The Life and Legend of India’s Bandit Queen

On a chill February day in 1983, a 20-year-old young woman known as Phoolan Devi—literally, Flower Goddess—walked out of the forested ravines of the Chambal River valley and handed over her gun. She bowed to images of Gandhi and the goddess Durga and surrendered herself to the Chief Minister and Chief of Police of Madhya Pradesh state in central India. The cheering crowd of 8,000 people gathered that day—journalists; politicians; some 300 cops; and others from across the dry, impoverished center of the world’s largest democracy—knew Phoolan Devi as a hero, a bandit, a murderess, and a goddess long before they saw her in the flesh. Phoolan Devi, India’s celebrated Bandit Queen, was not a woman, but a legend.

Born to a low-caste household in … Read the rest

Laura Pidcock is right, Tory MPs aren’t friendship material

Before I start this article properly, here’s the obligatory disclaimer: some of my best friends are Conservative voters. Well, maybe not best friends exactly, but acquaintances I’m happy spending time with. I sometimes find it hard to understand the assumptions underpinning their worldview, but I’ve spent enough time around Tories (including proper, paid-up party members) to know they aren’t all cruel and spiteful people.

Also, my ex-coalminer grandad votes UKIP. I think I actually do understand most of the assumptions underpinning his worldview and some of them aren’t particularly admirable. I still love him, though, because that’s just how it is with family, isn’t it? You don’t get to choose them.

Friends are different. Throughout your life you encounter people in a range of different situations: … Read the rest

Does Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron really hate gays?

When the Liberal Democrats last week launched their general election campaign, no doubt they had high hopes and expectations. Despite having just nine seats in the British Parliament since their poor show at the 2015 general election, it seemed that for the Lib Dems the tide might finally be turning.

As the only one of the main parties to be demanding Britain’s impending exit from the European Union be halted, their hope is to appeal to swathes of the remain-voting 48%. It’s a fairly sizeable chunk of the population.

But it seems that for Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, gay sex just keeps getting in the way.

He’s been asked countless times now whether as a deeply religious Christian he thinks gay sex is a sin, … Read the rest

The liberal redneck killing stereotypes with humour

Trae Crowder uses comedy to disarm people on both sides of the Facebook News Feed. Growing up in a small town on the edge of Tennessee, he felt like a blue dot in a sea of red.

Today he plays a character called the Liberal Redneck who rallies against bigotry and hypocrisy in the South, while also challenging liberal stereotypes of the region.

Crowder had been doing standup comedy for six years before he decided to point a camera at himself, branching into porch rants about Southerners – racking up hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of views in the process.

The 30-year-old has exposed double standards in everything from the way ‘rednecks’ view Black Lives Matter – “This has been framed largely as Black Lives … Read the rest

Fork in the River

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KBAL ROMEAS, Cambodia—

Dam Samnang’s home will soon be submerged. But he isn’t budging.

Samnang knows that his village, Kbal Romeas, which sits on the banks of the Srepok River, a tributary of the Mekong River in northwest Cambodia, is going to be inundated by water from a downstream hydroelectric dam. But the 30-year-old fisherman has spurned compensation for his family’s relocation and is staying put.

“What we want is our village, our river. The river and forest are not for sale, and especially not our identity and dignity,” he explains.

To emphasize that point, Samnang’s home has a spray-painted slogan in bold letters on its side declaring “NO LSS2 DAM.”

The Lower Sesan 2 Dam is a 400-megawatt hydroelectric complex due to become operational in … Read the rest

A Tale of Four Cities

On April 16, voters in Turkey will say yes or no to a new constitution that could change the country’s parliamentary system to an executive presidency in a referendum that has been fiercely contested on both sides, sparking domestic turmoil and international incidents. Yes voters, or proponents of the presidential system, which is closely associated with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his increasingly authoritarian government, argue that the new system would be similar to the American and French model of government, while opponents say it will compromise the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. With a Yes vote, President Erdogan could rule Turkey until 2029. Polls show both sides are neck and neck.

A visit to four neighborhoods in Istanbul—liberal-secularist Beşiktaş; conservative … Read the rest

Liberal and conservative book buyers like different kinds of science

(credit: Photograph by CCAC North Library)

Though science is supposed to be about objective interpretations, science often finds itself at the heart of political debates. The intermingling of political and scientific beliefs leads to a pretty obvious question: does political affiliation inform consumption of science, or does consumption of science inform political leanings? A recent paper published in Nature suggests that political and scientific beliefs go hand in hand, which may contribute to the “echo chamber” phenomenon.

This study looks at consumers’ online book purchases at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Using this data, the authors tried to tease out whether people co-purchase books on political and scientific topics. They started by identifying political books, classifying them as either “conservative” or “liberal” based

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