"Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry"

"Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry"

I first discovered Ai Weiwei in my art history class, where we studied his 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds, which, once collectively observed, lose their individual state of being, a metaphor for the loss of individual identity under communism. Over the summer, as I browsed through a number of Netflix documentaries, I came across “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” a title that stuck to me. It is one thing to be apologetic, but for one to be never sorry, never regretful, was a big message.

Speaker Spotlight: Suroosh Alvi

Suroosh Alvi, the final speaker in our 2017 series Undercurrent, will be joining us this Tuesday to share his experiences as co-founder of VICE Media. Alvi launched VICE magazine in 1994 that later expanded to a multimedia network with online streaming of original documentaries and news reports, an Emmy-award winning series on HBO, and most recently a 24-hour television channel. Check out some of the most fascinating pieces and reports from VICE and then join us today in Shriver Hall at 8:00 PM.

Overview of VICE

  • VICE Magazine: The magazine that started it all – it originally covered arts and pop culture but has since expanded to include news events.
  • VICE (TV Series): In 2013, HBO featured VICE's first season of international coverage on subjects such as North Korea, Chinese ghost towns during the housing boom, and underground heroin clinics. The series was awarded an Emmy and recently premiered it's fifth season in 2017.
  • VICE News: Reportage that includes videos and full-length documentaries that delve into subjects utilizing the 'immersionist' technique of embedding correspondents during their reports.
  • VICELAND: Launched in 2016, VICE's TV channel hosts shows that covers topics including news, lifestyle, sex, drugs, art, and culture.

NY MAG: Interview With Suroosh Alvi

Image courtesy of NPR

Image courtesy of NPR

Q: What was your first job in New York?
A: I’ve only ever had one job worth mentioning, which was Vice, but when we moved to New York in ‘99, it was at the peak of the dot-com bubble. My job, in addition to running editorial for all of Vice, was to build an insanely over-the-top, ecommerce website that could fulfill orders globally the next day, but then the bubble burst and it all went away overnight.
Q: In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
A: It used to be putting out fires and hitting send and receive all day and being a professional emailer, but now I get to spin the globe and look at a map and decide where I want to go to investigate and produce my content.

VICE Season 1 Episode 10: Basketball With Kim Jong Un

VICE made history by going to North Korea to take an inside look at Kim Jong Un's life and play some basketball.

DOcumentary Exlusive: World's Scariest Drug

"VICE's Ryan Duffy went to Colombia to check out a strange and powerful drug called Scopolamine, also known as "The Devil's Breath." It's a substance so intense that it renders a person incapable of exercising free will. The first few days in the country were a harrowing montage of freaked-out dealers and unimaginable horror stories about Scopolamine. After meeting only a few people with firsthand experience, the story took a far darker turn than we ever could have imagined."

VICE Report: Iran's Fashion Scene is Blossoming Under SHaria Law

Image courtesy of VICE

Image courtesy of VICE

Before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, citizens weren't required to wear the Islamic cover known as the hijab and the country's fashion was almost identical to that of the United States and Europe. After the revolution, though, the hijab became required by law.

Although the standard black hijab is still commonplace—especially in rural areas in the country—Iran has recently seen a fashion renaissance, and cities like Tehran are becoming home to new and innovative designers. The clothing may still have to respect the Islamic dress codes, but the bright colors and designs would never have been seen a decade ago in Iran.

Last summer, VICE went to Tehran to attend the third annual Fajr Fashion Show and speak with some of Iran's new designers. The country's top officials—responsible for granting permission for the show—were all seated in the front row to show their support. And to make sure the models were adhering to the country's law.

Speaker Spotlight: Veterans Writing Project

We are excited to welcome Ron Capps from the Veterans Writing Project as this year's Anne Smedinghoff Award Recipient for our 2017 series Undercurrent. The Veterans Writing Project is a Washington D.C-based nonprofit founded upon the core belief that every veteran has a story worth telling. VWP provides no-cost writing seminars to veterans, service members, and military family members and commits itself to helping veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As the founder and director, Ron Capps served 25 years in government service between the Army and the Foreign Service. Capps has been published on Time and The New York Times, and served as a consultant for Time, Rolling Stone, and PBS Frontline. His memoir, Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years - outlining his time in the service and his personal struggles with PTSD - was published in 2014.

We've collected some incredible excerpts of writings from the project for you to peruse. Join us at 7:30 PM in Mudd Hall on April 5, 2017 to find out more.

Interview with NPR

SIEGEL: And, first, why did you start The Veterans Writing Project?

CAPPS: I found that writing for me was very therapeutic. I came back from a number of combat deployments and was looking for a way to get better control of the memories from five wars and decided that writing was the tool that I was going to use. I found that there were so many veterans that have stories to tell and I wanted to help them by giving them the tools that they need to tell their own stories.

And so I founded The Veterans Writing Project and there were a group of us who are working writers with graduate degrees in writing and who are combat veterans. And we give away what we’ve learned.

SIEGEL: So this is at least part, in its origins, part therapeutic project, part documentary project in writing about the experience of veterans, but also a serious literary project.

CAPPS: That’s exactly right. I mean, we try to approach this from three different directions. Well, the first is literary. We think that there’s a new wave of American literature coming and that a great deal of that will be written by veterans and their family members.

But there’s also the social aspect. We really want to help bridge the divide between the less than 1 percent of Americans who are taking part in these wars and the 99 percent who are not. And we think that by getting these stories out and into the hands of the public that we can help do that. And finally, yeah, there really is a therapeutic aspect to this. Writing helps service members really get control of traumatic memories.

"Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD" by Ron capps

Image courtesy of Veterans Writing Project

Image courtesy of Veterans Writing Project

Here's an excerpt from one of Capps thrilling pieces. You can read the rest of the short story here.

