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Inside the IIJ :: Scholars Reflect on Success of SUSI and Post-Institute Activities (IIJ News)

By Kate Hiller

The Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media has called Athens, Ohio its home base for the last five years. Offered in the summer, this program brings 18 scholars from 18 different countries to the United States to …

Inside the IIJ :: Scholars Reflect on Success of SUSI and Post-Institute Plans (IIJ News)

The Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media has called Athens, Ohio its home base for the last five years. Offered in the summer, this program brings 18 scholars from 18 different countries to the United States to experience journa…

Scholars Reflect on Success of SUSI and Post-Institute Plans (IIJ Blog)

The Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media has called Athens, Ohio its home base for the last five years. Offered in the summer, this program brings 18 scholars from 18 different countries to the United States to experience journalism…

Remembering WWI in Europe (IIJ Blog)

Growing up in the United States, you learn throughout your childhood about World War II. I’ve done a class project that required me to speak to a living witness of the war. I’ve read countless books and have seen numerous movies romanticizing The G…

It’s a Woman’s World (IIJ Blog)

By: Zainab Kandeh 
Produced & Edited By: Olivia Harlow
At only 43 years old the United Arab Emirates may be one of the newest countries on the map but when it comes to empowering women they stand at the front of the line.

In September of 2014, Major Miriam Al Mansouri became the first female fighter pilot to fly an F-16 fighter jet in the UAE when she led an air strike against ISIL. While Major Al Mansouri’s achievement may open doors for more women in the military her success is a testament to the many successes enjoyed by women in the UAE.
© TheNational UAE
The UAE holds one of the world’s highest literacy rates for women, host women in high-ranking positions including government roles and advocates for the equal treatment of men and women. Though women have been called the backbone of society, popular media portrayals often cast a shadow over the advancement of women in the Middle East and often illustrate a story of oppression.
Words of Wisdom
Legal Consultant and co-founder of the Women Lawyers Group Middle East, Raya Abu Gulal said that while it is heartbreaking to here such misconceptions, it is important for people to remember that no one place is alike, especially in the Middle East.

“The world should understand that women in the Arab world have accomplished a lot,” Abu Gulal said. “First of all, women from the Middle East are different and they are not all the same. Different countries in the Middle East have different traditions and interpretation of religious matters.”
Islam and the veil that many women wear has also contributed to the notion that women in the Middle East are oppressed, however, Applied Communication Chair of the Higher Colleges of Technology’s Dubai Women’s College, Nada Altaher, said she hopes that people will learn to view the veil in another manner.
“I know that my veil sends different messages,” Altaher said.  “I am covering my head but I am not covering my mind.  Whatever I am wearing does not represent my personality and my thinking and who I am as a person. Despite all the differences, I think at the end of the day we’re all human and we should not be prejudice.”
Diversity and Opportunity
Boosting a population of over five million, the UAE is predominantly made up of expatriates.  According to the CIA, only 19 percent of the total populations are Emirati while Arab, Iranian, South Asian and other expatriates make up the majority of the population. Rich in more resources than just oil, the UAE is becoming a country of opportunity for expatriates looking for new experiences.

Australia native and Head of Corporate Communications at Supreme Group, Carissa Crowley, said that she very much appreciates the diversity that the UAE has to offer as well as the opportunities.
“Women occupy some very leading positions in the government,” Crowley said. “There’s a lot of female CEOs here and they’re very respected and I am not just talking about Emirati CEOs. There are a lot of Arab CEOs and Western CEOs in good positions and I think the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he really pushes women to be entrepreneurs and he pushes them to hold management positions. I think from a business perspective the [UAE] is full of opportunity. If you come here and you have education and ambition you can really make something. There’s a lot of government support for businesses to survive and to thrive.”
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
© Mina Liccione
One entrepreneur thriving from her business plan to bring joy to others is Dubai’s first lady of comedy, Mina Liccione. A native of New York City, Liccione, moved to Dubai in 2008 and soon after she and her husband opened the first comedy and urban arts school, Dubomedy Arts, in the Middle East and North African region. Though at first the idea of comedy was not well received after much persistence and determination, Liccione’s dream to help others smile has paid off. A multitalented artist and instructor, Liccione said that one of her greatest duties comes from empowering women through comedy.

