2014 - %3, July

British Army Officially Withdrew From Northern Ireland 7 years Ago [Photos]

| Thu Jul. 31, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

After 38 years, Operation Banner–Britian's operation in Northern Ireland–officially came to an end on July 31st, 2007. It was initially sold in 1969 as a "limited operation" by British Home Secretary Jim Callaghan but wound up being the longest continuously running operation by the British military.

A female catholic screams at a British soldier in Belfast on August, 14, 1989. AP
 
A burnt out digger blocks a road near the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast, Northern Ireland, Monday, Sept. 12, 2005. Protestant extremists attacked police and British troops into a third day Monday, littering streets with rubble and burned-out vehicles in an orgy of violence sparked by anger over a restricted parade. Crowds of masked men and youths confronted police backed by British troops in dozens of hard-line Protestant districts in Belfast and several other towns. Gunmen opened fire on police and soldiers in at least two parts of the capital Sunday night, but nobody was hit. Peter Morrison/AP
 
A young child, resting on a man's shoulders, holds a hanging effigy of a British soldier during a march in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, Feb. 1972. The rally follows the deadly shooting of 13 demonstrators by British paratroopers during the civil rights march on Jan. 30, known as Bloody Sunday. Michel Laurent/AP
 
A British soldier begins work on taking down a British Army watchtower in South Armagh, Northern Ireland, Monday, Aug. 1, 2005. Security is being downgraded and spying watch posts on hills are being removed after the recent statement by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that they were giving up the armed struggle for a united Ireland. Peter Morrison/AP

 

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Film Review: "15 to Life"

| Thu Jul. 31, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

15 to Life

HITPLAY PRODUCTIONS

"Are you the same person that you were at age 14?" one of Kenneth Young's lawyers asks in 15 to Life, a documentary challenging the ethics of sentencing kids to life in prison—a routine punishment only in America. Filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza follows Young, charged with four armed robberies as a teen, as he seeks release in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court decision limiting juvenile life sentences to kids convicted of murder. She weaves interviews with Young and his family, lawyers, and crime victims together with harrowing photographs of youthful inmates to depict a justice system that only perpetuates the sort of violence it was intended to keep in check.

This review originally appeared in the July/August 2014 Issue of Mother Jones.

Jimmy Hoffa Went Missing 39 Years Ago Today [Photo]

| Wed Jul. 30, 2014 5:00 AM EDT
Teamsters Union President James R. Hoffa, left, stands with Anthony Provenzano, right, and fellow union members during Hoffa's visit to New Jersey. AP
 

On this date in 1975, Jimmy Hoffa was last seen around 2:45 p.m. outside a Detroit area restaurant. His unlocked car was found at the restaurant, but there were no other signs of his whereabouts. Hoffa's disappearance sparked numerous theories as to what might have happened to him, and where he might be buried. In 1982, on the seventh anniversary of his disappearance, Hoffa was legally declared dead.
 

Jimmy Hoffa poses for a photo on July 24, 1975, just six days before his disappearance.  Tony Spina/MCT/ZUMA Press

 

"Confused Cats Against Feminism" Is the Purrfect Response to "Women Against Feminism"

| Tue Jul. 29, 2014 5:26 PM EDT
A confused cat against feminism.

The Tumblr Women Against Feminism has inspired scores of think pieces decrying its misuse of the term "feminist." Yet when David Futrelle saw the collection of photos of women holding handwritten signs like "I don't need feminism because I am not a victim," it reminded him of his cats.

"It just seems like cats never know what's going on," Futrelle says. "If anyone would get really confused about feminism and announce their opposition to it, it would be cats. They have the right combination of myopicness and solipsism."

So last Thursday, Futrelle posed his felines next to Women Against Feminism-style signs, snapped a picture, and launched his own Tumblr: Confused Cats Against Feminism. The cats, he said, were reluctant participants. "They did not want to cooperate at all when I started coming at them with this little sign that I'd drawn on with a very smelly Sharpie."

