“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, January 28, 2016

Where Will The “Republican Regular” Voters Go? The Forgotten Voters

By: Dan McLaughlin (Diary) RED STATE  |  January 25th, 2016

What will Republican voters do? That’s the big question of this primary, and everyone seems to be dividing the voters into “the conservatives,” “the establishment,” liberal Republicans, and – somewhere way out there – Trump supporters. But there’s a significant factor being ignored, which is hard to quantify but crucial in any Republican primary. I call them “Republican Regulars,” and they are about to become a whole lot more important.
This is not precisely the same thing as “the Republican base,” which in any event can be an imprecise term – who is the base? There are two possible definitions – either (1) “the base” is the people who always show up to vote for you or, more expansively, (2) “the base” is the people who always vote for you when they show up.
But let’s step back and describe a particular type of voter that has been a part of the Republican base since the 1860s, and who anyone involved in GOP politics has encountered frequently over the years: the “Republican Regular.” I would describe the Republican Regular as having the following characteristics:
1. A “medium-information” voter. High-information voters follow blogs and/or talk radio, are plugged tightly into small distinctions between the candidates and the ideological factions in the party, have strong opinions many months ahead of elections, and have strong loyalties to particular segments of the party. Low-information voters, at the opposite end of this scale, tune in late and often have only a superficial grasp of the issues and ideologies.


What It's Like to Teach Islam 101 When Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Runs High

By Beckie Supiano CHRONICLE - January 26, 2016 

Gainesville, Fla. 

Heated debates about terrorism and immigration are making many Muslims wary. The charged climate is a challenging backdrop for a course meant to introduce undergraduates to the religion.


The U.S., the West, and Islam: The Real Meaning of ISIS's Expansion into Turkey, Afghanistan, and Indonesia

By Anthony H. Cordesman  

CSIS - Jan 15, 2016

It is all too easy to react to each new terrorist attack by ISIS by focusing on that attack, on ISIS, and on terrorism, rather than the broader policy challenges involved. It seems equally easy to lurch from a concern on Syrian refugees to a focus on counterterrorism, excluding Muslims, treating all of Islam as extremists, and dealing with Muslims in terms that mix fear with bigotry.
The Wrong Western Reaction Will Aid Extremism and Terrorism
All of these actions, however, may do much to encourage terrorism, tension with the entire Islamic world, and undermine the real battle against extremism and terrorism. It is all too predictable that ISIS will take every opportunity to strengthen its image, its “legitimacy,” and its ability to raise funds and attract volunteers by affiliating with other violent Islamic extremist movements.
Like Al Qaeda before it, ISIS will do everything it can to create its own cells and launch high visibility terrorist attacks in as many areas as it can – expanding its role in every Muslim country whose government is fighting extremism and terrorism: states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan , and Indonesia.


Friends, Foes, and Future Directions: U.S. Partnerships in a Turbulent World

Strategic Rethink  by Hans Binnendijk

RAND - 2016

This report is the third in RAND's ongoing Strategic Rethink series, in which RAND experts explore the elements of a national strategy for the conduct of U.S. foreign and security policy in this administration and the next. The report evaluates three broad strategies for dealing with U.S. partners and adversaries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East in a time of diminishing defense budgets and an American public preference for a domestic focus. The three strategies are to be more assertive, to be more collaborative, or to retrench from international commitments. All three of these alternative approaches are constrained and a balance will need to be struck among them — that balance may differ from region to region. In general, however, the United States may need to follow a more collaborative approach in which it seeks greater collaboration and burden sharing from strong partners who have until now not been pulling their weight. To further reduce risk, the United States should seek to prevent deeper security ties from developing between China and Russia. It should work closely with its most vulnerable partners not only to reassure them, but to coordinate crisis management with them to limit the risk of unwanted escalation of incidents. And it should sponsor new trilateral efforts to draw together partners in both Europe and Asia that face similar security, political, economic, societal, and environmental problems. Only by working together across regions can many of these challenges be effectively managed. Trilateralism might serve as a useful follow-on strategy to the pivot to Asia.


Top 15 universities in the Arab world announced

Institutions from eight countries feature in a snapshot university ranking for the region

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION - January 27, 2016         

By Ellie Bothwell

Saudi Arabia is the top performer in a snapshot ranking for universities in the Arab region, based on data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016.
King Abdulaziz University is first place in the top 15 table, while its national rivals King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and King Saud University are third and fourth respectively. Lebanon’s American University of Beirut (second) and the United Arab Emirates University (fifth) make up the rest of the top five.
Egypt also has three universities in the list, but they are concentrated in the bottom half of the table: Suez Canal, Alexandria and Cairo universities take tenth, 11th and 12th place respectively.
One reason for Saudi Arabia’s success may be its high levels of funding. On average, ranked universities in the country receive $733,069 (£519,290) of institutional income per member of staff, the third highest among the eight countries featured in the list. Egypt’s universities, in comparison, receive an average of just $101,317 (£71,770) on this measure.


