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Elyse David has been at 5 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Astronomers Without Borders229,958Astronauts Ron Garan and Anousheh Ansari join us for this special AWB Hangout, "Astronomy In the Development of STEM Education". Though often neglected in traditional educational systems, astronomy is an ideal way to present science and other technical fields in schools. With limited resources, especially in developing countries, astronomy offers an accessible "laboratory" in a subject that already fascinates children. AWB's Telescopes to Tanzania is just one example of how astronomy is used to promote science learning and curriculum-building in developing countries. This panel discussion will look at how astronomy has been used for development and the opportunities that remain. Guests: Ron Garan is a former astronaut, aquanaut, and test pilot who is also an entrepreneur. He has founded multiple companies and socially-focused organizations. His social media following of 3.6 million makes him one of Google Plus’ “Top 25 Followed”, and a Kred “Top 1% Influencer”. Anousheh Ansari was a co-sponsor of the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first private launch of a reusable manned spacecraft, and the first female private space explorer. She is a serial entrepreneur and currently the chairman of Prodea Systems which she co-founded. Kevin Govender is the Director of the International Astronomical Union's Office of Astronomy for Development in South Africa, which was created to use astronomy to make the world a better place. Mponda Malozo is an environmentalist in Tanzania who also works with the educational system as a science consultant promotes astronomy through outreach activities. He is the Tanzania Coordinator of the Universe Awareness Foundation and a project manager for AWB's Telescopes to Tanzania.Astronomy For the Development of STEM Education2014-08-06 18:00:0090  
Daria Musk3,764,578*Expand to read the story and learn how to join live!* Three years ago to the day, I stood in front of my computer - a guitar in my hands, songs in my heart, fingers trembling - about to press a button that said, "Hangout". I was still waterlogged with rainy nights of lugging my amps into tiny clubs and tears from the not-knowing-what-would-happen to my dreams. That night, when I hit "Hangout" you saved my dreams, you saved me. Your faces popped in. We sang all night. Six hours later my heart was six million times bigger and I would never be the same. Every year I want to celebrate that day. I want to thank you face to face. I want to meet back at our special place and sing your praises. It's time for Hangoutiversary III.  *PLEASE, BE CELEBRATED* So please, meet me on July 16th. Right here, inside the place where we had our virtual first date. Comment back and let me know that you're planning to come, I will organize special circles of you all, so we can rotate the 10 seats and meet and meet and meet again. I'll sing our songs of celebration. I'll sing new songs of adoration, to you and this crazy world that gives us a chance just when we think maybe it can't. Come with your hopes and your dreams to be amplified and your updates and your friends and families and fantasies. Let's sing 'til our throats go weak and dance in front of computer screens, like the silly beautiful people we know ourselves to be.   *HOW TO HANG* In case you're new or rusty all you have to do to join this Hangout is:   ✪ RSVP a big fat *yes* here. ✪ On Wednesday, July 16th come back to this page when the Hangout starts (6PM Eastern US Time). ✪ You can watch or click "join" to on my page @100974258168375166691! ✪ Don't for get to comment and let me know if you want to join and around what time. I'll be sure to circle you and invite you when you're web-camera-ready! ✪ Come with song requests, stories and even a "dream to amplify". The theme of this hangout is #amplifyyourdreams  cause that's what you guys did for me. You turnt it up to 11! *SRSLY, MESSAGE ME* Send me a private message or chat or comment to me here if you'd like to arrange a special invite or if you're new and want to join the family and need some tips for getting in. I think I'm going to make invite circles for each half hour, so let me know when you want to join. Everyone's invited. It's really the greatest possible gift, just to let me sing for you and get to know you again and again and again.  *SPREAD THE LOVE* Share this invite too. Let's grow the family. Any friend of yours is a friend of mine and deserves some showcased virtual face-to-face time. *XO, Daria* PS. *CONNECTED BY* This concert celebration is being supported by our new friends at CO-OP Connected Credit Unions. CO-OP is all about connection, just like our epic House Of Blues Concert, they've partnered up with us to make sure we stay together and keep banking on this amazing feeling we get when we connect through ethernet lines HANGOUTIVERSARY CONCERT2014-07-17 00:00:00386  
The White House3,146,094Join White House Chef Bill Yosses, @100091697767366769792 Chef Anne Burrell, and former @102371865054310418159 astronaut Ron Garan to discuss the raw science behind turkey, stuffing, and other fixins’ on our #Thanksgiving  tables: http://wh.gov/we-the-geeks Have questions? Post them in the comments section below. #Cooking   #Food   #STEM   #WeTheGeeks  We the Geeks: Talking Turkey and the Science of Cooking2013-11-27 18:00:0089  
Ron Garan3,936,019Join in a global conversation about the need for collaboration to solve the problems facing our worldThe #KeyIsWe2013-10-11 17:00:00179  
The White House3,146,094This Friday at 2pm ET, the White House will host a "We The Geeks" Google+ Hangout on asteroids with experts including NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, former astronaut Ed Lu, and Bill Nye the Science Guy: http://at.wh.gov/lvjzd Tune in to find out how experts are working to find asteroids before they find us—and other potential opportunities these space rocks present. Ask your questions using #WeTheGeeks and we'll answer some during the hangout.We the Geeks: Asteroids2013-05-31 20:00:00726  

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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 21

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2015-10-28 17:33:46 (21 comments; 30 reshares; 290 +1s)Open 

Two humans are "walking" in space. You can tune in live here: http://bit.ly/1PQqHm4 

Most reshares: 38

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2015-12-27 14:08:07 (8 comments; 38 reshares; 317 +1s)Open 

Our favorite moon and planet, together. ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬

Most plusones: 317

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2015-12-27 14:08:07 (8 comments; 38 reshares; 317 +1s)Open 

Our favorite moon and planet, together. ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬

Latest 50 posts

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2016-02-04 17:55:59 (2 comments; 4 reshares; 67 +1s)Open 

A place made of starlight #OrbitalPerspective

A place made of starlight #OrbitalPerspective___

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2016-01-31 14:30:36 (1 comments; 3 reshares; 66 +1s)Open 

A view for all seasons - cays, channels & seafloor of Great Exuma Island #Bahamas

A view for all seasons - cays, channels & seafloor of Great Exuma Island #Bahamas___

posted image

2016-01-30 13:59:45 (2 comments; 5 reshares; 87 +1s)Open 

Trading places. Night becomes day. Darkness becomes light. #TerminatorLine #OrbitalPerspective

Trading places. Night becomes day. Darkness becomes light. #TerminatorLine #OrbitalPerspective___

posted image

2016-01-28 12:08:46 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 47 +1s)Open 

We are stardust. Honoring the sacrifice and legacy of NASA's fallen astronauts: Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Francis “Dick” Scobee, Michael Smith, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Rick Husband, William McCook, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, Ilan Ramon.

We are stardust. Honoring the sacrifice and legacy of NASA's fallen astronauts: Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Francis “Dick” Scobee, Michael Smith, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Rick Husband, William McCook, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, Ilan Ramon.___

posted image

2016-01-21 16:56:02 (2 comments; 3 reshares; 75 +1s)Open 

The suns of Orion setting #OrbitalPerspective

The suns of Orion setting #OrbitalPerspective___

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2016-01-12 21:45:12 (9 comments; 9 reshares; 86 +1s)Open 

How about a dollop of sun to go with that coffee? #OrbitalPerspective

How about a dollop of sun to go with that coffee? #OrbitalPerspective___

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2016-01-12 21:44:35 (4 comments; 14 reshares; 115 +1s)Open 

While you are waiting for a sunny day, try a sunny night - from the ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬

While you are waiting for a sunny day, try a sunny night - from the ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬___

posted image

2015-12-31 13:11:08 (5 comments; 3 reshares; 116 +1s)Open 

A new year has dawned on #SpaceshipEarth. #2016 is coming to a time zone near you #OrbitalPerspective

A new year has dawned on #SpaceshipEarth. #2016 is coming to a time zone near you #OrbitalPerspective___

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2015-12-31 13:03:24 (4 comments; 9 reshares; 168 +1s)Open 

Technically, astronaut photography. Who else could have taken this picture? Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov onboard the International Space Station: Желаю всем счастья в Новом 2016 году! С праздником! // Happy New Year from space! 

Technically, astronaut photography. Who else could have taken this picture? Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov onboard the International Space Station: Желаю всем счастья в Новом 2016 году! С праздником! // Happy New Year from space! ___

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2015-12-27 19:29:01 (4 comments; 8 reshares; 144 +1s)Open 

Another way to see Earth's moon - this is how astronauts and cosmonauts see it - there is no upside down in space!

Moonset #OrbitalPerspective___Another way to see Earth's moon - this is how astronauts and cosmonauts see it - there is no upside down in space!

posted image

2015-12-27 14:08:07 (8 comments; 38 reshares; 317 +1s)Open 

Our favorite moon and planet, together. ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬

Our favorite moon and planet, together. ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬___

posted image

2015-12-26 12:47:25 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 62 +1s)Open 

Add skeletal remains of marine organisms into the mix, and this is what you get. 

Tidal flats and channels near Sandy Cay along the eastern margin of the Great Bahama Bank___Add skeletal remains of marine organisms into the mix, and this is what you get. 

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2015-12-25 12:57:06 (1 comments; 7 reshares; 102 +1s)Open 

... And a star to guide us. Merry #Christmas and #PeaceOnEarth  

... And a star to guide us. Merry #Christmas and #PeaceOnEarth  ___

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2015-12-24 20:31:16 (1 comments; 4 reshares; 78 +1s)Open 

Santa's welcoming committee #NorthPole   #PeaceOnEarth   #OrbitalPerspective

Santa's welcoming committee #NorthPole   #PeaceOnEarth   #OrbitalPerspective___

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2015-12-24 20:30:58 (4 comments; 6 reshares; 133 +1s)Open 

Europe, #Christmas Eve ‪#‎PeaceOnEarth‬ ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬

Europe, #Christmas Eve ‪#‎PeaceOnEarth‬ ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬___

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2015-12-23 11:53:52 (7 comments; 3 reshares; 72 +1s)Open 

O Tannenbaum!

Nevado del Tolima stretches toward the sun from its birthplace among the Andes Mountains in Colombia, its shadow promising a new day. With thanks to NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, who originally inspried us with this picture from the International Space Station in 2010.___O Tannenbaum!

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2015-12-22 13:19:56 (8 comments; 6 reshares; 106 +1s)Open 

That's astronaut Tim Kopra doing his thing outside the International Space Station yesterday. He just arrived a week or so ago. You can see Scott Kelly reflected in his visor. Kelly's been there for nine months already. And that's the rest of us, earthbound, on that planet over there.  

That's astronaut Tim Kopra doing his thing outside the International Space Station yesterday. He just arrived a week or so ago. You can see Scott Kelly reflected in his visor. Kelly's been there for nine months already. And that's the rest of us, earthbound, on that planet over there.  ___

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2015-12-22 12:14:26 (5 comments; 20 reshares; 206 +1s)Open 

The rise of the comets. 