“I was able to create the first comedy and urban arts school in the MENA Region and use my love for comedy as a tool to bring people of diverse cultural, religious and financial backgrounds together for a laugh all while empowering women’s comedic voices,” Liccione said. “I took a leap of faith in moving here because I believed I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build something meaningful. It’s not very often that women get a chance to talk about their flaws, and mistakes, in public. We naturally want to show our best self to the world. Comedy allows us to be honest and laugh about it!”
The Sky Is Not The Limit
Empowering one another is a common goal that many women in the UAE share. Assistant Manager of Knowledge Management, Hanan Al Muhairi, founded an organization called Arybana to do just that. In what translates to, Our Right to Ride, Arybana originally began as a female horse riding team but has now grown to become an non-profit organization focused on enriching the UAE community especially on Women’s issues.

Proud of her heritage as an Emirati woman, Al Muhairi said that with the great accomplishments that women in the UAE have made the future can only continue to get brighter.
© Hana Al Muhairi
“The UAE as a country has given women so many support that women now are lawyers, doctors, directors and even government ministers,” Al Muhairi said. “I would say nothing is impossible for Emirati women. If they have strong will and determination, for us, the sky is not the limit.”

Coffee in the Clouds and the Life Worth Living (IIJ Blog)

By: Chad WeismanProduced & Edited By: Zainab KandehKfir Shoshana shows up to Coffee Annan long before the first tour buses and day-trippers glide up the side of Mt. Bental to look eastward over the Valley of Tears. He flicks on the lights in the …

China’s Influence on Tanzania at the Foundation (IIJ Blog)

By: James RollerProduced & Edited By: Zainab KandehEarlier this year, China and Tanzania celebrated the 50th anniversary of the beginning of what has been described by Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete as, “mutual trust at bilateral and multila…

Idol Stars Inflate Japanese CD Sales (IIJ Blog)

By: William Hoffman
Produced and Edited by: Zainab Kandeh

Japan is known as a technological powerhouse in the international market, constantly innovating and introducing new and interesting gadgets. But when it comes to CD sales, the world’s second-largest music market looks like a blast from the past.

The New York Times reported earlier this year in September that CD sales, while in decline in Japan, still account for 85 percent of total music sales for the Japanese market. In the U.S., CDs account for only 20 percent of total market sales.

Idols Change The Market

A number of theories have been presented by The New York Times and follow ups from publications such as Fortune as to why this might be: a cultural affinity for tangible objects, poor wireless Internet speeds and an industry-wide resistance to new streaming services such as Spotify, Google Music and Beats.

While these are all contributing factors, Jennifer Matsue, an associate professor of music and anthropology at Union College in New York who is currently studying in Japan, sees a musical trend resurfacing from the 1980s — teen idols.

“The idols are booming again to everyone’s chagrin who considers themselves music connoisseurs,” Matsue said. “They are marketing characters, they have no identity themselves, their whole job is to sell other things. So, they can’t sing really well they can’t be very good actors they can’t be great dancers or else they alienate themselves from the consumers.”
AKB48, a popular Japanese group, has sold CDs containing tickets
to its performances, encouraging fans to buy multiple copies.
©Eugene Hoshiko/ Associated Press

These idols, or rather the teams behind them, have deployed some of the most brilliant marketing and management schemes devised in the music industry.

The most popular of these groups is AKB48, a 61-member group of women ranging from early teens to mid 20s. The concept of the group stems from the idea that fans can meet and talk to their favorite teen idols at a very accessible venue where they play nearly every night in cities around Japan.

AKB48 is popular, but its popularity is stacked by its marketing scheme — where fans can only receive tickets to shows if they buy a CD. There are even perks for additional purchases including a chance to meet, take photos with or shake the hands of idols.

