Some sporting moments achieve mythical status because of their sheer audacity. Muhammad Ali’s “rumble in the jungle” defeat of George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974 to regain his world heavyweight title comes to mind.
Others astound with a seemingly impossible perfection such as Nadia Comăneci’s perfect 10 in gymnastics at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
And then there are those that astonish by redefining one’s perception of what it’s possible for a human being to achieve.
Eliud Kipchoge’s completion of a marathon in under two hours was one of those moments. Not so long ago, just the possibility of breaking the two-hour mark seemed beyond imagination.… Seguir leyendo »
The war on terror. A phrase forever in the media and on our lips. Its very ubiquity helps obscure the reality of that war.
America, according to a new study from Brown University, is running counter-terror operations in 76 countries – 39% of all the nations in the world. Since 2001, at least half-a-million people have been killed in wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq alone. The real figure is likely to be far higher. A New York Times investigation last year suggested that the civilian toll in Iraq from coalition airstrikes could be 31 times greater than officially admitted.
Include the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen and the toll would be significantly higher still.… Seguir leyendo »
Five months ago, I wrote of Osman Kavala, a Turkish public intellectual arrested by the Turkish authorities. He has now spent a year behind bars and has still to be charged with an offence.
Kavala is, in the eyes of the Turkish government, a troublemaker because he has played a prominent role both in defending the rights and liberties of all people in Turkey and in bringing together people of different political viewpoints to discuss their beliefs in civil debate. In Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, nurturing open dialogue is regarded as a threat.
There has been much attention on Turkey over the past two weeks because of the gruesome fate of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.… Seguir leyendo »
The sun may have long ago set on the British Empire (or on all but a few tattered shreds of it), but it never seems to set on the debate about the merits of empire. The latest controversy began when the Third World Quarterly, an academic journal known for its radical stance, published a paper by Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University in Oregon, called “The Case for Colonialism.” Fifteen of the thirty-four members on the journal’s editorial board resigned in protest, while a petition, with more than 10,000 signatories, called for the paper to be retracted.… Seguir leyendo »
Nothing prepares you for your first sight of Uluru. Amid the vastness of Australia’s arid red center, there is something wondrous about this monumental slab of sandstone rising dramatically out of a flattened landscape. It is not difficult to see why Indigenous Australians saw it as a sacred place.
Uluru is not just a place of wonder and reverence. It has become, too, a political and historical battleground, a place through which Australia has tried to grapple with its relationship with Indigenous Australians.
It was the Anangu, the original inhabitants of the region, who gave Uluru its name. For more than a century, though, it was known to Australians of European descent as Ayers Rock, named after a 19th-century Anglo-Australian colonial administrator.… Seguir leyendo »
This, as we keep discovering, is an era of unexpected electoral results. Tuesday’s decision by Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, to call a general election for June 8 was certainly unexpected. In an age in which few secrets remain secret, no journalist or politician seemed to have had an inkling about the announcement until it was made. But even in the era of the unexpected, it is difficult to see any result other than a solid Conservative Party victory, returning Mrs. May to Downing Street confirmed as prime minister.
The real question the June election will raise is not which party will form the next British government, but which party takes on the mantle of opposition?… Seguir leyendo »
Welcome to 2017. It will be just like 2016. Only more so. This will be the year in which Donald Trump formally enters the White House, and Theresa May (probably) begins Brexit negotiations. It will be the year in which elections in Germany, the Netherlands and France, and possibly Italy, are likely to see rightwing populists gain ground, even triumph.
In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigration Party for Freedom(PVV) leads the polls and may help form the government in March. In France, in May, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National should reach at least the second-round run-off in the presidential election and may even win.… Seguir leyendo »
Few people could have predicted the first policy on which Britain’s new prime minister would take a stand. It is none of the issues that have dominated British politics in recent months: Brexit, immigration, terrorism. Rather, Theresa May has decided it is to be grammar schools.
Grammar schools are state-supported secondary schools that select their pupils through an exam taken at age 11 known as the 11-plus. Once a centerpiece of Britain’s education system, they have largely been phased out over recent decades.
The history of grammar schools goes back to the Middle Ages, but the modern version emerged out of the 1944 Education Act, one of a series of laws that shaped social policy in postwar Britain.… Seguir leyendo »
El 14 de julio, día en que se conmemora la toma de la Bastilla, en Niza, Francia, 85 personas murieron después de ser arrolladas por un hombre que conducía un camión por el paseo marítimo. Cuatro días después, un hombre de 17 años atacó con un hacha a los pasajeros de un tren cerca de Würzburg, Alemania. Cuatro días más tarde, un hombre de 18 años mató a disparos a ocho personas en un centro comercial de Múnich.
A los dos días, un hombre de 27 años hizo explotar una bomba que llevaba consigo afuera de un festival de música en Ansbach, al sur de Alemania.… Seguir leyendo »
On July 14, Bastille Day, in Nice, France, 85 people died after being mowed down on the promenade by a man driving a truck. Four days later, a 17-year-old man attacked passengers with an ax on a train near Würzburg, Germany. Four days after that, an 18-year-old man shot dead nine people in a Munich shopping mall.
Two days later, a 27-year-old man blew himself up outside a music festival in Ansbach, in southern Germany. That same day, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee hacked a woman to death in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart, also in Germany.
Two days after that, two young men stormed a church in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray,… Seguir leyendo »
What leads young European Muslims to blow themselves up on trains and at airports, to shoot down shoppers and concertgoers?
It is a question often asked ever since homegrown suicide bombers brought carnage to London’s transportation system in 2005. The attacks in Brussels have highlighted that it remains largely unanswered.