When the phone rang I jumped—startled—and nearly shot myself. This was almost comic, because I was already planning to kill myself and was holding the pistol in my hand. So I would have pulled the trigger while the pistol was pointed at my foot rather than my head. The ringing phone broke the spell. After all the crying and shaking, the moralizing and justifying, the calming of hands and nerves, the intense focusing on the immediate act of charging the weapon to put a bullet into the firing chamber, and then taking off the safety and preparing to put the barrel in my mouth, the ringing phone pulled me back from the brink.

I looked at the phone lying on the seat of the pickup and saw that it was my wife calling from Washington, D.C. I looked up as a boy with a camel in tow walked past the truck I was sitting in. The boy’s face was dirty—he’d probably been walking in the desert all day—and he was wearing a stained, full-length thawb (the classic garment worn by many Arab men) and dusty sandals. He looked at me; our eyes locked for a second. Then he looked away and pulled the camel’s rope bridle a little harder.

“Hello?” I answered. The static on the phone cleared up.

“Hey,” my wife said. “What’s up?” Uncanny timing.

I paused. I certainly couldn’t answer with the truth.

“Not much,” I said. “What’s up with you?”

"Extreme Measures" by Larry Thacker

I wake up, tongue stabbed and swollen, sore-raked across the teeth, a mystery
in the mouth at first but familiar once
the coffee stings over the bleeding spot.
I worry a top molar over a small missing chunk, the taste of blood mixed with morning breath, the same story no VA therapist
or new chemical cocktail can unravel.
It smarts more than usual but at least
it didn’t wake me up in the middle of another strange dream this time, choking, stabbed
in the mouth, tongue extracted, cut away,
or drowning, chewed and swallowed.
I’m not epileptic. I don’t grind my teeth. I just bite the fuck out of my tongue. Maybe it just keeps me from screaming the answer to a mystery in my sleep.

TED Talk: Bearing Witness to One's Truth

Inspired by the Veterans Writing Project, English teacher Jim Ott began to teach writing courses to Veterans in California. Ott discusses the importance of empathy and supporting veterans through the healing process in this TED talk. Watch the full video here:

Speaker Spotlight: Aneesh Chopra

Please join us in welcoming another Hopkins alum back to campus as the fourth speaker in our 2017 series, Undercurrent, the first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the United States – Aneesh Chopra. Chopra graduated from Johns Hopkins with a B.A. in Public Health and served as the first CTO under President Obama in 2009 until 2012. As the first appointed CTO, Chopra was responsible for expanding the use of technology in building connections between the federal government and citizens as well as furthering the goals of improved access to resources via applied technology. Chopra will be joining us in Mudd Auditorium at 7:30 PM – we hope to see you there.

Initiatives Under Chopra's Leadership

Here are just a few of the key initiatives that Chopra spearheaded during his tenure as CTO.

  1. Open Government Initiative – Driven by the idea that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Created a forum for solutions to be suggested by members of the public for federal government issues.
  2. Innovate health care delivery – Helping to design comprehensive database in healthcare.gov to make information of various plans accessible and clear for citizens.
  3. National Wireless Initiative – Expanding wireless coverage to 98% of Americans. Allow greater access to information for more and improve the education and work skills of the labor force.
  4. Startup America – fostering innovation of private companies by funding projects.
  5. Deliver energy efficiency – Integrating the smart grid at local levels to document reduced electricity demand.

The Atlantic: Interview with Aneesh Chopra

Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Q: What framework is the president using to think through questions of technology?

A: I would use the words “true north” to describe his philosophy, where true north is that for every difficult question there’s an objective right answer. You ask the right questions and gather the right evidence. There’s little ideological to the questions that I work on. I wouldn’t know who is up or down politically based on the work that I do. That’s just not a conversation that we have. Everything is about the data. Everything is about the evidence. Everything is about what works.

President Obama on Chopra's Work

As the federal government’s first Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra did groundbreaking work to bring our government into the 21st century. Aneesh found countless ways to engage the American people using technology, from electronic health records for veterans, to expanding access to broadband for rural communities, to modernizing government records. His legacy of leadership and innovation will benefit Americans for years to come, and I thank him for his outstanding service.
— President Barack Obama

Ted Talk – "The Innovative State"

Speaker Spotlight: Junot Diaz

We are thrilled to welcome to campus another literary sensation as the third speaker in our 2017 series, Undercurrent. Junot Diaz has captivated audiences since his short story collection Drown in 1996 followed by Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2007. Diaz regularly contributes to The New Yorker and is a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Grant. Diaz will be joining us Wednesday, February 22nd at Shriver Hall so catch up on all of his fantastic work and make sure to bring a copy of a book (or two) for a signing!

Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2008): The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Synopsis: Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim - until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey's Bergenline and back again. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humor, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and the endless human capacity to persevere - and to risk it all - in the name of love.

This is How You Lose Her (2012)

On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

 

 

 

The NeW Yorker: "Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon"

Image courtesy of The New Yorker

Image courtesy of The New Yorker

In the days following the election of President Trump, Diaz penned a letter to his sister calling for resilience in the face of immigrant backlash. Here is an excerpt of the letter:

So what now? Well, first and foremost, we need to feel. We need to connect courageously with the rejection, the fear, the vulnerability that Trump’s victory has inflicted on us, without turning away or numbing ourselves or lapsing into cynicism. We need to bear witness to what we have lost: our safety, our sense of belonging, our vision of our country. We need to mourn all these injuries fully, so that they do not drag us into despair, so repair will be possible.

And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning, we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen us through darkness. We organize. We form solidarities. And, yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safe. To be free.

For those of us who have been in the fight, the prospect of more fighting, after so cruel a setback, will seem impossible. At moments like these, it is easy for even a matatana to feel that she can’t go on. But I believe that, once the shock settles, faith and energy will return. Because let’s be real: we always knew this shit wasn’t going to be easy. Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit. We have to keep fighting, because otherwise there will be no future—all will be consumed. Those of us whose ancestors were owned and bred like animals know that future all too well, because it is, in part, our past. And we know that by fighting, against all odds, we who had nothing, not even our real names, transformed the universe. Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more must do the same. This is the joyous destiny of our people—to bury the arc of the moral universe so deep in justice that it will never be undone.

