All that is overwhelming about public space in São Paulo, Brazil’s business capital—the noise, the teeming crowds, the endless stream of cars and buses—is exacerbated on the Avenida Paulista, a stretch of concrete lined end to end with shiny glass office towers. The tropical noonday sun bounces off in splinters from the towers, the evening rush-hour turns the avenue’s wide sidewalks into a mob scene and, in short, everything about this urban landscape seems to confirm one’s suspicion that present-day capitalism shrivels or denatures everything it touches.
It is with a sense of prayerful relief, then, that a traveler might find herself in a quiet exhibition space several floors above the Paulista, wandering through a visual forest of images of the upper Amazon basin’s first peoples—a retrospective of work by the Swiss-born emigré photographer Claudia Andujar, titled “A luta Yanomami” (The Yanomami Struggle), mounted at the Moreira Salles cultural institute.… Seguir leyendo »
On a Saturday night in mid-January, just days after the House of Commons rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal for the first of three times, a car bomb exploded in the center of Northern Ireland’s second-largest city. Footage from a security camera trained on Derry’s Bishop Street courthouse showed a man in a balaclava jogging away from the highjacked van and a group of teenaged revelers strolling past only minutes before the bomb detonated. It was the first such attack in Northern Ireland in three years, and some observers were quick to speculate that it foreshadowed an escalation in violence that a “hard Brexit” could trigger.… Seguir leyendo »
As the de facto chief negotiator of the liberated region called the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Ilham Ahmed, the Kurdish co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, has much on her mind. In recent months, she has traveled in the US and Europe, negotiating the future of a domain that is home to an estimated 5 to 6 million people, including a substantial portion of Syria’s 6.2 million internally displaced persons, and, now in addition, thousands of families implicated in Islamic State terrorism who are today living in refugee camps. As Ahmed continues delicate talks with the world’s superpowers over the status of this territory, its future is, to a certain degree, in her hands.… Seguir leyendo »
As I was driving from Jericho to Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, in early March, I noticed a large sign that Palestinians had set up in preparation for Land Day, on the thirtieth of the month. The sign showed the now ubiquitous Banksy print of a protester, with his nose and mouth covered, hurtling a bouquet of flowers—presumably in place of a Molotov cocktail—at an invisible oppressor. The drawing had been printed under one of the best-known lines by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish:
On this Land, there is what makes life worth living.
The sign was, for me, an ominous warning.… Seguir leyendo »
Speaking to The New York Times earlier this month, Sarah Niblock, the chief executive of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, said:
Brexit is ever-present in the consulting room… It is now so excruciating, and so difficult for people to have conversations about Brexit—families, workplaces, neighbors are so split—there is so much division between groups in society that it is almost as if the therapeutic room has become the last place people can talk with any ease.
For many, the issue goes to the heart of what is often called identity, a proxy for worldview and vantage point. What else explains the violent emotion the subject incites?… Seguir leyendo »
Last year, when President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for negotiations to start between the US and the Taliban, nobody expected his patience to last very long. He could sabotage the American negotiating team at any time, many observers feared, by ordering an arbitrary pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government vulnerable to a Taliban takeover of Kabul.
Nor was there much hope that, having decimated the State Department, Trump would ever play by normal diplomatic rules and depend on institutions like the intelligence community that does the leg-work in such negotiations, rather than his own Fox News-driven instincts.… Seguir leyendo »
When the journal Science chose the radical gene-editing technology CRISPR as its 2015 breakthrough of the year, the editorial team closed its description on a dire note. “For better or worse, we all now live in CRISPR’s world,” they wrote. Emerging into the public consciousness in 2013, CRISPR has been with us only as long as it takes to complete secondary school, but like the information technologies that rose alongside it, it is often described as if it is beyond regulation and direction, as if it had acquired its own uncompromising telos.