The top universities in the Arab world

By Carly Minsky

Times higher Education - January 28 2016

Saudi Arabia has triumphed in a snapshot ranking released on Thursday: the top universities in the Arab world.
Three of the top five universities were in Saudi Arabia, while Morocco and Egypt also secured three spots each in the top 15.
The ranking is an initial release before consultation with the sector to determine how best to evaluate the region.
Although none of the featured universities achieves a position higher than the top 300 in the overall World University Rankings, the two best universities in the Arab World – King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon – achieved high scores for their international outlook.
The United Arab Emirates University and the American University of Sharjah, both in the United Arab Emirates, achieved high enough scores for international outlook to also make it into the top 15 of a recent World’s Most International Universities ranking.
At the top of that ranking, and at position six in the Arab world snapshot, is Qatar University. Its extremely high international score is based on proportions of international students, staff and collaborations – unsurprisingly high in a country where only 13 per cent of the population are Qatari nationals.


A NEW JOURNAL: World Development Perspectives

The multi-disciplinary journal devoted to the study and promotion of international development Editor-in-Chief: Ashwini Chhatre

World Development Perspectives is a multi-disciplinary journal of international development. It seeks to explore ways of improving human well-being by examining the performance and impact of interventions designed to address issues related to: poverty alleviation, public health and malnutrition, agricultural production, natural resource governance, globalization and transnational processes, technological progress, gender and social discrimination, and participation in economic and political life. Above all, we are particularly interested in the role of historical, legal, social, economic, political, biophysical, and/or ecological contexts in shaping development processes and outcomes.
We welcome contributions that offer constructive ideas and analysis, and highlight the lessons to be learned from the experiences of different nations, societies, and economies. World Development Perspectives recognizes 'development' as a process of change at and across multiple scales, involving a diverse...


The Lonely Arab Crowd

Sami Mahroum  Sami Mahroum is Director of the Innovation & Policy Initiative at INSEAD. 


PARIS – In The Hubris of the Zero Point, the Colombian philosopher Santiago Castro-Gomez describes René Descartes’s 1637 declaration “I think, therefore I am” as the moment white Europeans installed themselves above God as the sole arbiters of knowledge and truth. With this turning point, they began to think of themselves as observers whose scientific methods, morals, and ethics overrode those of other cultures.  Cultural “zero points” are important because they serve as a dividing line – a clear demarcation of “before” and “after” that holds fundamental implications for the development of private and public life. So it is instructive to consider the implications of Castro-Gomez’s concept for the Arab world. Indeed, it could be argued that much of the region’s troubles are attributable to the absence of an indigenous “zero point” onto which a modern culture could be sturdily pinned. Support Project Syndicate’s mission  Project Syndicate needs your help to provide readers everywhere equal access to the ideas and debates shaping their lives. Learn more  In The Lonely Crowd, the American sociologist David Riesman identified three broad cultural types: tradition-directed cultures that look to inherited rituals, morals, and values for guidance; inner-directed cultures, in which people behave according to self-nourished values; and other-directed cultures that react predominantly to external norms and peer influences. Riesman’s framework has particular resonance in the Arab world today, where rising literacy rates and rapid advances in communication technology have stirred a maelstrom of competing cultural narratives, with his three types competing to define the region’s future.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Search for Tahrir Square

Disillusionment with the January 25 revolution and what followed might be the first step towards a better, and more democratic, Egypt.

By Amr Kotb


On January 25, 2011, Egyptians piled into Tahrir Square to demand bread, freedom, justice, and dignity. I watched the events of those eighteen days of revolt unfold from the comfort of my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, calling family in Egypt regularly and gluing myself to every live update.  Born and raised in the United States to Egyptian parents, there was still so much I did not know about Egyptian society. Nonetheless, like many first-generation Americans, I was proud of my Egyptian heritage. The revolution thrilled me because it created a chance for Egypt to reach its potential. My excitement and hope drove me to move to Cairo three years later.  Egypt’s nickname, Um Al-Dunya, or Mother of the World, arises from its historical and cultural significance. Yet over the past sixty years, the country has plunged further and further into a morass of social and economic problems. I had always blamed much of this failure on the rulers that followed its 1952 revolution. The dictatorships of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak had failed to provide basic human rights and civil liberties. The rulers led citizens and much of the world to believe that the choice for Egypt was stark: either authoritarianism or political Islam and religious extremism.


