In an article titled Arab Spring Blues?, NY Times Latitude contributor Issandr El Amrani reported from Tunis on the new Harlem Shake meme that has gone viral. It began a few weeks ago in Queensland, Australia, and is most recently grabbing headlines in Tunisia, where the minister of education, Abdellatif Abid, in upping his conservative credentials in the lead-up to an imminent cabinet shuffle there, has promised to expel any students engaging in the Harlem Shake. It appears that Abid is fighting a losing battle, as this meme is experiencing massive popularity worldwide. The good news from the story is what this trend means in countries like Tunisia and Egypt: the people, especially youths critical to overthrowing oppressive governments, have not lost their sense of resistance in the face of their governments’ trends of continually restricting civil rights.
Op-Ed Contributor Soner Cagaptay has provided an insightful overview of Turkey’s interests in the turbulent goings-on along the Fertile Crescent. Considering how swiftly Middle East alliance configurations are changing, this was no small task. Ankara sees the Kurds as the foundation for the expansion of Turkey’s interests beyond its borders with Iran to its east and Syria and Iraq to its south. This goes a long way to explaining Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s recent decision to take up peace talks with the P.K.K., the Kurdistan Workers Party that has more or less been at war with the Turkish government for 30 years. By making peace with the Kurds at home, Turkey’s popularity in the heavily Kurdish communities just over its borders and beyond would be key in the volatile times that are sure to come, as Assad’s Syrian government will certainly fall, Iran is hardly stable and Iraq is still seeking stability since the U.S. invasion 10 years ago.
Op-Ed Contributor Louise C. Ivers is holding the United Nations to its pledge to stabilize the fragile country of Haiti. In places like Haiti, the U.N. is usually a welcome presence. However, in 2010 soldiers at a UN camp inadvertently introduced a strain of the bacteria that causes cholera, and over 8000 Haitians have since died of the disease. A number of reports have confirmed (as much as such a thing can be confirmed) that the UN camp was indeed the source of the illness. The U.N. denies any culpability. So, with more problems to alleviate in Haiti now than there were when they arrived, U.N. personnel are facing local hostility for their refusal to take responsibility for the outbreak. The least the U.N. could do now is to finance the Haitian government’s new anti-cholera program. The U.N. Haiti budget of $648 million should have no problem contributing, if not paying for it all. Help the victims.
Mexico is back, or so says Thomas Friedman. For decades, besides as a tourist location, Mexico has been known for its problems more than anything else. It still does have this reputation but it’s becoming less and less deserved. Three factors are responsible. The first two, improved higher education and the excellent economic policy in terms of growth, have been imposed from above. The third,indeterminate factor is the irrespressible spirit of youth, along with the internet of course. Innovation by young people, a phenomenon certainly linked to improvements in education, is most strong in Monterey, Mexico’s Silicon Valley. But what makes Monterey a shade different from its California counterpart, is the amount of young companies addressing Mexicos battery of problems, such as Patricio Zambrano’s Alivio Capital, a network of dental, optical and hearing clinics aimed at people who can’t usually afford such services.
NY Times Latitude contributor Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore has documented the late stages of the gradual demise of the nomads of the Tibetan plateau. Since the early 1990s, when China began heavy investments in the area, the rights and traditions of local Nomadic populations have been steadily curtailed. Herders have virtually been forced to give their livestock in exchange for a small annual stipend. Those who don’t speak Chinese are ostracized. Globally, much has been made of Chinese policy in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, but here in the Chinese province of Qinghai has, in the words of the Dalai Lama, been nothing short of “cultural genocide”.