Apr 20

Bioterrorism and Cocaine

“A beautiful landscape of a Mendoza City’s part seen from the highest of Gómez building.” By Itsmemarttin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mat Youkee has a fascinating article, “Who Killed the Nazi Scientist trying to Wipe out Cocaine,” on the online site Ozy. The piece tells the story of Heinz Brücher, who had served as a second lieutenant in the German military (S.S.) during World War Two. A biologist, Brücher had stolen a Ukrainian seed-bank on Heinrich Himmler’s orders. Later in the war, he disobeyed orders to destroy these seeds, and fled the Reich with them. As with other German military figures at the war’s end, he fled to Argentina, as part of an evacuation which has become a theme in popular culture from film to conspiracy theories. He did not stay in Argentina only, however, but also taught as a faculty member everywhere from Venezuela to Paraguay. Later in life, though, he wound up living in a farm house in Mendoza, Argentina, where he seems to have hatched an incredible plot: to destroy the coca plant that is the basis for the cocaine trade.

The coca plant has been used for thousands of years in the Andes. One can see ancient indigenous sculptures in which the cheek of one figure is extended, because the person is chewing coca. The leaf figures in ritual and religion, but is also a rich source of nutrition.Throughout Latin America coca tea is often used as an infusion because it is supposed to have medicinal properties. The leaf itself is vastly different from the processed drug known as cocaine. In 1898 a German chemist, Richard Martin Willstätter, created cocaine, which had become one of the most used drugs in the world. By the 1970s and 80s, cocaine was the basis for the cartels of Colombia. At the same time, there were allegations that the U.S. intelligence services were themselves involved in the cocaine trade in order to fund the guerrillas fighting against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/04/bioterrorism-and-cocaine/

Apr 09

Infographics in the classroom

A guest blog by Dr. Kimberley Brown:

Active learning for many faculty in International/global studies has meant simulations.  Alternatively, faculty could also vary teaching methods and assignments to meet the needs of a broad-base of students by using the principles of Universal Design for Learning. This post focuses on an infographic assignment substituted for a final paper in a section of a new online undergraduate course I taught last winter called “Human Rights and Language.”

Infographics are “a larger graphic design that combines data visualizations, illustrations, texts and images together in a format that tells a complete story” (Krum, 2014, 6). The basic assignment asked students to:

“Peruse our course topics.  Select one of the topics as the foundation for your infographic.  Your infographic will describe a linguistic human rights problem, the population affected by the problem, and solutions.  You will include a map of the area(s) where the problem you have identified occurs. Your goal is to disseminate information about the issue you have researched to diverse audiences. Your infographic should demonstrate a clear understanding of the issue you present and integrate course concepts and terminology.”

I was encouraged to adapt this assignment for my course after a group of colleagues in Community and Public Health (Shanks, Izumi, Sun, Martin and Shanks, 2017) successfully assigned this to their students. You can see their article, “Teaching Undergraduate Students to Visualize and Communicate Public Health Data with Infographics” here. The adaptation was quite extensive and it took many hours of collaboration with our Office of Academic Innovation to get it right. You can see the full directions for the assignment here.

I was anxious but with coaching broke the assignment into weekly parts including references, field testing, revision and reflection. Virtually no one in class had done an infographic before. I prepared written instructions as well as a screencast. Students had access to examples of Infographics. They were encouraged to use either Canva or Piktochart.  Both had tutorials. The results were highly creative. Only one student suggested that the assignment was better suited to a marketing course. Others noted that they had been pushed in unanticipated ways but could use this skill going forward. Four of the infographics are shared here with the permission of their authors. They all convey data very differently.

I adapted a grading rubric from a variety of rubrics for infographics accessed online.

If you would like more information about the assignment, please email me: brownk@pdx.edu

Please see examples of the infographics below:

Infographic on gendered languages by Madison Cheek

The Norway Infographic by Paige Nef

The Sierra Leone Infographic– Gaia Oyarzun

The Ainu Infographic–anonymous.

The full reference to our colleagues’ outstanding on article on infographics is:

Shanks, J., Izumi, B., Sun, C., Martin, A., & Byker Shanks, C. 2017. Teaching Undergraduate Students to Visualize and Communicate Public Health Data with Infographics. Frontiers in Public Health, 5, 315.

