We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.
Lance Stephenson’s nickname is “Born Ready”—as in, ready for the NBA. But on a winter night in a tiny gym in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the 6-foot-5 high-school senior mostly looked ready for a time-out—of the preschool variety. Stephenson slumped when teammates failed to pass him the ball, shook his head in disgust when they missed shots, jogged back lazily on defense, and whined about fouls. Stephenson’s other nickname is “Sir Lance-a-lot,” but he seldom looked heroic, and seemed to be doing little to lead his team, three-time defending New York City public-school champion Abraham Lincoln, as it beat host Paul Robeson, 81–72.
Then the final statistics arrived: 38 points and 14 rebounds, including 17 of Lincoln’s deficit-erasing 27 fourth-quarter points. During an after-school practice the next day, Lincoln’s coach, Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, said the performance highlighted Stephenson’s main flaws: impatience and thoughtlessness. Still, Morton was unwavering on the question of ability. I asked how many players he’d seen in his 14 years as a coach at Lincoln who were ready for the NBA, born or otherwise. “Two,” he replied. “Sebastian and Lance.”
Sebastian is Sebastian Telfair, a whippety 5-foot-11 point guard who, in the spring of 2004, landed a Sports Illustrated cover and became one of a record eight high-school seniors chosen in the first round of the NBA draft. That won’t be Stephenson’s destiny, because the NBA has since banned the leap from prom to pro, requiring draft-eligible players to be at least one year removed from their high-school graduating class.
But college might not be Stephenson’s next stop, either. A year ago, Brandon Jennings, a high-school point guard from Los Angeles, signed a pioneering three-year, $1.65 million contract with the Italian professional club Lottomatica Virtus Roma. A few months later, he received a reported $2 million deal with the apparel company Under Armour. Since his signing, scouts for European teams have begun attending high-school games in the U.S., and Under Armour has been sending free sneakers to Stephenson and other potential high-school exports.
In Rome, Jennings is getting a chance to build up more than his bank account. Elite teams in Europe’s top leagues—in Italy, Spain, Russia, Greece—are considered a notch below the NBA but a full cut above the NCAA’s best. The players are grown men, many of them veterans of top U.S. college programs and the NBA. Coaches are hardened tacticians, practices are grueling, and systems of play are complex. Games are more physical than in the NCAA, and seasons are twice as long. NBA scouts pack top contests. “In Europe, they don’t baby you,” said Sonny Vaccaro, who brokered Jennings’s tryout and signing. “You get beat up, sworn at, kicked out of practice. If your character can hold up, you win.”
Vaccaro has been an executive at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, and he helped make the recruiting and marketing of young players a big business in the past three decades. These days, though, he is crusading against what he considers the NCAA’s phony amateurism and the NBA’s misguided rulemaking. Qualified players, he told me, should be able to earn a good salary playing basketball when they want to, not when the NCAA or NBA decides they can. Over the past year, the families of several high-school seniors have contacted Vaccaro about the European option, he said, and he has identified eight underclassmen, some as young as freshmen, “who are interested when the time comes.” This year or next year, Vaccaro predicted, a player will turn pro and head to Europe after his junior year of high school.
If that seems like one more sign of the basketball apocalypse, consider that many of the Europeans who populate NBA rosters began playing professionally as young as 14. In any case, Vaccaro believes Europe should be a destination only for exceptionally talented and relatively mature players. And Jennings has cautioned that his Italian sojourn hasn’t been one big scoop of gelato: “I don’t want anyone coming over here thinking it’s easy,” he wrote on his Under Armour blog.
Once the basketball machine gets rolling, though, it can be hard to stop. Jennings is expected to opt out of his contract with Lottomatica after this season and enter the NBA draft in June. If he’s a high pick, adolescent interest in playing abroad may rise rapidly.
On the court after practice, Stephenson’s father, Lance Sr., said Kansas, Southern Cal, and St. John’s were recruiting his son. But if he fails to become NCAA-eligible—a legitimate concern, according to people around him—his options will change. No one I talked to seemed confident that Stephenson was emotionally prepared for the professional grind on the Continent. But with the door open, nothing can stop him from dribbling through it, ready or not. “I think he’d be a better pro right now than a college player,” his father said. “Going overseas, it’s not out of the question.”
