“In 2008 Milton Blahyi, a former warlord, admitted to eating children’s hearts before going into battle. Along with wearing female wigs and going naked, the practice was believed to bring victory.”—A spate of ritual killings is unnerving Liberia, a country still seeking to escape the scars of civil war.
“A South Sudanese girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to learn to read and write.”—Last month’s referendum has confirmed that South Sudan will become a sovereign country. But it will struggle to prosper.
“The richest 1% of adults control 43% of the world’s assets; the richest 10% have 83%; the bottom 50% have only 2%.”—Want to know more about the global elite? Our business editor, just returned from Davos, will soon be answering your questions on Twitter.
“It is reported in London that William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, has been shocked by the poor spelling and jargon-infested English he finds in notes from his diplomats.”—It seems ”going forward” has infected the refined world of diplomacy just as thoroughly as the world of business. Sadly, so have “stakeholders”.
“Even if planets and moons were found round Alpha Centauri, as envisaged by the writers of “Avatar”, they would not get glorious monikers like Polyphemus and Pandora. They would just be letters—and lower-case ones, to boot.”—Our science writers argue that the galaxy’s most recently discovered planet, “Kepler-10b”, deserves a far better name. Like “Vulcan”, for example.
“Anyone from anywhere can be cruel, anyone from anywhere can be witty, but there is something particularly British about cruel wit.”—As Ricky Gervais discovered this week, British banter - that playfully barbed conversational style used up and down the country - can baffle and perturb foreigners. America is a land of Regency etiquette in comparison.
“Most political leaders struggle to speak fluently in a foreign tongue. Only the exceptional manage to mangle their own.”—Nicolas Sarkozy is adopting a more presidential tone after being accused of ‘mistreating’ the French language. In November he nailed the fiendishly difficult imperfect subjunctive. Triple axels are easier.
“Hipsters today are often regarded more as a nuisance than a poison. They’re not doing much of anything bad—often, they’re not doing much of anything at all.”—Whither the hipster? Dayna Tortorici, author of What Was the Hipster, thinks America’s most maligned sub-culture will be around for some time to come. Thank heavens none of them use tumblr.
“Travellers flying into Tehran were denied their usual view of the sprawling metropolis and its majestic mountain backdrop. Instead they found themselves staring into a thick brown haze. Somewhere down in the murk a lot of old people and asthmatics were dying.”—A not-so-divine cloud recently engulfed Tehran, the smoggiest of all capitals.
“In China a senior executive at a state-owned firm is a big fish. Waiters and receptionists grovel before him. The police treat him with deference. In Europe he is just another middle-aged man in a suit.”—Life is far easier for Western expatriates in China than it is for the swelling numbers of Chinese expatriates in the West.
““Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it,” said Eric Schmidt in late 2010, apparently unaware that this is about the creepiest thing the boss of an omnipresent technology company can say.”—Apple and Google used to be allies. Now they’re firmly at odds. Intelligent Life magazine examines the clash of cultures between two technology giants.
“The Kentucky Ark will anchor a $149.5m Christian theme park called Ark Encounter, which will also feature a Tower of Babel, complete with a “500-seat 5-D special effects theatre”, a replica first-century village, a walled city, a children’s zoo and an aviary.”—Can a faith park enjoy state tax incentives?
“"When he and his companions got into a tussle with a crocodile on the Nile, beating it off with helmets and paddles as the beast’s great green and white belly reared over their hulls, so close that he could even see the plaque on its teeth, he turned to the others afterwards and cried, “How fucking cool was that?””—From our obituary of Hendrik Coetzee, explorer, who died on December 7th, aged 35.