For another key reference see: Krum, R. 2014. Cool Infographics. Indianapolis: John Wiley and Sons.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/04/infographics-in-the-classroom/

Apr 01

Small victories and language

I’ve been studying Chinese for about two and a half years now, and I’m making slow progress. Very slow. I am certainly at that point in language study at which I say “after all this time, is this really the best that I’m able to speak Mandarin?” Last summer I was in China, and had a humiliating time at a ticket counter in Shenzhen, where I found that I couldn’t even explain to the ticket seller that I wanted to travel to Hong Kong (bad verb choice). I am certainly not someone who is good at languages. I should have learned the personal infinitive in Portuguese in an hour. It took me twenty years. But I love studying languages, which is what matters.  If you are someone who is studying a language and needs a little inspiration to keep going, I recommend this blog post. Sometimes it’s the small things that count.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/04/small-victories-and-language/

Mar 15

Sea level rise in Asia

Casinos in Macau, China.
中国澳门的赌场 Photo by Shawn Smallman

I think that we have reached the point with global warming where we can no longer pretend that we’re going to meet our goals. That doesn’t mean that citizens globally can stop the effort to limit climate change. There is a vast difference between the worst scenarios and the best. There are also reasons for hope, from the plunging cost of solar power, to the rapid development of offshore wind power. At the same time, in the end it’s not enough. Given the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the changing albedo of the Arctic due to declining ice cover, and the warming of our oceans, global warming will be continuing for centuries. At this point, human societies will be adapting to climate change far into the future, especially coastal communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/03/sea-level-rise/

Mar 07

Canadian doctors

In case you have ever wondered if Canada’s culture is truly different, you might want to read Amy Wang’s article in the Washington Post, “Hundreds of Canadian doctors demand lower salaries.” While most people who read the article comment on the fact that Canadian doctors are willing to give up part of their salaries to help others, I think that the picture it paints of an overstrained health care system is equally important. Free health care is a core Canadian value, but it’s also important to receive that care in a timely fashion, from caregivers who are treated well.  The article describes a disturbing Facebook video by an exhausted nurse, who has been pushed past the limit. Still, it’s hard not to finish the article without a smile on your face.

Shawn Smallman, 2018.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/03/canadian-doctors/

Mar 06

Literature and Espionage

Sometimes you just can’t make up a story as strange as reality. For anyone following the inquiry into possible Russian collusion with the Trump White House, the endless details are as fascinating as they are intriguing. Clive Irving has a wonderful piece, “What Would Le Carré’s Master Spy Think of Trump and Russia?,” in the Daily Beast, which imagines what George Smiley (the fictional master spy) would make of current events.

Espionage is also in the news because of the case of Sergei V. Skripal. A former spy in Russia, he and his daughter were both found seriously ill on a bench in Salisbury, England. This particular case has many parallels to the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, which was covered in a book titled “A Very Expensive Poison.” To date, both of the victims are alive; let’s hope that the terrible events associated with Litvinenko aren’t repeated.

In online forums a vigorous discussion has already begun regarding the likely poison. If I had been working for the FSB (AKA Moscow Central), I would have chosen fentanyl. It would be deadly at a low dose, and the victim could be blamed for ingesting or inhaling it. After the debacle with polonium in the Litvinenko case, it seems unlikely that a radioactive substance would be used again. While poisons from Himalayan plants may be difficult to detect, they also raise too many questions. Much the same could be said ricin. Nerve agents also point to a state actor, as was the case last year in Malaysia. I will be very curious to see if a poison can be identified, and whether that information will be released.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

PS- the poison has now been identified by the British authorities. According to press reports, it was a nerve agent, which would seem to be a means to draw attention. One of the police officers who responded has now been hospitalized and is in serious condition, likely because of exposure to the poison. George Smiley would have done more subtle and careful work.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/03/literature-and-espionage/

Mar 01

Language and Loss

AIDS prevention tapes in Oaxaca’s Indigenous languages. Photo by Shawn Smallman. Tapes by Frente Común Contra el SIDA, Oaxaca, Mexico; courtesy of Bill Wolf.

