24 November 2016   Leave a comment

In my career as a teacher, I have welcomed the internet as a way to expand my access to diverse news sources.  The dark side of this innovation, however, is that the internet is also a place where there are many misleading or false stories planted by organizations and people who have a vested interest in manipulating public opinion.  Researchers at Stanford University have tested the ability of students–at all levels of education–to discriminate between reliable and unreliable sources of information.   Their findings are deeply distressing:  most students accept information on the web as reliable without assessing the integrity of the source.  There is no way for democracy to survive without a well-informed citizenry.

We are all bewildered by the process of globalization, largely because the pace and intensity of cross-border exchanges have increased exponentially in the last thirty years.  But one can study globalization in slow motion by studying how the potato moved from what we now call Peru to Europe.  The new food genuinely transformed the ability of European farmers to feed a growing population.  Prior to its introduction, agriculture was an extremely dicey business:

“The effects of this transformation were so striking that any general history of Europe without an entry in its index for S. tuberosum [the potato] should be ignored. Hunger was a familiar presence in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. Cities were provisioned reasonably well in most years, their granaries carefully monitored, but country people teetered on a precipice. France, the historian Fernand Braudel once calculated, had 40 nationwide famines between 1500 and 1800, more than one per decade. This appalling figure is an underestimate, he wrote, “because it omits the hundreds and hundreds of local famines.” France was not exceptional; England had 17 national and big regional famines between 1523 and 1623. The continent simply could not reliably feed itself.”

I hope everyone had their potatoes for Thanksgiving!

Potato Famine Memorial in Dublin

Image result for potato famine

The revised peace accord was signed by both the Colombian government and FARC rebels and it will be sent to the Colombian legislature for its approval.  The accord will not be subject to a popular referendum as was the case with the first agreement.  The agreement was greeted more with resignation than with celebration by the Colombian people and one hopes that this accord will prove to be lasting.  There are still other rebel groups that need to be brought into the agreement, but the hope is that slowly all parties will accept the terms.  The guerrilla war has been going on for 50 years and its end will mark a new page for the Colombian people.

 

 

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Posted November 25, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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