This morning's deadly attack is already sparking a debate about whether France, or even Europe more broadly, has a problem with violence against minorities.
Police outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse / Reuters
It is still too early to know why an unidentified shooter attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, this morning. According to initial reports, the gunman entered the private secondary school around 8:15 a.m. and began firing indiscriminately, though The Guardianreports witnesses suggesting that "he pursued some children, including a girl who he reportedly pulled by the hair." The gunman then fled on a motorbike, having killed three children and a teacher.
The attack does bear, as the police have noticed, a strong resemblance to two other shootings in the past week and a half. Both were perpetrated by a man on just such a scooter, and the latest ballistics analysis being reported by Le Nouvel Observatuer suggests the same weapon was used in all three attacks. The victims were soldiers of North African origin.
It is easy to speculate, given the victims in all three attacks, that this is the work of a terrorist or an individual with an ethnic agenda: this theory has already been floated publicly by one of the three psychiatrists interviewed by French paper Le Figaro. Equally possible, however, as another suggests, this may well be the work of a madman. Based on the evidence available thus far, "it's perhaps necessary not to search for rational but rather delusional logic," Claude Halmos told the newspaper. The third psychiatrist, Pierre Lamothe, argues that these works resemble those less of a "serial killer than a mass murderer. The first repeats his killings while destroying evidence. The second sees himself as having a sacred mission to fulfill."
The only thing that seems certain at this point is the mark this act is likely to leave on the Jewish community in France. This latest attack, whatever its motivation, constitutes at least psychologically a brutal continuation of a trend that French Jews have endured for a decade. France's Jewish community, as the country's newspapers are already recalling, has been the target of many attacks in the past 30 years (Le Figaro has a timeline), several in the 1970s and 80s, for example the assassination of Israeli diplomat Yacov Barsimantov in Paris or the 1979 explosion targeting Jewish students the day after the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, involved specifically anti-Israel sentiment, the former eventually linked to a Lebanese guerrilla group.
The early 2000s, however, brought a particularly nasty outbreak of anti-Semitism. On December 31, 2001, a classroom of a Jewish school was set on fire, one of several incidents in the period to involve arson. April of 2002 saw the Or Aviv synagogue in Marseille burned to the ground, with two other synagogues in Lyon and Strasbourg set on fire that same Passover-Easter weekend. Since 2005, the French government has been working to increase security around synagogues as well as Jewish schools, nurseries, and community associations. This has not completely halted the attacks, however, which included two cases arson in 2009, the latter targeting a school in Marseille. Le Mondenotes what, in retrospect, is sure to be seen as a haunting statement by interior minister Claude Guéant only Sunday, prior to Monday's shooting.
Sunday March 18, before the Jews of France assembled before the Central Jewish Consistory in Paris, interior minister Claude Guéant, while underlying the 'cold statistics' of the drop in antisemitic acts in the past two years, assured [that] "Vigilance dictates the continuance of these efforts in 2012 [...]"
Until the motivation behind the attacks is known -- and perhaps after that -- this incident also seems likely to reignite a discussion in Europe more broadly. Though the victims in this case are less numerous, this incident comes in the same year-long period that saw Anders Breivik's attack on the government buildings in Oslo and the Workers' Youth League camp, as well as the uncovering of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell in Germany responsible for the killings of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek, and a German policewoman, between 2000 and 2007. This attack may prove to be completely unrelated to other such instances of violence in France and across Europe, even in terms of political sympathies -- Breivik's diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic, for example, suggests his attack had at least as much to do with his own insanity as it did with politics. But as a headline on French website Rue89 -- "France's 'Oslo'" - -already shows, the feeling of this shooting being part of a broader trend is unavoidable.
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the Far West Side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
New data shows that students whose parents make less money pursue more “useful” subjects, such as math or physics.
