The violent backlash against the American film is taking place in Muslim societies, but it doesn't seem to correlate with Islam's reach.
Red indicates violent protests over the film, yellow indicates non-violent protests. Click to enlarge. (Wikimedia/Atlantic)
Protests against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims have erupted in cities from Morocco to Somalia and Pakistan to Indonesia, an agglomeration of otherwise disparate societies that we sometimes refer to as "the Muslim world." That phrase appears today in headlines at, for example, CBS News, the U.K. Telegraph, Radio Free Europe, and many others. A very handy interactive map of the protests so far, produced by The Atlantic Wire's John Hudson, shows just how widely the protests have spread across the diverse Muslim societies of the world.
But, looking into the severity and frequency of the protests, their occurrence doesn't seem to correlate as directly with the presence of Muslims as the phrase "protests erupt across the Muslim world" might lead you to believe. Even if that's generally true, we might learn a bit more by looking also at who is protesting violently and who isn't.
In a map above, I've charted the violent protests in red and the protests that did not produce violence in yellow. It's an imperfect distinction; I've counted the stone-throwers in Jerusalem as a violent protest but the flag-burners in Lahore as non-violent. But it gives you a somewhat more nuanced view into who is expressing anger and how they're doing it than to just say that the "Muslim world" is protesting. To help show what "Muslim world" means, I've used a map (via Wikimedia) that shows countries by their share of the world Muslim population. The darker blue a country, the more Muslim individuals live there.
The first thing that may catch your eye is that the violent protests appear clustered in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, and specifically in the countries that have endured significant political violence over the last year or so. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen have been by far the most effected by the uprisings of the Arab Spring. That's excepting Syria, of course, where citizens today presumably have more pressing matters on their minds and are not protesting. Sudan has also endured violent protests and crackdowns recently, and Israel's Palestinian protests have been sporadically ongoing for some time. An outlier here is Lebanon, where protesters today set a KFC on fire, and which has not endured the effects of the Arab Spring, although there has been some violence between partisans of the conflict in neighboring Syria.
The second thing you might notice is how sparse the protests have been in the three countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world: Indonesia, Pakistan, and India. Those three have Muslim populations way above 150 million each, compared to six million in Libya and 10 million in Tunisia, and yet have seen no violence and far fewer protests. India and Indonesia have so far had one protest each, both small; Pakistan has had several, some quite angry, but it's worth noting that such anti-American protests are not uncommon. The world's billion-plus Muslim individuals do not appear uniformly offended, or at least uniformly motivated to act on that offense. That might sound obvious, but the wide difference in protests are a reminder of just how differently people are reacting across the very large and diverse "Muslim world." If 200 of Indonesia's 200 million Muslims stage a protest, and several thousand of Tunisia's 10 million Muslims not only protest but storm embassies and burned an American school, does that say more about the Muslim reaction to the film or the Tunisian?
And, of course, there are the vast areas of the Muslim world that do not appear to be protesting at all. Those include most of sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, as well as Turkey, Russia, China, and the U.S., all of which have significant Muslim populations. There are probably disparate factors that might explain the lack of protests in those regions and countries: Muslims in China are perhaps a bit too cut off from the rest of the world, for example, and Muslims in America tend to be politically content. But the fact that these enormous populations -- 76 million Muslims in Nigeria, 75 million in Turkey, 29 million in Ethiopia, and so on -- across dozens of countries are not protesting shows the extent to which violent protests are the exceptions rather than the norm.
That's not to discount the importance of the protests, of course, nor the obvious significance of so many angry Muslims marching against the film (and, often, against the United States) simultaneously across so many different parts of the world. But it's worth considering the extent to which the anger behind today's events is a phenomenon specific to certain countries and regions rather than to the "Muslim world" in its broad, complicated entirety.
“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.
By antagonizing the U.S.’s neighbor to the south, Donald Trump has made the classic bully’s error: He has underestimated his victim.
When Donald Trump first made sport of thumping Mexico—when he accused America’s neighbor of exporting rapists and “bad hombres,” when he deemed the country such a threat that it should be contained by a wall and so clueless that it could be suckered into paying for its own encasement—its president responded with strange equilibrium. Enrique Peña Nieto treated the humiliation like a meteorological disturbance. Relations with the United States would soon return to normal, if only he grinned his way through the painful episode.
In August, Peña Nieto invited Trump to Mexico City, based on the then-contrarian notion that Trump might actually become president. Instead of branding Trump a toxic threat to Mexico’s well-being, he lavished the Republican nominee with legitimacy. Peña Nieto paid a severe, perhaps mortal, reputational cost for his magnanimity. Before the meeting, former President Vicente Fox had warned Peña Nieto that if he went soft on Trump, history would remember him as a “traitor.” In the months following the meeting, his approval rating plummeted, falling as low as 12 percent in one poll—which put his popularity on par with Trump’s own popularity among Mexicans. The political lesson was clear enough: No Mexican leader could abide Trump’s imprecations and hope to thrive. Since then, the Mexican political elite has begun to ponder retaliatory measures that would reassert the country’s dignity, and perhaps even cause the Trump administration to reverse its hostile course. With a presidential election in just over a year—and Peña Nieto prevented by term limits from running again—vehement responses to Trump are considered an electoral necessity. Memos outlining policies that could wound the United States have begun flying around Mexico City. These show that Trump has committed the bully’s error of underestimating the target of his gibes. As it turns out, Mexico could hurt the United States very badly.
