Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, gave impassioned testimony last week to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs about the violent war against women being waged, still, in eastern Congo. Testimony reinforced yesterday by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times, in a column titled, simply, "After Wars, Mass Rapes Persist."
No sane person in the world would argue against the notion that a terrible travesty is being conducted against women in not only the Congo, but Liberia, Sudan, and other African conflict areas. Eastern Congo has the highest rate of violence against women in the world, at the moment. As many as 70% of the women and girls there have been sexually assaulted or mutilated, according to some estimates. The numbers boggle the mind.
We should do something, Ensler says. I agree. Wholeheartedly. Hear one woman's tale of brutal mutilation, and you want to throw up. Realize that behind the eyes of most of the women you encounter lies a similar, horrifying tale, and something inside you twists, screams, and goes strangely numb. There's simply no way to even absorb it. But having spent a little time in conflict areas in Africa, I also agree with Kristof that the problems are so complex that solutions are difficult to see, or even imagine, clearly. Especially by people on the outside.
In 2001, I spent a little time flying relief supplies into Sudan, in the 18th year of civil war there. The airlift into Sudan involved a bizarre mix of missionaries and mercenaries, and both authorized and unauthorized flight missions. The U.N. planes could only fly into areas authorized by the Sudanese government. But seeing as the conflict was a civil war, there were whole areas the government didn't want aid to reach. Hence the unauthorized flights by non-U.N. aid organizations ... like the one I was flying with.
On one flight, we dodged a couple of Northern-occupied towns and did a "quick turn" at a little dirt airstrip in the village of Akot, Southern Sudan, where there was a hospital and a school. We were on the ground less than 10 minutes because that's when we were at our most vulnerable. Not long before that, a Red Cross plane had been bombed by the Northern Sudanese on that very strip. Such are the hazards of war, of course.
Six years later, I went back to Southern Sudan ... in large part because I wanted to see what had changed since the 2005 Peace Accord had been signed. Unquestionably, progress had been made. Villages that had been decimated were being rebuilt, and people were returning home after years in refugee camps. Mine fields had been cleared and turned into outdoor markets.
But all was not idyllic. Southern Sudan's charismatic leader, John Garang, had died in a helicopter accident right after the peace accord had been signed, leaving behind feuding tribal factions and corrupt officials. In village after village, men told me that if the North didn't agree to independence for Southern Sudan, they would simply get their guns and return to their rebel hiding places. In one village, when I asked a group of teenage boys what they wanted, now that the war was over, one wordlessly took my pen, wrote the word "independent" on his hand, and held it out for me to see. There was no smile on his face, or in his eyes.
Two days later, I was flying with the same pilot I'd flown with six years earlier, when we got a radio distress call. There'd been an uprising at a local hospital, and hostages had been taken. The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had moved in, captured the kidnappers, and freed the hostages. But the conflict involved tribal rivalry, people were armed, and tensions in the area were running high. Could we fly in and take the hostages to safety?
We got security updates every 10 minutes on the way there, stayed high, and did a maximum performance descent to the dirt airstrip, to keep our exposure to any potential ground fire to a minimum. We taxied to the end of the strip, where our human cargo awaited us, and shut down the engine only long enough to load up. Four minutes later, we were airborne again, in a steep climb. As we reached a safe altitude, and my heart rate returned to something closer to normal, I realized with a sad shock that I'd been to that strip before. Six years earlier. And then, too, we'd had to do a quick turn to avoid violence on the ground. Because then, the nation had been at war.
All of that is to say ... the sobering truth of Africa--or, perhaps, anywhere--is that an absence of war does not equate to peace. And violence is a very hard habit to break.
Is there any hope? A little. Kristof points to progress being made in Liberia, where the Carter Center is working to prosecute rapists and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has sent strong signals that rape will not be tolerated. He also quotes a young girl there who, despite being brutally raped and mutilated, has determined that when she grows up, she wants to build shelters for abused girls ... and become President of Liberia.
Farfetched? Well, consider: in 1994 Rwanda suffered one of the most brutal, genocidal civil wars in memory. But in the vacuum that the chaos left, the surviving women had to start taking on roles they never had before. (At one point, 70% of the country's population was female.) In 2003, a country that only nine years earlier had nurtured a highly repressive culture toward women; a culture in which women were not allowed to inherit property or own their own businesses ... elected a parliament in which a full 49% of the representatives were women. Which gave Rwanda a greater percentage of women in its national government than any other country in the world.
How did that happen? In part because of international efforts to help Rwanda draft a new national constitution and electoral process. And in part because of the Rwandan women themselves. Can that happen in Congo? I don't know. But Ensler's right about Congolese women being resilient. In September 2007, as UN tanks rolled down the streets of Goma to try to repel an attack by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda a few kilometers to the southwest, I watched women in town continuing with their standard Saturday morning town clean-up. They were singing as they worked.
