It’s about IRAN but not really – it’s about the picture


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It doesn’t happen often, but this is a post about Iran that’s not really about Iran and their nuclear programme or infuriating human rights record.


this is about a picture Reuters took and the text Ha’aretz put on it:

It’s Barak Ravid’s latest on the (admittedly) intense and highly important P5+1 talks in geneva (so it’s worth a read as well)

Geneva || Kerry, Ashton, and Zarif in critical meeting on Iran’s nuclear program

France: Arak reactor, 20 percent enriched uranium stock stand in way of agreement with Iran.


But take a look:

Kerry, Ashton, Zarif in Geneva - Reuters

Photo: Reuters

the text reads:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva November 9, 2013. 

What’s wrong with that, you think. Nothing is wrong, except the sin of omission.

I think we can all recognise Kerry, Ashton and Zarif by now. But why not mention BY NAME AND TITLE the two women?

They are at the table, literally, so give them room in the photo credits. Say “This is Undersecretary Wendy Sherman of the US (to the far left) and then Kerry, then Helga Schmid of the EU, then Ashton, then – i don’t know this man (it doens’t look like Michael Mann, Ashton’s spox. and he had a very similar pic on his twitter which could mean he took it) – then Zarif.

And before you say: why does this matter? at all? the 3 main players are pointed out, i’ll just say this: helping people to correctly identify female leaders on pictures is important. it tells us they matter. you may or may not like the path of the nuclear negotiations, but the fact that some very high level female diplomats are centrally involved is a good thing. so let us familiarize ourselves with them.

I am on to this because in the summer, I was sending Vera a picture of a meeting in the White House. the President was at the end of the table, and sorrounded by men. there was ONE women there. and she was passing along food. As I wrote Vera “she’s in the room, so she HAS to be important. but why don’t i know her? and why isn’t her name mentioned in the caps?!”

Turns out, it was Nancy Pelosi. Vera recognised her in profile (see Vera, you ARE american now!) and I didn’t. and i spend a lot of time dealing with american politics and as you know, i am kinda a big feminist. and make a point of actively paying attention to female politicians (seldomly agreeing with them on all points). And it was sad i didn’t ‘get the picture’.

This one, i *do* get. But how many average Ha’aretz readers do? Reuters? Seize the small chances for education for gender equality, seize them!

And i hope that if anyone signs anything in Geneva tonight, it includes a capping of Iran’s installing of centrifuges. Since that’s what will prevent a nuclear weapon. Not limiting 20% enriched uranium. Says I. but that’s a different post.


a great initiative – and hillary is so running for president


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This is a multi-post….

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks on stage at the Pennsylvania Conference For Women 2013 at Philadelphia Convention Center on November 1, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(photo: Lisa Lake / Getty Images)

It is to alert you to the new NoCeilings project from the CLINTON FOUNDATION. More below.

And it’s to toot our own horn and say: Remember in the spring, when I wrote about Hillary and the 2016-buzz. and that if she gets herself a real job, she’s prob not running for office (read: White House take over and history making). But if she simply joins bill at the clinton foundation, it’s a pretty clear sign she’s going to run.

well – she’s squarely at the family foundation. and using it to promote her own issues (hear hear) and *not* setting up shop independently. so – announce already madame secretary.

Ok, back to the #NoCeilings

No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project is an effort led by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Clinton Foundation to bring together partner organizations to evaluate and share the progress women and girls have made in the 20 years since the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This new effort will help chart the path forward to accelerate full participation for women and girls in the 21st century. The full participation of women and girls is critical to global progress, development, and security.

This will be exciting to follow!

I am not alone in linking this to 2016. WashPost Blog:

Of course, no move that Clinton makes can be viewed outside the speculation about her 2016 plans. And the title she has chosen for this work evokes the best line of the best speech of her 2008 presidential campaign—the one in which she dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination and threw her support to Barack Obama.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” Clinton said then. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”

The project will be framed around the 20th anniversary in 2015 of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, at which the then-first lady memorably said that “women’s rights are human rights.”

