Back in 2014, Donald Tusk was on his way to Brussels to become president of the European council. At Warsaw airport he bumped into Lech Wałęsa, Nobel peace laureate and veteran leader of Solidarity, the Gdańsk-based trade union movement which played such a crucial role in the end of communism in 1989. “Be careful out there,” Wałęsa warned Tusk. “I worry that the EU will break up, and they chose a Pole so that they have someone to blame.”
Tusk was heading to Brussels as a passionate European, a staunch defender of what he called “fundamental” European values: solidarity, freedom and unity in the face of threats from inside and out.… Seguir leyendo »
It’s like the holocaust only worse, according to babycaust.de, the German website dedicated to abortion, or as they call it: “The mass murder of unborn children.”
Every country has its nutters. The problem with these particular nutters is that their website is your best bet if you need to find a doctor who performs abortions in Germany. It provides a full list of practitioners with the “licence to kill” by town and postcode, decorated with images of hacked-up babies in petri dishes, some of them made into gifs to show the blood still dripping. Whatever for? They obviously don’t want you to go to these doctors.… Seguir leyendo »
Amos Oz was a teacher to me, a friend. About once a month I would travel early in the morning from my house just outside of Jerusalem to his house in Ramat Aviv. He would make me “the best coffee in town” according to him, and we would sit and chat.
I’m not sure if it was the best coffee in town, but it definitely was the best company. We spoke about the state of the country, which seemed like it had no solution. We spoke about the dream and how that dream was shattering. About the books we had read.… Seguir leyendo »
Consider a tale of two New Year’s Eve messages. Boris Johnson, speaking from London on social media, was brief, jolly and vacuous. Emmanuel Macron, speaking from Paris on nationwide television, was wordy, abstract and downbeat.
President Macron pledged that the 2020s would be a decade led by “France and Europe”. He managed to make even that sound dull. Johnson spoke in the giddy aftermath of a great election victory. Macron spoke during the longest rail and metro strike in recent French history.
It will soon be three years since Macron was hailed as the world’s centrist saviour, the hero of middle of the roaders everywhere.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the end of the second world war and the enactment of its pacifist constitution, Japan has deployed its forces overseas mostly on peacekeeping operations under UN auspices – and almost never to places where its troops are in harm’s way. But next month, the country will send a naval destroyer to the Middle East. On what is being described as an intelligence-gathering mission, the warship will patrol the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian sea and a portion of the Bab el-Mandeb strait, following a series of attacks on oil tankers in the region – including one that was Japanese-operated.… Seguir leyendo »
The US has assassinated Qassem Suleimani, the famed leader of Iran’s Quds force, alongside a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. To grasp what may come next, it is vital to understand not only who these men were but also the system that produced them.
Nicknamed the “Shadow Commander” in the popular press, Suleimani spent his formative years on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein – who at the time enjoyed the support of western and Arab powers – was attempting to destroy the emerging Islamic Republic. But few remember that his first major mission as commander of the Quds force – the extraterritorial branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – was involved in implicit coordination with the United States as it invaded Afghanistan in 2001.… Seguir leyendo »
The Trump administration’s assassination on Thursday of General Qassem Suleimani could turn out to be its biggest foreign policy blunder. The killing could lead to a war with Iranian proxies across the Middle East, belying Trump’s supposed desire to extricate the US from its endless conflicts. But its most likely immediate effect will be to ratchet up pressure on the Iraqi government to expel US troops from Iraq. And that would mean Iran extending its already substantial influence over Iraqi government and society.
The Trump administration was quick to portray the assassination as a pre-emptive strike, saying Suleimani had been “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”… Seguir leyendo »
We know the sight by heart: corrugated iron on a low pile of ash with a chimney left standing. Another house gone. And the pattern of bushfires is part of our lives too. They burn until a cold wind blows up the coast when it buckets down dousing the flames.
But that’s not the pattern now. The downpour has been postponed officially until late January. Things are looking up: it was April. Either way the experts are saying the weeks ahead are looking dry, tinder dry.
As that news sank in this summer an unfamiliar emotion took hold in Australia: not fear so much as dread.… Seguir leyendo »
Where I live, people are organised in clans. I belong to a clan where even 100 people, gathered together, can’t raise $100 (£75) to organise a funeral.
I come from a family that couldn’t afford to pay tuition of $10 a term when I was a student two decades ago. Many of my young relatives are out of school now, because their parents can’t afford a full academic term of $15.
Others are even worse off. There are families I have spoken with who say they are unable to earn $2 a month as a family.
There is no question that the UN global goals have stalled.… Seguir leyendo »
The message to foreign women thinking of booking a holiday in Cyprus could hardly be more stark: if you are attacked don’t expect the authorities to help you. On the contrary, reporting a rape carries a significant risk that it won’t be properly investigated, as appears to have happened to the 19-year-old British woman who went to the police in Ayia Napa in July saying she had been gang-raped. Moreover, you might end up deprived of your own liberty.
