Five weeks after Mubarak yielded his presidency to the unified masses of Tahrir Square, Egypt's could-be revolution is a deeply divided mess
CAIRO, Egypt -- On a traffic island-based podium in Tahrir Square, an activist concluded his call for Egyptians to vote down tomorrow's referendum on proposed constitutional amendments, and music started playing. But barely one-hundred feet away on the same traffic island, another activist standing on another podium was still in the middle of his speech, similarly railing against the proposed constitutional amendments. And when his speech ended, music -- different music -- started playing. Meanwhile, a few hundred feet away, a speaker on a third podium was urging people to vote "no," competing with the ugly cacophony of two dissonant songs playing in the not-so-background. As for the speaker on the fourth podium, well, it was a bit hard to hear him and few people bothered listening anyway.
Five weeks after Hosni Mubarak yielded his presidency to the unified masses of Tahrir Square, Egypt's could-be revolution is a deeply divided mess. The multi-partisan groups of youth activists who spearheaded the revolt can no longer agree on whether they should continue demonstrating, and even those who wish to demonstrate can no longer coordinate their speakers, schedules, or locations. Moreover, there are significant splits among youth activists within these groups, as well as between the members of these groups and the parent organizations with which they are affiliated as individuals.
These divisions can be traced, in part, to the Muslim Brotherhood's call for its members to vote "yes" on the constitutional amendments. The Brotherhood is the only opposition movement supporting the amendments, and the presence of its youth members within certain revolutionary groups has put pressure on those groups to stay away from Tahrir Square.
"We are afraid that some tragedies will occur between those saying yes and no, especially now that the Muslim Brotherhood is saying yes," said Shadi el-Ghazali Harb, a representative of the Democratic Front Party (DFP) in the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth on Thursday evening. "We did not want to show this image in the world, so we're directing our efforts to distributing pamphlets."
But still other revolutionary groupings, such as the Union of Revolutionary Youth and a gathering of independents (cue Life of Brian), had promised to demonstrate, as did the DFP. "But it called for people without organizing them," said activist Bilal Diab.
The divisions among these organizations and today's relatively paltry turnout in Tahrir Square bolster the military's bid to end its direct governance of the country as soon as possible. The passage of tomorrow's referendum is essential to that aim, because it would allow new presidential and parliamentary elections to be held within the next six months. Alternatively, if the referendum fails, it would leave the military scrambling for a new way forward.
For this reason, the military has taken a number of steps in the past few days to tip the scales in its favor. Last night, soldiers policed the sidewalks of Tahrir Square to keep people moving, apparently hoping to prevent activists from staging another overnight sit-in. The military further ordered state-run television stations to stop featuring critics of the proposed constitutional amendments after Thursday. And on Friday, soldiers surrounded protesters at various locations around Tahrir Square, keeping the crowds contained and thereby discouraging more people from joining in.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the military fulfilled its promise for judicial oversight of tomorrow's referendum by including 47 dead justices and 52 justices no longer working in Egypt on its list of judicial monitors. In response, 2000 judges threatened not to participate in supervising the referendum, which opens the possibility of widespread fraud -- most likely in the military's favor. There are also irregularities in the distribution of polling stations. For example, there is only one polling station in the relatively liberal, densely populated Cairo neighborhood of Zamalek, but 47 in Talkha, a small village in the Nile Delta, where the pro-amendments Muslim Brotherhood is strongest.
Many Egyptians are already starting to feel dispirited. "I feel that I'm being led astray," said Yasmin Amin. "We're going to get hit on the back of the neck."
Not all Egyptians are dispirited, though. The increasing likelihood that the referendum will pass has energized the Muslim Brotherhood, which was reportedly campaigning in its strongholds earlier today. In contrast to the innumerable non-Islamist opposition groups and parties that are still competing for attention, the Muslim Brotherhood has an effective network of members and supporters that it can mobilize at any time. And the sooner that Egypt holds its elections, the greater the Muslim Brotherhood's advantage over its amateurish opponents.
"If there is an election tomorrow, they will win," said Amir Raouf, who protested against the amendments.
But the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't seem too concerned either way. "If we run elections tomorrow, the Muslim Brotherhood will win the number of seats they challenge," said Islam Lotfy, who represents the Muslim Brotherhood Youth on the Coalition. "And if it's in three months, they'll gain the same seats. And if they want to do it in two years, they will also win. Because they're well organized and have a big constituency."
The passage of the amendment, however, would probably undermine the Brotherhood's cooperation with other movements. "I expect that if the referendum turns out to be yes, the tensions between us and the Brotherhood will rise," said Harb.
Indeed, the post-Mubarak honeymoon has ended. And the trials of transition begin tomorrow.
A CFPB investigation concluded that Transunion and Equifax deceived Americans about the reports they provided and the fees they charged.
In personal finance, practically everything can turn on one’s credit score. It’s both an indicator of one’s financial past, and the key to accessing necessities—without insane costs—in the future. But on Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that two of the three major credit-reporting agencies responsible for doling out those scores—Equifax and Transunion—have been deceiving and taking advantage of Americans. The Bureau ordered the agencies to pay more than $23 million in fines and restitution.
In their investigation, the Bureau found that the two agencies had been misrepresenting the scores provided to consumers, telling them that the score reports they received were the same reports that lenders and businesses received, when, in fact, they were not. The investigation also found problems with the way the agencies advertised their products, using promotions that suggested that their credit reports were either free or cost only $1. According to the CFPB the agencies did not properly disclose that after a trial of seven to 30 days, individuals would be enrolled in a full-price subscription, which could total $16 or more per month. The Bureau also found Equifax to be in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which states that the agencies must provide one free report every 12 months made available at a central site. Before viewing their free report, consumers were forced to view advertisements for Equifax, which is prohibited by law.
