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March / April 2009

ALERT, a monthly publication of the Information Resource Center at the American Center for Educational Exchange, offers abstracts of current articles in major areas of U.S. domestic or international affairs. Full-text articles are available to you upon request.

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The Rule of Law

Macshane, Denis
Wilson Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 4, Autumn 2008, pp. 51-55

The author, a Labor Party member of the U.K. Parliament and minister for Europe during the Blair administration, believes that the gap between the policy of detente of George H.W. Bush and the confrontationist foreign policy of George W. Bush represents a far bigger distance between two approaches to international affairs than anything seen in Europe during the same period. While Europe and America share many economic and cultural traditions, the American electoral system (one vote for one person to head the nation) contrasts with the European practice of one vote for one person, who then with other parliamentarians decides who will run the country. Unlike America, paid political advertising is banned from European television, removing much of the heated rhetoric from campaigns and keeping the focus on policy differences. MacShane writes that American democracy, with the spectacle of its quadrennial presidential bouts, even with its numerous flaws, remains an example for the world; although he believes that Europe has improved on the democratic road that America exemplified, the U.S. is still needed to inspire others to follow. Full text is currently available online at

Ghiglione, Loren
Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 71, no. 4, Autumn 2008, pp. 1-14

The author, professor of media ethics at Northwestern University, writes that the 2008 election, in which racial charges were leveled by both Democrats and Republicans, proved that racial bias continues today. Ghiglione cites several highly-publicized court cases in recent years, in which the media engaged in favoritism against minorities involved. Critics of the media coverage in these cases charge that a pattern seems to be emerging, in which the reporting fell short in basic journalistic principles, such as fair and accurate reporting, being skeptical about one’s sources, verifying information, and not presuming guilt or stereotyping. Skepticism is increasingly required, says the author, in a time when there is less institutional and employer support for critical “watchdog” reporting, and “because journalism appears to be returning to the more partisan model of earlier eras.” Available online at

Lawmakers' growing awareness of the Internet's importance to campaigns and of their constituents' increasing desire to connect and gather information on the Web has led to a growing use of social media in Congress. Members are hiring new-media experts to extend their reach on the Web, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. Some new-media staffers like Matt Lira, who works for Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, attends senior staff meetings so that integration with new media is considered on a daily basis. New-media staffers hope members of Congress will continue to expand their use of these tools as they come to see it as essential for promoting their agendas. Currently available online at

Mousseau, Michael
International Security, vol. 33, no. 4, Spring 2009, pp. 87 – 114

The author, associate professor of international relations at Koc University in Istanbul, writes that democracy does not cause peace among nations. Rather, domestic conditions cause both democracy and peace. From 1961 to 2001, democratic nations engaged in numerous conflicts with each other, including at least one war, yet not a single fatal militarized incident occurred between nations with economies characterized by widespread public participation. In such contract-intensive economies, individuals learn to respect the choices of others and value equal application of the law; they demand liberal democracy at home and perceive it in their interest to respect the rights of nations and international law abroad. The consequences involve more than just peace: the contract-intensive democracies are in natural alliance against any challenges to the Westphalian system of law and order by state or nonstate actors. Because China and Russia lack contractualist economies, this economic divide will define great power politics in the coming decade. To address the challenges posed by China and Russia and secure their citizens from terrorism, the contract-intensive powers should focus their efforts on supporting global economic opportunity, rather than on promoting democracy. Online link to full text available at

Slane, Andrea
Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 71, no. 3, Summer 2008, pp. 129-151

The author, executive director of the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy at the University of Toronto, notes that the Internet has often been described as "borderless." Slane writes that this parallels the “borderless” notion of globalization, a collection of trends that transcend national or regional boundaries. The author notes that the popularity of Internet use and globalization rhetoric in the 1990s has affected the interpretation of the legal significance of Internet technology. The Internet's borderless nature has shaped the legal understanding of the Internet in two ways: first, by framing the issues arising from the application of local law as a conflict between cosmopolitanism and parochialism; secondly, by framing procedural issues as a contest between simple and complex approaches in determining new legal circumstances. Without such a critical examination into the legal framing of Internet borderlessness, the author believes that one cannot fully appreciate the substantive and procedural aspects of Internet-related cases. Slane writes that this is something that, the author believes, U.S. online-jurisdiction cases generally have not taken into account. Available online at

