“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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Egypt gas discovery could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds: ENI

Egypt aims to reach self-sufficiency with natural gas within 5 years as a result of Eni's discovery, as well as other possible findings, according to a petroleum ministry spokesperson

Randa Ali , Waad Ahmed

AHRAM ONLINE - Sunday 30 Aug 2015

Italy's Eni has discovered gas reserves of up to 30 trillion cubic feet in the Zohr prospect in Egypt's Mediterranean, making it the biggest gas discovery ever in the country, the Egyptian petroleum ministry said on Sunday.
"We are talking about a discovery that provides a third of Egypt's [natural gas] reserves which stands at 65 trillion cubic feet," Hamdy Abdel-Aziz, the petroleum ministry spokesman told Ahram Online.
The newly-discovered well 'Zohr' holds a potential 30 trillion cubic feet of lean gas in place (5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in place) covering an area of about 100 square kilometres, according to a statement by Eni.
"Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds," Eni said in a statement.
The discovery was made in the Shorouk block that was awarded to Eni in January 2014 following an international bid, Eni said.
The well 'Zohr' is located in the economic waters of Egypt’s Mediterranean, at the depth of 4,757 feet in the sea (1,450 metres), Eni added.
Production of the new discovery should commence within 30-36 months, according to Abdel-Aziz.
He added that the government expects to reach "self-sufficiency" within five years with the help of Eni's discovery, in addition to more expected findings.


Wes Craven, Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream director, dies at 76

Veteran Hollywood horror director, who made the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream film franchises, dies after being diagnosed with brain cancer



Wes Craven, veteran writer and director of some of Hollywood’s most famous successful film franchises, has died at the age of 76.
The director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream died on Sunday night at his Los Angeles home after being diagnosed with brain cancer, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed.
Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and directed his first feature film, The Last House on the Left, in 1972 following a master’s degree in philosophy and writing at Johns Hopkins University and an early career in teaching.

Living in the age of permawar

These are anxious times. Terrorism seems an ever-present threat. We watch porn on computers. We are addicted to our phones. For some, religion offers answers … The novelist reflects on what bonds
him with the rest of humanity

Mohsin Hamid


Chapter one: fear of cannibals 
You occasionally think living in Pakistan is an advantage. Since so much is obviously unsayable, you have developed a heightened sensitivity to the ways in which power operates on speech, not just there but everywhere. It is like living in a desiccated nook on the cliff wall of some dry, desert valley. Looking out from your nook you can see the forces of erosion at work. Erosion reshapes everything. One day soon, though hopefully not very soon, your nook, too, will be gone.  You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between.


Ranking the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries in 2040

by Andrew Maddocks Andrew Maddocks, Robert Samuel Young and Paul Reig


The world’s demand for water is likely to surge in the next few decades. Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamor for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation.
But it’s not clear where all that water will come from. Climate change is expected to make some areas drier and others wetter. As precipitation extremes increase in some regions, affected communities face greater threats from droughts and floods.
While changing water supply and demand is inevitable, exactly what that change will look like around the world is far from certain. A first-of-its-kind analysis by WRI sheds new light on the issue.
Using an ensemble of climate models and socioeconomic scenarios, WRI scored and ranked future water stress—a measure of competition and depletion of surface water—in 167 countries by 2020, 2030, and 2040. We found that 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040 (see the full list). We also found that Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040. This means that businesses, farms, and communities in these countries in particular may be more vulnerable to scarcity than they are today.


First US State Legalizes Weaponized Police Drones

By Jennifer Baker

REVOLUTION NEWS on 08/27/2015 

Thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist, it is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with ‘less lethal’ weapons such as rubber bullets, tear gas, tasers, sound cannons and pepper spray.
Less lethal weapons can kill. At least 39 people have been killed by police Tasers in 2015 so far, according to The Guardian. Bean bags, rubber bullets, and flying tear gas canisters have also killed and maimed people in the U.S. and abroad.  When State Rep. Rick Becker introduced H.B. 1328, the law both banned weaponized drones and established a procedure for law enforcement to seek a warrant before using drones in searches. Only the warrant requirement survived.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Testimony An Assessment of the Counter-ISIL Campaign

One Year after Mosul


Linda Robinson

RAND Office of External Affairs - August 2015

Document submitted August 24, 2015 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on June 24, 2015.


The Soft Logic of Soft Targets

Everyone is freaking out over the France train attack. But the sad truth is, you’re more likely to be murdered in America than killed by Islamic State terrorists.     

By Stephen M. Walt   

FOREIGN POLICY - August 28, 2015

The recent “lone wolf” attack on a French train — thankfully foiled by three alert and courageous American passengers — has sparked new concerns about terrorist assaults on so-called “soft targets.” These are places where people congregate and are potentially vulnerable, but are not subject to airport-style security procedures. The Islamic State has called upon sympathizers to conduct such attacks wherever they might be, and European governments are now pondering additional measures to protect trains and railway stations. And on Aug. 22, just one day after the thwarted attack, the New York Times brought it all home by warning: “Train Attack in Europe Puts Focus on Vulnerability of U.S. Rail.”


Migrant or Refugee? There Is a Difference, With Legal Implications



In the first half of this year alone, at least 137,000 men, women and children crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach the shores of Europe, according to the United Nations. Thousands are traveling across the Balkans now.
Q. Does it matter what you call them?
A. Yes. The terms “migrant” and “refugee” are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a crucial legal difference between the two.
Q. Who is a refugee?
A. Briefly, a refugee is person who has fled his or her country to escape war or persecution, and can prove it.
The 1951 Refugee Convention, negotiated after World War II, defines a refugee as a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”


Scott Atran on Youth, Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace

Neuroanthropology - April 25, 2015

On 23 April, 2015, Prof. Scott Atran addressed the UN Security Council, to our knowledge the first time an anthropologist has ever been asked to speak to this body. In particular, he spoke to the Ministerial Debate on ‘The Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace.’ His presentation on youth radicalization condenses in a very tight format his insights gained from wide ranging experimental and ethnographic research on young people who have joined violent extremist movements. Scott circulated links to his talk and the text, and he has agreed to let me post it here on PLOS Neuroanthropology so that it can reach the widest possible audience.
Scott Atran is a Directeur de Recherche, Anthropologie, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, as well as holding professorial positions and chairs at Oxford University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the University of Michigan. He is co-founder of Artis Research and author of Talking to the Enemy and In Gods We Trust. His research in cognitive anthropology is diverse and fascinating, but his current research is especially urgent, which is one reason I asked him if I could post this here. 
Address to UN Security Council by Scott Atran.
Your Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II, Mr. Secretary General, and distinguished representatives, I thank the Security Council and the Government of Jordan for letting me try to help.
I am an anthropologist. Anthropologists, as a group, study the diversity of human cultures to understand our commonalities and differences, and to use the knowledge of what is common to us all to help us bridge our differences. My research aims to help reduce violence between peoples, by first trying to understand thoughts and behaviors as different from my own as any I can imagine: such as suicide actions that kill masses of people innocent of direct harm to others. The key, as Margaret Mead taught me long ago, when I worked as her assistant at the American Museum of Natural History here in New York, was to empathize with people, without always sympathizing: to participate in their lives to the extent you feel is morally possible. And then report.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Death of Neo-Liberalism