The teenager found herself convicted on Monday with inventing the whole thing, and faces a potential prison sentence when she appears at the Famagusta district court next week.… Seguir leyendo »
As the year draws to a close, the air in Brooklyn feels heavy. A spate of antisemitic attacks on Orthodox Jews – at least nine in about a week – has left many in the borough’s Jewish communities feeling vulnerable and frightened. Another antisemitic attack on Saturday in the largely ultra-Orthodox suburb of Monsey, New York – in which a machete-wielding man wounded five people, one of them critically – further traumatized communities already reeling. And this comes only weeks after two assailants opened fire on a kosher grocery in Jersey City, killing Mindel Ferencz and Moshe Deutsch, both Hasidic Jews, and Miguel Douglas Rodriguez.… Seguir leyendo »
The fire situation in eastern Australia continues to rapidly escalate.
At this stage we cannot predict when this will come to an end, but with losses of lives and property mounting on the south coast of NSW, eastern Victoria, South Australia, southwestern WA and Tasmania, we now have a nationally significant catastrophe that affects city and country alike.
The magnitude of these fires alone (about 5 million hectares and rapidly rising), apart from their human and environmental consequences, simply shows us that we now confront a new, more flammable world: a coupling of people, ecosystems and fire that is now irrevocably transformed.… Seguir leyendo »
Will 2019 be remembered as the year in which climate change denial was defeated? The global climate strike, Greta Thunberg’s meteoric rise to international prominence, as well as several high-profile international conferences and reports – all contributed in putting climate skeptics on the back foot.
Even Donald Trump, who previously claimed that the climate crisis was a “hoax” invented by China to hold back American industry, has recently begun to brag about all his administration has done to address it. Following suit, the rest of his party is scrambling to develop a coherent environmental platform, more in line with their electoral base’s shifting views.… Seguir leyendo »
Arsenal star Mesut Özil tends to cause controversy on and off the pitch. That is why he should be applauded for speaking out about the plight of Uighurs in China and helping to raise awareness of one of the worst human rights atrocities of the modern era.
Özil posted to his millions of followers on social media on Friday about the persecution of Uighurs, condemning silence from Muslims on the issue. Özil is a Muslim who won the World Cup with the German national team before quitting international football amid claims of “racism and disrespect” over his Turkish heritage.
He is right to speak out.… Seguir leyendo »
I’ve been at the climate summit in Madrid for the past two weeks. The question I was constantly asked was: “What will it take for Australia to treat the climate crisis seriously?” International friends, colleagues and strangers looked on in horror at the effects of the bushfires and outright amazement at the Morrison government’s denial of the link between the fires and Australia’s coal industry, and seeming lack of concern at this extreme impact of climate change.
Morning after morning I woke to check the news and the “fires near me” app. Seeking updates from friends. Was the Katoomba fire close enough to force evacuation of one?… Seguir leyendo »
The announcement that Italy’s high-speed train franchise, Frecciarossa, is introducing “quiet carriages” has been greeted with relief and irony. Of the many stereotypes about Italians, one that refuses to die is that they are loud, and even many Italians doubt that a “quiet carriage” will ever remain so.
Frecciarossa’s quiet carriages were previously only available for business passengers, but they proved so popular that they will now be available to passengers in economy class too. They will be called “Standard Silenzio”.
In some ways, Italy has earned its reputation as a rowdy country. A 2015 survey of global noise pollution placed Italy second for racket.… Seguir leyendo »
The battle for 1989 was won by illiberal populism. That’s one thing we can say with certainty 30 years on from the fall of the iron curtain. In the narrative spun by Jarosław Kaczyński, Viktor Orbán and their supporters, democratic transformation turned out to be a fraud, liberal democracy an illusion, and integration with the EU an upmarket form of foreign occupation. The illiberal populists, under the cover of such rhetoric, simultaneously dismantle the rule of law and independent institutions. Meanwhile, liberals seem devoid of ideas or initiative, agreeing only that somehow, it all went wrong.
This is not just about melancholy and misunderstanding.… Seguir leyendo »
For three years now, the European Union, created to promote peace and understanding, has been undergoing a profound pivot to militarisation and hard power. Europeans are served up a relentless narrative about their continent’s duty to stand up to external challenges: Russian assertiveness, the US retreat from Nato and traditional Euro-Atlantic structures and China’s rise as a geopolitical force. But this narrative has served to legitimise a militarising agenda that, away from the spotlight, is being set and pushed by defence industry interests and their political cheerleaders.
Countries in Scandinavia and central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Finland and Sweden, have all increased military expenditure as part of this creep towards arming and organising for potential use of lethal force.… Seguir leyendo »
Stuck in Guantánamo Bay detention camp, year after year, I often wonder if I will ever get my “day in court”. Not as a defendant – I have never been charged with a crime – but as a claimant seeking redress for the torture and mistreatment I have suffered at the hands of the US and its allies.
Today my lawyers are at least getting a hearing at the international criminal court (ICC) in the Hague. The ICC’s prosecutor wants to investigate crimes against humanity committed during the Afghan war. In April, ICC judges decided an investigation would “not serve the interests of justice”.… Seguir leyendo »
Donald Trump threw a tantrum at the Nato summit and packed up his toys and left the party early. Another multilateral summit with democratic allies, another embarrassment for Trump and the country he’s supposed to lead. Sigh.
Nato is facing a crisis sparked by Trump. The leader of Nato’s most important member regularly criticizes the alliance. He acts as though Nato countries owe the United States money as part of a protection racket, revealing a lack of understanding of the value of the alliance and how Nato works (countries don’t pay one another). He praises the leader of Russia – Nato’s biggest adversary – and asked for Russia’s help to win his campaign in 2016.… Seguir leyendo »