'The most amazing thing I have seen in space.' Comet Lovejoy photographed by International Space Station Commander Dan Burbank one year ago, 22 December 2011. Credit: NASA___The rise of the comets. 

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2015-12-20 18:38:00 (3 comments; 2 reshares; 71 +1s)Open 

What a zoo!

Stowaways on the International Space Station revealed by cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, who's just a kid at heart. ___What a zoo!

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2015-12-20 10:48:25 (3 comments; 4 reshares; 93 +1s)Open 

Follow the bouncing ball.

Tonight's Finale: Our Moon, tinted blue, made so by the wisp of Earth's atmosphere.___Follow the bouncing ball.

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2015-12-19 17:37:17 (4 comments; 7 reshares; 123 +1s)Open 

One of my all time favorite astronaut pics. Taken by Dan Burbank who conveyed (to me at least) a cold and lonely landscape.

One of my all time favorite astronaut pics. Taken by Dan Burbank who conveyed (to me at least) a cold and lonely landscape.___

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2015-12-19 17:32:32 (3 comments; 3 reshares; 81 +1s)Open 

Keeping things in perspective.

To others traveling the universe, Earthlings live in a galaxy far, far away. #StarWars #OrbitalPerspective Image credit: Kjell Lindgren/NASA___Keeping things in perspective.

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2015-12-05 16:18:43 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

Astronauts in space see our home planet with different eyes than those of us bound by gravity to Earth. That's why these planetary stewards want this CALL TO EARTH in front of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. #COP21  

Astronauts in space see our home planet with different eyes than those of us bound by gravity to Earth. That's why these planetary stewards want this CALL TO EARTH in front of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. #COP21  ___

posted image

2015-11-19 23:35:09 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

Twenty-four hours after an attack by Da'esh (the organization formerly known as ISIS [1]) on Paris left 129 dead and 352 wounded, the Internet and the airwaves alike have been filled with profound waves of self-serving nonsense and stupidity from left and right alike. Everyone seems to have found a way in which this situation justifies their position – protect the refugees! Exile the refugees! Bomb someone! Stop all bombing of anyone! – and magically, it seems that one of the most complex political situations of our time can be reduced to simple slogans.

Well, I've run out of patience with this, so let me seriously discuss what just happened here, and what it tells us. I'm going to talk about three things which have combined to lead to yesterday's massacre: the refugee crisis, Europe's Muslim population, and Da'esh. I'll then talk about a few things which I thinkhav... more »

Twenty-four hours after an attack by Da'esh (the organization formerly known as ISIS [1]) on Paris left 129 dead and 352 wounded, the Internet and the airwaves alike have been filled with profound waves of self-serving nonsense and stupidity from left and right alike. Everyone seems to have found a way in which this situation justifies their position – protect the refugees! Exile the refugees! Bomb someone! Stop all bombing of anyone! – and magically, it seems that one of the most complex political situations of our time can be reduced to simple slogans.

Well, I've run out of patience with this, so let me seriously discuss what just happened here, and what it tells us. I'm going to talk about three things which have combined to lead to yesterday's massacre: the refugee crisis, Europe's Muslim population, and Da'esh. I'll then talk about a few things which I think have little or nothing to do with what we're seeing – most importantly, religion and oil – and a few things which do – such as food and water. And finally, we'll talk about what it's going to take to fix this, both in the short term and the long term.

Being entirely out of patience right now, forgive me for being particularly blunt. I suspect that, by the end of this, you will be thoroughly offended by my opinions, whether you are American, European, or Middle Eastern, left or right: nobody has behaved well in the lead-up to this.


The first thing to realize about the refugees streaming into Europe from Syria and its environs is that not only are they not, by and large, terrorists – they're people fleeing these exact terrorists. France was just hit by Da'esh, with over five hundred casualties; in Syria, people are surrounded by Da'esh on one side, and a bloodthirsty army on the other side, and have been seeing death on the scale of yesterday's attack every single day for the past four and a half years. [2] If you were living there, you would very likely be fleeing, too.

But the second thing to realize about the refugees is that there are, in fact, Da'esh members among them. It's clear that at least one of the attackers came in from Syria as part of October's refugee flood, and there's no reason at all not to believe that quite a few more are among them, working both at short- and long-term goals. (More on which in a moment)

Everyone seems to have simplistic solutions, here: kick out all the Muslims (as America's Ann Coulter and Donald Trump suggest), settle the refugees more permanently, build giant prison camps. These solutions tend to miss a few very basic points:

(1) When you have hundreds of thousands of people who are quite literally willing to risk not only their deaths, but the deaths of their families, in order to escape, your odds of being able to keep them out aren't actually great, unless your plan is to mobilize a giant army and start attacking inward until they're fleeing in the opposite direction.

(2) You do not have enough prison camp capacity to handle this many people, nor could you build it. Nor do you have enough housing and residential infrastructure capacity to easily settle this many people, because the flux you're seeing out of Syria is very far from the end of it. 

This is why large regional disasters quickly tend to spread into adjacent regions. This is why it's important not to let regional disasters get out of hand, no matter how politically appealing isolationism may appear.


The second thing to be aware of is that this didn't happen in a vacuum: Europe has a very large Muslim population, and it seems that most of the attackers were French or Belgian citizens. This started out with Europe's colonial ambitions, back in the day: France, for example, ruled over Algeria with a mind-bogglingly bloodthirsty approach [3] for decades, but now has a large population of people with a right to French residence who have been moving in to the country in search of a better economic situation. (Hardly surprising, when you leave behind a colony wracked by a horrifying civil war for decades) And France is far from alone in this.