In the words of Gerard Dumenil, a Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, it reflected a “structural crisis,” such as those affecting the course of capitalism about every forty years, namely the late 19th century, the Great Depression, and the 1970. Above all else, it reflects a crisis in the prevailing neo-liberal paradigm, which has dominated policy-making for the past 40 years. According to Dumenil, neoliberalism is a social order, a new form of capitalism, that can be explained by recognising that there are now three classes or “social orders” in contemporary capitalism: the capitalists; the “popular class” made up of wage workers and lower-level salaried employees; and in between there is what Dumenil describes as the “managerial class”. The social order changes when the managerial class sides with one or other of the other two. Thus in the 1930s and in the post war period, the managerial class sided with the popular class against the capitalist class and we had the welfare state etc. In the neoliberal era, the managerial class has sided with the capitalist financial class and the popular class has been on the back foot. With the crisis of neoliberalism, we could look to a new realignment of this ‘social order’, with the managers swinging back again toward the popular class as their position continues to be eroded and their standards of living threatened.  Repairing our economy will require a dramatic reversal of the free market ethos that’s enveloped most of the world over the past few decades. Most importantly, it will require a downsizing of the financial sector, as the financialization of the economy has meant that finance has become central to the daily operations of the economic system. More precisely, the private nonfinancial sectors of the economy have become more dependent on the smooth functioning of the financial sector in order to maintain the liquidity and solvency of their balance sheet, and to improve and maintain their economic welfare. For example, households have increased their use of debt to fund education, healthcare, housing, transportation, and leisure, and they have become more dependent on interest, dividends and capital gains as a means to maintain and grow their standard of living.  But simply reviving the discredited policies of the last 40 years will not lead to a lasting recovery; free markets cannot turn worthless lead into gold. In addition, as the experience of the early 1930s tells us, if left alone to deal with the current problems, market mechanisms will lead to massive deflation, massive bankruptcies, massive destructions of physical assets, and enormous unemployment. This will continue until the debt structure is simplified and the underlying structure of the economy is radically changed. In the process, social unrest will grow to the point that the entire socio-economic system will be threatened.


Portrait of Deception

By Scott McLemee

INSIDE HIGHER ED - August 20, 2015 

Among the passengers disembarking from a ship from that reached Philadelphia in the final days of December 1941 was one Mark Zborowski -- a Ukrainian-born intellectual who grew up in Poland. He had lived in Paris for most of the previous decade, studying at the Sorbonne. He was detained by the authorities for a while (the U.S. had declared war on the Axis powers just three weeks earlier, so his visa must have been triple-checked) and then released.
Zborowski's fluency in several languages was a definite asset. By 1944 he was working for the U.S. Army on a Russian-English dictionary; after that that he joined the staff of the Institute for Jewish Research in New York, serving as a librarian. And from there the émigré’s career took off on an impressive if not meteoric course.
He joined the Research in Contemporary Culture Project at Columbia University, launched just after World War II by the prominent anthropologists Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead with support from the Office of Naval Research. Zborowski oversaw an ethnographic study of Central and Eastern European Jewish culture, based on interviews with refugees. It yielded Life Is With People: The Culture of the Shtetl, a book he co-authored in 1952. Drawing on Zborowski’s childhood memories more than he acknowledged and written in a popularizing style, it sold well and remained in print for decades.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

The New 'Two Chinas' Question by Richard N. Haass

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Project Syndicate - August 21, 2015

NEW YORK – To anyone over the age of 60 who follows world affairs, the term “two Chinas” recalls the post-1949 competition for diplomatic recognition waged by mainland (“Red”) China and Taiwan, or, more formally, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. By the early 1970s, just about every country fell in line with the People’s Republic’s demand that it alone be recognized as the legitimate sovereign government of China. The mainland was simply too large and too important economically and strategically to alienate.
Today, a new, but very different, “two Chinas” question is emerging. It centers on whether China is best understood as a strong country, with a promising future despite some short-term difficulties, or as a country facing serious structural problems and uncertain long-term prospects. In short, two very different Chinas can now be glimpsed. But which one will prevail?
Until recently, there was little reason to ask such a question. China’s economy was growing at an astounding average annual rate of 10% or higher for more than three decades. China had overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest economy. Hundreds of millions of Chinese had entered the middle class. China’s model of authoritarian efficiency seemed attractive to many other developing countries, particularly in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, which began in the United States and thus seemed to discredit American-style liberal capitalism.


A Week After Retirement Ray Odierno Lands at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

By David Francis, Paul McLeary

FOREIGN POLICY - August 20, 2015

Less than a week after retiring as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Ray Odierno has landed a job as senior advisor at JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the largest banks in the United States.  Odierno, 60, will advise the board and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, focusing on country risk analysis and security. He will also represent JPMorgan Chase — which had $1.7 trillion assets under management at the end of 2014 — with policymakers, government officials, and clients.  During his tenure as chief of the Army, Odierno, who graduated from West Point in 1976, navigated the drawdown of his force from a wartime high of 570,000 soldiers to the current 490,000. He also pushed for his soldiers to become more active in training and advising missions in Asia, as well as stepped up training and advising missions in Africa and the Middle East.  He was forced to scuttle several high-profile Army acquisition programs that didn’t fit in the tightening of post-war budgets, including a new infantry carrier and an armed scout helicopter — both programs that the service had long insisted were top priorities. 


The Senseless Death of Mr. Palmyra

The war on culture unfolding in Syria, and the 83-year-old archaeologist who became its latest casualty.     

By Frederick Deknatel    

FOREIGN POLICY - August 20, 2015

When the self-proclaimed Islamic State took the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in May, many waited for the smashing to begin. “ISIS has vowed to destroy these vast temples. Are they capable of doing that?” one television journalist asked a former British Museum curator, expectantly. Another news anchor declared: “We’ve failed to save the humans in this disaster. What likelihood is there that we will be able to save the stones?”  Except there are still people in Palmyra, along with the vast Roman-era ruins. One of those people, who spent his life studying, excavating, and preserving the stones in his hometown, was murdered this week at the hands of the Islamic State. Instead of lining Palmyra’s triumphal arch with dynamite or bulldozing the Temple of Bel, like so many imagined they would, the criminals killed an 83-year-old archaeologist. For 40 years, Khalid al-Asaad was the director of antiquities in Palmyra and ran its museum. “Mr. Palmyra,” as another Syrian archaeologist remembered him, was beheaded in public in the center of town by the jihadis, who then strung up his body with his head at his feet. His glasses were still on.


Inside the GOP Clown Car

On the campaign trail in Iowa, Donald Trump's antics have forced the other candidates to get crazy or go home

By Matt Taibbi

ROLLING STONE - August 12, 2015

The thing is, when you actually think about it, it's not funny. Given what's at stake, it's more like the opposite, like the first sign of the collapse of the United States as a global superpower. Twenty years from now, when we're all living like prehistory hominids and hunting rats with sticks, we'll probably look back at this moment as the beginning of the end. In the meantime, though, the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination sure seems funny. The event known around the world as hashtagGOPClownCar is improbable, colossal, spectacular and shocking; epic, monumental, heinous and disgusting. It's like watching 17 platypuses try to mount the queen of England. You can't tear your eyes away from it.


