Skip to main content

Swarthmore in the NewsMarch 9, 2012

The Atlantic

It's 10 Minutes to Midnight: Introducing The Iran War Clock

By Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College.

March 8, 2012

War or peace in the Middle East amounts to a coin toss. The probability that the United States or Israel will strike Iran in the next year is 48 percent according to a new project that predicts the chances of conflict--the Iran War Clock. And as a result, the clock is set to 10 minutes to midnight.

How does the Iran War Clock work?

We've assembled a high-profile panel of experts from the policy world, academia, and journalism to periodically predict the odds of conflict. ...

It's a diverse group ranging from a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran, to a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations; from a Deputy Head of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, to a military correspondent at Haaretz.

Each panelist makes an individual estimate about the percentage chance of war and we report the average score. Based on this number, we adjust the Iran War Clock so that the hand moves closer to, or further away from, midnight.


The Iran War Clock is not designed to be pro-war or anti-war. Instead, the purpose is to estimate the chances of conflict in the hope of producing a more informed debate. If people hold a very inaccurate view of the odds of war it could be dangerous.


In the last week, President Barack Obama delivered a carefully calibrated message on Iran. He told the Atlantic that, "as president of the United States, I don't bluff," adding that, "when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say." In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday, the president affirmed that the United States had "Israel's back," and rejected a policy of containing a nuclear Iran. At the same time, Obama announced his "deeply held preference" for peace over war, and urged Israel to allow time for economic sanctions against Iran to bite.


Peace is still more likely than war, but only just. And when we next update the Iran War Clock, the odds will favor the hawks if the clock ticks even one minute closer to midnight.


FAQ: Details on the Iran War Clock.


Who has helped the project? 

At Swarthmore, Jonathan Emont ['12], Lorand Laskai ['13], and James Mao ['12] have provided invaluable research assistance. At The Atlantic, the project is supported by Jeffrey Goldberg, J.J. Gould, and Max Fisher.


Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia Dance Projects to honor Leah Stein with Retrospective

By Merilyn Jackson

March 8, 2012

Have you ever found yourself suddenly surrounded by dance, and in the least expected place? Maybe you couldn't quite grasp what was going on at first, but then you noticed people standing around or sitting on the grass, watching. If you've lived in Philadelphia for awhile and walked in Bartram Gardens, Fairmount Park, or Old City, or visited Swarthmore College's campus, or toured Eastern State Penitentiary, chances are you've been surprised at least once by dance.

No, you didn't just cross over into the Twilight Zone. But if your encounter was [Associate in Performance at Swarthmore College] Leah Stein and her dancers performing what's now called "site specific" work, you were indeed "moving into a land of shadow and substance, of things and ideas" - and, I would add, the mystery of human bodies moving in the midst of nature and architecture.

An early and expert practitioner of the genre, Stein has been creating site-specific and stage dance since coming to Philadelphia straight out of Wesleyan University in 1987. Ten years ago, she formed her own company here. Philadelphia Dance Projects celebrates its 10th anniversary by presenting a retrospective of Stein's work Thursday through Sunday at the Performance Garage.


The company, which also includes Ellen Gerdes, David Konyk, Shavon Norris, [Assistant Swarthmore College Professor] Jumatatu Poe ['04], and Michelle Tantoco, will present excerpts of the in-progress interdisciplinary work Hull, a reflection on what it means to be lost at sea, as well as Battle Hymns, Stein's collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. Inspired by letters and songs of the Civil War, it premiered during 2009's Hidden City Festival.



Philadelphia Citypaper

Man of Action: George Lakey has made a career of speaking out for peace and civil rights - and he could teach Occupy a thing or two

By Samantha Melamed

March 8, 2012

It's approximately one minute into an interview with George Lakey, and already things are getting interesting.

Asked if he would mind being recorded, Lakey laughs. "I've been recorded by the FBI enough times over the years. It's nice to be recorded openly and transparently for a change."