Also, linking it  – literally (the website links to a separate blog post about Hillary’s 1995 Beijing Speech) – to Hillary’s seminal remarks that “women’s rights are human rights” is playing to Hillary’s strength, and statesmanship (she really was the Boss in Beijing)

By now, i only worry that this is going to be a time of hyper-correction. You know, when children learn to speak they hyper-correct, meaning they over-do it. Hillary’s failed Presidential Campaign was widely criticised for NOT talking about women’s rights and not letting her appeal openly to the female voters. Right now it looks like ALL her campaign (because yes, she’s campaigning) is doing is talking about women.

Yes, it’s tricky. too much is over the top, and too little is not enough. So here’s to hoping they’ll find the balance soon. I actually really want to hear what she thinks about Syria (when she’s not nicely backing Obama to be a good sport when the leaks show she wanted intervention last year, and the President vetoed it) or Iran and their nuclear ambitions. Or what about China? and the debt ceiling….

The Four Justices


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We’ve enjoyed moments of humor provided by the women of the Supreme Court.

The Four Justices by Nelson Shanks

The Four Justices by Nelson Shanks

Now, they’re getting their portrait shown in the National Portrait Gallery. Here’s the description:

A major step in women’s struggle for equality came on March 3, 1879, when Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. In the 1940s, distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Court, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination.
In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor (born 1930) became the first woman to serve on the Court. O’Connor, a graduate of Stanford Law School, was serving on the Arizona Court of Appeals when President Ronald Reagan nominated her as an associate justice. O’Connor retired from the Court in 2006.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933) graduated from Columbia Law School. She was serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia when President Bill Clinton nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1993.
Sonia Sotomayor (born 1954) received her J.D. from Yale Law School. She was serving on the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, when President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice in 2009. She became the first Latino to sit on the Supreme Court.
Elena Kagan (born 1960) graduated from Harvard Law School. She was President Obama’s solicitor general when the president nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2010.
Nelson Shanks was commissioned to create this portrait to recognize the accomplishments of all four justices. He has drawn on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture for his composition, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

Sophia, it’s time for you to return to America so we can go the the Portrait Gallery and Seneca Falls.

Grad school, as explained by Isaac Asimov


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I’m working on a longer blog post about the World Bank, West Bank, and grad school, but I called my older, PhD brother today at midnight to complain about grad school and wanted to share something that’s been bothering me. I have a presentation on Tuesday on transitional justice, with Rwanda as the case study. Most of the articles I’ve read, the interviews of officials I’ve watched, and the documentaries I’ve spent hours slogging through trying to make sense of the nitty-gritty details were not as detailed as an article I’d just run into and I was concerned the scholar may have been a bit too eager to draw conclusions.

I also callecoverd to just complain about my transition from practitioner and researcher back to academic, and that grad school makes me feel as though I’m living in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Why? This:

Foundation, the first installment in Asimov’s series by the same name, is a dystopian novel about a galactic empire which has declined to the point that near-anarchy reigns among the planets (yes, I’m a gigantic nerd, but Asimov is someone you really must read). There’s an excerpt that has always stuck in my mind:

From Foundation, Part II The Encyclopedists, Chapter 4

Hardin, mayor of Terminus City, talking to a “scholar” Lord Dorwin (who has a bit of a speech impediment) about the search for the planet on which the human species began:

Hardin remained silent for a short while. Then he said, “When did Lameth write his book?”

“Oh – I should say about eight hundwed yeahs ago. Of cohse, he has based it lahgely on the pwevious wuhk of Gleen.”

“Then why rely on him? Why not go to Arcturus and study the remains for yourself?”

Lord Dorwin raised his eyebrows and took a pinch of snuff hurriedly. “Why, whatevah foah, my deah fellow?”

“To get the information firsthand, of course.”

“But wheah’s the necessity? It seems an uncommonly woundabout and hopelessly wigmawolish method of getting anywheahs. Look heah, now, I’ve got the wuhks of all the old mastahs – the gweat ahchaeologists of the past. I wigh them against each othah – balance the disagweements – analyze the conflicting statements – decide which is pwobably cowwect –and come to a conclusion. That is the scientific method. At least” – patronizingly –”as I see it. How insuffewably cwude it would be to go to Ahctuwus, oah to Sol, foah instance, and blundah about, when the old mastahs have covahed the gwound so much moah effectually than we could possibly hope to do.”

