Smile! You’re on Kalashnikov Camera!

Hilarious fake airplane crashes, amusing mock decapitations and comical hijackings: This Ramadan TV season has seen TV viewers around the Arab world subjected to a particularly tasteless and unimaginative crop of hidden camera shows, writes Mustapha Benfodil in Algeria’s El Watan.

The hidden camera show “Hostages” hosted by Sofiane Dani and broadcasted during this Ramadan month on Echourouk TV is clearly missing its mark and turning into a fiasco, to judge from the huge wave of outrage that it has generated among viewers.

In the Republic of Arab Letters, Rule of the Despots

The bleak state of Arab literature in the age of mega-prizes. As Yves Gonzalez-Quijano writes here, the extravagant literary prizes handed out by the despotic lords of the Gulf Arab monarchies have done more than make a few Arab novelists wealthy: they have poisoned the entire confection of Arab literature, shrinking and desiccating the range and style of writing.

The “Arab World” is sinking into a certain amount of chaos once again.

First, They Came for the Islamic Modernists: Book Burning in Cairo

The most curious thing about the list of books burned in an official ceremony organized recently by bureaucrats of Egypt’s Education Ministry is the list of titles: it reads like a syllabus on Islamic Modernism, the Enlightenment-inspired movement that swept Egypt and the Arab world at the end of the 19th century.

Islam and and the Foundations of Governance, by Ali Abdel Raziq. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, the biography by Uthman Amin.

Who Needs Toilets Anyway?

Narendra Modi’s Clean India Mission, and his focus on sanitation are central to the new prime minister’s push for a more modern looking India. But as these essays from Hardnews make clear, caste attitudes, gender politics and other peculiarities bring their own obstructions:

To pee is to be. That’s what we are, Hoo Ha India, superpower nuclear India, floating on public spectacles of yellow swimming pools of male piss.

“Piled Like Dead Dogs On the Floor of the Coroner’s Office”

American police are among the most homicidal in the world, killing an average of about a thousand people a year-far more than any other developed country. But Brazil’s militarized police forces put the Americans to shame, killing twice as many people in a country with a much smaller population. Here, a neighborhood in Brazil’s third largest city reels under the impact of a February massacre of a dozen lower class youths-and the local government’s nochalant reaction to it:

The city of Salvador is actually less wet than usual on this late April afternoon.

In Bolivia, Chola Pride as Cultural Ground Shifts

The caste hierarchy that long dominated Bolivian cultural and political life–Spanish-Europeans at the top, Aymara and Quechua native Americans at the bottom—is eroding, with the election of Aymara coca farmer Evo Morales to the presidency only the most visible symptom. In El Pais Semanal, Liliana Colanzi examines the intricate ethnic and gender politics of a changing Bolivia by way of the colorful skirts worn by native Aymara women:

“My son’s father scorned me. He said I was worthless because I wore pants.”

Return of the Undead President

The first president in Egyptian history who didn’t come out of the presidential palace feet-first. But is that legacy enough for the country’s deposed strongman?

For generations, Egyptians longed to be able to pronounce the phrase “former president.” Then one day they woke up with not one, but three living ex-presidents: Hosni Mubarak, Mohammed Morsi, and Adli Mansour.

Saudi Arabia: The Jihad Draws Near

Saudi rulers have a peculiar relationship with violent extremist groups and ideologues, simultaneously cultivating them in other countries while trying to minimize their influence domestically. But the Saud family’s two-front war in Yemen and Syria, fought with the aid of Sunni jihadi allies, might easily morph into a different kind of fight if their inconstant allies turn on them. In Al-Akhbar, Nour Ayoub studies the tea leaves of jihadi social media and internet posts for insight into the increasingly troubled Saudi war in Yemen.

When Saudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm against Yemen

Behind the Scenes of a Stagemanaged War

The Saudi war in Yemen was launched by a tiny clique within the royal family, ignoring the wishes of many high-level princes and catching the Saud family’s allies in the other gulf monarchies by surprise, writes Fouad Ibrahim in Al-Akhbar. The giant Saudi military’s remarkable incompetence in the fighting so far has exposed the kingdom’s weakness, as well as its disquieting links to Al-Qaeda allies who control parts of Yemen, Ibrahim writes.

"Decisive Storm" was a home cooked Saudi-American plot.

Home, Defeated, a General Finds Unwanted Welcome

Deported from his refuge in the United States like a common criminal, handcuffed and loaded onto a plane, the Salvadoran general and onetime chief torturer Vides Casanova returns to the country he fled–to face, for a brief moment at least, his victims.

The last time the surgeon Juan Romagoza saw General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova’s face was at a month-long trial in 2002 in West Palm Beach, Florida, at the end of which the general was ordered to pay $54 million in damages for allowing the torture of Juan and other Salvadorans.

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