Mar 23

Online “course” about Ebola

Two outstanding journalists in the area of infectious disease, Helen Branswell of Canada Press and Martin Enserink with Science, have teamed up to create an online “course” on Ebola.  Although it was designed (with support from the U.S. Department of State) to help journalists preparing to cover Ebola, the website will give anyone a good introduction to basic facts about the disease. Another good source for information is the CDC Ebola website, for more in depth coverage.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/03/online-course-about-ebola/

Mar 15

David Quammen’s The Chimp and the River

Mercator Map of the Congo, 1595, from the Northwestern University Library Maps of Africa collection, accessed through Wikipedia.

Mercator Map of the Congo, 1595, from the Northwestern University Library Maps of Africa collection, accessed through Wikipedia.

I have done work for much of the last 15 years in global health, and wrote a book about the AIDS Pandemic in Latin America. I’ve returned to thinking about HIV recently because I’ve just given a lecture on the Global AIDS pandemic, during which I discussed media coverage of not only the new gene therapy to fight HIV, but also the discovery of an HIV strain in Cuba that seems to lead to AIDS more rapidly than is typical. Behind these news stories remains the fact that over 35 million people are now living with HIV. It is true that impressive advances in both medicine and public health now mean that there is more hope concerning the epidemic than at any time before. Still, despite the merited attention given to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it’s worth remembering that over a million people died of AIDS last year, far more than all the Ebola outbreaks in recorded history combined. How did this outbreak begin? Since I first began to study the virus a great deal has been learned about its evolutionary history, and the circuitous path that the virus took from an unknown individual in Cameroon to become a global pandemic. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/03/david-quammens-the-chimp-and-the-river/

Mar 05

Climate Change and War: the origins of the Syrian Conflict

Climatologists and social scientists have been debating whether a severe drought in the MIddle East may have led to the outbreak of war in that country for at least two years. I discussed this topic in a blog post published in 2013. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is now receiving a lot of attention for its detailed study of the question. So far, the best coverage that I have seen of the topic has been Andrew Freeman’s article, “The Seeds of War,” which combines text with photographs and graphics. I highly recommend this piece. You can also read the abstract for the original article here. Of course,  few questions are trickier than the causation of a war, which are multi-factorial. The anniversary of the outbreak of World War One last year led to a plethora of academic studies about that war’s causation. By its nature, it’s almost impossible to do counter-factual history; that is, to demonstrate what would have happened if something had not taken place. Nonetheless, the causal link in Syria between the collapse of the agricultural economy, the explosive growth of urban populations, and the breaking of social bonds, is a persuasive one. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/03/climate-change-and-war-the-origins-of-syrian-conflict/

Mar 02

INTL at Portland State is on Facebook

Quite a few of the people who follow this blog are either at Portland State University, or in the Portland area. So I wanted to let people know that the Department of International and Global Studies is now on Facebook. We have a lot going on, as you can see here. I also want to give my thanks to Katrina Grundman for her fantastic work building this.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University.

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/03/intl-at-portland-state-is-on-facebook/

Mar 01

A Syllabus for a fully online “Introduction to International Studies” class

I have been teaching hybrid courses for nearly two years, but this quarter I taught my first fully online class. Contrary to what people expect, I find that I come to know my students better than in a face to face class. In traditional courses -even in a seminar- four or five students may dominate most of the discussion. In my course, every student has to two discussion posts every week. Because students know that their posts are shared, they tend to put a great deal of thought into what they say. This means that I come to know the students well. Equally important, because the students are broken into smaller discussion groups, they also come to know each other. There is an online community, which I think is meaningful to the students. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/03/a-syllabus-for-a-fully-online-introduction-to-international-studies-class/

Feb 27

NPR’s “Life after Death.”

I know that people may be tired of hearing about Ebola, which is a painful topic. Still, I have to strongly recommend a new storyboard by NPR reporters called “Life after Death,” which describes one village’s experience with the outbreak. The storyboard combines audio interviews and stunning photographs to create an account that is moving, informative and beautiful. It illustrates the the human reaction to the outbreak, and the toll that the disease continues to take from the community after people stop dying. I think that this storyboard shows the potential of new media, which combine the content of text-based journalism, with the artistic expression of photo-journalism. One alert- if you are viewing this at work, you probably should put on your headphones before you click on the link above.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/nprs-life-after-death/

Feb 25

Thank you to the Oregon Consular Corps

Wonde Nevens, Shawn Smallman and Karen Carillo at the Oregon Consular Corps Awards Event, Arlington Club, February 10, 2015

Wonde Nevens, Shawn Smallman and Karen Carillo at the Oregon Consular Corps Awards Event, Arlington Club, February 10, 2015

