter,” or “calligraphy.” On the other hand you can “book a room” in English; you can’t shu one in Chinese.
I tell my students that there are only two kinds of words they can safely regard as equivalents: words for numbers (excepting integers under five, the words for which have too many other uses) and words that are invented expressly for the purpose of serving as equivalents, like xindiantu (heart-electric-chart) for “electrocardiogram.” I tell them their goal in Chinese class should be to set aside English and get started with thinking in Chinese.


When The World Bank Does More Harm Than Good

NPR - April 17, 2015

The World Bank's goal is to end extreme poverty and to grow income for the poorest people on the planet.
The bank does this by lending money and giving grants to governments and private corporations in some of the least developed places on the planet. For example, money goes to preserving land, building dams and creating health care systems.
But a lot of poor people actually end up worse off because of those projects, a report from The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found.
People are often displaced, or their livelihoods are ruined. Over the past decade an estimated 3.4 million people have been displaced by bank-funded projects, says Michael Hudson, a senior editor at ICIJ, who worked on the report. In one instance, hundreds of families had their homes burned down.
"The World Bank has promised 'do no harm,' but our reporting has found that the World Bank has broken this promise," Hudson says.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Don’t look for slowing growth to push China toward the West

By John Lloyd

Reuters - April 16, 2015

China’s gross domestic product growth has slowed to 7 percent, it was announced this week. That’s somewhat anaemic when compared to what the world has come to expect from the second-largest economy.
Its exports have dipped even more sharply. That’s partly because the genuinely anaemic economies of Europe are importing less, and partly because China’s domestic consumption has risen, now accounting for more of GDP than exports.
That’s part of the plan: Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told the China Development Forum last month that the old growth model “featuring high input, high energy consumption and over-dependence on external demand is no longer sustainable.”
Zhang speaks from a position of great authority, he is a Politburo member, after all. Though China’s huge growth is largely because, for the past three decades, it’s gone capitalist — read “socialism with Chinese characteristics” — its Communist Party, and the Politburo, still remain in charge. President Xi Jinping, whose power is formally — and likely in practice — greater than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, is proof of the institution’s strength.


G. William Domhoff: Who Rules America Today?

UC Santa Barbara, January 2014

Bill was invited to give a talk at the University of California at Santa Barbara, as part of their Mellichamp Global Studies Lecture Series. He discussed many of the topics covered in his 2013 book, The Myth of Liberal Ascendancy, as well as more general themes about the power elite and the rise and fall of labor unions in the United States. 


You can also watch this on Dr.Domhoff's homepage: 


Jeb Bush to pick Meghan O’Sullivan as top foreign policy aide

Niall O'Dowd @irishcentral

IRISH CENTRAL - February 19,2015

If you thought Samantha Power was the only red-haired Irish American likely to be involved in U.S. foreign policy at the highest level think again.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Harvard professor Meghan O’Sullivan, 45, every bit as highly qualified as UN Ambassador Power, is the frontrunner when it comes to guiding Jeb Bush’s foreign policy.
The woman has serious form on Northern Ireland, most recently when she acted as vice chair during the Richard Haass-led talks in the North that formed the framework for the breakthrough Stormont agreement last Christmas.
Such involvement in an Irish issue by a potential future secretary of state is very important from the Irish perspective.
The graph showing action following U.S. interventions in the North is very clear.
The message is that U.S. involvement works and if there is to be a Bush presidency, as some calculate, having an Irish hand in a key foreign policy position is very important.
Her resume reads like a gilded glide to power. It states “Meghan L. O’Sullivan is the Jeane Kirkpatrick professor of the Practice of International Affairs and director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.


A New Book: The Invention of God

by Thomas Römer (Author), Raymond Geuss (Translator)

Who invented God? When, why, and where? Thomas Römer seeks to answer these questions about the deity of the great monotheisms—Yhwh, God, or Allah—by tracing Israelite beliefs and their context from the Bronze Age to the end of the Old Testament period in the third century BCE.