Hendler, Clint
Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 2009

The author contends that some of the measures to maintain the extreme secrecy of the executive branch enacted by the Bush presidency may be easy to unpick by an executive order of the Obama administration. Others, resulting from court rulings or entrenched bureaucratic traditions, will be more difficult to reverse. President Obama promised in his campaign and since his election he would restore transparency and improve information sharing. The author details some of the battles fought over freedom of information during the Bush administration, including the Sunshine in Government Initiative formed by the Associated Press. Currently available online at

Inglehart, Ronald; Welzel, Christian
Foreign Affairs, vol. 88, no. 2, March-April 2009

The authors write that, although democracies are in retreat in some developing countries, evidence shows that over time democracy emerges from modernization. Inglehart and Welzel, coauthors of MODERNIZATION, CULTURAL CHANGE, AND DEMOCRACY, say industrialization brings about rapid economic growth and other changes that transform behavior. High levels of development make people more tolerant and trusting, promoting self-expression and participation in making decisions, including political decisions. “This means that the economic resurgence of China and Russia has a positive aspect: underlying changes are occurring that make the emergence of increasingly liberal and democratic political systems likely in the coming years,” they note. Modernization does not go on indefinitely; each phase of modernization effects some changes to people’s world views. It does not weaken religious and ethnic traditions or lead to westernization. Nor does it lead to democracy automatically; democracy emerges as highly educated people increasingly think for themselves and change their behavior. At some point democracy becomes hard to avoid “because repressing mass demands for more open societies becomes increasingly costly and detrimental to economic effectiveness.” Currently available online at

Economics and Trade

Loeffler, Rachel L.
Foreign Affairs, vol. 88, no. 2, March-April 2009

According to Loeffler, former deputy director of global affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. government has effectively used financial sanctions carried out by global banks to apply pressure to North Korea and Iran. “Given the role that banks, rather than governments, now play as agents of international isolation,” Loeffler says, “policymakers must develop a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of what this new tool of statecraft can and cannot do.” Using financial measures routinely risks losing their effectiveness; the U.S. government needs in each case to show a clear connection between the financial activities of a rogue state and the global financial system, as it did in revealing deceptive practices by the Central Bank of Iran. It must also deal with resistance from a global bank in a situation when a target country’s assets makes up a significant share of that bank’s business. Currently available online at

Parker, John
Economist, February 14, 2009

During the past 15 years a global middle class has sprung up in emerging markets, creating new wealth and aspirations. Consisting of about 2.5 billion people with about one-third of their income available for discretionary spending, this group is more optimistic and has a greater range of interests than the elite. They favor democracy and free markets, and have aptitudes for investment and entrepreneurship; education is also a high priority. The incomes of the new global middle class varies greatly depending on the country, but where incomes are still low, the middle class is large enough to give incentive for providers of inexpensive goods. Some estimate that the global middle class now comprises over half of the world economy. Unlike Russia, support for globalization seems to be holding up in China, India and Brazil, because so many of their people have benefited from it. The author believes that while economic progress for the global middle class may slow for a while because of the global recession, it will not end. Currently available online at

Wooldridge, Adrian
Economist, March 14, 2009

Despite the economic downturn, entrepreneurship around the world is thriving, Wooldridge writes. In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter warned that bureaucratization was killing the
entrepreneurial spirit; today, that spirit has gone mainstream, supported by political leaders of the left and right and reinforced by a growing infrastructure of universities and investors. Entrepreneurs carry economic weight because they generate new jobs. America continues to be the world's greatest producer of entrepreneurs; the world's two other large economies -- the European Union and Japan -- are far less entrepreneurial. America has the advantages of the world's most mature venture-capital industry and history of close ties between universities and industry. America's other advantage is its traditionally open immigration policy. However, India and China are creating millions of new entrepreneurs in part because they are able to translate Western ideas into local languages. The world is just beginning to feel the effect of the growth of entrepreneurs
in these countries, Wooldridge says. Currently available online at

