Two groups will hold opposing demonstrations in Denmark this weekend in a sign of the continent's challenge with identity politics.
English Defense League protesters clash with police in February / Reuters
When two groups of European protesters face off in Denmark this Saturday, they will represent two opposing sides of an increasingly important division in Europe's identity. The first is planned by the far-right English Defence League and aims to start a pan-European anti-Islamic movement. The Guardianreports "at least 10 anti-Islamic and far right groups from across the continent" are expected to attend. The second demonstration is in response: anti-fascists who plan to protest the rally. The anti-fascist coalition Projekt Antifa is booking transportation from Copenhagen to the demonstration in Aarhus, with at least one English group already committed to joining. "A big turnout of anti-fascists from Denmark and other European countries is expected," reports The Guardian.
It's hard to know how to read this standoff. The English Defence League emerged in 2009 as the largest populist street movement in several decades, has been shown (despite its claims) to be strongly associated with knee-jerk anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, but has often fallen short of its grand aspirations. Turnouts in the past have been sparser than promised, and a 2011 report from British think tank Demos suggested "police and other agencies ought to consider downgrading their estimates on the size and strength of the EDL's marches and demonstrations," calling the EDL's own estimates "inflated."
So is counter-protesting the far-right group perhaps doing more harm than good, lending the extremists too much credibility?
Not if you buy the anti-fascist argument. Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate told reporters that the EDL's "focus on the threat of Islam, presenting it as a cultural war, has a far wider resonance amongst voters, especially in Europe, than old-style racists. They conflate Islamist extremists with immigration and in the current economic and political conditions it is extremely dangerous." That's a compelling view for a number of reasons.
To start with, let's go back to that think tank report. It largely confirmed The Guardian's 2010 exposé on the EDL, which looked at the racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the group's protests. Immigration, not Islamic extremism, is the top concern among EDL supporters, the report found. Nearly half of supporters "claim[ed] to have joined the EDL because of their views on Islam," while 31 percent also "cited their love of England, commitment to preservation of traditional national and cultural values, and representation of the interests of 'real' British countrymen ... as their reason for joining." To sum up: this is a movement very much about identity politics.
Identity politics appear to be on the rise in Europe, and precisely at a time when Europe can't afford that: the Eurozone crisis means that Europe needs to be more unified, not less. The trend is surely, in part, about economics. Demos found EDL members to be deeply pessimistic and "disproportionately likely to be out of work" -- consistent with Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman's theory in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth that economic stagnation leads to upticks in intolerance. It's also consistent with a separate Demos report on far-right and populist groups throughout Europe, where the groups' online activists were "slightly more likely to be unemployed." Though the Demos writers were careful to stress that this could be about the activists' student status, unemployment also seemed, anecdotally, to inform the anti-immigrant sentiment. "I would like to send them back to their homes, rather than having to maintain them and give them jobs," a supporter of an Italian federalist party told researchers. "It would be better if they gave Italians a job first, for example to me, since I am unemployed."
It seems that European society at present is more open to the EDL's stated goal of a pan-European anti-Islamist movement than it might otherwise be. This might already be changing European politics. A recent study, on the inclusiveness of immigration policies, showed that the trend towards more inclusive policies was largely due to electoral pressures. The study also found, however, that naturalization rights in the ten European countries studied stagnated and even regressed after 2002.
Why is this worrisome? Three obvious reasons: crypto-fascism is scary, nationalist and protectionist impulses hurt economies, and the E.U. would like to stick around (most of these groups are anti-E.U.). But there's another problem: these groups actually isolate European Muslim communities even more. Muslim immigrants' failure to integrate culturally, as well as perceptions of unfairness and race-based economic discrimination, may lead to religious radicalization, according to some scholars. So can feelings that the West is out to get the Muslim world.
Groups like the EDL are likely worsening these problems. And that's why counter-demonstrations just might prove to be important after all. If each "anti-Islamist" demonstration sends a message to Muslims that they're not welcome, then anti-fascist groups can at least provide a competing message.
