Christians in the Middle East
January 24, 2011

The numbers may look identical. But it was not the same bombing. Early last week, the Times' Stephen Lee Meyers, based in Iraq, reported (and I commented on) the bombing in Tikrit that took roughly 50 lives--give or take a dozen, more likely give. The number of wounded was, of course, enormous and also uncertain. Alas, the Times news staff in Iraq is getting basic training in how cruel people can be to one another.

Voodoo Economics
January 22, 2011

A new labor law in Romania has expanded the ranks of the self-employed; along with car valets and astrologers, witches will now be required to pay a 16 percent income tax. Is this persecution by another name, or a step toward legitimization for a long-maligned occupation? Believing the former, one group of witches responded to the news by throwing mandrake into the Danube and concocting protest in the form of a cat-poop-and-dead-dog potion.

Sudan Dispatch: Exhausted By Diplomacy
January 20, 2011

Abyei, Sudan—In news coverage, the recent violence in Abyei, a contested border region between northern and southern Sudan, has attracted shorthand references to the region as “Sudan’s Kashmir.” But this is a label Kuol Deng Kuol, paramount chief of the Ngok Dinka, the southern ethnic group that lives in Abyei, strongly rejects.

Take Only Pictures
January 18, 2011

When Chinese President Hu Jintao meets his American counterpart at the White House tomorrow, he will undoubtedly go through the motions of engaging him on substantive matters. But there will be little in the way of agreement: At the last summit, in November 2009, China and the United States released a 4,223-word joint statement that became a dead letter within three weeks, after acrimonious exchanges at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Today in Despotism: New Year’s Edition
January 18, 2011

“Today in Despotism” began to run in TNR Online in 2005. The idea was to provide an overview of goings-on in tyrannical countries around the world. The news items were drawn solely from the state-run or state-approved publications of the respective outposts. The column ceased to run in 2006, when the Bush administration managed to eradicate despotism worldwide. Or possibly it was that the author no longer had time. Now, in 2011, “Today in Despotism” is back, and TNR readers can finally stay properly informed.

Making Sense of Tunisia
January 17, 2011

According to many media accounts, the protests that swept Tunisia, causing dictatorial President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia, were instigated by the gruesomely symbolic suicide in December of Mohammed Bouazizi, who some are calling “the father of the Tunisian revolution.”* In Tunisia’s choking atmosphere of unemployment, particularly among the young, Bouazizi had resorted to selling produce in the town of Sidi Bouzid.

Tunisia and the Lessons of the Iranian Revolution
January 16, 2011

What happened in Tunisia over the past few days was reminiscent of scenes from Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and ’90s: people’s power in action. But it is another historical parallel—to Iran in 1979—that has something to teach the West as it figures out how to respond. The toppling of Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Ben Ali, recalled the last days of the Shah, when riots against poor living conditions and calls for human rights quickly turned into demands for getting rid of a dictator.

Sudan Dispatch: The Coming Struggle
January 14, 2011

Juba, Sudan—As voting continues in this week’s referendum, which is expected to pass, people here in the south are eagerly awaiting the formal announcement that their homeland, finally, will be a free nation.

Sudan Dispatch: Homeward Bound
January 12, 2011

Bentiu, Sudan—In the center of this southern town, in a dusty public square with just a few trees for precious shade, 19 busloads of people arrived from Khartoum on Sunday, the first day of voting in this week’s historic referendum for independence. They were just a fraction of the 36,800 “returnees” that officials estimate have flooded into Unity state, of which Bentiu is the capital city, over the past two months.

Sudan Dispatch: High Stakes
January 08, 2011

Bentiu, Sudan—The stakes of this get-out-the-vote campaign are the highest of any in recent memory. Starting on Sunday, citizens of southern Sudan will participate in a week of voting on a referendum that, if it passes, will make the south an independent nation. For the results to be valid, however, 60 percent of the 3.9 million people who have registered to vote must cast ballots. Here in Unity state, which would be on the northern border of the new South Sudan, officials report with pride that they have the most registered voters of any state (over 500,000).