After all, Lakey - an activist, Swarthmore peace-studies professor and civil-disobedience trainer who, at age 74, is about to walk across Pennsylvania to protest PNC Bank's financing of mountaintop-removal coal mining - has a bio that reads like a recap of the last half-century's major social and human-rights conflicts.

"When I was a kid, studying history in high school, I thought, 'I'd like to be a part of history and not just watch it,'" he admits.

And so he has, going back to the 1950s and '60s, when he trained protesters for Freedom Summer and sailed (a few years in advance of the tide of popular opinion) on the second humanitarian voyage of the Phoenix to Vietnam, "to the enormous annoyance of the U.S. government, which had troops in the area and didn't want any Quakers running around with a peace message." He's participated in actions and trained protesters and peacekeepers in South Africa, Cambodia, the former Soviet Union, Puerto Rico and across the United States.

It's a biography that could almost as easily be told in arrest reports: in 1962, at a sit-in for racial integration in Chester, Pa.; in the '70s, after coming out as gay, at an anti-discrimination protest at the U.S. Supreme Court; and just recently at a PNC Bank office, where he and the environmental advocacy group he helped found, Earth Quaker Action Team, were pursuing the mountaintop-removal coal-mining issue. The group is currently gathering pledges to withdraw funds from PNC, and Lakey is soliciting participants to join his 16-day walk to PNC's Pittsburgh headquarters. Given that PNC was founded as a Quaker bank, he says he has the obligation to take it to task for funding a practice that's disastrous both to the environment and to the health of surrounding communities in Appalachia.

There has never, he says, been a dearth of causes demanding his attention. "In each decade, there's been some important work going on, but one reason the 1960s were so iconic is because the '50s were so boring. We had been referred to by Dwight Eisenhower as 'God's frozen people.'"

Lakey wants to make sure we remain unfrozen.



Waging NonViolence (Web site)

The More Violence, the Less Revolution

By George Lakey, visiting professor at Swarthmore College

March 6, 2012

In the discussion within the Occupy movement on whether violence is necessary for making change in the United States, the debate has so far conflated three of the movement's possible goals. Are we talking about using violence to produce regime change? Or do we really mean "regime change with democratic institutions following the change"? Or is what we really mean "regime change followed by democracy in which the 1 percent lose their grip on power"?

Movements have sometimes produced regime change with no real democracy and the same 1 percent still in charge. The American Revolution did that: King George was booted out and the resulting government, to its credit highly innovative, was still not a democracy for women, the enslaved, and working class people. A couple of centuries later, the 1 percent are still running the United States. A number of other anti-colonial struggles had a similar result.


Political scientists (and Waging Nonviolence contributors) Erica Chenowethand analyzed 323 attempts at regime change between 1900 and 2006. They were curious about the comparative success of violent and nonviolent campaigns, among other things. They found that violent campaigns succeeded 26 percent of the time, and that nonviolent campaigns succeeded 53 percent of the time.

The good news is that regimes can be overthrown, even though dictators bring out the police and army to try to stay in power. The bad news is that the people didn't always win; when they used violence they won only one time in four. They did, however, double their chances of success when they used a nonviolent strategy.


Bottom line: for those around the world who are committed to change and are considering violence as the way to get it, a track record is still a track record. Movements relying on violence were only half as likely as nonviolent movements to win a new regime, and even then didn't do as well as their nonviolent cousins in establishing democracy in the new society....

The Atlantic

Afghanistan Is Dividing the Soul of the Republican Party

By Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College

March 2, 2012

For Republicans, there are two Afghanistan wars. There is Afghanistan the good war and there is Afghanistan the bad war. Dueling visions of the conflict compete for the conservative soul, but it's the bad war image that is growing in prominence.

The first narrative sees Afghanistan as the good war. Just as we were attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and rallied to defeat the enemy, so we were struck on 9/11 and should stay the course to crush evil. Add to this a reflexive Republican instinct to support the troops, and the war becomes a test of our commitment and resolve. When the flag is planted the United States should fight to win. This narrative of the good war allows Republicans to attack Obama as weak on defense for drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan--a traditional election year strategy against Democrats.