Brent oil price dips below $46, lowest since March 2009

By Ovunc Kutlu


Brent crude oil price fell below $46 per barrel on Friday, to a new low since March 2009, reaching $45.73 at 13:00 pm GMT, according to official figures Friday.  The global benchmark fell by more than 0.6 percent and was recorded at $45.98 per barrel after 12:30 pm GMT, after it opened the day at just over $46 per barrel.   Meanwhile, the American benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, fell to $40.88 per barrel on Friday by 1.25 percent.   Both benchmarks have declined around 60 percent between June 2014 and January 2015, reaching their lowest level in almost six years. Although recording a recovery of 40 percent after January, crude oil prices began falling in May once again and erased the four-month gains in August.  The glut of oil supply in the world market, low global demand for oil, and the slowdown in Asian and European economies are viewed as the main factors behind the slump of oil prices.  Rising oil inventories and production in the U.S., along with the possibility of Iran raising its oil output and exports in the next few months after sanctions removal are also creating expectations that oversupply will remain in the market, thus pushing oil prices downward.


'We’ll Do Better': Coca-Cola Vows to Improve Transparency

By Muhtar Kent

Coca-colacompany - Aug 20, 2015

At Coca-Cola, the way we have engaged the public health and scientific communities to tackle the global obesity epidemic that is plaguing our children, our families and our communities is not working. Our company has been accused of shifting the debate to suggest that physical activity is the only solution to the obesity crisis. There also have been reports accusing us of deceiving the public about our support of scientific research. We have read and reflected on the recent news stories and opinions, online conversations and questions from our own family and friends. The characterization of our company does not reflect our intent or our values. I am disappointed that some actions we have taken to fund scientific research and health and well-being programs have served only to create more confusion and mistrust. I know our company can do a better job engaging both the public-health and scientific communities—and we will. By supporting research and nonprofit organizations, we seek to foster more science-based knowledge to better inform the debate about how best to deal with the obesity epidemic. We have never attempted to hide that. However, in the future we will act with even more transparency as we refocus our investments and our efforts on well-being.Committed to acting with integrity when serving our customers and our communities, Coca-Cola has always believed that a healthy diet and regular exercise are essential for a healthy lifestyle. As the largest beverage company in the world, we believe that we are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact.


U.S. Colleges: The American Dream For International Students

BY Karen Hua  

Forbes - July 29, 2015

The world still sees America as the land of opportunity – for higher ed. This is why in 2014, there were some 1 million foreign students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities, another peak in a string of all-time highs going back to 2000. China and India export the most students, followed by South Korea and Saudi Arabia.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where Americans go to work when they don’t work near home

By Katie Park, Ted Mellnik and Emily Badger

The Washington Post - August 18, 2015

Our lives are heavily shaped by two points of geography: where we live and where we work. Those locations determine how long we spend commuting, how we plan our errands, where and with whom we socialize (admit it — you've turned down a dinner invite because it just wasn't on your way home).
Add up all of these daily trips across thousands or millions of people, and commuting patterns shape whole metropolitan areas, too. They determine where congestion occurs, how we invest in infrastructure and housing, and how populations ebb and flow over the course of the day. Take Manhattan: A borough of about 1.5 million people, the island swells most days to a daytime population that's twice as large, thanks to commuters.
The above map, based on new five-year American Community Survey data released last week, illustrates these commutes for the 38 million Americans who leave the counties where they live when they head to work most days. In the District of Columbia, for instance, about 95,000 workers come in each day from Fairfax County. Nearly 140,000 do from Prince George's County.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sundar Pichai and the world of Indian CEOs

BBC - 11 August 2015

It is not every day that one of the world's largest technology companies announces a new CEO.  So when Google announced that Sundar Pichai was taking the reins on Monday, his promotion gained thousands of column inches worldwide - not least of all in his native India.  The Hindu newspaper called the news "a bonus for people of Indian-origin world over". The Times of India hailed the "quiet yet thoughtful" man from Chennai (Madras).  But his ascent is far from unique. In fact, it is becoming ever more common for major international companies to have an Indian-born CEO.  One study, by the University of Southern New Hampshire, says that Indian managers are more successful because of "a paradoxical blend of genuine personal humility and intense professional will".


Even the Taliban Is Disgusted by the Islamic State's Latest Video

By Charlotte Meredith

VICE - August 12, 2015

The savagery of the so-called Islamic State (IS) has reportedly proved too extreme even for the Taliban, with the group condemning a "horrific" video that appears to show militants blowing up bound and blindfolded Afghan prisoners with explosives.
In the latest example of the ongoing battle for supremacy between the insurgent groups, the Taliban issued a strongly-worded response on Tuesday denouncing the IS propaganda video, which appeared on jihadi social media forums on Sunday.
"A horrific video was released yesterday showing kidnappers who associate themselves with Daesh [IS] brutally martyring several white-bearded tribal elders and villagers with explosives," said a statement posted on the Taliban's website and translated by Reuters.


The 200-year-old painting that puts Europe's fear of migrants to shame

Jonathan Jones


Nearly 200 years ago, Théodore Géricault painted a masterpiece of pity that puts modern Europe to shame.
The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19) is one of the most startling and powerful paintings in the world. It is also a call for compassion, humanity and common decency. Striking in reproduction, it is truly harrowing in real life, all 7x5 metres of it, looming over you in the Louvre. Darkness is literally eating up this painting; a deathly shadow seems to suck you into it. There is a black hole of horror at its heart.
And now I have to ask: why can’t we modern Europeans show the same compassion and humanity that made our forebears flock to see this protest against callous indifference to people abandoned at sea?
The Medusa was a French navy ship that got into trouble off west Africa in 1816. About 147 people were put off the ship on an open raft, in a heartless decision that contemporaries blamed on the recently restored French monarchy. They were cast helplessly adrift at sea, just as so many migrants making the perilous attempt to cross to Europe have in our time been cruelly left to drift in unseaworthy craft by unscrupulous people traffickers. Only 15 people survived the raft of the Medusa.


China plays down devaluation fears as yuan cut for third straight day

Deputy central bank governor, Zhang Xiaohui, says yuan is close to ‘market levels’ after two days of declines

Phillip Inman economics correspondent 

THE GUARDIAN - Thursday 13 August 2015

China’s central bank sought on Thursday to allay fears it would engineer a continued fall in the yuan in a move that brought calm to global markets rocked this week by a shock series of devaluations.
The People’s Bank of China said the yuan was close to market levels following three successive declines that stoked fears of a currency war should the US and Japan respond by pushing down their exchange rates.
There is “no basis for persistent and substantial devaluation”, said a deputy central bank governor, Zhang Xiaohui, at a hastily convened news conference on Thursday.
Zhang said the yuan, also known as the renminbi, was close to “market levels” after three days of declines that knocked more than 3% off its value.
“The central bank has the ability to keep the renminbi basically stable at a reasonable and balanced level,” she said.
China cut the reference rate for its currency for the third straight day on Thursday, having taken markets by surprise on Tuesday with the yuan’s biggest one-day devaluation in 20 years. The central bank put the yuan’s central rate - from which it can deviate 2% in a single day - at 6.4010 yuan for $1, a drop of 1.11% from the previous day’s 6.3306.