But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.

I could say more, but I’ve already imposed enough, Q.: Time to face this hard new world, to return to the great shining work of our people. Darkness, after all, is breaking, a new day has come.

Love, J ♦

NPR Interview With Terry Gross

On why slang is so important in his writing:

Well, you know, part of the thing that really interested me about the reading experience is that a lot of times we forget that a large portion of what we’re reading we don’t understand. And most of the time we just skip over it because it’s sort of implicit. We don’t understand a word, we’ll just skip over it and keep going. But, you know, that’s like a basic part of communication, you know, unintelligibility. And so if you’re an immigrant, you’re so used to not being able to understand large chunks of any conversation, large chunks of the linguistic, cultural codes.

And part of what I was trying to get at when writing this book is that, you know, I wanted everybody at one moment to kind of feel like an immigrant in this book, that there would be one language chain that you might not get. And that it was OK. Like, it might provoke a new, like, a reaction to want to know. And that’s good because it’ll make you go look and read other books and start a conversation. But life, and the experience that most of us have in the world is that we tend to live in a world where a good portion of what we hear, see and experience is unintelligible to us. And that to me feels more real than if everything was transparent for every reader.

Chicago Humanities Festival: on Immigrants, Masculinity, Nerds, and Art

Speaker Spotlight: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We are excited to welcome Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the second speaker of our 2017 series, Undercurrent. Adichie is a Hopkins alumna who received a master's in Writing Seminars and an honorary degree recipient in 2016. She is also a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and author of the acclaimed novels including Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah. She will be joining us at Shriver; doors open at 7:30 PM.

 

FUN FACT

In 2016, Adichie was one of eight recipients of an honorary degree during the Johns Hopkins commencement.

In 2016, Adichie was one of eight recipients of an honorary degree during the Johns Hopkins commencement.

TED Talk: "We Should All Be Feminists"

This TED Talk presented by Adichie in 2013 quickly went viral all over social network and media. Adichie presents an impassioned case for gender equality and the idea that activism and feminism is something everyone should participate in. Here are some of the key quotes of the talk:

Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.
Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be ... a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.
I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.
And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.
My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.

Feature in Beyoncé's ***Flawless

And how could we ever forget Adichie's fabulous feature in Beyoncé's song that grasped the attention of pop culture and media everywhere.

For The New Yorker: "Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About"

Image courtesy of The New Yorker

Image courtesy of The New Yorker

Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity.

BBC INterview: More On the Topic of Donald Trump's Election

Adichie continues to be an outspoken critic of Donald Trump and the rise of populism. During the 2016 election, she condemned his racist platform on television, sparking the ire of many.

New York Times Interview: On Beauty, Femininity, Feminism

Image courtesy of NYT

Image courtesy of NYT

Interviewer: Will you continue to be a presence in the fashion world?

Adichie: If you were raised by Grace Adichie, my mother, you had better be interested in fashion. From the time I was a little girl, my mother would dress me up. She would put some of her jewelry on me. I’m a bit of a shoe fiend. I make no apologies for it. The first makeup I used was my mother’s lip gloss. I remember putting on a lot of it, so it was quite shiny. She didn’t mind at all. She said, “You look like you ate hot jollof rice and didn’t wipe it off.”

There’s a part of me that likes shoes, and likes dresses, and likes makeup, and likes books, and likes to write. I think that’s the case for many women. But our culture makes us think we have to choose slices of ourselves that we’re comfortable showing the world.

Speaker Spotlight: Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova

FAS is proud to present the first speaker of our 2017 series: political activist and conceptual artist Nadia Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot. In August 2012, three members of Pussy Riot - a feminist punk rock band - were sentenced to 2 year imprisonment following an anti-Putin performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This protest attracted international media attention and support from the likes of Amnesty International and former President Barack Obama.

Tolokonnikova will be joining us on February 1st at 7 PM in Shriver Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Before you come to the event, we've collected some of the best and headline-grabbing of Tolokonnikova's performances, interviews, and op-ed pieces for you to check out.

"Punk Prayer" 2012 Guerilla Performance, Moscow

The Pussy Riot collective first made international headlines when they staged a guerilla performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The song mocked Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, ultimately resulting in a two-year prison sentence for Tolokonnikova and another member of Pussy Riot for "hooliganism." They were later released early from their sentence.

New York Times Interview – "A Warning for Americans From a Member of Pussy Riot"

Source: NYT

Source: NYT

“What happens in one country makes huge influence on what’s going on in other countries,” she said. “So, I didn’t want Donald Trump to be elected because it would obviously encourage authoritarian politicians around the world to be more authoritarian, and it did.”

Anti-Trump Song: Make America Great Again

 

“Putin created what we call in Russia an atmosphere of hatred. And that’s what Donald Trump is doing here right now.”

Op-Ed: "In Case of Political Catastrophe"

Check out the full op-ed at Billboard...

In case of political catastrophe:

1. Don’t panic.

2. Stay focused. Though don’t focus just on yourself. The question “How would I survive under a Trump presidency” is false at its core: Think about those who are the most vulnerable, who’s going to suffer from a Trump presidency the most. Find ways to help them. And then -- oh, miracle! -- you’ll notice that your own political anxiety is fading away.

3. Learn your history. Figure out what you can do; follow your plan and your social justice dream -- day by day, step by step.

4. A is for Activist: a social justice's hustler. Think beyond egocentrism -- stop asking yourself how you’re going to change the world. Hey, you can not change the world alone. But go hustle for justice anyway; make your input, your energy, an idea, an impulse. It will make a difference.

5. Be thankful for any achievement. Even if it seems small to you. Look around: You could either hate all those people and turn your life into a hell, or you could love them, and it’ll bring heaven to the earth.

6. If your government is a pile of trash - build your own guerrilla government. Build and participate and support the network of alternative institutions, organizations, initiatives. We’d better be smart and fast in creating effective alternatives in those areas where government and corporation fails: healthcare, education, media.

