One tweet from One Direction member Louis Tomlinson during the Paris attacks summarily proves the true impact of celebrity and the existence of the global connectivity so often espoused by the likes of Barack Obama, Bono and Mark Zuckerberg.

A new study by Western University’s CulturePlex Lab, led by Juan Luis Suárez, charted approximately 4.3 million tweets in the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13 and found that one tweeted by Tomlinson at 6:47 a.m. on November 14 was the most active and widely shared Twitter message related to the event with more than 173,000 retweets and 208,000 likes.

“There is a direct correlation represented here in regards to how people react to celebrity and how much impact celebrities truly have,” explains Suárez, a Digital Humanities professor in Western’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the Director of the CulturePlex Lab. “This study shows how powerful you are if you are a super-connector. Companies are using super-connectors for marketing, political parties are using them for campaigns and we show here that pop culture and celebrity are an immediate gateway to these types of events worldwide.”

Suárez says that super-connectors like Tomlinson, who has 20.7 million Twitter followers (and counting), have an unbelievable amount of power to persuade when you consider that they generate immediate reaction from thousands if not millions of people. Read more…


Published on Nov. 25 in http://mediarelations.uwo.ca/2015/11/25/history-may-remember-paris-attacks-by-one-tweet-from-one-direction/



china us

The U.S. is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.

The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least2020.

It also sanctifies an updated economic formula for the country: out with a model based on low-wage manufacturing of export goods and in with the shock of the new, namely, a Chinese version of the third industrial revolution. And while China’s leadership is focused on creating a middle-class future powered by a consumer economy, its president is telling whoever is willing to listen that, despite the fears of the Obama administration and of some of the country’s neighbors, there’s no reason for war ever to be on the agenda for the U.S. and China.

Given the alarm in Washington about what is touted as a Beijing quietly pursuing expansionism in the South China Sea, Xi has been remarkably blunt on the subject of late. Neither Beijing nor Washington, he insists, should be caught in the Thucydides trap, the belief that a rising power and the ruling imperial power of the planet are condemned to go to war with each other sooner or later.

It was only two months ago in Seattle that Xi told a group of digital economy heavyweights, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

A case can be made — and Xi’s ready to make it — that Washington, which, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya to Syria, has gained something of a reputation for “strategic miscalculation” in the twenty-first century, might be doing it again. After all, U.S. military strategy documents and top Pentagon figures have quite publicly started to label China (like Russia) as an official “threat.”

To grasp why Washington is starting to think of China that way, however, you need to take your eyes off the South China Sea for a moment, turn off Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the rest of the posse, and consider the real game-changer — or “threat” — that’s rattling Beltway nerves in Washington when it comes to the new Great Game in Eurasia. Read more…


By Pepe Escobar; Nov. 23

Published in http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176072/


Pragmatism in Climate Policy

Written on November 25, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, Op Ed

BERLIN – The diplomatic effort to forge an international agreement to mitigate climate change is undergoing a fundamental shift. The top-down approach that has guided the effort since 1992 is slowly being replaced by a bottom-up model. Rather than attempting to craft an accord based on legally binding restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions, the new approach relies on voluntary commitments by individual countries to rein in their contributions to climate change.

This is, in one sense, an admission of failure; such an approach is unlikely to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2° Celsius, the target set by the United Nations in 2010. But given the slow pace of progress so far, small pragmatic steps by individual countries may be far more productive than attempts to strike a grand bargain that remains forever out of reach.

International negotiators have made significant progress over the last five years, but they are still far away from an agreement that would meet the 2°C target. As a result, diplomats, fearing that another failed attempt to reach a global accord could discredit the entire negotiating process, have rescaled their ambitions.

In particular, efforts to set strict limits on emissions are quietly being dropped. The focus is no longer on what is environmentally desirable or on the measures needed to keep climate change in check; rather, it is on what is politically feasible – the possibilities and constraints of the negotiating process, especially with a view to securing broad participation. Given the slow pace of progress since the first UN climate-change summit in 1995, any agreement that involves all members of the Framework Convention on Climate Change will be hailed as a historic success.

Read more at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/paris-climate-change-pragmatic-approach-by-oliver-geden-2015-11#qmyccVSGWWwqvypt.99

Nov. 23rd; Oliver Geden
Oliver Geden is head of the European Union research division at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.




While most global attention has been focused on Nigeria, Mali has been West Africa’s other insurgent hotspot in recent years.
It is threatened by various armed groups – from Ansar Dine, which is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to Touareg separatist rebel groups. The lawlessness in Libya after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 led to a spread of weapons across the Sahel region of northern Africa, which fell into the hands of such groups and fuelled unrest in the region. In 2012 the handling of the Touareg rebellion prompted some army factions to stage an uprising, sparking a civil war. Jihadist groups took advantage of the situation and took control of the north of the country, imposing strict Islamic law.

The resulting fighting needed the intervention of French forces to push away the militants and regain much of northern Mali. But the jihadists are still active and have carried out numerous attacks across the country.

Key players
The most prominent group is Ansar Dine, led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. The group is linked to AQIM and has vowed to destabilise the Sahel region. Ghaly recently called for attacks on France and its interests in Mali. The group implemented Sharia law in towns it captured during the 2012 uprising, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. A new jihadist group known as Macina Liberation Front (FLM) has recently emerged in central Mali.It is linked with Ansar Dine and just last week, carried out an attack on a military checkpoint in the region of Djenne, a town 500km (310 miles) north-east of the capital Bamako. Its leader has called for continued attacks on the government. Last week, the Malian authorities said that information from members of the public had led to the arrest of one of the group’s leading financiers during an army operation in the central region of Mopti. Read more…

By Tomi Oladipo
BBC Monitoring Africa security correspondent
20 November 2015


FLORENCE, Italy — As President François Hollande of France has declared, the country is at war with the Islamic State. France considers the Islamist group, also known as ISIS, to be its greatest enemy today. It fights it on the front lines alongside the Americans in the Middle East, and as the sole Western nation in the Sahel. It has committed to this battle, first started in Mali in 2013, a share of its armed forces much greater than has the United States.

On Friday night, France paid the price for this. Messages expressing solidarity have since poured in from all over the Western world. Yet France stands oddly alone: Until now, no other state has treated ISIS as the greatest strategic threat to the world today.
The main actors in the Middle East deem other enemies to be more important. Bashar al-Assad’s main adversary is the Syrian opposition — now also the main target of Russia, which supports him. Mr. Assad would indeed benefit from there being nothing between him and ISIS: That would allow him to cast himself as the last bastion against Islamist terrorism, and to reclaim in the eyes of the West the legitimacy he lost by so violently repressing his own people.

The Turkish government is very clear: Its main enemy is Kurdish separatism. And a victory of Syrian Kurds over ISIS might allow the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., to gain a sanctuary, and resume its armed struggle against Turkey.

The Kurds, be they Syrian or Iraqi, seek not to crush ISIS so much as to defend their newfound borders. They hope the Arab world will become more divided than ever. They want to seize Sinjar because it is in a Kurdish area. But they won’t attack Mosul, because that would be playing into Baghdad’s hands. Read more…

Published on Nov. 17 in nyt.com

Olivier Roy is a professor at the European University Institute in Florence and the author of “Globalized Islam.”


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