Why Partitioning Iraq is a Terrible Idea

By Juan Cole

Aug. 13, 2015

I think the remarks of outgoing US Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno on the possible partition of Iraq have been reported in a sensationalist way. He just said that Sunni-Shiite relations in Iraq are at a nadir and that the country could look different in the future. But he was careful to say that such decisions are for local people to determine, and that in any case the first order of business is to defeat Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).
Still, he did get drawn into speculating about the partition of Iraq, which was probably unwise.
Iraq will likely continue to have a Canada-like federalism with substantial provincial prerogatives, Quebec-style, for the Kurdistan Regional Government.
But a formal partition, while possible, is unlikely and in any case would be a bad idea.
Every time there is a big civil conflict in a country, pundits always rush to speculate about or even urge partition. I remember when I was living in Lebanon in the 1970s during the early years of its civil war, there were speculations that it would end up a set of independent cantons.
But partitions are rare in in the post-war era. And the few that have occurred don’t offer encouraging examples. The United States was all enthusiastic to break South Sudan off from Sudan proper, in order to weaken one of Africa’s larger states and given that the Christian and animist population there had long chafed under northern Muslim Arabophone rule.


The Federal Option

By James M. Van Wyck

INSIDE HIGHER ED - August 10, 2015

Are you a graduate student interested in careers beyond academia? Consider giving the federal government a look.
One way for graduate students to test the waters of civil service would be to apply for one of the many internships available for master’s and Ph.D. students. To give just one example: an excellent point of entry is the Presidential Management Fellows Program. And jobs in the federal government aren’t just a good option for graduate students. Adjuncts and tenure track professors looking for a change might consider this career path as well.
One academic who made the jump is Alexandra Lord, who left a tenure-track post in a history department to pursue a career in the federal government.
It’s clear that this choice was the right one for her. For one thing, she’s held a string of interesting and important jobs since leaving academe. She’s served as the staff historian for the Office of the U.S. Public Health Service, the branch chief of the National Historic Landmarks Program, and she is currently the chair and curator of the Division of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She’s also been able to publish her own research at a faster clip than when she was on the tenure track. And her belief that the “historical profession suffers when it is defined narrowly” has led her to found two great projects: Beyond Academe and The Ultimate History Project.


FDR signs Social Security bill into law

UPI - August 14, 1935 

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 1935 (UP) - President Roosevelt today signed the far-reaching Social Security bill and remarked - as he laid aside his pen - that "a hope of many years standing is in large part fulfilled."
"This social security measure gives at least some protection to 30,000,000 of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health," Mr. Roosevelt continued.
"We can never insure 100 per cent of the population against 100 per cent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old-age."
His signature completed enactment of one of the most important and far-reaching of New Deal proposals. Championed by Mr. Roosevelt to help Americans "meet some of the major economic hazards of life," the measure:
1. Provides for federal contributions of up to $15 a month a person, starting soon, to help states pension their most needy aged residents.
2. Establishes a great national annuity system by which an estimated 25,000,000 workers and their employers will be taxed billions of dollars through the years, and workers will be paid $10 to $85 a month by the government when they are 65 and jobless.
3. Creates joint State-Federal unemployment insurance systems to provide limited benefits in times of future unemployment.
4. Assists the states immediately in caring for dependent mothers and children, the blind and the ill.
About $100,000,000 of federal funds are called for to finance the federal share of immediate assistance to the aged and to mothers, children and the blind. Congress is expected to appropriate the actual funds before adjourning this session.
The administration's Committee on Economic Security estimates at least 2,400,000 persons are over 65 and in need. How many of them will be helped immediately depends largely on the states. Federal funds will be granted only to the extent that states or their subdivisions pay pensions to the aged.
But in 1937 an estimated 25,000,000 persons will begin paying special taxes which eventually will take 3 per cent of their wages each. Their employers will be required to pay the same levy. From the proceeds of these taxes, beginning in 1942, persons who have been paying the taxes for five years and who are over 65 and out of work will receive pensions direct from the federal Treasury.
The unemployment insurance program will not help those now jobless, but it virtually will force the states to set up insurance plans guaranteeing limited benefits to those who lose their jobs in 1939 and thereafter.
The entire program will be administered by a Federal Social Security Board of three members.


Sven Hedin's 1928 Expedition through the Gobi Desert of China

Letter of Recommendation: Uzbek



Four years ago, the federal government paid me a large sum — a year of graduate-school tuition, plus a stipend — to study Uzbek at the University of Chicago. Uzbek is among the least commonly taught of the so-called Less Commonly Taught Languages, or L.C.T.L.s. So uncommonly is it taught, in fact, that without federal largess it would hardly be taught at all. Because I happened to speak decent Turkish, a cousin of Uzbek, and because I spent a week in Uzbekistan when I was 22, and because life is nothing if not a sequence of odd choices vaguely considered, for two years I sat in a room with two other students and produced some extremely literal translations.


Academic Ranking of World Universities 2015 results

China continues to make progress, but Japan shows slight decline in Shanghai ranking based on research strength

By Ellie Bothwell


Mainland China has continued to improve its performance in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, but the US and Europe still dominate the table.
China has 32 universities in the top 500 table, the same number as last year, but they are edging up the ranks. Seven of these are now in the top 200, up from six last year, after Sun Yat-sen University leaped from the 201-300 band to 151-200. Six of its universities are now in the 201-300 band, up from just two in last year’s table, which is based on research prowess and compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Meanwhile, Japan’s performance has declined this year; the country has 18 institutions represented, down from 19, after Waseda University dropped off the table. Japan's universities are also falling out of the upper echelons of the table; it has one fewer institution in the top 200 (seven compared to eight last year) and one more in the 401-500 band (six compared to five last year).
Overall the US dominates the table, taking more than half (51) of the spots in the top 100. Harvard University is number one for the 13th year in a row. The rest of the top 10 also remains unchanged from last year and is made up of Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Cambridge, Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, the University of Chicago and the University of Oxford.

Compare these rankings with the THE World University Rankings 2014-15


The President's Mohsen Makhmalbaf: 'There's a little Shah in all of us'

He’s been jailed, poisoned, banned and bombed. But film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf won’t stop asking tough questions. As The President, his new satire about a toppled dictator living in disguise, goes on release, the exiled Iranian explains why oppressed people are also to blame for tyranny

Saeed Kamali Dehghan


Mohsen Makhmalbaf is fidgeting in his seat. “In the cinema,” he says, “I tend to drive people next to me insane. I can’t sit on my ass. I have to constantly move.” Over lunch, in this top-floor restaurant overlooking St Paul’s cathedral in London, he changes seats twice.
Makhmalbaf, one of Iran’s most prominent directors, is restless by nature. Constantly thinking of new ideas, endlessly curious about the world, he has made a film and written a book every year since 1981. In his home by the Thames, he has a stack of two dozen scripts on standby. He is by no means short of story ideas.
His latest film, The President, which premiered at Venice last year and is out in the UK next week, is a dark satire following the life of a despot and his six-year-old grandson as they flee from revolutionaries. Disguising himself as a street musician, the president, played by Misha Gomiashvilli, begins to learn about the people he oppressed.


