Simone Biles has given us many groundbreaking performances. This week she has pushed the boundaries of sport once more. Not by expanding her already extraordinary technical expertise as a gymnast but by challenging the persistent, macho narrative around what Olympic success and sporting strength should look like.
Biles follows tennis players Naomi Osaka at the French Open and Emma Raducanu at Wimbledon, who are unafraid to speak up in the global spotlight and place mental heath on the same level as physical health. Sadly, all have had their integrity, sporting prowess and character questioned. Michael Phelps revealed the extraordinary pressures and mental health struggles that he faced in a recent documentary called The Weight of Gold: the title says it all.… Seguir leyendo »
Nobody should have to go to work in their bra and knickers. So when the Norwegian women’s beach handball team were fined earlier this month for defiantly choosing to compete in shorts – rather than the buttock-revealingly skimpy bikini bottoms mandated by their sport’s governing body – it was the organisers of the European championships, not the squad, who ended up looking ridiculous. Why should female athletes have to be served up half-naked, for the benefit of leering audiences?
But the rebellious Norwegians, it turns out, were merely the tip of a much bigger iceberg. Now the Tokyo Olympics are witnessing what looks very much like the beginnings of a movement, as sportswomen increasingly speak out about their experiences of sexualisation and exploitation.… Seguir leyendo »
Americans have good reason to be skeptical of artificial intelligence. Tesla crashes have dented the dream of self-driving cars. Mysterious algorithms predict job applicants’ performance based on little more than video interviews. Similar technologies may soon be headed to the classroom, as administrators use “learning analytics platforms” to scrutinize students’ written work and emotional states. Financial technology companies are using social media and other sensitive data to set interest rates and repayment terms.
Even in areas where A.I. seems to be an unqualified good, like machine learning to better spot melanoma, researchers are worried that current data sets do not adequately represent all patients’ racial backgrounds.… Seguir leyendo »
One of the greatest tricks technology companies ever played was convincing their human guinea pig users that they were a privileged group called beta testers.
From novel email software to alternative versions of Twitter to voice-enabled listening devices, such trials are cheap and easy to make available to thousands or millions of customers. It’s a great way to see how a new version stacks up against the old.
Other than some annoying glitches or unfamiliar icons, software beta testing is generally innocuous. The stakes for most apps are far below life and death.
But there’s nothing innocuous about the beta tests being run by Elon Musk, the billionaire C.E.O.… Seguir leyendo »
The Taliban is playing a shrewd diplomatic game. Even as its fighters advance throughout Afghanistan, they are working to assuage the anxiety of countries across the region. They have conducted talks with the Iranians, the Russians, and the countries of Central Asia. They’ve reassured the Chinese that they have no intention of challenging Beijing’s atrocities against its Muslim minorities. And they have told anyone who will listen — including the Americans — that a Taliban government would not let the soil of Afghanistan to be used as a base for operations against third countries.
That looks like a smart strategy — yet we’ve just seen a striking departure from this pattern.… Seguir leyendo »
An escalating political crisis is now pushing Tunisia’s democracy to the brink. On Sunday, President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament, moves his critics have called a “coup.”
Saied’s decision is without precedent in Tunisia, the lone sustained democracy to have emerged from the Arab Spring. What happened Sunday is a major escalation in the long series of crises that have characterized the country’s post-revolutionary politics. With Tunisia’s health system collapsing under a tide of coronavirus infections, the economy in free fall and parliamentary blocs locked in stalemate, Saied invoked Article 80 of the constitution to claim unchecked executive authority for at least 30 days.… Seguir leyendo »
The Olympic Games in Tokyo have been even more fraught than usual with ethical issues. Alarm over the rising number of Covid-19 cases and the Games’ deep unpopularity with Japanese people sit atop perennial concerns about corruption, cheating, the abuse of athletes and the environmental impact of mounting such an enormous event. These problems have fueled debate, hand-wringing and even demands to end the Olympics altogether.