What a human catastrophe is the doctrine of human rights! Not only does it give officialdom an excuse to insinuate itself into the fabric of our lives but it has a profoundly corrupting effect on youth, who have been indoctrinated into believing that until such rights were granted (or is it discovered?) there was no freedom. Worse still, it persuades each young person that they are uniquely precious, which is to say more precious than anyone else; and that, moreover, the world is a giant conspiracy to deprive them of their rightful entitlements. Once someone is convinced of their rights, it becomes impossible to reason with them; and thus the reason of the Enlightenment is swiftly transformed into the unreason of the psychopath.
The doctrine of rights has borne putrid fruit. In the ward recently was a young woman of the now very extensive slut-babymother class, whose jaw was clenched in a habitual expression of world-destroying hatred. Her glittering saurian eyes swivelled mistrustingly, on the qui vive for infringements of her rights. She exuded grievance as a skunk exudes its odour.
She had been admitted to hospital because she had been out celebrating the night before. In England now, celebration is synonymous with aggression and public nuisance, and she had conformed to type by screaming and pulling another slut-babymother's hair. When the police arrived, she claimed her drink had been spiked and was dumped by them in the hospital rather than in the slammer, where she belonged.
The police having departed, she turned the attention of her lip, as we call it around here, to the admitting doctor, who took down verbatim some of what she said to him.
Her recorded remarks were littered with a word beginning with F, followed by very neatly drawn asterisks, which proves that in India, at least (where the doctor came from), there is still some sense of dignity, decorum and self-respect.
The following morning a friend of the patient arrived in the ward before visiting time. Both patient and friend were what is called in the prison "very verbal", which is to say mouthy. A nurse, acting on the biblical observation that a soft answer turns away wrath, asked them to keep their voices down, only to discover that the Bible has been superseded in modern Britain and that wrath turns away a soft answer. The nurse then told the visitor that she had to leave or else.
Shortly after her departure under foul-mouthed protest, the wife of another patient came to sit with him. She was a respectable Sikh woman with a gentle manner, but it was not yet visiting time, and the nurses feared to provoke the slut-babymother by allowing her to stay, when they had told the slut-babymother's visitor to leave. The nurses could all too well imagine the scene: Why am I not allowed a f—ing visitor when that man over there is?
In vain would the nurses point out the difference in the conduct of the two visitors; if anyone had a right to a visitor, everyone did, irrespective of the conduct of the visitor.
To avoid a conflict over rights, the Sikh woman was asked to wait outside, which she did without demur, reading a book of prayers.
A little later I bumped into one of our security guards whose job it is to deal with slut-babymothers and yob-babyfathers.
"How are you?" I asked.
"Can't grumble," he replied.
"Oh, surely you can," I said.
"No one would listen if I did," he said.
"Well, there you've got it," I said. "That's your reason to grumble. No one would listen if you did. It's a kind of meta-grumble."
Come to think of it, that's what I've been doing all these years: meta-grumbling. It's been great fun.
A pair of stone-age boats, thought to be the oldest in Europe, have been allowed to rot in a partially collapsed shed while the northern German regional archaeology authorities stood by broke and helpless, it emerged this week.
The two 7,000-year-old wooden boats and a third one thought to be around 6,000 years old, were hailed as a sensation when they were found during construction work on the Baltic coast near Stralsund in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seven years ago.
But now they are effectively ruined, after a lack of funds resulted in them being stored inappropriately. “It is a loss for Germany if not for the whole world,” said Andreas Grüger, director of the Stralsund historical museum.
The boats had been entrusted to the Authorities for Culture and Preservation of Ancient Monuments in Schwerin for restoration and conservation. But Michael Bednorz, head of the State Office admitted that financial difficulties meant that they were kept in a shed instead of an appropriate space.
“The log boats are only an example for our problems,” he said.
“They are a drastic illustration of what happens when the regional authorities cannot fulfil their obligations.”
Although much damage was inflicted during the first two years of storage, they were then further damaged when the shed they were stored in partially collapsed in 2004. Yet still they were not moved to safety.