Whither the Middle East after the Iran nuclear deal

CAIRO REVIEW - Sunday, 24 January 2016

Hisham Melhem

Those of us wordsmiths writing, thinking , wondering and obsessing about things Middle Eastern have a new phrase to ponder; ‘Implementation day’. On January 16, 2016 you could hear many people saying: rejoice, the day we have been waiting for is upon us, while others denounced it as a day that shall live in infamy. After the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA certified that Iran had delivered on its initial commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United States and the P5+1 and the IAEA announced that the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran has begun on January 16, 2016.  In return for Iran’s dismantlement of more than two-third of the centrifuges it once used to enrich uranium, shipping 98 percent of its low-enriched uranium stockpile to Russia and rendering its heavy water reactor at Arak obsolete after removing its reactor and pouring concrete into it, ‘implementation day’ also triggered the suspension of a complex web of nuclear related sanctions the U.S. the European Union and the United Nations have imposed on Iran in recent years. The nuclear accord will allow Iran, inter alia, to retrieve at least $60 billion of its frozen assets and to return to the international oil market as a major producer. The nuclear deal is not open ended and does not eliminate Iran’s ability in the future to become a nuclear power, but if it is fully implemented it will severely restrict Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear device in the next 10 to 15 years.


Should we reimagine our colonial legacy?

The Empire strikes back

by Tristram Hunt 

THE PROSPECT  / January 21, 2016

By far the most striking work in Tate Britain’s compelling recent exhibition, Artist and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past, was Elizabeth Butler’s depiction of an exhausted, slumped British Army surgeon being slowly carried back to base after the catastrophic 1842 retreat from Kabul. The First Anglo-Afghan War was one of the great catastrophes of British imperial adventurism and Butler’s The Remnants of an Army (1872) captures perfectly the expedition’s mixture of futility, incompetence and arrogance. It is a picture that speaks purposefully to Bernard Porter and Stephanie Barczewski’s new accounts of the representation of heroic failure and the lingering impact of imperialism on British culture. Yet its theme, imagery and place at the Tate serve only to contradict much of what is argued in each of these ultimately unsatisfying books.
This is not a bad time to be exploring the legacies and meanings of British colonialism, as we seem to be embarking on a renewed bout of Empire-angst. Even as imperial scholars are stressing more and more the plural, hybrid and diverse nature of the British Empire—a historical event that encompassed racist brutality in Jamaica together with an Anglo-Saxon “kith and kin” white commonwealth; the treaty ports of China together with the plantations of Ulster; the industrial capitalism of Bombay together with the “civilising mission” of David Livingstone—the contemporary public debate is still tediously divided along good versus evil matrices.


A NEW BOOK: Edward Said and the Question of Subjectivity

Prasad, Pannian


Contributing to Edward Said's legacy as a great thinker of the twentieth-century, Prasad Pannian uniquely argues that subjectivity was a pervasive theme to Said's body of work. Showing Said as a champion of humanism, this book combines political and literary theory to delve into Said's views on topics ranging from the role of intellectuals to Marxism.


5 of the worst atrocities carried out by the British Empire

A YouGov poll found 43 per cent of Brits thought the British Empire was a good thing, while 44 per cent were proud of Britain's history of colonialism    

Samuel Osborne   

THE INDEPENDENT - Tuesday 19 January 2016

A new YouGov poll has found the British public are generally proud of the British Empire and its colonial past.
YouGov found 44 per cent were proud of Britain's history of colonialism, with 21 per cent regretting it happened and 23 per cent holding neither view.
The same poll also found 43 per cent believed the British Empire was a good thing, 19 per cent said it was bad and 25 per cent said it was "neither".
At its height in 1922, the British empire governed a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's total land area.
Although the proponents of Empire say it brought various economic developments to parts of the world it controlled, critics point to massacres, famines and the use of concentration camps by the British Empire.


British people are proud of colonialism and the British Empire, poll finds

The Empire's history is not widely taught in detail in British schools

British people are proud of colonialism and the British Empire, poll finds

Jon Stone    

THE INDEPENDENT - Tuesday 19 January 2016

The British public are generally proud of their country’s role in colonialism and the British Empire, according to a new poll.
At its height in 1922 the British Empire governed a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land area, but its legacy divides opinion.
Common criticisms of the empire include its policies causing millions of famine deaths in British India, its running of brutal detention camps in occupied territories, and massacres of civilians by imperial troops.
The British Empire was also a dominant slave-trading power until the practice was outlawed in 1807, after which the Empire played key a role in ending the practice internationally.
The Empire’s proponents say it brought economic development to parts of the world and benefited the countries it controlled.
David Cameron has previously said the Empire should be “celebrated”.
YouGov found 44 per cent were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism while only 21 per cent regretted that it happened. 23 per cent held neither view.