That we can address such enigmatic questions at all may come as a surprise. But as Römer makes clear, a wealth of evidence allows us to piece together a reliable account of the origins and evolution of the god of Israel. Römer draws on a long tradition of historical, philological, and exegetical work and on recent discoveries in archaeology and epigraphy to locate the origins of Yhwh in the early Iron Age, when he emerged somewhere in Edom or in the northwest of the Arabian peninsula as a god of the wilderness and of storms and war. He became the sole god of Israel and Jerusalem in fits and starts as other gods, including the mother goddess Asherah, were gradually sidelined. But it was not until a major catastrophe—the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah—that Israelites came to worship Yhwh as the one god of all, creator of heaven and earth, who nevertheless proclaimed a special relationship with Judaism.

A masterpiece of detective work and exposition by one of the world’s leading experts on the Hebrew Bible, The Invention of God casts a clear light on profoundly important questions that are too rarely asked, let alone answered.


Study Abroad Could Be So Much Better

By Stacie Nevadomski Berdan


The number of American students studying abroad is on the rise, and that is a very good thing. But more than just increasing the numbers, colleges would be well advised to take a hard look at their study-abroad programs to ensure that they are providing students with a quality international-study experience at an affordable price. Too many programs are unnecessarily expensive, and many of them don’t help students acquire the cross-cultural skills necessary for long-term career success across a broad spectrum of fields.
Today’s students increasingly recognize that study abroad is one of the best ways they can acquire the valuable international experience necessary to work in the 21st-century global marketplace. What they don’t realize is that all study-abroad programs do not help them equally in this respect. In an effort to satisfy the growing demand for international experience, colleges naturally highlight their commitment to global education. But how global are they?


Experts: Campuses Need to be All In on Diversity

by Autumn A. Arnett

Diverse Issues in Higher Education - April 13, 2015

When a noose turned up on the campus of Duke University recently, some were shocked. Many, however — particularly those who had had the experiences of students or faculty of color on a predominantly White campus (PWI) — were not.
As Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, chair of the Department of Sociology at Duke, pointed out, the issue is not a Duke problem. Nor is it a University of Mississippi problem or an Oklahoma University problem. It is an American problem, with the attitudes prevalent across the country being evident in the campus climate.
Take, for instance, Texas A&M University, which is historically regarded as being an institution for conservative White heterosexual Christian males, despite the fact that it is a public institution. Texas A&M is not regarded as an inclusive environment and, with campaigns like “Keep Texas A&M Normal” springing up on T-shirts, many students seem to make no apologies for the lack of inclusion.
What is unique, Bonilla-Silva said, is that people tend to want to think of racism as being a lower-class problem, unique to those without education or sufficient exposure to diversity. But when it shows up on campuses like Duke and many other flagships around the country, it becomes difficult to continue to paint the mindset as relegated to a small component of society.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

President Hillary Clinton’s Middle East Policy: Interventions, Wars, More of Same By Juan Cole

Apr. 13, 2015

Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the presidency Sunday, prompting another of these attempts at IC to do a quick overview of what we can expect from the candidates with regard to Middle East policy.
Clinton supported Israel’s attack on defenseless Gaza last summer, which left about 2000 Palestinians dead and wiped entire civilian neighborhoods off the map. She blamed Hamas entirely for the conflict.
On the other hand, Sec. Clinton does see the Palestinians as occupied, writing in “Hard Choices”: ““When we left the city and visited Jericho, in the West Bank, I got my first glimpse of life under occupation for Palestinians, who were denied the dignity and self-determination that Americans take for granted.”
In the bizarro world of inside-the-Beltway American politics, this rather mild protest of a major human rights violation was treated as controversial.
As Secretary of State, Sec. Clinton was eager to give substantial and immediate aid to the Syrian rebels in the civil war there, but Obama blocked this plan, not wanting another Middle East intervention.


