On Sunday afternoon, the pilot of a Dana Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83, flying out of Abuja, called into the control tower at Lagos, the Nigerian mega-city where he was shortly scheduled to land, to report engine trouble. Two months earlier, one of the engines had lost power after a bird strike. Now, the pilot said he was having difficulty with two of the engines. On the ground, some people is the neighborhood of Ishaga, not far from the airport, heard a loud vibrating sound and came outside, where they saw the plane flying low. The McDonnell Douglas airliner, which at 148 feet was about as long as a 15-story tower is tall, slammed into the side of a building. The crash and the fire, which raged through the night, killed all 153 passengers. No one is sure how many people on the ground may have died; rescue workers are still digging through the rubble.
It may be some time before we know the full extent of the damage, and much longer before we understand what caused the crash. But as emergency workers and Nigerian officials comb through the Lagos crash site, photographers are there as well, capturing the surreal scene, as well as the shocked and grieving community that went, in a few brief moments, from a neighborhood to a disaster scene. Here are some of their photos, as well as the unnervingly prescient March 15 tweets of Nigerian-American author Teju Cole worrying about whether Nigerian aviation had really become so much safer since it suffered three high-profile crashes in a one-year period. "It's hard to shake the feeling that soon, too soon, another Nigerian plane will fall from the sky," he wrote.
Onlookers, who rushed out of their homes on hearing (and, reportedly, feeling) the crash, find the jet engines lying next to what appears to be an impact crater. Because of several fires, the first-responders found the crash scene flooded with smoke, giving these first photos from Ishaga an otherworldly feel. (AP).
Local residents hoist a firehose across the debris to help put out some of the fires that had started. Firefighers and other emergency workers struggled to arrive as quickly as possible, but were reportedly delayed by the infamous traffic in Lagos, which has sprawled ever-wider over recent years. (AP).
One of the volunteers stands on the plane's destroyed wing, waiting for a firefighter to arrive with another section of firehose. Seeing the remarkable number of locals who rushed toward the crash scene, rather than away, it's hard not to think of the Americans who pitched in at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Though the events are obviously of different natures and scales, they share an ability to galvanize these communities to help one another in a time of catastrophe (AP).
A rescue worker -- it's not clear if he is a professional or simply a volunteering local -- combs through the rubble by hand, perhaps in an effort to recover some of the 153 people killed on the flight. (Reuters).
Onlookers discover a destroyed landing gear from the MD-83. It was still warm to the touch, according to the photographer. (AP).
Rescue workers and locals look over the crash scene in Lagos, one of the world's largest and fastest-growing cities and over 10 million people. The plane crashed in the neighborhood of Ishaga, which is only about two miles south of the Lagos airport. (Reuters).
Security officers and rescue workers struggled to keep onlookers, like those gathered on top of this building to watch, from interfering in their work. People, some helpful and some just curious, streamed in from Lagos's crowded nearby neighborhoods. (AP).
An official rescue worker looks over the scene at Ishaga. Nigeria has suffered a number of aviation disasters, including an October 2005 crash that killed 117 people, a December 2005 crash that killed 108, and an October 2006 crash that killed 106. Since then, Nigerian aviation standards are said to have improved. In 2010, the FAA gave it a category one safety rating, which the L.A. Timestranslates as "meaning the country complied with international safety standards in relation to training, technical expertise and other issues." (AP).
Rescue workers carry a body bag from the crash scene. "The fear is that since it happened in a residential area, there may have been many people killed," a government spokesperson warned, meaning the death toll could be well beyond the 153 on the plane. (Reuters).
Onlookers watch as a crane lifts the now-separated tail from the impact crater. (Reuters).
On Monday, the crash scene now quieter, officials marked off boundaries to separate the disaster zone from the still-functioning neighborhood that surrounds it. (AP).
Two and half months ago, Nigerian-American author Teju Cole worried on Twitter about the safety of Nigerian aviation. He cited the recent power outages at airports in Abuja and Lagos -- the departure and destination cities of Sunday's flight -- and the 2005 and 2006 disasters that had so shaken Nigeria. In retrospect, depending on your perspective, his warning can seem chillingly prescient, distressingly unheeded, or perhaps just a coincidence. Either way, they were widely circulated at the time and, with President Goodluck Jonathan's as-predicted show of mourning, resonate again today.
A European heat wave, lightning over California, a building made of 8,500 beer bottles, shrimp fishing on horseback in Belgium, the first-ever White House Campout, mine detection rats in Cambodia, and much more.