The state office’s storage facilities have less than a good reputation – mice have chewed up ancient documents in the main archive mice while a water leakage destroyed precious artefacts in another depot.
The remains of the boats have now been sent to the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin where students are planning to investigate the extent of the damage and draw up a plan to save at least fragments.
Saved by their indistinguishable DNA, identical twins suspected in a massive jewelry heist have been set free. Neither could be exclusively linked to the DNA evidence.
German police say at least one of the identical twin brothers Hassan and Abbas O. may have perpetrated a recent multimillion euro jewelry heist in Berlin. But because of their indistinguishable DNA, neither can be individually linked to the crime. Both were set free on Wednesday.
In the early morning hours of February 25, three masked men broke into Germany's famous luxury department store Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe). Video cameras show how they climbed into the store's grand main hall, broke open cabinets and display cases and made off with an estimated €5 million worth of jewelry and watches.
When police found traces of DNA on a glove left at the scene of the crime, it seemed that the criminals responsible for Germany's most spectacular heist in years would be caught. But the DNA led to not one but two suspects -- 27-year-old identical, or monozygotic, twins with near-identical DNA.
German law stipulates that each criminal must be individually proven guilty. The problem in the case of the O. brothers is that their twin DNA is so similar that neither can be exclusively linked to the evidence using current methods of DNA analysis. So even though both have criminal records and may have committed the heist together, Hassan and Abbas O. have been set free.
Both brothers have stolidly refused to comment ever since their arrests on February 11. Since no further evidence has become available, police cannot detain them.
"Those who remain silent are not necessarily covering up their guilt, but rather simply making use of their constitutional rights," Hassan O.'s lawyer Axel Weimann told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper on Wednesday. He also noted that the glove with DNA evidence was not necessarily proof that either twin had been at the scene of the crime, since it could have been placed there by someone else in order to frame the brothers.
According to the daily, the twins sent a message that they were "proud of the German constitutional state and gave it their thanks."
There is still no trace of a third suspect -- or the loot.
If the reunification efforts on Cyprus are so contentious and controversial, how will the Palestinians (who refuse to even recognize the state of Israel)ever reach a peace treaty with Israel?
Negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus have been going well for six months, but a spat over school books within the Greek-Cypriot community shows the extent to which hostilities can quickly bubble up to the surface.
A bizarre spat over school books has revealed just how deep the divisions are between the two communities on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. With talks on a possible reunification at a sensitive point, a row over school books has shown that the old enmities on the island persist.
Andreas Dimitiriou, the education minister in the Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus, has come in for furious criticism because he sent a letter to schools saying that "Greek-Cypriot extremists," also bore some responsibility for the division of the island.
He argued that it was time to rewrite the history books, which still describe the Turkish Cypriots who live in the northern part of the island as "barbarians," who bear sole responsibility for the partition of the island. This is a marked contrast to the books used in the Turkish Cypriot schools, which were rewritten back in 2004 to rid them of any anti-Greek chauvinism.
Dimitriou has faced a backlash from members of the Greek community for his plans to change the school books, with nationalists, teachers and even an Archbishop defending the old stereotypes of the Turkish enemies.
The attempt at the curriculum reform comes at a sensitive time. Ever since Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias took office last year there have been hopes that the United Nations reunification plan, which Greek Cypriots rejected in 2004, could be revived. Christofias has spent the last six months in negotions with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, and there has reportedly been a "very positive mood" at each of their many meetings.
However, last Friday the UN Cyprus envoy Alexander Downer said that there was no point in rushing negotiations if the deal could unravel. He said an agreement must be reached that "will hold in place for the duration."
He urged patience because of the complexity of the issues. "When you're dealing with complex issues you're of course dealing with problems that go back decades. It's not surprising it's a painstaking process."
The parties, who were meeting again on Tuesday in the city of Nicosia, have still not agreed on the details of a power-sharing arrangement or what to do about the issue of compensation for the 200,000 Cypriots who were displaced by the conflict. Talat has said that talks need to be concluded by early 2010, when he is expected to stand for reelection.
Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded the island in response to a coup by Athens-backed supporters of a union with Greece.
