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(06 Feb) 170101 Yassmin Abdel-Magied - Recognizing Bias

We all almost automatically think of ourselves as somehow evolved and enlightened and free from bias. Hey, I look at someone and judge that person on the merits of his or her character. Race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, geographical origin, accent don't factor in at all. We might be kidding ourselves to think we are free from prejudice. Cognitive shortcuts, based on negative stereotypes, can cause problems when we are unaware of them and can lead to wrong decisions and discriminatory practices. Take for example the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. All the same? Hardly. But the media are not into subtleties. They need simple descriptions. Muslims are like this. Islam is like that. Bias tends to be deep and requires work to identify and root out. Recognition is the first step in eliminating bias. But keeping them in check requires a delicate balance of self-awareness.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a leading voice for recognizing bias and resisting cultural appropriation. She was born in Sudan and grew up in Australia where she trained as a mechanical engineer. She now works as an engineering specialist on oil and gas rigs as well as heading up Youth Without Borders, the organization she founded to enable young people to work for positive change in their communities. She was named 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year. She is the author of Yassmin's Story.

(13 Feb) 170102 Alfred McCoy - The Decline of U.S. Global Power

What's the shelf life of empires? Decades, maybe centuries. All things come to an end. Recall Shelley's great poem "Ozymandias" about the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the Great and his seemingly invincible kingdom. Ozymandias was Greek for Ramses. "I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said-"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. And on the pedestal, these words appear "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away." It is difficult to discuss imperialism because there is virtually uniform elite opinion that the U.S. is not an empire. Washington will not willingly concede its global superpower position. But remember the omnipotent British Empire? Where is it today?

Alfred McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of the classic The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade". For Closer than Brothers, his pioneering book on the impact of CIA torture on the Philippine military, he was awarded the Goodman Prize. He is also the author of A Question of Torture and Policing America's Empire.

(20 Feb) 170103 Gideon Levi - The Never Ending Occupation: Palestine

Israeli general and later prime minister Ariel Sharon said of the Palestinians: "We'll make a pastrami sandwich out of them. We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians and then another strip of Jewish settlements, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years' time neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart." Sharon said that in 1973. Today, there are more than 600,000 settlers in the occupied territories. They are facts on the ground, as the Israelis like to say. All of the settlements are outside Israel's internationally recognized borders, and are unambiguously illegal under international law. Thomas Friedman, in The New York Times, says the settlements constitute "a tacit annexation of the West Bank," and then he adds, "and is not winning Israel friends in Europe or America."

Gideon Levy was born and lives in Tel Aviv. He is a columnist and member of the editorial board of Ha'aretz, Israel's oldest daily newspaper, where he has covered the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for more than 30 years. The author of "The Punishment of Gaza", he has received several awards for his work including the Olof Palme Prize for his "courageous and indefatigable fight against occupation and violence, and for a future Middle East characterized by peaceful coexistence and equality for all."

(27 Feb) 170104 Vijay Prashad - Responsibility to Protect

Following the mass killings in Rwanda and the international communities' failure to act, the UN formulated a new doctrine called Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Its key provision is "Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects states from foreign interference." Libya is a perfect example of R2P gone haywire. There were hyperbolic reports of atrocities, bloodbaths and massacres. The U.S. invoked R2P. A UN resolution to protect civilians was passed and its authority almost immediately exceeded. NATO embarked on a heavy bombing campaign. R2P quickly morphed into regime change. Qaddafi was assassinated. Hillary Clinton joked, "We came, we saw, he died." Cheers could be heard in the corridors of power in the West. Today, Libya is a broken, devastated country. R2P, if it is to be effective and have credibility, cannot be selectively applied. Nor can it be used as a cover for big power intervention.

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He teaches courses in international law and human rights. He is the author of many books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South and The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution.

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