Charting the Future of Kirkuk
05/16/2007 - Voice of America (cir. )
Ivy League Crunch Brings New Cachet to Next Tier
05/16/2007 - New York Times (cir. 1,120,420)
Barkey Interview on C-SPAN
05/15/2007 - C-SPAN2 (cir. )
No contest in battle of the sexes
05/15/2007 - Plain Dealer (cir. 344,704)
Little Ben, the robot car, comes up big in contest
05/14/2007 - Philadelphia Inquirer (cir. 352,593)
Nerves of Steel
05/10/2007 - Star-Ledger (cir. 372,629)
Charting the Future of Kirkuk
05/16/2007 - Voice of America (cir. ) Return to Top
A recent Iraqi decision to implement a constitutionally-mandated plan on the status of Kirkuk has alarmed many among its ethnic minorities who fear the measure might be a step toward including Kirkuk as part of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
The plan, approved by the Iraqi national government in late March, is designed to reverse Saddam Hussein's Arabization policies ahead of a November vote to determine whether Kirkuk will join Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Analyst Soner Cagaptay of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy lauds the plan for correcting Saddam Hussein's injustices, but cautions that it could increase ethnic tensions.
"A crime of Saddam Hussein is being reversed, which is great. People who have been kicked out of the city are allowed to come back. But the second part of this is that people who are not among the original inhabitants are allowed to come back and they are changing the demographic balance. And the Iraqi government is encouraging Arabs settled in Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein to go back to where they came from," says Cagaptay. "But some of these people were settled in Kirkuk in the 1970s. In other words, for them Kirkuk is home. A lot of them were born in Kirkuk and there is really no place else for them to go. So this idea of encouraging people to return is suddenly going to create a lot of conflict."
Diversity and Balance
Arab, Christian and Turkmen residents charge that the plan alters Kirkuk's diverse ethnic character by turning it into a largely Kurdish city and could skew the referendum. They argue that the vote should be postponed. Kurdish leaders insist it should go ahead as planned.
While some analysts say Kirkuk's demographics have not changed much since 2003, others say more than 100-thousand Kurds have since moved in, making the Kurds the majority in a city of more than one-million people. Ethnic violence has increased in Kirkuk in recent weeks, and many analysts, including University of Michigan historian Juan Cole, fear more bloodshed in the coming months.
"There are Turkmen and Arab populations in Kirkuk who are not going to like living under Kurdish rule, who view the Peshmerga, the Kurdish para-military, as enemies. And I think there is going to be a lot of trouble about Kirkuk coming under Kurdish rule. And I think that if the referendum is held, it certainly will [come under Kurdish control]," says Cole.
Some analysts warn that the city's Arabs and Turkmen will likely boycott the referendum, leaving it to the Kurds to decide the ballot. And Soner Cagaptay of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy says these groups are forming new alliances ahead of the referendum.
"More and more people are now turning to violent groups, with the Sunni Turkmen and Sunni Arabs giving support to al-Qaida, and with the Shi'ite Turkmen and Shi'ite Arabs giving support to the Mehdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. That's why insisting on the referendum is not going to help the Kurdish cause, even though they [i.e., the Kurds] want to get the city," says Cagaptay.
Benefits of the Ballot
But the referendum, some experts argue, provides an opportunity to defuse tensions in a city that has been a source of friction for decades. And Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat and Kurdish affairs expert, expects the vote to take place with less violence than most analysts fear.
"The fundamental problem in any situation like this is that you have a referendum, and there are going to be people who are unhappy. If Kirkuk remains part of Arab Iraq, then the Kurds will be unhappy," says Galbraith. "If it becomes part of Kurdistan, then the Arabs and some of the Turkmen will be unhappy, although others of the Turkmen are very pro-Kurdish. So there's no way to win. But the Iraqi government is simply implementing the constitution."
But the International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann doubts that the Iraqi government will be able to hold the referendum this year.