Terrorism: Theirs and Ours By Eqbal Ahmad

(A Presentation at the University of Colorado, Boulder, October 12, 1998)


In the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish underground in Palestine was described as “TERRORIST.”  Then new things happened.  By 1942, the Holocaust was occurring, and a certain liberal sympathy with the Jewish people had built up in the Western world. At that point, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly started to be described, by 1944-45, as “freedom fighters.” At least two Israeli Prime Ministers, including Menachem Begin, have actually, you can find in the books and posters with their pictures, saying “Terrorists, Reward This Much.” The highest reward I have noted so far was 100,000 British pounds on the head of Menachem Begin, the terrorist.  Then from 1969 to 1990 the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, occupied the center stage as the terrorist organization. Yasir Arafat has been described repeatedly by the great sage of American journalism, William Safire of the New York Times, as the “Chief of Terrorism.” That’s Yasir Arafat.  Now, on September 29, 1998, I was rather amused to notice a picture of Yasir Arafat to the right of President Bill Clinton. To his left is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan­yahu. Clinton is looking towards Arafat and Arafat is looking literally like a meek mouse. Just a few years earlier he used to appear with this very menacing look around him, with a gun appearing menacing from his belt. You remember those pictures, and you remember the next one.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

5 mln jobs will be lost due to tech revolution

People.cn, January 21, 2016 

Disruptive labor market changes will result in a loss of more than 5.1 million jobs from 2015 to 2020, according to a latest report by World Economic Forum (WEF). The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labor markets over the next five years, according to the report, The Future of Jobs, published Monday by the WEF. This trend will lead to a loss of more than 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies, said the report.


Davos 2016 – the rise of AI | FT Business

Monday, January 18, 2016

The PKK’s Low-Intensity Warfare: Background, Causes, Regional Dynamics, and Implications


GMF - January 15, 2016

Conflict over the Kurdish question is dominating Turkey’s political agenda again. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been emboldened, one the one hand, by the gains of its sister party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in the Kurdish part of Syria and, on the other, Turkey’s deteriorating geopolitical position in Syria, particularly after Russia’s heavy military build-up and the Turkish–Russian feud over Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian jet. The PKK has become less compromising and more assertive. After terminating its two-and-half year long ceasefire with Turkey through the execution of two police officers on July 22, 2015, the PKK is now intensifying its fight against Turkey. This termination was aided in no small measure by the government’s lack of seriousness on the peace process.


Chinese luxury shoppers increasingly turning online: KPMG

I-CROSS CHINA - 2016-01-17

BEIJING, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- For Chinese, online shops are quickly evolving from simply a means to get a bargain to somewhere movers and shakers can splash out on pricey clothes and accessories. According to a study published by auditor KPMG earlier this week, Chinese buyers of luxury items are increasingly favoring online retailers over brick-and-mortar stores, which will account for half of Chinese luxury spending by 2020. Surveying 10,150 Chinese consumers of luxury goods in 2015, KPMG found that nearly one third of their luxury spending was online. The respondents' average spend per luxury item was 2,300 yuan (350 U.S. dollars), and the averaged highest amount they said they would be willing to spending online on each order was 4,200 yuan, more than double the figure in 2014.


Chinese factory replaces 90% of humans with robots, production soars

Changying Precision Technology Company in Dongguan city has set up an unmanned factory run almost entirely by robots. The factory has since seen fewer defects and a higher rate of production. 

By Conner Forrest

TECHREPUBLIC | July 30, 2015

The gravest fear that has rippled through humanity from the technology industry is that, someday, almost all of our jobs will be replaced by robots.
While that fear is often laughed off as something that will only happen far into the future, the truth is that it's actually happening right now.
In Dongguan City, located in the central Guangdong province of China, a technology company has set up a factory run almost exclusively by robots, and the results are fascinating.
The Changying Precision Technology Company factory in Dongguan has automated production lines that use robotic arms to produce parts for cell phones. The factory also has automated machining equipment, autonomous transport trucks, and other automated equipment in the warehouse.
There are still people working at the factory, though. Three workers check and monitor each production line and there are other employees who monitor a computer control system. Previously, there were 650 employees at the factory. With the new robots, there's now only 60. Luo Weiqiang, general manager of the company, told the People's Daily that the number of employees could drop to 20 in the future.


Edited by Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse

The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism - the first of its kind - offers a systematic and wide-ranging survey of the scholarship on regionalism, regionalization, and regional governance.

Unpacking the major debates, leading authors of the field synthesize the state of the art, provide a guide to the comparative study of regionalism, and identify future avenues of research. Twenty-seven chapters review the theoretical and empirical scholarship with regard to the emergence of regionalism, the institutional design of regional organizations and issue-specific governance, as well as the effects of regionalism and its relationship with processes of regionalization. The authors explore theories of cooperation, integration, and diffusion explaining the rise and the different forms of regionalism. The handbook also discusses the state of the art on the world regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Eurasia, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Various chapters survey the literature on regional governance in major issue areas such as security and peace, trade and finance, environment, migration, social and gender policies, as well as democracy and human rights. Finally, the handbook engages in cross-regional comparisons with regard to institutional design, dispute settlement, identities and communities, legitimacy and democracy, as well as inter- and transregionalism.