Europe's Muslim population is both profoundly European and profoundly not European. They are European in that they have been living there, often for more than a generation; they work there, they pay taxes, they have become as assimilated as they can. They are not European in that Europe has been profoundly unwilling to allow them to assimilate. This is far from a historical anomaly: Europe has historically defined itself in terms of villages or cities and their local populations, which one can't really join very easily. Groups marked as outsiders – be they Jews, Romany, or Muslims – have been considered only marginally European. At times, there has been a high degree of apparent assimilation: for example, Jews were thoroughly integrated into European culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, intermarrying, forming friendships and professional associations across the board. As you may notice, "thorough integration" can be an awfully chancy business. 

Muslims in today's Europe, on the other hand, don't have anything close to this superficial level of integration; France has been routinely passing laws banning Muslims from dressing the way they did in their home countries in the past few years, which should tell you a great deal about local opinions of that population.

So you have a large population who finds it systematically hard to find work, impossible to be accepted, the regular target of police, and told every day that they should probably be kicked out of the country. I'm sure you will find it shocking that, if you do this to a few tens of millions of people for a few decades at a stretch, you will end up with a disillusioned and disenfranchised youth, some of which will combine this with the general hot-headedness and stupidity of being a young adult to become easy fodder for people who have shown up to recruit.

Lots of people seem to have half-assed solutions here, and they tend to be even more foolish than the solutions to the refugee crisis. "Send them back," the European right frequently cries: back to where? Most of the Muslim population is no longer fresh immigrants; they are second and third generation Europeans. They don't have homes anywhere else. The European left, on the other hand, preaches a mealymouthed combination of urging assimilation and unmistakeable racism. 

For some context, go back to the Charlie Hebdo attacks several months ago. There was a large outcry, saying that what the magazine (a notable left-wing satirical organ) had been doing was entirely in the bounds of proper satire, that the satire of religion was a hallowed European tradition. What this explanation glosses over is that nobody on the receiving end of the satire saw it as satire of religion, for the simple reason that religious affiliation, in Europe as in the Middle East, has little to do with what you believe and much to do with who you are. Charlie Hebdo's targets weren't simply religious extremists preaching from Saudi mosques; they were a portrayal of the French Muslim population as violent extremists, the dangerous other. And that's precisely the European left-wing line: Muslims are fine, so long as they become completely European, to the extent that we can forget that they were ever from someone else. Which, realistically, might mean they have to intermarry for a few generations and acquire blue eyes and blond hair, but that's OK, we welcome them!

The honest fact is this: neither the European left nor the right have ever made the large Muslim community into a full part of society. One side has covered it in nice words, while the other side has blared its xenophobia from the rooftops, but nobody on the receiving end of either of these has been fooled.

You sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. What did you expect was going to happen?


And then we come over to our friends in the Middle East, the psychotically bloodthirsty bastards of Da'esh itself. It's a bit off to even refer to them as Islamist extremists in the mold of al-Qaeda; they've gone so far off the rails of Islam that the only clear ideology that often seems left is power and murder. Exhortations from theologians of any stripe aren't really going to have an effect on them.

But they seem to have realized that they are on an upswing of power, nobody having the resources or will to stop them, and have come up with the idea of spreading this worldwide, with attacks spreading to places like Russia and France – and, as soon as they can, everywhere else. Because as far as anyone can tell, they want to take over the world.

(Yes, this is a kind of screwy plan, and they barely even control chunks of land in the ass end of Syria and Iraq. But they've had enough luck with killing people that they seem to have convinced themselves that if they engage in even more killing people, it'll continue to work just as well. [4])

They seem to have one fairly simple strategic objective with these new attacks: drive a hard wedge between Muslim and infidel populations around the world, so that the Muslims will have no choice but to join them and become their army, overthrowing the local governments and establishing a world-wide Caliphate.

Unfortunately, political stupidity seems likely to help them. If the response to these attacks is to further isolate Muslim populations – both settled and refugee – then they will certainly have a far easier time recruiting among them. It's not actually going to lead to them taking over the world, but it will lead to bloodshed.

This recruitment tends to take a few forms. One is to recruit fighters to come and help in the bloodshed in existing battlefields; the second is to recruit suicide bombers and the like in other countries. These are somewhat disjoint processes, since the process of recruiting someone to commit suicide is rather different and targets different sorts of people, but there is also overlap: one strategy which al-Qaeda long favored was to recruit people to come to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, or Chechnya to fight, and later export trained fighters elsewhere.

One important thing about these tactics is that they seem to be realizing that surprisingly little training and planning is required. Yesterday's attack required some coordination among teams, but nothing spectacular; it did require practice in gunplay. But even this was fairly complex compared to the bare minimum required; consider the amount of chaos caused by the D.C. Sniper back in 2002.


Da'esh poses a particular danger because they seem to have latched onto the idea of exporting their violence to the rest of the world, but they're hardly the first or the last group to do this. If they were to be wiped out, I wouldn't bet any money that someone else wouldn't get the same idea soon after, much like al-Qaeda did before them. It's not even a particularly regional idea; the notion that if we kill enough people we can restructure the world to be perfectly {Aryan, Muslim, Democratic, Christian, Communist, etc.}, or to be the economic vassal states of the {X} empire, is frankly a cliché by now on pretty much every square kilometer of the planet.


So let's review where we are, for a moment. There's a large European Muslim population which is disillusioned, disenfranchised, underemployed, and generally treated as outsiders and fair political punching bags by the society as a whole. There's a giant stream of refugees pouring in to Europe, combining huge numbers of people running for their lives from bloodthirsty maniacs with small numbers of bloodthirsty maniacs looking to recruit. There's a factory of particularly bloodthirsty maniacs with a vision of taking over the world through (a) killing people and (b) convincing the rest of the world to treat Muslims even more like outsiders, who are actively trying to both create refugee streams and send out recruiters, to this end.