“AKB48 even did a campaign where you could vote for your favorite member but you had to get the code that was in that CD to vote for your favorite member, so some people were buying 100 CDs,” Matsue said. “So sometimes these CD sales are not a reflection of the real popularity of the group.”

Virtual Idols Take Center Stage

Idols don’t even need to be a tangible person. Hatsune Miku, a digital hologram projection, is another popular idol who just made her debut to the U.S. market with a performance on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Crossing Into American Music Market

But Miku is the exception here, as most Japanese bands have had a hard time crossing over into an American music market.

A local indie-rock band, Moools, has been working for more than 15 years to get discovered even in a domestic market and sticks to “old-school” methods of promotion.

Hamamoto Ryo, guitarist for the band, said he’s not ready to move into the digital realm.

“I don’t like it … you press download and it’s in your PC or Apple computer and send it to your iPod and you forget where it came from,” Ryo said. “When you buy a CD or vinyl all the information comes with the music … I feel like I can appreciate the music more.”

For many it’s not an easy transition to make as Spotify, one of the world’s largest music streaming sites, has not yet been made available in Japan.

“The fact that international players in the subscription music distribution model have yet to commence services in Japan is a disadvantage to rights owners in Japan, as revenue from such services help to recoup some of the revenue lost to declining CD sales in other markets,” said Kay Yamaguchi, chief of international relations for Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC).

Clicks Mean Hits

However, there’s one music-streaming site that’s in operation in Japan and it’s the biggest of them all — YouTube.

While most idols have big marketing pushes behind them, another idol group, BabyMetal, said they’ve simply been letting the fans drive the group’s success.

“Actually to tell you the truth with BabyMetal it was never that we put out an ad in a magazine or on the billboard or on the TV or whatever, everything just kind of happened without anyone doing anything,” said KobaMetal, creator and producer of the idol group.

BabyMetal mixes metal and J-Pop for a blend of genres that KobaMetal hopes will come to define the Japanese metal musical vocabulary. It’s a message that is spreading quickly, as the band opened at the 2014 Sonisphere Festival in the UK headlined by Metallica and Iron Maiden and has enjoyed an opening slot on a number of Lady Gaga’s tour stops this year.

Its success is in large part because of the viral success of the band’s videos. One of which, “Gimme Chocolate,” has garnered 16 million views and spawned an edition of the popular series “YouTube Reacts,” where YouTube personalities talk and discuss videos.

Fans Get What They Pay For

Still, CD sales have a certain hold over the music market and remain expensive because of the premium features included in the package including extra songs, special DVD features and special art books.
Kimiaki Koinuma, an engineer, with CDs he bought
at Tower Records in Tokyo. “I buy around 3 CDs a
month”, he said. ©Hiroyuki Ito, New York Times

“They’re usually like $50 for 12-15 songs because they know people will pay for it,” said Andrew Spiga, an assistant language teacher in Sapporo, Japan and an avid music fan. “iTunes is really expensive here too, per song it’s like $3 or $4.”

No matter how good the technology gets, Matsue said there is a significant racial barrier that Asian musicians will have to overcome if they want to make it in a western music market.

“I think it’s purely racial, anglo-American markets, (while) it’s changed a lot, you don’t see a lot of Asian face in rock or pop,” Matsue said. “People aren’t associating Asian face with authentic rock.”

Czech Fears Escalation with Russia (IIJ Blog)

By: Caroline JamesProduced and edited by: Megan Laird Intricate architecture and eighteen bridges cross over the Vlatava River that cuts through the middle of Prague. Lauded as one of the most beautiful sites in the world, the ornate Charles Bridge gi…

Empowering South Africa’s Youthful Voices (IIJ Blog)

By: Jim RyanProduced & Edited by: Andrew DavisChildren’s Radio Foundation sheds light on issues facing South African youthWith a hint of nervousness, a young reporter approaches his subject — a South African author known for her children’s books…