But for Republicans there is a second and more difficult narrative, with Afghanistan as the bad war. Over time the campaign has become a depressing exercise in big government nation-building. Republicans don't have much faith in Washington's ability to mold American society. And yet here we are trying to socially engineer a country that's stuck in the nineteenth century. The predictable result: wasteful expenditure and a culture of dependence. Nation-building in Afghanistan looks like a conservative nightmare, where our fearsome warriors spend their time giving handouts to foreigners. Shouldn't the Afghan people make their own way in life, free from government meddling?


The soul of the Republican Party is torn over Afghanistan. This is more than just a difference of opinion about how well the battle is going. It reflects a more fundamental division over the nature of the war. Is the end of defeating radical Islam worth the means of big government nation-building? Recently, the bad war narrative has moved into the ascendancy. The mission started out looking like World War II. But increasingly for Republicans, social engineering in Afghanistan resembles Obamacare on steroids.


New York Times

A Princeton Dean Is Named to Lead Brown

By Tamar Lewin

March 2, 2012

Christina Hull Paxson ['82], the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, will become president of Brown University on July 1. She succeeds Ruth J. Simmons, who said in September that she would step down.

Dr. Paxson, 52, is an economist who began teaching at Princeton in 1986. In 2000, she founded the Wilson School's Center for Health and Wellbeing, serving as its director until 2009, when she became dean. Her work in recent years has focused on the relationship of economic factors to children's health and welfare.

Dr. Paxson has served as chairwoman of Princeton's economics department. She is also a senior editor of The Future of Children and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is probably best known in the popular media for her research, with Anne Case, on the relationship of children's height to status, intelligence and earnings.


An alumna of Swarthmore College who earned her graduate degrees at Columbia, Dr. Paxson is married to Ari Gabinet, executive vice president and general counsel of Oppenheimer Funds. They have two sons, ages 14 and 22.


(Note: This story also appeared in the Providence Journal (Rhode Island), The Brown Daily Herald, and State News Service )


The Chronicle (Willimantic, Conn.)

Colorado Quartet approaches Beethoven with strong, feminine hand

March 1, 2012

The Colorado String Quartet, the first female quartet to gain international stature and first to perform the full cycle of Beethoven quartets in North America and Europe, will play an all-Beethoven program ... at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on the UConn campus in Storrs. ....

The Colorado took hold of the world music scene almost three decades ago with back-to-back wins of the First Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award. Since then, it has played more than 1,200 concerts worldwide, appealing alike to sophisticated audiences and children of school age.

The quartet is composed of Julie Rosenfeld and D. Lydia Redding on violins, Marka Gustavsson on viola and Katie Schlaikjer on cello. Rosenfeld and Schlaikjer are on faculty in the UConn Music Department.

The Colorado players are known for their teaching prowess as well as performance. They were Quartet-in-Residence at Bard College until 2009 and have done residencies at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, The New School in Philadelphia, Swarthmore and Skidmore Colleges and Amherst College. ...



Philadelphia Style

Swarthmore Grad Joseph Altuzarra Arrives

By Madalyn Rothman

Spring 2012

"I couldn't be more happy or optimistic about the future of the fashion industry in America," says Joseph Altuzarra ['05]. The fashion darling is still brimming with emotion after winning the industry's most coveted accolade, the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, this past November. It is one of the most esteemed recognitions for designers and their contributions to American fashion. ...

The prize also comes with a large boost in national exposure, an established mentorship program, and a hefty $300,000 prize. "I think winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund has really helped us to get to the next level, and it also reminds me of the fantastic support we have in the industry," says Altuzarra. "I felt incredibly lucky that I was selected to be a finalist in the competition again. The group of designers was terrific and all so talented and interesting, not to mention wonderful people. ...

Altuzarra has been on the path to such success since his graduation from nearby Swarthmore College more than six years ago. Majoring in art history and studio art, the undergrad prescribed to the typical college uniform of jeans, T-shirts, and baseball caps, a look that proved comfortable for enjoying the sights of the city. "I always loved going to South Street as a college student, and I also love Rittenhouse, for the obvious reasons: It's beautiful, cosmopolitan, and peaceful. And my favorite place to eat is still, hands down, Susanna Foo."

