Making art helps this refugee create her new life in Austria

She’s also given painting lessons to young children in the refugee center, most of whom are from Afghanistan and Syria. After flying to Turkey, she traveled by “boat, bus and car,” first to Salzburg and then to the Austrian capital. Daboval had previously organized a one-week startup incubator in Vienna, and she was eager to put her experience in the arts and social entrepreneurship to good use. The blue-colored pastels she donated ended up with Parmis   and now characterize her portrait, “Blue.”
When Parmis saw Restart’s call for artists on Facebook, she knew right away she wanted to be a part of it, and Pauschenwein’s donations made it possible. Restart will charge a 30 percent commission, which will be used for reinvestment in the project. This painting titled, “Pain and Hope,” is by Khaled Dahesh, a Syrian artist and art teacher who came   to Austria from Turkey, where he lived for four years after fleeing Damascus. Parmis’ paintings then moved to the nearby Kulturraum Neruda exhibition space for another week. Against her closet rests a cello on loan from a local music school, and around her desk, she’s pinned up various German language study guides. Modeled after ArtLifting, a Boston-based benefit corporation that sells and licenses the work of homeless artists, Restart hopes to be a resource for creative refugees trying to remake their lives and careers in Europe. Austria provides asylum-seekers with some social and financial aid, but they aren’t eligible for many social welfare programs. Austrian army soldiers observe migrants as they wait to cross the border from the village of Sentilj, Slovenia into Spielfeld, Austria, Nov. In the summer of 2016, after she had settled in, a friend saw a call for refugee artists on Facebook and told Parmis about it. “Looking, looking.” In the meantime, he says he plans to paint more, hopefully in order to earn some cash to supplement his limited allowance from the state. Several flights above them, Parmis has decorated several of her walls with their drawings, which she hangs up alongside her own. In the center of the room, Parmis has lithographs of turn-of-the century Vienna. “I wondered,” he remembers thinking, “where are the programs for creative people?”
The demand was there, and after Nipkow founded the organization in early March 2016, word spread quickly. One day, Parmis caught a woman pointing at her on the subway. This is   Parmis’ portrait titled, “Blue,” which she created with donated supplies. The journey took just over three weeks. Since then, politicians on the far right have capitalized on these fears, and the country’s immigration policies have tightened, with heightened border controls and a new cap on refugees and asylum applications in early 2016. Parmis was overjoyed. She took the supplies and got to work. She’s moved up in her hierarchy of needs: Right now she’s focused on her art. The location is “top,” she says. He was struck by the fact that most job opportunities there were in manufacturing and service. As of November 2016, asylum applications had fallen back down to around 40,000, according to the Interior Ministry. “Suchen, suchen,” he says, in German. Parmis was one of almost   90,000   asylum seekers   who came to Austria in 2015. She says she calls her mother once a week, and she hopes that someday she’ll be able   to reunite with her family in Turkey, but   she doesn’t anticipate going back to Iran unless there’s a major regime change. 26, she exhibited her work in a show that drew about 500 people   at the Museumsquartier (MQ), a 645,000-square-foot museum and event complex on the edge of Vienna’s historic city center. Parmis, who came to Austria in November 2015, says she fled her home in Tehran for political reasons. The painting depicts a street in Damascus, empty save for two flocks of doves. That year, the country of about 8.5   million inhabitants played temporary host to many refugees and migrants passing through on their way to other countries in the European Union, mostly Germany. Dahesh   doesn’t have a job in Vienna yet, but he wants work. She joined the project in July, and by the end of August, had a team of volunteers working to recruit artists, gather supplies and plan an exhibit. “It was great to see how excited the artists were, not just to be seen as refugees, but, as talented, creative people,” says Nipkow.  