China’s Long Minsky Moment By John Cassidy

John Cassidy

THE NEW YORKER - August 13, 2015

In the wake of Beijing’s decision to devalue its currency this week, the scuttlebutt that has been circulating in western financial circles for months has made the front of the Timesan article by Neil Gough, datelined Hong Kong, relayed concerns that the Chinese economy probably isn’t growing at the official annual rate of seven per cent, and that, in fact, the official figures are so unreliable that it’s impossible for outsiders to figure out what’s really happening.
That’s what Bill Miller, the renowned investor, and other Wall Street skeptics have been saying for months, and I suspect they are right. Is it really plausible that in the first and second quarters of this year the Chinese economy expanded at an annualized rate of precisely seven per cent, which just happens to be the official target for growth in what President Xi Jinping has called the “new normal” era?
Back in 2007, according to cables released by WikiLeaks, a senior figure in the Chinese Communist Party, Li Keqiang, told the U.S. ambassador that China’s G.D.P. figures were “man-made and therefore unreliable.” Other Chinese officials insist that things have changed since then, but it’s hard to know how seriously to take this claim. Even if you accept the official G.D.P. figures at face value, some of the recent growth appears to have emerged from the rapid expansion of the financial-services sector, which, as my colleague James Surowiecki wrote in June, has been caught up in a raging stock-market bubble. According to private-sector readings, which aren’t filtered through China’s state apparatus, manufacturing and real estate, the two primary engines of the Chinese miracle, are both slumping. The debate among China-watchers is about whether these declines are intensifying or coming to an end.


Vatican Library Puts 4,000 Ancient Manuscripts Available Online For Free

By The Event Chronicle on October 21, 2014

The Vatican Apostolic Library is now digitising its valuable ancient religious manuscripts and putting them online via its website, available for the public to view for free, as well as turning to crowdfunding to help it complete its work.
The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 AD and holds over 80,000 manuscripts, prints, drawings, plates and incunabula (books printed prior to 1500 AD) written throughout history by people of different faiths from across the world.



David Simpson 

New Left Review 94, July-August 2015

The ambition of this book—Mark Greif’s first—is to identify a set of ideas from the relatively recent past, dated with arresting precision to the forty years from 1933, which bear on the present we now inhabit. [1] It is an American past, or very largely so, and its defining feature as a passage of thought, Greif argues, was a proliferation of attempts at a universalist account of human nature—far from outdated, even if it is, in many circles, wholly discredited. He begins with the observation that a great many of the mid-twentieth century’s prominent intellectuals concerned themselves with the fate of ‘man’, or ‘mankind’, mostly seen as in a state of urgent crisis. The first part of his argument offers a history and interpretation of this compulsion. For Greif, the ‘crisis of man’ debate acted as a kind of ‘unseen principle of determination’ throughout this period, exerting a gravitational force across ‘the whole space of public thought’ in the us from the thirties to the seventies. If this has so far gone unrecognized, it is in part because the different aspects of the ‘crisis of man’ discourse have hitherto only been seen inside their own intellectual-historical compartments: the ‘nature of man’ as a foundational problem for political theory since Aristotle; the critique of capitalist modernity as a problem for ‘man’ since Weber, or Marx, or the Romantics; the inter-war ‘crisis of liberalism’, both economic and democratic; liberalism’s (troubled) post-war reaffirmation; the ‘Free World’ defence of the individual against totalitarianism, as leading ideology of the Cold War.


Monday, August 10, 2015

A NEW REPORT: Extremism Concerns Growing in West and Predominantly Muslim Countries

Worries Especially Widespread in Western Europe and U.S.


As the Islamic militant group ISIS continues to entrench itself in Syria and Iraq, and instigate terrorist attacks around the world, concerns about Islamic extremism are growing in the West and in countries with significant Muslim populations. Since 2011, the percentage saying they are very concerned about Islamic extremism in their country has increased 38 percentage points in France, 29 points in Spain, 21 points in the United Kingdom, 20 points in Germany and 17 points in the United States.

Concerns are also up significantly in Nigeria (+18), the Palestinian territories (+16), Lebanon (+12), Pakistan (+9) and Turkey (+8) since 2013, before ISIS became widely known.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

China toughens ID registration on phone use

Xinhua - 2015-08-08

BEIJING - Chinese telecom service has been required to verify and register users' ID when selling new phone cards from Sept 1, the nation's telecommunications regulator said on Friday.
The mandate is the latest effort to better enforce a regulation passed in 2013 that required identity verification when accessing telecom services, including fixed phones, cell phones, and the Internet.
Due to lax implementation of the policy, there remains a large number of unverified accounts, including old clients who bought sim cards before 2013.
Currently, users can obtain sim cards without ID in non-official channels, such as newspaper stands and phone stores ignoring the rule.
All three companies' brick-and-mortar shops are required to have ID card readers to verify and register new users' information starting next month, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Friday. So far 600,000 card readers have been installed.
Meanwhile, old and unverified accounts that were activated before the 2013 policy will also be verified when users are applying for new service packages or changing phone cards.
In China, unverified cards, known as "black cards", are widely used in fraudulent activities such as text message scams.


Europe in Crisis: Intellectuals and the European Idea, 1917-1957

Edited by Mark Hewitson and Matthew D'Auria

Barghahn Books - 2015

The period between 1917 and 1957, starting with the birth of the USSR and the American intervention in the First World War and ending with the Treaty of Rome, is of the utmost importance for contextualizing and understanding the intellectual origins of the European Community. During this time of 'crisis,' many contemporaries, especially intellectuals, felt they faced a momentous decision which could bring about a radically different future. The understanding of what Europe was and what it should be was questioned in a profound way, forcing Europeans to react. The idea of a specifically European unity finally became, at least for some, a feasible project, not only to avoid another war but to avoid the destruction of the idea of European unity. This volume reassesses the relationship between ideas of Europe and the European project and reconsiders the impact of long and short-term political transformations on assumptions about the continent’s scope, nature, role and significance.


