In the aftermath of Qasem Soleimani’s killing, President Trump on Twitter threatened to attack 52 Iranian sites that are important to “the Iranian culture,” a threat that has drawn criticism and condemnation as “cultural cleansing” and an action in violation of international law.
Seema Golestaneh, professor of near Eastern studies at Cornell University, studies the anthropology of Islam and culture of Iran. She says threatening to attack cultural sites shows a lack of understanding of the Iranian peoples’ day-to-day lives.
“The threat to attack Iranian cultural sites is akin to threatening to bomb Notre Dame or the Sistine chapel. And to make such claims so cavalierly, without any regard for the deep emotional ties that people have with these sites, seems especially cruel.
“Some of these sites are not just tourist destinations but are still in heavy use and are woven into the fabric of their respective cities. For example, the bazaar of the Imam’s Square and the Khaju Bridge of Isfahan, which were built nearly four hundred years ago, are used by hundreds of thousands of people every day.
“The term ‘cultural heritage sites’ in a way seems to fall short to describe these places and things and their role in the popular imagination. They are ways of life, ways of understanding the self. The United States is a young country and perhaps it is hard to understand this deep affection. But outside of the loss of life, for Iranians, nothing could be more painful.”AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to Print
Cultural heritage expert available to discuss threats against Iranian cultural sites
Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock, assistant professor of community and regional planning at Iowa State University, is available to comment on threats against Iranian cultural sites. He is an expert on cultural heritage and historic preservation.
Grevstad-Nordbrock has drawn parallels between the threats against Iranian cultural sites and the “Baedeker Raids” by Nazi Germany in 1941-2. During these raids, German war planners used popular European travel guides (“Baedekers”) to identify cultural sites in UK cities for aerial bombardment. This was intended to shock and demoralize the British population. It was also a reprisal for the British bombing of historic cities in Germany’s north.
Grevstad-Nordbrock has conducted research of historic sites during times of armed conflict, in particular exploring how Allied governments protected historic sites in Europe from destruction during World War II, focusing on immoveable cultural heritage (historic buildings, archaeological sites) as opposed to moveable art objects (paintings, sculptures, etc.).
He has a Ph.D. in geography from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in historic preservation planning from Cornell University, a master’s degree in art history from the University of Wiconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UW-Madison. He had 25 years professional experience in historic preservation before coming to Iowa State.
For interviews, please contact Chelsea Davis at email@example.com or 515-294-4778.
An analysis by a Vanderbilt economist whose research focuses on fatality risks finds that the post-9/11 wars may have resulted in more than twice as many indirect deaths back home as were lost in battle. These indirect deaths are due to the diversion of war costs from the U.S. economy and the subsequent impact on the nation’s health.
“When a government spends $100 million on a war, it leaves its citizens $100 million poorer,” Viscusi said. “We know that during a recession, more people die. People have less money to spend on better nutrition, health care, safer products or living in a safer neighborhood. For much the same reason, war spending would have a similar effect by redirecting those dollars away from consumers.”
To examine the question, Viscusi first had to work out the total cost of war. The U.S. government estimates that the post-9/11 wars, which include military operations in other countries such as Syria and Pakistan in addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, have cost about $1.95 trillion. But, Viscusi said, those are just expenditures. To tell the whole story, you need to include the value of the lives lost in battle.
And in fact, a dollar value for these lives does exist—Viscusi invented it, and the government already uses it in its risk calculations. It’s called the “value of statistical life,” and it’s the average amount you would have to pay a group of 10,000 people to increase their risk of certain death from zero to one. It’s based on the hazard pay workers receive for dangerous jobs, and in the United States, at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the VSL was about $8.9 million. (Today it’s about $10 million.)
By multiplying the number of direct U.S. fatalities in the post-9/11 conflicts—10,371, by conservative government estimates—by the VSL, $8.9 million, Viscusi calculates that these war deaths are worth an additional $95.3 billion, bringing the total cost of these wars to $2.05 trillion.
