Juliana Rotich: Lighting Candles + Cursing the Darkness

Juliana with a big smile and glasses looking right of frame

When all it takes is a few clicks to pull satellite imagery of almost any square foot of space on the planet, it can be easy to imagine that the world as we know it is completely and thoroughly mapped, charted out to an extent never dreamed of by the storied cartographers of ages past. 

But what if maps of the known world began not from a gaze high above but from many points of view, looking from the bottom up?

This is where Juliana Rotich comes in. Born in Kenya in 1977, Rotich had already made a name for herself as a prolific blogger and Web pioneer when she co-founded the crowdsourced mapping platform Ushahidi in 2008. Their aim was nothing less than converting the flow of information into localized action and change.

Stitching together reports from SMS, email and messaging might open up an entirely new view of events as they unfolded. 

Juliana speaking with blue wall behind her and the word TED

Juliana Rotich speaking at a Ted Talk

Living in Africa is “to be on the edge metaphorically and quite literally when you think about connectivity before 2008,” Rotich said in her TEDGlobal talk last June. As with earlier waves of global technological change, the digital revolution was neither televised nor evenly distributed around the world. And it was the barriers to connectivity in Africa that created a moment for Rotich. It all came to a head during a media blackout in 2008, when Kenya was riven with post-election violence.

The situation on the ground was changing quickly, and people had few resources to turn to for reliable information. Rotich and her collaborators David Kobia and Erik Hersman asked themselves, “What if you could just get unmediated information from the affected areas themselves, in nearly real time?” Stitching together reports from SMS, email and messaging might open up an entirely new view of events as they unfolded. 

Lifted from the Swahili word for testimony or witness, Ushahidi is a nonprofit, open-source software platform that collates information into visual displays, otherwise known as maps. In post-earthquake Haiti, Ushahidi collected and mapped information so survivors could let the world know where they were and what they needed. This was a watershed moment for the company, after which their platform began to be adopted all around the world.

Increased connectivity to the Internet across the continent has helped spur trickle-up innovation to address social problems.

— Juliana Rotich

It was used for disaster support during the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, during the oil spill in New Orleans, and for noncrisis uses such as tracking commodity prices in Afghanistan; monitoring elections; and finding public works of art, crime and even burgers. And with the able assistance of Google, the Ford Foundation, the Knight Foundation, Cisco, Mozilla and a half-dozen more, Ushahidi’s maps are all reported by real boots, shoes and sandals on the ground.

”In my generation,” Rotich told eTalks, ”I have seen how African people have interacted with mobile phones, computers and how increased connectivity to the Internet across the continent has helped spur trickle-up innovation to address social problems.” Indeed, Ushahidi seems like the ideal tool for this context. With seven in 10 people in Africa carrying cellphones, the continent was well-poised to relay information from all over the map via simple messaging technology. 

More than 44,000 publicly sourced maps have been created so far, by contributors from over 159 countries – Ushahidi has jumped feet-first into being an integral part of a pan-African early alert system. Key to its quick spread has been how accessible it is: Contributors can send in reports from basic phones using SMS messages, upload photos or videos from smartphones, or submit reports online, all of which gets pulled together by the software to paint a rich, detailed picture of places and events; in turn, that information guide rescues and community action. 

As Ushahidi’s executive director and program manager, Rotich continues developing the platform as well as tackling the next ambitious project: keeping the Internet on. Uneven access to electricity across Africa makes connectivity subject to unpredictable, and annoying, blackouts — the World Bank estimates that African manufacturers have to endure about 56 days of power outages a year. 

And since Rotich was not so much a fan of waiting for someone else to solve the problem, she did it: by co-developing the BRCK, a backup device for continued Internet access. The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, BRCK grew out of another Ushahidi brainchild: iHub, a technology co-working space that’s the cornerstone of Kenya’s growing ”Silicon Savannah” reputation. So, an information collection hub, mapping, an innovation incubator and a way to keep it all up and running? Nice.

“Africa is a perfect hotbed for disruptive technologies now,” said Robert Clyne, a cultural anthropologist from Yale, currently in country in Ghana. ”Plus there are probably more cellphones here than toilets by, I imagine, a factor of 10 to 1. Even if they charge them with hand gyros.”

