IGS Spring Conversation TONIGHT!

Hello IGSers:

Just a reminder that we will be getting together for our IGS Spring Conversation tonight from 5:30 – 7:30 in the Reading Room of the Mandel Center (3rd floor, next to the roof garden!)

We’ll start with informal discussion — good classes for the fall (including some pretty cool new ones), how to best work in major requirements, etc.  Then we’ll enjoy presentations from seniors on how they made the most of international experiences from France to Nepal, from China to India to Cairo. (And did I mention the roof garden?  At sunset?)

Food, conversation, music and great stories from the worlds within our world: isn’t this what you came to college for?

See you there!

Internet Intifada

By Mark Grinberg, syndicated from Flash Drive Terrorism

Social networking has become a staple of our society. We spent much of the last decade making profiles and following each other. Using the phrase, “Facebook Me” has become commonplace, and Lady Gaga has almost 9 million followers on Twitter.

This decade, we are seeing how the spread of this phenomenon affects the rest of the world. In the Middle East in particular, we have seen what journalists have dubbed, “Facebook Revolution.” Revolutionaries all over the world have begun to use the internet and social networks to organize towards a particular end. In response, the governments of these revolutionaries have engineered internet shutoffs for entire nations. In their attempt to maintain control over these nations, dictators instead bring world attention to the issues in their country.

This type of press is envied the world over. How many have a particular cause that they would like to spread knowledge of? One group in particular – terrorists – vie for this type of attention day in and day out. Therefore, it is not surprising that murmurs around the internet suggest something new and dangerous called electronic intifada. Facebook groups by this name have been growing by the thousands daily. The comparisons between the struggles of the Palestinian people and those in Tunisia or Egypt ring true with those whom empathize with the Palestinian people.

Electronic Intifada is only one of many Facebook pages that are being used. Another page titled Third Palestinian Intifada had almost 250,000 members. I watched as the page grew from only around 1000 members to around 250,000, eventually attracting the attention of Facebook users. These members spread word of the page, eventually resulting in an appeal yesterday by Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook took down the original page, but in the last 24 hours it has surged to 10,000+ members and spawned several smaller pages professing the same thing. Their main objective? May 15th – the day their “Facebook Intifada” begins.

Many groups are utilizing social networking and communication technology in ways that have not been seen before. Much like the Zapatistas, small groups are beginning to grow powerful through the use of technology and the internet. All of this is largely floating under the radar of news media who are preoccupied with events in Libya, elsewhere in the Middle East, and Japan.

As Americans, what can or should we do regarding this situation? Facebook’s policy on matters such as this generally is that they are against the censorship of any content on the site. I believe that individuals should be able to speak their minds, but when this results in violence, something needs to be done.

What are our options? Policing all of the content created by a group of people larger than the population of the United States cannot be done by Facebook by themselves. The government cannot check content, as there is simply too much over too widespread a geographic area. Additionally, this would violate Facebook’s privacy agreements with its users.

Many users of Facebook have come up with a creative solution to the problem – they have become “internet police.” Pages have sprung up in response to the Third Palestinian Intifada page, telling Facebook users to report the pages organizing the Intifada. I believe that this is the one of the most effective models for controlling the spread of terrorism utilizing social media. Individuals, when bound together by a common cause and with the proper tools, can be extremely powerful. We’ve seen the perfect example of this unfolding in the Facebook intifada.

As members of this digital era, we must be responsible for the content that we together create as a planet. The internet belongs to no one and everyone, and if everyone and no one is not responsible for it, it will become a tool for violence and mayhem, even more so than it already is.

In the words of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” We must be responsible for keeping this system in a “really good place.”

UPDATE: The ADL has posted a complaint about the page here. The page has been shutdown again as of 3/31, early morning, but has gone up again after a moment of downtime. They have around 2,000 “fans” in the past few hours.

