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).
A new study pinpoints the Facebook status updates that irk us to the point of no return.
In the 1997 movie Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, the two title characters, worried that they haven’t done anything noteworthy to share at said reunion, decide instead to lie and claim they invented Post-it notes.
Their story quickly unravels, of course, but had the movie been made a decade later, even the very concept of the ruse would have been impossible. Everyone would have known about Romy’s daily slog at the Jaguar dealership through Facebook.
Or would they?
The ebb and flow of Facebook friendships has become fruitful territory for social scientists in recent years. At least 63 percent of people report having unfriended someone on Facebook, but what prompts these digital rejections can tell us a lot about both the nature of real-life friendship and about how we manage our online personalities.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
The neurologist leaves behind a body of work that reveals a lifetime of asking difficult questions with empathy.
Oliver Sacks always seemed propelled by joyful curiosity. The neurologist’s writing is infused with this quality—equal parts buoyancy and diligence, the exuberant asking of difficult questions.
More specifically, Sacks had a fascination with ways of seeing and hearing and thinking. Which is another way of exploring experiences of living. He focused on modes of perception that are delightful not only because they are subjective, but precisely because they are very often faulty.
To say Sacks had a gift for this method of exploration is an understatement. He was a master at connecting curiosity to observation, and observation to emotion. Sacks died on Sunday after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis earlier this year. He was 82.
Thicker ink, fewer smudges, and more strained hands: an Object Lesson
Recently, Bic launched acampaign to “save handwriting.” Named “Fight for Your Write,” it includes a pledge to “encourage the act of handwriting” in the pledge-taker’s home and community, and emphasizes putting more of the company’s ballpoints into classrooms.
As a teacher, I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could think there’s a shortage. I find ballpoint pens all over the place: on classroom floors, behind desks. Dozens of castaways collect in cups on every teacher’s desk. They’re so ubiquitous that the word “ballpoint” is rarely used; they’re just “pens.” But despite its popularity, the ballpoint pen is relatively new in the history of handwriting, and its influence on popular handwriting is more complicated than the Bic campaign would imply.
Wine snobs, string quartets, and the limits of intuition
Several months ago, this author sat at a classical music concert, trying to convince himself that wine is not bullshit.
That may seem like a strange thought to have while listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major. But Priceonomics had recently posted an article investigating The Price of Wine, part of which reviewed research that cast doubt on both consumers’ and wine experts’ ability to distinguish between quality wine and table wine or identify different wines and their flavors. It seemed a slippery slope to the conclusion that wine culture is nothing more than actors performing a snobbish play.
Listening to an accomplished musician while lacking any musical experience resulted in a feeling familiar to casual wine drinkers imbibing an expensive bottle: Feeling somewhat ambivalent and wondering whether you are convincing yourself that you enjoy it so as not to appear uncultured.
Today’s college students can’t seem to take a joke.
Three comics sat around a café table in the chilly atrium of the Minneapolis Convention Center, talking about how to create the cleanest possible set. “Don’t do what’s in your gut,” Zoltan Kaszas said. “Better safe than sorry,” Chinedu Unaka offered. Feraz Ozel mused about the first time he’d ever done stand-up: three minutes on giving his girlfriend herpes and banging his grandma. That was out.
This was not a case of professionals approaching a technical problem as an intellectual exercise. Money was riding on the answer. They had come to Minneapolis in the middle of a brutal winter for the annual convention of the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), to sell themselves and their comedy on the college circuit. Representatives of more than 350 colleges had come as well, to book comics, musicians, sword swallowers, unicyclists, magicians, hypnotists, slam poets, and every kind of boat act, inspirational speaker, and one-trick pony you could imagine for the next academic year.
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.
The new drama series, which follows the Colombian kingpin’s rise to power, feels more like a well-researched documentary than the gripping saga it wants to be.
Netflix’s new series Narcos is possibly arriving at the wrong time: The doldrums of summer aren’t really the ideal moment for a narratively dense, documentary-like look at the rise and fall of the Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Narrated in voiceover by DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), the early hours of Narcos feel like a history lesson, though an visually sumptuous one.
As Netflix continues to expand its streaming empire, it’s making a concerted effort to appeal to worldwide audiences, and Narcos fits neatly into that plan, alongside last year’s expensive critical flop Marco Polo. Narcos was shot on location in Colombia and stars the acclaimed Brazilian actor Wagner Moura as Escobar. It takes full advantage of its setting, loaded with sweeping helicopter shots of the Colombian jungle where Escobar founded his cocaine empire, filling a power vacuum left by various political upheavals in late-’70s South America.
Grasses—green, neatly trimmed, symbols of civic virtue—shaped the national landscape. They have now outlived their purpose.
The hashtag #droughtshaming—which primarily exists, as its name suggests, to publicly decry people who have failed to do their part to conserve water during California’s latest drought—has claimed many victims. Anonymous lawn-waterers. Anonymous sidewalk-washers. The city of Beverly Hills. The tag’s most high-profile shamee thus far, however, has been the actor Tom Selleck. Who was sued earlier this summer by Ventura County’s Calleguas Municipal Water District for the alleged theft of hydrant water, supposedly used to nourish his 60-acre ranch. Which includes, this being California, an avocado farm, and also an expansive lawn.
The case was settled out of court on terms that remain undisclosed, and everyone has since moved on with their lives. What’s remarkable about the whole thing, though—well, besides the fact that Magnum P.I. has apparently become, in his semi-retirement, a gentleman farmer—is how much of a shift all the Selleck-shaming represents, as a civic impulse. For much of American history, the healthy lawn—green, lush, neatly shorn—has been a symbol not just of prosperity, individual and communal, but of something deeper: shared ideals, collective responsibility, the assorted conveniences of conformity. Lawns, originally designed to connect homes even as they enforced the distance between them, are shared domestic spaces. They are also socially regulated spaces. “When smiling lawns and tasteful cottages begin to embellish a country,” Andrew Jackson Downing, one of the fathers of American landscaping, put it, “we know that order and culture are established.”
Residents of Newtok, Alaska voted to relocate as erosion destroyed their land. That was the easy part.
NEWTOK, Alaska—Two decades ago, the people of this tiny village came to terms with what had become increasingly obvious: They could no longer fight back the rising waters.
Their homes perched on a low-lying, treeless tuft of land between two rivers on Alaska’s west coast, residents saw the water creeping closer every year, gobbling up fields where they used to pick berries and hunt moose. Paul and Teresa Charles watched from their blue home on stilts on Newtok’s southern side as the Ninglick River inched closer and closer, bringing with it the salt waters of the Bering Sea.
“Sometimes, we lose 100 feet a year,” Paul Charles told me, over a bowl of moose soup.
Many communities across the world are trying to stay put as the climate changes, installing expensive levees and dikes and pumps, but not Newtok, a settlement of about 350 members of the Yupik people. In 1996, the village decided that fighting Mother Nature was fruitless, and they voted to move to a new piece of land nine miles away, elevated on bedrock.