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Turkey’s strikes in Syria

“Chest X-rays, 3D Image of lungs, Sagital Plane Image” by Praisaeng at freedigitalphotos.net

With the COVID-19 pandemic rampant, it’s easy to forget that other world events are still taking place, and with good reason. No other events now matter as much. Even so, after 33 of its soldiers were killed by the Syrian military (or perhaps by a Russian airstrike) last month, the Turkish government launched a devastating counterstrike against the Syrian military on February 27, 2020. The use of drones and other technology simply overwhelmed the Syrian armed forces, and let to the destruction of even the most sophisticated Russian equipment, such as the Pantsir anti-air systems. As usual, the Oryx blog has the best information. The list of destroyed military equipment on this website is striking. For example, the Syrians likely lost 32 tanks, which they could ill afford, and eight aircraft (mostly helicopters). …

Rethinking the Vela Incident

It’s always surprising to see which blogs people read. One of the blogs that attracted the most comment was on a nuclear mystery called the Vela Incident. The short version of the story is that on September 22, 1979 an aging American spy satellite detected a powerful flash of light deep in the planet’s southern oceans. For decades people have debated whether this may have been an illegal nuclear test, and -if so- which state may have been responsible. Other theories have also been advanced for the blast, which range from a lightening super-bolt to a meteor. There have been no clear answers. Now Foreign Policy has a special issue about just this topic. If you are interested in mysteries, espionage or number stations, this edition presents a series of arguments that Israel was the responsible party. According to one section by Victor Gilinsky, the United States knew who was responsible, but chose to keep silent.

Shawn Smallman, 2019

Migration, Public Health and the United States

Does migration pose a health risk to domestic populations? The Trump administration has argued that “public health concerns” associated with migration are so serious that they justify extensive border security measures in the United States, such as the creation of a wall on the southern border. For anyone interested in a detailed look at the literature on migration and health, I recommend the work of Abubaker (2018) and colleagues listed in the references below. The relationship between health and migration is complex, and this work provides an evidence based assessment of the issues. Of course, migrants often face health challenges that are linked to the conditions that inspired them to migrate in the first place, as well as the physical challenges of migration itself (Carballo & Nerurkar, 2001). There are a small number of infectious diseases associated with migrants from Latin America, such as Chagas’ disease (Darr & Conn, 2015). With Chagas the possibility of transmission is readily managed in areas where this is a health concern through measures such as blood screening, and testing organs before donation (Schmunis & Yadon). …

Phyllis Smallman

My mother passed away last week, and even though it was not a surprise, it was a shock. My sister, Elle Wild, wrote a wonderful tribute, which I wanted to share:

SMALLMAN, Phyllis

Phyllis Smallman
1945-2018

The family of author Phyllis Smallman wishes to announce the passing of their family matriarch, storyteller, beloved wife, and mother.

Phyllis grew up in the countryside of southern Ontario, where she spent her childhood accepting ill-considered dares from her four siblings, such as pig riding in a white frock. She met her life’s partner, Lee Smallman, during high school and quickly recognized a fellow adventurer and dreamer. At the tender ages of 17 and 21, Phyllis and Lee were married, and spent the next 56 years laughing, creating, building, sometimes bickering, but always loving. Phyllis was occasionally overheard saying to Lee, “When I want your opinion, I’ll jerk your chain.”

At an age where others retire, Phyllis and Lee moved across the country to Salt Spring Island, where they joined a lively community of artists and innovators. Phyllis went on to write the award-winning Sherri Travis mystery series, and more recently the Singer Brown series, Long Gone Man and Beach Kill. Those who spent time with Phyllis knew her as a caring person who loved fiercely, laughed loudly, and was always a friend to anyone in need. In keeping with her dark sense of humour, her last book was ironically titled Last Call, the final Sherri Travis mystery. The night Phyllis died, Last Call won a “Reader’s Favourite” Book Award. Our Phyllis knew how to make a grand exit.