As he approached graduation in the spring of 2005, Altuzarra boldly sent résumés to New York design houses without a slim fit leg to stand on. He lacked the experience in design needed to attain a job in fashion, but Altuzarra's letter made a believer out of one house: Not long before graduation, he received a phone call from the office of Marc Jacobs offering him an internship position. From there Altuzarra continued to hone his skills at prominent design houses such as Proenza Schouler (its founders, designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, were the 2009 Fashion Fund Award winners for Accessory Design), as well as the famed Parisian house Givenchy.

"And that's how it all started," he explains. "At Marc Jacobs, I learned about the process of how a collection is made, from the initial idea to the sales floor. It was an amazing experience to watch Marc and the design team develop an idea into a drawing, and then into a collection. That process is something I still very much adhere to now...

It wasn't long before Altuzarra had established his own brand and cultivated a growing number of followers, including well-known socialites and celebrities, some of whom he calls close friends. His collections were recognized for their sophistication and creativity while maintaining a youthful appeal....



The Economist

Embracing the Future: Modern technology can save languages as well as destroy them

February 25, 2012

The phrase "use it or lose it" applies to few things more forcefully than to obscure languages. A tongue that is not spoken will shrivel into extinction. If it is lucky, it may be preserved in a specialist lexicographer's dictionary in the way that a dried specimen of a vanished butterfly lingers in a museum cabinet. If it is unlucky, it will disappear for ever into the memory hole that is unwritten history.

This is not a fate which appeals to K. David Harrison, of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. But Dr Harrison is an optimist. He believes information technology-something seen by many people as a threat to linguistic diversity-might actually turn out to be its saviour.

...Dr Harrison, however, is helping speakers of threatened languages use IT to fight back.

He gave details of four projects, in India, Oregon, Papua New Guinea and Siberia. In some, remaining speakers of the local language numbered in the hundreds when the project began. In one, but a single individual truly knew the tongue.

The first task in each case was to create a talking dictionary that could be put onto the web, to which speakers and would-be speakers of the language then had access. This job itself illuminated the quirky way that technology spreads.


The most advanced project of the four is in Tuva, in southern Siberia, where Russian is becoming the dominant language. A talking dictionary of Tuvan has existed since 2006. Apocryphally, natives of the Arctic have hundreds of words for different sorts of snow. But the Tuvans really do have dozens for the colours and patterns of goat fleeces. They also have three versions of the verb "to go", whose correct usage depends on the direction of travel in relation to the direction of the local river's current. All these and more are now available to Tuvan and non-Tuvan alike. ....

What these projects have in common, and what is most likely to make them succeed, though, is not just the technology. It is that in each place there is an enthusiastic local who is wise enough to care about saving his heritage and young enough to see that this requires embracing modernity. Sometimes that has involved the enthusiast in clashes with tribal elders who want to keep the modern world at bay and preserve their cultures in aspic. But that will not work. In the words of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, for everything to stay the same, everything must change. If it does not, everything will be lost.


(Note: This story also appeared in Voice of America News.)


International Business Times (U.K. Edition)

Digital Technology To Help Save Rare Languages

By Staff Reporters

February 20, 2012

In a startling revelation, more than 7,000 spoken languages from around the world are expected to go extinct by the end of the century. Fortunately, researchers from Swarthmore College have found a way to preserve these language

They have created what they call "talking dictionaries". To do so, they visited several places around the world, recording languages not otherwise documented, like Matukar Panau, Tuvan, Sora, Remo and Chamacoco. They took more than 24,000 audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing specific words and sentences and photographs of objects their cultures revered and represented.


"Endangered language communities are adopting digital technology to aid their survival and to make their voices heard around the world," said David Harrison from the Swarthmore College, adding, "This is a positive effect of globalization."


(Note: This story also appeared in Gobbler.)