Hosting the Olympics is a big honor for China and recognition of its rising power. Beijing would lose face, if a number of countries would boycott the games, which are supposed symbolize peace, international friendship and humanism. The Greek Fulbright Alumni even organized an international interdisciplinary conference on Humanism in Action: Olympism and the Fulbright Spirit right after the 2004 Olympics.
Does anybody really care about the humanism aspect of the Olympics? Does China deserve this honor despite its internal and external human rights violations? Who is reminding Beijing of the political responsibilities as host of the Olympic Games? German representatives do not bring up Darfur, because they are concerned about upsetting the rising superpower. Germany is more interested in trade and friendly relations with China and does not dare to play hard ball with China. Darfur activism is much stronger in the US than in Germany; not just in civil society, but also in politics:
• On June 7th, the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing on "Darfur and the Olympics: A Call for International Action." You can read all the Testimonies. The committee invited Jill Savitt, Director of the Olympic Dream for Darfur Campaign, to talk about her campaign and her call for China to bring the Olympic dream to Darfur. See the video below:
"The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans finds them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world." writes the PEW Research Center, but also points out: "A majority (53%) of all Muslim Americans say that, since the 9/11 attacks, it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States. This view is particularly prevalent among highly educated and wealthier Muslims." Therefore, I recommend Morgan Spurlocks's funny and informative documentary: "A West Virginia Christian lives as a Muslim in Dearborne USA for 30 days." Spurlock has made a whole TV series about 30 day exchanges into a different culture. Other episodes are about living with minimum wage etc. As a Fulbrighter I find the concept of exchange programs very appealing. Video works, but you might have to click twice on play in Internet Explorer:
"One in four younger U.S. Muslims support suicide bombings at least rarely" writes the International Herald Tribune based on the PEW Research Center survey. More about this and US Muslim opinions on 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan below the fold:
Continue reading "Muslims in America"
The shooting on the Virginia Tech Campus started in the Introductory German class. The first victim was Professor Jamie Bishop, 35, who was a US Fulbright scholar to Christian-Albrechts University at Kiel, Germany. More information at Dialog International. Our condolences to the families of all the victims of this tragedy.
UPDATE: Uwe Koch, president of the German Fulbright Association, has sent the following Letter of Condolence to Virginia Tech and to the international mailing list for Fulbright Associations as well as posted it on the Memorial Site:
Dear Dr. Steger:
Senator W. Fulbright's idea was to build up a world of tolerance, mutual understanding - and even better - friendship; instead of animosity. If one lifts these ideas on a bigger scale, how can anyone see a reason in killing another person in an amok run like this. No one who bears Senator Fulbight's ideas and spirit in his own character can see any sense in this tragedy.
Members and Board of the German Fulbright Alumni Association convey their sympathies to the families of Professor Jamie Bishop (Fulbright scholar to Christian-Albrechts University at Kiel, Germany), Professor Liviu Librescu and all those who suffered from the Virginia Tech killings. In such a time of bereavement, it might be comforting to feel that one is not alone and that people all over the world also sympathize with these families.
Our most sincere condolences especially to Stefanie Hofer
On behalf of the board
Uwe Koch President Fulbright Alumni e.V. German Fulbright Association
And Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith questioned American policy in the Iraq war in a speech to Fulbright Alumni at Harvard last week. According to the Harvard Crimson, Galbraith predicted that Iraq would not be able to weather the ongoing civil war and would eventually split along sectarian lines:
Galbraith—who was never a member of the Fulbright program—was invited because of his support for the program during his 14 years as a senior advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The Iraq war has not served a single national security purpose,” Galbraith said. “Iraq cannot be put back together again—there is actually no way to stop the civil war in Baghdad.” Despite the fact that most of the assembled scholars strongly backed Galbraith’s comments, one Iraqi woman took issue with his prediction that Iraq would fracture along ethnic lines. She said that the fault for Iraq’s divisions lies with politicians who are dividing people for their own ends, and that the populace is less divided than Galbraith claimed. "We are all Iraqi,” she added. But an Iraqi Kurd said that he supports autonomy from the Baghdad government for the Kurd-controlled region in the north.
