On Shifting Ground

Drawing on the studies of religion and politics, Ron Hassner will offer insight into the often-violent dynamics that come into play at the places where religion and politics collide. He contends that sacred sites are particularly prone to conflict because they provide valuable resources for both religious and political actors yet cannot be divided. And due to their spiritual and cultural importance, holy places can therefore create the potential for military, theological, or political clashes, not only between competing religious groups but also between religious groups and secular actors. In his new book, War on Sacred Grounds, Ron Hassner investigates the causes and properties of conflicts over sites that are both venerated and contested, and proposes potential means for managing these disputes. He will discuss the failures to reach a settlement at Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif that led to the clashes of 2000, and the competing claims of Hindus and Muslims at Ayodhya, which resulted in the destruction of the mosque there in 1992. He will also address more successful compromises in Jerusalem in 1967 and Mecca in 1979.

Direct download: 05-27-10_Ron_Hassner.mp3
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Across the Middle East, a grassroots reform movement is stirring as women increasingly demand their rights. Isobel Coleman will discuss how, in a time of rising religiosity, many of these activists today are working within an Islamic framework to bring about sustainable change, rather than trying to fight against the pervasive influence of Islam. In her new book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet, she highlights the lives of courageous women in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq who are fighting for economic and social change. Coleman argues that their success is crucial for progress and stability in the Islamic world, and that a growing movement of Islamic feminism could be one of the strongest forces for moderating extremism.

Direct download: 05-18-10_Isobel_Coleman.mp3
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Simon Johnson argues that the fundamental causes of our financial crisis are still with us and that a second financial shock is inevitable. He makes the case that until recently President Obama has been more aligned with bankers than consumers and that there has been a complete breakdown of consumer protection regarding mortgages and other financial products. He joins the Council to argue that the six largest banks comprise a powerful and dangerous oligarchy, and that the regulatory agencies in charge of policing financial institutions have been co-opted by the banks and now act in their interests. Breaking up the big banks, he asserts, is essential for any meaningful financial reform. Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF and now co-author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, is one of the most authoritative voices on world economics.

Direct download: 05-13-10_Simon_Johnson.mp3
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Every year, nearly three million international students study outside of their home countries, a 40 percent increase since 1999. Newly created or expanded universities in China, India and Saudi Arabia are now competing with European and North American academic institutions for faculty, students, and research preeminence. Meanwhile, satellite campuses of Western universities are springing up from Abu Dhabi and Singapore to South Africa. How is international competition for the brightest minds transforming the world of higher education? While some university and government officials see the rise of worldwide academic competition as a threat, Ben Wildavsky argues that the increased international mobility of students and cross-border expansion of higher education is creating a new global meritocracy, one in which the spread of knowledge benefits everyone--both educationally and economically.

Direct download: 05-11-2010_Ben_Wildavsky.mp3
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For decades, the balance of power between strong nations was the dominant issue in international security. But today, it is fragile nations that are seen by many as posing a potentially greater threat. Weak infrastructure, internal conflict, and lack of economic development provide fertile ground for trafficking, piracy, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, disease pandemics, regional tensions, and even genocide. As a result there is a growing movement in the international community to find comprehensive ways to promote stronger nations, and, more effective ways to deal with those that are already on the brink of failure. Award-winning journalists Kira Kay and Jason Maloney, co-founders of the Bureau for International Reporting, recently explored the successes and failures of international interventions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Bosnia, and Haiti. In collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, their series of reports aired on PBS NewsHour in 2009. Jon Sawyer, the Pulitzer Center founding director, will offer introductory remarks about its continuing print and broadcast coverage of fragile states from around the world. discuss how the power of ideas is shaping the future of Iran.

Direct download: 05-03-10_Crisis_Reporting.mp3
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