"What would have to happen first is a completion of other elements of the reversal or Arabization, including the return of displaced Kirkukis, be they Kurds or Turkmen or of any other nationality, and also the return of districts that were severed from the Kirkuk governorate during Arabization and that would reintroduce large Kurdish populations into the Kirkuk governorate," says Hiltermann. "And then, according to the constitution, a census should take place in Kirkuk and then a referendum in which the population is to decide on the region's status. But none of this will probably be completed this year. So what we're facing is a train wreck, where one side insists on carrying out a referendum that nobody else wants, and the others claim that the referendum has a predetermined outcome that they reject out of hand."
Many observers say power-sharing among Kirkuk's various ethnic groups is the best way to avoid renewed conflict. That is why international affairs specialist Henri Barkey of Pennsylvania's Lehigh University
says it is likely that the referendum will be postponed.
"I am not saying this will not happen by the end of the year, but it's much better for the KRG --the Kurdistan Regional Government --and for the Kurds in general to say, 'Look, we're not ready. We will postpone this by six months or nine months.' And that will relieve some of the pressure that we are seeing now. But they are not going to say it now. They will wait until the summer is over and then we will see the situation on the ground," says Barkey.
If, however, the vote does not take place in November, some analysts warn the Kurds might withdraw from the national government, throwing Iraq into a political crisis that could endanger the gains it has made toward political stability.
This story was first broadcast on the English news program, VOA News Now. For other Focus reports click here.
Ivy League Crunch Brings New Cachet to Next Tier
05/16/2007 - New York Times (cir. 1,120,420) ll only be available through the next week).
No contest in battle of the sexes
05/15/2007 - Plain Dealer (cir. 344,704) Return to Top
Anyone who has had the misfortune of living with a group of guys, traveling with a group of guys or waiting five minutes in a Browns Stadium men's room line with a group of guys knows this one simple fact:
The genders are not equal.
Roughly half the population is human, and roughly half has no problem using a sink as a urinal.
To say women are simply better than men is obvious. To prove it, well, that's not so easy. But in honor of Mother's Day, we are going to try.
Are women smarter than men? They certainly are getting a better education. Fifty-eight percent of the 2006 freshman class at U.S. colleges and universities were women. Not only that, female college students have better graduation rates and get better grades than their male classmates. Earlier on in school, boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, or be suspended or expelled.
Women have 15 percent to 20 percent more gray brain matter -- where information is processed -- than men, according to Psychology Today.
Women are better than men at remembering things and finding things, such the items on a grocery list or the location of lost keys, according to researchers at the University of Florida.
Women are better bosses. A study by the Foundation for Future Leadership found that women perform better than men in 28 of 31 key management categories, such as meeting deadlines, generating ideas, improving productivity and recognizing new trends, the study said. One area where women trailed men: self-promotion.
"Any woman who thinks the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is aiming about 10 inches too high."
-- Adrienne Gusoff, writer
Women are better at investing money than men, according to research by Merrill Lynch. Women are less likely to stick with a losing investment. They are better at realizing when it's time to sell a winning investment, and they are almost half as likely as men to jump on a "hot stock tip" without doing any research.
Men and women believe that women are better kissers, according to a Match.com survey.
Women are better drivers than men. They drive slower, break fewer laws, and drink and drive less frequently. Women also are less likely than men to die in a car accident.
"Men can read maps better than women. Because only the male mind could conceive of one inch equaling a hundred miles."
-- Roseanne Barr, comedian
Despite the danger of childbirth, women live longer than men -- an average of seven years longer in developed countries. Men are simply the frailer sex and are more likely to die from accidents, suicide, AIDS, cancer, heart disease and a bunch of other stuff. Ninety-three percent of workers killed on the job are men. Out of the 72 major causes of death, only six affect women more than men: Alzheimer's disease, asthma, breast cancer, kidney infections, pregnancy/childbirth and rheumatic fever.
Nine out of 10 -- Number of centenarians who are women.
Women are better at selling cars than men. Even though just 8 percent of car dealerships are owned by women, they sell vehicles at a higher rate than those dealerships owned by men.
Males aren't always necessary. The mourning gecko, an all-female species of lizard that lives in Hawaii and parts of the South Pacific, lays eggs and reproduces without the help of males.
