Protesters are gathering across Sudan today for what they say that they hope will be a "Tahrir-style" national movement for the downfall of the autocratic government of President Omar al-Bashir. So far, protests are numerous but relatively small, with state security forces cracking down heavily. It's not Tahrir yet, but, while the two countries share a border and the Nile River, neither is Sudan quite like Egypt. Protesters, pushing for democracy and an end to Bashir's much-hated austerity measures, are calling today's demonstrations "The Friday of Elbow Licking," a reference to a senior Sudanese official who'd said that the Arab Spring would spread here "only if you can lick your elbow." Here's a helpful map of protests, arrests, and violence so far, as mapped by Sudanese activists at SudanChangeNow2012 based on media coverage and what they call "trusted reports" from the field. You can zoom in to city block-by-block protests and clashes in, for example, the capital city of Khartoum. Below that are a series of photos that tell the story of today's "elbow-licking" would-be Sudanese Tahrir. You may notice that there are not many photos, and that none of them are by professional photographers. Sudan has tough restrictions against journalists: state security raided the AFP's Khartoum office, arresting a photographer who had taken pictures of the protests. This leaves the world to rely largely on citizen journalists, who often face even harsher punishments for reporting.
Wired Sudanese are passing around this photo of a protest in the city of Al-Ubayyid. Here's a photo of al-Ubayyid 50 years ago to give you a sense of how dramatically Sudan has changed since its 1956 independence from British colonialism. The banner readers, "Al-Ubayyid 29th June Lick Your Elbow Friday." (Twitter/Shamarat)
Protesters march in Omdurman, Sudan's largest city, just across the Nile from capital Khartoum. Their movement has listed 15 demands, the biggest of which is for the regime, in power since Omar al-Bashir's 1989 coup, to leave power. They're also asking for basic freedoms, inflation controls, and an end to religious discrimination. Though some of the country's youth and educated elite have long pushed for such a movement, it was Bashir's June 18 announcement of new austerity cuts, including to fuel subsidies, that sparked today's protests. (Twitter/Kumboya).
A young Sudanese girl licks her elbow, holding a sign that reads, "We licked our elbows and there's no going back. Revolution until victor." (It rhymes in Arabic.) Bashir has dismissed the protesters, saying, "The people who are burning tires are a few agitators." The country's feared state security have recently clamped down, arresting journalists, activists, and opposition figures. (Twitter/AbdallahFHD).
Protesters burn tires in Khartoum. Prominent Sudanese activist Amir Ahmad Nasr recently wrote at Foreign Policy, "As the fear barrier crumbles, Sudanese have a chance to topple Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) cronies -- and to build a better future for their country." That's a more optimistic take than most observers share. And even if protesters do oust Bashir, it might not matter: "An Arab spring? Not yet. More likely is that al-Bashir is losing the support of the ruling National Congress Party," John Campbell writes at CFR. "Essentially the ruling party would be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Most of the same people would remain in charge and continue largely isolated from the Sudanese people. But there really is no credible opposition ready to step in." (Activists, via AP).
An elderly man sits during a protest. He may well have seen the entire breadth of post-colonial Sudanese history, which began with the 1956 independence from British rule (and from attempted Egyptian rule) as a single country that should have been two. The country's north and south have been in and out of conflict since then, starting with a civil war that began the year before independence, and continues today, even a year after the south finally won independence. (Twitter/Kumboya).
A tense protest gathers in Bahri, a district of Khartoum just across the Blue Nile. Security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and even live ammunition against demonstrators, according to reports as well as a statement from the UN human rights office urging the Sudanese government to show more restraint. "Its clear, though most protestors are peaceful, some throwing rocks and a teenager had a homemade molotov," one Sudanese activist tweeted. Violence has slowly escalated throughout the day, with so far one protester allegedly killed by tear has asphyxiation and several wounded hiding out in a Khartoum mosque that's currently surrounded by state security, according to Al Jazeera. (Twitter/Moez Ali).
Women clap at a demonstration today in an unknown Sudanese town. Demonstrations earlier this month have mostly consisted of 100 or 200 young men throwing stones and burning tires, but today's protests are reportedly somewhat larger and more representative of society. (AP).
Demonstrators gather around burning tires in Khartoum. State media has been largely silent, with cell phone service down nationwide for several hours today as police cracked down. A Reuters analysis of the movement concluded, "The government, running out of policy options that can both stabilize the economy and soothe discontent over inflation, may have to depend on such security measures to maintain order at least in the short term." (Activists, via AP).
Protesters march toward the city center in Omdurman, across the river from Khartoum. Blogging at Arabist on the Sudanese regime's struggles to keep order at home, challenge the newly independent south, and absorb the staggering economic losses that came when the oil-heavy south seceded, Paul Mutter writes, "None of this month's events this bodes well for the government, especially if violence escalates and it finds itself confronting major demonstrations all over the country." (Twitter/Yousif Elmahdi).
This short and inscrutable video is circulating rapidly on Sudanese social media. Purportedly, it shows an injured protester being carried away after clashes with security forces. With so little information coming out of the country, it's difficult to know for sure what's happening, or what will come next. (Twitter/Kumboya).
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
By announcing the first detection of gravitational waves, scientists have vindicated Einstein and given humans a new way to look at the universe.