Rotich and team stay committed to creating nimble responses in times of need, as in their work during the al-Shabaab terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi last September. In addition to mapping blood donation centers, they rushed out Ping, a tool for people inside the crisis to contact small groups of folks on the outside and simply say “I’m OK,” pulling some small amount of victory out of what may have been viewed as a dark defeat.

Which is why it’s no surprise to read Rotich telling tech blogger Anil Dash, “I am guided each day by these three questions: What are you fixing? What are you making? Who are you helping?” As we bounce calls off of Rotich and through her press office, following her on planes from Davos, onto trains into East Africa and into places with scant cell reception for follow-on questions, a few things are increasingly clear: Her advancing solutions for making the world a more completely mapped place may also make it a much more comfortable one, even in the face of great discomfort.

OZY Goes Dancing

People dancing having fun, woman has arms up

Tango Everlasting

USA Argentine Tango Stage Champions and Buenos Aires transplants Gustavo and Jesica Hornos serve up stylish, sexy and suave like they invented it. The dance is improvised yet so perfect that it seems planned. Three-plus minutes later, you’re surprised to find yourself standing, screaming and applauding. The second song in what is usually a three-song tanda, or set, begins, and it’s almost like you never saw what you just saw. You’re drawn in as it begins again, and there’s no better word to describe your state of mind during the experience than transfixed.

Butoh: Dance of Death + Darkness

Butoh, or the “dance of darkness,” has in recent years emerged as a disturbingly exhilarating dance force, growing in visibility particularly among Brooklynites — although hipster crowds flock to performances all over New York, selling out nearly every show in every borough. CAVE and Resobox Theater, both in Queens, N.Y., have long been selling out shows. You can also find enclaves of interest in Boulder (Colo.), Seattle and San Francisco. If there is one thing this art form does for certain, it unquestionably forges a new, primal and instinctive mode of communication.

Temple Trans

If you’re new to Bharatanatyam, think of this South Indian classical temple dance as stomp-the-yard-level footwork meets Swan Lake. The pieces are operas, set to wildly layered compositions — typically love poems written to the gods. Transgender temple dancer Mesma Belsare has been hailed by critics across the U.S. (even when she was still Sudarshan, back in 2008, and reviewers swore the man they were watching onstage was a woman). And she makes it quite clear why you shouldn’t give a flying you-know-what about her gender — rather, you should just watch her sway.

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

Patrick Swayze didn’t want to say the key line that defined this movie — but, thankfully, he lost that battle. But here’s a look at Dirty Dancing and its deeply feminist agenda. It was the first movie to sell more than a million copies on home video, and teenage girls watched it over and over, at first for Johnny Castle’s (Patrick Swayze) gyrating hips and preternatural good looks, but ultimately for Frances “Baby” Houseman’s (Jennifer Grey) gutsy character and coming-of-age story. And its writer wove an abortion into the story — intentionally.

Is It the Year of the Female Super Bowl Viewer?

2 women with blue jerseys cheering

In Super Bowl advertising, a woman’s place has been in a bikini. Now advertisers are waking up to the fact that if they’re going to spend roughly $4 million per 30 seconds to put a product in front of more than 100 million viewers, they’d better not alienate half of them.

Using scantily clad women and the promise of sex to sell everything from beer and body spray to Web hosting services is so 2006. The big splashes this year will be the ads that get men and women talking around the water cooler, not venting their disgust on social media.

Using scantily clad women and the promise of sex to sell everything from beer and body spray to Web hosting services is so 2006. 

For Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII, several advertisers with a rep for scandalous content are steering away from their usual tactics. Last year Audi brought us “Prom,” a spot that critics labeled a glorified sexual assault, in which a high school boy’s fantasy of driving a cool car gives him the confidence to lay one on a stunned prom queen. This year’s ad features animated dogs and singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan — the founder of the Lilith Fair, the all-female concert/lovefest. Audi calls its parody of McLachlan’s heart-wrenching ASPCA ads “a comical take on how when people compromise, things go terribly wrong.”

Boy, left in tuxedo,  kissing girl, right in red dress, who is surprised at prom

Audi’s Doberhuahua

Perhaps. But there’s more.

“The biggest change I see this year is with Axe, which normally is all about sex,” Bonnie Drewniany, a University of South Carolina professor and Super Bowl ad evaluator, said by email. The male fragrance company made its Super Bowl debut last year with a bikini-clad woman who turns her attention away from a lifeguard and flings herself at an Axe-scented astronaut. “This year’s spot uses a documentary style, with a theme of making peace, not war,” says Drewniany. Granted there’s still some making out, but it’s less insulting to women’s intellectual and olfactory gifts.