A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
In May 1988, a 13-year-old girl named Ashley King was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by court order. She had a tumor on her leg—an osteogenic sarcoma—that, writes Jerry Coyne in his book Faith Versus Fact, was “larger than a basketball,” and was causing her leg to decay while her body started to shut down. Ashley’s Christian Scientist parents, however, refused to allow doctors permission to amputate, and instead moved their daughter to a Christian Science sanatorium, where, in accordance with the tenets of their faith, “there was no medical care, not even pain medication.” Ashley’s mother and father arranged a collective pray-in to help her recover—to no avail. Three weeks later, she died.
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 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.
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.”
The Fourth of July—a time we Americans set aside to celebrate our independence and mark the war we waged to achieve it, along with the battles that followed. There was the War of 1812, the War of 1833, the First Ohio-Virginia War, the Three States' War, the First Black Insurrection, the Great War, the Second Black Insurrection, the Atlantic War, the Florida Intervention.
Confused? These are actually conflicts invented for the novel The Disunited States of Americaby Harry Turtledove, a prolific (and sometimes-pseudonymous) author of alternate histories with a Ph.D. in Byzantine history. The book is set in the 2090s in an alternate United States that is far from united. In fact, the states, having failed to ratify a constitution following the American Revolution, are separate countries that oscillate between cooperating and warring with one another, as in Europe.
The executive producer of Masterpiece says Jane Austen works a lot better on screen than Hemingway does.
For 44 years, PBS’s Masterpiece franchise has brought high-end Britain TV programs to American audiences. While the ultra-successful Downton Abbey comes from an original screenplay, many of Masterpiece’s shows over the years have been adapted from great works of literature. And the vast majority of those great works of literature, unsurprisingly, have been British.
But every so often, an American novel—like James Agee’s A Death in the Family or Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark—has been turned into a Masterpiece. On Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Rebecca Eaton, the longtime executive producer of Masterpiece, said she wished that the program had tackled more U.S. authors over the years. “The reasons that we haven't are twofold,” she said. “One is money, the second is money. And the third is money. Also, the dark nature of American literature, which is something to think about for a moment."
How a re-creation of its most famous battle helped erase the meaning of the Civil War.
"No person should die without seeing this cyclorama," declared a Boston man in 1885. "It's a duty they owe to their country." Paul Philippoteaux's lifelike depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg was much more than a painting. It re-created the battlefield with such painstaking fidelity, and created an illusion so enveloping, that many visitors felt as if they were actually there.
For all its verisimilitude, though, the painting failed to capture the deeper truths of the Civil War. It showed the two armies in lavish detail, but not the clash of ideals that impelled them onto the battlefield. Its stunning rendition of a battle utterly divorced from context appealed to a nation as eager to remember the valor of those who fought as it was to forget the purpose of their fight. Its version of the conflict proved so alluring, in fact, that it changed the way America remembered the Civil War.
Former Senator Jim Webb is the fifth Democrat to enter the race—and by far the most conservative one.
In a different era’s Democratic Party, Jim Webb might be a serious contender for the presidential nomination. He’s a war hero and former Navy secretary, but he has been an outspoken opponent of recent military interventions. He’s a former senator from Virginia, a purple state. He has a strong populist streak, could appeal to working-class white voters, and might even have crossover appeal from his days as a member of the Reagan administration.
In today’s leftward drifting Democratic Party, however, it’s hard to see Webb—who declared his candidacy Thursday—getting very far. As surprising as Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls has been, he looks more like the Democratic base than Webb does. The Virginian is progressive on a few major issues, including the military and campaign spending, but he’s far to the center or even right on others: He's against affirmative action, supports gun rights, and is a defender of coal. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats loved to have him as a foil to the White House. It’s hard to imagine the national electorate will cotton to him in the same way. Webb’s statement essentially saying he had no problem with the Confederate battle flag flying in places like the grounds of the South Carolina capitol may have been the final straw. (At 69, he’s also older than Hillary Clinton, whose age has been a topic of debate, though still younger than Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.)
Brian Grazer has some rules for success. He hasn’t always followed them.
There’s no secret formula to making a hit, according to Brian Grazer, the producer of film and TV successes like 24, Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Empire, and Friday Night Lights. But there are some guidelines. “In television I don't ever want to try and reinvent the wheel,” he said on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Friday. “But changing the spokes within the wheel is a good thing.”
Take Jack Bauer, the terrorist-fighting hero of 24. “He does thing that are very wish-fulfillment oriented,” Grazer said. “That makes people very excited, because wish fulfillment almost always works. You have to root for the character, and rooting for the character is rooting for what they want. It's easier to root for what somebody wants if what they want is noble.”
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.