Buhari Loses the Plot

In the run-up to last year’s presidential election, Patience Jonathan, the wife of Nigeria’s then president, warned women what they were letting themselves in for should they reject her husband in favour of Muhammadu Buhari. The last time Buhari was head of state, as a military strongman in the mid-1980s, ‘he said women should be confined to the kitchen,’ she said. ‘But under Jonathan’s administration, women have been liberated to contribute to national development. If you vote for Buhari again, you will return to the kitchen.’

Her advice was ignored and Buhari was duly elected. Everybody was happy at first. Sixteen years of mind-boggling corruption had left the people clamouring for ‘change’, which quickly became the new government’s mantra. And then everything went horribly wrong. More »

On the Government’s Lists

May Brown, a Nigerian woman with leukemia, made the news last week when her sister was denied entry to the UK to provide life-saving stem cells. The Home Office said it wasn’t satisfied that the trip was genuine, or that the sister had enough money. This isn’t the first time Brown has been on the wrong side of British immigration; denied asylum in 2013, she attempted suicide. ‘We are sensitive to cases with compassionate circumstances,’ a Home Office spokesperson said last Friday, ‘but all visa applications must be assessed against the immigration rules.’ More »

Bob Dylan’s 126th Dream

Buckets of rain were falling over the MacTweedledeedum links. There was silence apart from the distant drilling in the wall of the clubhouse. Big Jim McTweedle was building another extension to the bar. Bob’s heart was in the highlands but his mind was on the next hole. It was the awkward 15th, where only a lot of backspin could keep you out of the bunker. More »

‘We learned from the British’

Writing in the Guardian in 2011, Shimon Peres, then president of Israel, welcomed the uprisings that were spreading across the Middle East. Israel wanted to see ‘improvements in our neighbours’ lives’, he said, which was the reason it was helping Palestinians in the West Bank develop their own economy, institutions and security forces. ‘Israel was born under the British mandate,’ he went on. More »

Free Khurram Parvez

This time last year, Indian-administered Kashmir was welcoming tourists to its lakes, Mughal gardens and mountain meadows. The state tourism board reported 300,000 visitors between July and September 2015, numbers helped by various foreign governments lifting travel bans. Today, Kashmir is once more plunged into chaos and violence. Burhan Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed by Indian security forces on 8 July. Protests broke out across Kashmir the next day. The official crackdown was severe. Dozens of people have been killed and thousands injured. Shops, hospitals and schools have been shut, mobile phone and internet services cut, property destroyed and local newspapers closed. More »

Black Monday

The Polish government says there were 24,000 protesters on Warsaw’s streets last Monday; the protest organisers say there were 116,000. Whatever the number, the ‘Black Monday’ demonstrations in support of abortion rights were an uncommon display. The protesters, most of them women, were on strike from work, school, housework and their children to oppose a law that would have banned all abortions in Poland, and imposed jail sentences of up to five years for both doctors and patients. The protesters wore black and held signs showing diagrams of uteruses. Schools, universities and government offices were forced to close in at least sixty cities, and sympathetic employers gave their workers the day off to participate. In the capital, where it was raining, they bumped umbrellas and chanted: ‘We want doctors, not missionaries.’ More »

In Asmara

LRB Eritrea 1

Unesco is currently evaluating Asmara’s bid to be made a World Heritage site. The Eritrean capital’s argument is strong. It lays claim to some of the finest Futurist architecture on earth, built during the period of Italian colonial rule. Many of these buildings – and Asmara’s infrastructure more generally – are threatened by neglect, a resource-poor economy, and the effects of time. More »

Vancouver’s Fentanyl Crisis

Last April, British Columbia’s chief health officer took the unusual step of declaring a public health emergency after 200 people died from (suspected) fentanyl overdose during the first three months of 2016. By August the number of deaths had risen to 488. This is a record high, a 61.6 per cent increase on the same period in 2015 (302). More »

Citizens of the world, look out

If you were so inclined, at the Conservative Party Conference you could don a virtual reality headset, sit on a McDonald’s branded lorry, grasp the steering wheel in front of you and pretend to be a potato farmer. Delegates who liked more violence in their fantasies could have a go on the grouse shooting simulator. If it was retail therapy you wanted, a cushion with John Major’s face on would set you back £30, but you could buy two white babysuits printed with ‘Little Iron Lady’ or ‘Future Prime Minister’ for the same price. More »

Are you local?

Theresa May invoked the ‘spirit of citizenship’ as the thing that holds Britain together today. The term has an ingrained tension: ‘spirit’ invokes a mystic national soul; ‘citizen’ something rational and rules-based. On the one hand, May seemed to suggest the concept was more about rules and moral norms than anything metaphysical, equating the ‘spirit of citizenship’ with paying tax and not being an absolute bastard to your employees: More »

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