List of Maps and Figures
Introduction: Europe during the Forty Years’ Crisis
Chapter 1. The United States of Europe: The European Question in the 1920s
Mark Hewitson
Chapter 2. Europe and the Fate of the World: Crisis and Integration in the Late 1940s and 1950s
Mark Hewitson
Chapter 3. Inventing Europe and Reinventing the Nation-State in a New World Order
Mark Hewitson
Chapter 4. Richard Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi, Founder of the Pan-European Union, and the Birth of a ‘New’ Europe
Anita Prettenthaler-Ziegerhofer
Chapter 5. Noble Continent? German-Speaking Nobles as Theorists of European Identity in the Interwar Period
Dina Gusejnova
Chapter 6. Imperium Europaeum: Rudolf Pannwitz and the German Idea of Europe
Jan Vermeiren
Chapter 7. New Middle Ages or New Modernity? Carl Schmitt’s Interwar Perspective on Political Unity in Europe
Ionut Untea
Chapter 8. Rosenzweig, Schmitt and the Concept of Europe
Vittorio Cotesta
Chapter 9. From Centre to Province: Changing Images of Europe in the Writings of Jerzy Stempowski
Łukasz Mikołajewski
Chapter 10. Visualizing Europe from 1900 to the 1950s: Identity on the Move
Michael Wintle
Chapter 11. Europe and the Artistic Patrimony of the Interwar Period: The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation at the League of Nations
Annamaria Ducci
Chapter 12. Huizinga, Intellectual Cooperation and the Spirit of Europe, 1933–1945
Anne-Isabelle Richard
Chapter 13. The Idea of European Unity in Heinrich Mann’s Political Essays of the 1920s and Early 1930s
Ernest Schonfield
Chapter 14. Lucien Febvre and the Idea of Europe
Vittorio Dini
Chapter 15. Junius and the ‘President Professor’: Luigi Einaudi’s European Federalism
Matthew D’Auria
Chapter 16. Federate or Perish: The Continuity and Persistence of the Federal Idea in Europe, 1917–1957
Michael Burgess
Conclusion: Europe between a Crisis of Culture and Political Regeneration

'Made by China' is what Chinese consumers want now


Akio Toyoda has China on his mind.  On Tuesday, the day he announced record earnings, the Toyota Motors president warned of a sharp slowdown in the world's biggest market, echoing concerns already aired by BMW.  But another development in China may spell even more trouble for global carmakers: a $21,700 Land Rover look-alike manufactured domestically.  An SUV bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Evoque model is to hit the market at one-third the price of the original, and it's already racking up thousands of preorders.  Jaguar Land Rover's Ralf Speth has railed at the rise of China's "copy-and-paste" car industry. But complaining is all the chief executive and his peers can do as China continues churning out ever more clones of cars, electronics, appliances, and clothes originally designed in other countries.  The prevailing opinion in boardrooms from New York to Frankfurt to Tokyo has long been that China, which is minting new millionaires at the fastest rate in history and creating a massive middle class, will be easy prey for established brands with expertise in hawking goods to higher-income consumers. The richer mainlanders get, multinational companies presumed, the more they will want Burberry in the closet, Rolex on the wrist, and Lexus parked outside.


A survey of America's top International Relations scholars on foreign-policy research


Which area of the world do you consider to be of greatest strategic importance to the United States today?

Which area of the world do you consider to be of greatest strategic importance to the United States 20 years from now? 

Germany Has a Refugee Problem, and the Problem Is the Germans

Anti-immigrant sentiment is fueling violence and arson. What's the matter with Deutschland?     

By Sumi Somaskanda    

FOREIGN POLICY - August 7, 2015

REICHERTSHOFEN, Germany — It was just before 3 a.m. on July 16 when firefighters arrived to find part of the former Däuber inn in flames. The white, three-story guest house on Winden am Aign’s main drag had long been empty. Now, smoke was billowing out of the brown-trimmed windows and onto a street lined with tidy Bavarian homes and tomato plants.
It didn’t take long to put out the flames eating through the back annex and locate the cause: Fire accelerant was found by two rear doors. The blaze was started on purpose.
Dozens of asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq, and other countries had been scheduled to move into the building in September. Winden has just 830 residents and many of them protested plans to house 130 asylum-seekers in their town, saying the number was too many for such a small town. They negotiated with officials and settled on 67, instead.
Michael Franken, the mayor of Reichertshofen, the larger town that incorporates Winden, had lobbied to turn the vacant building into a home for the growing number of asylum-seekers arriving in his district. Before the fire, he’d thought the fight was over. “Only eight residents showed up to the last meeting we had, which shows how much the debate had died down,” he said. “So we were even more surprised and incensed when the fire happened.”
Nobody was injured, and the front wing of the building — where asylum-seekers will live next month — was undamaged. But the reaction has been strong and swift. District officials have redoubled efforts to clean up the damage and welcome the new residents on schedule. And a 50-person police commission is working to find out who was behind the arson.
“If the person who started the fire really wanted the building to burn down they would have done it differently,” Franken said. “This seems to be more of a signal.”


The Best International Relations Schools in the World

U.S. scholars rank the top 25 IR programs for undergraduates, master's, and Ph.D.s.

By Daniel Maliniak, Susan Peterson, Ryan Powers, and Michael J. Tierney


The road to Washington is paved with elite educations. Indeed, for young people hoping to secure jobs in Foggy Bottom, on Pennsylvania Avenue, and elsewhere in the foreign-policy establishment, a key ingredient to success is often a diploma in international relations (IR) from one of America’s top universities. There are debates to be had about this model—how the pipeline can become more affordable, for instance, to ensure greater diversity among government hires. Scholars and policymakers alike rightly agree, however, that language skills, expertise about regions of the world, and other knowledge gleaned in the classroom make for a stronger, more effective corps of foreign-policy wonks. So which schools prepare students best?
The results of the 2014 Ivory Tower survey—a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project at the College of William & Mary—provide an insider’s guide. Responses from 1,615 IR scholars drawn from 1,375 U.S. colleges and universities determined rankings for the leading Ph.D., terminal master’s, and undergraduate programs in IR. (The scholars were asked to list the top five institutions in each category.) The survey also quizzed respondents about recent historical events and future policy challenges: Just how plausible is a U.S. war with China, for example, and who was the most effective secretary of state over the past 50 years? (Hint: Neither Condoleezza Rice nor John Kerry.)
All told, the Ivory Tower survey offers a window into how America’s top IR scholars see the world today—and which institutions are effectively nurturing future generations of thinkers and policymakers.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me

by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey

Songs My Mother Taught Me an autobiography by Marlon Brando with Robert Lindsey as co-author in 1995.
Brando writes of his memories as a struggling actor and of his various relationships with other actors, producers and directors.
The book has been translated into several languages, including a Persian version translated by Niki Karimi in 1999.
The book is not so much a collection of described chronological events as it is a medium for Brando's thoughts and beliefs, all voiced through a diverse array of topics. Particularly later on in the book, he intersperses stories from both his youth and his older years. Brando doesn't delve into himself more than he needs to, rather the people who shaped his life; notably, little to no mention is made of his wives or children.
Specific mention is made of figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, John F. Kennedy, David Niven, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, John Huston, amongst many others. His actual coverage of his films tends to be succinct, characterised more by anecdotes than step-by-step descriptions of production.


Why DC loves Biden's terrible plan to divide Iraq Updated

by Max Fisher

VOX on August 5, 2015

Now that it looks like a Joe Biden presidential candidacy could actually happen, it seems inevitable that people will discuss what are said to be his considerable foreign policy chops. That includes one of his best-known and most controversial ideas: that Iraq should be partitioned into three separate states, one for each of the main sectarian groups.  Except that this is a myth. In fact, Biden never actually proposed partitioning Iraq — but he does he want to divide it along softer, less drastic lines. His plan is that Iraq adopt a federal system in which the country would remain unified under a central government, but power would be shared between three semi-autonomous regions.  Perversely, much of DC, which for years has wrongly mocked Biden for proposing a plan he didn't actually propose, has since come around to seeing both partition (the plan Biden didn't propose) and the actual Biden plan as great ideas that could save Iraq. They're wrong: Either plan would be a catastrophic disaster for the country.