Those sowing terror in Europe are not foreign jihadists but European citizens, most born and brought up on the Continent, in places like the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. The apprehension spreads beyond Europe; authorities in the United States, too, are increasingly concerned about homegrown attackers.
The conventional view is that homegrown terrorists are created through a process of “radicalization,” a conveyor belt that draws vulnerable individuals through several stages from religious belief to jihadist violence.… Seguir leyendo »
I gave a talk last month at the Galle Literary Festival in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. This festival, whose home is in the southern city of Galle, has become over the past decade one of the brightest lights in Sri Lanka’s cultural firmament. This year, it established “outreach” festivals in Kandy, in Sri Lanka’s hill country, and in Jaffna in the North.
Taking the festival to Jaffna, the northern province capital, was particularly significant. It is less than seven years since the brutal civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan Army came to an end. Much has been reconstructed in the North, but the ghosts of conflict still haunt Jaffna, from bullet-marked buildings to the thousands of civilians who were killed in the war’s bloody conclusion.… Seguir leyendo »
Soldiers putting up miles of razor wire fencing to keep out refugees. A mother and child stuck in a field of mud. A truck parked on the highway between Budapest and Vienna containing the decomposing bodies of 71 refugees.
The scenes over recent weeks from the eastern borders of Europe have generated horror and revulsion. “Have Eastern Europeans no sense of shame?” asked the Polish-American historian Jan Gross. Another historian, the German-born Jan-Werner Müller, demanded that the European Union “ostracize” Hungary, “a country no longer observing its values,” by cutting off funding and suspending its voting rights.
For many, Eastern Europeans’ lack of generosity toward refugees reflects, in the words of one Guardian columnist, a fundamental “political and cultural gap” that divides the Continent.… Seguir leyendo »
Most first-time visitors to Cape Town are mesmerized by the majesty of Table Mountain, and wowed by the vivacity of the Victorian-era waterfront. As a new visitor myself last month, I was captivated by both. But what has lodged most in my memory is something very different.
Driving from the international airport, I was struck by the sheer wretchedness of Cape Flats: the series of black townships, comprising mostly shacks with corrugated steel roofs, that stretch from the highway almost to the horizon. Few people — tourists or locals — want to talk about the Cape Flats. But there is no better starting point for a discussion of the state of contemporary South Africa.… Seguir leyendo »
The Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon may be as baffling for those who follow British politics as the Donald J. Trump phenomenon is to those who keep an eye on American politics. Both were regarded as joke candidates when they first entered their respective leadership races. But both have emerged as front-runners, to great consternation in their parties.
More than the width of the Atlantic separates Mr. Corbyn and Mr. Trump — in terms of both politics and personality. But the emergence of the two tells us something about the character of politics today. Mr. Corbyn’s success also raises a profound but rarely broached question: Is there a role at all for the Labour Party in 21st-century Britain?… Seguir leyendo »
“We have fought colonialism and defeated it and we still fight imperialism and we will fight it whenever it manifests itself.” So claimed South Africa’s sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, recently. He was talking not of war or invasion but about the F.B.I.’s investigation into corruption involving FIFA, world soccer’s governing body. Other officials from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have expressed similar sentiments.
Western commentators have equally viewed the FIFA scandal as a grand geopolitical confrontation. In The Financial Times, the journalist Simon Kuper compared FIFA’s departing president, Sepp Blatter, to Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro. “Like Saddam Hussein, Mr. Blatter has now been removed by a crusading U.S.,”… Seguir leyendo »
One of the most anodyne election campaigns in living memory has left Britain with a result that few expected — and one that could transform Britain both internally and externally. This was an election that recast the political geography of Britain. It may redraw the boundaries of the nation. And it raises questions about the future shape of the European Union.
It is conceivable, given the astonishing success of the Scottish National Party, that this may be one of the last elections of a United Kingdom. It is also conceivable, given the Conservative Party’s pledge to hold a referendum on European Union membership, that it may be the last general election in which Britain is a member of the union.… Seguir leyendo »
Up to 1,200 people are believed to have died this past week when, in several incidents, their flimsy boats foundered in the Mediterranean. These migrants from Syria, Mali, Eritrea, Somalia and beyond had set out from North Africa hoping to reach Europe’s southern shores. Fleeing war and poverty, most had paid large sums to traffickers.
The scale of the tragedies is shocking but no novelty. It is estimated that since 1993 some 20,000 migrants have died trying to cross Europe’s southern borders. The true figure is undoubtedly higher: Thousands have perished, their deaths unrecorded.
Who is to blame? European politicians point the finger at traffickers.… Seguir leyendo »
On Tuesday, the French police arrested the controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. He had written on Facebook “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” — a mashup of Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four Jewish hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris, in an attack linked to the Charlie Hebdo killers. Mr. M’bala M’bala, the police say, is being investigated for “defending terrorism.”
This is not the first time that he has been targeted by the authorities. Last year, the courts banned his stage show, and he has been convicted several times for anti-Semitic hate speech. But for his supporters, many of whom live on the outskirts of French cities in the banlieues that are home to much of France’s North African population, the attempts to silence Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
Faced with a horror like the slaughter of 148 schoolchildren and school staff members by the Taliban in Pakistan, it is tempting to describe the act as “inhuman” or “medieval.” What made the massacre particularly chilling, though, is that it was neither. The killings were all too human and of our time.
The Peshawar massacre may have been particularly abhorrent, but the Taliban have attacked at least 1,000 schools over the past five years. They have butchered hundreds through suicide bombings of churches and mosques. And beyond Pakistan lies the brutality of groups like the Islamic State, Boko Haram and the Shabab.… Seguir leyendo »