This February I attended a scholarship awards event hosted by the Oregon Consular Corps at the Arlington Club in Portland. Two International Studies Majors at PSU, Wonde Nevens and Karen Carillo, were scholarship award winners. At the end of the event a past award winner talked about how funds from this scholarship had enabled them to do a study abroad course in Argentina, which had a deep impact on their plans for the future. It’s amazing how these funds can have an enduring effect on students’ lives. I want to thank the Oregon Consular Corps for their generosity, as well as the hard work that they put into reviewing applications from deserving candidates. I also want to thank the INTL faculty who reviewed the applicants’ files, Evguenia Davidova and Stephen Frenkel. Most of all, I want to give my congratulations to Wonde and Karen.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/thank-you-to-the-oregon-consular-corps/

Feb 20

Influenza and Respect

The French website Sentiweb tracks disease prevalence in the country. This winter the map of influenza-like illness in France has been a sea of red, which documents a particularly bad year. The situation in Germany is no better. Influenza viruses mutate over time, which means that every year vaccine makers must guess which strain of the virus is most likely to cause illness in the coming season. Sadly, this year’s vaccine was poorly matched with the strain of H3N2 that has caused the most illness. According to a study in the U.S. it was only 23% effective, while one study in Canada found that people were actually more likely to become ill if they had been vaccinated. You can’t have a much worse vaccine that that. This situation has meant that more people in the United States went to the hospital with an influenza-like illness than in most years, particularly amongst the elderly. At least in the United States the influenza season is now waning. In my home state of Oregon, influenza cases peaked last month. This sadly does not seem to be the case in France as this map suggests. As in the United States, the majority of cases in France have been the H3N2 strain.

People tend not to treat influenza with sufficient respect. Years ago I had a phone call from someone who wanted to drive to Portland to meet me in my role as the Director of International Studies. The morning of the meeting I woke up and knew right away that I had the flu.  It felt as though somebody had turned up the gravity in my room. I had a high fever and could barely stand. But not wanting to disappoint them, I dragged myself to the office. They didn’t show up, and after an hour I went home. I consoled myself that it was for the best, because they last thing that they needed was to catch my flu. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/map-of-influenza-like-illnesses-in-france/

Feb 16

The Brazilian Drug Trade in Maps

Map by Addicted04 at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BRA_orthographic.svg

Map by Addicted04 at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BRA_orthographic.svg

I am currently working on a research project comparing the drug trade in Mexico with its counterpart in Brazil. I have an outstanding undergraduate student, Tony Zamoro, working on this project with me. It has been a great deal more difficult to find information on Brazil’s drug trade than Mexico’s, but he has managed to locate a wide range of maps -from Insight Crime, Newsweek and other sources- that display the drug trade and cartels visually. Here are some links to these maps.

Homicides in Brazil

Mexican Prisoners in Latin American Countries

Drug Routes in the Amazon

Favela Pacification in Rio de Janeiro

Areas of PCC Influence

Olympic Zones and favelas in Rio de Janeiro

What I find most interesting about the maps is that they often focus on favelas, rather than individual states. Of course, the PCC has influence throughout most of Brazil. The Mexican drug cartels also often overlap. For example, the situation in the state of Guerrero is complex, while even in Sinaloa -the home of the Sinaloan cartel- the drug cartels still compete. There are also areas in Mexico -such as Juarez- where competing cartels seem to have fought each other to a state of exhaustion, as the falling death rate in this city suggests. My point here is that there are similarities between the nature of drug cartels in the two countries. Still, the Brazilian drug trade is much more defined by the control of small urban environments, rather than broad swathes of territory, as is the case with Mexico. My question is: how has the differing character of the two countries’ borders shaped the geography of the drug trade and the character of the drug cartels?

The Brazilian drug trade is also driven by the diverse mix of drugs used within Brazilian urban areas, unlike in Mexico where rates of drug use have been lower than in the United States. In 2005 I interviewed drug traffickers and users in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The drug market there was stratified by age. Older users were more likely to inject drugs, including cocaine, whereas younger users more commonly used crack. It was also the case that people often varied the drugs that they used, even within a single day. The Mexican drug cartels also have diversified, but the Mexican drug market internally is perhaps not as large or as complex as Brazil’s.

On another note, please see this synopsis on Youtube of our “Introduction to International and Global Studies” textbook, which I just came upon entirely by chance.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/the-brazilian-drug-trade-in-maps/

Feb 03

Map of Mexican Drug Cartels

I’m currently working on a project that compares the drug trade in Mexico and Brazil. My goal is to try to understand the factors that have made the Mexican trade so bloody in comparison with Brazil’s trade. I believe that part of the reason is the nature of border. Most of the cocaine trafficked into Brazil passes through highly porous borders in Amazonia, which would be impossible to close to the same degree as the U.S.-Mexican border. The Brazilian drug trade is also geographically fractured, despite the existence of major drug organizations such as the First Capital Command (PCC), Red Command, Pure Third Command, and “Amigos dos Amigos.” The Mexican drug trade also overlays a major movement of migrants from southern Mexico and Central America to the United States; this both creates a population vulnerable to crime, but also develops networks that move people from south to north outside the control of the state. There is no parallel migration in Brazil. One issue I face with this project is the large number of variables that make the drug trade different in these nations. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/map-of-mexican-drug-cartels/

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