WNYC's radio show, The Takeaway, interviewed assistant professor Fotini Christia about U.S. relations with Afghanistan

Reporters for WNYC's radio show, The Takeaway, interviewed MIT assistant professor Fotini Christia about U.S. relations with Afghanistan

An assistant professor, an energy adviser, a UN worker, and an Air Force commander. These are a few of the MIT alumni who live and work in Afghanistan, where the United States has carried out military operations offshore since the 1990s, and on the ground since 2001. The stated aim of the military’s current mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, is to protect local Afghans, reduce violence, and cut off funding to the Taliban and other insurgents.

How is it going? Several days ago  General Stanley McChrystal, America’s top commander in Afghanistan, submitted a strategic review to General David Petraeus, NATO, and President Obama.  While the full text of the report isn’t yet available, the take home message (according to reporters) is unambiguous: McChrystal thinks the current strategy in Afghanistan is not working.

Newspaper columns and io shows have been covering the news over the last few days, and one in particular caught our eye. The Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC radio and Public Radio International, interviewed Fotini Christia. She is an assistant professor of political science at the Institute and recently returned from Afghanistan. Listen to what she has to say about the potential efficacy of a political, rather than, military surge in Afghanistan.

Read more coverage of the report and Obama’s reaction to it, or watch a short Reuters video clip about the possibility of a new course in Afghanistan.

Right around the time that Obama hit his 100th day in office, MIT’s senseable city lab released a series of data visualizations depicting, among other things, fluctuations in call activity recorded during Obama’s inaugural address in January. Take a look at the video below to see how call activity changed—who was calling whom, how locations shifted over time—and, perhaps of equal import, how unusually beautiful reams of otherwise dull cell phone data can become.

If you’re hooked on the visualizations and want to see more, visit the senseable city lab Obama/One People Web site or check out the site (specifically the mapping section) from MOMA’s “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibit.


Kent Kresa ’59, SM ’61, EEA ’66, has taken one of the least comfortable seats of industrial power in the U.S., Bloomberg.com reported earlier today. He has been appointed as General Motors’ interim chairman by President Obama’s auto task force. Already a GM director, he will focus on replacing a majority of the board as required by the task force in time for a vote at GM’s August annual meeting.

Ken Kresa, courtesy BusinessWeek

Kent Kresa, photo BusinessWeek

Kresa’s quiet but stellar reputation for corporate salvage and successful mergers made him a prime candidate. He masterminded the successful turn around of Northrop Grumman in the 1990s despite severe contraction in the industry. The company became a $28 billion enterprise under his guidance. His three MIT degrees are in aero/astro.

According to a 2002 BusinessWeek article on the top 25 managers of the year, Kresa grew up in a show-biz family. His father was songwriter Irving Berlin’s chief assistant, and Kresa was a child actor. He certainly will be on stage again in this job!

With their toes hooked on floor handles to anchor them still, and with the cosmos tearing past them at 17,000 miles per hour, the crews from the International Space Station and Space Shuttle STS-119 gathered Tuesday, March 24th to receive a phone call from President Obama. Among the astronauts were MIT alums Mike Fincke ’89, Expedition 18 commander, and Tony Antonelli ’89, who piloted the STS-119 mission through its ISS arrival one week prior.

Watch a 10-minute segment of the call below, or visit NASA’s Web site for the full length video and transcript.

The day after the president’s call, Fincke placed his own long distance phone call to Class of 1989 Secretary Henry Houh. Video below:

Submit your own interstellar or terrestrial updates to Class Notes.

At a White House press briefing on Monday, MIT President Susan Hockfield joined President Barack Obama in calling for a “truly historic” new level of federal funding for clean energy research.

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For more coverage of the event, visit the MIT News Office.