Courtesy of TJ Alshemaree  

Nipkow expanded his organization into Austria after meeting Raffaela Daboval, now the director of Restart Austria, through Impact Hub, a London-based networking organization and business incubator that hosted Restart’s Berlin exhibition. Within just weeks, in early April, Restart launched its first-ever exhibit in Berlin with the works of five refugee artists. “When I’m drawing, when I’m painting, I forget everything in my life, my pain,” she says. Although Parmis had never worked as a professional artist, she had taken some painting classes in Tehran, and she comes from a family of creative people. The seven artists featured in the show included some self-taught, amateur artists, as well as some established artists like Sahf Abdulrahman, who previously worked as a children’s art teacher and art critic for Syrian newspapers, and Ibrahim Barghoud, who previously taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Aleppo and whose work has been shown across Europe. “I just looked at this woman and smiled.”
While the larger challenges of the European refugee crisis remain, Restart focuses on its mission. Creating a network
Parmis says she’s received a mostly warm welcome in Vienna, but acknowledges that not all Austrians are as happy as she is about her arrival. Credit:

Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Painting and exhibiting her work helped Parmis find meaning and purpose amid the challenges of life as a new refugee. Credit:

Courtesy of   Khaled​ Dahesh

Although the migrants who stayed in Austria make up a small fraction of the country’s population, applications in 2015 were more than triple the number from 2014, giving many Austrians the false impression the country was being overrun. “When you are an artist, it’s very hard to work because it’s not like a normal job market where you send your CV.”
It’s an ambitious plan, but there’s no guarantee it will work. “Every time I see them, I think, yes, I’m here,” she says. “The idea is to create a network for them,” Daboval says. “But I’m OK now.”
She briefly stayed in two different refugee camps before landing a spot in the refugee shelter run by Austria’s Samaritan Union Workers, one of the country’s largest social services organizations. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
For her part, Parmis has sold two paintings, one for 90 euros ($100) and the other for 120 euros ($134). It’s been a long time since Parmis has felt this calm. “Only birds,” he says. But the question of how Austria will manage its role in the largest refugee crisis since World War II remains a complicated one that won’t be answered with a single art exhibition. Some of the girls from her class are playing handball in the parking lot while we speak, and we can hear them laughing outside her window. “As an art therapist, I learned that it’s important to give people perspective, especially people who might be losing hope,” she says. Some of the supplies used by the artists came from Vienna-based artist Gerlinde Pauschenwein, who was approached by a Restart volunteer while teaching a class at the Siemens complex refugee shelter. Most of those refugees were fleeing Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, according to Austria’s Interior Ministry. Giving people perspective  
Daboval says she was surprised by the high turnout at the exhibit opener at the MQ in October. “Sometimes I can’t sleep just because I think about the way [here],” says Parmis, who agreed to an interview on the condition that her last name and the exact reasons for her departure from Iran not be shared. “Once we met artists, they knew other artists, and we realized there were a lot of artists among newcomers,” says Nipkow. Credit:

Courtesy of   TJ Alshemaree  

  Sitting at her desk in the dormitory room of a refurbished Siemens office complex at the edge of Vienna, the 29-year-old Iranian refugee isn’t thinking about her safety, or where she’ll find food. Many refugees have been unable to find work. Filling a void  
The call for artists came from an organization called Restart, a Berlin-based social enterprise looking to give refugees a creative outlet, connections to fellow artists and access to an online art marketplace in their new European homes. “This is real.”

Parmis’ art, shown here, was featured in Restart’s exhibit   in   Vienna. Credit:

Courtesy of Parmis

On Oct. 2, 2015. The woman then told a young girl she was traveling with that Parmis was bad because of her “black hair.”
“She didn’t know that I could understand what she was saying,” Parmis says. The next step for the organization, both in Berlin and Vienna, is to recruit more artists, gather more resources and ultimately launch an online platform to sell the artists’ work. Pauschenwein is somewhat pessimistic about the viability of the art market for anyone who isn’t a big name, but she’s impressed with what the organization has accomplished so far, particularly in snagging the MQ for its opening. The call also came with an offer of help, in the form of donated paint, canvases and pastels. In the long term, the project won’t be sustainable without commissions, Daboval says. Founder Jonas Nipkow started developing the idea in Berlin after attending a job fair for people he calls “newcomers” — the term he prefers for refugees. This is a snapshot from Restart’s Vienna exhibition opening. Her mother is an amateur artist, one sister is a   painter, a brother is a building designer and a second sister is in school for architecture.