Hardin murmured politely, “I see.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the conversation I sometimes fall into in grad school. The professors are great. Many of them have incredible field experience. It’s just.. sometimes.. just because some dude wrote something down on a paper doesn’t mean it’s correct, or that it’ll work. Fellow student, the professor is not giving us these articles because we’re supposed to parrot them. Think a little, friends.


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A friend of the Gates, has guest blogged over at The Eloquent Woman’s blog (one of our favorite spots in the Innernetz).


(I don’t know who owns this picture)

In the piece, she analyses an old speech from the suffrage movement (insert teh battle-cry DEEDS NOT WORDS)

We like! Here are her three tips to women speaking in public:

  • When you speak, speak: Her style flows briskly, with long sentences and little variation in the vocabulary. This makes it sound at times almost like an extempore speech, especially in the passages where she is exhilarated: “But now, now we must rejoice, now the sunbeam has returned, and with greater truth than the first time, since now all women and all servants have been included, so that we now in truth can sing: This day – the 5th of June 1915 – will be celebrated by the blue flowers of the field and by the Danish women”. However, the clear structure of the metaphors and the sharp focus indicate that the speaker had planned what she wanted to say. The oratorical style draws the audience in, making it clear that they are being directly addressed and not merely having a paper read to them.

  • Build bridges to opponents: Bojsen-Møller and her movement won the battle as well as the war. But she ends with a strong call for unity as the nation moves forward with the new Constitution. She does so by both acknowledging the opposition (“It is probably the women who are the happiest with the new Constitution”), and clearly appealing to shared values, namely God, King and country. These are also traditional conservative values, and she references them implicitly and explicitly, quoting famous theologians as well as male opinion makers and her own father; speaking respectfully of the late king who signed the first Constitution; and mentioning God when saying women “are sinners just like the men.” Again and again she emphasises that this great day is for Denmark as a whole, and that what matters now is the country. The very last sentence reads like a prayer “King of kings, only you can guard the land of our fathers.”

  • Use the setting: The physical surroundings in which a speech is delivered matter, and can help you illustrate abstract points if you mention the setting to your audience, and provide them with your own interpretation. The ceremonial genre of speeches is an especially good format to play on the blurred lines between the conceptual space your words create and the actual space in which you deliver them. Bojsen-Møller mentions “this mountain”, the present locality, several times, and uses a story of another mountain as a metaphor when she speaks of the struggle to climb the mountain and achieve the goal: “the new Constitution was ratified.” After the speech, the audience had to walk up the steep hill, in the heat of June, wearing their festive – and heavy – clothes. Bojsen-Møller’s words and imagery of labouring to ascend would very likely have echoed in their ears, reminding them of the political struggle that had just been won. This way, the words’ meaning transcended the speech itself.



Read the full post here



the shutdown – in pop culture


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I think Vera needs to blog about the Shutdown. And I dare her to do it WITHOUT linking to the relevant West Wing scenes…

Wait – you know what? I’ll blog about the pop-culture-hype and Vera can analyse it. Fair division of labour…

I present to you:

Item One of Awesomeness —

background: The West Wing has an episode(s) in season 5 dealing with a shutdown. If you are interested in politics and you are on social media, you have already seen all the clips. because it was a youtube fest for us all when life imitated art, only it’s not as greatly scripted as on TV. plus, you know, actual real people are deeply affected by this. but back to pop culture!

In a central scene (watch it here – no, i am not embedding, because I am bringing you NEW things below) the Democratic President – having ordered the gov’t to shutdown in a standoff with the Republic Speaker – walks to the Hill. And sits and waits outside the GOP leadership’s office, with the entire press covering it. signalling readiness to lead by being willing to negotiate. The Speaker can’t get his act together, overplays his hand and the President gets up an leaves, winning the public over to his side.