At this point, I expect to hear a chorus of voices blaming two things for this: religion (specifically, Islam), and oil (specifically, the West's insatiable need for it). To which my main response to both is "hogwash."

The reason I reject Islam as an explanation for this is that there's nothing particularly Muslim about any of it. The European Muslims which are being treated as second-class citizens aren't being treated that way because they pray on rugs facing Mecca, rather than in pews facing an altar; they're being treated this way because they're "dirty foreigners." (I'll spare you the actual terms used to describe them) Da'esh's plan to take over the world isn't rooted in a theological destiny of Muslims; it's rooted in an explicitly political vision of conquest. And quite frankly, the people being shot at the most are Muslims, too; remember who the refugees were running from?

More profoundly, people in the Middle East aren't systematically any more religious than people are in America. You have the same spectrum from the wholly secular to the crazed fundamentalist, with the former predominating in cities and the latter in the countryside. There's a tendency to assume (for example) that any woman wearing a headscarf must be extremely devout, or subject to domination and terror by some devout man; you have to back away and look at it in its local context, where sometimes it's a sign of devotion or a political statement, but it's also just what people wear; for many people, walking around with one's hair exposed is not done in much the same way people don't walk around in most of the US or Europe with their asses hanging out.

Oil is generally used as a proxy for "if only the Americans|Europeans never intervened in the Middle East, it would be peaceful there!" This bespeaks a rather curious innocence as to the history of the Middle East, combined with a reversed vision of (generally American) exceptionalism, that somehow our surpassing evil can corrupt otherwise noble savages. It's certainly true that without oil, most of the Middle East would be desperately poor – but as it happens, most of it is desperately poor anyway. Oil is not uniformly distributed, and Syria doesn't have that much of it to begin with.

There is one sense in which this is true, which is that the 2003 invasion of Iraq created a spectacular disaster. George W. Bush's belief that if we just created enough of a power vacuum, democracy would magically rush in to fill the void – the precise belief which his father didn't have, mind you, which is why GHWB made the explicit and deliberate decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power – proved to be exactly as unwise as it sounds when written so plainly. The result was a giant area of anarchy and civil war smack in the center of the Middle East, into which would-be fighters from all over the region (as well as other regions) swarmed: veterans of Chechnya and Bosnia found new employment in Iraq, as Sunnis and Shi'ites alike slaughtered one another. This anarchy, never resolved, has been the perfect factory of chaos which quite easily spilled over elsewhere.


But there's one profound factor which has driven the violence in the Middle East far more than oil ever could: water.

The entire Middle East has been in a water, and thus food, crisis for decades. In Egypt, for example, the Nile Valley has been drying out ever since the Aswan Dam was completed in 1970; as this once-fertile soil turned to desert, people have streamed into Cairo, doubling and tripling its population by forming tremendous shantytowns. Unemployment was extreme, as it's not like the cities suddenly had tens of millions of new jobs in them; the government kept order as well as it could by importing grain in tremendous quantities (the government's by-far largest annual expense) and selling bread cheaply. Unfortunately, a drought in Russia and Ukraine, Egypt's primary suppliers, caused those countries to cut off wheat exports in 2011 – and the government collapsed soon after.

Syria is a similar story: the lead-in to the collapse of Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship was steady droughts in the Syrian countryside driving people into the cities by the hundreds of thousands, leading to mass unemployment and unrest. People's livelihoods had simply disappeared. Stories like this repeat across the entire Middle East.


When we talk about the ultimate causes of the situation, this is the fact we tend to ignore: at the root of it, there isn't enough water, and there isn't enough food, and droughts have been hitting the area harder and harder for a decade. When there isn't enough food, people move from the countryside to the cities; and now you have giant groups of people who still don't have jobs or food, and that's a recipe for the collapse of governments as surely today as it was in Europe in the 1840's.

If you've ever wondered why I have often said that we need to be very actively worried about climate change, this is it. Changing climate breaks agriculture in various areas; the people who were farming there don't magically turn into factory workers or teleport to places which are (slowly) becoming more fertile; they become desperate former farmers, generally flooding into cities. 


So given all of this, what can we actually conclude? I think the most important thing is that you can't bury your head in the sand, and assume that problems in some other part of the world aren't your own. A drought or a civil war somewhere else can easily start to spill over in unexpected ways.

If you want to avoid terrible consequences, what you have to do is plan, and in particular never let kindling build up. For example:

(1) If you have a large, disenfranchised, population, this is trouble waiting to start. The only way to fix this problem is to enfranchise them: give them a full stake in your society. Yes, that means treating people who are very different from you like full equals. Yes, it also means that your society – that is, the set of people that you're responsible for – now includes a bunch of people who are a lot poorer than you are, and this is going to be expensive to fix. You're not going to like it. But you're going to like the alternative a whole lot less.

(2) If there's political instability, or worst of all, food supply instability somewhere else in the world, it doesn't matter how far away it seems: you need to get together with everyone else and have a serious plan to deal with it. Once masses of hundreds of thousands of people start streaming across the countryside, chaos will follow in their wake. 

(3) Climate change isn't an abstract fear for the future; it's a major political problem right now. You can't punt it away and talk about what to do about carbon emissions or its effect on the economy; you have to sit down and come up with serious strategic plans for what to do when agricultural productivity in critical breadbaskets drops sharply, or watersheds dry up. Contingency planning for any government needs to include anything from hurricanes to long-term droughts, and not just as one-offs, but what to do if these start happening a lot. The reason you need to plan for this is that it's not a goddamned hypothetical, you idiot.