CRISPR works by repurposing parts of an ancient bacterial immune system to make the job of editing genes in almost any organism unprecedentedly simple and accurate.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2011, when Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested in a Manhattan hotel on rape charges, Lénaïg Bredoux, a Paris-based reporter, watched the reporting in dismay. At the time, the French media largely devoted itself to criticizing the American judicial system instead of investigating allegations that had dogged Strauss-Kahn for years. Moved to action, she contacted the French journalist Tristane Banon, who, in 2007, publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2003 and that is how Bredoux uncovered a culture of silence inside the French Socialist Party.
Since then, Bredoux, who is now the chief political correspondent for the independent news organization Mediapart, has covered sexual misconduct allegations against politicians and other prominent figures, including the director and screenwriter Luc Besson.… Seguir leyendo »
On Thursday, a Moscow court denied an appeal by defense lawyers for American financier Michael Calvey requesting his release on bail pending a mid-April hearing on serious fraud charges that carry a possible sentence of up to ten years’ imprisonment. Calvey, the founder of Baring Vostok Capital Partners, one of Russia’s oldest and largest investment firms, was arrested on February 14, along with five colleagues, for allegedly defrauding Vostochny Bank, in which Baring Vostok has a majority stake (52.5 percent), of 2.5 billion rubles (or about $38 million).
The very day of Calvey’s stunning arrest, the Russian Investment Forum, a platform for promoting Russia’s business and investment opportunities, was holding its annual meeting, in Sochi, attended by world business leaders and top Russian officials.… Seguir leyendo »
A few weeks ago, just before the dawn of the new year, I typed my Latvian national identification number into a crisp online database and watched as an index of more than 4,000 crumbling, yellowed index cards appeared on my screen. Some were marked with the telltale script of typewriters, staid and blotted, but most were covered in a sloping Cyrillic scrawl. All of them took the same bureaucratic form: alias, name, date and place of birth, category (“agent”), recruiter, and date of recruitment.
Alongside all these names, there was also a KGB phonebook, a counter-intelligence dictionary, a list of “freelance” personnel, and regulations for agency conduct and record-keeping.… Seguir leyendo »
In May 2015, the world watched in horror as ISIS rolled into Tadmur, home to Palmyra’s magnificent Greco-Roman ruins. The ensuing destruction was widely denounced but the extremist group’s first act of vandalism in Palmyra drew condemnations only in Syria. Just a mile northeast of the Temple of Bel (founded 32 AD), stood the Tadmur Prison, one of the Baathist regime’s most notorious. Thousands of political prisoners were incarcerated there, suffering torture, humiliation, starvation, and death. In 1980, up to 1,000 detainees had been summarily executed there as retaliation for an attempt on the then-President Hafez al-Assad’s life. When ISIS blew up this prison, it erased a place of historical importance, a monument to a nation’s agony.… Seguir leyendo »
On August 31, 2018, I was in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, waiting for my flight to New York, when I received this text on WhatsApp: “Trevor and Barry had their doors kicked in this morning in dawn raids and are presently in police custody for breach of s5 of Official Secrets Act.”
With a few clicks and a hasty review of a police press release from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I was able to grasp the basics. Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two producers on a documentary film I had directed, No Stone Unturned, had been arrested and held for questioning for the “theft” of classified documents relating to the Loughinisland Massacre, the subject of the film.… Seguir leyendo »
Inside a prison in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, vanquished Islamic State fighters who once swept through much of the country now mill about sullenly on a bare, tiled floor, reflecting on a cause they insist will endure. Many spend hours in fierce debate, apparently undeterred by their movement’s apparent military defeat. Their cause, they say, remains divinely ordained. Their capture incidental. “Hathi iradet Allah,” they say. This is God’s will.
A Kurdish guard called for a captive, whom I will call Abu Samya—a brooding Baghdad resident kidnapped first by the Islamic State’s forerunner group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and later by Shia death squads as sectarian lines hardened in 2006–2007.… Seguir leyendo »
The following photographs contain disturbing content. They show people whom Human Rights Watch understands to have died in the custody of the Syrian government, either in detention facilities or after being transferred to a military hospital.