Tracking the controversies, allegations, and investigations into the president and his administration
Donald Trump entered the White House as one of the most scandal-tarred presidents in American history—what his imbroglios may have lacked in depth, they made up in variety, encompassing legal, ethical, and sexual controversies. (In a twist, one of Trump’s few competitors for the crown was his rival, Hillary Clinton.) They ranged from race discrimination to mafia connections, from petty hypocrisies to multimillion-dollar alleged frauds.
Now that Trump is president, some of those controversies have continued to shadow him. But the presidency has also occasioned a whole new set of disputes. Looming largest is the question of whether his campaign colluded with Russian agents to interfere in the election, a question being investigated by the FBI as well as panels in both houses of Congress. They also include ethical and legal questions surrounding members of his cabinet, his allegation that Barack Obama spied on him before the election, and various conflicts of interest.
The early results out of a Boston nonprofit are positive.
You saw the pictures in science class—a profile view of the human brain, sectioned by function. The piece at the very front, right behind where a forehead would be if the brain were actually in someone’s head, is the pre-frontal cortex. It handles problem-solving, goal-setting, and task execution. And it works with the limbic system, which is connected and sits closer to the center of the brain. The limbic system processes emotions and triggers emotional responses, in part because of its storage of long-term memory.
When a person lives in poverty, a growing body of research suggests the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks in the most efficient ways.
Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
As Christmas approached in 2015, the price of pumpkin-pie spice went wild. It didn’t soar, as an economics textbook might suggest. Nor did it crash. It just started vibrating between two quantum states. Amazon’s price for a one-ounce jar was either $4.49 or $8.99, depending on when you looked. Nearly a year later, as Thanksgiving 2016 approached, the price again began whipsawing between two different points, this time $3.36 and $4.69.
We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. “It’s most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price,” Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard.
After a quiet start, the demonstrators grew louder as they drew closer to Capitol Hill—mirroring the long arc of the protest itself.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—They marched for science, and at first, they did so quietly. On Saturday, as thousands of people started streaming eastward from the Washington Monument, in a river of ponchos and umbrellas, the usual raucous chants that accompany such protests were rarely heard and even more rarely continued. “Knowledge is power; it’s our final hour,” said six enthusiastic people—to little response. “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!” shouted another pocket of marchers—for about five rounds.
Scientists are not a group to whom activism comes easily or familiarly. Most have traditionally stayed out of the political sphere, preferring to stick to their research. But for many, this historical detachment ended with the election of Donald Trump.
Inside Walmart’s curious, possibly ingenious effort to get customers to build up their savings accounts
Late last summer, Dawn Paquin started keeping her money on a prepaid debit card from Walmart instead of in a traditional checking account. The wages from her factory job—she works from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., inspecting blades on industrial bread-slicing machines—now go directly onto the Visa-branded card, which she can use like a regular debit card, though unlike most debit cards, it is not linked to a checking or savings account. She made the switch after a $4 check she wrote to buy coffee for herself and a friend tipped her checking account below the required minimum and triggered $100 in overdraft fees.
This was before she got the factory gig, and she wasn’t working full-time. Paquin lives in Salem, Illinois, where, she told me recently, if you don’t have a college degree, your job choices are “fast food or factory.” Money was extremely tight. “I kind of had a bit of resentment about banks after that,” she said dryly.
In the age of the digital hermit, a psychologist explains what it means to avoid other people—and what to do about it.
People today might not actually be avoiding social interaction any more than they did in past decades, but they’re certainly more vocal about it. The rise of digital communication seems to be spawning a nation of indoor cats, all humble-bragging about how introverted they are and ordering their rides and groceries without ever talking to a human.
Sometimes reclusiveness can be a sign of something more serious, though. Social anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses, but it’s still poorly understood outside of scientific circles. The good news is that it’s highly treatable, according to Stefan G. Hofmann, the director of the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University.
I recently talked with Hofmann about how social anxiety works and what people who feel socially anxious can do about it. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
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If girls were allowed to accelerate through school, then perhaps their peak career- and family-building years would not overlap.
Jane Charlton never intended to skip high school.
“I was planning on just skipping ninth grade,” says the renowned astrophysicist, who spent her summers taking calculus classes at Carnegie Mellon University. “But when the school year was about to start, the teachers went on strike and my math professor said, ‘Why don't you just start here?’”
Three years later, Charlton received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics. She headed for the University of Chicago, where she earned her master’s at 19, and her Ph.D. at 22. By the time Charlton had her first child, in her late 20s, she was a tenured professor at Pennsylvania State University, where she maps the universe and charts the history of evolving galaxies.