And there’s not a bikini in sight.

Why the change of heart? Given that the Super Bowl audience is now nearly a 50-50 gender split, it could be argued that knee-jerk sexism is an outdated sales tool. And, when viewers feel insulted, it’s easier than ever to take to social media and let advertisers know about it. 

Doberhuahua (doberman head, chuhuahua body) being inspected at dog show on table with 5 judges surounding it

Bar Refaeli in GoDaddy Superbowl Commercial

Audi’s “Doberhuahua”

A Twitter campaign with the hashtag #NotBuyingIt was especially harsh on one of last year’s GoDaddy ads featuring a long, loud, disturbing kiss between supermodel Bar Refaeli and a nerdy young man. Social media responded with a resounding “ick.” This year, the Not Buying It campaigners are offering a location-based app expressly designed for venting about sexist Super Bowl ads.

The Web services company is toning things down for Super Bowl XLVIII, and their new direction has a specific and rather notable goal — to show what GoDaddy actually does. In doing so, however, they’re taking a big risk: Despite the negative publicity, GoDaddy reported record sales after last year’s Super Bowl. This time around, the campaign is going for a new segment by using female characters touted as “smart, successful small-business owners” to show off the brand’s small-business tools. 

“Axe’s intent is definitely to employ a more mature, sophisticated tone of voice across all of its communication,” David Kolbusz, deputy executive creative director of BBH London, said through a spokesperson. “But we’ve been making the shift in small ways for several years now. It was never intended to be reactive to some of the Super Bowl advertising that has been perceived as sexist. It’s more a response to changing social mores. Young men grow up faster these days and have concerns beyond the fairer sex.”So are advertisers responding to popular backlash or simply adjusting their brands? Could be a little of both.

It’s too early to tell whether this year’s ads will be geared toward viewers who have outgrown juvenile stereotypes of women as sex objects or shopaholics. It takes creativity and a high risk tolerance to aim higher. “Telling an engaging story is much more difficult to do than just using sex for its shock appeal,” Drewniany said.

But the reward of a memorable ad is worth the risk. Women make 85% of average household purchases, and catering to their sensibilities could be the difference between being a cultural phenomenon and just another blip in a sea of channel surfing. The question is: Can they pull it off?

Unicyclists Go Where Bicyclists Fear to Tread

Unicyclist on a trail during the day

We’re never sure what drives that distinctly American tendency to take the easy and comfortable — a stroll, for example — slather it with all manner of difficulty, slap “extreme” on it, and muscle it up by both quantifying and qualifying it to death. But when it comes to unicycles? We’re not minding nearly as much as we should.

“My name is Eugene, and I am a unicyclist.”

“Hi Eugene!”

An occult affliction often bundled with juggling, stilts and other would-be “social” activities, unicycling’s difficulty meant it was usually populated by a self-selected, exclusive club of monomaniacs. But the sport has moved away from novelty status and into the big leagues: literally so, as there are now unicycling leagues. Yup, mountain unicycling (think mountain biking, but on one wheel), distance unicycling and unicycle races, sometimes with bicycles but never against bicycles. Scot Cooper, 53-year-old resident of Capitola, Calif., is one of the sport’s biggest boosters: With his beach drawl, he’ll spin you a litany of tales of derring-do from the time he’s clocked in all three styles.

There’s now mountain unicycling, distance unicycling and unicycle races, sometimes with bicycles but never against bicycles.

“I got my first one when I was 10, in 1970, back in Mississippi. Tried it. Thought it was too hard. Put it away. Then dragged it out a few years later to start riding again,” Cooper recalls. Now he’s at the core of a unicycle subculture thriving just south of Silicon Valley.

”Well, we did the 24 Hours of Adrenalin [sic] ride back in 2002,” says Cooper of a ride that, like it says, goes for 24 hours. Yes: all in a row.

The riders worship at the altar of recreation, bomb down hills and are completely OK with the likelihood that this sport will never catch on.