Almost immediately, readers began sending Futrelle photos of their own cats. Now the Tumblr has 11,000 followers, and as of Tuesday morning, Futrelle was sorting through hundred of submissions.

Cats against equal pay

The Chicago resident thinks his project taps a deep vein of exasperation among feminists that goes beyond the outrage over Women Against Feminism. "A lot of women and feminists are frustrated at trying to respond to arguments that are disingenuous or just weird and silly," he says. "Part of what's fun about the blog is to say, Look, we're just gonna respond with cats."

The most successful posts, he says, "manage to tap into cat logic" or "capture the cats' desire to be pampered and protected, which is the complaint that some people have about the Women Against Feminism blog." His favorite submission so far is a cat sprawling on its back, exposing a patch of fur the size and color of a chocolate chip cookie on its stomach. "I DON'T NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE...COOKIE BELLY," the text reads.

Futrelle says the joke wouldn't be as funny if it were Confused Dogs Against Feminism, because cats tend to be culturally coded as female. Also, "Dogs aren't as self-absorbed as cats. If you tried to do it with a dog I think the only thing you could go with is they're too stupid."

Another confused cat
"I don't need feminism because I like it when a man opens the door for me to enter a room. And then leave it again. And enter. And leave. And… enter. No wait, leave, definitely leave. Wait, I mean enter…" confusedcatsagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

This isn't Futrelle's first attempt to push back against antifeminist rhetoric. On his other blog, We Hunted the Mammoth, he's been chronicling the foibles of the men's rights movement for four years. Over time he's shifted from seeing the movement as merely misguided to realizing that it's driven by misogyny, he says. He hopes his blogging will encourage other people to respond to antifeminist overtures with humor.

"Men's rights activists have a quote that's supposedly from Gandhi that they like to recite constantly: 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,'" Futrelle says. "As they see it, they've gotten to the point where people are fighting them. I'd like to knock them back to the point where people are laughing at them."

 

Jim Carrey Movies, Ranked

| Tue Jul. 29, 2014 3:45 PM EDT

The Mask came out on July 29 1994. It was Jim Carrey's second blockbuster. (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective had hit theaters that February.) But where does it stand in the Jim Carrey canon? Here are all the Jim Carrey films*, ranked.

1. Liar Liar
2. The Truman Show
3. Man on the Moon
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5. Yes Man
6. Bruce Almighty
7. Fun With Dick And Jane
8. Dumb & Dumber
9. The Mask
10. A Christmas Carol
11. I Love You Philip Morris
12. Kick-Ass 2
13. Simon Birch
14. Me, Myself, & Irene
15. Batman Forever
16. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
17. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
18. The Cable Guy
19. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
20. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
21. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
22. The Number 23
23. Anchorman 2
24. Horton Hears a Who!
25. The Majestic
26. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

(*Note: This is a ranking of "Jim Carrey movies," a la feature-length movies in which Jim Carrey appears beginning with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Movies that feature Jim Carrey from before Ace Ventura: Pet Detective are not "Jim Carrey movies." They are just movies that Jim Carrey happened to appear in.)

Today Is International Tiger Day

| Tue Jul. 29, 2014 6:24 AM EDT

Established in 2010International Tiger Day! aims to raise awareness of the fact that tigers are facing extinction. "A hundred years ago 100,000 tigers roamed in Asia," explains The Independent. "But now only 3,000 survive in the wild." The culprit? Poachers, mostly.

Tigers are marvelous creatures. Have a look at some of these stunning photos to celebrate.