Shocker: Russian intelligence services have a murky history

In more modern times, Russia has frequently attempted to shape events, particularly in its “near abroad,” in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Soviet KGB sent forged FBI letters to newspapers in the United States claiming that Jackson was a homosexual, a closet gay man, implying that he was unfit to be president.”
“That vicious campaign unfortunately is typical of several other types of activities that the Soviet intelligence services engaged in,” says Kramer.

“Most of the time,” says Mark Kramer, director of Cold War studies at Harvard, “Russian intelligence focuses on intelligence gathering. “It used cyber warfare — the first major effort in cyber warfare — by the Russian intelligence services came against a former Soviet republic, Estonia, which is now a member of NATO. That was in 2007,”   Kramer says. Listen to the full interview. The Russian intelligence community also inherited many techniques from its Soviet predecessors.Player utilitiesPopout
downloadThis story is based on a radio interview. The Russian Federation inherited a variety of intelligence organizations from the Soviet Union, and has added more. “The Soviet Union on many occasions tried to influence US politics, and even to meddle in presidential elections,” he adds. “And cyber warfare has been used against Ukraine; it has been used against several other countries, including those seeking to oppose Russia’s actions in Syria.”       That’s true of almost every major intelligence service in the world.”
But Kramer adds there have been many occasions when the Russians have tried to shape events and not just monitor them. “In 1968, the Soviet ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin, was ordered by the Soviet politburo to approach the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, about providing clandestine funding,” says Kramer. “Dobrynin did this and Humphrey immediately turned it down.”
Then in 1976, the Soviets actively attempted to discredit a hawkish Democratic Senator from Washington state, Henry Jackson, after he won a primary election. “And so there was an effort made to discredit him; a campaign of disinformation.

Fighting Nazis with Scandinavian crime fiction

And for some reason, the villains in the books are often Nazis, neo-Nazis, or people with Nazism in their past. She says it’s more that the crime fiction reflects some of the concerns Scandinavian societies have. But does the message really make a political impact? It covered the sorts of topics the Nazis examined, like the particularly dark study of “racial hygiene.”
So where do the novelists fit into all this? “Sweden, during the Second World War, was neutral. You could argue crime fiction is one of the region’s biggest cultural exports. “And he really thought of himself as being a political messenger.”
Add Jo Nesbo and the late Stieg Larsson to that group of Scandinavian writers with a mission. “So they all have a past relationship with Nazism.”
Rugg says you see the theme   in books by authors like Henning Mankel, where one character sold black-market meat to the Nazis. But Rugg says for some there is more to it. They certainly mine the history. Rugg isn’t all that certain. So what’s happened is that the image that we have of Scandinavia from the outside is produced by a large degree by the crime fiction,” Rugg says. UC Berkeley’s Linda Rugg says that isn’t a coincidence. “Henning Mankel was first published by a radical press,” she says. She also cites the example of Jo Nesbo, who wrote a Norwegian character who served with the German army. “It’s not a total picture of Scandinavia. And I don’t think Scandinavians would see themselves as influenced by the crime fiction.”

“Jar City.” “The Snowman.” “The Return of The Dancing Master.” Just about everything by Stieg Larsson. Norway and Denmark were occupied, along with Finland, by the Nazis,” she says. “The fiction has gained international recognition and has spread not only throughout the English speaking world but also been translated into many other languages. “So they are sort of excavating a past that they had buried for a long time,” she says. And that’s influenced perceptions form the outside, perhaps more than events inside Scandinavia. It was a frigid 9 degrees in Boston on Monday, a brutal temp for walking the dog, but a great one for curling up with some classic Scandinavian crime fiction.Player utilitiesPopout
downloadListen to the Story. “And that feeds into today’s neo-Nazi movement, which draws heavily on the past.”
One past skeleton in Sweden’s closet was a eugenics program.