China to establish police offices in top internet firms

RUSSIA TODAY - 5 Aug, 2015

In efforts to better tackle “criminal behavior online”, China is planning to set up cyber-security police offices in the country’s major internet companies.
“As the country enters the internet age, network security has become a national security issue and social stability issue, important to economic development and a serious day-to-day working issue for citizens,” the Public Security Ministry said in a statement published on Tuesday.
According to the ministry, the new measures would allow law enforcement to react more quickly to illegal online activities as well as helping to protect personal information and prevent online crimes.
“We will set up network security offices inside important website and internet firms, so that we can catch criminal behavior online at the earliest possible point,” said the deputy minister, Chen Zhimin, at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday.


J.P. Morgan to Move 2,150 Jobs From Manhattan to Jersey City

Bank will get $19 million in subsidies for move to New Jersey

By Peter Grant And Heather Haddon

The Wall Street Journal - Aug. 5, 2015   

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has cut a deal to move 2,150 jobs from Manhattan to Jersey City, taking advantage of a $19 million incentive package offered by the state of New Jersey.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Unbalanced The Codependency of America and China

Stephen Roach

Yale University Press - 2014

Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China Stephen Roach, senior fellow at Yale University and former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, lays bare the pitfalls of the current China-U.S. economic relationship. He highlights the conflicts at the center of current tensions, including disputes over trade policies and intellectual property rights, sharp contrasts in leadership styles, the role of the Internet, the recent dispute over cyberhacking, and more. A firsthand witness to the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, Roach likely knows more about the U.S.-China economic relationship than any other Westerner. Here he discusses:
The Chinese and U.S. economies have been locked in an uncomfortable embrace since the late 1970s. Although the relationship initially arose out of mutual benefits, in recent years it has taken on the trappings of an unstable codependence, with the two largest economies in the world losing their sense of self, increasing the risk of their turning on one another in a destructive fashion.  In
  • Why America saving too little and China saving too much creates mounting problems for both
  • How China is planning to re-boot its economic growth model by moving from an external export-led model to one of internal consumerism with a new focus on service industries
  • How America, shows a disturbing lack of strategy, preferring a short-term reactive approach over a more coherent Chinese-style planning framework
  • The way out: what America could do to turn its own economic fate around and position itself for a healthy economic and political relationship with China
 In the wake of the 2008 crisis, both unbalanced economies face urgent and mutually beneficial rebalancings. Unbalanced concludes with a recipe for resolving the escalating tensions of codependence. Roach argues that the Next China offers much for the Next America—and vice versa.

Stephen Roach is senior fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and School of Management, Yale University, and the former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia. He lives in New Canaan, CT.


The Future of Work: Don't Blame the Robots

The latest entry in a special project in which business and labor leaders, social scientists, technology visionaries, activists, and journalists weigh in on the most consequential changes in the workplace.    

Dean Baker


There has been a bizarre debate in national policy circles in recent years, with many raising the prospect that the development of robots and other technologies will lead to mass unemployment and lower living standards. The debate is bizarre for two reasons. First, productivity growth has actually been quite slow in recent years; this is the opposite of the “robots replacing workers’’ story. Second, faster productivity growth should mean higher wages and better living standards in a well-working economy.

Taking these points in turn, productivity growth has slowed sharply in the last decade. From 2005 to 2014 productivity growth has averaged just 1.4 percent annually. This is down from 2.9 percent from 1995 to 2005. In the last two years productivity growth has been even slower, averaging less than one percent. By comparison, in the post-World War II Golden Age from 1947 to 1973, productivity growth averaged almost three percent.
Productivity growth is a direct measure of the rate at which technology is increasing output per worker hour. If robots and other technologies are making workers obsolete, we should be seeing sharp increases in the rate of productivity growth, since they are allowing us to produce goods and services with few or no workers. Instead, slower productivity growth means technology is displacing workers less quickly than in 1995–2005.


Are plants intelligent?

New book says yes  A new book, Brilliant Green, argues that not only are plants intelligent and sentient, but that we should consider their rights, especially in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction

Jeremy Hance


Plants are intelligent. Plants deserve rights. Plants are like the Internet – or more accurately the Internet is like plants. To most of us these statements may sound, at best, insupportable or, at worst, crazy. But a new book, Brilliant Green: the Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by plant neurobiologist (yes, plant neurobiologist), Stefano Mancuso and journalist, Alessandra Viola, makes a compelling and fascinating case not only for plant sentience and smarts, but also plant rights.
For centuries Western philosophy and science largely viewed animals as unthinking automatons, simple slaves to instinct. But research in recent decades has shattered that view. We now know that not only are chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants thinking, feeling and personality-driven beings, but many others are as well. Octopi can use tools, whales sing, bees can count, crows demonstrate complex reasoning, paper wasps can recognise faces and fish can differentiate types of music. All these examples have one thing in common: they are animals with brains. But plants don’t have a brain. How can they solve problems, act intelligently or respond to stimuli without a brain?

Food Security: Egypt Plans To Raise Crops In Sub-Saharan Africa

By Walaa Hussein
By Walaa Hussein
By Walaa Hussein

AFK INSIDER - August 4, 2015

Amid Egypt’s water scarcity, which threatens to worsen the country’s food shortage, Cairo is working to form agricultural alliances outside its borders. The efforts — which have been in place as limited experiments since the 1980s under Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — include sending Egyptian farmers to cultivate land in Sudan and Congo, transfer their expertise to those countries and take advantage of the available water to cover the food needs of the Egyptian people. The efforts also aim at establishing model farms for strategic crops in a number of countries, including Mali, Niger and Zambia.  The countries covered by the Egyptian project for foreign agriculture have an abundance and diversity of water sources, but declining agricultural development due to lack of funding and agricultural machinery. In Sudan, which has a surface area of ​​1.8 million square kilometers (445 million acres), cultivated areas do not exceed 45 million acres, according to the latest statistics by the Central Bank of Sudan. That is about a fifth of the country’s arable area, estimated at 200 million acres.  The ​​surface area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second-largest African country, is 2.35 million square kilometers (581 million acres). The country has ​​1.3 million square kilometers (321 million acres) of forest areas. Several rivers — such as the Nile and the Congo rivers — supply the Congo with a lot of water and the country’s arable land is of excellent quality. Nevertheless, 95% of the country’s population suffers from hunger.  At the Arab Summit in March, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir put forth an initiative for Arab food security to have the troubled Egyptian program cultivate thousands of acres in Sudan.  In April, the Sudanese government announced the allocation of Sudanese land in several water-rich areas where the Egyptians can implement joint projects in food security and by using the agricultural integration program. The latter aims to achieve self-sufficiency when it comes to agricultural and food production. The program was announced in a meeting in Khartoum on April 24, in the presence of five ministers concerned with agriculture and irrigation issues from the two countries.