What do we do in the short term? This is harder, because right now Da'esh has been sending agents across the planet to cause as much trouble as they can. One obvious prong of the solution is ordinary police work; that's proven far more effective than complex intelligence solutions at catching terrorists. Another prong is stopping their support system at the root. Because Da'esh's plans are so focused on actual conquest, a collapse of their regime back home is likely to have more of an effect on their satellite agents than the collapse of a more ideologically-oriented organization like al-Qaeda.

A third prong is to stabilize the situation in Syria: here the key isn't so much blowing anyone up as giving people a way to stop fighting. There are three key obstacles to this. One is Da'esh, which seems to be pretty committed to fighting for its own sake; this is unlikely fixable by any means short of straightforward military defeat. One is the underlying lack of food availability. The third is that quite a lot of people have reason to believe that they will be killed either if al-Assad regains power, or if he loses power. They need a serious guarantee of personal safety in any peace.

What this probably means is that a peace agreement will require very heavy international support: aid to rebuild the country, neutral military forces to guarantee cease-fires, and some way to deal with the underlying economic issues. That's going to require heavy international coordination of the profoundly unsexy sort: not deploying giant militaries to bomb targets and wave banners, or propping up regimes and helping them "suppress insurgencies," but working on the long-term realities of helping locals build a government that they're invested in – even when said government is unlikely to be either similar to Western norms, or friendly to Western aims. Military force to crush Da'esh is almost certainly needed as a precondition to this, but it's by far the smaller part of the game.


The short version is: if you want to fix problems, you're going to have to deal with some very serious, expensive, and unsexy solutions. Because life isn't simple, and you can't just bomb your way out of trouble.

[1] See this recent editorial for the argument for switching to the term Da'esh more broadly: https://www.freewordcentre.com/blog/2015/02/daesh-isis-media-alice-guthrie/ [Thanks to +Lisa Straanger for finding this more in-depth discussion than the Boston Globe op-ed which I had earlier cited]

[2] cf, for example, this infographic: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/09/14/world/middleeast/syria-war-deaths.html

[3] cf, for example, this obituary of a proud French torturer: https://plus.google.com/+YonatanZunger/posts/1PQQQ3XfnYA

[4] cf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B3slX6-_20___

posted image

2015-11-18 10:18:31 (11 comments; 7 reshares; 163 +1s)Open 

From the eyes of NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, an instant in time in the vast universe: Earth's eastern Mediterranean sea coast, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel...so peaceful from space at 13:59:35 GMT on 1 September 2013.

From the eyes of NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, an instant in time in the vast universe: Earth's eastern Mediterranean sea coast, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel...so peaceful from space at 13:59:35 GMT on 1 September 2013.___

posted image

2015-11-14 09:20:44 (4 comments; 8 reshares; 154 +1s)Open 

#Paris

There is but one #Paris . The City of Light (center) taken from the ‪#‎OrbitalPerspective‬ #OrbitalPerspective of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space on behalf of all humanity. ___#Paris

posted image

2015-10-30 17:20:40 (5 comments; 15 reshares; 190 +1s)Open 

A privilege to witness - a duty to share.
#OrbitalPerspective  

A privilege to witness - a duty to share.
#OrbitalPerspective  ___

posted image

2015-10-29 21:17:50 (2 comments; 5 reshares; 101 +1s)Open 

Star rise from the #OrbitalPerspective  of astronauts & cosmonauts living and working together in space. Credit: NASA

Star rise from the #OrbitalPerspective  of astronauts & cosmonauts living and working together in space. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-29 11:44:09 (7 comments; 12 reshares; 168 +1s)Open 

The golden child of the universe. #OrbitalPerspective  

The golden child of the universe. #OrbitalPerspective  ___

posted image

2015-10-28 17:33:46 (21 comments; 30 reshares; 290 +1s)Open 

Two humans are "walking" in space. You can tune in live here: http://bit.ly/1PQqHm4 

Two humans are "walking" in space. You can tune in live here: http://bit.ly/1PQqHm4 ___

posted image

2015-10-28 11:42:52 (6 comments; 11 reshares; 128 +1s)Open 

Big, fat, yet not quite full of itself, the almost Hunter's Moon over North America 19:33 GMT 25 Oct 2015 from the #OrbitalPerspective of astronauts & cosmonauts living and working together in space. Credit: NASA

Big, fat, yet not quite full of itself, the almost Hunter's Moon over North America 19:33 GMT 25 Oct 2015 from the #OrbitalPerspective of astronauts & cosmonauts living and working together in space. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-19 14:02:54 (2 comments; 3 reshares; 90 +1s)Open 

For more about this project: It began about a decade ago when the World Bank initiated a feasibility study, which resulted in a framework report in 2013 that was signed in Washington, D.C. by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

This is not without controversy – trust is a hard commodity to earn and to keep, even when goals are shared.

The World Bank report:
http://bit.ly/1LvtXNF

From NASA:
The Dead Sea in context of our planet
http://go.nasa.gov/1GcJSDH

News Reports – Always interesting to see the emphasis of the news outlets – but a good overview, nonetheless:

Reuters
http://reut.rs/1GN4tcs

New York Times
http://nyti.ms/1GN4pcK

Jerusalem Post
http://bit.ly/1NiQ9gT

Al Monitor
http://bit.ly/1hLH5po

Amid the tensions in the Middle East is a peaceful, cross border collaboration that will convert salt water from the Red Sea into potable (drinking) water for parts of Israel and Jordan. Both countries will purchase water from a desalination plant to be built at Aqaba, located at the southern tip of the Red Sea, where a pipeline will replenish the severely contracting Dead Sea  with the saltwater byproduct. Photos taken 8 & 10 October 2015 from the #OrbitalPerspective  of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working on board the International Space Station, one of humanity's most ambitious collaborations -- on or off the planet. Image credit: NASA___For more about this project: It began about a decade ago when the World Bank initiated a feasibility study, which resulted in a framework report in 2013 that was signed in Washington, D.C. by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

This is not without controversy – trust is a hard commodity to earn and to keep, even when goals are shared.