7. Fight for your right. Obstacles should not discourage you from action. The opposite is truth: Let obstacles motivate you.

8. Respect your mistakes. Even a total disaster could teach you some important lessons. Like: You got Trump and it royally sucks, but it may be a sign that it’s time for a radical political analysis -- it’s time to analyze systemic political diseases. It’s time to think about 1% and 99% dialectics. It’s time to question -- how it’s possible that many human beings are treated in our society as disposables; basing on class, race, sex, religion. Think about mass incarceration. Imagine for a second what does it mean -- to be released from prison and be rejected everywhere, to feel like a second-class human being.

9. Don’t sit around like the world owes you something. Give yourself to the world, be a human gift to the world -- cherish it, love it, share yourself with it. And be attentive and thankful enough to notice gifts and miracles that the world sends you back.

10. I want to exist, therefore I protest. Proclaim -- loudly -- your presence. Our scream is loud. Sometimes it suffocates us cause we run out of breath. We break our voices when we’re trying too hard. But it’s our price to pay. When you want to put something on fire, you need to burn yourself. A miracle happens just when you wish for it is so real so you could eat it for breakfast instead of eggs.

Study Abroad Spotlight: Maddie Goodman

Name: Maddie Goodman

Year: 2017

Major: History

FAS Position: Programming Staff Member

Where did you go? Sevilla, Spain

Why did you choose to go there? I chose Sevilla (Seville) for several different reasons. Having taken Spanish in High School and during my Freshman year of college, I knew I wanted a Spanish-speaking country to better my language skills and attain a certain level of fluency. Additionally, I thought that having working proficiency with a language would enable me to fully immerse myself in the culture and society, and it also allowed me to direct enroll in the University in the city. Lastly, I had been to Spain before with my family, specifically Barcelona, and absolutely loved it. However I knew that I wanted some place off the beaten path, and I felt that in Sevilla (which is the fourth largest city in Spain) was a little bit atypical to study abroad in. I also loved that the city had so much history built into it - all of southern Spain was actually ruled by the Islamic Empire centuries ago, and has a ton of Moorish/Muslim influence.

How did FAS influence your decision to go? FAS fosters diverse and worldly discourse, providing students with valuable perspectives on a variety of world issues. I think FAS influenced my decision in that I felt the need to go somewhere I had never been and really knew nothing about in order to gain a more global, worldly perspective. 

What has been your favorite part/experience? Wow that’s so hard to answer … there’s literally so much I could talk about. I absolutely loved almost every aspect of my abroad experience, from the friends I made, Spanish culture, and the food I ate. I think Sevilla the city itself was probably my favorite part. I loved the city - like looooooove with a capital “L.” It’s amazingly beautiful and the weather is consistently great - it never dips below about 50 degrees in the winter. It’s such a culturally and historically rich city, and with so much to do as well. But if I had to sum it all up one sentence my favorite part was the old buildings that lined the river, becoming practically fluent in Spanish, the endless olives, siesta (a three hour nap in the middle of the day), cheap and flavorful wine, and the friends that I made. 

What did you miss (or not miss) about Hopkins? I definitely didn’t miss the stress. It’s no secret that Hopkins can be really stressful, but a lot of it stems from the fact that everybody thinks that every second of the day you have to be doing work. When you’re abroad, it provides you with the opportunity to step back from work and life, and remember the things that truly matter. That assignment that you have due in 2 weeks will not teach you anything grand or amazingly important about life. We all should take time to slow down, breathe, and open ourselves up to knew experiences and memories. 

I definitely missed my friends a lot, and the time difference made it hard to communicate. But I also made lots of new friends!

Study Abroad Spotlight: Jack Laylin

Jack in Amsterdam

Jack in Amsterdam

What Is Your Name?  Jack Laylin

What Year Are You? 2017

Your Major?  International Studies and Political Science

What was your position in FAS? Marketing Director for the 2014-2015 year and Executive Director for the 2015-2016 year.

Where are you studying? King’s College London, United Kingdom

Why did you chose to study there? To spend some time in a different political system, learn about it from the inside, and explore the UK from top to bottom.

Did FAS help you decide where you wanted to study abroad? In a big way, because I deferred my abroad experience to senior fall to ensure I would be able to be Executive Director of FAS during my junior year. Also, FAS’ staff diversity allowed me to weigh the hometown experiences of international students, as well the the abroad experiences of older students, to understand on what I wanted from my study abroad experience. There’s a great culture of expanding your horizons in FAS, so I was definitely encouraged to take at least one semester off. 

What Has Been Your Favorite Part/Experience of studying abroad?  Being in London for class at 11AM, and in Paris for dinner at 3PM. That’s pretty incredible. Europe has a way of making the world feel very small and very big at the same time. Cultural destinations are so concentrated here, yet the people come from all corners of the earth. As I’m writing this, I hear Mandarin, Spanish, Welsh, and Arabic--plus a couple languages I cannot identify. And tea time is pretty fabulous.

Are there any things that you miss (or don’t miss) about Hopkins?  Call me crazy, but the UK university system makes Hopkins look so administratively advanced. Registering for classes electronically, for instance, is unheard of here. I also miss the campus culture and running into my friends between classes. Most of all, I miss Carma’s cookies.

 

Study Abroad Spotlight: Jilliann Pak

Jilliann in front of Christ Church at Oxford.

Jilliann in front of Christ Church at Oxford.

Name: Jilliann Pak

Year: 2018

Majors: International Studies & Sociology (GSCD Track)

FAS position: Public Relations staff member

Where are you? Oxford University, England

What are you studying at Oxford? Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) program

Why did you choose to go there? Oxford was the most compelling study abroad option for me because I really wanted to experience a completely different education system, while maintaining the rigor and quality that Hopkins provides. The renowned tutorial system at Oxford seemed like the perfect choice! I also wanted to stay in a city that had a “college town” culture and close-knit communities as a opposed to a large metropolitan city. All of the gorgeous libraries and churches were definitely a plus factor.