Look back on some of Obama’s most noteworthy speeches

“We’ll spend a couple of days, write a draft, give it to him. which are often tweaked at the last minute anyway. Here’s a look at five key speeches in the career of the 44th president of the United States. Accompanied by his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and 50 others, Obama then walked across the infamous bridge over the Alabama River. “We had the lyrics in there twice, in the middle and then at the end,” Keenan said. Boston: Disrupting the political scene
July 27, 2004
“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. The speech in Chicago will bookend the political career of a charismatic statesman known for his powerful oratory, with several memorable addresses marking milestones in his White House tenure. “I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage,” he pointed out. It usually takes three or four drafts to arrive at a final product … If he doesn’t like it, he will take out a yellow legal pad and write his thoughts and if he does, he will start outlining the whole thing,” he said. He also gave a nod to the “considerable controversy” generated by his winning the award. After focusing on America’s struggles with race and guns in a sermon-like address, he paused — then began singing “Amazing Grace.” The thousands of mourners joined in. Each address is “a way to tell a story,” Obama chief speechwriter Cody Keenan told AFP, and the balancing act each time is to offer a vision on an issue without getting trapped by the “very real danger of being out of touch.”
“There were arguments internally in the early years of the administration about how optimistic and forward looking you could get in economic speeches when unemployment is still at like 8 or 9 percent,” he said. “All he did there was tell the country’s story and tell his own story and weave them together.”
Cairo: Appealing to the Muslim world
June 4, 2009
“I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”
Addressing the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with the traditional Arabic greeting “Salam alaikum,” Obama called for ending “this cycle of suspicion and discord.”
Oslo: War and peace
December 10, 2009
“To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Less than a year after taking office, Obama delivered his views on the conditions for using force as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. “We will usually sit down with him in the Oval Office and he will just talk and we will type it out and that gives us something to go work with,” Keenan said. “Probably his most successful speech was the one where he introduced himself to the country for the first time,” Keenan said. Charleston: Amazing Grace
June 26, 2015
“For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.”
Obama made the pronouncement during a rousing eulogy for pastor Clementa Pinckney and eight members of his congregation at the historic “Mother Emanuel” black church, who were killed in a hail of gunfire unleashed by a white supremacist. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”
At the time unknown on the national scene, a young senator from Illinois named Barack Hussein Obama — the son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother — was the breakout star of the 2004 Democratic convention. For the last time in his presidency, Barack Obama will take the stage Tuesday night to address the American people. Obama, a former law professor, is very involved in drafting his speeches. Selma: The march continues
March 7, 2015
“We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.”  
Speaking at the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years after the brutal repression of a peaceful protest there, America’s first black president rallied a new generation to the spirit of the civil rights struggle. “That morning, we were flying on the helicopter to (Joint Base Andrews) and he said, ‘You know, I might sing the second one if it feels right.'”
“I watched from the plane, on the tarmac, and you could tell within about three minutes, with that crowd there and the organ playing while he was speaking, that, of course, he was going to sing it.”

To usher in the Year of the Rooster, a Chinese factory is selling giant inflatable chickens resembling Donald Trump

Wei said he was not aware that the American designer had created the original, but added that “there are some differences in the facial expression. He also angered China by taking a phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking with decades of US diplomatic practice. “I saw his image on the news and he has a lot of personality, and since Year of the Rooster is coming up I mixed these two elements together to make a Chinese chicken,” factory owner Wei Qing told AFP. Ours is inflatable.”
Trump has captured the Chinese imagination and riled its authorities, threatening to get tough on trade practices he says are unfair after taking office on Jan.   20. The 5-meter fowls sport the distinctive golden mane of the US president-elect and mimic his signature hand gestures with their tiny “wings.”
Cartoon figures of animals from the Chinese zodiac are ubiquitous around Chinese New Year at the end of this month. “It is so funny, so we designed it and tried to sell it and it turned out to be popular.”
The cartoon balloon appeared to be based on a sculpture designed by US artist Casey Latiolais, which was unveiled at a shopping mall last month in Taiyuan, capital of the northern province of Shanxi. And that one is glass. The balloon factory is selling its presidential birds for as much as 14,400 yuan ($2,080) on Chinese shopping site Taobao for a 10-meter version. A Chinese factory is hatching giant inflatable chickens resembling Donald Trump to usher in the Year of the Rooster.

