Ghazouani travelled by presidential jet to Bir Moghrein’s airstrip, outside town; most of the time you wouldn’t know it was there, if it weren’t for a set of aircraft steps standing alone in the desert. Bir Moghrein is ‘only Mauritanian depending on the mood of the guard that day’, a European photojournalist who has worked there told me. Most of the cars in town have licence plates from the neighbouring Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. At the moment, though, conversation there is as much about the election as it is about the WhatsApp group for finding lost camels.
Seventy-five years ago, on 13 June 1944, a pilotless aircraft flew over the south of England in the early hours of the morning. Its engine buzzed loudly, giving off flames in the moonless night, until it cut out somewhere over the East End of London at 4.25 a.m., and crashed in Mile End along with nearly a tonne of explosive. The blast destroyed a railway bridge, killed six people, injured 42 and made two hundred homeless.
Last week, on Monday 3 June, Sudanese paramilitaries attacked the protest camp outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, killing dozens of people, injuring hundreds and destroying their two-month-old sit-in. There is a government blackout on internet and phone services, but activists from the Alliance for Freedom and Change, who have been leading the protests that saw the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April, are asking people to keep each other informed, and have called for a general strike and ongoing civil disobedience. The strike began on Sunday.
The race to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore as prime minister, is formally underway. Ten candidates passed the 1922 Committee’s nomination threshold, and now enter a series of ballots of Conservative MPs to whittle them down to two, who will face a ballot of around 100,000 party members with an average age somewhere around 65 (according to the Bow Group’s estimate). The rest of us can do nothing but watch with impotent horror.
Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute have published a study projecting ‘the future accumulation of profiles belonging to deceased Facebook users’. Carl Öhman and David Watson used the social network’s ‘audience insights’ data, which businesses use to target their adverts, to find out how many ‘monthly active users’ of different ages there are across the world, and combined this with life expectancy data to create their models. If Facebook continues to grow at its current rate, by 2100 it will host the accounts of 4.9 billion dead people.
Protesting against Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK is, first, an act of elementary political hygiene: a refusal to endorse the British government’s eager servility to the United States, and a rejection of the politics of the president and his various global allies. Trump provokes a curious mixture of fascination and repulsion, however, and the reasons for protest go beyond a rejection of the current US government, to a sense that Trump presages a new and dangerous way of doing politics.
Of the 156,000 British, Canadian, American and other Allied troops who sailed from Portsmouth for the Normandy beaches in June 1944, fewer than 1500 are still alive. They are all in their nineties, at least. My grandfather, a D-Day veteran who died in 1998, would be 103.