War expenditures have an additional impact that causes deaths, Viscusi said, because money spent on war is diverted away from the U.S. economy, including everyday spending on well-being. In previous research, Viscusi has found that Americans spend about 10 cents out of every dollar on health and safety. His analysis shows that dividing the VSL by $0.10 results in what Viscusi calls the “mortality opportunity cost of expenditures.” That is, for every $89 million that we’ve spent on the post-9/11 wars, we would expect to see one additional, indirect death here at home.
This results in an additional 21,910 indirect deaths since 9/11 due to the diversion of war costs away from U.S. households, bringing the total toll to 32,619—more than three times the official government estimate.
“Every time we spend money on wars, we’re not spending that money on other things. There are actual costs to society,” Viscusi said. “So we have to ask ourselves, what are we losing because of that?”
On the morning of July 16, 1996, four employees of the Tardy Furniture store in downtown Winona, Mississippi, were shot in the head, their bodies left sprawled on the floor or slumped over the counter.
Seven months later, Curtis Flowers, an employee who had been fired from the store two weeks before the murders, was arrested and charged with the quadruple homicide. Flowers, 26 at the time, had no criminal record, and no forensic evidence linked him to the killings.
Yet six times over the next 14 years, the Montgomery County prosecutor, Doug Evans, tried Flowers, an African American who had grown up in Winona. The first three trials ended with a conviction and death sentence but were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court because of prosecutorial misconduct or because prospective jurors had been excluded based on their race. The next two were mistrials. In the sixth trial, Flowers was again convicted and sentenced to death.
Flowers wanted to appeal, and two Cornell Law School professors – Sheri Lynn Johnson and Keir Weyble – agreed to take over the case. Working with two students from the Law School’s capital punishment clinic, they took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 21, 2019, in a 7–2 decision, the court overturned the conviction. The justices concluded that Evans had violated the U.S. Constitution by repeatedly excluding African Americans during jury selection, using what is known as peremptory challenges.
While Flowers is still imprisoned and may face a seventh trial in Mississippi, the Supreme Court decision will have a significant impact on future cases dealing with racial bias in the selection of jurors, said John Blume, the Samuel F. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques and director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project. “I think the court,” Blume said, “is trying to send a message: ‘Don’t do this. … Don’t cheat to win.’”
Johnson, the James and Mark Flanagan Professor of Law, is a renowned expert on the interface of race and criminal procedure. And Weyble, clinical professor of law, is a nationally known expert in post-conviction litigation and has represented prisoners in capital cases across the South for more than 20 years.
Both were attracted to the case because of its focus on racial issues in jury selection and the sheer number of trials involved. “I’d never encountered another case that went to trial six times,” Weyble said. “That alone made my ears perk up.”
As they began researching the case, they found overwhelming evidence of racial discrimination: Out of the 43 African Americans in the jury pool for Flowers’ six trials, Evans rejected 41. And in the sixth trial, he struck five of six.
“The numbers are extraordinary,” Johnson said. “For whatever reason, Evans wanted a white jury and did whatever he could to get his white jury.”
They also found Evans used weak evidence in the case. For example, one witness could only identify the perpetrator as being African American and initially named someone else as the suspect, Johnson said.
“He only [identified] Mr. Flowers after there were various suggestive comments made,” Johnson said. “So a variety of factors made this an unreliable identification and in our view should have meant that the identification should not have gone to the jury at all.”
When the Mississippi Supreme Court reaffirmed Flowers’ conviction in his sixth trial, Johnson and Weyble appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the court sent the case back to the lower court.
As they prepared their second appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Johnson and Weyble enlisted Pablo Chapablanco, J.D. ’19, and Sam Macomber, J.D. ’20, students in the school’s capital punishment clinic. During the fall and spring of 2018-19, Chapablanco and Macomber worked late into the night, poring over the jury selection records and preparing a 600-page research document that would become an essential part of the arguments made to the Supreme Court. “They did extraordinary work on behalf of Curtis Flowers,” Johnson said.
When the team filed its petition to the Supreme Court, it focused on a single issue: whether the prosecutor deliberately used race to exclude prospective jurors in the sixth trial. They pointed to the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Batson v. Kentucky, where it ruled that prosecutors may not exclude jurors solely on the basis of race because it violates the 14th Amendment.