When Kim Brown and wrote our textbook, we drafted one chapter on language that just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the text. Still, we’ve included the chapter for free online on this website, in the hope that faculty may use it. I became fascinated with language while researching HIV prevention strategies in Oaxaca, Mexico, one of the most linguistically diverse places in the Americas. How do you do HIV prevention work in rural communities in which the primary language is not Spanish? I knew the co-founder of an HIV prevention organization (Frente Común Contra el SIDA), which produced and distributed audio cassettes that gave information about preventing HIV in a plethora of Oaxaca’s languages. The NGO sent young people back to their communities to interview elders. With their linguistic advice they would create these tapes in their local language. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/03/language-loss-in-british-columbia/

Feb 26

Fault Lines

A photograph of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krabi Province, Thailand. By David Rydevik (email: david.rydevikgmail.com), Stockholm, Sweden. (Originally at Bild:Davidsvågfoto.JPG.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we all know that a major quake is imminent. Oregon Public Broadcasting has had a great series, Unprepared, about the pending quake in Oregon. There are also a wealth of books on the topic. I particularly recommend John Clague, Chris Yorath, Richard Franklin and Bob Turner’s, At Risk: Earthquakes and Tsunamis on the West Coast. This well written book is filled with images and maps, to detail the potential risks of an earthquakes in different sections of the Northwest. If you live in Western Washington you’ll want to check out the map on page 117; Portland or Vancouver? See the map on page 118. And if you live on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands, you’ll want to look at the map of tsunami run-up potential on page 138. Then you’ll want to check out the photo of what a piece of 2 by 4 lumber did to a tire during a tsunami during the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The book conveys complex scientific information in clear and readable prose. The chapters on diverse topics also have a clear flow. If only all science writing was as approachable as in this book.

Still, I love podcasts, so my favorite resource is probably the five part CBC series Fault Lines. The series is organized by time, so that the first episode discusses different forms of quake that may strike Vancouver, while the second episode describes the quake itself. What makes the podcast particularly insightful, however, is that the majority of the episodes focus on the period of time after the quake. This compels the listener to imagine what that experience will be like for survivors, and how well prepared they themselves may be. Surviving the earthquake is only the first step on a long journey. The podcast is an unsettling and insightful exploration of the topic, which will leave you musing about the danger for days. Curious? You can hear the teaser here.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/02/fault-lines/

Feb 15

Death Squads in the Philippines

Given the plethora of foreign policies issues that the United States faces, perhaps it’s unsurprising that the drug war in the Philippines does not receive more attention in the U.S. media. Still, there has been some remarkable accounts, perhaps none of which has been as insightful as Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marchall’s, “Davao Boys: How a secretive police squad racked up kills in Duterte’s drug war.” This detailed piece of investigative journalism examines one particular police unit at the heat of the extra-judicial killings of drug traffickers. I’ve done my own work on military terror in Brazil, and know how difficult it is to obtain such information, even in historical cases. To document killings on this scale while the violence is taking place requires bravery, dedication and skill. Highly recommended.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/02/death-squads-in-the-philippines/

Feb 01

Nukemap

Nagasaki Bomb. By Charles Levy from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Nukemap is a website that allows you detonate a virtual atomic weapon over the city of your choice. You can select the size of the bomb either by kiloton, or by presets. I first chose the a nuclear weapon tested by North Korea in 2013, and tested it as a surface burst over my much-loved city of Portland. The results were horrific: an estimated 32,230 fatalities and 41,500 injuries. When I tested the same blast over Manhattan there were 103,000 fatalities and 213, 430 injuries. In each case the map generates a series of concentric circles that illustrated the impacts from radiation, fireball, air blast, thermal radiation, etc. The website also models the radiation plume, which trails far off into the distance on the map.

This website can take you to a very dark place. I made the mistake of modeling the largest bomb that the USSR ever tested, and what would happen if it detonated over Portland, Oregon. The largest circle was for the thermal radiation, and indicated the areas in which people would receive third degree burns. This circle stretched for 60 kilometers or 11,300 km2. One end of circle passed Yale, Washington in the north, while Silverton, Oregon was on the the south edge of the circle. For this particular example, there were 1,241,130 estimated fatalities, and 574,390 injuries. So people were much more likely to be killed than injured. When I then tested the same blast over New York City, the same blast caused 7,633,390 fatalities and 4,194,990 injuries. At that point I stopped using the site.

This website is both bleak and fascinating, and might be a useful tool during a classroom discussion of nuclear proliferation, and the development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability. The day that I visited the website in November 2017 over 130 million detonations already had taken place on the site.

Shawn Smallman, 2017

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/02/nukemap/

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