50 years ago, Americans finally got a look across the line of the Vietnam War

William Fulbright, a US senator from Arkansas and longtime war opponent, began holding hearings on the war, and in his inability to get a straight answer from the Johnson administration. Johnson’s position became attenuated because, really, just to take the flak over the main observation that I reported from Vietnam, which was that we were hitting civilian objectives and killing civilians,” Salisbury said in an interview in June 1969. “But it turns out that there are many truths. We’re not going to help you destroy this country knowingly.”McNamara: “Yeah, this is what I’ve done.”
Some concluded that Salisbury was a turncoat working for the communist side, especially since he reported from Moscow for years. … At the beginning of 1967, one place Americans couldn’t go was Hanoi, North Vietnam. If you don’t believe that, try covering the man in the White House. “Mr. He said that there was “a credibility gap between what we know about the war, and what the administration was saying.”
Salisbury’s reports eventually pressured McNamara to commission what would come to be known as the Pentagon Papers in June 1967, which would turn the credibility gap into a chasm. “I’ve heard all the years that I’ve been a reporter, that what a reader wants is the truth, and nothing but the truth,” he said in 1968. Authorities say it is too dangerous to occupy any substantial building. And I don’t care which man it is. Now 50 years later, that gap between what politicians say and what we know has grown so large that it now defines a post-truth world. But in late December 1966, that perspective changed. “Contrary to the impression given by United States communiques, on-the-spot inspection indicates that American bombing has been inflicting considerable civilian casualties in Hanoi and its environs for some time past,” Salisbury wrote. Harrison Salisbury, a reporter for The New York Times who was known as a “journalistic one-man band,” was granted access to North Vietnam, and became the first American to report from the other side of the war. Salisbury’s first article came out on Christmas Day 1966, a Sunday. There’s just no place to go but down.”
Meanwhile, J. “Fear of external communist conquest in many Asian nations is already subsiding — and with this, the spirit of hope is rising,” he said. Most such buildings in the region, they say, have been hit by bombs.”
As the gap grew between what people read and what the government said, Johnson doubled down in his January 10   State of the Union. Well, this is fine up to a point, but once people see that this is not really so you’re really out on a limb, and somebody gives it a little shake and you fall down. “But an irrational position was taken for propaganda purposes, that we were bombing steel and concrete and so forth and so on. And the truth which is presented by a reporter in The New York Times or the Minneapolis Journal may not be the truth of the reader of that particular newspaper. “In the district as a whole, officials said, there have been more than 150 attacks since 1965. Salisbury’s reporting was getting through to Johnson, something that could be heard in a recorded conversation between the president   and McNamara from January 1967:
Johnson: “Now what does The New York Times want?McNamara: “The Times is internally split on the Salisbury articles, and they have some impression that we have some photographs that would support Salisbury, and they’re just bound determined to get those photographs out of us.”Johnson: “You tell ’em to go screw themselves as far as I’m concerned. Just say we don’t owe The New York Times a goddam thing. This was a position which I’m sure Mr. You might think that now there’s no turning back, but don’t tell that to Harrison Salisbury, who might understand our current environment better than any of us. A month later, a CIA cable said that Salisbury’s reporting was “good,” but that he hadn’t described the full extent of the damage. My experiences, peripheral I will admit, have convinced me that there has never been anyone in the White House who liked a newspaper reporter.”
Thanks to the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, which provided some of the archival material in this piece, and to independent producer Steve Atlas, is   working on a radio documentary on LBJ and the Vietnam War that will be released this summer and will be distributed nationally by PRI. Johnson encouraged his propaganda people to take, because it fitted the image which enabled him to go farther with less opposition from the public. A secret CIA memo in December 1966 found that over 75 percent of the casualties in the previous year were civilians. But in reality, the American government knew that Salisbury was onto something. Johnson escalated the Vietnam War, and at home, the narrative of the first televised war was still that of good guys fighting for freedom. It was two years after President Lyndon B. Since the start of the war, Johnson and former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said that US   bombing in North Vietnam only targeted “concrete and steel, not human life.”
On New Year’s Eve, Johnson had a press conference at his ranch, calling Vietnam “the most careful, self-limited air war in history.”
Salisbury’s reporting continued into the first week of January. The hospital has been dispersed into half a dozen thatched huts around the countryside.

Some persecuted writers get a new life in the US. But exile isn’t easy.