They also pointed to another hallmark of racial discrimination in jury selection: questioning potential jurors differently. While Evans asked both African Americans and whites about their relationships to Flowers and witnesses in the case, he asked only prospective African American jurors details about those relationships.
“The prosecutor dug very deep to find those potential biases in the jurors, but he did not ask those probing questions of white potential jurors,” said Macomber. “So the whole point was the prosecutor was striking jurors and giving some reason, and that was a pretext for race.”
On Nov. 2, 2018 – five months after the legal team had filed its petition – the Supreme Court agreed to hear Flowers’ appeal. The team had 40 business days to file the brief on the case.
While they had accumulated a set of written arguments over their six years of work on the case, preparing a brief for the Supreme Court “requires a deeper dive” on the key issues, Weyble said. They started a new brief from scratch. On Dec. 27, 2018, the team filed the brief, and began waiting for its day in court.
On the day of the hearing, Johnson presented her argument, focusing on the issue of racial bias. “The only plausible interpretation of all of the evidence viewed cumulatively is that Doug Evans began jury selection in Flowers VI with an unconstitutional end in mind, to seat as few African American jurors as he could,” she said.
Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked Johnson if she thought she would have a chance of winning the case solely on the basis of the striking of African American jurors in the sixth trial, without the history of the previous trials.
Over the course of the hourlong hearing, the questions from Kavanaugh and Alito surprised Johnson the most. “They’re very conservative justices, and so I would not have expected them to be sympathetic to any claim of a criminal defendant,” she said.
Before the hearing was over, Weyble said it was apparent that the decision would turn in their favor. “It seemed pretty clear early on in the argument that the court understood what was going on in the case,” he said.
When the decision was announced last June, neither Weyble nor Johnson was surprised that Kavanaugh had written it. In his 31-page decision, he wrote, “In sum, the state’s pattern of striking black prospective jurors persisted from Flowers’ first trial through Flowers’ sixth trial.” He concluded that “we break no new legal ground. We simply enforce and reinforce Batson by applying it to the extraordinary facts of this case.”
The Supreme Court sent the case back to Mississippi Supreme Court for “further proceedings”; the decision of whether to release Flowers or to try him yet again lies with Evans, the prosecutor. Evans hasn’t said whether he will try Flowers again but has stated he remains convinced Flowers is guilty.
If he does try Flowers again, however, he will have fewer witnesses to prove his case. In the past two years, a jailhouse informant who claimed that Flowers had confessed and a woman who claimed that she saw Flowers running from the murder scene have recanted their testimony.
“The case has certainly gotten much weaker in the nine years since it was tried last,” said Weyble, who, like Johnson, believes Flowers is innocent. “If I were a prosecutor, I would think pretty seriously about whether I’m just going to embarrass myself by trying this case again.”
Bill Nelson Edges Ahead of Rick Scott in U.S. Senate Race
In the wake of a mass shooting that took the lives of 17 students and
teachers at a South Florida high school, a vast majority of Floridians
support stricter gun laws, including a ban on assault-style rifles,
universal background checks and raising the minimum age for gun
purchasers, according to a statewide survey by the Florida Atlantic
University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI).
the political front, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has lost ground to Sen.
Bill Nelson in a U.S. Senate race hypothetical matchup. Although Scott
has not officially declared his candidacy for the seat currently held by
Nelson, the latest poll shows Nelson with a two-point lead over Scott,
40 to 38 percent. A poll FAU BEPI conducted at the beginning of February
showed Scott leading Nelson by 10 points.
“The bad news for Scott
is his A+ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) makes 44
percent of voters less likely to vote for him and only 26 percent more
likely,” said Monica Escaleras,
Ph.D., director of the BEPI. “A deeper dive into these numbers also
finds Independents less likely to vote for Scott, 43 to 17 percent,
because of his NRA rating.”