More than a billion years ago, in a galaxy that sits more than a billion light-years away, two black holes spiraled together and collided. We can’t see this collision, but we know it happened because, as Albert Einstein predicted a century ago, gravitational waves rippled out from it and traveled across the universe to an ultra-sensitive detector here on Earth.
This discovery, announced today by researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), marks another triumph for Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And more importantly, it marks the beginning of a new era in the study of the universe: the advent of gravitational-wave astronomy. The universe has just become a much more interesting place.
A maverick investor is buying up water rights. Will he rescue a region, or just end up hurting the poor?
On a brisk, cloudless day last january, Disque Deane Jr. stepped out of his SUV, kicked his cowboy boots in the dirt, and looked around. He had driven two hours from Reno on one of the loneliest stretches of interstate in the United States to visit the Diamond S Ranch, just outside the town of Winnemucca, Nevada. Before him, open fields stretched all the way to the Santa Rosa mountains, 30 miles away. But the land was barren. The fields had been chewed down to the roots by cattle, and the ranch’s equipment had been stripped for parts. A steel trestle bridge lay pitched into the Humboldt River.
Surveying the dilapidated structures and the gopher-riddled soil, Deane saw something few others might: potential. The ranch and an adjoining property, totaling about 11,400 acres—14 times the size of Central Park—were for sale for $10.5 million, and he was thinking about buying them.
The hit new indie release is the opposite of action-packed, yet it’s compelling in its simplicity.
Solitude, it turns out, can be addictive. So I learned playing the new hit indie game Firewatch, where all the action amounts to you, the player, being alone in the woods. You’re a lookout assigned to a summer posting in the Shoshone National Forest of Wyoming in 1989, meaning your job consists of nothing more than wandering around, clearing brush, and calling in any fires you might spot. Most video games equip you with tools and weapons, complex missions, and action sequences. All Firewatch gives you is a map, a compass, and a walkie-talkie—but it’s still one of the most compelling video games I’ve ever played.
It’s the latest in a quiet movement of video games, more psychological products that tap into the atmosphere and wonder of loneliness rather than looking for the simpler thrills the medium usually provides. It’s tempting to trace this trend’s origins back to Minecraft, which launched in 2009 and became a worldwide phenomenon on the back of its extraordinary simplicity. But in Minecraft, you start armed only with your bare hands in a world of monsters, and can eventually upgrade into a city-builder armed with powerful tools. Firewatch is a more intimate affair: a short story, playable over a few hours, that succeeds first and foremost as an emotional experience.
By mining electronic medical records, scientists show the lasting legacy of prehistoric sex on modern humans’ health.
Modern humans originated in Africa, and started spreading around the world about 60,000 years ago. As they entered Asia and Europe, they encountered other groups of ancient humans that had already settled in these regions, such as Neanderthals. And sometimes, when these groups met, they had sex.
We know about these prehistoric liaisons because they left permanent marks on our genome. Even though Neanderthals are now extinct, every living person outside of Africa can trace between 1 and 5 percent of our DNA back to them. (I am 2.6 percent Neanderthal, if you were wondering, which pales in comparison to my colleague James Fallows at 5 percent.)
This lasting legacy was revealed in 2010 when the complete Neanderthal genome was published. Since then, researchers have been trying to figure out what, if anything, the Neanderthal sequences are doing in our own genome. Are they just passive hitchhikers, or did they bestow important adaptations on early humans? And are they affecting the health of modern ones?
Once it was because they weren’t as well educated. What’s holding them back now?
Though headway has been made in bringing women’s wages more in line with men’s in the past several decades, that convergence seems to have stalled in more recent years. To help determine why, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, the authors of a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research parse data on wages and occupations from 1980 to 2010. They find that as more women attended and graduated college and headed into the working world, education and professional experience levels stopped playing a significant role in the the difference between men and women’s wages. Whatever remains of the discrepancy can’t be explained by women not having basic skills and credentials. So what does explain it?
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
Why the Syrian war—and the future of Europe—may hinge on one city
This week, the Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian-supported militias including Hezbollah, launched a major offensive to encircle rebel strongholds in the northern city of Aleppo, choking off one of the last two secure routes connecting the city to Turkey and closing in on the second. This would cut supplies not only to a core of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but also to the city’s 300,000 remaining civilians, who may soon find themselves besieged like hundreds of thousands of others in the country. In response, 50,000 civilians have fled Aleppo for the Turkish border, where the border crossing is currently closed. An unnamed U.S. defense official toldThe Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef that “the war is essentially over” if Assad manages to seize and hold Aleppo.
If Bernie Sanders is serious about a political transformation in America, he needs a better plan.
If there’s one thing that fires up Bernie Sanders supporters—and makes his detractors roll their eyes—it’s his call for a “political revolution.” To his base, it’s the very point of his anti-establishment, anti-elite candidacy. To his critics, it’s the very embodiment of his campaign’s naïve impracticality and vagueness.
But now that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have spoken, it’s time to take the idea of political revolution more seriously—more seriously, indeed, than Sanders himself appears to have. It’s time to ask: What exactly would it take?
It starts with Congress. And here it’s instructive to compare Sanders and Donald Trump. Both rely on broad, satisfying refrains of “We’re gonna”: We’re gonna break up the big banks. We’re gonna make Mexico build the wall. We’re gonna end the rule of Wall Street billionaires. We’re gonna make China stop ripping us off.