Interview: Li Keqiang on China’s challenges

Lionel Barber, David Pilling and Jamil Anderlini

The premier says Beijing is willing to ‘work with others’ to boost the global economy

Financial Times – April 15, 2015

China’s turbocharged economy is growing at its slowest pace in a quarter of a century and is expected to slow further, the ruling Communist party is engaged in a sweeping anti-corruption purge and the country’s leaders are trying to clean up decades of rampant industrial pollution.
As he greets the Financial Times in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, China’s second most powerful man seems to be taking all this in his stride.
Li Keqiang is directly responsible for managing what is now the world’s largest economy — at least in purchasing power terms — and leading Beijing’s efforts to move from the credit-fuelled, investment-led growth model of the past to a more sustainable future.
In his first interview with a western media organisation, Mr Li was relaxed, gregarious and clearly in command of his brief during an hour of questioning in the Hong Kong room of the Great Hall, a highly symbolic venue to receive a British newspaper editor.
His main message to the world was China’s continued commitment to the current global financial order, particularly in the wake of Beijing’s move to set up the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.


Human After All: Ex Machina's Novel Take on Artificial Intelligence

Traditionally, culture has interpreted AI as a threat to humanity, but Alex Garland's new movie wonders whether robots can be just like us.

Laura Parker

The Atlantic - Apr 15 2015

Last month at South by Southwest, while swiping through the dating app Tinder, some festival attendees came across an attractive 25-year-old brunette named Ava. Ava used correct punctuation and referred to people by their first name. She also asked beguiling questions like, “Have you ever been in love?” and “What makes you human?” Ava was later revealed to be a chatbot, devised by a marketing department to promote Alex Garland’s new movie, Ex Machina. The film follows a young programmer, Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson), who wins a competition to spend a week with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the reclusive CEO of a large tech company who asks him to perform a Turing test on Ava, a new humanoid artificial intelligence he’s created.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The future of the university: negotiating the politics of knowledge and re-imagining the university

The Daily Show's Senior Middle East Correspondent Bassem Youssef

The Daily Show April 13, 2015

Jin Youzhi, Sibling of China’s Last Emperor, Dies at 96


The New York Times - APRIL 13, 2015

Almost a half-century after the death of China’s last emperor, his last surviving sibling, Jin Youzhi, died on Friday in Beijing. He was 96.
Jia Yinghua, a historian of China’s last imperial family, confirmed the death.
Mr. Jin, a retired primary school teacher, was the half brother of Henry Pu Yi, China’s last emperor. Their Manchu dynasty ruled China for 268 years, until a republic was established in 1912.
“His death marks the end of an era in Chinese history,” Mr. Jia said in an interview on Monday.
Mr. Jin was a great-grandson of the Daoguang Emperor, who ruled China between 1820 and 1850, and a nephew of the Guangxu Emperor, who reigned from 1875 to 1908. He was born in Beijing on Aug. 17, 1918, six years after Pu Yi abdicated.


Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

Eduardo Galeano

Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx.
Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.
Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.
This classic is now further honored by Isabel Allende’s inspiring introduction. Universally recognized as one of the most important writers of our time, Allende once again contributes her talents to literature, to political principles, and to enlightenment.


6 Companies That Profit from the Police State

Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan Voice of Anti-Capitalism, Is Dead at 74


The New York Times - APRIL 13, 2015

RIO DE JANEIRO — Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer who blended literature, journalism and political satire in reflecting on the vagaries, injustices and small victories of history, died on Monday in Montevideo, Uruguay. He was 74.
The cause was complications from lung cancer, said his sister Teté Hughes.
Of his more than 30 books Mr. Galeano is remembered chiefly for “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,” an unsparing critique, published in 1971, of the exploitation of Latin America by European powers and the United States.
Banned under right-wing military dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s, it became a canonical text of anti-colonialism and anti-capitalism and a much-read underground literary work in parts of the region, much like samizdat publications in the Soviet Union. “Open Veins,” as it is widely called, gained traction again in recent years after Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader who died in 2013, gave a copy to President Obama when they met in 2009. It soon appeared briefly on best-seller lists and has sold more than a million copies worldwide.
But Mr. Galeano stunned many of his supporters on the left as well as his critics on the right when he disavowed the book, saying that it was poorly written and that his views of the human condition had grown more complex.


