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).
The HBO drama’s finale hinted at a dark, meta message.
This post contains spoilers for the season finale of Westworld.
In 2013, a widely cited study published in Science suggested that reading literature increases a person ability to understand other peoples’ emotions. In 2016, another study seemed to debunk it, finding the original study’s results irreplicable and its resulting media coverage way too broad. “Reading Literature Won’t Give You Superpowers,” went The Atlantic’s headline from last week about the reversal.
It might seem laughable in the first place for anyone to think literature bestows superpowers. But that’s actually one of the more abiding beliefs of popular culture, and the question of whether stories improve the soul and mind—and better humanity more broadly—remains eternally in dispute. It’s a question that HBO’s Westworld has riffed on for 10 episodes, with the popular drama’s finale last night suggesting a cynical take on the social value of storytelling.
To many white Trump voters, the problem wasn’t her economic stance, but the larger vision—a multi-ethnic social democracy—that it was a part of.
Perhaps the clearest takeaway from the November election for many liberals is that Hillary Clinton lost because she ignored the working class.
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nationblamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.”
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost.
Trump's election has reopened questions that have long seemed settled in America—including the acceptability of open discrimination against minority groups.
When Stephen Bannon called his website, Breitbart, the “platform for the alt-right” this summer, he was referring to a movement that promotes white nationalism and argues that the strength of the United States is tied to its ethnic European roots. Its members mostly stick to trolling online, but much of what they do isn’t original or new: Their taunts often involve vicious anti-Semitism. They make it clear that Jews are not included in their vision of a perfect, white, ethno-state.
On the opposite side of American politics, many progressive groups are preparing to mount a rebellion against Donald Trump. They see solidarity among racial minorities as their goal, and largely blame Trump’s election on racism and white supremacy. Three-quarters of American Jews voted against Trump, and many support this progressive vision. Some members of these groups, though, have singled out particular Jews for their collusion with oppressive power—criticisms which range from inflammatory condemnations of Israel to full-on conspiracies about global Jewish media and banking cabals.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
SNL parodied the president-elect’s impulsive tweeting last weekend, and he responded by tweeting about it.
Saturday Night Live has been on television for nearly 42 years, and in that time, it has mocked seven presidents, with an eighth, Donald Trump, now firmly in its sights. The show’s satire is essentially part of the political scenery; at best, a president might knowingly reference it as a sign of self-awareness. Chevy Chase, in his portrayal of Gerald Ford, mocked the president as clumsy and accident-prone. President Ford did not respond by publicly demonstrating his grace and poise, obeying the old maxim about not protesting too much.
Playing Trump on last weekend’s show, Alec Baldwin mocked the president-elect’s impulse control in a sketch that saw him retweeting random high-school students during a national security briefing. The real Trump was not pleased. “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad,” he tweeted at 12:13 a.m., about halfway through the episode. The irony couldn’t have been more plain: In response to a sketch mocking his propensity for impulsive tweeting, the president-elect ... impulsively tweeted about it. Satire in the age of Trump has already been difficult for Saturday Night Live, but it seems increasingly caught in a feedback loop: Any ridiculous heightening of his behavior is doomed to instant irrelevance by Trump’s reaction to it.
The island once had a seat on the UN Security Council. Now a simple phone call with its leader is international news.
Richard Nixon excelled at stating the obvious. On his historic first trip to China in February of 1972, he visited the Great Wall, marveling at its vast length and age. “I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall,” he remarked. But when dealing with a country as complex as China, Nixonian plainspeak was not always a bad thing. In a private conversation in June 1971 with Walter P. McConaughy, the U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, Nixon said that the United States needed to prepare Taiwan’s leaders for the eventual shock that would accompany Washington’s improved ties with Beijing. At the time, Washington had full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but not China; the small island nation was still one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In the eyes of the world, Taiwan’s strongman leader Chiang Kai-Shek was the legitimate ruler of China. But Taiwan, Nixon said, must know that Washington is engaging with Beijing, “not because we love them. But because they’re there.” China, he implied in his circuitous yet blunt way, was just too big to ignore anymore. More importantly, it had been a mistake to ignore China.
Firefighters have now found 36 bodies inside the artist collective where dozens of people lived together.
Rescue workers say 36 people were killed in Oakland, California, in a fire that torched an artist-collective warehouse known locally as the “Ghost Ship.” It may take weeks to identify everyone killed, because the flames have charred some bodies so badly they’ll have to be identified through dental records. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has also opened a criminal investigation into what caused the fire. So far, it’s thought to have been an accident—the result of too many people in a place with rampant building-code violations. But already some of the artistic community’s frustration seems aimed at both the warehouse’s artistic leader as well as the Bay Area’s unaffordable rent.
The fire started Friday during a late-night rave being held at the warehouse, home to a couple dozen artists. The blaze grew so quickly that flames and smoke trapped many of the people inside, and forced some to leap out of the second-floor windows. Since firefighters extinguished the flames early Saturday morning, rescue workers have methodically removed bits of ash and debris, putting them in dump trucks to be taken to an offsite location, where they can be sorted and checked in case they contain human remains. It is one of the worst U.S. fires in recent memory, bringing to mind the 2003 blaze in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100 people at a nightclub called the Station.
The past 12 months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, and so much more.
The past 12 months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror in the Middle East and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, ongoing protests demanding racial justice in the U.S., the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and so much more. Today, we present the “Top 25 News Photos of 2016”—and starting tomorrow will be presenting part one of a more comprehensive three-part series, “2016: The Year in Photos.” Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.
In 12 of 16 past cases in which a rising power has confronted a ruling power, the result has been bloodshed.
When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise.
And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.
Confronting racism can be crucial, even when it’s not persuasive.
In the brushfire wars since Donald Trump won the presidency, skirmishes over how to speak to his coalition of voters have consumed liberals. Leading the vanguard in those conversations is a collection of writers and thinkers of otherwise divergent views, united by the painful process of reexamining identity politics, social norms, and—most urgently—how to address racism in an election clearly influenced by it. Though earnest and perhaps necessary, their emphasis on the civil persuasion of denizens of "middle America" effectively coddles white people. It mistakes civility for the only suitable tool of discourse, and persuasion as its only end.
This exploration of how to best win over white Americans to the liberal project is exemplified by reactions to Hillary Clinton’s placing many of Donald Trump’s supporters in a “basket of deplorables.” The debate about whether to classify these voters as racist or bigoted for supporting a candidate who constantly evinced views and policies many believe to be bigoted is still raging. As Dara Lind at Vox expertly notes, Clinton’s comments themselves were inartful precisely because they seemed focused solely on “overt” manifestations of racism, like Klan hoods and slurs. That focus ignores the ways in which white supremacy and patriarchy can function as systems of oppression, tends to forgive the more refined and subtle racism of elites, and may ultimately lead to a definition of racism in which no one is actually racist and yet discrimination remains ubiquitous.