How did FAS influence your decision to go? It was a really tough decision to choose Oxford since my program is a full year experience, especially since I didn’t want to miss out on all the FAS events in the Spring (planning and staffing events was seriously one of the highlights of my sophomore year). But past FAS staff have been quite the adventurous bunch in studying abroad and everyone encouraged me to go since Hopkins will always be waiting when I get back. Ultimately, I think being a part of FAS has really shaped how curious and outgoing I am about engaging with ideas, norms, and cultures outside of what I am acquainted with!

What has been your favorite part/experience? Oxford was founded in the 12th century and along with that incredibly long history comes a ton of traditions. Some of my favorite aspects of being a student at Oxford is going to formal halls (three course meals with free-flowing wine during which everyone dresses up), attending balls, and being a part of established student societies. Social events at Oxford are taken very seriously and there is a huge culture of going out with all your friends for big nights, typically balls thrown by colleges or societies, every term. Another cool thing is that drinking and socializing with your professors is very common here… I’ve been trying to get used to drinking wine while simultaneously discussing the state of American politics with them. I’ll also never get over the feeling of being able to roam around all the colleges and libraries that tourists are lining up to tour – it makes me feel very lucky to be here.

What do you miss about Hopkins? I miss everything about Hopkins! Especially the very dependable work structure. At Oxford, I only have two tutorials, one primary and one secondary, where we meet for one hour to discuss my essay for the week. The essays are typically around 8 pages each and based on a central argument from the week’s topic and readings. During the tutorial, I meet with my tutor (what we call our professors or fellows) and tutorial partner to defend the arguments made in my essay and further discuss other relevant topics. My tutor will ask me questions, point out weaknesses in my paper, and suggest other perspectives. So it really requires me to pace myself and self-learn all the material over the course of the week. It’s very writing-intensive in this way and I don’t have any exams, midterms, or other assignments other than my weekly essays. I definitely miss being able to go to seminars or lectures and I even miss taking exams. It’s definitely more diverse at Hopkins in terms of workload and structure. Also, everyone here works in the day and goes out at night, which is radically different from congregating at Brody until 3 AM. I miss that culture.

Anne Smedinghoff Award Speaker: World Bicycle Relief

In April 2013, Johns Hopkins alumna and former FAS Executive Director Anne Smedinghoff ('09) was killed in a suicide bomb attack in southern Afghanistan while trying to deliver books to underserved school children.The eponymous award aims to Remember Anne Smedinghoff and acknowledge those committed to her values: education, development and global harmony. We are incredibly honored and excited to present the final event in our 2016 series, Architects of the Future, by welcoming an organization that truly embodies these values. We hope you will be able to join us this Thursday, April 7th at 7:30PM in Mudd Hall.

Founded in 2005, the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) is an international non-profit organization specializing in bicycle distribution in rural Africa. Founders F.K. and Leah Day developed WBR following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to increase the availability of transportation and grant individuals better access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Some of WBR’s projects include the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), Project Zambia, Project CHAI and general disaster relief. In Zambia, the WBR has distributed more than 12,000 bikes to students, teachers, and school volunteers through the BEEP Program. As a result, Zambian schools have seen an increase in student attendance and academic performance. Additionally, caretakers report that WBR’s bicycle programs have allowed them to devote more time to volunteerism in their local communities. WBR is the recipient of the 2013 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award and is a member of Global Impact, an alliance of over 130 of the world’s most respected international charities working to help people in need.

Anne Smedinghoff's Legacy: "Colleagues Recall Steady Rise of Young Diplomat Killed in Afghanistan"

“She was everything a Foreign Service officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people.”
— Secretary of State John Kerry

Mobilizing Communities: Pablana

World Bicycle Relief presents a hybrid approach– selling bicycles to co-ops and individuals, which can help the finance charitable programs for school kids and healthcare needs.

New York Times Opinion: "A Boy and a Bicycle"

One obstacle is donor fatigue and weariness with African corruption and repeated aid failures. Those are legitimate concerns. But this column isn’t just a story about a boy and a bike. Rather, it’s an example of an aid intervention that puts a system in place, one that is sustainable and has local buy-in, in hopes of promoting education, jobs and a virtuous cycle out of poverty. It’s a reminder that there are ways to help people help themselves, and that problems can have solutions — but we need to multiply them. Just ask Abel.
— Nicholas Kristof

What does a sustainable solution to poverty look like?

WBR Campaign: Women In Motion

Young girls and women are beneficiaries of mobilization in ways that strengthen their access to education and their economic autonomy. Check out WBR's campaign "Women in Motion."

In Case You Missed It: What does the Future of Policing in America look like?

This year's panel, The Future of Policing in America, featured six diverse perspectives from law enforcement, journalism, public policy, local government, and social activism. We would like to thank Margaret Huang of Amnesty International for moderating the panel discussion, Baltimore Sun investigative journalist Mark Puente, activist Linda Sarsour, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, and especially Baltimore City Council Member Nick Mosby for stepping in last minute to fill an absence. Below is a link to a live-stream of the panel discussion available on the Johns Hopkins University UStream channel.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/84773510

Panel Profile: The Future of Policing in America

FAS is proud to present our 2016 panel: the Future of Policing in America. This year’s panel seeks to address issues of police brutality, racial injustice, abuse of power, and directions for future reform. Featured panelists include Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson Linda Sarsour, Baltimore Sun investigative journalist Mark Puente, and policy analyst Donovan X. Ramsey. The panel discussion will be moderated by Amnesty International Interim Director Margaret Huang.
 
Drawing from the speakers's different perspectives from law enforcement, activism, public policy, and journalism, this panel presents a unique opportunity for students to engage in a discussion that is crucial to the future of Baltimore. With the events of Freddie Gray last year and following protests with many Hopkins faculty and students actively participating, we seek to continue this dialogue and find meaningful ways to address the problems that greatly affect the Baltimore community. Before joining us this evening at 7:30 PM in Shriver, take a look at some debates, articles, and editorials by panel members and prominent figures in the conversation.