95-Percent of people who believe that women are better gift-wrappers than men.
"Player for player, women are better at poker than men," World Poker Tour creator Steve Lipscomb told The San Diego Union-Tribune. The reason, he says, is that men get distracted when a woman sits at the table. "Particularly if there's a little bit of exposed cleavage."
Women are cleaner than men. A 2005 study by the American Society of Microbiology revealed that 90 percent of women and only 75 percent of men wash their hands after using the toilet.
"A study in The Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: Duh.' "
-- Conan O'Brien, comedian and talk-show host
women are better at talking to babies than men. Women know better the vocal patterns to which babies respond. Women's speech patterns are also clearer than men, according to researchers at Lehigh University
Women are better tasters than men and on average have more taste buds on their tongues. Two-thirds of supertasters -- the segment of the population with a heightened sense of taste -- are women. Women also have a keener sense of smell.
Women behave better than men. Male inmates outnumber female inmates 8-to-1 in U.S. jails and prisons.
The idea of a woman's intuition is hardly folklore. Research has shown that women are better at detecting lies than men and are more able to pick up on subtle clues. For instance, they are better able than men to tell if a man and a woman pictured in a photo are romantically involved.
"We're intellectual opposites. I'm intellectual, and you're opposite."
-- Mae West, actress
Additional sources: The (London) Independent; "Women Know Everything!" by Karen Weekes; USA Today; Salon.com; Time; Washington Times; Sacramento Bee; Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times Leader; Automotive News; American Society of Microbiology; Dallas Morning News; Salt Lake Tribune; U.S. Department of Justice; Los Angeles Times; New York Post; Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal.
Little Ben, the robot car, comes up big in contest
05/14/2007 - Philadelphia Inquirer (cir. 352,593) Return to Top
Little Ben passed his screen test.
Ben, a Toyota Prius customized by students at the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University
, is one of 53 entries advancing to the next round of an international robot-car competition.
The Penn-Lehigh team learned it had made the cut on Friday after submitting video of the car in action to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Other teams still in the game include Princeton University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon - which partnered with the General Motors and Caterpillar corporations.
Moorestown resident Mike Selzler, a software developer who was working on an entry all by himself, dropped out.
"I ran out of time and money," he said.
The DARPA Urban Challenge will be held Nov. 3 at a still-secret location in the American West. The unmanned vehicles must complete a 60-mile course, navigating with lasers, cameras and other onboard sensors - and no input from their human handlers.
Little Ben's journey has not been without hardship. A day after a winter storm in February, the car was struck by ice that fell from a rooftop. Students heard the ice starting to fall and ran to safety in time, but both the hood and windshield had to be replaced, said team adviser Dan Lee, an associate engineering professor at Penn.
Over the summer, race officials will be making site visits to Little Ben and others among the original 89 entrants whose videos passed muster. Semifinalists are to be announced in August; finalists will emerge from a qualification event in October.
Lee says his team still has a lot to do. With only 10 core members, including two from sponsor Lockheed Martin, the Penn-Lehigh team is less than half the size of some.
"This is a big project," Lee says. "We've got our work cut out for us."
See video and more about Little Ben at http://go.philly.com/science.
Nerves of Steel
05/10/2007 - Star-Ledger (cir. 372,629) Return to Top
There was a time when most people growing up in the Lehigh Valley went to work at the enormous steel plant headquartered here.
But those days have gone the way of, well, the steel mill. The second-largest of its kind nationally in its heyday, the mill's shutdown nearly a decade ago left the area looking for another economic engine.
Now Bethlehem is ready to take a gamble on its future. Literally.
On Monday, construction workers here will break ground on the city's own gambling hall, located on the old steel mill property and expected to open late next year.
It will mark Pennsylvania's latest bid to woo gamblers away from Atlantic City. Four slot parlors have opened in the state since late last year and at least a half-dozen will be open on New Jersey's border by next year.
