>BEIRUT -- There's a saying in Arabic: "You drink politics with your mother's milk." But this week's visit to Lebanon by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shows that Iran, and by proxy Hezbollah, is breaking this pattern by directly engaging younger generations in a culture of resistance and radicalism.
On Wednesday morning, children of all ages came out to the airport road to welcome Ahmadinejad on his first visit to the Arab nation since becoming president in 2005: Some had Lebanese flags painted on their faces, others were so tiny their mothers' had to cradle them in their arms. Being the second largest job provider in Lebanon, Hezbollah considered Ahmadinejad's visit a holiday, bringing children from their Mehdi and Houda schools, associations, and scout group's to attend the Iranian president's welcoming festivities. A group of children who did not go to school to celebrate the occasion had the words Revolution Institute on their hats, while a woman had a dress sewn made from the bright yellow Hezbollah flag. White baseball caps with the Iranian flag and a cedar tree, symbolizing Lebanon, dotted the crowd. And one lone man wore a USA shirt in a sea of red, white and green. The older kids sang songs and cheered and one little girl was even dressed in what looked like a wedding dress, with white flowers in her hair and white shiny heels on her feet.
For a certain segment of Lebanon, Ahmadinejad's visit is a major event in their lifetime and one that Hezbollah qualified as a historical visit. Remember, for Shiite Muslim's, many of whom feel ignored by the Lebanese government and the outside world- Iran, and its ally Hezbollah, are the only ones paying attention to them. And any attention is good attention. Iran gives Hezbollah millions of dollars a year, not to mention a slew of weapons.
Zaynab Shaito, a young woman who was waiting for Amadenijad on the airport road on Wednesday, said: "I'm here to pay back the Islamic Republic. I'm here to say thank you for building my house and village, and my country. In times when everybody is against Iran and against Ahmadinejad we are here to support Iran, and we are here to show that no one can stop us from loving the path of freedom and resistance."
After the morning's parade Ahmadinejad's black SUV headed to Baabda presidential palace where the Iranian leader met representatives from Hezbollah, as well as Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. It was strange to see photos of Hariri and Ahmadinejad shaking hands knowing that a UN tribunal is investigating the assassination of Saad's father -- former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri -- and is expected to indict members of Hezbollah soon. Even before Ahmadinejad's visit, tensions had been mounting between Hezbollah and the pro-Western coalition that leads the government causing many Lebanese to worry there may be another war -- this one bigger and more deadly than those in the past. Given that much of the power -- and money -- behind Hezbollah comes from Iran, Ahmadinejad's visit is a show of strength for Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Yet there was no sign of tension between the two countries at Wednesday's meeting. Ahmadinejad referred to Lebanon as his "brother" and said he "feels like at home." He praised the Lebanese army for fighting off "the Zionist enemy" and called the country "the banner of pride and freedom not only for the people of Lebanon, but for all peoples of the region." He pointed out that both countries' goals are aligned and both "Iranian and Lebanese peoples are raising their voices because they want justice." "We want to increase our cooperation in all fields on this day," he said.
Washington has expressed its concern about Ahmadinejad's trip with U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley saying last week that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with the Suleiman about the visit. Then on Wednesday U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly released remarks saying that Lebanon is a "sovereign state that can invite or receive anybody." "There is a concern we share with the countries in the region that Iran is not playing a helpful role in the region in terms of stability," Connelly said.
Ahmadinejad will visit several villages in the south of Lebanon that were destroyed during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, one of which is only a few miles from Israel. Rumor has it he will throw a stone at the nation he swore to "wipe off the map." In turn Knesset Member Arieh Eldad of the National Union threatened to kill Ahmadinejad if he threw rocks. The timing couldn't have been worse given that the Middle East peace talks are in progress.
Yet peace was not the word on most people's tongues on Wednesday -- more often, the word I heard was "resistance." The image Ahmadinejad supporters seem to have is that Iran and Lebanon need to stick together to fend off their enemies. Hussein Hammade, who was one of the thousands of onlookers waiting for Ahmadinejad on Wednesday morning, said: "I'm here to say welcome to the exceptional man, and I'm here to say thank you. It means a lot to us this visit. It's a visit to strengthen the resistance. In the presence of enemies all working to burn Lebanon, this visit make me feel safer now that we are not alone and we got a strong man representing a strong country in town."
But not everyone in Lebanon is a fan of the Iranian leader. Mustapha Eitani, 27, expressed fear of what the visit is going to mean for Lebanon. "This visit is making me worry," he said. "It is after he is gone that I'm worried about. I think he is here to prepare for the coup d'état Hezbollah is preparing after he is gone. Iran needs to leave us alone, don't turn Lebanon as an arena to settle their differences with the Americans."
After Wednesday's parade tens of thousands of Ahmadinejad supporters gathered in Raya Square in Dahieh, a southern suburb of Beirut and a Hezbollah stronghold.
"Allah, Allah, Allah!" thousands sang. "Let's go Nasrallah!" young girls cheered as the Hezbollah leader appeared, for security reasons, via video link. Girls as young as 13 spoke about how "cute" Ahmadinejad is and stood on chairs to get a better look at him.