Fallows, James
Atlantic Monthly, April 2009, pp. 54-63

The signs of depression are everywhere in China, says the author, an Atlantic national correspondent. As a world’s primary exporter, it stands to be worse hit by the current economic crisis than the rest of the world, just as America was during the Great Depression. Although it has a $2 trillion war chest in foreign holdings, its reliance on foreign customers is a serious vulnerability. Fallows writes that the modern counterpart to the Smoot-Hawley act could come from Beijing, not Washington, in the form of export subsidies, downward pressure on the currency value and other measures. Although there are signs of such policies, the writer says that China’s economy has more tools and resources in reserve than others to deal with the crisis without resorting to protectionism. He cites examples of Chinese companies that use the disruption to try to move into higher-value work and introduce their own advanced products rather than serve strictly as subcontractors. If the transformation process is adeptly managed, Fallows suggests that China’s economy, instead of backsliding, may emerge from the crisis in a
more improved state. Currently available online with the title “China’s Way Forward” at

Johnson, Simon
Atlantic Monthly, May 2009

Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, writes that the Obama administration is unlikely to reform the U.S. financial system because his top economic advisers have been recruited from the leading investment banks, the very institutions in need of reform. “The finance industry has effectively captured our government,” Johnson writes; “recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform.” Johnson said that the U.S. financial troubles are similar to the crises that brought heavily indebted developing countries to the IMF for loans. The author asserts that the U.S. financial disaster was brought about by an “Oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders.” He said that government bailouts of the banks that have become too big to fail are not incentives to reform. “The government’s velvet-glove approach with banks ... is inadequate to change the behavior of a financial sector accustomed to doing business on its own terms,” Johnson asserts. In contrast to the administration’s bailout strategy, Johnson has another proposal: nationalize troubled banks and break them up as necessary. Without thorough banking reform, the author said that the world risks going into an economic slump worse than the Great Depression. “We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances,” Johnson writes. Currently available online at

Salmon, Felix
Wired, vol. 17, no. 3, March 2009, pp. 74-79, 112

In the 1990s, a mathematician named David Li solved one of the most difficult problems in the financial world – determining correlation, or how seemingly disparate events are related – with a simple formula, one which quickly became ubiquitous in finance worldwide. Li’s formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, appeared to be a breakthrough, enabling hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. Despite the warnings by some analysts, not the least of whom was Li himself, that the formula had its limitations, the creation and trading of asset-backed securities and derivatives exploded to unimaginable levels. The model started falling apart in 2008, as the correlation modeling was drawing on data only for the recent period in which asset prices were rising. Available online at

Pisani-Ferry, Jean; Santos, Indhira
Finance & Development, vol. 46, no. 1, March 2009

The authors, with the European think tank Bruegel, write that the ongoing economic and financial turmoil marks the first major crisis of the current era of globalization. The economic downturn and national responses to it mark the end of an era of rapid expansion; open markets, the global supply chain and globally integrated companies are being undermined, and protectionism has reemerged. They write that many analysts failed to comprehend the full character of the crisis; much of the attention was being paid to market regulation and supervision of financial institutions, and until the autumn of 2008, many believed that the economies not directly impacted by the subprime crisis in the USA would emerge relatively unscathed. They note that the G-20 has a tall agenda, including preserving trade integration to avoid making the crisis worse, designing national stimulus programs that support globalization, avoiding exchange-rate policies that trigger instability, remaking international financial institutions and maintaining reliance on multilateral insurance. Available online at

Global Issues / Environment

Brown, Lester
Scientific American, May 2009

The author, president of the Earth Policy Institute, writes that the biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos. Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees. Water shortages, soil erosion and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production. Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order. Currently available online at