"There's a very real and palpable spirit in this community, a sense of resilience and can-do," said Mayor John B. Callahan, a 37-year-old native of Bethlehem and married father of three who once worked for Pfizer. "It's rooted in the city's blue-collar ethic."
The location - a few miles off Interstate 78 and a mere dozen miles over the border from New Jersey - makes it a sure thing, Callahan said. He points to the fact that high-population areas like Elizabeth, Hackensack, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson and Trenton are all closer to Bethlehem than Atlantic City.
The casino will open with 3,000 slot machines (not video lottery terminals). By the summer of 2009, plans call for an additional 2,000 slot machines, a 300-room hotel, retail space, restaurants and a convention center. The National Museum of Industrial History will be part of the project, too.
Preserving as much of the steel mill as possible was a condition from the outset when the city awarded the contract to Las Vegas Sands, the largest international gambling company in the world by market value. Close to two dozen buildings will be saved and incorporated into the $600 million redevelopment. Among them are a massive row of 20-story blast furnaces and Machine Shop No. 2, once the largest industrial facility under a single roof in the world. Almost a dozen structures will be lost.
The city is banking on a guaranteed $8.7 million annually in casino revenues to "stabilize city finances."
"There was never what you would call a depression here," said Dale Korchard, a former businessman who serves as executive director of Lehigh University
's Community and Regional Office, an outreach program. "There was a slow decline over the late 1900s, but then a lot of small businesses came in and grew."
Olympus, LSI Logic and B. Braun Medical are but a few of the bigger companies that have set up shop here in recent years, while the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park in Bethlehem has generated 25,000 jobs over the last 40 years and continues to grow. And the area also has started to attract small high-tech firms, such as computer chip and optic companies.
The addition of the casino, and all that comes with it, has left the city's 73,000 residents with mixed feelings.
Some look forward to the hundreds of jobs and money the casino will generate, but others expressed fear over the potential for rising traffic congestion, increasing crime and losing the small-town feel.
Genaro Alvarez, a 72-year-old lifelong resident who worked at Bethlehem Steel for 30 years in different laborer's jobs, said he can't wait to spend time at the casino. His father, an immigrant from Mexico, worked at the factory, too.
"It's finished, gone," Alvarez said of the city's connection to a past that saw Bethlehem Steel craft the framework for many Manhattan skyscrapers, the Golden Gate Bridge and numerous ships. "The town needs a little change."
Known as "the mayor" in his South Bethlehem neighborhood, Alvarez said he believes the city can accommodate a casino the way it once handled a round-the-clock steel mill. He recalled the time when city streets were so busy it was difficult to find space on the sidewalks some nights.
Callahan said streets probably will need to be widened and other accommodations made.
Mark Gutierrez, who owns an auto repair and body shop with his father within a stone's throw of the proposed casino, said businesses were more inclined to favor the gaming parlor than residents. He's mulling over starting up a towing service he thinks the casino might need.
Gutierrez, 35, envisioned the casino leading to rising property values, though he acknowledged that could hurt the many renters in the area.
Steve Grace, who makes and sells handicrafts at the New Street Folk Shoppe in North Bethlehem's historic district, said businesses expecting to make a killing off the casino crowd were fooling themselves.
"Those people obviously haven't been to Las Vegas or Atlantic City where the casinos are built so customers don't leave the property," he said. "Somebody who hits a million-dollar jackpot might stop to buy a red car on the way home rather than take the bus, but that'll be about it."
Grace also said Bethlehem has been plagued by a rash of robberies lately that could only get worse when the casino arrives.
Preston Lee, a Bethlehem resident who's lived in the Lehigh Valley his entire life, said he feared the area around the casino wouldn't profit at all from the gambling revenue, much like the neighborhood close to the betting parlors in Atlantic City.
"Who do the casinos benefit?" he asked, then answered his own question. "The people who own them."
Callahan did not disagree there could have been other uses for the property, saying the city's decision to pursue a casino wasn't rooted in panic.
"This wasn't an act of desperation on the part of a desperate community," he said." This is a healthy community."
Guy Sterling may be reached at email@example.com or (973) 392-4088.