Meanwhile, in real life: Someone at the GOP thought they could reverse this, and tweeted a picture of the Republicans sitting and waiting, ready to lead etc.

but then – obviously and gloriously – EMILY’s LIST (I really like that organisation. and not because fictional rock stars CJ Cregg and Diane Lockhart worked for them. but that kinda exemplifies how great they are – familiarise yourself with their work here) ripped into them, retweeting Laura Bassett and promoting it all over the itnernetz…

you see, the GOP leadership is… well… have a look


Also, don’t be so freakin’ obvious in your West Wing inverted references. It’s not going to work.

Item Two of Awesomeness —

 There’s a funky place in DC called  Sixth & I (it’s a  synagogue, as well. i mean, there’s a synagogue there. it’s a street address [see — I learned local stuff when I was in DC this summer! they were too busy apparently with they bi-party bi-chamber legislative system to actually NAME the streets of the capital. so it’s all letters and numbers])

Look what cool things these people decided to do: (this an article from the website

Sixth & I Will Open ‘Shutdown Central,’ Stream The West Wing

For those who will be temporarily out of work because of the federal government shutdown (which seems pretty inevitable, regardless of what the President says), Sixth & I will offer a type of adult daycare to foster a sense of community and give these “nonessential” workers a place to pass the time.

Throughout the day, there will be Political Ping Pong (red versus blue, with photos of certain government officials on the paddles), bipartisan board games, reading materials, constant streaming of The West Wing, and an informal meeting space with all of the essentials for non-essentials—free coffee, food, and Wifi. If the shutdown drags on, Sixth & I hopes that Shutdown Central will evolve into a community incubator. Anyone who comes is welcome to lead a short session in the area of his/her expertise (i.e. teach yoga, share social media best practices), collaborate with a fellow furloughed employee, or any other activity to help turn an opportunity loss into something substantial.

That makes the shutdown sound pretty great, truth be told. ”

The Sixt&I peeps then tweeted at the DCIST editors that they were welcome too:

We’re not cutting anyone out. Anyone and everyone is welcome at Shutdown Central, even @dcist editors.

Oh, all that love!

This second item was brought to my attention by a friend who used to work in DC and stays on top of things there. I tip my hat to you A 🙂

the Great Divide


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sure, most things are cultural constructs. such as measurements for time / heat / cold / space / volume.

It sometimes makes communication with people from other realms harder.

and you can either become “bi-lingual” in measurements, or adopt a blase attitude a la this one

meme nobody cares dont care minerva mcgonagall harry potter image macro

(meme virtue of the “Nobody Cares” blog)

Because she thought I wouldn’t (ha!), I am posting here below snippets from WhatsApp conversation between the Ladies of the Gates.

Vera: Dude, it’s freezing here! it’s like 35 degrees!

Sophia: that’s not cold!

Vera: Fahrenheit

Sophia: ah. what’s that in real degrees celsius?

Vera: how would I know. I don’t care about your degrees

Sophia: I’m telling you, blisters! Had to walk three kilometres

Vera: and that’s far, right?

Sophia: ??

Vera: What’s it in miles?

Sophia: No clue. I srsl don’t care about your miles

Vera: baking! so happy! but recipe is Israeli 😦

Sophia: I fail to see the need for a sad face. these are all good things

Vera: don’t know how much 180 * C for the oven is…

Sophia: ha! serves you right for not caring about my degrees

Sophia: does a bill become a law in the US after passing the House of Reps or the Senate

Vera: Senate. why?

Sophia: you and your bi-chamber legislature! #confusing

Vera: #democracy

Sophia: but Y U have weird political system? ONE chamber = enough

Vera: You really care?

Sophia: nope. will care later. when i am preparing for meetings in DC

Vera: fair

Vera: lady, we need to talk about centimeters?

Sophia: what about them? and it’s metres.

Vera: they confuse me. what’s 10 centimeters in normal measurements.

Sophia: in inches? i don’t care about your inches.

Sophia: New York is HOT! i mean – yak. it’s worse than Tel Aviv! I thought people were kidding when they told me it’s be disgusting in the summer!

Vera: what’s the temp?

Sophia: 28 and humid!

Vera: F?

Sophia: Celsious… oh don’t even…


Vera: How tall am I?

Sophia: please tell me you know that!