Fas '14 Speaker Dr. Cornel WEst ANd Fox News Commentator Megyn Kelly Discuss BLM and "Black-on-Black" Violence

“You know when you socially neglect a people, when you economically abandon people, when you transfer wealth from them to the well to-do generation after generation, how will they respond? They will respond with unbelievable levels of sad forms of despair... This is true in the Appalchia, it’s true with the indigenous people, it’s true all around the world. It’s a human thing when you abandon folk.”
— Cornel West on "black-on-black crime"
Black girls are subject to discipline that’s harsher than punishment doled out to white girls; they’re also six times more likely to be suspended. (Black male students suffer, too, but the racial disparity in punishment is greater for girls than it is for boys.) On the street, black girls face police harassment just like their brothers and male cousins.
— Alex Ronan

Panelist Mark Puente's Investigative Report for the Baltimore Sun on the Use of Tasers by Baltimore PD

"The first-ever data analysis of all Taser incidents in Maryland reveals that police agencies across the state have predominantly used the devices against suspects who posed no immediate threat. In hundreds of cases over a three-year period, police didn't follow widely accepted safety recommendations."

Image courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Image courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Panelist Donovan X. Ramsey, FiveThirtyEight: Tracking Police Violence a Year After Ferguson

Still, a full year after Brown’s death, the government is without a reliable system for tracking police use of force. Experts say given the nature of the phenomenon and the difficulty of measuring it accurately, it’s not likely we’ll have one any time soon. Yet recent developments, including new proposed legislation and a White House initiative, could make tracking police violence a whole lot easier.
Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Image courtesy of The Atlantic

In America, we have decided that it is permissible, that it is wise, that it is moral for the police to de-escalate through killing... When police can not adhere to the standards of the neighborhood, of citizens, or of parents, what are they beyond a bigger gun and a sharper sword? By what right do they enforce their will, save force itself?

When policing is delegitimized, when it becomes an occupying force, the community suffers.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Conservative Review: Responding to Black Lives Matter

When is President Obama going to stand up and lead on the issue of violent rhetoric directed at our nation’s police officers? Although a direct connection between many of the recent assaults on police officers and the Black Lives Matter movement is still tenuous, it’s difficult to argue that chants of “Pigs in a blanket, fry em like bacon” are helping diffuse community tensions with the police. Yet, President Obama has still refused to publicly denounce the group.
— Dan Bongino, former Secret Service agent
Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Image courtesy of The Atlantic

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates

In Case You Missed It: Ezra Klein & the Politics of the 2016 Election

Image courtesy of Will Kirk for the Hub

Image courtesy of Will Kirk for the Hub

This past week political pundit Ezra Klein joined us to discuss everything that's happening with the 2016 presidential elections. Klein's perspective infused his trademark wit and humor with an engaging and easily comprehensible breakdown of very complicated matters. His talk was full of little gems and if you weren't able to make it, don't worry we live-tweeted the evening and collected his best quotes below.

The Power of Money in Politics

Fundraising has not driven this election. We oftentimes overrate the role of fundraising. Earned and free media and social networks might be driving down the utility of traditional advertisement.

Political Parties & Polarization

When you think about how parties work, the fundamental power they have is the power to persuade and influence.
Party polarization is the two parties sorting out ideology. Once the two parties begin pulling further apart, politics gets angrier and more heated because the stakes are higher. This isn’t about people not being jerks, it’s about a structure becoming more split.
We have a political system built on compromise, and it’s not working well in this time of polarization. I think about making politics work despite polarization.

Is the GOP Establishment Losing Control?
 

Saying, ‘Trust this guy,’ has become a profound anti-endorsement.

The Democratic Primary

Both [Democratic] candidates are running over each other trying to show they have a better feel for progressivism.

Bernie Sanders and "Socialism"

‘Socialist’ is a winning affiliation in American politics.
What Sanders has shown is that the polarity of what is acceptable and what is not has been reversed.
I think Sanders has used the ‘democratic socialist’ label to distinguish himself from the Democratic Party. A Sanders presidency looks like a conventional Democratic presidency. He’s a liberal.
Sanders would be effective on maximizing his regulatory policy against Wall Street.

Donald Trump

The most dangerous thing about Trump is that I don’t know any politicians who operates without a sense of shame.
Trump making policy’s like a dog making pancakes. You’re more surprised a dog’s making pancakes than that the pancakes are dry
Why we are talking about Trump’s penis is a question we’ll be asking for ages.

What does a Donald Trump presidency look like?

What does a nuclear winter look like?

Why does Everyone hate Ted Cruz?

Cruz has a reputation for putting himself before the party and employing strategies that hurt the conservative cause.
As much as Republicans hate Clinton ideologically, they hate Cruz personally.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton can now say, ‘Elect me and I’ll select a Supreme Court justice.’

The Future of the 2016 Presidential Election

The primary is funny and weird but you can imagine how a history book of this period doesn’t read funny.
I think this is going to be a bitter, scorched earth war of an election.

Speaker Profile: Ezra Klein

The Founding of Vox

If we can’t take things that are important and meaningful in people’s lives and make them interesting, that failure is 100% on us as writers. That is entirely our fault.

Interview with the New Republic: "Ezra Klein: The Wise Boy"

“One of my big beliefs about Washington is that we highly overstate the power of individuals and highly underrate seeing Washington as a system, in general, but, in particular, we highly underrate the power of Congress... I think the focus on gaffes is a deep embarrassment, like, a deep embarrassment, and a systemic failure on the media’s part. And the danger of that is that, when you don’t tell people how a machine works, when it’s broke, they don’t know how to fix it. And I think that’s begun to happen.”
Image courtesy of the New Republic

Image courtesy of the New Republic

2016 Presidential Election Coverage

Image courtesy of Vox

Image courtesy of Vox

Political scientists traffic in structural explanations for American politics. They can’t tell you what an individual senator thinks, or what message the president’s campaign will try out next. But they can tell you, in general, how polarized the Senate is by party, and whether independent voters are just partisans in disguise, and how predictable elections generally are. They can tell you when American politics is breaking its old patterns (like with the stunning rise of the filibuster) or when people are counting on patterns that never existed in the first place (like Washington’s continued faith in the power of presidential speeches).


