Not Another Brexit Jeremiad

Zia Haider Rahman

Street art showing Prime Minister Theresa May led by a British bulldog, Glasgow, Scotland, November 2018

Throughout my adulthood, I felt alien in Britain, never properly settling there but returning for a few years at a time. I have sometimes aired my criticisms about the ways in which even the supposedly liberal elites have failed to regard immigrants as properly British. Since 2016, though, I have grown closer to my country. For that, I owe something to the referendum for revealing deeper schisms in British society than the lines between native and immigrant, schisms that had, in a very British way, been papered over for years. Brexit has thus created space for other British identities.

One Step Closer to an Elusive Peace in Afghanistan

Ahmed Rashid

A delegation from the Taliban attending a Moscow meeting with Afghan politicians, February 6, 2019

The last peace process that older Afghans remember was the UN-led talks that ended in the Geneva Accords in 1988 and led to the final withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Those talks took four years to conclude. Now, for the first time since the Russians left, many Afghans are hoping for a possible end to the war and a political deal that most could live with—even if some, inevitably, fear the prospect of a new government in which the Taliban is a partner. If the uncharacteristic patience of the normally impulsive US president holds, his envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, may yet deliver such a settlement.

When Women Take the Baton

Maya Chung

Susanna Mälkki making her debut conducting the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, New York City, May 21, 2015

The Metropolitan Opera, representing arguably the most traditionalist musical form in an already innovation-wary field, has twenty-three conductors on rotation this season, all of whom are men. And many women in opera who are credited as assistant conductors are often restricted to piano accompaniment, the recently-appointed Chicago Opera Theater music director Lidiya Yankovskaya told me. Of the top twenty world orchestras as ranked by a panel of esteemed music critics—which Gramophone published in 2008—not one has a female conductor on staff. Some, including the Vienna Philharmonic, do have female guest conductors in rotation.

Whitaker, Fugitive from Justice

Murray Waas

Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker at a House Judiciary Committee hearing where he was questioned about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, February 8, 2019

On March 2, former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker abruptly resigned from a new Justice Department position only two weeks into the job—after he learned that he would likely be fired if he refused to answer questions from the department’s Inspector General about his controversial tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement official. As a result, investigators may never learn whether President Trump attempted to enlist Whitaker in an effort to impede a federal criminal investigation into whether the president himself conspired to violate campaign finance laws.

Race & Romance in America

Mira Jacob

When I was five and we went back to India for a visit, everyone was upset about two things. The first was that my brother and I still did not speak Malayalam. The second was how much I had “changed” since I was a baby. Toward the end of the visit, my grandmother gave me a bottle of Fair & Lovely. I knew what it was. I had seen the advertisement on train station walls. It showed a woman’s face getting lighter and happier and lighter and happier. Coming back to New Mexico was almost a relief. In New Mexico, I wasn’t dark. I was just brown.

The Ominous Decadence of László Nemes’s ‘Sunset’

J. Hoberman

Juli Jakab as Irisz Leiter in László Nemes's Sunset, 2019

Sunset, the forty-two-year-old French-Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes’s follow-up to his astonishing 2015 debut Son of Saul, is a gothic melodrama and a modernist period piece, set on the eve of World War I and shadowed by impending doom. Less dire than Saul but nonetheless alarming, Sunset tracks the quest of its protagonist, the young milliner Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), an orphan arrived in Budapest, to find employment at Leiter, the fashionable, luxury emporium founded by her parents. Perhaps Nemes—an artist far more comfortable discussing his filmmaking than his politics—is speaking through the character who says of Leiter’s elaborate creations: “the horror of the world hides beneath these infinitely pretty things.”

What Is the World to Do About Gene-Editing?

Stephen Buranyi

Gene-editing researcher He Jiankui with staff at the Direct Genomics Laboratory, Shenzhen, China, August 4, 2016

He Jiankui’s announcement that in November that he had created the first two gene-edited humans in history was met with universal condemnation. Hundreds of Chinese scientists signed a letter calling the research “crazy,” CRISPR’s co-creator, Jennifer Doudna, said she was “horrified,” and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes for Health, labeled it “profoundly disturbing.” If everyone can agree He crossed some kind of line, the questions of what that line is and where it should be are still open. The disturbing thing about the aftermath of the He affair is that a reckoning with these questions hasn’t happened.

Rite of Passage: Moroccan Boys Reach for Europe

Louis Witter

Moroccan minors who have managed to enter the Port of Ceuta and are waiting to attempt to board the ferries to Spain are thrown food by friends on the other side of the port's walls, Ceuta, February 20, 2019

“Europe would be a chance for us to work, a chance to study, a chance to learn a new language, in Spain or France, for example,” Rachid told me, one of a group of teenage Moroccan boys hoping to board the ferry from northern Africa to Europe. “In Morocco, there is nothing, nothing! No work, no money, no future. That’s why we want to go.” Rachid advanced toward the barbed wire-topped fence, followed by Ayman. On the pier, the fences are no longer monitored by officers of the Guardia Civil, who have been replaced by security cameras, though police still patrol inside the port.

A Minister, a General, & the Militias: Libya’s Shifting Balance of Power

Frederic Wehrey

Members of the Tripoli Protection Force, an alliance of militias, inspecting a compound used by the rival Seventh Brigade group in an area south of the Libyan capital, January 18, 2019

Fathi Bashagha, a leading figure in the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, is touring Washington and European capitals, where he pleads for equipment and for help in cutting off funding to what he calls Libya’s “princes of militias.” By many accounts, these have been impressive performances and Western backers of the Government of National Accord have placed great hopes in him to restore order. Even so, European governments and, increasingly, Washington have recognized that the landscape has now changed, with the dominant military force of General Khalifa Haftar on the horizon.

Making Good on the Broken Promise of Reparations

Katherine Franke

African Americans preparing cotton for the gin on Smith’s plantation, Port Royal Island, South Carolina, 1861–1862

Even during the Civil War, Union military and political leaders who were directly responsible for stewarding black people from enslavement into their new lives as freed people felt strongly that slavery was an atrocity and a theft that required compensation. Reparations were understood as both a remedy for the rape, torture, death, and destruction of millions of human souls, and a measure that recognized that freedom without material resources would lock black people into second-class status for generations to come. Promises made to freed people in 1865 that they would receive land—as reparations for their enslavement and the leg-up they needed to start their lives anew—were never honored.