In 1780, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, in which he laid out his plans for what his children and grandchildren would devote their lives to. Having himself taken the time to master “Politicks and War,” two revolutionary necessities, Adams hoped his children would go into disciplines that promoted nation-building, such as “mathematicks,” “navigation,” and “commerce.” His plan was that in turn, those practical subjects would give his children’s children room “to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, this progression—“from warriors to dilettantes,” in the words of the literary scholar Geoffrey Galt Harpham—plays out much as Adams hoped it would: Once financial concerns have been covered by their parents, children have more latitude to study less pragmatic things in school. Kim Weeden, a sociologist at Cornell, looked at National Center for Education Statistics data for me after I asked her about this phenomenon, and her analysis revealed that, yes, the amount of money a college student’s parents make does correlate with what that person studies. Kids from lower-income families tend toward “useful” majors, such as computer science, math, and physics. Those whose parents make more money flock to history, English, and performing arts.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
Most adults can’t remember much of what happened to them before age 3 or so. What happens to the memories formed in those earliest years?
My first memory is of the day my brother was born: November 14, 1991. I can remember my father driving my grandparents and me over to the hospital in Highland Park, Illinois, that night to see my newborn brother. I can remember being taken to my mother’s hospital room, and going to gaze upon my only sibling in his bedside cot. But mostly, I remember what was on the television. It was the final two minutes of a Thomas the Tank Engine episode. I can even remember the precise story: “Percy Takes the Plunge,” which feels appropriate, given that I too was about to recklessly throw myself into the adventure of being a big brother.
In sentimental moments, I’m tempted to say my brother’s birth is my first memory because it was the first thing in my life worth remembering. There could be a sliver of truth to that: Research into the formation and retention of our earliest memories suggests that people’s memories often begin with significant personal events, and the birth of a sibling is a textbook example. But it was also good timing. Most people’s first memories date to when they were about 3.5 years old, and that was my age, almost to the day, when my brother was born.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
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.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
The unwillingness of the former secretary of state to take questions from the press contrasts sharply with Jeb Bush’s marked affinity for public disclosure.
Howard Kurtz reported on Sunday night that the Hillary Clinton campaign has decided to open itself to more press interviews. Kurtz quoted the campaign’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri: “By not doing national interviews until now, Palmieri concedes, ‘we’re sacrificing the coverage. We’re paying a price for it.’”
Meanwhile Jeb Bush chatted July 2 with the conservative website, the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller interview broke an unusually protracted no-interview period for Bush. It had been more than two weeks since he appeared on the Tonight show with Jimmy Fallon. Bush spoke that same day, June 17, to Sean Hannity’s radio show and ABC News. Five days earlier, he’d spoken to Germany’s Der Spiegel—altogether, five interviews in the month of June. That brought his total, since the beginning of February, to 39, according to the Bush campaign.*
Chicago has seen a double-digit increase in the percentage of kids graduating from high school. Skeptics say educators and kids are manipulating the numbers—but does that even matter?
Desiree Cintron’s name used to come up a lot during “kid talk,” a weekly meeting at Chicago’s North-Grand High School at which teachers mull over a short list of freshmen in trouble.
No shock there, says Desiree now, nearly three years later.
“I was gangbanging and fighting a lot,” she says, describing her first few months of high school. “I didn’t care about school. No one cared, so I didn’t care.”
Had Desiree continued to fail in her freshman year, she would have dropped out. She is sure of that. It was only because of a strong program of academic and social supports put together by her teachers that she stuck it out. Desiree pulled up a failing grade and several Ds. She gave up gangbanging and later started playing softball. She connected with a school determined to connect with her.
Burt Shavitz, the eccentric namesake of the cosmetics juggernaut, co-founded a billion-dollar company, but lived a relatively low-key life.
On Monday, Burt’s Bees posted a tribute to its eccentric namesake, Burt Shavitz, who died at 80 over the weekend. “We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land,” the message read. “Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature.”
In the pantheon of woodsy-seeming New English business folk, Shavitz is right up there with Ben and/or Jerry. In a relatively short period of time, Burt’s Bees went from backwoods beeswax to corner store competitor as its line of cosmetics—emblazoned with Shavitz’s mug on the logo—signaled natural purity even before that became a consumer craze.
Perhaps, a better analogue for the company Shavitz cofounded would be Tom’s of Maine, which made its name with a few quirky products (“all-natural” toothpaste) and eventually diversified to become a cross-aisle competitor. The only difference is that founders Tom and Kate Chappell got handsomely paid when the company was bought for $100 million by Colgate-Palmolive in 2006.