”And we’ve ridden from San Francisco to Los Angeles three times for the Arthritis Foundation.” Which, for all of you non-Californians, is about 500 miles over an eight-day tour. “We’d go from Saturday to Saturday, breakfast to dinner,” Cooper says, chuckling at something that does not seem chuckle-worthy at all. ”The longest and hardest stretch was a 5,000-foot climb over 65 miles from Big Sur to San Simeon.” A climb that’d be tough if you were just walking it. Which you wouldn’t be. Because why bother walking when you can unicycle?

FORGET THE FIXIE

Cooper is part of a loose collective of some 20 riders who meet for Sunday rides called “Rob’s Ride,” after Rob Bowman, a unicycle stud who leads riders on a 20-mile circuit that starts at sea level and makes its way up into the Santa Cruz hills for what would be a challenging mountain bike ride.

You’ll find them on tricked-out unicycles, sporting seats with handles in the front; big, knobby tires; and absolutely, despite the inadvisability of this, no helmets. The riders worship at the altar of recreation, bomb down hills and are completely OK with the likelihood that this sport will never catch on.

”California has the largest number of people riding off-road,” Cooper says. “But [unicycling is] represented everywhere. France, Germany, Spain.” There are conventions, federations, and contests for cross-country, off-road, road distance and a whole panoply of offshoot styles. Moreover, there’s the whole secret-club factor — former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, Hall of Famer and 49’er Steve Young, Peter Tosh and racing great Lewis Hamilton are all riders. Maybe the unicyclists’ urge to go deeper makes sense.

”My heart still belongs to the bicycle,” said former road racer and velodrome fanatic David Brooks, whom we corralled in Brooklyn. “But the balance and sort of clumsy grace, if you could call it that, of the unicycle helps my balance, builds a cool kind of leg strength and is an adrenaline rush besides.”

And here we were just doing it because we’re attention whores. 

More Women Behind Bars

The painted fingernails of an inmate of the Women's Prison of Brasilia is seen during preparations for the third annual beauty pageant titled Miss Penitentiary, in Brasilia August 3, 2011

The global war on drugs seems to be fighting some of its biggest battles behind bars. And from the look of it, those battle faces are increasingly female. 

74,000

The number of imprisoned women in Latin America in 2011, the most recent year numbers were available. 

Hardly shocking — until you pair it with 40,000, which is the number of imprisoned women there just five years earlier, according to a report from the International Drug Policy Consortium . Women make up a tiny fraction of the world’s prison population — roughly 5 percent — but the fact is, those numbers are climbing. Why? More women are going to jail for drug-related offenses. And instead of breaking the cycle by doing time, many female offenders continue to live in the shadow of drugs while in prison, building networks for transporting drugs into and out of the jails.

In the past two decades — since 1984 — female prisoners locked up on drug charges spiked 209 percent in Australia. Researchers saw the same trend, though less pronounced, in Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Kenya, New Zealand and Kyrgyzstan. Europe, too, fell in line with the trend — with countries including Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece and the Netherlands reporting an increase in women doing time for drug-related crimes.

 

But the trend was most pronounced in Latin America, where women — especially indigenous women — were most likely to be in jail on drug charges. Cases in point: 89 percent of the female prison population in Nicaragua was in for drugs; and in Argentina, where women prisoners are mostly foreign (from neighboring countries), 90 percent are facing drug charges.

The researchers are quick to draw a line between harsh drug laws in Latin America and the rise in women’s imprisonment. On the other hand, women’s prison rates have been spiking globally in the past two decades – but it’s tough to entirely ignore the correlation between punitive drug laws and this spiking rate.

But why is the war on drugs warehousing more and more women? The IDPC posits that women — and often the most vulnerable among them — are easy to use and abuse as mules and non-threatening operatives. As more women try to make it on their own, researchers say, supporting entire families, the drug trade sometimes isn’t an accident but a calculated, careful career choice.

The research also suggests there could be a correlation between women in relationships and their initial entrée into the drug world. But whether they were drawn in to help a boyfriend or husband or because they were coerced or they were feeding their own habit, here’s the unavoidable conclusion: whether for love or money, there’s a wider addiction at play in the drug war — and it’s hooked an inordinate number of women. 

Nancy Botwin, main character in crime dramedy Weeds, and Piper Kerman, author of prison memoir Orange Is the New Black.

Printed in Africa

Children reading a book

What a sad decade for the book business in the West. Publishers have consolidated, advances have shrunk and the hands of the sad old literary guard are sore from wringing.