Spain after the economic crisis

by Craig Elman, writing from Madrid

Spain has been experiencing very rough after-shocks since the economic crisis, even worse than that which occurred in the United States.  The unemployment rate has spiked up to 20%, double its natural rate of unemployment (which happens to be equivalent to the U.S.’s current unemployed rate under the crisis).  I live in Madrid, and everywhere I go I see the effects of the crisis: people begging on the street, and even approaching people and pleading for a helping hand.  It’s a terrible site to see. 

The government has also decided to increase the age to receive pensions (from 65 to 67.5 I believe) in order to increase working hours and reduce the public debt.  Although balancing the budget is one of the most essential macroeconomic policies that a government should tackle during a recession, there are several potential adverse effects that could follow.  Social unrest and protests in Madrid have been occurring because the government is essentially cutting benefits for the next generation of elderly people. 

Spain has also become extremely energy conscious and green as a result of the crisis (which happens to be the one positive effect coming out of the crisis).  Spanish households have recently transitioned to more energy-efficient lighting, for example, and the government is trying to reduce motor vehicle emissions by cutting the costs of public transportation and making it more accommodating to the public.  Germany has offered a helping hand during Spain’s crisis, and German chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to help Spain’s economic advisors to the government.  She has also offered to employ Spanish engineer students in Germany who will be looking for work soon. 

While this helps to alleviate the problem of unemployment in Spain in the short run, this is, in my opinion, a poor choice for Spain in the long run.  Economic growth requires technological innovation, and without a new generation of engineers, Spain’s economy would suffer dire consequences. 

There have also been debates about whether or not Spain should forego the Euro and return to the peso, since the crisis has hit other European countries on the Euro as well.  However, abolishing the Euro would create fewer incentives for foreign investment within Spain (I’m not too clear on the Economics behind this, but I have been told that this is a possible adverse outcome).

The FBI is Looking for You! Jobs & Internships for IGS Majors

More than 45 employers are coming to campus on March 10 to meet IGS majors and other students and share insights about internships and jobs that truly make a difference.

Spring 2011 Career Fair
Sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center & The Heller School

Thursday, March 10
12:00 – 3:00p.m., Sherman Function Hall
(Professional Dress Required)

RSVP today in Hiatt NACElink and start reviewing employers!

Examples of Employers

Business
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Mass Life Sciences Center
Medical Information Technology, Inc. (MEDITECH)
Partners HealthCare

Consulting
Abt Associates
EDC, Inc.
Management Sciences for Health
Pathfinder International
Public Consulting Group

Government
Army Healthcare Recruiting
Boston Public Health Commission
City Year – Boston
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Mass Life Sciences Center
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Peace Corps – Boston Office
United States – Customs and Border Protection
United States Department of Labor
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Crown Center Summer Travel & Study Grants

The Crown Center announces the availability of summer travel and study grants for eligible undergraduate students.

The Grant May Cover:

  • Research expenses – such as travel, room and board, and photocopying.
  • Study at a foreign institution.
  • Tuition fees for a relevant Middle Eastern language program.

Current first years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors graduating in December 2011 are eligible.

Any field of study may be considered but the research must be related to the Middle East.

The maximum grant award is $2,000.  Applications are due April 1, 2011.

For more details and application information visit:

http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/grants/index.html

An Inner Perspective

By Khalil Azouz

On the morning of the 14th, people started pouring into Bourguiba avenue in Tunis. Most of them were in front of the Ministry of Interior, the authority that presides over the country’s police. Here’s one of the key moments during the protest, a video that still gives me chills:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEY8CK_K9VU

They are saying “Dégage” in unison. Dégage is a French word for “get lost.” They even used this word in Egypt even though they are not French speakers. A few hours after this, it was announced that the president stepped down.