Take a walk along West Florissant Avenue, in Ferguson, Missouri. Head south of the burned-out Quik Trip and the famous McDonalds, south of the intersection with Chambers, south almost to the city limit, to the corner of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant. There, last August, Emerson Electric announced third-quarter sales of $6.3 billion. Just over half a mile to the northeast, four days later, Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. The 12 shots fired by Officer Wilson were probably audible in the company lunchroom.
Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars.
“People skills” are almost always assumed to be a good thing. Search employment ads and you will find them listed as a qualification for a startling array of jobs, including Applebee’s host, weight-loss specialist, CEO, shoe salesperson, and (no joke) animal-care coordinator. The notion that people smarts might help you succeed got a boost a quarter century ago, when the phrase emotional intelligence, or EI, entered the mainstream. Coined in a 1990 study, the term was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book . Since then, scores of researchers have shown how being in touch with feelings—both your own and other people’s—gives you an edge: compared with people who have average EI, those with high EI do better at work, have fewer health problems,and report greater life satisfaction.
Orr:Wait a minute. There’s a royal wedding—and nobody dies a horrible death? A man is beheaded—and we can all agree that it was for the best? What the hell show am I watching? I came here for Game of Thrones, baby, not Wizards of Waverly Place.
I kid, of course. Given David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s tendency to take George R. R. Martin’s material and render it even more bloody than it already was, I’m actually mildly relieved that they didn’t throw in a random homicide just to spice up the nuptials of Margaery and young Tommen, First of His Name.
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
At a large distribution center located north of Boston, a robot lifts a shelf holding merchandise and navigates it through the warehouse to the workstation of an employee who then picks the item needed for an order and places it in a shipping box. Incoming orders are processed by a computer that sends picking requests to sixty-nine robots. Then, the robots deliver storage units to roughly a hundred workers, saving the workers the task of walking through the warehouse to find the items. In other distribution centers, this is work that warehouse workers do.
The distribution center, run by Quiet Logistics—a company that fills orders for sellers of premium-branded apparel, is featured in the60 Minutes episode “Are Robots Hurting Job Growth?” In the segment, Steve Kroft poses the following question to Bruce Welty, the CEO of Quiet Logistics: "If you had to replace the robots with people, how many people would you have to hire?" Welty estimates that he would have to hire one and a half people for every robot, and that the robots are saving him a lot of money.
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 her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
After a five-month delay, Loretta Lynch made history last week. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general, the first African American woman ever to hold this Cabinet position. Her long-stalled nomination sometimes seemed in doubt, held hostage to partisan jockeying between Democrats and Republicans. But one political bloc never gave up, relentlessly rallying its support behind Lynch: the black sorority.
During her initial hearing, the seats behind Lynch were filled with more than two dozen of her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sisters arrayed in crimson-and-cream blazers and blouses, ensuring their visibility on the national stage. These Delta women—U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty among them—were there to lend moral support and show the committee that they meant business. The Deltas were not alone. The Lynch nomination also drew support from congressional representatives from other black sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha members Terri Sewell and Sheila Jackson Lee took to the House floor to advocate for a vote while Sigma Gamma Rho members Corinne Brown and Robin Kelly and Zeta Phi Beta member Donna Edwards used social media and press conferences to campaign on Lynch’s behalf.
Every week for the seventh and final season of AMC's hit period-drama Mad Men, Sophie Gilbert, David Sims, and Lenika Cruz will discuss the possible fates facing Don Draper and those in his orbit.
Sims: After a meandering start to the half-season, Mad Men finally kicked into a higher gear with "Time & Life," finding new energy (perhaps unsurprisingly) with a story that was about the firm, rather than Don's depressing love life. Much of the episode echoed some of the series' greatest moments, like the third-season finale, "Shut the Door, Have a Seat," which saw Don and company break away from their firm to create Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, or even the mid-season finale last year where Roger convinced McCann Erickson to acquire the company; a decision that came full circle here.
In 1979, almost a year into the papacy of John Paul II, a novel called The Vicar of Christ spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. The work of a Princeton legal scholar, Walter F. Murphy, it featured an unlikely papal candidate named Declan Walsh—first a war hero, then a United States Supreme Court justice, and then (after an affair and his wife’s untimely death) a monk—who is summoned to the throne of Saint Peter by a deadlocked, desperate conclave.
Once elevated, Walsh takes the name Francesco—that is, Francis—and sets about using the office in extraordinary ways. He launches a global crusade against hunger, staffed by Catholic youth and funded by the sale of Vatican treasures. He intervenes repeatedly in world conflicts, at one point flying into Tel Aviv during an Arab bombing campaign. He lays plans to gradually reverse the Church’s teachings on contraception and clerical celibacy, and banishes conservative cardinals to monastic life when they plot against him. He flirts with the Arian heresy, which doubted Jesus’s full divinity, and he embraces Quaker-style religious pacifism, arguing that just-war theory is out of date in an age of nuclear arms and total war. (This last move eventually gets him assassinated, probably by one of the governments threatened by his quest for peace.)