Palser, Barb 
American Journalism Review, April-May 2009

Palser, director of digital media for McGraw-Hill Broadcasting, recommends that news outlets use Twitter to reach elusive and sought-after audiences, such as 18- to 34-year-olds who are more likely to read a newspaper on a mobile phone or Web site. While Twitter is successful in reaching these audiences, the question remains on how to use Twitter to generate revenue for the news organizations. The most likely benefit, she says, is that the Web offerings will benefit from increased traffic from Twitter links. “Tweets” – 140 character mini-blogs – can be used as a valuable news tool. During the October 2007 Southern California wildfires, for example, news organizations such as the Los Angeles Times and San Diego public radio station KPBS used Twitter to efficiently dispatch urgent bits of information, such as evacuation orders, shelter locations, and firefighting progress. A number of news organizations have incorporated Twitter into their daily operations by using Tweets to automatically feed Web headlines and breaking news and to invite suggestions and questions from subscribers. Currently available online at

Rozen, Laura
Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 2009

In November 2005, the Washington Post and the New York Times ran Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative stories on national security that revealed possibly illegal actions by the Bush administration in its “war on terror” and the secret CIA-run prison network. But the Bush administration’s recalcitrance against both the press and Congressional requests for documentation, and the lack of response from public institutions have demoralized reporters, who find themselves subpoenaed by grand juries to testify about their confidential sources. In the author’s view, this inhibits hard-hitting reporting on controversial subjects. Currently available online at

Dobbs, David 
Scientific American, April 2009

A growing number of experts insist that the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is itself disordered and that soldiers are suffering as a result. The PTSD syndrome is under fire because its defining criteria are too broad, leading to rampant overdiagnosis. The flawed PTSD concept may mistake soldiers' natural process of adjustment to civilian life for dysfunction. Misdiagnosed soldiers receive the wrong treatments and risk becoming mired in a Veterans Administration system that encourages chronic disability. Currently available online at

Brooks, Michael
New Scientist, no. 2700, March 21, 2009, pp. 31-35

A recent report by NASA and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences warns that plasma storms from the sun – commonly seen in northern latitudes as auroras – pose a serious danger to electric power grids. A plasma incursion from a severe space weather event would cause rapid changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, and would induce massive direct currents in long-distance high-voltage power lines, causing transformers to melt from the overload. The author notes that such an event took place in 1859, and caused severe disruptions in the telegraph networks. Today, industrial civilization has unwittingly “sown the seeds of their own destruction,” as modern systems are completely dependent on electric power for food delivery, heating, cooling and refrigeration, water, sewage disposal and pharmaceuticals. A serious plasma storm could knock out hundreds of transformers within seconds, putting millions of lives at risk, and such an event would take months to recover from. The author notes that the U.S. is not alone in facing this risk – Europe is vulnerable, and China is building a 1000-kilovolt electric grid, twice that of the U.S. grid. Currently available online at

Northrop, Michael; Sassoon, David
Yale Environment 360, February 2, 2009

The authors write that Barack Obama will face one of the most important moments of his presidency this December, during the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and he needs his entire cabinet to help him prepare in the coming months. They note that Obama spoke forcefully about the need to rein in greenhouse gas emissions during his campaign, and that after eight years of inaction, U.S. leadership offers the only hope of success in combating climate change. They note that the American public has been intentionally led astray about the nature of global warming, and Obama needs to communicate the urgency of dealing with it, preferably in a prime-time address to the nation. He should also make use of his executive powers to expedite action under the Clean Air Act and lead the government to enact comprehensive federal climate legislation. Available online at

Regional Security

Gove, David
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 135, no. 2, February 2009, pp. 16-21

Rear Admiral David Gove, formerly the Navy’s 19th oceanographer, writes that accelerating environmental changes in the Arctic pose security challenges for strategic planners. As ice melts in that region, it may open up the area to shorter commercial shipping routes, larger commercial fishing opportunities and wider access to gas and oil deposits, as well as potential mineral resources on the seabed if they can be extracted successfully. The author notes that an important tenet of U.S. policy is preserving freedom of navigation. Melting ice opened up the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route in 2008. Fewer barriers to access in the Arctic, he says, raises the prospect of new regional adversaries. Gove calls for strengthening cooperation among regional nations, noting that international accords and partnerships will be critical to resolving future challenges there. Currently available online at