• "Fulbright India had enough," writes Judith Apter Klinghoffer in History News Network. Interesting article, which also links to many other interesting articles about Fulbrighters calling Secretary Rice for help, and about "amazing anti-Americanism exhibited by the Indian elite" and other topics.
Each meeting will be devoted to a different topic (politics, culture, society, etc.), will surely be reflected and covered by the media, and we hope that every occasion will succeed in defeating prejudice, bringing a refined knowledge about the US, and helping the audience and those hearing about it to handle a subtler way of thinking about USA, democracy, society, cultural production, consumerism.
Marin also describes "how the axe of reality works" in his volunteers organization:
Colleagues come to our “Romanian Fulbright Alumni” association always, I mean yearly, with the same “let’s do it” ideas, “why wouldn’t we” (i.e., well-doing) intentions, desires for serving, job searching tentative, and societal fitting. In the course of time they surpass the critical phase encountered on their return, and then their social soul succumbs in favor of individualistic needs and careers.
KENNEDY: But we have to understand that there is absolute chaos that is taking place there. This country is falling apart. The bottom is falling out of this thing. And we have to — as the number-one issue is the protection of the American troops, and not let them be in a sinkhole. And that is our commitment. Carl Levin has said he'll have the hearings, weekly hearings, on Iraq. This reminds me of those kinds of hearings that Senator Fulbright had on the Vietnam War. This country will be tuned into this. And the manner of the stubbornness of the president of the United States will not be able to resist what I think is the movement in this country to ensure that we're going to protect our troops and recognize how limited our influence really is. WALLACE: Do we have any moral obligation to the Iraqis who have risked their lives, counting on our word that we're going to be there? And do we have to ensure that we're going to be safe from the possibility of terrorist attacks coming from Iraq? KENNEDY: We have an enormous moral obligation to those Iraqis who have worked with us. And we are failing them. We are failing them.
It's pickup time at the Vauban kindergarten here at the edge of the Black Forest, but there's not a single minivan waiting for the kids. Instead, a convoy of helmet-donning moms - bicycle trailers in tow - pedal up to the entrance. Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.
US Blogger Andrew Hammel commented on this article in German Joys and concluded: "As this article shows, Germany's far-sighted environmental policies also earn positive press internationally."
Recently, EU Commissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas blasted Germany for not setting a good example on environment protection.The German government first opposed EU plans for stricter car emissions, but then reached a compromise on Germany's general greenhouse gas emissions, writes Reuters.
Following are two more examples of positive US press coverage of energy saving in Germany/Europe, which serve as counter-examples to the claim that the US coverage of Germany is not diverse enough. • A New Yorker travels to Germany and the Czech Republic, encounters regular energy saving technology and several simple services that work on demand only in order to save energy and then writes about it in his blog at Dailykos.
• "Home importer turns to Europe for quality, speed and energy efficiency, not to mention looks," writes the Rocky Mountain News:
The obvious question: Why would anyone go to the trouble and expense of shipping an entire home here from overseas? "Quality, speed and energy efficiency," says Meier, a German-born wood importer who has since started his own company, Platz Haus USA, in hopes of doing the same for other would-be homeowners. In January, his first client, Mary Ellen Vaughan, watched her 2,000-square-foot German chalet go up in a matter of days in Salina, down the road from Meier's house. "Everything you can imagine went wrong weatherwise, and we were still able to build it in a week," says Meier. While U.S. home-builders beg to differ, Meier argues that European homes tend to be better-built for many reasons: Because families own their homes far longer, the homes are "built to last," using slow-growing Nordic timber that has tighter rings and, thus, makes stronger boards. Because fuel costs have always been higher and government regulations tighter, energy efficiency in Germany is top priority. Walls tend to be thicker and better-insulated, passive solarheating is the norm and building materials are greener, he says. And they're beautiful.