Vera: no, I mean, here in israel. in your freakish measurements

Sophia: lol. I don’t know. You are shorter than 165 cm…

Sophia: what’s oz? i mean, not the place dorothy went. for food. cooking – cookbook from ‘Merica!!

Vera: karmic revenge for mocking me when I needed dl converted

Sophia: this i realise.

Vera: realizzzzzzzzzzzzze. LMGTFY

Sophia: many thanks. You care about my decilitres?

Vera: not really. no.

and so on, and so forth. And I have naturally censored the conversations about clothes, underwear and shoes…

This may come back to haunt me when I apply for a job at the UN. Prospective employer googling me: I promise to 1) get an app that converts all these units instantanously. 2) Promise that all mocking of other culture’s measurements is something I only do with really close friends!

Syria tragedy a turning point for West


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relevant and timely thoughts…

Global Public Square

By Nawaf Obaid and Jamal Khashoggi, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Nawaf Obaid is a fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Jamal Khashoggi is the editor in chief of the Al Arab Satellite News Channel. The views expressed are their own.

While the U.S. media spends countless hours discussing the vagaries of American non-involvement in Syria, little is being said about the conflict’s ramifications for the stability, borders and realpolitik of the Middle East – or the changing role of outside nations in the region’s affairs. Yet there are massive, historic and intensely important implications that we need to understand. Indeed, the Syrian civil war is but a catalyst for numerous shifts taking place in the regional and global power structure.

First and foremost, the Syrian tragedy is a turning point in the long established tradition of Western intervention in the Middle East…

View original post 883 more words

Syria: when Buzzfeed randomly brings you hard news


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So, Vera and I frequently send each other buzzfeed lists. Because yes, it’s relevant to laugh (now across the Atlantic – we are still getting used to being separated by an ocean and many time zones) together.

Some high lights include

19 Side Effects Of Majoring In Political Science

(Vera find #4 very relevant. then again, don’t we all? and Sophia feels #( and #11 often describe her day after meetings with officials)

Another beloved list is

What British People Say, Versus What They Mean

it’s funny because it’s true. and we should know – we are not British, but work with them. and some of our best friends are Brits. really!

(not to mention, Sophia was breed on British TV comedy. Ahhh, the life of a European)

In other words – I tend to think of BuzzFeed as a market place of randomness, often tame and self-absorbed but with sparks of excellent wit.

Then from time to time – BAM – hard news! Like this list by Sheera Frenkel

We don’t know where they are kept.

(graphic: BuzzFeed)

7 Reasons Destroying Syria’s Chemical Weapons Will Be A Lot Harder Than You Think

it details the whole complexity in a sassy manner – up to par with for example the New York Times article on the same topic from last week (“Chemical Disarmament Hard Even in Peacetime“, NYT, Sep. 10, 2013)

The BuzzFeed bite-size list in headlines (full text via link above)

We don’t know what kind of chemical weapons they have or how many there are

We don’t know how they are stored.

We don’t know where they are kept.

 Syria is currently in the middle of a raging civil war

Destroying chemical weapons costs a lot and takes a long time

Actually destroying the weapons is an incredibly painstaking, technically complex process, involving robots

Given all this, experts disagree whether it’s really possible — or practical — to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.



good luck to us all 😦 at least we have inforgraphics…

A Modern CJ Cregg-In-Training?


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Twitter invited me to watch the State Department Briefing today. So I did. I had the opportunity to watch a Ms. Marie Herf handle the journalist pool and, I must say, I was impressed. So I did the logical 21st century thing and did a bit of online stalking. I found out she’s a friend of a friend of mine who worked the Obama reelection campaign. So of course, I told him of my girl crush and he promised to pass it on, proof, ladies and gentlemen, that the whole world is a tiny place, not just Israel.

You can (and should) watch Ms. Herf in the video here. It takes only a couple minutes of watching to fully grasp her awesomeness.

She comes in with a big binder and can be a bit stiff, but she’s only 32 and started the job relatively recently. I’m excited to see her come into her own and get into a groove behind the podium. I’m sure she’ll do big things.

As a powerful young woman in control and walking the halls of power, Ms. Harf definitely gets the AtGotC Seal of Approval.

…that’s the second or third I’ve handed out. I think it’s time for a little photoshopping.