United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

Until a few weeks ago, Al Farouk, the patron djinn of Timbuktu, protected the ancient city in northern Mali. For centuries, from astride a winged horse in center of the city, the stone genie kept watch over the houses so that children didn’t sneak out at night. Legend had it that if Al Farouk caught you getting up to anything naughty, he’d warn you the first two times. If he nabbed you a third time, you’d disappear forever. Now Al Farouk has disappeared.

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Many public universities are suffering these days, wracked by budget cuts and struggling to bring enough students through the door. The University of Virginia isn’t one of them. A $5 billion endowment makes it the wealthiest public university, per capita, in the United States. Over 28,000 students applied for admission last year, a record high. The stately campus, a classic of red brick and white colonnade, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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At the G20 Summit last week in Cannes, Nicolas Sarkozy held only four private meetings. One was with Barack Obama and a second was with Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India.

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Poetry and Reason

The Essential Tagore By Rabindranath Tagore Edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty (Harvard University Press, 819 pp., $39.95) In his book Raga Mala, Ravi Shankar, the great musician, argues that had Rabindranath Tagore “been born in the West he would now be [as] revered as Shakespeare and Goethe.” This is a strong claim, and it calls attention to some greatness in this quintessentially Bengali writer—identified by a fellow Bengali—that might not be readily echoed in the wider world today, especially in the West.

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There was a time--stretching back several decades and ending not so long ago--when UNESCO busied itself with condemning Israel for this and condemning Israel for that.  As it happens, the first piece (an unsigned editorial note) I wrote for TNR after coming to the magazine was titled "UNESCO and Israel."  It appeared in the issue of December 14, 1974.  UNESCO had specifically excluded Israel from the organization's official European orbit which meant it had no orbit at all in which to integrate itself.  The Arabs were certainly not going to admit the Jewish state into their sphere.  The resolu

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This just in: A career diplomat from Bulgaria won a suspenseful and drawn-out race to lead the U.N. agency for culture and education on Tuesday, beating out an Egyptian candidate whose one-time threat to burn Israeli books had galvanized opposition.... In a fifth round of secret balloting Tuesday, Bulgaria's ambassador to France, Irina Bokova, defeated Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny for the leadership of UNESCO.

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I am sweating through my abaya as I drive to meet the sheik. It is a hot afternoon in Sana'a, and the sun beats down through an arid blue sky. Wispy pink and blue plastic bags that earlier held an afternoon's worth of the narcotic qat leaf float over the congested streets like kites, and children run up to cars paused at intersections, hawking everything from full flatware sets to the tiny perfume samples one might rip from an ad in a fashion magazine. The university I'm heading for sits on a hillside on the outskirts of town, on land donated by the government in the 1990s.

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A FRIEND RECENTLY TOLD me that his most important pedagogical tool as an architect is this maxim: the architect's primary ethical responsibility is to be the guardian of the public realm, in contrast to the myriad others who currently configure our built landscape— clients, politicians, contractors, developers, and NIMBY-driven "community action" committees.

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Rights of Passage

A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Mary Ann Glendon (Random House, 333 pp., $25.95) Are rights universal? Can diverse people, across religious and ethnic differences, agree about what rights people have? Might it be possible to produce agreements about the content of rights among people from different nations--not simply England, America, Germany, and France, but China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Iran, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Cuba, and Japan, too? What would such an agreement look like?

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Unspecial Olympics

Jason Zengerle on acts of corruption reported in the Olympic Games.

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