Saunders, Phillip C.; Kastner, Scott L.
International Security, vol. 33, no. 4, Spring 2009, pp. 115-148

The authors, with the National Defense University and the University of Maryland, respectively, write that in Taiwan's 2008 presidential election, both candidates advocated signing a peace agreement with China, and Chinese leaders have also expressed interest in reaching such an agreement. Although substantial obstacles remain in the way of a cross-strait peace agreement, this increased interest on both sides of the Taiwan Strait suggests that a closer examination of an agreement's possible dimensions and consequences is warranted. This analysis considers what an agreement might look like, whether and how it might be effective in reducing the possibility of cross-strait military conflict, the relevant barriers to an agreement, and whether an agreement -- if reached -- would be likely to endure. Online link to the full text can be found at

Kaplan, Robert 
Foreign Affairs, vol. 88, no. 2, March-April 2009

According to Kaplan, a national correspondent for Atlantic Monthly magazine, the Indian Ocean is central to understanding geopolitics in the 21st century. “It combines the centrality of Islam with global energy politics and the rise of India and China to reveal a multilayered, multipolar world,” he says. Already the world’s most important passageway for trade of energy and other goods, the Indian Ocean will become even more crucial. As rivalry intensifies between India’s and China’s economies and between their expanding navies, the U.S. Navy, its power declining, will have to manage the peace in the Indian Ocean. While the United States leans on India’s navy in the Indian Ocean and Japan’s navy in the Pacific to limit China’s expansion, it will at the same time have to lead incorporation of China’s navy into international alliances in order to attain global political stability. Lacking the singular threat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the U.S. military will need to become more flexible and build shifting alliances to respond to many different types of crises in the “weak governments and tottering infrastructure” lining the Indian Ocean from Somalia to Pakistan to Burma.

Wuthnow, Joel
Issues & Studies, Vol. 44, No. 2, June 2008, pp. 1-25

Chinese strategists have concluded that "soft power," such as transmitting values, culture, innovation and other factors, is critical for the country to achieve an external environment that is conducive its long term objective to advance from being a regional to a global power. China wants to mitigate perceptions that it is a threat and promote an image as a country in peaceful development. To help promote a more sympathetic rising foreign elite, China is promoting Chinese studies through "Confucius Institutes" around the world and providing government scholarships for foreign university students similar to the U.S. Fulbright program. In the developing world, China is seeking to build influence not only to obtain natural resources but also diplomatic support at the United Nations. It is also employing "economic diplomacy" in the developing world through donations of foreign aid, low interest loans, restraints on exports and technical assistance. The author notes China’s efforts but argues it faces image challenges because of contradictory messages, such as marketing its ancient past while accepting Western values and modernization, and portraying itself as a responsible state but is closely associated with rogue regimes.

Katzenstein, Suzanne; Snyder, Jack
National Interest, no. 100, March-April, 2009, pp. 58-65

The authors, both from Columbia University, write that the U.S. is no longer the master of its hemispheric domain; gone are the days when Washington could expect Latin America to bow down to its interests. After years of failed foreign and domestic policies, the United States will have to shed its old habits of “best-friendism”, wishful thinking and demonization when dealing with the region. Currently available online at

Dessoff, Alan
International Educator, vol. 17, no. 5, September/October 2008, pp. 16-20

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and current President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Patricia de Stacy Harrison, gives an interview urging patience on waiting for returns on investments made in international education. Ultimately, international education is an incredible value as it fosters a community of people of goodwill with mutual respect and understanding. A joint Department of State and Homeland Security advisory panel recently issued a report specifically advocating international education as a key component of public diplomacy. Harrison concludes this interview by citing the need for international education to be a two-way street with American students also studying abroad. This article is currently available on the Internet at: (PDF - 328kb)