There's no getting around the ugliness of the European far right, or the dangers involved in its rise. But the presence of a well-organized and vocal anti-fascist opposition is somewhat encouraging. Traditionally, complacency and lack of interest has been more of a problem than competing agendas.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal early on Saturday, centered 10 miles below the surface, less than 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. At least 1,100 are already reported to have been killed by the quake and subsequent avalanches triggered in the Himalayas. Historic buildings and temples were destroyed, leaving massive piles of debris in streets as rescue workers and neighbors work to find and help those still trapped beneath rubble. Below are images from the region of the immediate aftermath of one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike Nepal in decades. (Editor's note, some of the images are graphic in nature.)
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
Four hours after learning about Saturday's devastating earthquake in Nepal, I received a Facebook notification I had never seen before: Sonia, a journalist friend based in northern India, was "marked safe." An hour later, the same notification about a different friend popped up. Then another. Soon, several of my friends wrote that they, too, had learned via this strange new notification that their friends in Nepal were okay.
A few hours later, the mystery was solved. On Saturday afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on his timeline that the notifications came from Safety Check, a service the company launched last fall. "When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe," he wrote, "It's moments like this that being able to connect really matters."
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
After more than a year of rumors and speculation, Bruce Jenner publicly came out as transgender with four simple words: “I am a woman.”
“My brain is much more female than male,” he explained to Diane Sawyer, who conducted a prime-time interview with Jenner on ABC Friday night. (Jenner indicated he prefers to be addressed with male pronouns at this time.) During the two-hour program, Jenner discussed his personal struggle with gender dysphoria and personal identity, how they shaped his past and current relationships and marriages, and how he finally told his family about his gender identity.
During the interview, Sawyer made a conspicuous point of discussing broadly unfamiliar ideas about gender and sexuality to its audience. It didn't always go smoothly; her questions occasionally came off as awkward and tone-deaf. But she showed no lack of empathy.
The editors of Smithsonian magazine have announced the winners of their 12th annual photo contest, selected from more than 26,500 entries. The winning photographs from from the competition's six categories are published below: The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile. Also, a few finalists have been included as well. Captions were written by the photographers. Be sure to visit the contest page at Smithsonian.com to see all the winners and finalists.
“People skills” are almost always assumed to be a good thing. Search employment ads and you will find them listed as a qualification for a startling array of jobs, including Applebee’s host, weight-loss specialist, CEO, shoe salesperson, and (no joke) animal-care coordinator. The notion that people smarts might help you succeed got a boost a quarter century ago, when the phrase emotional intelligence, or EI, entered the mainstream. Coined in a 1990 study, the term was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book . Since then, scores of researchers have shown how being in touch with feelings—both your own and other people’s—gives you an edge: compared with people who have average EI, those with high EI do better at work, have fewer health problems,and report greater life satisfaction.
Our patient—we’ll call him W.B.—is a 56-year-old father of three who, until last year, had always been healthy. He had worked his entire life, in jobs ranging from automotive repair to sales, taking great pride in providing for his family, even though doing so had recently meant combining three part-time positions. All of that ended in February 2014, when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness, ALS leads to the loss of all voluntary movement, difficulty breathing, and, in the end, death.
W.B.’s life was turned upside down by the diagnosis. But once the initial shock passed, he began researching his condition intensively. He learned that he was unlikely to survive five years, and that in the meantime his quality of life would diminish dramatically. With limited options, many patients retreat. But, quite bravely, W.B. had other ideas. After much consideration, he decided that if he was going to die, he would like to try to save another person’s life in the process, even if that person was a stranger. And so last May he approached the University of Wisconsin’s transplant program, where we are surgeons, as a prospective organ donor.
Chile's Calbuco volcano erupted on Wednesday, spewing a giant funnel of ash high into the sky over a sparsely populated, mountainous area, triggering a red alert. Authorities ordered an evacuation for a 10-kilometer (six-mile) radius around the volcano. Calbuco is the second volcano in southern Chile to have a substantial eruption since March 3, when the Villarrica volcano emitted a brief but fiery burst of ash and lava.