The Debt Owed to Eduardo Galeano

Dave Zirin

The Nation - April 13, 2015

In Sunday night's premiere of the HBO series Game of Thrones, two of the more admirable characters are speaking about the future and one says, "Perhaps we've grown so used to horror, we assume there's no other way." I mumbled to no one in particular, "Some screenwriter's been reading their Galeano."
The next day, the news broke that Eduardo Galeano, that master of written word who could integrate magical reality lyricism into to the all-too-real history of empire without breaking a sweat, had died of cancer at 74. No, I'm not a future-telling Warg, I don't have a third eye, or the soul or a raven (or whatever the hell Game of Thrones reference is appropriate here). Galeano had been on my mind as news of his failing health had been well known, and I'd felt the weight of debt that we owe the Uruguayan legend. It's a debt owed by anyone who refuses to "grow used to horror" as an act of conscious resistance. It's a debt owed by those who choose to witness our sick world from the carnage in Gaza to the #FuckYourBreath killing of Eric Harris and don't become lost in the cynicism of a society that sometimes seems intoxicated by its own inhumanity. It is impossible to read Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America and leave not only distraught over the bloody legacy of US imperialism but also hopeful at the ways brave, if fruitless, resistance can resemble the lush vitality of epic poetry.


Monday, April 13, 2015

LECTURE: "China: Where is it Headed and What Could it Mean?" by David M. Lampton

The Institute for Asian Studies
at Portland State University
cordially invites you and a guest to join us

for a special public lecture

"China:  Where is it Headed and What Could it Mean?"
by David M. Lampton,
Hyman Professor and Director of China Studies
at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
[Click to view complete event details]

Monday, April 13, 2015

5:15 - 5:45 PM Sales & signing of Dr. Lampton's book
Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping

6:00 PM   -   Lecture begins

Location: Portland State University - Academic & Student Recreation Center Auditorium, Room 001
1800 SW 6th Ave. Portland

Followed by a post-lecture VIP Reception
 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Location:  PSU Urban Center 2nd Floor Gallery
(across from the PSU Student Rec Center)
506 SW Mill St., Portland

Günter Grass, German Novelist and Social Critic, Dies at 87


The New York Times - APRIL 13, 2015

Günter Grass, the German novelist, social critic and Nobel Prize winner whom many called his country’s moral conscience but who stunned Europe when he revealed in 2006 that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS during World War II, died on Monday in the northern German city of Lübeck, which had been his home for decades. He was 87.
His longtime publisher, Gerhard Steidl, told reporters that he learned late Sunday that Mr. Grass had been hospitalized after falling seriously ill very quickly. The cause of death was not announced.
Mr. Steidl said he drank his final schnapps with Mr. Grass eight days ago while they were working together on his most recent book, which he described as a “literary experiment” fusing poetry with prose. It is scheduled to be published in the summer.
“He was fully concentrated on his work until the last moment,” Mr. Steidl said.
Mr. Grass was hardly the only member of his generation who obscured the facts of his wartime life. But because he was a pre-eminent public intellectual who had pushed Germans to confront the ugly aspects of their history, his confession that he had falsified his own biography shocked readers and led some to view his life’s work in a different light.
Mr. Grass came under further scrutiny in 2012 after publishing a poem criticizing Israel for its hostile language toward Iran over its nuclear program. He expressed revulsion at the idea that Israel might be justified in attacking Iran over a perceived nuclear threat and said that such a prospect “endangers the already fragile world peace.”
The poem created an international controversy and prompted a personal attack from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Grass later said that he had meant to attack Israel’s government, not the country as a whole.