Personal comment: Energy efficiency saves money, protects the environment, and decreases our dependency on oil and gas rich countries and reduces the threats from terrorism. No need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out, but Europeans and American still have a long way to go in terms of improving energy efficiency.
Advice on saving energy: Dr. Steffen Schmuck Soldan, the Regional Coordinator of the Fulbright Alumni in Berlin, works for co2online, a German non-profit limited liability company that is campaigning for a reduction in emissions of the environmentally harmful gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Co2online provides quick and specific advice on various aspects of residential heating, energy-saving modernisation, and subsidies. They help home owners and tenants to evaluate their residential energy consumption and to cut costs and CO2-emissions. More information about co2online and the online advisors.
Endnote: A gas station in Omaha, Nebraska, claims to sell only Terror-Free Oil:
The Terror-Free Oil Initiative is dedicated to encouraging Americans to buy gasoline that originated from countries that do not export or finance terrorism. We educate the public by promoting those companies that acquire their crude oil supply from nations outside the Middle East and by exposing those companies that do not. We are also looking into creating a healthy debate concerning alternate methods of fuel production and consumption.
Vietnamese journalist and Fulbrighter Tran Le Thuy wrote the article "When winning a Fulbright means having to hide your face." She writes about the fears and concerns many Iraqi Fulbrighters in the United States have. According to her interviews, some of them did not accept the invitation to meet with President Bush "either in fear for their lives or to avoid the tormenting questions about the conflict taking place in their motherland."
Although all of them seem uniformly happy that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, they are painfully watching the news from home for signs of civil war. And many blame unfair, insensitive, and poorly designed American policies for the clashes among Sunnis and Shiites and the way post-dictatorship democracy in Iraq seems to be going awry. (...) Dr. Fadhil says he would love to meet the president. "I would thank Mr. Bush for removing Saddam; at the end this is the only major achievement that all Iraqis agree on," said the filmmaker, who became a journalist by chance when a Guardian reporter asked him to work as a translator in 2003. "But it is not worth it for hundred[s of] thousands of Iraqis to die. We got nothing after Saddam -- no jobs, no security, and no better life."
Thuy quotes one Iraqi Fulbrigther as saying "Bush is good [for his country]. He attracts terrorists from all over the world to Iraq in order to make them forget about attacking America. Iraq becomes a battlefield for terrorists." She also writes:
Another Fulbrighter from Baghdad, who declines to be named, says, "I hate [it] when the Americans say that they are shifting the anti-terrorism battlefield to Iraq. It really pisses me off. This is the city where I live. Why is there terrorism in my city? They didn’t think about me or about my people when they declared that. Who gave them this authority?" He laments, "Don't they think of [the] 25 millions people living there, who are killed and being killed everyday? Nobody cares for Iraqi civilians."
Next week the US and the Moroccan Fulbright Alumni Association are hosting a conference on "Fulbright Alumni: Expressions in Civil Society" and "Morocco in Western Art." One of the topics will be the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank, which was founded by a Fulbrighter, see the Atlantic Review's previous post. And in January 2007, Fulbrighters (and others) will travel again to Morocco to attend the workshop "Implementing a Maghreb Digital Library for Education, Science & Culture" hosted by the Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology and their Moroccan partners:
Access to digital information in developing countries is a critical issue of international concern. Nearly 20,000 from 174 countries attended the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia last fall, including 50 Heads of state/government and vice-presidents and 197 ministers, and thousands of high-level representatives from global organizations, private sector, and civil society. Needless to say, this meeting enhanced the interest of many Northern Africa entities with respect to the digital world. The January Workshop will focus on the creation of networked digital libraries and how they might be used by individuals and institutions in North Africa. A digital library of cultural heritage of the Maghreb region would facilitate education and scholarship by providing local and international access to cultural heritage resources held by institutions around the world. Such a library also could serve as a security and preservation repository in the case of the loss of physical resources due to fire, theft, or natural degradation. A digital library would have broader applications as well, in terms of education &training, access to information, building an informed citizenry, etc. Our workshop will address steps needed to implement a digital library for the Maghreb region.