The World Bank report:
http://bit.ly/1LvtXNF

From NASA:
The Dead Sea in context of our planet
http://go.nasa.gov/1GcJSDH

News Reports – Always interesting to see the emphasis of the news outlets – but a good overview, nonetheless:

Reuters
http://reut.rs/1GN4tcs

New York Times
http://nyti.ms/1GN4pcK

Jerusalem Post
http://bit.ly/1NiQ9gT

Al Monitor
http://bit.ly/1hLH5po

posted image

2015-10-14 20:49:47 (5 comments; 13 reshares; 209 +1s)Open 

Nature builds #borders invisible from #space . Humans build them to be seen. This one, between #India‬ and #Pakistan , brightly lit and guarded to keep people on one side or another. ‪From the #OrbitalPerspective‬  of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space 8 October 2015. Credit: NASA

Nature builds #borders invisible from #space . Humans build them to be seen. This one, between #India‬ and #Pakistan , brightly lit and guarded to keep people on one side or another. ‪From the #OrbitalPerspective‬  of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space 8 October 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-13 17:47:49 (9 comments; 2 reshares; 101 +1s)Open 

From any perspective, what the world needs now. South Pacific atoll, photographed 7 October 2015 from the International Space Station, where astronauts and cosmonauts live and work together for the benefit of all humanity. Credit: NASA

From any perspective, what the world needs now. South Pacific atoll, photographed 7 October 2015 from the International Space Station, where astronauts and cosmonauts live and work together for the benefit of all humanity. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-12 15:37:11 (3 comments; 2 reshares; 96 +1s)Open 

On this #MoonShotMonday , we bring you the first voyage of the maritime explorer Christopher #Columbus . Setting sail on August 3, 1492 from Palos de Frontera in southwestern Spain, he was determined to find a trade route in the East by traveling west across the Atlantic. Spotting land seventy miserable days later, Columbus was convinced Japan was in his sights. Instead, he was about to begin the European colonization of the Americas when he was greeted by the indigenous people of San Salvador in the Bahama archipelago. The three pictures taken from the #OrbitalPerspective   of explorers on board the International Space Station: Moon over the Atlantic, Palos de Frontera in southwestern Spain, from where Columbus set sail, and islands in the Bahama archipelago, where he landed. The exact location actually remains unclear. 

On this #MoonShotMonday , we bring you the first voyage of the maritime explorer Christopher #Columbus . Setting sail on August 3, 1492 from Palos de Frontera in southwestern Spain, he was determined to find a trade route in the East by traveling west across the Atlantic. Spotting land seventy miserable days later, Columbus was convinced Japan was in his sights. Instead, he was about to begin the European colonization of the Americas when he was greeted by the indigenous people of San Salvador in the Bahama archipelago. The three pictures taken from the #OrbitalPerspective   of explorers on board the International Space Station: Moon over the Atlantic, Palos de Frontera in southwestern Spain, from where Columbus set sail, and islands in the Bahama archipelago, where he landed. The exact location actually remains unclear. ___

posted image

2015-10-08 13:16:56 (4 comments; 8 reshares; 165 +1s)Open 

#DoNotDisturb  Flatback & green turtles rest here at the Gulf of Carpentaria #OrbitalPerspective  Photo taken from the International Space Station 4 october 2015. Credit: NASA

#DoNotDisturb  Flatback & green turtles rest here at the Gulf of Carpentaria #OrbitalPerspective  Photo taken from the International Space Station 4 october 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-07 23:46:05 (10 comments; 13 reshares; 207 +1s)Open 

Our beautiful home planet, bathed in light. #OrbitalPerspective  Photo taken from the International Space Station 3 October 2015. Credit: NASA

Our beautiful home planet, bathed in light. #OrbitalPerspective  Photo taken from the International Space Station 3 October 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-07 21:56:57 (5 comments; 10 reshares; 154 +1s)Open 

Bright & tiny sparks light space travelers in the dark.. #Europe   #London   #Paris  Infinity from the #OrbitalPerspective  3 October 2015. Credit: NASA

Bright & tiny sparks light space travelers in the dark.. #Europe   #London   #Paris  Infinity from the #OrbitalPerspective  3 October 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-06 14:45:21 (9 comments; 25 reshares; 242 +1s)Open 

Ray Bradbury: "What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?" ‪ #OrbitalPerspective  Photo from the International Space Station 23 September 2015 Credit: NASA

Ray Bradbury: "What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?" ‪ #OrbitalPerspective  Photo from the International Space Station 23 September 2015 Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-06 11:20:48 (3 comments; 6 reshares; 135 +1s)Open 

From the ‪‬ #OrbitalPerspective of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space, night sheds light on triumph and tragedy: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, together on #SpaceshipEarth  Credit: NASA

From the ‪‬ #OrbitalPerspective of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space, night sheds light on triumph and tragedy: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, together on #SpaceshipEarth  Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-05 21:49:00 (9 comments; 17 reshares; 166 +1s)Open 

Together on #SpaceshipEarth : Sunset over the middle east region of our home planet from the #OrbitalPerspective  of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space 1 October 2015. Credit: NASA