New Release: The Urban Development of Cairo Streets

A new book by Fathi Hafez El-Hadidi traces the changing urban identity of Cairo via texts and rare images that capture moments of transformation of the historic city

Ahram Online, Sunday 25 May 2014

Al-Tataowr Al-Omrani le Shawari’ Al-Qahira (The Urban Development of Cairo Streets), by: Fathi Hafez El-Hadidi, Cairo: Al-Dar Al-Masriah Al-Lubnaniah, 2014. 526pp.
Al-Dar Al-Masriah Al-Lubnaniah has released a new book entitled Al-Tataowr Al-Omrani le Shawari’ Al-Qahira (The Urban Development of Cairo Streets) by writer and urban development researcher Fathi Hafez El-Hadidi.
The book traces the history of Cairo’s most famous streets, providing rare and old photos of Cairo's streets and buildings since it was planned in the mid-19th century to the beginnings of the 21st century.
The book is considered an urban encyclopedia that contributes to the writing of the history of the historical city. The 526-page book contains rich archival material that the author collected throughout his life, taking advantage of his position as a clerk in the Ministry of Public Works (now the Ministry of Irrigation), which was responsible for planning and building roads and had all the old blueprints and maps of the city. The author also depended on the records kept in the Egyptian National Library and Archives.
Throughout, the book reveals the special nature of the buildings of Cairo streets, like villas, mosques and palaces, and tries to trace the changing urban identity of the city.
The book tells the history of many streets, such as Al-Azhar, Al-Alfy, Al-Tahrir. Gammaliya, Gawad Hosni, Ramsis, Sherif, Champollion, Shawarby, Emad Eddin, Mohammed Ali, 26 July, and many others, that shape and contain the urban identity of Cairo and are witness to its changing face.


Going Public? Privatization of Saudi Aramco Requires Serious Changes

SPUTNIK - 16.01.2016

While Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Prince Mohammad bin Salman insists he is "enthusiastic" about the possible privatization of Aramco, experts are racking their brains over the monarchy's decision, asking whether a Saudi Aramco IPO will make any sense for the ruling family.
There is certainly a logic to privatizing Aramco, Perry Cammack and David Livingston of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace note, adding, however, that although privatizing of the Saudi oil giant is attractive, it is unlikely.  Saudi Aramco is undoubtedly the most valuable company in the world. Since 1980 the company has been owned by the government of the Gulf Kingdom. According to some estimates, if Aramco went public its market capitalization would reach $10 trillion, overshadowing Apple, ExxonMobil, Berkshire Hathaway and Google — combined.


Alabama cop paralyzed Indian grandfather; judge throws out case after two racially charged trials

Judge lets white police officer off the hook after what critics say were two racially biased trials

Ben Norton

SALON -  Thursday, Jan 14, 2016 

Sureshbahi Patel was walking on the sidewalk outside of his son’s home in an Alabama suburb on the morning of Feb. 6, 2015, minding his own business, when a white police officer approached him, frisked him and threw him to the ground, leaving him paralyzed.
The 57-year-old grandfather had just arrived to the U.S. from a small town in India, and did not understand English. He reportedly said “no English” and repeated the address of his son’s home to the cop as he approached him.
A neighbor had called Madison, Alabama police claiming they saw someone “suspicious” wandering around the neighborhood. They described him a “skinny black guy” who is “walking around close to the garage.”
Hank Sherrod, the family’s attorney, shot back at the allegation, which he insisted was racist. “This is broad daylight, walking down the street. There is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin.”


Mexico Officially Recognizes 1.38 Million Afro-Mexicans in the National Census, as Black People Fight Against Racism and Invisibility Throughout Latin America

ATLANTA BLACK STAR - December 14, 2015

In what is being hailed as a step forward for people of African descent, Mexico has for the first time recognized its Afro-Mexican population.  The decision reflects a larger issue of what it means to be Black in Latin America.
The Mexico national census is now accounting for the 1.38 million people of African ancestry, as the Huffington Post reports.  Since the 1910 Mexican Revolution, people of African descent have not been documented.  The Latin American nation has maintained a national identity of “mestizaje”–which ignored the descendants of African slaves, while acknowledging those who came from a mixed background of indigenous peoples and Spanish colonizers. And yet, this happened despite the role of people such as Gaspar Yanga, a national hero who established a free society of formerly enslaved Blacks, and Vicente Guerrero, one of the leading generals in the Mexican war of independence from Spain and the second president of Mexico.