Nine months ago, Das arrived in Pittsburgh. He has housing, health insurance and a stipend that provides   enough to live on, so he can write full-time. The Pittsburgh program, called City of Asylum, accepted Das. The City of Asylum residency lasts about two years, and Das is the program’s sixth writer. “Everyone, everything is different. Credit:

Ashley Cleek

Das is prolific. He also keeps up his blog, written in Bengali. He’d never left Bangladesh before, never been on a plane. Das, who was born into a Hindu family but considers himself an atheist, says he didn’t write against Islam. Terrified, he went to the police. By Tuhin DasTranslated by Nandini Mandal   
I have something to say.I have come from the war fields of pen & machete.I have witnessed the birth of hatred and division in place of love & unity. He spends more time online messaging with his friends back home than anyone else here, he says. “I am a Bengali first. He wasn’t alone. He mails them to Bangladesh for publication. I am a Hindu? Writers have been targeted and killed in Bangladesh in recent years by Islamist extremists, who label them infidels. They told him: “You can be under attack any time, and we will not be able to protect you, if you’re staying here.”
So Das went into hiding. “That is more important to me than the religion.”
As a foreigner and a Bangladeshi in the United States, Das says sometimes he feels people in Pittsburgh looking at him uneasily, even suspiciously. I can express my opinions and thoughts freely in my writings.”

The City of Asylum’s office is in this house on Sampsonia Way   in Pittsburgh. Here is one of Das’ poems:
“I don’t think the feeling of being in exile is a positive one for me. How can they say ”kill the nonbelievers”? It’s lonely. His writings called out the persecution of Hindus   and atheists, religious minorities in Bangladesh. “I wrote against anything that is extreme,” he explains. He’s closely tuned into what’s happening back in Bangladesh — watching as fundamentalists divide Bengali culture and attack minority communities. Will we Bangladeshis be buried under mass graveslike Iraq, Syria & Afghanistan?Why are people living in fear of assassination & murder in their own homeland? “The post said, ‘These people are considered an enemy of Islam.’”
Das says a group linked to al-Qaeda was behind the threat. Tuhin Das was just 16, living in Bangladesh, when he started writing poems and editing a magazine — and getting noticed. He feels aware of his dark skin and thick accent. Das speaks English but is more comfortable using his native language. I am a foreigner? Exiled writer Tuhin Das lives nearby. After hiding out for months, Das saw a news story about another Bangladeshi writer who was also in danger, but had found safety abroad. Why do they shroud humanity in a blanket of blood?Why would assassins be targeting writers, minorities, and atheists in Bangladesh? How can I be silent?Is my fault that I am a Shia? It’s nice, but still he couldn’t sleep at first — nightmares. “When I first came here I thought maybe I was walking on the moon.” But today, Das is walking in a park near his home. He’s working on a biography of a famous Bangladeshi poet; a diary of his time in Pittsburgh; a novel; tons of articles. Then, in 2015, Das’ name showed up on a hit-list. He   shows me around the old row house where he lives now. “I can write freely. Toward the end of our interview, he offers a comment in English. My war is against those who divide peoplein the name of religion who murder in the name of God thus disturbing the peace. Slowly, though, he’s settled in. “I don’t feel as insecure here as I used to feel back in Bangladesh,” says Das, who is now 32. But they infuriated some fundamentalists who thought Das was anti-Islam. Das says that feeling of persecution, being seen as “separate” simply because of the religion one is born into, doesn’t go away. Sitting on it, he says, he finds peace looking up at the sky, knowing it’s the same one over Bangladesh. I feel that I am in exile not just physically, my mind is also in exile,” Das explains. The place and culture that are the central subject of his writing are so far away. Everyone is different,” Das says of the United States. Although we have offered our tears in return after every murder, we are not afraid,I am not afraid. I should be known by the language I speak, the culture I follow, by my literature, my music, my art, my heritage,” Das says. Even if they want to murder me again I will say:‘You are afraid, you are scared, and so you wanted to murder me.’ I am gay? The writer had been granted sanctuary through the   International Cities of Refuge Network, an organization involving more than 50 cities worldwide. “My name along with five others appeared on Facebook one night,” Das explains in Bengali, through an interpreter. When he was only a teenager, a group of fundamentalists stabbed him in the street. But being in exile has removed Das from everything else: his friends, his family, his language, his country. It’s on a quiet alley. He has a favorite spot, a favorite bench.

