Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why Are So Many Young People Leaving Ireland?

Why Are So Many Young People Leaving Ireland? By David Fleming. Vice, November 5, 2013.

Irish Emigration in an Age of Austerity. By Irial Glynn, Tomás Kelly and Piaras MacÉinrí. University College Cork, 2013.

The Crumbling Relationship Between the U.S., Israel, and the Jews. By Adam Garfinkle.

The Triangle Connecting the U.S., Israel, and American Jewry May Be Coming Apart. By Adam Garfinkle. Tablet, November 5, 2013.

Hagel Falls Into the Israel-Palestinian Trap. By Jeffrey Goldberg.

Hagel Falls Into the Israel-Palestinian Trap. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, November 6, 2013.


The second observation is larger: Hagel, like much of Washington’s foreign policy elite, still seems enamored of the idea that reaching a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians would help solve many of the Middle East’s other problems. I wasn’t that surprised, in fact, that he listed this item first in his description of America’s strategic challenges. Hagel is partial to a theory, known in shorthand as “linkage,” that is no longer operative in reality. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is irrelevant to the great earthquakes of recent Middle East history: the revolutions of the Arab Spring, and the nascent civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. But it is still an article of faith among very smart people that a peace treaty would lead to broad tranquility.
Hagel is more nuanced when making the linkage argument than, say, General Jim Jones, the former national security adviser, who once said that if God had “appeared in front of President Obama in 2009 and said if he could do one thing on the face of the planet . . . to make the world a better place and give people more hope and opportunity for the future, I would venture that it would have something to do with finding the two-state solution.”
It is not just that Obama, if ever given the chance, should probably ask God to eradicate infectious disease or end poverty (if I had to bet, I would guess Obama would ask him to stop the rise of the oceans). Even if Obama’s choices were limited to a basket of Middle East issues, he would be smarter to ask God to end the division between Sunni and Shiite, or to establish democratic governments in Arab states that would be responsive to the needs of their people, or – and we’re just blue-skying here obviously – he would ask God to liberate women from the yoke of fundamentalist Islam. An Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty would not address the main root causes of Middle Eastern dysfunction.
As Dennis Ross, the former Middle East peace negotiator, argues, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is an important issue to solve, but it’s important to solve for its own sake. I spoke to Ross after my talk with Hagel, and he said: “I do accept that some of our friends would be less on the defensive” if there were peace between Israelis and Palestinians. “And I would say that it could take away one of the recruit tools for terrorists. But just one, and there are many.”
An Israeli-Palestinian peace accord will not fix problems of illiteracy, water shortage, misogyny, ethnic violence. It won’t make Egypt governable or stop Iraq from dissolving. And it certainly won’t stop the Syrian civil war. The U.S. should, of course, try to bring about peace between the two sides (not that this is a great time to do so), but it shouldn’t be diverted from more important tasks, and it shouldn’t believe that a peace treaty is a panacea.

Palestinians: We Do Not Trust the Americans. By Khaled Abu Toameh.

Palestinians: We Do Not Trust the Americans. By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, November 6, 2013.

Meet Your New Instructor: Matt Damon. By Walter Russell Mead.

Meet Your New Instructor: Matt Damon. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, November 6, 2013.

The New Rock-Star Professor. By Jeffrey R. Young. Slate, November 6, 2013.


Watching academic lectures is rarely much fun. But what if the lectures were delivered by Matt Damon? As odd as it may seem, a number of MOOC providers are asking this question, given that the format allows anyone to deliver the lectures professors prepare. Slate reports:
One for-profit MOOC producer, Udacity, already brings in camera-friendly staff members to appear with professors in lecture videos. One example is an introduction to psychology course developed earlier this year in partnership with San Jose State University. It had three instructors: Gregory J. Feist, an associate professor of psychology at San Jose State University, who has been teaching for more than 25 years and who wrote a popular textbook on the subject; Susan Snycerski, a lecturer at the university who has taught for 15 years; and Lauren Castellano, a Udacity employee who recently finished a master’s in psychology from the university, advised by Feist. 
In the course’s opening lecture, the three stand together and go over the ground rules, but after that, Castellano takes the lead on camera. Feist and Snycerski make regular appearances throughout the 16 lessons, but often only briefly, to explain a concept or two, or to be part of a demonstration or skit with Castellano….
“All our instructors are knowledgeable in the subject area,” Thrun added. “However, we often rely on teams of people to produce a MOOC, and often the individuals who show up on tape are not the primary instructor who composes the materials. This really depends on how camera-shy an instructor is, and how well we believe an instructor is able to do a great job in front of a camera.”
As one researcher notes, once the classroom aspects of teaching have been separated from the lecture itself, the person who writes the lecture content doesn’t necessarily need to be the one delivering it. Many professors may be brilliant minds but middling or unconvincing speakers, and many charismatic speakers lack the background in particle physics to prepare a college-level lecture on the subject.
This suggests that one of the main impacts of MOOCs will be increased specialization in the higher-ed world. Rather than one professor and a couple TAs overseeing a class, various specialists can perform individual tasks: one person does the research and plans the lecture, another delivers the lecture, another grades homework and tests, and yet another provides in-person training to supplement the lectures at various learning centers throughout the country. It’s easy to see why professors wouldn’t be happy about this shift, but greater specialization could create a better product for most students, which, ultimately, is more important.