In Case You Missed It: Naomi Klein & Climate Justice

Image Courtesy of the Hub

Image Courtesy of the Hub

This week, renowned environmental activist and author Naomi Klein joined us as the Presidential speaker in our 2016 series "Architects of the Future." Klein critiqued the Paris Climate Agreement, advocated for climate justice, discussed the need for an economic system change, and the radical solutions that the climate crisis necessitates. Relive her talk with the most compelling arguments of the evening.

UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21)

If we keep on doing what we’re doing, ‘business as usual’, it will lead us to 6 degrees of warming.
Image courtesy of Independent.ie

Image courtesy of Independent.ie

The mood was not one of despair. It was of resolve. Clarity.
[The protesters] knew the deal was not enough. But there was a resolve to hold politicians accountable.

Hurricane Katrina and "Climate Shocks"

Hurricane Katrina was my wake-up call.
These super storms are related with climate getting warmer. Layered with decades of neglect... Layered with institutionalized racism.
California is employing prisoners to fight the wildfires caused by the drought...This shocked me. These firemen are the first responders to climate change.

Climate JusticE and energy reparations

Countries affected by climate change cannot seek reparations. The U.S. pushed for this during negotiations.
I want to speak up for intersectionality. Racism, mass incarceration, and climate change are deeply interconnected.
Freddie Gray was not just a victim of police racism. He was also a victim of environmental racism...the paint in his house was full of lead.
Pope Francis calls it the throwaway crisis – treating people as if they are disposable – it connects the refugee crisis with the climate crisis.

The Need for System Change

There are a whole group of people that know this political and economic system is broken and stale.
Climate change without system change looks like hell on Earth.
We don’t talk enough about how neoliberal policies interfere with progress in climate change.
The people who suffered most from the extractive economy must be first to benefit from the transition to a post-extractive economy.

the Future for climate activists

There is progress in the courts and the streets. But we need more. We need bold and ambitious policies. We are beginning to see this translation from protest to policy.
What does ‘yes’ look like? To demand action... a people’s shock if you will.
A vision of the future that is exciting and captivating. We can have something better than the present.
[Change] requires shifting from a culture of endless taking to a culture of care-taking.
Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to leap.

Speaker Profile: Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein.jpg

Naomi Klein is the Presidential speaker in our 2016 Series "Architects of the Future." Klein is a renowned environmental activist and the author of "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate," one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014. In the book she argues that global capitalism and climate change are bound together and we require radical solutions to our economic system to address the climate crisis. In 2015, the book was adapted into a documentary.

Klein will speaking at Hopkins this Tuesday, February 23rd at 6PM in Shriver Hall. Catch up on some of her interviews, features, and the debate surrounding capitalism and climate and change before coming to join us.

THe New York Times Sunday Book Review: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

Klein diagnoses impressively what hasn’t worked. No more claptrap about fracked gas as a bridge to renewables. Enough already of the international summit meetings that produce sirocco-quality hot air, and nonbinding agreements that bind us all to more emissions. Klein dismantles the boondoggle that is cap and trade. She skewers grandiose command-and-control schemes to re-engineer the planet’s climate. No point, when a hubristic mind-set has gotten us into this mess, to pile on further hubris. She reserves a special scorn for the partnerships between Big Green organizations and Immense Carbon, peddled as win-win for everyone, but which haven’t slowed emissions. Such partnerships remind us that when the lamb and the lion lie down together, only one of them gets eaten.
— Rob Nixon

Film: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (2015)

The companion feature-length documentary to Klein's bestseller, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING explores environmental activists worldwide who are fighting to make progress in the climate crisis.

United Nations Climate Change Conference (cop 21): Klein Blogs live from PariS

Klein was present at the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 held in Paris. But she says the agreements reached at COP 21, while a step in the right direction, are not nearly enough in magnitude in effectively addressing the climate crisis.


Salon Interview: "There are no non-radical options left before us"

In her interview with Salon, Klein argues that gradualism is no longer a viable answer to the climate crisis. She also points out the importance of merging coalitions on the issues of racial and gender equality and poverty, forming the base for a climate justice movement that "can win."

And I think that the climate movement has always been hurt by this perception that this is a luxury issue, that this is the issue for people who don’t have more urgent economic issues to worry about. And it’s that kind of idea that this is kind of a bourgeois concern. And so I think that when climate action is married with those urgent needs for jobs and better services and a better quality of life for people, that’s when people will fight to win. That’s when people will fight because they’re fighting for their lives. And they’re fighting not just for the future, they’re fighting for their present. And I think that’s the kind of movement we haven’t had yet. We haven’t seen what that looks like yet.
— Naomi Klein

Critique of Naomi Klein: "Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism?"

In her more critical review of This Changes Everything, Kolbert argues that Klein's argument that the climate justice movement has the potential to capture the attention of the masses is far-fetched.

To draw on Klein paraphrasing Al Gore, here’s my inconvenient truth: when you tell people what it would actually take to radically reduce carbon emissions, they turn away. They don’t want to give up air travel or air conditioning or HDTV or trips to the mall or the family car or the myriad other things that go along with consuming 5,000 or 8,000 or 12,000 watts. All the major environmental groups know this, which is why they maintain, contrary to the requirements of a 2,000-watt society, that climate change can be tackled with minimal disruption to “the American way of life.” And Klein, you have to assume, knows it too. The irony of her book is that she ends up exactly where the “warmists” do, telling a fable she hopes will do some good.
— Elizabeth Kolbert


In Case You Missed It: A Live Virtual Discussion With Edward Snowden

Image courtesy of Sofya Freyman, The JHU News-Letter

Image courtesy of Sofya Freyman, The JHU News-Letter

Last Wednesday night, over 1300+ Hopkins students, faculty, journalists, and Baltimore community members lined up to see Edward Snowden connect via video conference from an undisclosed location in Russia. The headlining event in our 2016 spring series, Architects of the Future, attracted a crowd that lined up all the way back to the Breezeway – our must successful event yet. For those unable to make it in person, we collected the best of quotes of the evening to recap the event.

