News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Zara Home

Iran never seemed to get much consideration from Americans of my generation. It was more of a Boomer thing. Our parents watched the events of the 1970s and 1980s—the Revolution, the hostage crisis, the spiral into repressive theocracy—and so for them, Iran has loomed as a very real, potentially hostile presence. But for millennials who missed all of that, Iran was old news; instead, the Taliban and ISIS were our generational Islamabaddies. Iran’s Supreme Leader would pop up in the news now and again—arrested journalists here, yellow cake there, the will-they-won’t-they of the nuclear deal—but we didn’t pay much attention to anything that resembled a war MacGuffin, having seen the fallout from the Great Aluminum Tube Scare of 2002. We had a bad case of Middle East burnout, in other words.

But if you’ve seen the news, you know that there’s something happening in Iran. What it is isn’t exactly clear—not yet, at least. But it very well could become one of the great advancements in human rights of our time. The world should pay attention—perhaps particularly Americans, who presently find themselves faced with wide-ranging attempts to wrest away hard-won liberties at the hands of a religious zealotry. It’s important to understand what happens when your country falls into the grip of a theocracy.

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Around forty-three hundred years ago, in a region that we now call Iraq, a sculptor chiselled into a white limestone disk the image of a woman presiding over a temple ritual. She wears a long ceremonial robe and a headdress. There are two male attendants behind her, and one in front, pouring a libation on an altar. On the back of the disk, an inscription identifies her as Enheduanna, a high priestess and the daughter of King Sargon.

Some scholars believe that the priestess was also the world’s first recorded author. A clay tablet preserves the words of a long narrative poem: “I took up my place in the sanctuary dwelling, / I was high priestess, I, Enheduanna.” In Sumer, the ancient civilization of southern Mesopotamia where writing originated, texts were anonymous. If Enheduanna wrote those words, then she marks the beginning of authorship, the beginning of rhetoric, even the beginning of autobiography. To put her precedence in perspective, she lived fifteen hundred years before Homer, seventeen hundred years before Sappho, and two thousand years before Aristotle, who is traditionally credited as the father of the rhetorical tradition.

The poem, written in the wedge-shaped impressions of cuneiform, describes a period of crisis in the priestess’s life. Enheduanna’s father, Sargon, united Mesopotamia’s city-states to create what is sometimes called history’s first empire. His domain stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing modern-day Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, including more than sixty-five cities, each with its own religious traditions, administrative system, and local identity. Although Sargon ruled from Akkad, in the north, he appointed his daughter high priestess at the temple of the moon god in the southern city of Ur. The position, though outwardly religious, was in practice political, helping to unify disparate parts of the empire. After Sargon’s death, the kingdom was torn by rebellion; the throne went briefly to Enheduanna’s brothers, and then to her nephew. In the poem, a usurper named Lugalanne—a military general who possibly led an uprising in Ur—drives Enheduanna from her place at the temple.

“He has turned that temple into a house of ill repute./ Forcing his way in as if he were an equal, he dared approach me in his lust!” Enheduanna says. Cast out of the city, she wanders the wilderness. “He made me walk a land of thorns. / He took away the noble diadem of my holy office, / He gave me a dagger: ‘This is just right for you,’ he said.” The full significance of the usurper’s crime is lost in a literal translation, but the language suggests sexual violation. (The verbs, one translator has noted, are the same ones used elsewhere to convey sexual advances.) It also suggests an incitement to suicide. Giving her a dagger, Lugalanne encourages her to kill herself. “This is just right for you.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

In the 1990s, hip-hop had a shocking moment with the loss of Christopher Wallace (Biggie Smalls) and Tupac Shakur—both shot to death in the street within six months. We carried that trauma for years. Biggie was an incredible storyteller and a budding entrepreneur. Tupac was making an impact as an artist, actor, and activist. After they died, many music lovers thought there would be an East Coast–versus–West Coast war, but thankfully a battle didn’t happen.

Back then, you could expect a fistfight or a backstage brawl, but those incidents seem mild-mannered compared with the surge of violence in hip-hop now. In 2018, the rapper XXXTentacion, just 20 years old, was shot dead. Hip-hop has since lost an artist every year. The frequency with which we are losing rappers to gun violence is painful: Nipsey Hussle. Pop Smoke. King Von. PnB Rock. Young Dolph. And now Takeoff. These rappers were young, successful, talented individuals, millionaires creating generational wealth for their loved ones.

Losing someone at the peak of their career is always a trip. Nipsey was an innovator and a positive dude. We were honored when he talked in interviews about trying to follow our blueprint; it felt like he could really expand on what we started as independent artists. We’re proud of the work his family and business partners are doing to grow his legacy and share his message.

And just like with Nipsey, images of Takeoff’s death circulated online—so it’s not only the loss that’s hard to process, but the visuals. The crazy thing is that Takeoff dropped an album with Quavo just last month. The regularity of these killings has us concerned and thinking, Who’s next?

