Academic Freedom Media Review – March 11 – 16, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

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AAUP Will Investigate U. of Northern Iowa Over Faculty Cuts
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/16

Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of imprisoned Iranian scholars
Scholars at Risk, 3/16

Chicago State U. Is Ordered to Reinstate Adviser to Student Newspaper
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/15

Cambridge student protester suspended from University until 2014
Emily Loud, The Cambridge Student, 3/15

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NDAA and the Soul of America

Something momentous will very likely happen this week, something ominous.  So ominous that the kid that grew up reading mythology, medieval literature and fantasy, will somehow find it hard to believe if the sky doesn’t darken or the earth become sick as nature herself reproaches the nation for the wrongfulness of the path it has started down.  I am referring to the potential signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  No one wants to hold up funding for the military, but it contains other provisions that are simply contrary to the very essence of the American nation’s soul.  I get a lump in my throat and tight chest every time I think about this bill.

President Obama, once the hero of the narrative who came to office President Obama who “came into office pledging his dedication to the rule of law and to reversing the Bush-era policies” (Andrew Rosenthal, “Politics of Principle,” NYT, Dec. 15, 2011), is likely to sign the law making indefinite detention of American citizens a permanent fixture of American law.  They will also be subject to military tribunals.  Maybe we’re not quite at the point of using the Bill of Rights for toilet paper, but we’re at least using it as a dinner napkin.

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The Internet Blacklist Bill and International Studies

Today, Congress held hearings on the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). There’s probably not too many reading this that would argue with the goals laid out in the titles of those two bills, but don’t be deceived. It’s not the objective of the bills we object to, but rather the means. As the Vimeo blog today notes, both bills

would give the power to the government and content owners to censor and block websites that host even just one piece of content that allegedly infringes a copyright…a much more severe House bill was just introduced and is set up to pass soon if we don’t take action NOW. These bills threaten the very essence of the web and the communities that have risen from it.

As an area studies scholar and someone who believes that in general open and free communications between cultures around the world is a good thing, I’d like to point out another objection to this law. It has the potential to greatly complicate my research and the free flow of knowledge by throwing up barriers to information that the internet only recently opened. My research delves into constructions of identity through literature, popular culture and the performing arts, and it always a great relief when I find useful research materials online. The internet has made music videos, movies, the popular press, and so much more available to me online from my living room or wherever my computer is.
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Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Media Review, June 4 – 10, 2011

Scholars at Risk would like to draw attention to the killing of Dr. Maksud I. Sadikov, Rector of the Institute of Theology and International Relations in Russia. According to media reports Mr. Sadikov was shot to death in a car in Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan region, on Tuesday, June 7, 2011. The motives for this apparent assassination are not clear at this time but seem to relate to Dr. Sadikov’s efforts to promote moderate religious education in the region to counter terrorism and extremism in the Caucasus. Please see the following two articles for additional information relating to the killing of Dr. Sadikov:

Rector at Muslim University in Russia Is Shot to Death
Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times, 6/7

Senior Dagestani Muslim Killed in a Hail of Bullets
Natalya Krainova, The Moscow Times, 6/8

Please find below a compilation of articles in the news media addressing academic freedom issues over the past week.

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The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here.  The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

BC asks for Irish project secrecy
Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe, 6/9

Annual Report 2011 of the Network of Concerned Historians
Antoon De Baets, Network of Concerned Historians, 6/8

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TV News and Reporting from Egypt

Dear Media,

Please stop marveling at how anything is happening in Egypt even though the internet is shut down and people can’t get on Twitter or Facebook.  You do realize that there were popular revolts before social media, don’t you?  In the latter half of the 20th century we had the Prague Spring in 1968, the Soweto uprising in 1976, the Paris riots in 1968, and even Tiananmen Square in 89. How do you think people coordinated the labor demonstrations of the 30s, the anti-colonial revolts of the developing world in the decades following World War II.  What about the French Revolution in 1789?  OMG?  How did they get anything done.  They didn’t even have land lines!

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FCC Approves Comcast NBC Merger

Federal regulators on Tuesday approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, allowing for a joint venture that puts a vast library of television shows and movies under the control of the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet service provider.

The Justice Department also announced its approval of the deal with conditions aimed at keeping Comcast-NBCU from quashing competition from other networks and Internet providers.

-Read more about the decision at The Washington Post.

This is not good news. I do not believe the conditions set by regulators are sufficient, and I don’t believe such mergers ought to be allowed in any case. Here we have one of the largest media conglomerates in the United States and abroad teaming up with the largest internet and cable providers in the US. It is a bad precedent.
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Academic Freedom Media Review, June 5-11

Academic Freedom Media Review
June 5 – 11, 2010
Compiled by Scholars at Risk
 
China defends internet censorship
Michael Bristow, BBC News, 6/10
 
Marquette Settles With Woman Whose Job Offer Was Revoked /
Inside Higher Ed, 6/10

Paper on Psychopaths, Delayed by Legal Threat, Finally Published /
John Travis, Science, 6/10
 
Faith and Freedom
Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 6/9
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Stop this Dangerous Rhetoric

A drive for signatures on a petition from Credo says that in his new book FOX News contributor Newt Gingrich compared President Obama’s administration to Nazi Germany saying that his “secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”

If anyone has read this book, I’d be interested in knowing how Gingrich defines socialism. It is an oft repeated charge, and I don’t understand it, because this country has a long way to go before it even become a “mixed” economy. Even the health care reform measures that passed recently will work through private insurance! Essentially the new policies of the administration check the excesses of capitalism, no more and no less. It has been acknowledged since the first recession of the Modern era that this is necessary.
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Global Connections and Exchange Program Combines Technology and In-Person Exchanges

Midlothian High School Exchange

Midlothian High School students planted trees in honor of their guests. | photo courtesy of Jamie Schlais Barnes

Here’s an interesting item from Midlothian Exchange, a local paper in Midlothian, in Chesterfield County, Virginia and a part of the Richmond Metropolitan Area.

Two weeks ago, three men walked into Midlothian High School looking for a better understanding of American culture. Ten days later, they left having changed their own perceptions of U.S. citizens and their students’ perceptions of Arabic culture. Their challenge and that of the students at Midlothian High School is to continue spreading what they learned.

Abdulwahab Albaadani, a teacher at Ibn Majed in Sanaa, Yemen, Amine Slimani, a teacher from the Secondary School of Nedroma in Nedroma, Algeria and his pupil, Mohamed Belmeliami, traveled to the U.S. as a culmination of nearly a year’s worth of video conferencing, cultural lessons, and web logging with social studies classes at Midlothian High School…

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Comparing Global Medias

Today, via Geeky Mom Laura Blankenship, I discovered an article in TechCrunch, about a site that lines up the front page of CNN or other news sites with those of Al Jazeera, France 24, BBC, NPR, or several others, so that visitors may compare for themselves the differences between the stories covered, from which perspectives, to what degree of detail and whether or not it is through first hand reporting or some other source. Unfortunately, CNN seldom compares favorably, hence the URL for the site, http://wtfcnn.com/.

Sadly, the disaster which is cable news in this country is, in large part, media giving the people what they want and not, as some would believe, some vast elitist conspiracy to keep the masses hypnotized by mindless infotainment so they are distracted which they go about undermining the foundation of our society. If you need evidence of that, compare an hour of the domestic feed of CNN in the US to an hour of the feed on CNN International. The network caters to its international audience not just with an hour of news the focuses on international subjects, but with broadcasts that are more serious in tone, and that devote much less time to entertainment and puff pieces.
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