What We Talked About in Class


via Egyptian protests: How a food crisis is driving a political crisis. – By Annie Lowrey – Slate Magazine


Any number of political and social factors underpins the current unrest in Egypt—and as always, economics figures in. The upheaval has shined a light on two serious problems facing the country: Most jobs pay too little, and most food costs too much.

Like we talked about in class,

Egyptians spent more on food than respondents in any other emerging economy surveyed in the report—about 40 percent of their monthly income, versus about 17 percent for Brazilians and about 20 percent for Chinese and Saudi Arabians.

Why is the price of food so high?  Partly the high cost of fuel – Egypt has to import most of its grain, and partly due to floods and droughts in food-producing countries like Russia and Australia.

Combined with high unemployment for young people, men especially, it’s no surprise that Egypt has erupted.



It’s Spreading Like Wildfire



via Middle East protests: Fearless protesters challenge regimes around Middle East – latimes.com.

Opposition activists, human rights advocates and international bodies such as the United Nations have for years warned that the continued social and political stagnation in the Arab world would create the conditions for a social explosion.

“It’s political challenge to autocratic systems that have degraded and dehumanized people and humiliated them to the point where they just can’t take it anymore and they finally started to erupt,” said Rami Khouri, a commentator and analyst affiliated with the American University of Beirut.

Whatever the outcome of these particular uprisings, the Arab world will never be the same.  I don’t think people will return to their former place under the thumb of corrupt, rich, autocratic rulers.


Egypt Protests Continue

via Egypt Protests Continue as Government Resigns – NYTimes.com.

CAIRO — Tens of thousands of protesters once again defied President Hosni Mubarak’s curfews and threats of a harsh crackdown, taking to the streets for a fifth day as the Egyptian leader struggled to hold on to the power that he has maintained in nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.

Living on less than $2 per day?  Welcome to Egypt.  Can’t find a job?  Welcome to Egypt.

… soldiers invited protesters to climb aboard their armored personnel carriers to have their pictures taken, and in Alexandria, demonstrators took tea to troops.

If the army joins the protesters fighting security police, Mubarak is toast.  How far will this spread?  Yemen and Jordan are seeing the same sort of protest, and surely all the autocratic governments in the region are fearful of what started in Tunisia.

The Egyptian government also attempted to thwart protesters using cell phones and social networking websites to organize:

Although cellphone service was restored in much of the country, the government appeared to still be blocking or restricting the Internet in an attempt to keep protesters from using social networking sites to communicate. The leaders of the early demonstrators, many of them young, used those sites to organize their protests, successfully evading Mr. Mubarak’s efficient security apparatus, which has for years co-opted opposition leaders it could and jailed those it could not.

There is also anger at the US:

“We are very disillusioned by President Obama’s speech,” said Muhammad Shafai, 35, a lawyer, who called for Mr. Obama to distance himself from Mr. Mubarak.

In his speech Friday night, Mr. Obama took on a stern tone, saying he had personally told Mr. Mubarak that he needed to listen to his people’s demands for a “better democracy.” But the United States has counted on Egypt for help in the region, whether supporting American moves in Iraq or trying to defuse tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Will this end the same way as last year’s revolt in Iran?  We’ll have to wait and see…


half the population is under 25
GNI per capita $1800

And You Thought Test-Taking Was a Bad Thing



via Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say – NYTimes.com.

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

How will this new research impact what I do in the classroom?  I’m not sure – I definitely need to learn more about it – but anything that helps students remember the information is the way to go.

Read the full article for some insight into what scientists think about why this technique works.


Geography of the Balkans over Time

h/t to Coming Anarchy

Good News

via Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields” – Attack on Egypt Copts – Egypt – Ahram Online.

January 7, 2011

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

Egypt’s Muslims offered themselves as human shields to protect Coptic Christians after New Years Eve’s brutal attacks on churches.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Even President Hosni Mubarak’s two sons showed up.

The terror attack that struck the country on New Year’s eve is in many ways a final straw – a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, oppressed, and overlooked by a government that fails to address their needs. On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability.

Prime Minister Claims Power in Tunisia as President Flees – NYTimes.com



via Prime Minister Claims Power in Tunisia as President Flees – NYTimes.com.

TUNIS — President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia has left the country amid growing chaos in the streets, French diplomats say, and the prime minister went on state television Friday night to say he is in charge.

The rioter have accomplished their goal – the president-for-life has fled the country. 

The anti-government protests began a month ago when a college- educated street vendor burned himself to death in protest of his dismal prospects amid Tunisia’s poverty.

They quickly escalated into calls for political reform in this close ally of the US. 

The crowd was notably middle-class, including young doctors and lawyers and other professionals. Some identified themselves as the “Bourguiba generation” — young people who benefited from free higher education and other social welfare policies instituted under Tunisia’s first post-independence president, Habib Bourguiba.

The French government and the United States State Department cautioned against all non-essential travel to the North African country.

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