The MIT economist Peter Temin argues that economic inequality results in two distinct classes. And only one of them has any power.
A lot of factors have contributed to American inequality: slavery, economic policy, technological change, the power of lobbying, globalization, and so on. In their wake, what’s left?
That’s the question at the heart of a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin, an economist from MIT. Temin argues that, following decades of growing inequality, America is now left with what is more or less a two-class system: One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy (but still mostly white) lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.
American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth.
As recently as the 1950s, possessing only middling intelligence was not likely to severely limit your life’s trajectory. IQ wasn’t a big factor in whom you married, where you lived, or what others thought of you. The qualifications for a good job, whether on an assembly line or behind a desk, mostly revolved around integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along—bosses didn’t routinely expect college degrees, much less ask to see SAT scores. As one account of the era put it, hiring decisions were “based on a candidate having a critical skill or two and on soft factors such as eagerness, appearance, family background, and physical characteristics.”
The 2010s, in contrast, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
In 1985, Neil Postman observed an America imprisoned by its own need for amusement. He was, it turns out, extremely prescient.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters gathered at Washington’s National Mall to advocate for an assortment of causes: action against global climate change, federal funding for scientific research, a generally empirical approach to the world and its mysteries. The protesters at the March for Science, as scientists are wont to do, followed what has become one of the established formulas for such an event, holding clever signs, wearing cheeky outfits, and attempting, overall, to carnivalize their anger. “Make the Barrier Reef Great Again,” read one sign at the March. “This is my sine,” read another. “I KNEW TO WEAR THIS,” one woman had written on the poncho she wore that soggy Saturday, “BECAUSE SCIENCE PREDICTED THE RAIN.” Three protesters, sporting sensible footwear and matching Tyrannosaurus rex costumes, waved poster boards bearing messages like “Jurassick of this shit.”
The party appears to be struggling to convince the public it represents a better alternative to President Trump and the GOP.
If Democrats want to regain the power they’ve lost at the state and federal level in recent years, they will have to convince more voters they can offer solutions to their problems.
That may be especially difficult, however, if voters think the party and its representatives in government don’t understand or care about them. And according to a recently released poll, many voters may, in fact, feel that way. The Washington Post-ABC News survey, released this week, found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans in the United States. More Americans think Democrats are out of touch than believe the same of the Republican Party or President Trump.
From joy and attachment to anxiety and protectiveness, mothering behavior begins with biochemical reactions.
The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live. I always liked Walker's description because it’s more precise than the shorthand most people use for life with a newborn: Everything changes.
Because a lot of things do change, of course, but for new mothers, some of the starkest differences are also the most intimate ones—the emotional changes. Which, it turns out, are also largely neurological.
Even before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of her brain, several neurologists told me. After centuries of observing behavioral changes in new mothers, scientists are only recently beginning to definitively link the way a woman acts with what's happening in her prefrontal cortex, midbrain, parietal lobes, and elsewhere. Gray matter becomes more concentrated. Activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby. In other words, those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.
“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.
At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.
A new documentary explores how early experiences drive development.
The idea that new babies are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge of the world around them doesn’t sound unreasonable. With their unfocused eyes and wrinkly skin, tiny humans sometimes look more like amoebas than complex beings.
Yet scientists have built a body of evidence, particularly over the last three decades, that suggests this is patently untrue. “When kids are born, they’re already little scientists exploring the world,” said the filmmaker Estela Renner via a video conference from Brazil before a recent screening of her new documentary The Beginning of Life (streaming on Netflix) at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
That’s something Renner, a Brazilian mother of three, discovered as she spoke with early-childhood experts and parents in nine countries around the world about the impact a child’s environment in the first few years of life has on not only her physical development, but her cognitive, social, and emotional development, too. “I didn’t know that kids were not blank slates,” she said. “It changed the way I look at babies.” If more people recognized that fact, the way communities and policymakers think about and invest in the early years of life might be different.
There’s a common perception that women siphon off the wealth of their exes and go on to live in comfort. It’s wrong.
A 38-year-old woman living in Everett, Washington recently told me that nine years ago, she had a well-paying job, immaculate credit, substantial savings, and a happy marriage. When her first daughter was born, she and her husband decided that she would quit her job in publishing to stay home with the baby. She loved being a mother and homemaker, and when another daughter came, she gave up the idea of going back to work.
Seven years later, her husband told her to leave their house, and filed for a divorce she couldn’t afford. “He said he was tired of my medical issues, and unwilling to work on things,” she said, citing her severe rheumatoid arthritis and OCD, both of which she manages with medication. “He kicked me out of my own house, with no job and no home, and then my only recourse was to lawyer up. I’m paying them on credit.” (Some of the men and women quoted in this article have been kept anonymous because they were discussing sensitive financial matters, some of them involving ongoing legal disputes.)
It would have been a breakthrough for Macedonia—a government finally in place after two years of political crisis—if it hadn’t turned bloody.
On Thursday, Zoran Zaev’s Social Democrats (SDSM)announced that Talat Xhaferi had been elected speaker of parliament, paving the way for a coalition between his party and parties representing ethnic Albanians, who comprise between one-quarter and one-third of Macedonia’s population, to form a government. (No one knows the exact proportion because there has been no census since 2002, as the parties cannot agree to hold one.)For the last 15 years, ethnic-Albanian parties have been represented in every government, but the conservative-nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) has tried to portray Zaev’s coalition as a vehicle for a coup and eventual takeover of Macedonia by ethnic Albanians, who have higher birth rates than ethnic Macedonians.*