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James Traub on a Democratic Middle East

 

James Traub:  So, you say the Middle East, they’ll never going to have democracy, they never have.  China, they never had.  Now, before you so confidently say that though, you have to remember that people would have said, in the 1970s, look at the Latin America, it is run by generalissimos.  Or all political theorists virtually agreed, as of, let’s say the early 1960s, you can’t have a democracy until you have a middle class.  So, first you develop a middle class, you develop this middle class institutions and expectations.  They then begin demanding a voice [in a row] 23:03, people then arise to satisfy that and overtime you get a democracy.  And so, that meant democracy was limited to a very small number of countries that have achieved that level of development.  Well, even then, that wasn’t so.  I mean, India has been a democracy since they gained independence to the British.  Now, there are lots more countries like that, so you look around at the major third world countries, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, India these are the big fast growing developing countries.  They’re all democracies but they’re all impoverished democracies.  And so, it turns out there just is not a formula for how you become a democracy.  There is no… I don’t think there’s a place or region where it is impossible, but culture, history, geography matter.  And one of the terrible, one of the pernicious fantasies of the Bush Administration was to skip lightly over this immense facts and think, “Well, what could happen in Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell?  They all became democracies.  So why can’t it happen in Iraq and so on.”   Was not that it can’t ever happen.  It’s that there are enormous impediments to causing it to happen, and so, one would have to go about this enterprise with great care, caution, expectations or frustrations so forth.  So, the time will come when some Middle Eastern countries will become quasi-democratic and then they’ll become democratic and then some others will too.  But it’s going to be a long time because the impediments are very big.

James Traub says Latin America seemed an unlikely candidate for democracy in he 1970s, so there's no reason the Middle East can't go the same way.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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Creativity: The science behind the madness

Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.

Videos
  • An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
  • According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
  • Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.

Dinosaur bone? Meteorite? These men's wedding bands are a real break from boredom.

Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.

Sex & Relationships
  • Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
  • Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
  • The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
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What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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How #Unity2020 plans to end the two-party system, bring back Andrew Yang

The proposal calls for the American public to draft two candidates to lead the executive branch: one from the center-left, the other from the center-right.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The #Unity2020 plan was recently outlined by Bret Weinstein, a former biology professor, on the Joe Rogan Experience.
  • Weinstein suggested an independent ticket for the 2020 presidential election: Andrew Yang and former U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven.
  • Although details of the proposal are sparse, surveys suggest that many Americans are cynical and frustrated with the two-party system.
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