Additionally, Floridians disapprove of
U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to the recent mass shooting 49
to 34 percent. Republicans approve 62 to 20 percent, while Democrats
disapprove 73 to 16 percent, and Independents disapprove 53 to 23
Seven out of 10 voters want stricter gun laws while only
11 percent said laws should be less strict and 19 percent said laws
should be left as is. A majority of voters of every party affiliation
want stricter gun laws, with Democrats most in support at 84 percent,
followed by Independents at 69 percent and Republicans at 55 percent.
background checks for all gun buyers are supported by 87 percent of
voters, and there is no statistical difference based on party
affiliation. Nearly 4 of 5 voters (78 percent) support raising the
minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, while 69 percent support a
ban on assault-style rifles, with 23 percent opposed. A proposal to arm
teachers is opposed by 56 percent of voters and supported by only 31
percent, with Democrats opposing by a 74 to 16 percent margin,
Independents opposing 57 to 26 percent and Republicans supporting the
proposal 53 to 37 percent.
“Gun control may turn out to be a
pivotal issue in the midterm elections and could well be the difference
in a close race for the Senate between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson,” said
Ph.D., professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of
the Initiative. “While large majorities of Floridians support background
checks and an increase in the age requirement, it is not at all clear
that there is sufficient support for these measures in the Florida
legislature. As we are already late in the session, it will take a
serious push by Gov. Scott to pass any of these reforms this year.”
survey also found that 27 percent of voters have either been a victim
of gun violence themselves or know someone who has. Among African
American voters this number jumps to 51 percent, while only 22 percent
of whites and 24 percent of Hispanics have had this experience. Younger
voters are also more likely to have been a victim or know a victim of
gun violence, with 36 percent of voter’s age 18-34, 30 percent of age
35-54, 23 percent of age 55-74 and 9 percent of those over 75.
asked what they believe is the major contributor to mass shootings, the
availability of guns came in first with nearly 4 of 10 voters (39
percent), while 24 percent selected a lack of mental healthcare. Violent
themes on TV and video games came in third at 18 percent, while 14
percent said it’s something else. One-third of Republicans (33 percent)
said the lack of mental healthcare was a major contributor of gun
violence, while availability of guns was ranked as the major contributor
by Democrats (56 percent) and Independents (42 percent).
than 4 of 10 (41 percent) of voters in the survey own a gun. Republicans
(52 percent) are more likely to own a gun than Democrats (36 percent)
and Independents (33 percent).
“Independent voters are closer to
the Democrats than the Republicans on some of these gun control issues
in our poll. That could be a problem for Republicans in the fall,”
The survey, which polled 800 Florida registered voters Feb. 23-25, was conducted using an online sample supplied by Survey Sampling International using online questionnaires and via an automated telephone platform (IVR) using registered voter lists supplied by Aristotle, Inc.
The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
Responses for the entire sample were weighted to reflect the statewide
distribution of the Florida population. The polling results and full
cross-tabulations are available at www.business.fau.edu/bepi.
– FAU –
About FAU BEPI: The
Florida Atlantic University Business and Economic Polling Initiative
conducts surveys on business, economic, political and social issues with
a focus on Hispanic attitudes and opinions at regional, state and
national levels via planned monthly national surveys. The initiative
subscribes to the American Association of Public Opinion Research and is
a resource for public and private organizations, academic research and
media outlets. In addition, the initiative is designed to contribute to
the educational mission of the University by providing students with
valuable opportunities to enhance their educational experience by
designing and carrying out public opinion research.
About Florida Atlantic UniversityFlorida
Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors
in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the
University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more
than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its
six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class
teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the
Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business,
the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education,
the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College,
the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of
Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E.
Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity
institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of
critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging,
biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative
medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide
opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing
strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.
“Sorry Virginia, U.S. History Isn’t All About You!”
As the United States celebrates its founding on July 4, new research
on “collective narcissism” suggests many Americans have hugely
exaggerated notions about how much their home states helped to write the
“New research on collective narcissism suggests that residents of many American states, including Texas, have an inflated sense of their home state’s role in U.S. history. “
map of residents’ ratings of their state’s contributions to U.S.
history. Darker colors and higher percentages represent a larger
estimated contribution to U.S.
“Our study shows a massive narcissistic bias
in the way that people from the United States remember the contributions
of their home states to U.S. history,” said Henry L. “Roddy” Roediger,
professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences at
Washington University in St. Louis and senior author of the study.