What makes a photographer when everyone is taking pictures

PBS - January 14, 2016

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people about their passions.
For six decades, Ken Van Sickle has been quietly producing photographs in his darkroom, located in the center of Manhattan. His photos range from documenting the bohemian life of New York and Paris in the 1950s and ’60s to pushing the limits of the medium itself.
KEN VAN SICKLE, Photographer: If you walk out of the front of the Flatiron Building and you walk straight across the street, you walk right through my door. Then you have to go 91 steps up the stairs, which is really good for me, because it keeps me healthy.
I’m 83 years old now. I moved into this building in 1963. And it’s rent-controlled. And it’s a landmark building, and I’m a senior citizen. So, I don’t pay much rent. That’s the only reason I can live here at all.
I don’t have a favorite place to take photographs or even a favorite subject. I carry a camera. If I go out into the hallway, I carry a camera with me.
When I was in Paris, I was 23, I think, and I wanted to shoot everything I saw, but I didn’t have enough money to buy, like, more than like a roll of film every two weeks. And somebody said that Chet Baker was playing over at the American club. And I went over and I took two pictures, and one of them is out of focus, and the other one is a great photo.


Istanbul Ataturk Beats Frankfurt to Climb Europe's Airport Ranks

Richard Weiss Kari Lundgren

BLOOMBERG - January 15, 2016

Istanbul’s Ataturk airport overtook Frankfurt to enter the European top three for the first time in 2015 as Turkish Airlines continued its rapid expansion and strikes at Deutsche Lufthansa AG hurt the German hub.London Heathrow, the main base for British Airways, remains Europe’s busiest airport, even as it struggles to add flights on runways that are effectively full, while Paris Charles de Gaulle, ranked second, suffered two months of falling numbers for the first time in almost two years after November’s terror attacks.


Shakespeare and Islam

By Matthew Dimmock        

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS - December 27th 2015   

Without Islam there would be no Shakespeare. This may seem surprising or even controversial to those who imagine a ‘national bard’ insulated from the wider world. Such an approach is typified in the words of the celebrated historian A.L. Rowse, who wrote that when it came to creatively connecting with that world, Shakespeare, the ‘quiet countryman’, was ‘the least engaged writer there ever was’.  Yet without Tudor and Jacobean England’s rich and complex engagement with Islamic cultures the plays written by William Shakespeare would be very different, if they existed at all. This is evidently true in terms of content. Take away around 150 references to Islamic motifs in 21 plays – to Turks and Saracens, to ‘Mahomet’, Morocco and Barbary – and the corpus looks very different. Take away The Merchant of Venice and Othello, both of which foreground encounters with Islam, and two of the best known and most frequently performed of the plays are lost.  To argue that most of these references are insubstantial or irrelevant is to misunderstand the ways in which they are used. Throughout the history plays, for instance, Shakespeare embeds a rhetoric of crusade, of fighting for ‘Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field’ against ‘black pagans, Turks, and Saracens’, in order to define martial Christian valour and to demonise enemies. Alternatively, the apparently casual references to silks, taffetas, ‘bags of spices’, ‘Turkish tapestry’, and ‘Turkey cushions bossed with pearl’ that litter his drama are intended to signal a particular kind of opulence, but they simultaneously reveal England’s expanding commercial horizons as the material products of Islamic cultures were increasingly brought into English homes.


The Real Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s record cuts against the claim that she’s an ardent champion of women’s rights.

by Doug Henwood

JACOBIN - 1.17.16

Katha Pollitt is out with a response to my response to her review of My Turn. Once again, it’s largely free of any engagement with Hillary Clinton’s political history. It’s a short book, but there is a healthy amount of detail about some rather terrible things she’s done over her four decades in public life. Katha touches briefly on a few, but the blows are merely glancing.
I understand why she might not want to engage, since those terrible things undermine some of Clinton supporters’ most cherished claims about her, notably all the work she’s done on behalf of women. She did give that famous and frequently quoted speech in Beijing in 1995 in which she said that “women’s rights are human rights.” I thoroughly agree that they are. But it’s not clear how Clinton put that assertion into actual practice.


Never Mind Oil, Iran’s About to Shake the World Pistachio Market

Javier Blas

Bloomberg -

Iran is ready to return to the global commodities market, flooding it with fresh supplies and risking a slump in prices.
Oil? Possibly, but there’s a second industry that could be even more disrupted by a nuclear pact between Iran and the west: pistachio nuts.
Iran has far more clout in the market for cocktail nibbles than it does in crude trading. While it ranks only as the world’s seventh-largest oil producer, the Middle Eastern country vies with the U.S. to be the biggest pistachio grower.
As with oil, Iranian sales of pistachios to the U.S. and Europe have been hampered by sanctions. As the talks between Washington and Tehran to resolve the decade-long nuclear dispute head toward the June 30 deadline for a final agreement, traders are predicting lower prices.
“The new supply will have an impact,” said Hakan Bahceci, chief executive officer of Hakan Agro DMCC, a grain, nuts and pulses trading house based in Dubai.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MA Iranian Studies University of Tehran (Call for Applications 2016)

The Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran, is pleased to offer a two-year academic program in Iranian studies to non-Iranian students. This is a full-time program based on both intensive course- work and research. Those who can successfully meet all the requirements will receive an internationally-recognized degree of “Master of Arts in Iranian Studies” from University of Tehran. The program starts every year in late September, and continues for four successive semesters. Admission is given on the basis of high academic qualifications, with the minimum condition of holding a BA or BSc from a recognized university.