Human settlement on Mars? MIT researchers join debate

By Steve Annear

Boston Globe - August 04, 2015

Move aside, Pluto. It’s Mars’s turn to take center stage.
At a convention celebrating the planet this month, two MIT researchers will debate the chief exeucutive of Mars One, the non-profit organization backing an ambitious mission to the Red Planet.
MIT students Sydney Do and Andrew Owens will “have it out” with Mars One’s Bas Lansdorp at the 18th annual International Mars Society Convention on Aug. 13.
Mars One was launched in 2012. Its founders want to establish a human settlement on Mars as early as 2027. One hundred volunteers, including a Stoneham resident, have already been picked as potential settlers, who, if they get there, will never return to Earth.
The convention, which will be held at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., will feature scientists, elected officials, and space advocates versed in all things pertaining to Mars.
The format of the debate will consist of two 20-minute presentations — one from each side — followed by two rounds of rebuttals. Participants will then take questions from the audience.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Area Studies and International Studies

The Cold War & the University: 
Toward an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years  
Noam Chomsky, Laura Nader, Immanuel Wallerstein, Richard C. Lewontin, Richard Ohmann
The New Press - 1998

The years following 1945 witnessed a massive change in American intellectual thought and in the life of American universities. The effort to mobilize intellectual talent during the war established new links between the government and the academy. After the war, many of those who had worked with the military or the Office of Strategic Studies took jobs in the burgeoning postwar structure of university-based military research and intelligence agencies, bringing large infusions of government money into many fields.
The essays in this text explore what happened to the university in these years and why. They show the many ways existing disciplines, such as anthropology, were affected by the Cold War ethos, and discuss the rise of new fields, such as area studies, and the changing nature of dissent and academic freedom during and since the Cold War.

The Politics of Knowledge Area Studies and the Disciplines 
David Szanton (Editor) 
University of California Press - 2004

The usefulness and political implications of Area Studies programs are currently debated within the Academy and the Administration, where they are often treated as one homogenous and stagnant domain of scholarship. The essays in this volume document the various fields’ distinctive character and internal heterogeneity as well as the dynamism resulting from their evolving engagements with funders, US and international politics, and domestic constituencies. The authors were chosen for their long-standing interest in the intellectual evolution of their fields. They describe the origins and histories of US-based Area Studies programs, highlighting their complex, generative, and sometimes contentious relationships with the social science and humanities disciplines and their diverse contributions to the regions of the world with which they are concerned.
Introduction: The Origin, Nature, and Challenges of Area Studies in the United States, David L. Szanton
Latin American Studies: Theory and Practice, Paul W. Drake and Lisa Hilbink
The Middle East in the Past and Future of Social Science, Timothy Mitchell
Area Studies in Search of Africa, Pearl T. Robinson
Japanese Studies: The Intangible Act of Translation, Alan Tansman
Soviet and Post-Soviet Area Studies, Victoria E. Bonnell and George W. Breslauer
Eastern Europe or Central Europe? Exploring a Distinct Regional Identity, Ellen Comisso and Brad Gutierrez
The Transformation of Contemporary China Studies, 1977–2002, Andrew G. Walder
South Asian Studies: Futures Past, Nicholas B. Dirks
The Development of Southeast Asian Studies in the UnitedStates, John Bowen

The Americanization of Social Science: Intellectuals and Public Responsibility in the Postwar United States 
David Haney

A highly readable introduction to and overview of the postwar social sciences in the United States, The Americanization of Social Science explores a critical period in the evolution of American sociology’s professional identity from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. David Paul Haney contends that during this time leading sociologists encouraged a professional secession from public engagement in the name of establishing the discipline’s scientific integrity.     According to Haney, influential practitioners encouraged a willful withdrawal from public sociology by separating their professional work from public life. He argues that this separation diminished sociologists’ capacity for conveying their findings to wider publics, especially given their ambivalence towards the mass media, as witnessed by the professional estrangement that scholars like David Riesman and C. Wright Mills experienced as their writing found receptive lay audiences. He argues further that this sense of professional insularity has inhibited sociology’s participation in the national discussion about social issues to the present day.

American Empire Roosevelt’s Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization 
Neil Smith
University of California Press - 2004

An American Empire, constructed over the last century, long ago overtook European colonialism, and it has been widely assumed that the new globalism it espoused took us "beyond geography." Neil Smith debunks that assumption, offering an incisive argument that American globalism had a distinct geography and was pieced together as part of a powerful geographical vision. The power of geography did not die with the twilight of European colonialism, but it did change fundamentally. That the inauguration of the American Century brought a loss of public geographical sensibility in the United States was itself a political symptom of the emerging empire. This book provides a vital geographical-historical context for understanding the power and limits of contemporary globalization, which can now be seen as representing the third of three distinct historical moments of U.S. global ambition. The story unfolds through a decisive account of the career of Isaiah Bowman (1878–1950), the most famous American geographer of the twentieth century. For nearly four decades Bowman operated around the vortex of state power, working to bring an American order to the global landscape. An explorer on the famous Machu Picchu expedition of 1911 who came to be known first as "Woodrow Wilson’s geographer," and later as Frankin D. Roosevelt’s, Bowman was present at the creation of U.S. liberal foreign policy. A quarter-century later, Bowman was at the center of Roosevelt’s State Department, concerned with the disposition of Germany and heightened U.S. access to European colonies; he was described by Dean Acheson as a key "architect of the United Nations." In that period he was a leader in American science, served as president of Johns Hopkins University, and became an early and vociferous cold warrior. A complicated, contradictory, and at times controversial figure who was very much in the public eye, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Bowman’s career as a geographer in an era when the value of geography was deeply questioned provides a unique window into the contradictory uses of geographical knowledge in the construction of the American Empire. Smith’s historical excavation reveals, in broad strokes yet with lively detail, that today's American-inspired globalization springs not from the 1980s but from two earlier moments in 1919 and 1945, both of which ended in failure. By recharting the geography of this history, Smith brings the politics—and the limits—of contemporary globalization sharply into focus.

Creating the Cold War University: The Transformation of Stanford 
Rebecca S. Lowen
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997

The "cold war university" is the academic component of the military-industrial-academic complex, and its archetype, according to Rebecca Lowen, is Stanford University. Her book challenges the conventional wisdom that the post-World War II "multiversity" was created by military patrons on the one hand and academic scientists on the other and points instead to the crucial role played by university administrators in making their universities dependent upon military, foundation, and industrial patronage.

  1. Jonathan Z. Friedman and Cynthia Miller-Idriss. The International Infrastructure of Area Studies Centers: Lessons for Current Practice From a Prior Wave of Internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education 2015, Vol. 19(1) 86–104
  2. David Engerman, “Rethinking Cold War Universities: Some Recent Histories,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3 (2003)
  3. Neil Smith,  The Politics of Space: Jigsaw Geographies After Area Studies.ABYSMAL IGNORANCE”: THE PRE-LIFE OF AREA STUDIES, 1917 - 1958