We don’t know the name of the 23-year-old student who was raped and killed on a city bus in Delhi.
We do know that, after getting on a bus home after watching a film with a friend, she was tortured so badly that she lost her intestines. Six people – including the bus driver – have been arrested; they have been widely denounced as “animals” on social media. It’s always comforting to think – despite everything that the 20th century should have taught us – that those who commit vile acts are sub-human, are not quite like us, so we can create emotional distance from them. But it was thinking, feeling, living human men who committed this rape, however nauseating it is to accept.
The death of a woman popularly named Damini – “lightning” in Hindi – has provoked thousands to take to India’s streets, furious at endemic and unchecked violence against women. Some have been met with police batons, tear gas and water cannon. But, in the West, Damini’s death has triggered a different response: a sense that this is an Indian-specific problem. “The crime has highlighted the prevalence of sex attacks in India,” says the Daily Telegraph; “India tries to move beyond its rape culture,” says Reuters. Again, it’s comforting to think that this is someone else’s problem, a particular scandal that afflicts a supposedly backward nation. It is an assumption that is as wrong as it is dangerous.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sunday introduced a bill he said would “soften the landing” if the nation went over the “fiscal cliff.”
Manchin said his bill, the Cliff Alleviation at the Last Minute Act, — the CALM Act — would slowly phase in the tax rate increases and allow the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to propose substitute cuts to replace sequestration.
Manchin’s proposal comes as lawmakers neared their year-end deadline to avoid January’s tax hikes and across-the-board cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said there would be no votes on Sunday, but added that negotiations for a final deal were still underway.
As 2012 draws to a close, Syria is descending into hell. At least 40,000 people, and likely many more, have been killed, while millions have been forced to flee their homes. Over the past 12 months, Bashar al-Assad has steadily unleashed ever-greater military firepower in response to what began as peaceful protests by the Syrian people. Starting with tanks and heavy artillery in February, the Syrian regime escalated over the summer to using attack helicopters and fighter jets. In recent weeks, it has begun firing Scud missiles at its own population.
The world has failed to stop this slaughter. President Obama has declared that his “red line” is Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Many Syrians, however, have told us that they see the U.S. red line as a green light for Assad to use all other weapons of war to massacre them with impunity. Many of those weapons continue to be supplied directly by Iran.
Vice President Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell were locked in urgent talks late Sunday over the “fiscal cliff” after Democrats offered several significant concessions on taxes, including a proposal to raise rates only on earnings over $450,000 a year.
With a New Year’s Eve deadline hours away, Democrats abandoned their earlier demand to raise tax rates on household income over $250,000 a year, as President Obama vowed during the recent presidential campaign.
The stalled progress in the Washington budget battle may be rattling markets but the gridlock among policymakers will not move the rating agencies to downgrade the United States – yet.
The U.S. credit rating is far from safe. All three major agencies have negative outlooks on the United States, which suffered its first downgrade in history last year when Standard & Poor’s stripped it of its triple-A rating.
But the fiscal cliff is only one event in a series of issues that will see ratings agencies looming over Washington for months.
Investors sold off riskier assets such as stocks on Friday and scooped up safe-havens such as the dollar and U.S. Treasuries after Republican Representative John Boehner failed to find enough support from his own party to push a measure raising taxes on millionaires through the House of Representatives.
Back in the 1950s three social psychologists joined a cult that was predicting the imminent end of the world. Their purpose was to observe the cultists’ response when the world did not, in fact, end on schedule. What they discovered, and described in their classic book, “When Prophecy Fails,” is that the irrefutable failure of a prophecy does not cause true believers — people who have committed themselves to a belief both emotionally and by their life choices — to reconsider. On the contrary, they become even more fervent, and proselytize even harder.
This insight seems highly relevant as 2012 draws to a close. After all, a lot of people came to believe that we were on the brink of catastrophe — and these views were given extraordinary reach by the mass media. As it turned out, of course, the predicted catastrophe failed to materialize. But we can be sure that the cultists won’t admit to having been wrong. No, the people who told us that a fiscal crisis was imminent will just keep at it, more convinced than ever.
Oh, wait a second — did you think I was talking about the Mayan calendar thing?
A U.S. Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the United States a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge.
The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defense.
The sharper focus on Africa by the U.S. comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali.
The terror threat from groups linked to Al Qaeda in Africa has been growing steadily, particularly with the rise of the extremist Islamist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria. Officials also believe that the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, may have been carried out by those who had ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
On the last day of this year, outliving the universe by 10 days if the Mayan calendar was correct, the print edition of Newsweek will be no more, making the 80-year-old dentist’s waiting-room staple the latest in a long line of victims of changing reader habits, the high cost of print and a Darwinian newsstand.
In an interview with Michael Kinsley in the Nov. 26 issue of New York magazine, Newsweek editor in chief and magazine legend Tina Brown gave a big-picture reason for the magazine’s failure: “[E]very piece of the Zeitgeist was against Newsweek,” Brown told Kinsley, a quote so telling, New York’s editors even saw fit to tease it on the magazine’s cover, the word Zeitgeist framed by inverted commas.
It’s worth going back a bit to the origins of the word. “Zeitgeist,” a German coinage translatable to the “Spirit of the Times,” is often attributed to Georg Hegel as a kind of rebuke of Thomas Carlyle’s “Great Man theory.” The age makes the man, not the reverse; the ineluctable spirit of the people produces and is a product of its history and its art. Like “gestalt,” “moral majority,” “generation gap,” and “collective unconscious,” which all have their origins in philosophy, psychology, or other specialized branches of the humanities or social sciences, “Zeitgeist” is often tossed around in introductory courses on its way to being abused by marketers, editors, and trend-spotters who are either ignorant of or indifferent to the terms’ original meanings.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) was arrested on Sunday morning in Alexandria, Virginia for driving under the influence.
According to Del Ray, VA Patch, Crapo was pulled over after an officer saw the senator run a red light. Police spokesman Craig T. Fifer said that Crapo failed “several field sobriety tests,” reports CBS News. He was taken into custody “without incident.”
Patch reports that the Republican Senator was later released on an unsecured $1,000 bond. He will have to appear in court on January 4th.
“Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes. His questioners, of course, were laying a trap for him. They wanted to force him to take sides in the highly-charged political debate about Roman rule in the land of Israel. Yet there was more at stake here: if Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah, then surely he would oppose the Roman overlords. So the question was calculated to expose him either as a threat to the regime, or a fraud.
Jesus’ answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth. His audience needed to be reminded that the Messiah was not Caesar, and Caesar was not God. The kingdom that Jesus came to establish was of an altogether higher order. As he told Pontius Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world.”
The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message. Jesus was born during a “census of the whole world” taken by Caesar Augustus, the Emperor renowned for bringing the Pax Romana to all the lands under Roman rule. Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the Empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time.
Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir, but the liberation he brought to his people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.