Structure and Length of the Program:

During the first semester, students will attend some general and introductory courses. In the second and third semesters, students should pass 13 modules total. By the end of the fourth semester, students will be required to write (in English or Persian) a 100-page dissertation on a subject of their own interest related to Iranian studies. This research project will be supervised by two faculty members from University of Tehran, and must be defended before a board of examiners. Students are not obliged to stay in Iran while working on their dissertations. All students are required to regularly take part in intensive Persian language classes offered at the FWS. They are expected to achieve the advanced level of Persian language as a requirement for their graduation from the program.

 Themes and Content:

This MA program is specifically designed and intended for non-Iranian students and follows a multi- disciplinary approach to Iranian studies. Although attention is also given to historical backgrounds of every topic discussed, the main focus of this program is on the modern and contemporary issues of Iran. Course themes include: Iranian contemporary history, society and culture, ethnic groups and local traditions, media and arts, political economy, geopolitics and foreign policy, and Shi’a studies. Students will also be offered exceptional opportunities to take part in extra-ordinary field trips to different parts of the country (on highly discounted fares) and visits to several social, cultural, and political institutions during the program.

Language of the Program:

The Iranian Studies MA Program follows a cleverly-designed bi-lingual policy. The program starts in English. However, since Persian is the essential language for Iranian studies, all students are expected to gradually become fluent in Persian towards the end of the program (through regularly attending in Persian language courses). During the first and second semesters, most instructions will be conducted in English. However, as students improve their knowledge of Persian, some modules will be offered in Persian, particularly during the third semester. Students will have the option to write their dissertations in Persian or English, but highly encouraged to write in Persian.

University of Tehran:

The University of Tehran is the main university of Iran and the oldest one in the Middle East. With its universally-known reputation, the UT is ranked amongst the top 300 universities in the world. More than 50,000 students are studying at this university in all major academic fields and at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The UT is the host of a large community of foreign students, mostly from neighboring countries but also from Europe, America, Africa, East and South-East Asia. Studying for an MA degree on Iranian studies at the University of Tehran is a prestigious and valuable academic opportunity which provides students with a unique chance to access the best scholars and professors of the field as well as first-hand resources and information about Iranian society and its rich history and culture, as well as its contemporary political and economic achievements. Students of more than 30 nationalities from 5 continents of the world have been enrolled in the MA Iranian studies since the commencement of the program in 2012.

Program Calendar:

The academic year in the University of Tehran begins from the nearest Saturday to the mid- September. The fall semester continues until the end of December, and examination period usually takes two weeks until mid-January in the following year. After a short semester break, the spring semester starts in the first week of February and it goes up until the end of May. Examinations finish about mid-June. There is a three-week New Year holiday from mid-March to early April every year. Summer vacation extends from mid-June to mid-September. There is no summer semester offered, except for Persian language courses.

Basic Conditions for Admission:

·  Non-Iranian citizenship (Iranian nationals with dual citizenships are not eligible to apply).

·  Holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher in any fields of study from a recognized university. Graduates in humanities and social sciences will be preferred. Applicants are required to submit a scanned copy of their educational degrees/transcripts in their application package. Diplomas must be translated into English (if not originally) and approved by Iranian diplomatic or consular representations in the applicant’s home country if and after admission is granted.

·  Total average of the BA grades at least 14 or above out of 20 (2.8 out of 4.0).

·  Age under 35 years old. Exceptions may be made for highly-qualified applicants up to 40.

·  Good command of English is a requirement. Fluency in Persian language is not mandatory but will be an asset in the selection process. All applicants should express the level of their knowledge of Persian and English in their letter of motivation and provide supporting evidence/documents (e.g. scores obtained in international examinations, language course certificates, evidence of previous university educations in English or Persian).


Applications are welcome from December 1, 2015 until March 1, 2016. Shortlisted candidates will be informed by mid-April 2016 and. Applicants are encouraged to apply early.

Due to an increased number of international students, the University is not in a position to guarantee dormitories for all students arriving in 2016. Dorm rooms may cost between 150 and 200 US dollars per month depending on the availability and room conditions. The Faculty of World Studies will, however, provide consultations and support to facilitate the process of finding proper accommodations in Tehran for those students who may not be settled in dormitories.

The University of Tehran will assist prospect students to get their entry visas and educational residency permits.