A friend who lives in Dahieh invited me to his mother's apartment to drink tea and watch the festivities from her second floor balcony. Amazed by the size of the crowd he explained that "nobody ever comes here," which is why the Iranian leader's visit, accompanied by patriotic music and ten-story posters, is such a big deal in the neighborhood. It's not necessarily that Ahmadinejad is loved by everyone, but his arrival is probably one of the biggest social events of the year and one that is not to be missed.
Of course I couldn't see the many thousands who did not show up for the rally on Wednesday night. But from what I could see, many young Lebanese idolize Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad. Whether it's for the substance of their message or their charisma is another question.
There are prospects for democracy in Lebanon, but the presence of the Iranian regime is certainly one of the challenges facing it. I have met a number of young people here who are pushing for social change using the tools at hand: Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. I have met Shiites with diverse political sensibilities, many of whom are even anti-Hezbollah. But democracy-building is a slow process and the export of Iranian propaganda to a country struggling to forge its own identity doesn't make it any easier.
Reporting contributed by Moe Ali Nayel. Photos by Elinor Collins.
Forget the Common Core, Finland’s youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom.
“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”
The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.
That American friend—who teaches 20 students without an aide—has fought to integrate 30 minutes of “station time” into the literacy block, which includes “blocks, science, magnetic letters, play dough with letter stamps to practice words, books, and storytelling.” But the most controversial area of her classroom isn’t the blocks nor the stamps: Rather, it’s the “house station with dolls and toy food”—items her district tried to remove last year. The implication was clear: There’s no time for play in kindergarten anymore.
Even in big cities like Tokyo, small children take the subway and run errands by themselves. The reason has a lot to do with group dynamics.
It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: Children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.
They wear knee socks, polished patent-leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as 6 or 7, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.
A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.
A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter.
There’s a meme aimed at Millennial catharsis called “Old Economy Steve.” It’s a series of pictures of a late-70s teenager, who presumably is now a middle-aged man, that mocks some of the messages Millennials say they hear from older generations—and shows why they’re deeply janky. Old Economy Steve graduates and gets a job right away. Old Economy Steve “worked his way through college” because tuition was $400. And so forth.
We can now add another one to that list: Old Economy Steve ate at McDonald’s almost every day, and he still somehow had a 32-inch waist.
A study published recently in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found that it’s harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago did, even at the same levels of food intake and exercise.
Meaning comes from the pursuit of more complex things than happiness
"It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."
In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -- but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, "Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation." Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, "Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?"
What happens when a father, alarmed by his 13-year-old daughter's nightly workload, tries to do her homework for a week
Memorization, not rationalization. That is the advice of my 13-year-old daughter, Esmee, as I struggle to make sense of a paragraph of notes for an upcoming Earth Science test on minerals. “Minerals have crystal systems which are defined by the # of axis and the length of the axis that intersect the crystal faces.” That’s how the notes start, and they only get murkier after that. When I ask Esmee what this actually means, she gives me her homework credo.
Esmee is in the eighth grade at the NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies, a selective public school in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. My wife and I have noticed since she started there in February of last year that she has a lot of homework. We moved from Pacific Palisades, California, where Esmee also had a great deal of homework at Paul Revere Charter Middle School in Brentwood. I have found, at both schools, that whenever I bring up the homework issue with teachers or administrators, their response is that they are required by the state to cover a certain amount of material. There are standardized tests, and everyone—students, teachers, schools—is being evaluated on those tests. I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind. What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed. During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
For some parents, the deadline for a kid's financial independence has gotten an extension.
My 22-year-old daughter, Emma, waved goodbye to her college campus last spring and walked into a job this fall. Given the still-tepid state of the economy and all the stories—in the news and from friends—about recent graduates who can’t find work, you might well imagine that my husband and I are thrilled. And we are. Sort of.
Emma’s job is a good one, and she is lucky to have it. She is an editorial assistant at a well-respected magazine. But it is the kind of job that countless millennials are landing these days: part-time, low paying, with no benefits.
So, after we spentnearly a quarter of a million dollars on her college education, one thing has become clear: Our investment in our daughter’s future is far from over.
American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they've failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family” tragically helped create this system, it's time to reclaim his original intent.
By his own lights, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator, sociologist, and itinerant American intellectual, was the product of a broken home and a pathological family. He was born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but raised mostly in New York City. When Moynihan was 10 years old, his father, John, left the family, plunging it into poverty. Moynihan’s mother, Margaret, remarried, had another child, divorced, moved to Indiana to stay with relatives, then returned to New York, where she worked as a nurse. Moynihan’s childhood—a tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood—contrasted starkly with the idyllic American family life he would later extol.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
“During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple.”
Facebook might understand your romantic prospects better than you do.
In a blog post published yesterday, the company’s team of data scientists announced that statistical evidence hints at budding relationships before the relationships start.
As couples become couples, Facebook data scientist Carlos Diuk writes, the two people enter a period of courtship, during which timeline posts increase. After the couple makes it official, their posts on each others’ walls decrease—presumably because the happy two are spending more time together.
During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts ("day 0"), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.