It’s a different story in Nairobi. And in Lagos, Abuja, Johannesburg, and even Harare. Over the past decade, these cities have become epicenters of a literary renaissance with truly pan-African potential. There are prestige publishers, big-money prizes and literary festivals galore.

The stories have shifted, too. Nowadays, there’s little angsting about national identity in a post-colonial context or, for that matter, over catastrophe and want. Instead, a bevy of young Africans are shaping the future of fiction, reportage and critique on their continent, and perhaps well beyond.

headshot of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“It’s beyond an evolution — it’s a revolution,” says Nigerian-American Ikhide Ikheloa, a critic and prominent observer of the scene.

It may have begun in 2003, when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published — and not just by an American publisher but by a Nigerian one, too. By now, Adichie is the still-young doyenne of the contemporary African lit scene. Her recent novel, Americanah, found a perch on the New York Times list of top 10 novels of 2013 — just weeks before Beyoncé sampled one of Adichie’s TED talks on her new album.

Or maybe the renaissance began with Granta’s publication, in 2005, of “How to Write About Africa,” an essay that skewered Western tropes: 

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.

Perhaps it had already begun in 2003, when the Kenyan author of that essay, Binyavanga Wainaina, helped to found Kwani Trust, a Nairobi-based literary house and publisher. Or in 2002, when Cameroonian-Capetown transplant Ntone Edjabe printed 1,000 copies of a new journal called Chimurenga. It has since succeeded in its aim to “get Africans to write about Africa as they saw it,” instead of following the lead of Western papers.

Such seeds have yielded a fertile literary landscape. Strong evidence comes in the current mania for book prizes across the continent. For years, the British Caine Prize dominated the arena, and not without some harsh criticism: “Ah, the tyranny of Mzungu prizes!” 

But the years since have seen more African-led prizes.The first Kwani Manuscript prize for unpublished novelists was awarded in 2013. New this year: The Etisalat Prize for first-time novelists, sponsored by a mobile phone company and accompanied by a $25,000 purse, and the Africa39 prize for fiction writers under 40. 

Group f 3 people stitting together at a table with several books in front of them

The jury for the 2014 Etisalat Prize.

Homegrown publishing is a crucial ingredient. Adichie’s Nigerian publisher is a former banker named Muhtar Bakare, who believed that, contrary to the then-conventional wisdom, Nigerians would read — if only they had access to affordable literature. He was proved right, authors say.

The Internet has at least broken up the West’s monopoly on publishing.

But while Africa-based publishers such as Farafina, Kwani and Cassava Republic have helped make books more accessible and affordable across the continent, it is still difficult for, say, a Nigerian writer to be read in Kenya without being published by a London- or New York-based house, Edjaba said recently

That’s one reason that Etisalat, the mobile company, is using its literary prize to support local publishing. It insists that the books of shortlisted authors be published in Africa as well as abroad. The idea is to contribute to Africa’s book infrastructure, says Ebi Atawodi, a Nigerian who led the prize’s design. ”As a writer, you’re just not going to go to a publisher and get the same benefits you’ll get in the western world,” she says. “They don’t have that kind of funding, distributions channels or basic infrastructure.” 

Until then, argues Ikheloa, the Internet has become “the number-one publisher of choice of Africans today.” And while Facebook posts and blog fodder might not come with a contract, the Internet has at least broken up the West’s monopoly on publishing. “We once had to go through gatekeepers, and they decided what stories to tell,” he says. 

As the names of the publishers have changed, there has been a refusal to abide the usual story about Africa — war, poverty, dirt, hunger — and an insistence on diversity of narratives, themes and styles.

That idea was powerfully articulated by Adichie in her 2009 TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story, in which she spoke against the tradition of writing about “Sub-Saharan Africa as a place of negatives, of difference, of darkness.” The talk has been viewed more than 6 million times on TED. Nope, it’s not the one Beyoncé sampled. 

Wainaina, who wrote the Granta satire, is another lodestar of the movement. He is a 43-year-old Kenyan who is to contemporary African literature what Salman Rushdie was to post-colonial literature back in the 1990s: a leader, advocate and omnipresence on the literary scene. He’s fierce, too. When, last month Nigeria outlawed same-sex relationships, Wainaina released a “lost chapter” of his acclaimed 2012 memoir that announced that he is gay. 

Perhaps it was a stretch for his wide African readership. Or perhaps not: If the continent’s flourishing literary scene is any indication, they can handle that story, too.