The war in Syria is an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe; it represents, too, the greatest political failure of the past decade—one that historians might well come to regard as the shame of our generation, for Westerners and Middle Easterners alike. Despite its savagery, the war has been extensively—though, critics say, ineffectively—documented in still photographs, videos, films, and on cellphones. This criticism rests on a misunderstanding of the relationship between photography and politics—a relationship that has been romanticized since Robert Capa and his comrades went to Spain, and that led to some of Susan Sontag’s sharpest insights in On Photography.… Seguir leyendo »
The penicillin factory is a sprawling, abandoned complex on the outskirts of Rome. The first thing I noticed when Italian photographer Maurizio Martorana and I visited in November 2018 was the trash. Stacks of T-shirts, juice cartons, plastic plates, clothes racks, and bicycle parts. A path led through a series of buildings, and against every wall was a makeshift shack. At the time, some 500 people, the majority of them African migrants and refugees, lived there amid the debris.
The second floor of the factory was covered with shit—with no working plumbing, people had nowhere else to defecate. The street-side windows looked out on a tennis club.… Seguir leyendo »
To be an immigrant in America is to wait. This goes double for the millions of immigrants who have found themselves at the sour end of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureaucracy—and triple in the age of Trump. If you are an immigrant in the process of deportation proceedings, you must wait for your Master Calendar, on which a bureaucrat will assign you to a check-in date several months into the future. At this check-in, you may win several more months of anxious waiting—or disappear into a detention center, where you will wait for a one-way plane ride to a country you may no longer know.… Seguir leyendo »
In August 2012, University of California, Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna and colleagues published an article in the journal Science titled “A Programmable Dual-RNA—Guided DNA Endonuclease in Adaptive Bacterial Immunity.” Though the paper’s title was dry, its impact was revolutionary. In it, Doudna announced that her research group had discovered a simple method for editing genes. An enzyme found in bacteria known as CRISPR–Cas9 could be programmed, she reported, to search out and destroy specific genes.
“Our study reveals a family of endonucleases that use dual-RNAs for site-specific DNA cleavage and highlights the potential to exploit the system for RNA-programmable genome editing,” she and her colleagues reported.… Seguir leyendo »
El Paso, Texas, is a four-hour drive south on the interstate from where I live in New Mexico. I have been going there for decades. Entering the city from the northwest, Interstate 10, once the King’s Highway, meaning the King of Spain’s highway to the capital of his western empire, Santa Fe, drops down quickly through the hills that surround the city. “El Paseo del Norte,” the pass to the North, is how the city began, at a break in the mountains of the Mexican state to the south, Chihuahua. After first passing the towering stacks of a closed copper smelter, then the University of Texas campus and the Sun Bowl, suddenly to the south you see a curtain hanging far behind the city—a wall of pastel yellows and pinks and browns, the myriad small houses of Ciudad de Juárez stretching for miles across the horizon.… Seguir leyendo »
In A Tale of Love and Darkness, the 2002 novel-cum-memoir that, his obituarists agreed, was surely Amos Oz’s finest literary work, the Israeli laureate, who died in the last days of 2018, wrote these words:
When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either. But not books: however systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf-life in some corner of an out-of-the-way library somewhere in Reykjavik, Valladolid or Vancouver.… Seguir leyendo »
Thirty miles northeast of the Slovakian capital Bratislava is Veľká Mača, a village-turned-bedroom-community of tightly packed bungalows fanning out from a big Catholic church, a small supermarket, and a smoky pub. In winter, the surrounding fields are dusted with snow, some planted with wheat but many now filled with hangar-like logistic centers for Amazon, DHL, and other markers of economic change.
Nearly a year ago, hired killers drove into this quiet town, broke into a small prefabricated bungalow, and shot dead two young people: the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, an archaeologist at a local research institute.… Seguir leyendo »