The importance of privacy

“Privacy is the privilege to be able to enjoy our own intellect without prejudice or prejudgment until we can develop what we believe to the point at which we’re ready to share it with people around us... Individuals are born out of privacy.”
Fundamentally, the question of the boundaries of our rights is a question that should be answered by the American people.

The consequences of the 2013 intelligence leaks

The president said the government felt they’d drawn the right bounds. By January 2014, he said this conversation made us stronger as a nation. We got the USA Freedom Act as a result.

Government failure to protect the citizens' rights

The government is supposed to function as a system of checks and balances. To prevent such programs from going too far, there has to be a natural balance that prevents bad things from happening.
This means there is a danger when we don’t have public scrutiny. Judges are human too. If we divorce ourselves from these issues, the system begins to fail comprehensively across branches.


On journalists and his method of leaking information

I made journalists publish no story without first giving the government a chance to respond to the claims they make. That is why we’re sitting here in 2016, despite the fact that the CIA and NSA would like to say I have blood on my hands.
We have a double filter and replicate checks and balances with journalists. Then, they bring it to the government asking if it’s been brought too far. I don’t reveal what I think is a real threat.
Many think that I’m sitting in some shadowy room controlling a team of journalists...It’s not my choice to decide which documents are released. That’s why we have the press.

The politics of whistleblowing

We’ve had a long history of whistleblowers who have not been responded to gently. The institution retaliates when an individual speaks against it.
They destroyed Thomas Drake’s life. The Espionage Act of 1917 treated him as a spy even though he gave this information to Congress. Now he works in the Apple store.
Whistleblowers had burned their life to the ground. Whistleblowing requires you to be able to light a match and burn everything to the ground.

Why he did it

Everyone wants to think there was one spark that made me think... It took me a longer time period, gaining wider exposure to documents, until I realized the realities were different from the public representations of these facts.
We didn’t sign up to spy on our own country. No one in the NSA thinks they’re doing something terrible.

Terrorism and the "Infrastructure of Fear"

We’re no longer in a period of total war or existential threats. Terrorism claims fewer lives than our own police or automobile accidents. Why are we allocating so many of our resources in a way causing more threats? This boils down to a lack of courage in the political class.
Should we be investing in an infrastructure of fear? Or should we invest in things that will make a quantifiable difference and save lives, like education?


Prospects of Returning to The United States?

I said I wanted to be guaranteed a fair trial. The government responded that I would not be tortured. Let’s just say [returning home is] a work-in-progress.
Technology is bringing about the end of exile. I may go to sleep in Moscow, but right now I’m in Baltimore, and that’s a powerful thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Speaker Profile: Edward Snowden

In 2013, Edward Snowden captured global headlines when he leaked information on the mass-surveillance programs of the NSA, inciting fervent debates over privacy and government intelligence. He has received many honors for his actions, including The Guardian's Person of the Year and a spot on TIME's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Snowden—who lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum—will appear via a live video broadcast on February 17th at 8PM.

First, a timeline of the NSA leaks and exactly what they entailed. Then, both sides of the debate: interviews, op-ed’s, and reports that covers all the important information you need to know.

Timeline of NSA Leaks

  • June 5, 2013: The Guardian breaks coverage on leaked NSA documents that reveal the collection of telephone records from Verizon, one of the U.S.'s largest telecoms providers.
    • "Communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."
  • June 6, 2013: NSA's PRISM program is revealed
    • PRISM is an undisclosed program that allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats
    • Allows direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants
  • June 24, 2013: Edward Snowden moves from Hong Kong to Moscow, seeking asylum
  • July 31, 2013: XKeyscore revealed
    • Allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals
    • "Widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet
  • August 1, 2013: Russia grants Edward Snowden temporary asylum, against U.S. demands
  • October 30, 2013: Joint program with British agency – MUSCULAR
    • "Copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants"
  • May 7, 2015: Mass phone surveillance ruled illegal by U.S. Court of Appeals
    • US court of appeals ruled that the bulk collection of telephone metadata is unlawful, in a landmark decision that clears the way for a full legal challenge against the National Security Agency
  • June 3, 2015: Congress passes USA Freedom Act, reforms NSA surveillance practices
    • The House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed a bill to end the bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, ushering in the country’s most significant surveillance reform since 1978 two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations to the Guardian

NYT Op-Ed: Edward Snowden, "The World Says No to Surveillance"

Image courtesy of The New York Times

Image courtesy of The New York Times

Yet the balance of power is beginning to shift. We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.
— Edward Snowden

The Diplomat: Zachary keck, "Yes, Edward Snowden is a traitor"

“The reason why I believed from the beginning that Snowden was a traitor was not because of the information he had been leaking but the manner in which he had done it. In my view, a true whistleblower would have first pursued legal avenues for reining in the NSA, such as seeking out sympathetic members of Congress.
— Zachary Keck

The Guardian Opinion: Shami Chakrabarti, "Let me be clear – Edward Snowden is a Hero"

 

Image courtesy of The Guardian

Image courtesy of The Guardian

So let me be completely clear: Edward Snowden is a hero. Saying so does not make me an apologist for terror – it makes me a firm believer in democracy and the rule of law. Whether you are with or against Liberty in the debate about proportionate surveillance, Anderson must be right to say that the people and our representatives should know about capabilities and practices built and conducted in our name.
— Shami Chakrabarti

Last Week Tonight: John Oliver Interviews Edward Snowden in Russia

In this satirical interview, John Oliver discovers that the public may not know the full extent of what Snowden's leak entailed.