During his imprisonment on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela found inspiration in what has come to be one of the most hackneyed poems in the English language. Mandela is hardly alone in his admiration for the Victorian-era poem 'Invictus' -- other fans included John F. Kennedy and Timothy McVeigh -- and Mandela is just one of many to appropriate (or misappropriate) the poem.
Because of her iconic role in pushing for democracy in a once authoritarian country, Aung San Suu Kyi has often been called Myanmar's Mandela. Now, in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death, Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to navigate one of the more remarkable democratic transitions in recent memory seems particularly significant.
The similarities between Aung San Suu Kyi's life and Mandela's are striking. Both came from relative privilege: He was the son of royals, she is the daughter of the revered Burmese General Aung San. Both became involved in democracy movements and both were jailed -- he for 27 years, she for 20. During their respective imprisonments, they both emerged as national heroes, and later as worldwide democracy icons and nobel laureates. Upon release, both drew criticism for embracing (at least politically) their former jailers. Mandela went on to become the president of his country, ushering in democracy and landmark constitutional reforms. Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to do the same for Myanmar right now.
Everyone loves pandas, but Americans may be a little too obsessed. On Dec. 1, the Smithsonian National Zoo announced that its resident panda cub -- who had just celebrated her first 100 days on Earth -- would be named "Bao Bao," based on the results of online ballots cast by more than 123,000 people around the world. In the media blitz that followed -- which included national television coverage and a write-up in the New York Times -- one Chinese news outlet has declared the U.S. fascination with pandas "almost impossible to believe."
This was no passing remark: The Dec. 4 article in the Communist Party paper Beijing Youth Daily stood out among China's sometimes shoddily-researched, state-run media with its convincing, sourced points. The paper noted that Chinese pandas on loan to the zoo in Washington, D.C. have drawn visitors from around the country, and that even frequent treks to see the pandas at the zoo "could not satisfy the demand" of the American people, some of whom watch the adorable symbols of U.S.-China friendship online via a newly-installed Giant Panda Cam. Pandas "easily find their way into the pages of major, mainstream U.S. papers," wrote the paper with evident amazement, "on their birthdays, 100-day celebrations, or even when they get headaches."
While the world remains fixated on anti-government demonstrations in Kiev and Bangkok, perhaps the most intractable political standoff of the past weeks is also the one getting the least attention.
Twenty people were injured in Bangladesh's Kurigram district on Thursday after police reportedly fired 89 rubber bullets and six teargas canisters at anti-government demonstrators. The incident is only the latest in the spat of violent clashes between protesters and Bangladeshi security forces that have left at least 40 people dead and thousands injured in recent weeks. The opposition party alliance led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has organized mass protests calling for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who leads the governing Awami League, to step down and establish an impartial caretaker government in the lead-up to the January 5 elections.
Threatening a "tougher movement," BNP spokesperson Saluddin Ahmed set a Thursday deadline for the government to address the opposition's demands. With the deadline having come and gone, and Hasina still firmly in power, Bangladesh's violent political standoff may be only just beginning.