Ever thought someone who died was already dead? Science can explain that.

“But until it becomes a kind of trackable, testable, hypothesis, it’s … very good science fiction.”
But Ramirez has extensively studied how memories — real and false ones — are formed in our brain. “I don’t know what our bandwidth for memory is, but … for some reason, our brain fills in these gaps in these stories,” he offers. “It’s actually a reconstructive process, in that the memories that are most real are probably the ones that we don’t recall.”
He explains that’s because the second we recall a memory, our brain immediately begins the process of modifying it with bits and pieces of new information. “We managed to find the cells in the hippocampus that were involved in processing the memory of a safe environment,” he explains.

Despite the overwhelming YouTube evidence, however, many folks still swear they remember Darth Vader’s breathy “Luke.” There’s a name for this phenomenon, when many people misremember the same thing, in the same way: It’s called the Mandela Effect. “When you recall a memory, for example, it’s not a tape record[ing], or it’s not an iPhone video of the past,” Ramirez says. His actual words are “No, I am your father.”Player utilitiesPopout
downloadListen to the Story. “I think [that]’s a really cool idea,” says Harvard neuroscientist Steve Ramirez. If you remember Darth Vader’s famous line in “Star Wars   Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” as “Luke, I am your father,” you’re not alone — but you’re not right, either. And in his research, Ramirez has examined just how memories can be manipulated with new information. “It doesn’t hurt the animal by any means … it’s just a surprise. And he explains that along with our memory of an event, we store information about how the event made us feel — even the sights, sounds   and smells associated with that memory. Pulling all those relevant bits of information together, Ramirez explains, is an area of our brain known as the “hippocampus.”
But brain machinery like the hippocampus doesn’t just help us recall the past: “[It] is also the same machinery that enables us to reconstruct the past,” Ramirez says. Our resulting recollection is, by nature, impure: “Every memory is a kind of almost mild false memory,” he adds. In one study, his team created false memories in mice. So we were able to find the cells, in this case, that processed the memory of a safe box that [the mouse] was put in.”
“And then what we did was we were able to artificially turn that memory on while the animal received just some mild aversive stimuli,” he explains. “Maybe it’s an attention span thing, where when we’re learning about Mandela we remember, ‘Oh wow, he was in jail for that long?’ And then the rest of it, you just kind of skim over the Wikipedia page, and it doesn’t stick.”
In other popular examples of the Mandela Effect,   however, Ramirez sees something called “confirmation bias” at work. “Then, I found out he was still alive.”
For some Mandela Effect enthusiasts, the phenomenon fuels theories about alternate realities. Apparently, when Nelson Mandela died in 2013, some people thought they already had memories of him dying in prison, in the 1980s — before he became South Africa’s president. “I thought   I remembered it clearly, complete with news clips of his funeral, the mourning in South Africa, some rioting in cities   and the heartfelt speech by his widow,” writes the paranormal researcher Fiona Broome on her website about the Mandela Effect. “In this case, we were working in rodents because we have exquisite access to their cognitive machinery. “And it also happens to be largely the same machinery that helps us imagine ourselves in the future.”
What’s more, our memory apparatus isn’t perfect: It can’t create objective records of the past. When we placed [the mouse] back in the originally safe environment, the animal actually showed some kind of fear responses to that environment.”
Ramirez isn’t sure what exactly is behind some people’s false memories of Mandela’s 1980s demise. For example, many people claim to remember the popular “Berenstain Bears” children’s books actually being spelled “Berenstein.” For others, it’s a memory of the famous Queen song, “We Are The Champions,” ending with the phrase “we are the champions of the world.” (That line only comes up   in the song’s “bridge” — a pause.)
“Sometimes when you have multiple people with imperfect memories confirm each other’s bias about that particular memory, then it’s more likely to kind of snowball,” he says, “and then you get a little pocket of people that believe A   happened, when, in fact, B   happened.”
Ramirez adds that this type of confirmation bias can be exacerbated by technology and the media, which give us easy access to “each other’s opinions that confirm our own, and each other’s versions of our histories that also confirm our own.”
“And then in some instances, like a meme, it reaches escape velocity and then takes on a life of its own,” he says. This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s   Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.