Despite all that, the Games are underway, and for most of the world’s population, there is only one moral decision left to make: To watch or not to watch? If you are one of the many who view the actions of the International Olympic Committee, the television stations and sponsors, and the nations competing as morally wrong, is it ethical for you to tune in?… Seguir leyendo »
A few months ago, the world’s attention was on Sheikh Jarrah, my neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem. For decades, Israeli settlers, backed by their state, have been trying to displace us from our homes and colonise our neighbourhood. The UN called these forcible expulsions a war crime. I call this theft – because it is.
In May, our efforts to resist this takeover received a surge of solidarity from Palestinians across Jerusalem and further afield, in what became known as the Unity Uprising. Palestinians were subjected to Israeli violence across the eastern part of Jerusalem – not only in Sheikh Jarrah, but outside the Damascus gate (itself a focus of protests), and in and around the al-Aqsa mosque – which escalated into attacks on besieged Gaza.… Seguir leyendo »
What has happened in Tunisia?
Late on 25 July, following a day of rowdy demonstrations that included reports of looting, President Kaïs Saïed invoked the constitution’s Article 80, which grants the president augmented powers in emergency situations, citing as his justification the collapse of many public services and destruction of government property. Saïed also “froze” parliament for 30 days, revoked legislators’ parliamentary immunity and seized control of the public prosecutor’s office. The next day, he cited the same article to dismiss by presidential decree Hichem Mechichi, the prime minister and interim interior minister whose nearly one-year tenure had become marked by increasing paralysis as the country grew more polarised, as well as the defence, justice and civil service ministers.… Seguir leyendo »
Millions around the world know “Patria y Vida” — “Fatherland and Life” — the scintillating music video that inverted the Cuban Communist Party’s slogan — “Fatherland or Death” — and became the anthem of protests in Cuba on July 11.
Less familiar is “Oe’ Policia Pinga” — roughly, “F--- the Police” — by the rappers Marichal and Daryelo Sánchez. Whereas “Patria y Vida” denounces 60 years of official “lies” and praises dissident artists of Cuba’s San Isidro Movement, “Oe’ Policia Pinga” channels popular fury at the regime’s day-in-day-out enforcers: “You’re the most hated guy in your neighborhood . . . You’ll see what happens to you when the people come for you/ No saint on heaven or earth can protect you.”… Seguir leyendo »
Articles about Japan tend to reinforce outdated platitudes to describe Japanese people, often using adjectives such as polite, shy, kind, traditional — and homogenous. Imagine readers’ surprise, then, when they turned on the television to watch the Opening Ceremonies of Tokyo 2020, only to find that a country they’ve been told is a haven of homogeneity had selected NBA rising star Rui Hachimura as one of its flag bearers and had given the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron to tennis champion Naomi Osaka. Both are figures much of the Japanese public would classify as either “kokujin” (Black) or “gaikokujin” (un-Japanese) without a moment’s hesitation if they weren’t famous.… Seguir leyendo »
After the United States and NATO began their final withdrawal in mid-April, the Taliban made advances in more than 100 districts, mostly in the north. The swift Taliban takeover of large swaths of northern Afghanistan stunned the Afghan public — and Washington. The Taliban now controls at least one-third of the country’s 400 districts, leaving many wondering if the Kabul government will fall.
The rapid collapse of the north is surprising because this region was a stronghold against the Taliban during its previous reign from 1996 to 2001. Yet, shortly after the July departure of most U.S. and NATO forces, much of the region fell to the militant group.… Seguir leyendo »
Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast in history, made a life-changing choice on Tuesday: She withdrew from the finals of the team competition, putting her own wellbeing first. Her team went on without her, winning silver as the Russian team took the gold. She told members of the media: "I'd just never felt like this going into a competition before and I tried to go out there and have fun... but once I came out here, I was like: No, the mental's not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself."
Biles, who posted to Instagram earlier in the competition that she felt the "weight of the world" on her shoulders, showed significant strain during her most recent performance.… Seguir leyendo »
Over the weekend, an Iranian defector, one of four Iranians on the Refugee Olympic Team, defeated her taekwondo opponent — a member of the Iranian national team. While the Tokyo Olympics look different from other Games in other years, one Olympic tradition continues: sports and political controversies.