Rebuilding After Blockade

A woman with a baby in Leningrad, during the Siege of Leningrad, later Saint Petersburg, World War II, 1942. Original Publication : Picture Post - 1337 - What Russia's War Really Looks Like - pub. 12th December 1942

As Sochi gears up to host the Olympic Games, citizens of St. Petersburg are marking the 70th year after a chokehold on their city lifted and left them at peace. At last.

But for those of us who don’t know much more about Russia than Pussy Riot and the Olympics, here’s a tale from inside the historical lockbox that could start to explain something fundamental to us — about the tough-as-nails collective Russian psyche. 

The streets of Leningrad — the Soviet name for modern-day St. Petersburg — were bitterly cold but quiet for the first time after nearly 900 days of being besieged by the German army.

The will to live is fading. My heart aches. I can’t believe that I might not make it.

— Lyubov Shaporina

The Germans starved the city. Residents lived in fear of bombardment between September 1941 and January 1944 — without any communications — as the Germans did their utmost to starve the city into surrender. And starved they were: Without food, with nowhere to turn, people resorted to eating wallpaper, shoes, pets and even one another to keep hunger at bay. And they were the lucky ones who survived; millions didn’t.

Hundreds of thousands of Germans and millions of Russians — civilian and military — died in the harsh conditions and fighting one another.

The hunger was ”turning everyone into lunatics” (said one survivor). Actor Lyubov Shaporina described daily life in blockaded Leningrad like something out of a horror film. People staggered around the icy streets with buckets looking for water — with gunfire and artillery as the soundtrack of their everyday lives. Winter rolled in — along with more German offensives — and Shaporina, working as a volunteer at a packed local hospital, wrote,” The will to live is fading. My heart aches. I can’t believe that I might not make it,” he wrote.

A girl victim of dystrophy, c1944-c1945. An example of the terrible hardships suffered by the civilian population of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Over a million civilians died during the Siege of Leningrad.

A victim of dystrophy, 1944-1945. 

Source Fine Art Images/Getty

It went on that way for Leningraders, over a staggering two years, four months, two weeks and five days. And Leningrad’s nearly 3 million residents (including 400,000 children) had few options. Only the “Road of Life,” a dangerous path across the frozen Lake Lagoda, could bring in food. The road carried nearly a million civilians out over the course of the siege.

But life goes on, apparently even in wartime. Students went to school, took exams. Some artists even reached greatness — among them composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose ”Seventh Symphony,” motivated by Leningrad, was seen as an artistic outcry against Nazism — as historian Polina Barskova points out. And by maintaining close links to their cultural history and prewar norms, many Leningraders were able to hold onto a communal sense of humanity.

People resorted to eating wallpaper, shoes, pets and even one another to keep hunger at bay.

But the scars remain — many still visible even 70 years later, even in today’s bustling St. Petersburg. Perhaps the most prominent wearer of this scar is President Vladimir Putin, whose older brother died in Leningrad as a child. (In a rare show of emotion, Putin returned to lay a wreath on his late brother’s grave at a recent 70th anniversary memorial.)

And then there are the physical remnants, still lodged in the survivors like stubborn shrapnel. Some survivors internalized their torments to real medical effect, as we now know from a recent medical study of elderly St. Petersburg residents. Those who were children during the blockade are much more susceptible to high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and circulatory problems than other Russians their age, the study showed.

”Siege mentality” isn’t just a turn of phrase — some survivors internalized their torments and have never let go of them.

And that’s not even getting into legacy the siege left for modern city planners — who had to account for nearly 15 million square feet of destroyed property in the wake of the siege. Well into the 1960s, in fact, the local government was still struggling just provide basic housing.

City planners of today’s St. Petersburg had to account for nearly 15 million square feet of destroyed property.

Despite decades and the dwindling number of survivors, many Russians still have personal connections to the siege. Families turn out in droves to St. Petersburg’s largest cemetery to visit the 500,000 siege graves there. To add ornamentation to the scars and ensure that people never forget the siege, the Soviet Union filled the country with memorials to Leningrad that are still present in Russia today.

In the West, the siege of Leningrad has been consigned to the history books. For Russians, however, this volatile memory is still very much a part of their living history: from their city streets to their tough-nosed leader’s very consciousness.

