#EstuproNuncaMais

Here is what the victim remembers: she arrived at her boyfriend’s house in a Rio favela at about 1 a.m. She was alone with him there. Then, she woke up in a different house, in pain. The men – there were a crowd of them, some with guns, and she would eventually count 33 – had delegated two to hold her down. They were taking turns to rape her. When they finally let her go, she was naked and bleeding. She found some spare clothes and then walked home; they had also taken her bag.

In the video that the 20-year-old suspect Michel Brasil da Silva posted to Twitter, a man stands beside the victim’s unconscious body as she stirs. More »

Bells after Fifteen Rounds

Malcom X photographing Muhammad Ali after he beat Sonny Liston in 1964.

Malcom X photographing Muhammad Ali after he beat Sonny Liston in 1964.

1. When We Were Kings is the fitting title of Leon Gast’s superb documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali’s battle with George Foreman in Zaire, where he regained the heavyweight crown. It was a time of giants in boxing’s most glamorous division. Foreman said that he, Joe Frazier and Ali were like one person; they had been forged together in the public imagination, but there were also Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Ken Norton, Henry Cooper, Ernie Terrell: men over whom Ali needed to triumph to establish himself, and who now shine in his reflection. Watch the moment Foreman falls in the film: at ringside George Plimpton is frozen in drop-jaw disbelief; Norman Mailer is already beginning to celebrate.

2. Muhammad Ali would have been the most important sportsman of the 20th century even had he not become a symbol for battles of conscience, for racial justice, for people far removed from power, for religious belief, for so much else. More »

Don’t Cancel the Olympics

Since I wrote about Zika in February, genome sequencing has shown that the virus has three lineages: West African, East African and Asian. Analysis of a 1966 Malaysian strain and a 1968 Nigerian one point to an Asian origin for the Brazilian viruses; it is likely that Zika has been circulating in Brazil since 2013. The virus has been evolving in expected ways (its RNA genome has a high mutation rate); no change that could account for an enhanced ability to damage the brain has yet been found. None of these findings has hit the headlines. More »

Broadcasting Felix

Felix the Cat

In 1928, a foot-high papier-mâché Felix the Cat was the first image to be broadcast on TV, spinning round on a turntable in the NBC studios in New York to test the new technology. More »

What has the DfE got against philosophy?

England and Wales have a strange system for teaching philosophy. The subject is almost entirely absent from the 11-16 curriculum and, when it is taught, it is through the lens of religion (e.g. arguments for or against the existence of God). After 16, the situation changes, or at least it used to. In the past, at A level, pupils had the opportunity to study ‘religious ethics’ or ‘philosophy of religion’ modules as part of their religious studies curriculum. The philosophy was still God-centric, but wide-ranging enough to allow discussion of anything from the mind-body problem to the ethical justifications for vegetarianism. More »

Welcome to the Hellmouth

Masaya volcano crater

On my morning walk there is a point from which I can see the sulphurous fumes pouring from the Masaya volcano. On the lip of the crater, although not visible from my viewpoint seven kilometres away, is a large wooden cross. It occupies the pinnacle on which a similar cross was first placed in 1529 after the Spanish conquest, by the friar Francisco de Bobadilla. He climbed the volcano in what is now Nicaragua, looked down into its fiery crater, decided it must be the entrance to hell and had the cross put up to keep it firmly shut. Soon afterwards, a more avaricious and foolhardy friar, Blas de Castillo, is said to have climbed down into the crater and, lowering a metal bowl on a long chain, extracted what he thought was molten gold. It quickly turned into an uninspiring lump of black lava. More »

‘If I ever see you in the street, I hope you get shot’

The first time I wrote an article for a newspaper, the first online comment said: ‘If I ever see you in the street, I hope you get shot.’ The article was about being abused and harassed in the street, specifically while cycling. I wasn’t surprised that the online comments mirrored the behaviour the article addressed. But unlike the men who shouted at me as I waited on my bike in Clapham, the online commenter could be sure I wouldn’t spit in his face in response. More »

Mourinho Returns

As someone who struggles to remember basic facts about my family (middle names, dates of birth), I’m grateful when online security questionnaires give the option of naming the sports team you most want to lose. I know the answer to that one: Manchester United. I have sometimes wondered how much use it is as a security filter. Isn’t almost everyone’s answer to that question Manchester United?

Now I face a dilemma. If the question asked me to name my favourite manager I’d also have no trouble supplying an answer: Jose Mourinho. That, I realise, is a more unusual response. More »

In Madrid

Seventeen members of the Andalusian Workers Union (SAT) have been on hunger strike, camped out in central Madrid, since 16 May. ‘It has weakened us, and people are shaky,’ Juan Pastrana Serrano told me. He’s an SAT secretary in Jódar; his daughter is one of the hunger strikers. A movement of rural farm workers founded in 2007, SAT is famous for occupying fallow land, left uncultivated by large landowners, and returning it to the collective use of jornaleros (day labourers). They have also organised Robin Hood style ‘expropriations’ from supermarkets to feed the homeless, unemployed and destitute. Some 574 union members collectively face more than 600 years in jail and €700,000 in fines. The hunger strikers are demanding the release of an SAT spokesman, Andrés Bódalo, imprisoned in March for allegedly assaulting the deputy mayor of Jódar. More »

Homage to Madeleine LeBeau

madeleine-lebeau-casablancaIt’s one of the most memorable close-ups in film: Madeleine LeBeau, as Yvonne, tears streaming down her face, shouts ‘Vive La France!’ after joining the patrons of Rick’s Café Americain in the ‘Marseillaise’ to drown out the Nazis’ singing of ‘Die Wacht am Rhein’. LeBeau died on 1 May, at the age of 92; she was the last surviving cast member of Casablanca. More »

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