Newmyer, Jacqueline
ORBIS, vol. 53, no. 2, Spring 2009, pp. 205-219

The author, president of the defense consultancy Long Term Strategy Group, notes that, according to a recent RAND report, the U.S. will not be able to defend Taiwan from Chinese military aggression by 2020. However, this study, like many others, raises more questions than it answers about China’s current defense posture. Newmyer argues that China’s strategic approach is not designed primarily for fighting a war over Taiwan, or over any other matter of critical interest to China, but to create a disposition of forces so favorable to Beijing that China will not need to fight a war. Rather than thinking of China’s strategy as a blueprint for using military power to secure territory or vital resources, such as oil, the possibility should be considered that Beijing’s actions are directed at obviating the need to fight. Beijing may calculate that it can render its interests unassailable by constructing a network of friendly or dependent states by means of arms transfers or development aid. The assumption is that China’s prospective enemies, finding themselves encircled or obstructed by powers aligned with Beijing, will be unable to embark on a military campaign to deny China oil. They will, therefore, be deterred from threatening China, e.g. by interrupting its oil supplies. It is a mark of the efficacy of this broader deterrence strategy that American security analysts are already ruling out a successful defense of Taiwan in 2020. Similarly, the early stages of an effort to insulate China from an energy-related challenge are already visible. Available online at (PDF - 120kb)

Betts, Richard K.
National Interest, no. 100, March-April, 2009, pp. 31-38

Betts, an adjunct senior fellow for national-security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes that NATO is facing an identity crisis. Is it a club for democracies or a means for fighting offensive wars? He argues that without a serious rethink of NATO’s fundamental purpose, the alliance could well come apart and create conflict with the former Soviet Union in the process. Currently available online at

Harvard International Review, vol. 30, no. 3, Fall 2008, pp. 78-80

The transatlantic relationship between the United States and the European Union is the major topic of this discussion with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Federal Foreign Minister of Germany. This relationship enables both America and Europe to achieve goals that could never be accomplished alone. For the future, the U.S. and Europe must use their relationship to tackle pressing challenges, such as terrorism, globalization, scarce resources, political Islam, and changing relations in Asia. One of the most critical ingredients in creating a safer world is in the field of arms control. America and Europe should not allow the disarmament architecture that has been set up over the past decades to collapse. By continuing to work together, the U.S. and Europe can make the world a more sustainable, safer, just and open place. Currently available online at

U.S. Society and Values

Eisner, Peter
Smithsonian, Vol. 39, No. 12, March 2009, pp. 50-57

A dusty closet in an old Connecticut farmhouse has revealed another story about a courageous individual who risked his career to help Jews flee the Nazis during World War II. Hiram Bingham IV, a U.S. Foreign Service officer, defied his own superiors within the State Department who wanted to block the admission of Jewish refugees to the United States. From his position in the consulate in Marseilles under the Vichy government until his transfer to Buenos Aires in 1941, Bingham issued visas to over 2500 Jews and others on Nazi death lists. Prior to the discovery of documents revealing his wartime activities, Bingham’s children had no idea of the extent of what he had done -- their father had never told them. They redeemed his reputation at the State Department in 2002 when the American Foreign Service Association designated him a "courageous diplomat." Bingham has also been honored by the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem. Available online at under a different title.

Bedord, Jean
Online, vol. 33, no. 3, May/June 2009, pp. 14-17

The author, a private consultant, was one of the earliest eBook readers and one of its strongest proponents of the then-emerging format. The earliest eBooks were large, bulky contraptions that looked like thick binders. Since then, readers have shrunk to the size of a thin paperback, more titles are available (now a major key to the success of eBooks), and the term “eBook” is now part of the general lexicon. Much of the credit for this change goes to television celebrity Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of the Amazon Kindle, which did much to change the mind-set for both readers and publishers, plus infrastructure changes that created larger inventories of book titles. When eBooks first launched, there were less than 10,000 titles available. In contrast, present users (thanks to Kindle) have 230,000 titles. Overdrive claims more than 150,000 titles; NetLibrary has over 180,000 titles while Google has just announced the availability of more than 1,5 million public domain books for the iPhone and the Android-based GI.