Iran’s harsh rules for athletes, particularly women, prompted calls from many athletes and human rights activists for the International Olympic Committee to ban Iran from competing in Tokyo. In 2020, the Iranian government executed a top wrestler, allegedly for killing a security guard during an anti-government protest. Official restrictions on women’s rights also limit women’s ability to participate in — or watch — sports.… Seguir leyendo »
This week, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the country’s prime minister, suspended its parliament and deployed troops to ensure legislators did not enter the building. This constitutional coup appears a clear effort to replace the fragile democratic regime with strongman rule. It answers the wishes of millions of Tunisians disillusioned with their weak democracy, whose dysfunction is exposed by a rampant covid-19 pandemic. Yet, as the cases of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show, while strongman rule can bring a measure of stability and progress in the short run, it cannot fix the country’s deep-seated problems.
Arab despots dream of reproducing South Korea’s Park Chung-hee and often begin their rules with success stories.… Seguir leyendo »
In the past few weeks, South Africa was gripped by the biggest explosion of unrest in decades. Shopping malls and warehouses were looted, supply trucks attacked and businesses destroyed. At least 337 people died.
Initially, as families loaded up consumer goods they would otherwise be unable to afford, the tumult seemed like an organic expression of popular discontent. After all, with unemployment over 30 percent, hunger widespread and inequality spiraling, there’s ample cause for anger. But far from a spontaneous social revolt, the rioting seems in fact to have been politically orchestrated.
After Jacob Zuma, the country’s former president, was arrested on July 7 — to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court — his supporters and allies vowed to make the country ungovernable.… Seguir leyendo »
What kind of champion withdraws at the Olympics?
One who can recognize her limits and stop before she crashes into them. And so in dropping out of the team gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles, the best gymnast America has ever produced, issued a statement as powerful as anything she’s done in competition: She said “enough.”
After an unusual underperformance at the preliminaries — by her own high standards — Biles realized she could not execute her planned vault in the team finals. After some deliberation, she bowed out.
“At the end of the day, we’re human, too, so we have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” she told reporters after the competition, in which her team earned Olympic silver medals.… Seguir leyendo »
It is never quiet in Israel, but July brought new scrutiny. First, news broke that governments around the world have used spyware purchased from an Israeli cybersurveillance company, NSO Group, to target journalists, human rights activists and politicians. The revelations could implicate the Israeli Ministry of Defense in granting NSO permission to export hacking software that was then used by countries with authoritarian governments to suppress dissent. The scandal topped international news for days, but Israeli officials were instead preoccupied with ice cream. On July 19, Ben & Jerry’s announced it will no longer be available in the occupied Palestinian territories as of 2023.… Seguir leyendo »
It was supposed to be a somber day, a national day of reckoning for the crimes of the past.
This month, France commemorated the 79th anniversary of the infamous “Vél d’Hiv” roundup during World War II, when French police arrested and detained more than 13,000 Parisian Jews in a stadium not far from the Eiffel Tower. Most were ultimately deported to Nazi concentration camps; the vast majority were murdered. The Vél d’Hiv remains one of the darkest days in French history, and rightly so.
But the unhinged evolution of France’s anti-vaccine campaign, in which a significant number of protesters donned yellow stars like the ones the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the occupation, transformed a solemn look at the past into an ugly glimpse at the present.… Seguir leyendo »
As the world watches the Tokyo Olympics, our thoughts turn to the international peace and cooperation that the Games have come to symbolize. Each of us, in the administrations we served, wedded these traditional concerns of state to the conservation of nature — and of wildlife species in particular. The growth of wildlife trafficking by sophisticated criminal syndicates has heightened our conviction that the world must speak with one voice.
With that in mind, we believe Tokyo has now a singular opportunity to finally eliminate the sale and trade of elephant ivory in Japan while improving its reputation as a global leader and financial capital.… Seguir leyendo »