What we’re reading: The Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad attacks in a global context

We at Blog would like to extend our condolences to those who have been affected by recent and on-going attacks in Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere in the world. Thankfully, all 18 Brown students studying abroad in Paris were safe throughout the attacks. In light of recent events, this week’s “What we’re reading” will focus on the attacks in Paris, their international implications, and the international response by the media and society at large. At 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, November 18th, the Chaplains will host a “candlelight vigil to express our prayers, concern, and commitment to our global neighbors.” There will be a reception to follow in JWW 411.

On the night of Friday, November 13th, eight individuals killed at least 129 people and wounded over 350 others throughout Paris in an attack that has been linked to the Islamic State (ISIS). The eight attackers–seven of whom are dead–worked in three teams to carry out the attack that spanned the city, targeting several restaurants, the soccer stadium, and the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 victims were killed. The New York Times breaks down the timeline of events and the reaction of the French government.

French authorities have identified Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian man, as being responsible for orchestrating the attack, the New York Times reports. Authorities are also searching for Abdeslam Salam, 26, who is one of two French brothers living in Belgium who helped carry out the attack and is the only one of the eight attackers still at large.

The Saalam brothers lived in Molenbeek, a Belgian neighborhood that is largely populated by immigrants from the Arab world and has been linked to other attempted and successful attacks in Europe. Slate explores how Belgium became a hotbed for extremist activity. Politico reports that Jan Jambon, Belgium’s interior minister, is vowing to “clean up Molenbeek.” The implications of the connection of Belgians to the attacks are unclear as of yet. Jambon has not specified how he intends to “clean up” the area of concern. 

French President François Hollande declared that “France is at war” and enacted a state of emergency that he now proposes should be extended to three months, the Wall Street Journal reported. Under a state of emergency, the government can conduct raids without a proper search warrant. French officials conducted 168 raids early Monday morning throughout 19 departments, including Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. They arrested 23 people and put an additional 104 people under house arrest.

Looking Ahead (and Behind): ISIS, Immigration, and Islamophobia

France has expanded its aerial bombing of ISIS targets in Syria in response to the attack. They have dropped at least 20 bombs on Raqqa, Syria in the past couple days. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, more than 200,000 Syrians have been killed and the country has been destabilized by various factions battling for control, including ISIS. The Atlantic outlines France’s role in fighting ISIS in Iraq since September of 2014. Olivier Roy, a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times outlining the geopolitical challenges to confronting ISIS and the likely course of action for France.

The conflict has displaced over  11 million Syrians, many of whom have migrated to Europe to escape the violence. For a more in-depth look at refugee resettlement, CNN has a report from September that looks at migrant flows. 

The attack in Paris raised concerns over accepting Syrian refugees into European countries after a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers. The Guardian cautions against jumping to conclusions about the discovered Syrian passport. Because of the attack, several governments whose nations have been opening their doors to these refugees are receiving intensified backlash from various citizens. In Germany, a country considered friendly to migrants, debate has been especially pointed and a tense climate has emerged (discussed here in Time). 

Continue Reading

What we’re reading

What we're reading

The second Democratic debate will take place this Saturday, and pollsters have been going crazy trying to predict who the nominee for both parties will be. This week, the New York Times asked readers to predict who they think will win each party’s nomination. Sorry Trump, but according to this piece, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Marco Rubio were most often mentioned. The Times also took into account the predicted VP choices.

In a similar vein, The New Yorker discussed the importance (if any) of Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live last week. When the iconic show secured the candidate on the show, ratings soared; however, as the article argues, “the show didn’t, in any truly cutting way, make fun of Trump: it made fun of Trump voters, or at least the people it imagined them to be.” Make sure to check out future SNL skits surrounding the presidential election.

The climate surrounding racial issues on college campuses has been prominent in national and campus dialogue recently. From the Yale president telling Black students, “We failed you,” to the president of the University of Missouri system’s resignation on Monday, the conversation spans many topics and has incited action on the part of certain university administrations.

Continue Reading

What we’re reading


A 2015 Pew Research Center study reports that 89 percent of American cell phone owners have used their phones during their last social gathering. Of American adults, 82 percent believe their cell phone use in social settings has negative effects on the conversation. Sherry Turkle, professor in the Science, Technology, and Society program at M.I.T., explores the detrimental effects of cell phone use in her New York Times piece. Our increased dependence has led to a decrease in the ability of some to engage in “empathetic conversations” and read others for emotions, among other effects.

Hipster alert! “The Mason Jar, Reborn traces the history of the trusted beverage container you see many of our classmates walking around campus with. The piece traces the transition of the mason jar from being used as a convenient method for preserving food to a symbol of “thrift, preservation, and personal labor” that has become ubiquitous in the capitalist system. Continue Reading

A new Provost: Richard M. Locke


This afternoon, President Christina Paxson P’19 sent out an email announcing our new provost, effective July 1st. Richard M. Locke, current Director of the Watson Institute, will be stepping up to the job, which belonged to Vicki Colvin this past school year. Locke teaches Political Science to undergraduate and graduate students, has  served on the Deficit Reduction Working Group, and worked on the meld of the Taubman and Watson centers.

Locke is an author, a seasoned faculty member and alumnus of MIT, and the receiver of a nearly perfect rating on The Critical Review, to name just a few of his achievements. His research focuses on “improving labor and and environmental conditions in global supply chains”, meaning producing a reality where you don’t need to violate the Earth and basic human rights in order to run a big, profitable business. Locke works with companies like Coca Cola, Apple, and Nike. We look forward to seeing how Professor Locke will integrate these values into his new position.

Until further notice, Locke will continue to serve as Director of the Watson Institute. You can read more about Locke and the announcement here.

Image via.

What Lincoln Chafee brings to the 2016 Presidential race


Yesterday in Wilson 101, former Governor and Senator of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee ‘75 P’ 14 P ’17, in a partnership with the Brown Journal of World Affairs, participated in a Q&A on various national and international issues. This comes right on the tail of Chafee basically announcing that he was running for President of the United States, and offered ample opportunity for participants to get an early understanding of his agenda and positions on key topics in the upcoming race.

With Hillary Clinton dominating the democratic nomination conversation, it can be hard to understand why other Democrats would even bother. Yet, as Chafee said himself, “There shouldn’t be one person out there…voters want options.” Chafee would certainly be a very different candidate from Clinton.

Here is what Lincoln Chafee could bring to the presidential race:

Continue Reading

What we’re reading

On Sunday, after months of speculation, Hillary Clinton announced that she will be running as a candidate for the 2016 presidential election. The Atlantic’s “The 2016 Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet” breaks down the candidates who have announced and people likely to do so in the near future. Things keep heating up as the time left until election day winds down.

The New York Times‘ Michael Sokolove followed around the Philadelphia 76ers this season trying to get to the bottom of one of their worst seasons in recent history. In “How Long Can the Philadelphia 76ers Go?“, Sokolove explores the team’s history starting four years ago in 2011. He traces their successes and failures, including this season’s opening 17-game consecutive losing streak, to explain the 76ers’ 2014-2015 season.

Continue Reading