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The Strauss Center is very pleased to announce the call for applications for the 2020-2021 Brumley Next Generation Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Scholars programs. These unique opportunities provide research training and mentorships to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. The program is made possible by the generous support of Jon and Rebecca Brumley. 

Joshua Busby, Distinguished Scholar at the Strauss Center, co-wrote a working paper on “Elite Misperceptions and the Domestic Politics of Conflict.” In his essay, he argues that for public opinion to shape foreign policy, the public must be aware of foreign policy, and policymakers must be aware of public opinion. Democratic states conduct themselves fundamentally differently in both conflict and cooperation precisely because their leaders can be held accountable by the public at large, with incentives for representing the public will ranging from the direct effect of the ballot box, to indirect effects channeled through legislators and the media. However, little scholarship has been devoted to whether leaders correctly perceive public preferences.

Stephanie Leutert, Director of the Central America/Mexico Policy Initiative at the Strauss Center, participated in a recent panel on the state of emigration from Central America and immigration reform. Panel members discussed the push and pull factors for migration, the smuggling industry surrounding this migration, and the current humanitarian crisis at the border.

The panel was presented by Cátedra Ernesto Cardenal, a UT initiative which sponsors an annual event highlighting Central America. Other panel members included Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue, a nonprofit that supports democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean. The panel was facilitated by Gordon Dee Smith, advisory council member of the UT Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies and the Benson Library.

Read the full article here.

Dr. Michael Webber, a Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar, is the Josey Centennial Professor of Energy Resources and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Webber’s book— Thirst for Power— was recently turned into a documentary, which was screened at the DISTRIBUTECH energy conference in San Antonio. The documentary traces the centuries-old relationship between water and power, emphasizing different milestones in the water management industry, such as waste treatment and hydropower technology. It further underscores the delicate relationship between water and energy and highlights that humans are particularly sensitive to this dynamic, given the integral role played by water in energy production. The film also explains that despite humans having learned how to use water more efficiently, we still must make considerable strides towards wise water management. In the panel discussion following the screening, Dr. Webber noted that his ambition to help make the documentary was rooted in its reach, given that academic papers have a much more limited audience. Read more and watch the trailer here.  

Bobby Chesney, Strauss Center Director and James Baker Professor in Law, recently published an article on Lawfare in response to Facebook’s new deepfake policy, which he regards as an insufficient, albeit welcome, development. Chesney defines deepfakes as “realistic-looking video or audio falsehoods, which show real people doing or saying things they never did or said,” which are generated using artificial intelligence or machine learning technology. After citing some recent examples of political deepfake controversies, Chesney puts forth his two primary critiques of Facebook’s new policy. First, while the policy bans manipulated audio and videos which show people saying something which they never said (excluding parody and satire), it does not ban audio or video portraying individuals doing something they never did, such as an obscene gesture. Second, the policy does not extend to “cheapfakes”—manipulated audio or video produced by less sophisticated means. Chesney regards this loophole as more troubling given the current political climate, as cheapfakes are easier to produce and therefore more abundant than deepfakes. Despite the policy’s many shortcomings, Chesney concludes by noting that Facebook’s attempt to regulate such complex content is heartening.

Read the full article here.

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