Together on #SpaceshipEarth : Sunset over the middle east region of our home planet from the #OrbitalPerspective  of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together in space 1 October 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-10-04 11:37:03 (6 comments; 3 reshares; 113 +1s)Open 

It appears to a preference of our species to build cities on volcanoes (Naples region surrounding Vesuvius)

Es ist offenbar eine Vorliebe unserer Spezies, Städte auf Vulkanen zu bauen (Neapel & Vesuv)

https://flic.kr/p/vsGwJd

It appears to a preference of our species to build cities on volcanoes (Naples region surrounding Vesuvius)

Es ist offenbar eine Vorliebe unserer Spezies, Städte auf Vulkanen zu bauen (Neapel & Vesuv)

https://flic.kr/p/vsGwJd___

posted image

2015-10-03 18:12:33 (8 comments; 8 reshares; 170 +1s)Open 

Middle East

Middle East___

posted image

2015-10-03 15:37:38 (1 comments; 13 reshares; 163 +1s)Open 

Good morning. As of a few hours ago, the U.S. Coast Guard has not been able to locate ship & crew of 33 missing in #HurricaneJoaquin . The ship, El Faro (The Lighthouse), set out for Puerto Rico from Florida when Joaquin was still a tropical storm. Hope to hear good news. Photo taken by a human living and working on board a spaceship orbiting Earth 2 October 2015. Credit: NASA

Good morning. As of a few hours ago, the U.S. Coast Guard has not been able to locate ship & crew of 33 missing in #HurricaneJoaquin . The ship, El Faro (The Lighthouse), set out for Puerto Rico from Florida when Joaquin was still a tropical storm. Hope to hear good news. Photo taken by a human living and working on board a spaceship orbiting Earth 2 October 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-09-27 10:47:23 (13 comments; 5 reshares; 163 +1s)Open 

In the geological time scale, the Himalayas are mere babies, hoisted to their spectacular heights as a result of the collision of the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia just 40 - 50 million years before an astronaut living and working on the International Space Station provided us with this view, 23 May 2012. For reference, Mt. Everest is at the far right edge of the picture. Credit: NASA

In the geological time scale, the Himalayas are mere babies, hoisted to their spectacular heights as a result of the collision of the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia just 40 - 50 million years before an astronaut living and working on the International Space Station provided us with this view, 23 May 2012. For reference, Mt. Everest is at the far right edge of the picture. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-09-26 15:17:00 (8 comments; 6 reshares; 153 +1s)Open 

From the earthling's perspective, Canada is the world's largest country that borders only one other country - 5,525 miles/8,893 km shared with the United States of America. From the #OrbitalPerspective ‬, both are but specks on a speck in a vast universe. Photo taken by a human living and working in space 23 September 2015. Credit: NASA

From the earthling's perspective, Canada is the world's largest country that borders only one other country - 5,525 miles/8,893 km shared with the United States of America. From the #OrbitalPerspective ‬, both are but specks on a speck in a vast universe. Photo taken by a human living and working in space 23 September 2015. Credit: NASA___

posted image

2015-09-25 15:33:50 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 96 +1s)Open 

In a short while, #PopeFrancis  will meet with world leaders at the +United Nations Headquarters in New York. The UN building, located on the east side of Manhattan island is on the river about half way down this picture taken 18 Sept 2015 from the  #OrbitalPerspective of  astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together onboard the International Space Station. #TheKeyIsWe  Credit: NASA (Note: Contrast was added to this picture to bring out detail. Original here: http://bit.ly/1Kz1VSZ)

In a short while, #PopeFrancis  will meet with world leaders at the +United Nations Headquarters in New York. The UN building, located on the east side of Manhattan island is on the river about half way down this picture taken 18 Sept 2015 from the  #OrbitalPerspective of  astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together onboard the International Space Station. #TheKeyIsWe  Credit: NASA (Note: Contrast was added to this picture to bring out detail. Original here: http://bit.ly/1Kz1VSZ)___

posted image

2015-09-25 12:07:50 (9 comments; 3 reshares; 150 +1s)Open 

A bridge of clouds across the Red Sea.

A cloud bridge across the Red Sea. Photo from the  #OrbitalPerspective   of astronauts and cosmonauts living and working in space 22 September 2015. Credit: NASa___A bridge of clouds across the Red Sea.

posted image

2015-09-24 10:46:33 (11 comments; 23 reshares; 244 +1s)Open 

Solutions may seem obvious to many, but they are not easy. #TheKeyIsWe

On our minds from the #OrbitalPerspective  - The eastern Mediterranean Sea coast, Turkey, Syria and the humanity of humanity. Photo taken by Astronaut Karen Nyberg from the International Space Station, where astronauts and cosmonauts live and work together for the benefit of all on Earth.___Solutions may seem obvious to many, but they are not easy. #TheKeyIsWe

posted image

2015-09-23 17:33:26 (6 comments; 10 reshares; 136 +1s)Open 

Many of us can recognize parts of the Middle East, photographed earlier this week by a human living and working on the International Space Station as ship and crew from the United States, Russia and the Netherlands orbited the Earth. What do the astronauts themselves see?  Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud, one of a crew from the United States, France and Saudi Arablia who flew on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985: “On the first day, we all pointed to our countries. On the third day, we all pointed to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.” Image credit: +NASA 

Many of us can recognize parts of the Middle East, photographed earlier this week by a human living and working on the International Space Station as ship and crew from the United States, Russia and the Netherlands orbited the Earth. What do the astronauts themselves see?  Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud, one of a crew from the United States, France and Saudi Arablia who flew on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985: “On the first day, we all pointed to our countries. On the third day, we all pointed to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.” Image credit: +NASA ___

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