US Foreing Policy Flow Chart

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Where Minority Populations Have Become the Majority

A Pew map shows that, between 2000 and 2013, whites became the minority in 78 U.S. counties.

Tanvi Misra @Tanvim

The Atlantic - Apr 9, 2015

By 2040, the country's white population will no longer be the majority. But for many regions around the country, this demographic shift has already arrived. A new map created by the Pew Research Center pinpoints the 78 counties in 19 states where, from 2000 to 2013, minorities together outnumbered the white population.
Pew crunched Census numbers from the 2,440 U.S. counties that had more than 10,000 residents in 2013. Whites made up less than half the population in a total of 266 counties. Even though these 266 counties made up only 11 percent of the counties analyzed, they contained 31 percent of the country's total population, with many of them home to dense urban areas.
Most of these counties are sprinkled around the Sun Belt states in southern part of the country (below).


The Seventh Summit of the Americas will be held in Panama City, Panama on April 10-11, 2015

The Summits of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas. The Seventh Summit of the Americas will be held in Panama City, Panama on April 10-11, 2015.


UCLA faculty overwhelmingly approves required courses on diversity

Los Angeles Times - April 10, 2015

The strongly supportive vote announced Friday night was the culmination of efforts that began two decades ago and previously faced rejections.
In a tally posted online, the campus-wide Faculty Senate voted 916 to 487 to begin the requirement for incoming freshmen in fall 2015 and new transfer students in 2017. It would affect students in the College of Letters and Science, which enrolls 85% of UCLA undergraduates.
The approval in the two-week online voting is a victory for UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. He endorsed the requirement, saying the courses would help prepare students to live and work in a multicultural society. Other supporters said the case for the classes was made more compelling by several recent incidents on campus that raised allegations of anti-Semitism and a lack of attention to racial bias.


What Education Can and Can't Do for Economic Inequality

A new study looks at whether or not a college degree can chip away at income disparities.

Gillian B. White

THE SALON -  Apr 7 2015

Would better education significantly reduce income inequality in America? No, says recent study from the Brookings Institution. But that doesn't mean that better education wouldn't help the overall economic picture.

The study suggests that improving education does in fact help the economic situations of poorer Americans, even though it does little to whittle away at overall inequality in the country. 
According to Melissa Kearney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “Increasing education isn't going to do anything to bring down the wages of the real top—or address rising inequality focused on the 1 percent—but it is what's needed to increase the position of those at the bottom. Those are two different problems.”
To illustrate this point, Kearney, along with Brad Hershbein and Lawrence Summers, took a look at what a boost in education would and would not do when it came to improving incomes and the widening income gap. The study simulated what would happen to earnings and inequality if 10 percent of non-college educated, working-age men ages 25 to 64 were to obtain a bachelor’s degree. They chose to focus on men because male workers with low-skill levels have suffered a more severe downturn in employment and earnings during recent decades, according to the report. They also obtain college degrees at a lower rate than their female counterparts.
With the simulated increase in educational attainment, the report found that awarding a bachelor’s degree to one in 10 men between the ages of 25 through 64, who did not previously have one, would in fact increase their likelihood of being employed and boost their earnings. The increase in education resulted in significant changes for those at bottom half of the earnings spectrum, with inequality relative to those who fall into the 25th percentile of earners dropping by about one-third. “If we were to increase, B.A. attainment by 10 percent that would almost entirely wipe out the reduction in median wages that has been experienced from 1979 to 2013,” says Kearney. “That's tremendous.”


China Ruins US Plans to Bring Venezuela to Its Knees

Ekaterina Blinova 

SPUTNIK - 11.04.2015

China is counterbalancing the US' efforts to bring Venezuela to its knees: Beijing will lend Caracas around $10 billion while the country teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.  While the United States is waging an "economic war" against Venezuela and its President Nicolas Maduro, China is likely to obliterate Washington's plans to bring the Latin American nation to its knees; Beijing will lend Caracas around $10 billion in order to support the country's economy.  On March 9, 2015, US President Obama issued an Executive Order declaring Venezuela "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."  The Venezuelan government has also come under pressure from its opposition, as protest rallies have been taking place in Caracas since last year.  Venezuela is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, facing the threat of sovereign default. The fall in oil prices is adding fuel to the fire.


