With its long coastline, rugged mountains and haunting sand dunes, Oman is a paradise for desert lovers, hikers and boaters. Muscat, the capital city, is a gem—its arched white buildings and flat roofs squeezed between the blue ocean and black mountains. Yet call me an egghead, but what I remember most from a trip to Oman is a booklet I read there with an ominous title: Body Count: A Quantitative Review of Political Violence Across World Civilizations (2009). In it, author Naveed Sheikh claims that “the Christian civilization emerges as the most violent and genocidal in the world history.” Compared to Islam, Christianity is a clear winner: 31.94 million deaths by Muslims to 177.94 million deaths by Christians.
In the movie District 9, an alien spaceship stalls in the skies above Johannesburg. After three months with no communication, South Africans decide to board the ship, only to find a million aliens who need rescuing. They move them to District 9, an area that’s a cross between a township and a refugee camp.
Whenever talk turns to how dreadful health care is in countries where the government has a large role in it, I think back to a summer spent in Scotland. Our young son began to suffer from what seemed to be a virulent new allergy, and after sleepless nights and several days of sneezing, we went to the local infirmary, part of the national health plan.
Empires come and empires go—and their collapse, says financial historian Niall Ferguson, is often precipitous (Foreign Affairs, March/April). For example, the economic and military might of the British Empire was sharply reduced by the time of the Suez Canal crisis in 1956—just a decade after one of the empire’s shining moments, the defeat of the Axis powers.
The United States is deeply divided regionally when it comes to violence, gun possession and the death penalty. Dividing the country into 11 different “nations” based on the predominant origins of its inhabitants and the resulting culture, Colin Woodard says Yankeedom (his label for the Northeast) and the Left Coast are most open to gun control and abolition of the death penalty. The Deep South, Appalachia, Tidewater and Far West regions contain the most adamant supporters of the Second Amendment and capital punishment, and they also have the highest rate of murders. If the deadlock between these two extremes is ever to be broken, it will come about through swing voters in the middle states (Tufts magazine, Fall).