Daily Digest: Gbagbo’s last throes, Marable’s parable; Marrying the U.K., divorcing the U.S.

Mike Mullen

– For those of you who were planning to stage a coup, or fake an election, and start an autocratic terror-state… maybe just hold off until things cool down a bit. This is officially the worst time, like, ever to be an unpopular dictator. Ivory Coast’s embattled leader Laurent Gbagbo (the “G,” unlike his critics, is silent) is facing an imminent overthrow in the capital city of Abidjan. According to the BBC, as of this morning, fighters loyal to Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Outtara were in the process of storming Gbagbo’s house, though they claim they don’t plan to harm him. Uh-huh. By all reasonable accounts, Outtara beat Gbagbo in an election in November, only for Gbagbo’s government to falsify the results. Now, under UN pressure (including bombs!), his last thread of power is vanishing. From the BBC’s correspondent: “Laurent Gbagbo, cornered in a presidential bunker and faced with the defection of his generals, had been trying to negotiate his way out of trouble. His surrender seemed imminent. ‘I want to live,’ he told French television.” Given the way things are going, it seems that last bit is now out of his hands.

– NPR has a nice write-up on Manning Marable, the noted scholar of black American life who died on Friday, and whose 10-years-in-the-works biography of Malcolm X hit stores on Monday. In a remarkably juicy paragraph summing up the book’s most startling revelations, NPR writes: “The new biography asserts that Malcolm X had exaggerated his early criminal career and had engaged in an early homosexual relationship with a white businessman. The book also claims that some of the triggermen responsible for killing Malcolm X are still alive and were never charged.” Whoa. Certainly there will be more investigation and millions of words committed to Malcolm, and someone might overturn this version of events. But, given that Marable’s death precludes him from promoting his life’s work, perhaps we should let a (slightly more nuanced) piece of his work, excerpted on NPR’s site, speak for itself: “[Malcolm] had become convinced that Elijah Muhammad’s passive position could not be justified. Malcolm had spent almost a decade in the Nation, and for all his speeches, he could point to no progress on the creation of a separate black state. Meanwhile, in the state that existed, the black men and women who looked to him for leadership were suffering and dying.”

– The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton is eagerly awaited by every single sentient being on earth. (Okay, maybe not Laurent Gbagbo.) Slate has a slideshow capturing some of the interesting traditions and laws governing royal weddings: among others, a 310 year old law outlawing any royal wedding to a Catholic. (This means ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, who professed his Catholicism after leaving office, could not divorce his wife Cherie and propose to Prince Harry. Sorry, Tony.) Here’s another rule: “In 1840, Queen Victoria stashed a sprig of the myrtle herb in her bridal bouquet, and it became the must-have floral adornment. When Kate holds a sprig in her bouquet, she’ll be following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.” According to wikipedia, myrtle herb (who was also an original backup singer in Martha and the Vandellas) has been sacred to damn near everyone who came across it: Greeks, Romans, Jews, Mediterraneans (some of whom are also Greek, Roman, or Jewish) and Wiccans (most of whom are American teenage girls).

– Over at ESPN, Jeff Carlisle (who I know personally – family friend, nice guy) has the story of Andy Najar, the American-born soccer player who’s chosen to play internationally for Honduras. This kind of thing is commonplace in world soccer: as Carlisle documents, both Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) and Neven Subotic (Serbia) left the U.S. to join other national squads. International squads are littered with Brazilian players who’ve taken up foreign residence: would you have believed that Cacau (one name only, thanks) was not a native German? In Najar’s case, Carlisle writes, the decision is not only (as Najar said) “from the heart,” but also practical: “Unlike Rossi and Subotic, Najar isn’t a U.S. citizen, and while he has a green card, the five-year waiting period for permanent residents to acquire a U.S. passport represents a huge obstacle. While Congress has the power to immediately grant citizenship to individuals, such an honor is usually reserved for green-card holders who die while serving in the U.S. military, not for mere soccer players.” So far as I’m concerned, Honduras can have him, as we’ve done alright with foreign-born players ending up in our own colors. But, really, haven’t we done enough for Honduran soccer? After all, it was our last-minute goal against Costa Rica that sent Honduras to its first World Cup in almost 30 years, inspiring absolute delirium in the streets, and on the radio stations. (If the video doesn’t put a smile on your face, you, sir, are a Costa Rican.)