As in every other country, student visas are subject to background checks by related authorities. The visa approval process usually takes up to eight weeks after shortlisted candidates are notified of their successful application. However, we kindly urge all applicants’ understanding that we cannot guarantee the exact length of the process, since this is totally outside of the University’s control or jurisdiction. Once the visa approvals have arrived, candidates will be notified in due time to refer to Iranian diplomatic or consular representations in their countries to receive their visas.
Tuition Fees and Financial Aids:
The normal enrollment fee for international students in the humanities at the University of Tehran is 7500 US dollars per year. However, the Faculty of World Studies has the privilege to provide a 50% discount for ALL participants in the Iranian Studies Program. As a result, each student will only pay 3250 USD per year, (total of 6500$ for the whole program). Tuition fees must be paid per year and in cash at the registration desk.
è Please note that an additional sum of 7,000,000 IR Rials (equivalent of 200 USD) will be charged per course for Persian language training. Three courses are offered during every academic year and tuitions will be collected annually at once.

Required Documents for Application:
1.     A filled out application form available at: http://www.ut.ac.ir/Files/ApplicationForm.xls or obtainable through email.
2.     A detailed letter of motivation (no longer than 1000 words)
3.     A curriculum vitae, including detailed information about previous educations as well as
academic publications or work experience (if any)
4.     Evidence of knowledge of English and Persian languages (good command in English and any
level of familiarity with Persian)
5.     Two letters of recommendation from scholars capable of attesting to the applicant’s
qualifications (the letters must be sent directly to the program director by email)
6.     Scanned copy of previous academic diploma(s)
7.     Scanned copy of academic transcripts
8.     Scanned copy of passport’s personal data pages
9.     A recent color photo (scanned and small-sized)
10.  Any additional supporting material that you may prefer to include in your application

How to Apply:
All applicants are required to send in their applications via email before March 1, 2016. To submit your application package, and for general questions and queries about the Iranian Studies MA Program, please contact Mr. Goudarz Mirani, Assistant to Head of Department of Iranian Studies: gmirani(at)ut.ac.ir (preferred way of contact)
For any special or urgent queries, you may also write to Dr. Mahdi Ahouie, Head of Department: ahouie(at)ut.ac.ir
Tel: +98-21-88630862 (Office of International Relations, Faculty of World Studies) Fax: +98-21-88630196
Mailing Address: Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran’s Northern Campus, North Kargar Avenue, Tehran, Iran.
For any further information, please do not hesitate to consult http://fws.ut.ac.ir or http://www.ut.ac.ir/en or send an email to: fws(at)ut.ac.ir

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Global Forecast - CSIS

By Craig Cohen, Melissa Dalton
Nov 15, 2015

An annual collection of wide-ranging essays by CSIS experts, 2016 Global Forecast discusses the issues that will matter most to America and the world’s security and prosperity in the year ahead.

Reconnecting of Asia
John J. Hamre
America’s Changing Role in the World
Kathleen H. Hicks
Seeking the Right Strategy for Our Time
Michael J. Green
The Challenge to U.S. Leadership
James A. Lewis
Isis (Re)Writes History
Jon B. Alterman
Wanted: A U.S. Strategy for Syria and Iraq
Melissa G. Dalton
Iran After the Agreement
Anthony H. Cordesman
U.S.-Israel Ties After the Agreement
Haim Malka
Putin’s Europe
Heather A. Conley
Inside the Kremlin
Olga Oliker
A NATO Strategy for the Eastern Flank
Jeffery Rathke
Sino-Russian Cooperation
Jeffery Mankoff
Reform Cold, Politics Hot: President Xi Jinping at Mid-Term
Christopher K. Johnson
Economic Consequences of China’s Slowdown
Scott Kennedy
Geopolitical Consequences of China’s Slowdown
Bonnie S. Glaser and Matthew Funaiole
Beyond TPP: Shaping an Economic Strategy in Asia
Ernest Bower, Matthew Goodman, and Scott Miller
Interested in India’s Geopolitical Future? Look to its States
Rick Rossow
North Korean Vulnerability?
Victor Cha and Lisa Collins
Rising Africa Faces a Critical Test
Jennifer Cooke
Terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa
Thomas M. Sanderson
Fiscal Futures, U.S. Forces, and Strategic Choices
Mark Cancian and Todd Harrison
The Battle over How to Save Defense Acquisition
Andrew Hunter
Space and Security
A Conversation with Sean O'Keefe
Nuclear Deterrence in a Disordered World
Rebecca K.C. Hersman
The Need for Global Zero
Sharon Squassoni
Missile Defense and Deterrence
Thomas Karako
Disrupting the Cyber Status Quo
Denise E. Zheng
Implications of Sustained Low Oil Prices
Frank A. Verrastro
Implications of a Low-Carbon Future
Sarah O. Ladislaw
Efficacy of Sanctions on Energy-Producing Countries
Edward C. Chow
Responding to the Closing of Democratic Space
Shannon N. Green
Soft Power and Security
Daniel Runde
After the Ebola Catastrophe
J. Stephen Morrison
Food Insecurity, Conflict, and Stability
Kimberly Flowers
Normalization and Human Rights in Cuba
Carl Mecham
Winning the War of Ideas
Farah Pandith and Juan Zarate


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