At her request, there will be no final service. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Brazil’s National Museum

Every Brazilian and Brazilianist that I know is lamenting the loss of Brazil’s National Museum in a terrible fire. The loss is incalculable -fossils of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, the records of extinct languages, a skull from perhaps the oldest person found in the Americas, a library of a half million books, and hundreds of thousands of specimens of every form of animal life from insect to birds. Henry Grabar has a thoughtful article in Slate, which describes the scale of the loss, and how it was almost inevitable: the Brazilian state had so starved the museum of funding that it had to launch a GoFundMe account after termites damaged a room containing an exceptional dinosaur skeleton. Academics mourn for all the lost information. Graduate students must replan their theses after they lost access to the specimens. But most of all, ordinary Brazilians lost a pearl of a museum in Rio de Janeiro, which was housed in the former Presidential palace. Rio de Janeiro has already lost vast amounts of colonial architecture, but none had as much historical significance as this. So many people I know are genuinely distraught, and can’t stop thinking about what this means. Within Brazil, it has come be seen as emblematic of the failures of the nation’s political leadership. …

Global Warning: a CNN documentary

CNN’s documentary “Global Warning: Arctic Melt” examines the issue of climate change by focusing on the Greenland ice sheet. Reporter Clarissa Ward first visits Greenland, where she interviews climate scientists against stunning backgrounds of fjords, glaciers and ice sheets. She then travels to south Florida, where she interviews Miami’s former mayor about the impact that sea level rise is already having upon his community. The video is brief at 26 minutes. Nonetheless, it is both visually engaging and thoughtfully written. It would be a good documentary for an “Introduction to International and Global Studies” class. Recommended.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Transnational Social Movements

My colleague Dr. Christine Boyle is teaching a fantastic new online class on “Transnational Social Movements.” Dr. Boyle has extensive experience teaching in an online environment, and is a popular instructor. The class will look at a wide array of social movements and protests from the student movements to the Arab Spring. Given recent events in Iran, this is a timely class. If you are interested, you can see how to register for the class as a non-degree student here. There are no prerequisites for the course. Questions? You can contact Dr. Boyle at her email on the flyer below. The class will start on January 8, 2018.

Shawn Smallman, January 2018

Course flyer for winter 2018 online class

Flu, Protest and Iran

While many factors are driving the current protests in Iran, Michael Coston has pointed out that a significant outbreak of avian influenza in that country has driven up the cost of poultry and eggs, which has likely contributed to peoples’ food insecurity. His blog post is an interesting attempt to tie influenza to economic factors, which in turn may be connected to politics.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Hate, loss and Neoliberalism

I’ve been teaching a “Foundations of Global Studies Theory” course for a few years. I begin the course with a section on classical and modern liberalism, before moving to neoliberalism, because liberalism is a foundational theory for most issues in Global Studies. What has struck me over the years is how little ideological attraction most students feel towards neoliberalism. Although I have taught the class multiple times, I have only ever had a single student who was an ardent proponent of neoliberalism. They also wrote one of the best papers that I’ve ever received, and are now working in an excellent job in the financial sector. Still, most of my students have an almost visceral distaste for neoliberalism, and this has strengthened over time. …

Quiz on Digital Globalization

I’m teaching a class on Digital Globalization this winter quarter at Portland State. The course will be fully online, thanks to great support from Vince Schreck, a course designer in OAI, and Linda Absher, the librarian who has tracked down countless documentaries to use as streaming videos, and helped to locate other key resources. Over the first six weeks the students will explore three main topics (Digital Culture; Transformation and Institutions; Security, Privacy and the Nation-State) before spending three weeks on individualized study. The final week of the course will consist of students sharing a Digital Artifact, such as a slideshow or video. I always learn far more from my students than they learn from me, and that’s particularly true with these final presentations. I’ve been working on a brief quiz on digital literacy, which takes five minutes to complete. Are you a cyber expert, who knows about Bitcoin, the Dark Web, the Sharing Economy, MOOCs, Wikileaks, Snowden, and social media? You can take the quiz here to find out.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University.

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