Mcgonigal, Jane
Museum, vol. 88, no. 2, March/April 2009, pp. 48-53The author, a designer of alternative reality games and a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, believes that mass collaboration in the virtual world can translate into helping communities in the real world probe the future and solve problems. Museums should be in the business of making people happy; for this reason, gaming, long thought of as a way to pass time, is now a way to solve real-world problems. Museums can harness gaming’s power to help someone who might otherwise be without resources. This is part of the case for public funding by proving museums’ value, an argument that museums are now trying to make before Congress. In this article, an excerpt from a lecture the author gave in December 2008 at Washington, DC’s Newseum as a presentation by the American Association of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums, McGonigal looks at ways in which innovative thinking and new ideas about the role museums are now playing in shaping communities and society.

Wollman, Dana
Laptop, March 2009, pp. 92-97

The author notes that text messaging, social networking and online video are changing the dynamics between parents and children; technology today is the new “rock-and-roll”, with the older generation trying to make sense of it, if not openly embrace, it. Some believe that social networking will improve family interaction, while others argue that the new technology threatens to rip apart not just family unity but the fabric of society itself, as more individuals communicate only through their high-tech devices, decreasing the amount of time they actually interact on a personal level. Eye contact, emotional resonance and body language are lost if humans rely primarily on texting, instant-messaging or FaceBook as means of communication. Family togetherness, like evening meals or weekend activities, gets short-changed once again as children use their gadgets as a substitute for family participation. Currently available online at

Schumann, Matt; Schweizer, Karl
Diplomacy and Statecraft, vol. 19, no. 2, June 2008, pp. 149-186

Schumann and Schweizer, from Eastern Michigan University and Cambridge University respectively, write that those who refer to themselves as “diplomatic historians” in the U.S. have advocated more study of the history of foreign relations, a term that they understand to be broad, which includes, but which is not restricted to, diplomacy. They recommend that historians view diplomatic negotiation as a wider field, not limited to state-level representatives in a formal setting, and rethink it as “any social activity oriented towards the attainment of an individual’s particular goals” where “the subjects of social history become the subjects of diplomatic history, and the traditional tools of diplomatic history can be adapted as easily to people representing their own interests as to people representing the interests of nations.” Such an expanded definition would include groups who often consider themselves marginalized by diplomatic historians.

Twomey, Steve 
Smithsonian, April 2008, pp. 88-99

In 2006, a Civil War buff searching on eBay discovered documents for sale that turned out to be stolen from the National Archives. The thief was a rare book dealer who had interned at the Archives. He confessed and sought clemency, but the judge sentenced him to 15 months in jail, saying that original documents have “an absolute uniqueness” and people “must be deterred from even thinking about” stealing them. Unfortunately, there is a big market for stolen historical materials; books can be damaged when pages and maps are torn out, and moreover, the thefts create gaps in our knowledge about the past. “A recent strong of high-value crimes has led not only to greater vigilance but also to greater frankness about the threat,” says author Steve Twomey. The thinking is that publicity may make it more difficult to sell stolen items, and warnings about the penalties (fines and jail) may discourage potential thieves. But rare books, maps and documents are hard to protect, and often the thieves are employees or other trusted individuals. “Perfect security for a special collection or an archive will never exist, and their
contents will never lose allure,” says Twomey. Currently available online at

Fischer, Karin
Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 55, No. 25, February 27, 2009, pp. A1, A28-A29

Some U.S. universities are focusing more on the depth of their relationships with institutions in other countries than on the numbers. Fischer’s prime example is Washington University in St. Louis, which has sought to build a network of outstanding institutions united by a common research agenda. Washington University’s Chancellor, Mark Wrighton, says his university and its partners are looking for significant topics on which they share outstanding faculty expertise and can have both a global and a local impact. Significant money is being invested in the network, with a $100 million endowment the goal. For its “clean coal” collaboration, for example, Washington University faculty are competing for $1.25 million in research grants each of which must involve a colleague at an overseas partner. The network partners also plan to exchange course content and develop curricula that can be taught jointly. Last year, for example, Washington University students joined counterparts from Peking and Tsinghua Universities in studying air quality during the Olympics. While other university leaders acknowledge the need to get away from “handshake-and-paper agreements” that have no institutional impact, they raise the issue of whether the kind of sophisticated, substantive relationships being developed by Washington University are realistic for institutions with fewer resources.

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Casey, Winter
National Journal, March 7, 2009

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