Why We Founded OZY

3 members of tribe team laughing and having fun

At OZY, our goal is to bring you news and information in a completely different way. Instead of just giving you the same 25 stories everyone else has, we’re going to give you what you really want — the new and the next. Every day, OZY will deliver stories on new people, places, trends, ideas and opinions. And when we say “new,” we’re not just talking about what’s trending now. We’re not focused on three hours or three days ahead; we want to tell you about things months before you hear it elsewhere. 

We want to show you more of this bright, interesting, colorful world we share. And if we do that, in the end you’ll not only see more, you’ll be more.

The Socialist Businessman

Tight Closeup of right profile of Eduardo face with lighting showing his light blue eyes

He’s young, handsome and business-savvy. Eduardo Campos seems to have it all to win — or so he hopes. The blue-eyed, beloved Brazilian governor is getting set to take on popular president Dilma Rousseff in Brazil’s next election.

Campos, who was part of Rousseff’s ruling coalition until September as leader of the Socialist Party (PSB), decided to run for office and challenge the highly bipartisan system established between Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (PT) — in government since 2003 — and the Brazilian Social Democrats (PSDB), who governed from 1994 to 2002.

Perhaps best described as a pragmatic socialist, Campos stands for the merits of free trade and private investment while also championing education and aggressive antipoverty policy. He is not afraid to talk like a businessman or would-be economics professor about “efficient macroeconomic policies” and “improved management standards.” But his detractors’ criticism is one not often heard about a socialist leader — that he’s not doing enough for the extreme poor in his home state of Pernambuco. 

Campos is a pragmatic socialist who is not afraid to defend the merits of free trade.

The numbers are promising, however: The state, which he’s governed for five years, is one of Brazil’s historically poorest. But these days it’s booming, with 25 percent of the country’s industry share, thanks to his policies.

His secret? He’s unafraid of private foreign investment. “We have no prejudice against collaboration with the private sector,” he told the Economist. To that end, Campos has brought private managers into hospitals and improved middle school education by raising teachers’ salaries and using incentive-based bonuses inspired by the private sector.

Taken from back of the class, woman teaching at chalkboard with students at their desk

A schoolroom at a Juruna indigenous community on the banks of the Xingu River near Altamira, Para state, Brazil on May 30, 2012.

Source Evaristo Sa

He believes this is the surest way to reduce poverty. “Education is key. It liberates people, families and communities from misery once and for all.” Meanwhile, he is also helping the states’ economy grow at a rate of 5.1 percent — way above the 3.7 percent national average. 

Voters rewarded his unique approach — a combination of old-fashioned politics and modern business acumen — by re-electing him in 2010, with 82 percent of the vote.

His financial knowhow stems from his degree in economics from the University of Pernambuco, but Campos’ political vocation runs in his blood. The son of a former government and federal deputy, it was his grandfather, the beloved politician Miguel Arraes, who influenced him the most. “From him, I learned politics is about bringing people together.”

At age 21, he worked for his grandfather’s gubernatorial campaign and, after that, his career hit the fast track toward becoming the state deputy to the secretary of finance of Pernambuco. In 2004, he was chosen by President Lula da Silva as to be the minister of science and technology, where he led popular initiatives, including the relaunch of Brazil’s space and nuclear programs.

Despite his soft voice, big smile and dreamy blue eyes, Campos rarely sugarcoats his discourse.

In theory, Campos’ well-rounded background and record of economic success should make him an irresistible presidential candidate, but the polls seem to disagree. The latest numbers predict a Rousseff win with 58 percent, followed by Aécio Neves (leader of PSDB) with a 10 percent and Campos with just six percent.

But João Augusto de Castro Neves, an analyst for the Eurasia Group think tank, says Campos has a communication problem. “He sounds too vague. He’s been all over the place, and people haven’t been able to detect a clear message.”José Roberto de Toledo, a political writer for the newspaper O Estado, dismisses these figures, noting that it’s far too early to make assumptions. “Dilma is strong now, at the beginning of the race, but what matters is the end result. The second round could be risky for her because it will give time for the voters to reflect and for other candidates to threaten her.”

Miguel with hand up speaking at podium with black backdrop

Miguel Arraes

Source Miguel Arraes

And while big business loves his pragamatic economic methods, even business leaders were left a bit confused by his unexpected alliance with a popular ecologist, Marina Silva, with some worrying Campos may go “too green.” And, it’s not just big business who have expressed concerns. The left also seems hesitant to embrace him at a national level, despite his regional success, because some see him as a bourgeois without any meaningful political proposals beyond improving macroecomic indicators.