The study, published June 24 in the journal Psychological Science,
is based on a national survey of nearly 4,000 U.S residents, including
about 50-60 respondents from each of the nation’s 50 states.
to estimate their home state’s contribution to U.S. history,
participants routinely gave their home state higher scores than those
provided by non-residents of the state.
“As we originally
hypothesized, the original 13 colonies, Texas and California showed high
levels of narcissism, but there were also some surprises,” said Adam
Putnam, the study’s first author and assistant professor of psychology
at Furman University in South Carolina. “For example, people from Kansas
and Wyoming thought much more of their state than nonresidents.”
narcissism — a phenomenon in which individuals show excessively high
regard for their own group — has been studied extensively in smaller
social circles, such as workplaces and communities. Psychologists have
explored the idea that people over-claim responsibility for shared tasks
for a long time, but this study is among the first to research its
effects among huge virtual groups of loosely connected individuals
scattered across entire states.
While it is difficult for anyone
to accurately estimate an individual state’s contribution to the
nation’s history, it is mathematically reasonable to expect the sum
total of individual state contributions to add up to a figure in the
vicinity of 100 percent.
Instead, the average percentage
contributions estimated by residents of each state in this study added
up to a staggering 907 percent, more than nine times higher than logic
Roediger grew up in Virginia and was not surprised that
his home state was on the high end of the continuum, claiming
responsibility for 41 percent of the nation’s history.
study U.S. history one year, then Virginia history the next. Many of the
events are the same: Jamestown, the Revolution, four of the first five
presidents being from Virginia, all the Civil War battles,” he recalls.
people in other states were asked about Virginia’s percentage
contribution to U.S. history, they also gave a high number: 24 percent.
an effort to see if state narcissism could be reduced by exposure to
the realities of U.S. history, researchers divided the sample into two
groups, requiring half to take a quiz designed to remind them of the
true breadth of U.S. history before they answered the relevant question.
The other half answered the question first, before they took the quiz.
However, placement of the question about how much the person’s state
contributed did not matter. The average across the 50 states was 18.1
percent whether the question was posed first or was placed last.
responses are even more amazing because we explicitly tell people in
the question that there are 50 states and the total contribution of all
states should equal 100 percent — even with that reminder Americans give
really high responses,” Putnam said. “Being reminded about the scope of
U.S. history before making the estimate doesn’t seem to lower the
Putnam, who earned a doctorate in psychology from
Washington University in 2015, has worked with Roediger on other studies
of collective narcissism, including a just-published paper that applies the same methodology to 35 nations around the globe.
study, which found that residents of Malaysia considered themselves
responsible for 39 percent of world history, has important implications
for how residents of these countries view one another and interact on
the world stage.
Roediger and Putnam offer several explanations
for the skewed perceptions uncovered in the study of collective
narcissism among residents of American states.
State of the union’s perception
Most humble states, according to the Narcissism Index: 1. Washington. Less than 1 percent (Tie) 2. Colorado. 1 percent Iowa Kentucky Mississippi 6. Arizona. 2 percent (T) 7. Alabama. 3 percent Maine Texas Utah (T) 11. Missouri, with 6 others. 4 percent
Most immodest states: (T) 1. Delaware, Virginia. 18 percent 3. Georgia. 15 percent (T) 4. Kansas. 12 percent Massachusetts Wyoming (T) 7. Idaho. 11 percent Louisiana New Jersey (T) 10. Rhode Island, Hawaii. 10 percent
starters, people know a lot more about their home state than other
states: they study state history in school, visit museums and so on. All
of this information comes to mind quickly and easily compared to
information about other states (a phenomenon known as the availability
A second factor is that social psychology research has
clearly shown that people like to associate with successful groups and
think of themselves as being slightly above-average on a variety of
Finally, people might not be particularly good at making quantitative estimates about small numbers.
most important take away from this research is that people may appear
to be egocentric or narcissistic about their own groups, but there isn’t
necessarily anything malicious or evil about it — it is just the way we
view the world,” Putnam said. “There is certainly concern about
tribalism in today’s culture, so this project is a nice reminder to try
and think about how people from different backgrounds see things.”