The resolution of the decades-old dispute is hindered by the fact that Turkey still does not officially recognize the Republic of Cyprus, which is a member of the European Union. This has in turn undermined Ankara's attempt to join the bloc. If Turkey does not agree to allow Cypriot planes and vessels to use it ports by the end of the year then Brussels could break off accession talks for good.
Frank Furedi’s article is a sobering reflection on the connections between anti-Israeli sentiment and anti-Semitism (see After Gaza: what is behind 21st-century anti-Semitism?). The central issues he raises have to do, firstly, with the role that sections of the left have played in legitimising anti-Semitism and, secondly, with how interpretations of the Holocaust are being distorted and abused. These issues, I would suggest, may be still more closely connected than Furedi suggests.
There are a number of ways in which much of the left now refuses to engage seriously with anti-Semitism but rather helps to legitimate it. The first takes the form of explaining anti-Semitism in a way that effectively justifies it. This occurs when, for example, suicide bombing (that is, the deliberate killing of Jewish civilians) is explained in a pseudo-materialist mode as simply a product of desperation. That many people have found themselves desperate without resorting to such actions and such hatred is ignored, as is the obvious fact that they are planned by people who are certainly anti-Semitic but not by any stretch of the imagination hopeless or without considerable material resources.
The second form is collusion – the effective toleration of anti-Semitic language, chants and slogans on demonstrations against Israel. I say ‘effective’ because this is a repeated and growing phenomenon, known in advance. It does not require an occasional well-meaning reproof but the recognition that joint participation in, and organisation of, such demonstrations provides a forum for anti-Semites to express their hatred of Jews without fear or anxiety. (It is in this respect a direct reversal of the old socialist programme of ‘no platform for fascists’.)
The third way in which the left helps to legitimise anti-Semitism, and this often accompanies the first two, has to do with the downplaying of evidence of anti-Semitism itself: the claim that anti-Semitic incidents are over-reported or misinterpreted and that, in any case, they are far less significant than other forms of hatred.
How new is all this? Perhaps it is not quite as new as we might wish, especially if we think about the left’s response to Nazi anti-Semitism. There is a certain ‘conceit’ on the left (one I confess I shared myself for a long time) that they were the most principled, committed opponents of Nazi anti-Semitism. This is highly arguable. In Germany in the 1930s, many left-wing intellectuals took an entirely reductive view of Nazi anti-Semitism. As late as 1939, for example, Max Horkheimer claimed that what was really going on was that ‘the Jews are being supplanted as agents of circulation, for the modern economic structure eliminates the entire sphere of commerce’.
In 1942 (just as the Final Solution was under way) Franz Neumann published his major study of Nazism in which he argued that they would ‘never allow a complete extermination of the Jews’. What the left did oppose was fascism, for which they had a much more sophisticated explanation, and which was a priority. For on the ground, too, mobilising against anti-Semitism as a central issue was repeatedly rejected - by both social democrats and communists. To raise this issue, leaders of both parties agreed, was pointless and counter-productive. It would not win support but would further isolate their militants. And there was more than a hidden suggestion that the Jews had somehow brought this upon themselves, that they had been too visible, too prominent, or worse.
Ignorant efforts to equate what happened to the Jews during Nazi rule with what Israel is doing to the Palestinians may be thought about, to some extent, against this background of incomprehension and avoidance. It is true that what happened then remains hard to comprehend even today. The idea that the Nazis wanted to kill all Jews everywhere is hard to hold in the mind, as (even more) is the creation of extermination camps; factories designed not to produce goods or commodities but corpses and ashes, factories of death.
But if there is little history of thinking seriously about anti-Semitism and confronting it directly when it was at its most dangerous, it may not be so surprising that there has been such a weak response to the latest outbreak of this mutating virus. It was easier then to turn away, to deny the full import of anti-Semitism in its most radical form; it is easier now not to think about anti-Semitism at all.
Philip J Spencer is associate dean of the faculty of arts and social sciences at Kingston University, where he teaches courses on the Holocaust, the Politics of Mass Murder, and Human Rights. He has also written on Marxism and the Holocaust and is currently working on a study of the left, the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.