Egypt’s Others. By Jasmin Fritzsche.

Egypt’s Others. By Jasmin Fritzsche. Sada, November 5, 2013.


Egypt’s armed forces appear to be leading a revival of Egyptian nationalism since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi. The civic state with equal rights for all citizens, the respect for Egypt's security institutions, and the prominence of national security are central themes for the interim government. As with every such sentiment, this re-emerging nationalism only functions in opposition to an “other.” Due to recent political developments, the Muslim Brotherhood takes on the role of this other in the eyes of the current government and other pro-military institutions. This perception is also based on the alleged links between Morsi and the Syrian opposition as well as the Palestinian organization Hamas. Amplifying those links—and the alleged support of Syrian and Palestinian nationals for the Muslim Brotherhood—not only led to the de-nationalization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, but also created a strong anti-Syrian and anti-Palestinian sentiment in Egypt. This has resulted in a major change to the asylum policy regarding Syrian refugees, among other measures. Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Egypt have become a pawn in the government's fight against the Muslim Brotherhood.
While Syrians arriving in Egypt were not subject to visa restrictions and were allowed privileged rights, such as access to the public school and health system, they now need to apply for a visa prior to their arrival. Palestinians fleeing the Syrian conflict, however, never had the possibility of being registered as refugees; they face a protection gap in Egypt resulting from the exclusion from the 1951 Refugee Convention and the lack of a UNRWA mandate, and are therefore vulnerable to the arbitrariness of Egyptian state policies. Within the last four months, hundreds fleeing the conflict in Syria have been rejected at Cairo Airport, while others already residing in Egypt, face ongoing threat of deportation and detention in poor conditions.
Such targeting of Syrian and Palestinian refugees points to political motivation by the Egyptian authorities—itself a product of the polarized political climate between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. In September 2012, Morsi issued a presidential decree extending the protection and public services for Syrian refugees and, with that, gave them a privileged position within the Egyptian asylum system. The decree granted Syrian refugees, in contrast to other refugees in Egypt, the right to access the public education and healthcare systems. On June 15, 2013, Morsi suspended all diplomatic relations with the Syrian state under the regime of Bashar al-Assad, thus positioning himself as an ally of the Syrian opposition groups, such as the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ties the Muslim Brotherhood shared with parts of the Syrian opposition, as well as its alleged links with Hamas, were subsequently employed to create a large-scale media campaign seeking to disconnect the Muslim Brotherhood from the Egyptian people.
The new immigration restrictions for Syrians, issued on July 8, came only a few days after Morsi’s ouster and the arrest of one Syrian citizen at the so-called “Anti-Coup” demonstrations in Nasr City in Cairo. What followed was a campaign fueled by the local media against Syrian and Palestinian refugees. On July 10, different local media channels publicly accused Syrians of supporting Morsi and joining the “Anti-Coup” demonstrations. Tawfik Okasha, a local media presenter, even called on the Egyptians to destroy the houses and shops of Syrians if they would not withdraw their support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood within 48 hours.
Since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt, rumors have also been growing that Hamas played a crucial role in Morsi’s and other Muslim Brotherhood figures’ 2011 prison break. Shortly before the ouster of Morsi, a court in Ismailia referred a case investigating the circumstances of the prison break to state prosecutors and accused him of collusion with Palestinian militants to attack Egyptian police and orchestrate the prison break. The current nationalist media discourse heavily builds on those allegations, portraying Morsi as a Hamas figure and not “the president of all Egyptians.”
The interim government has relied heavily on a militarized society and on the national pride and loyalty of the Egyptians. In the past four months, the government and other loyal institutions created the image of Syrians and Palestinians as being crucially involved in—and interfering with—Egypt’s political situation by supporting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Portraying Morsi as a Hamas-led puppet, in order to de-nationalize the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, comes at the cost of Syrian and Palestinian refugees’ need for protection.
The politicization of the presence of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Egypt adds a further layer to the political polarization in the country. As the Muslim Brotherhood is portrayed as a foreign-led, “non-Egyptian” entity, Palestinian and Syrian refugees are, in turn, demonized and viewed as a national security threat. This national security discourse targeting the Muslim Brotherhood and their “foreign supporters” only deepens the divisions in Egypt.

Peaceful Protest Is Much More Effective Than Violence for Toppling Dictators. By Max Fisher.

Peaceful protest is much more effective than violence for toppling dictators. By Max Fisher. Washington Post, November 5, 2013.

The Dissident’s Toolkit. By Erica Chenoweth. Foreign Policy, October 25, 2013.

My Talk at TEDxBoulder: Civil Resistance and the “3.5% Rule.” By Erica Chenoweth. Rational Insurgent, November 4, 2013. YouTube.