Ederlezi: Time of the Gypsies - Goran Bregović, Emir Kusturica

Stromae - carmen

NPR - APRIL 1, 2015

 • The international megastar Stromae has a seemingly boundless love of music across genres. And if his tune "Carmen" seems vaguely familiar, it's because the track is a reworking of an operatic classic, the "Habanera" from Bizet's opera Carmen. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle que nul ne peut apprivoiser," the seductive Carmen sings: "Love is a wild bird that no one can tame."
What the Belgian artist does with Carmen's metaphor is to twist it, with new lyrics, into a piercing commentary on one of the biggest forces in contemporary life. In Stromae's hands, Carmen's bird morphs into an all-too-familiar blue fowl that grows bigger and bigger and all the more menacing, finally consuming everyone — celebrities and everyday people alike — before (literally) expelling them out of its body.


Friday, April 10, 2015

China plans to build rail link with Nepal through Mt Everest

INDIA TODAY - April 9, 2015

China plans to build a 540-kilometre strategic high-speed rail link between Tibet and Nepal passing through a tunnel under Mt Everest, a move that could raise alarm in India about the Communist giant's growing influence in its neighbourhood.
"A proposed extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to the China-Nepal border through Tibet would boost bilateral trade and tourism as there is currently no rail line linking the two countries," state-run China Daily reported on Thursday.
The rail line was expected to be completed by 2020.
However, there was no word on the cost of the project.

The 1,956-km long Qinghai-Tibet railway already links the rest of China with the Tibetan capital Lhasa and beyond.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Madagascar's Chinese Vanilla

How Chinese entrepreneurs have taken control of Madagascar's booming vanilla trade and what it means for local farmers. 

Al-Jazeera - 08 Apr 2015

Madagascar is the leading exporter of vanilla, one of the world's most valuable and sought-after spices. Yet despite accounting for almost half of global production, the island state's traditional farmers are struggling to earn a living.
A recent influx of Chinese investors has led to increased productivity to meet rising international demand. But many local growers say they have not been reaping the benefits as most of the profits have been flowing into foreign hands. Instead prices for their crops are being forced down and there are negative consequences for quality and sustainability. With most Malagasies already living at or below the poverty line, the long-term prospects for their livelihoods are worrying.
Most of the vanilla is grown in and around Sava, in Madagascar's northeast corner. The region turned to farming this lucrative crop in the 19th century, when French colonialists brought vanilla pod-producing orchids over to Madagascar from Mexico.
The French also created the first wave of Asian immigration by inviting Chinese labourers to come and work on these new plantations. Those who decided to settle mixed with the local population and their children are now fully integrated into Malagasy society.


Occupation at University of Amsterdam Challenges the Logic of Market-Driven Education

By James Anderson, Truthout | News Analysis

TRUTHOUT - Thursday, 09 April 2015

When students kicked in the door of the main administrative building, the Maagdenuis, at the University of Amsterdam on February 25, the "New University" - or "De Nieuwe Universiteit" - movement introduced a new aesthetic dimension of protest.
The Maagdenhuis occupation, a protest against the financialization of higher education and against the concentration of decision-making power at the university, disrupted the everyday flow of doing, changing the normal organization of human sense experience on campus. By taking a building and reorganizing human activity inside, with emphasis on dialogue, deliberation and shared decision-making, occupiers created new aesthetic conditions necessary for a new politics, as philosopher Jacques Rancière, who recently visited the Maagdenhuis to show solidarity with UvA students, suggests.
Politics remains "aesthetic in principle," Rancière, once wrote. By blurring boundaries between the expressible and ineffable, Rancière argues that aesthetics affirms antagonisms that the administrative order would rather see reconciled under its own imposed expectations.