Jazz musicians weren’t routinely murdered in the street at the height of their career. Nor were rock stars. We just want the same truth for our young superstars. The inner city is like the MMA Octagon—it’s the cage, the trap. A lot of violent shit goes down, but it’s still home for many hip-hop artists. And there’s still a lot of hope, hunger, and love in the streets. We just need to find better ways to support each other. This is our generation’s responsibility as much as it is for the young MCs.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One brisk morning in late September, as I arrived still a little drunk to a 9 a.m. wine tasting, I thought back to the previous evening. A cruise ship employee had led me off the vessel and to an underlit cellar, where I found an elderly former Austrian homicide detective awaiting me. He had a slideshow prepared, mainly of graphic photos of decomposing women. This was a capstone of sorts to a week where I had received ominous type-written notes resting on my pillow night after night, as new friends and I wondered who might be murdered before the week was out. As I had many times in the previous four days, I contemplated the decisions that had brought me here. But then the riesling breakfast began to do its job. I shrugged. So began another day on the Gone Girl cruise.

Yes, the Gone Girl cruise. In July, Gillian Flynn, the author of the blockbuster thriller, declared to her followers online, “There are still tickets available to join me on the Avalon Waterways GONE GIRL CRUISE.” She added: “I will be selecting both by raffle and by means and opportunity a special passenger to murder!”

This understandably went viral. It demanded answers. What do you mean, Gone Girl cruise? How can a cruise be themed around a book about a woman faking her own abduction to take revenge on her partner? Why is it taking place on the Danube? (Is the book not set in Missouri?) Who is going to book this cruise, and why? Why is Flynn doing this? Would the novel be admissible evidence in court if I booked my shithead husband and I to go on this cruise and then he mysteriously disappeared?

There was only one way to answer these questions, and only one response when my editor asked me to be the person to answer them: Yes, oh my God, of course I will go on an eight-day Gone Girl–themed cruise down the Danube! What kind of a question is that?

If only I knew.

Read the rest of this article at: Slate

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News 23.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The constitutional right whose protections lie nearest to the skin, flesh, and blood of each American citizen is the Eighth Amendment—the constraint on the government’s ability to punish us in cruel and unusual ways. As with any civil right, if it isn’t enforced, it effectively ceases to exist. Because its enforcement ultimately rests with the nation’s highest court, it is practically, if not ideally, a matter of politics. And though its disintegration may go unnoticed by those who, through good sense or good fortune, never encounter governmental punishment, its loss is felt acutely by those who do.

The Eighth Amendment’s destruction has now been felt this year by three men subjected to sequential execution proceedings in Alabama—one of whom died, two of whom survived. The state’s incompetence at executing its prisoners in accordance with its own protocol has degenerated into a civil-rights crisis, evident in the scattered slices and punctures of three executions gone awry in a row.

The latest of Alabama’s damned and misbegotten execution efforts unfolded last Thursday evening. I was scheduled to serve as a witness to the judicial killing of Kenneth Smith, a man I had met some months prior, when both of us began to suspect that he would, in all likelihood, soon be the subject of a mangled execution. There was little he could do to stop it, though his attorneys fought tirelessly against dismal odds to avert it, and his family prayed unceasingly for God to save him from what two other men had already endured.

What providence did hold for Smith was a severe and bracing mercy: After two days of back-and-forth among three of the nation’s courts concerning his Eighth Amendment rights and the potential of his impending execution to violate them, Smith was strapped down to a gurney for hours and tortured until his executioners simply gave up on killing him.

The Monday after Alabama attempted to kill Kenneth Smith, Governor Kay Ivey released a statement announcing a de facto moratorium on executions until “the Department of Corrections undertake[s] a top-to-bottom review of the state’s execution process” so that “the state can successfully deliver justice going forward.” In the view of the governor’s office, the ordered investigation, to be carried out by the very agency responsible for three consecutive disasters, is a regrettable but necessary step to guarantee that victims’ families are no longer promised executions the state cannot deliver. “For the sake of the victims and their families, we’ve got to get this right,” Ivey said in her press statement. That the Alabama Department of Corrections has repeatedly jeopardized, if not outright violated, the constitutional rights of some of her state’s own people seemed not to weigh heavily on her mind.

In 1988, Smith, then a 22-year-old father of four children, confessed to taking a murder-for-hire job from a 21-year-old friend of his named Billy Gray Williams, who had earlier been contracted for the murder by Charles Sennett, a pastor. The target of the plot was Sennett’s wife, 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett, whom he wanted killed in a mock robbery gone wrong so he could collect an insurance payment. Smith was joined by another friend, John Parker, in the scheme. Sennett was to pay both men $1,000 for their participation in his wife’s murder, on top of whatever they felt like stealing while ransacking the house.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.