 

A tiger cub in Chiang Mai, Thailand. lejaclyn/Flickr
 
Sumatran tiger cub at the World Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent, UK. Tiny_Packages/Flickr
 
Two tiger cubs. Washington D.C. Sonderman/Flickr
 
Two Siberian tigers in the snow. Garg/Flickr
 
Mother gives cub piggy back ride. WOAW/Flickr

Two Amur tigers snuggle in Switzerland. Tambako/Flickr

A Sumatra tiger in profile. pe_ha45/Flickr

Snow snuggling in Zurich. Tambako/Flickr

A cub by its mother's side. Amnéville, Lorraine, France. Tambako/Flickr

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The Best "Dear John Letter" Ever Sent

| Tue Jul. 29, 2014 12:57 AM EDT

In 1947, years before she met John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier sent her high school boyfriend what is maybe my favorite Dear John letter of all time.

"I’ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person—starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them—and I’ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell—so looking at it that [way] I guess I’m not in love with you."

Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens' "Cold World" Brings the Spirit

| Mon Jul. 28, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens
Cold World
Daptone

Naomi Shelton Cold WarIf you pick up Cold World, get ready to do some foot-stomping. Like her more secular labelmate Sharon Jones, Naomi Shelton sings with a gritty warmth that will rouse believers and nonbelievers alike, while her Gospel Queens serve as a stirring foil, locating that sweet spot where church music and old-school R&B intersect. This isn't a mere exercise in nostalgia for purists, however: Exciting tracks like "Get Up, Child" and "Bound for the Promised Land" boast propulsive grooves that will keep any party cooking with funky grace.

Fast Tracks: Imelda May's "Tribal"

| Mon Jul. 28, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

TRACK 3

"It's Good to Be Alive"

From Imelda May's Tribal

VERVE

Liner notes: Riding an exuberant rockabilly groove, the Irish shouter delivers a message of hope.

Behind the music: A veteran of Jeff Beck's guitar sessions, May wrote this exhilarating tune the day after giving birth to her first child.

Check it out if you like: Big, confident voices, from Wanda Jackson to Connie Smith to Neko Case.

This review originally appeared in the July/August 2014 Issue of Mother Jones.

Photos: The World's Largest Church Is in the Middle of an African Coconut Plantation

| Fri Jul. 25, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

Central-West Côte d'Ivoire is a lush agricultural landscape, stuffed with rich banana, rice, and cocoa fields. The region is this West African nation's equivalent of the corn belt of Iowa and Illinois. A long drive down stretches of road left pockmarked by the ongoing rainy season yields endless repetitions of the same scene: Tiny villages—each home to only a few dozen farmers living in thatched-roof huts—quietly tending to crops and livestock. Things are even more peaceful than usual now, as the Muslims that make up this area's dominant religious affiliation celebrate Ramadan.

But as you arrive in Yamoussoukro, the nation's capital, a strange monument can be seen towering over the horizon: An enormous gilded cross that adorns the top of what is, by many accounts, the world's largest church.

Topping St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by more than 80 feet, Basilica Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, sometimes called the "basilica in the bush," is a jaw-dropping and bizarre monument to the end of a period only a few decades ago when Côte d'Ivoire was competing against other newly-independent African nations to become the cultural and economic powerhouse of the continent.

basilica columns
The basilica is supported by 84 pillars, each one 112 feet tall. Tim McDonnell

The raw numbers are stunning: Between July 1986 and September 1989, 1,100 workers cleared 178 acres of coconut grove, coated the space with 13 football fields-worth of European marble, and erected a 520-foot-tall structure, supported by 128 towering Doric columns, that can accommodate 200,000 worshippers. Inside are 24 stained-glass windows. The organ can reach volumes that lead to permanent hearing loss. The building is estimated to weigh 98,000 metric tons.

But probably the most interesting figure—how much it all cost—is shrouded in mystery: Although independent estimates pegged the price tag at about $300 million, then-President Félix Houphouët-Boigny was notoriously tight-lipped, preferring to refer to the construction as a gift from God (with help from his massive personal cocoa fortune).