Unfortunately, in the days leading up to this event and during the week following it, a sense of insecurity was prevalent throughout the country. Indeed, The Family ordered the release of thousands of prisoners who were instructed to loot and terrorize. Add to that the 3,000 strong presidential police force, some of whom were caught with sniper rifles. Presumably, they were hoping to cause chaos and possibly return to “save” the country. We never stopped to be reminded the extent of these people’s inhumanity. The army played a huge role in reinsuring security. People also formed neighborhood protection committees against these looters. A lot of the arrests were actually made by normal people who handed the thugs over to the army or what is left of the police. After about a week of insecurity, during which very few deaths were reported – most of the casualties occurred during the weeks leading to the 14th (over 200 deaths, 72 in prison riots) – things started to feel more normal. Continue reading “An Inner Perspective”

Egypt and Global Freedom

By: Siddharth Joshi

[Edit: After a struggle much longer than Tunisia’s, the Egyptian people were finally rewarded as Hosni Mubarak stepped down, leaving the Army in charge until democratic elections can take place. The place to be on the 11th of February was definitely Tahrir Square, so fittingly named. Tahrir translates to ‘Liberation’ and I think this so beautifully captures the essence of what transpired on that day. The future is still uncertain, and by no means is the Egyptian revolution successfully complete, but it has taken a step that was unimaginable a year ago. Even though Tahrir Square is in Cairo, this feeling of liberation has spread far beyond the borders of Tunisia and Egypt. I had previously mentioned Jordan and Yemen, but the biggest protests of the day were seen in Tehran and Bahrain. Apparently, the internet has been shut down in Algeria, but we have learned from Egypt that it is no simple task to stop this call for freedom and liberty.]

Whether we are concerned with suffering born of poverty, with denial of freedom, with armed conflict, or with a reckless attitude to the natural environment everywhere, we should not view these events in isolation. Eventually their repercussions are felt by all of us. We, therefore, need effective international action to address these global issues from the perspective of the oneness of humanity, and from a profound understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of today’s world.

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

It has been well known for some time now that world we live in is shrinking, I am sure that each and every one of us has experienced the effect of the unstoppable force of globalization. The IGS major, unique to Brandeis, is an acknowledgment of this force; we describe it as “an interdisciplinary program that provides students with an opportunity to understand the complex processes of globalization that have so profoundly affected politics, economics, culture, society, the environment, and many other facets of our lives.”

It is no longer important but simply necessary to take into account the changes that our world has undergone, and understand that we face the future together. It is important that our generation grows up as global citizens and deals with the many issues that will need to be contended with. We can act, in our own capacities, but at the same time we must take advantage of the opportunity of being at a place of learning as prestigious and full of potential knowledge as Brandeis is. It is important to fully understand this process before we leave for the real world to find our way and to the best of our ability, improve the world we enter.

This blog is an attempt to help comprehend globalization through reflection, conversation and insight from people who are closer to situations around the world, providing us with, hopefully, an array of perspectives with which to better understand events that will shape our future. Continue reading “Egypt and Global Freedom”

Keystroke Revolution Updates

by Mark Grinberg

Some updates on Egypt + Tunisia:

  1. Ha’aretz reports: One of the many kidnapped by the Mubarak regime was Google employee Wael Ghonim. He has been released and now claims responsibility for the original Facebook page that ignited all of the protests.
  2. Newsweek reports: The Open Technology Initiative is working to “dictator-proof” the internet by providing radio stations and other groups in the Arab world with technology to prevent total communication collapse in the event of a nationwide internet shutoff. Amongst the strategies: Mesh networking a-la-One Laptop Per Child – a type of networking that allows many computers to wireless daisy chain to each other, thereby restoring communication within the country. If one machine on the network has an internet connection, it is possible to share that connection via the mesh network. (though speeds would probably get incredibly slow) Other US-based groups plan to send satellite link hardware to get the internet via satellite.

Moral of the story? Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. don’t topple regimes – people do. And when the people are made stronger through improved communication, their ability to cause change is also strengthened. “Keystroke Revolution” does not mean a revolution from a computer, but with a computer.