He has been accused of not doing enough to tackle poverty, and Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) is calling him a “spoiled playboy” and someone with “no design, no content, and no political composure.”

Campos has fired back, accusing President Rousseff of steering away from her initial pragmatism, for which she is known, and being “short-termist.” “She’s a manager instead of a chairman of the board. That can only turn out badly,” he remarked, referring to her heavy hand in the economy.

Despite his soft voice, big smile and dreamy blue eyes, Campos rarely sugarcoats his discourse. He recently declared it was “necessary to overcome the celebration of mediocrity” and described the World Cup as “an opportunity for us to do what should have been done but lacked money,” referring to the idea that Brazil should have invested more in mass public transit in the runup to the sporting event.

His presidential program is equally straightforward. He wants to optimize public services like health and education, ameliorate the country’s transport infrastructures and attract more foreign investment.

Bringing the Pernambuco model to the national level, he trusts, will reduce inequality and boost the economy without the need to raise taxes. Campos’ impressive financial track record could be his winning card, especially if the economy worsens, but Campos says he doesn’t want to run on fear but on hope.

Both are on a helicopter at right of frame, looking out towards left of frame as Campos is speaking. Lula wearing red shirt. Campos in cream.

Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Pernambuco’s Governor Campos

Source Corbis

“We will win by showing that there is a new, sure way forward. And that this new way will inspire enthusiasm in Brazil, among Brazil’s young, [its] artists, intellectuals, workers and entrepreneurs.”

In a country of 200 million, standing against Rousseff’s momentum will be difficult, particularly since she enjoys the support of ex-president Lula, who remains the nation’s most popular politician. Still, Campos trusts the electorate will look beyond the usual parties that “have already given Brazil all they had to give” and embrace his innovative program.

We will have to wait until October to see whether Brazil is ready for a change or prefers to give Rousseff another term in power.

For now, Campos doesn’t seem too worried about his flagging popularity in the polls. As a pragmatist, he knows that what matters is winning elections, not polls. 

What We Now Know About Terrorism

A relative comforts a child, who was injured in a suicide bomb attack, after he was brought to the Lady Reading Hospital for treatment in Peshawar June 21, 2013. A suicide bomber attacked a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawa

Let’s start with the good news: Even amid concerns over terrorism at Sochi, Brazil and even the Super Bowl, fewer people are dying every year from terror attacks. The bad news, however, is that the attacks are spiking in frequency, even if they’re claiming fewer lives. And for all you data geeks out there, there’s plenty more to chew on.

8,500

That’s the number of terror attacks worldwide in 2012, according to terrorism researchers at the University of Maryland. If the number looks big, it is; in fact, it’s up 50 percent over the previous year — but the number of fatalities has dropped 25 percent since 2007. Most of the attacks in 2012 — and during the 10 years covered by the study (2002-2012) — took place in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Still hungry? Read on. 

 

In the countries where terrorism is most prevalent, including Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, car bombs are the common form of attack. But when you look at large incidents outside those three hot spots, there’s a clear trend: trains. Madrid, Mumbai and London all had major transit lines attacked, landing them on the list of the 20 worst attacks of the decade.

31

Number of countries on Earth that haven’t experienced at least one terror attack since 2002.

$$

Terrorism seems to be thriving most in middle-income — not the poorest — countries. 

While these numbers may be surprising, the sad truth is that terrorist attacks no longer are. It’s part of our global reality. But before you think you know the score, these statistics and reminders of horrific events past don’t tell the full story. Because the single biggest terror attack in the past 10 years happened in a country you probably couldn’t guess because it’s not traditionally thought of as a hotbed for terrorists.

Give up?

It’s Nepal, which earns that dubious honor as a result of a horrific bloodbath that hit the country during the Maoists’ 2004 revolt: 518 people died, and 216 were seriously injured.

An Afghan Army soldier shows a diffused bomb used at the scene of a suicide bomb attack that targeted the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 03 August 2013.

New Truths About Terror

Source Abdul Mueed/EPA/Corbis

And that supports what we may have only dimly suspected: Terrorism, in all its unpredictable horror, is set to frame the better part of the next century without real and substantive systemic cures.