"Most people think it also mostly came out of the treasury," says Tom Bassett, a geographer and Côte d'Ivoire​ historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. For that reason, Bassett says, it got a second nickname: "Our Lady of the Treasury."     

basilica stained glass
The basilica contains 24 massive stained-glass windows, each featuring a biblical scene. In this one, which depicts Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, former Ivorian president Félix Houphouët-Boigny is shown kneeling in front of Jesus. Tim McDonnell

The wealthy heir to one of the country's largest cocoa operations, Houphouët-Boigny didn't exactly choose the most opportune moment to publicly drain his nation's cash reserves on what quickly came to be seen as less a glorification of God and more a vanity project straight from the "dictator handbook," as the Daily Beast recently put it. 

Houphouët-Boigny became Côte d'Ivoire​'s first president after the country gained independence from France in 1960 and ruled as a more or less benevolent dictator until his death 1993, overseeing what became known as a "miracle" period of economic prosperity in the 1960s and 70s. In 1983, he named his home village Yamoussoukro the new administrative capital and shortly thereafter set about planning the city's crown jewel, the basilica. In keeping with a request from Pope John Paul II, who said he wouldn't consecrate the building otherwise, the dome was made slightly shorter than St. Peter's. But the addition of a towering cross atop the dome pushed the church above its counterpart in Rome.

basilica dome
The dove at the center of the basilica's dome is 23 feet wide. Tim McDonnell

But meanwhile, by the late 80s the country had fallen to economic ruin, hit simultaneously by a nosedive in cocoa and coffee prices, climbing oil prices, and disastrous mismanagement of state-owned businesses. Midway through the basilica's construction, Côte d'Ivoire declared itself insolvent. At the same time, budget-resuscitation measures mandated by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank slashed basic services and key agricultural subsidies, drastically lowering the standard of living for most Ivorians—including those living on farms in the shadow of the basilica.

All this left Houphouët-Boigny wide open to scathing criticism for the unseemly contrast between the church's opulence and the decay of the surrounding countryside; his public image wasn't helped by a large stained-glass window just inside the dome that depicts him kneeling before Jesus on his entrance to Jerusalem. An unnamed Vatican official told Time that "the size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter." Still, the Pope consecrated the basilica in September 1990, the only time the thousands of seats here have been full (and the only time a grandiose papal residence on the grounds has been occupied).

basilica interior
The interior of the basilica can seat 7,000 worshippers; altogether, the compound can accommodate 200,000. Tim McDonnell

Since then, the basilica has been little more than a tourist destination; services are held weekly but are sparsely attended. In late 2002, while then-President Laurent Gbagbo was out of the country, disgruntled military leaders staged a coup that threw the nation into a bloody, two-year civil war. The basilica briefly came back into the limelight during this period, as Yamoussoukro became the heart of a UN-enforced buffer zone between rebel forces in the north and Gbagbo supporters in the south, where the country's largest city, Abidjan, lies. Political leaders on both sides, aided by the national media, portrayed the conflict in part as one between a Christian south and Muslim north, with the basilica in the middle. 

But in reality, Bassett says, demographic data never supported the existence of such a division—there are likely to be just as many Muslims in the south as in the north. And in any case, he says, "I don't think the basilica really fits into that narrative." So sorry, there are no heart-wrenching, The Sound of Music-esque scenes of embattled families taking refuge inside from machine-gun toting soldiers. It's a ghost town, a highly-visible tombstone for a Côte d'Ivoire that died before it could be born. 

basilica yamoussoukro
The basilica is situated on the outskirts of Yamoussoukro, former president Félix Houphouët-Boigny's hometown. It was a tiny village before he designated it the nation's administrative capitol in 1983; today it has about 240,000 residents. Tim McDonnell
basilica walkup
The compound is spread across 17 acres (equivalent to 13 football fields) of marble imported from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Tim McDonnell
basilica interior
The world's largest church rarely sees more than a couple hundred worshippers. Tim McDonnell