Features

On Catalan independence, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden emerge as surprise backers

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Two Moscow-linked figures have emerged as the loudest voices on Twitter amplifying news and commentary about Catalonia’s secession referendum. Chris Zappone The Age Research independently confirmed by Fairfax Media shows Twitter accounts of WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange as well as former National Security Administrator contractor Edward Snowden now account for nearly a third of all Twitter traffic under the hashtag #… Assange has peppered his followers with more than 80 original tweets supporting the Catalan independence referendum, suggesting “the future ... Read More »

Angela’s ashes: 5 takeaways from the German election

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 24: (EDITOR'S NOTE: This image was converted from color to black and white) German Chancellor and Christian Democrat (CDU) Angela Merkel smiles after leaving her election party and reacting to initial results that give the party 33,1% of the vote, giving it a first place finish, in German federal elections on September 24, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Chancellor Merkel is seeking a fourth term and coming weeks will likely be dominated by negotiations between parties over the next coalition government. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

The next few years won’t be pretty Angela Merkel will remain German chancellor. That widely anticipated outcome was about the only unsurprising element of Sunday’s German election. Matthew Karnitschnig  Politico The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) finished much stronger than most observers dared predict, becoming the first unabashedly racist, anti-foreigner party to sit in Germany’s parliament since the days of Hitler. The Social Democrats (SPD) all but imploded, opting to go into opposition to lick their wounds rather than risk another ... Read More »

How Conservatives Learned to Love Free Lawyers for the Poor

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By reframing the issue around the evils of big government, Republicans are notching victories that have eluded more liberal legislatures. ALYSIA SANTO Politico Christy Perry, a Republican state representative and co-owner of a gun shop in Boise, regularly travels with her husband to gun shows to sell their wares. Voters come to her booth so often that her husband jokingly plunked a sign next to the AR-15s: “Gun talk only. No politics.” A couple of years ago, Perry began broaching ... Read More »

What the stunning success of AfD means for Germany and Europe

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The radical right party profited from the fact immigration was the number one election issue. But can its breakthrough last? Cas Mudde The Guardian n 1991 Belgium had its (first) black Sunday, when the populist radical right Flemish Block gained 6.8% of the national vote. Since then many other western European countries have gone through a similar experience, from Denmark to Switzerland. And now, even the ever stable Germany has its own schwarzer Sonntag, and it’s blacker than most people ... Read More »

Why India’s farmers want to conserve indigenous heirloom rice

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India was once home to 100,000 rice varieties, but high-yield, less hardy hybrids have taken over encouraging farmers to safeguard more resistant strains Chitrangada Choudhury The Guardian India is rice country: the cereal provides daily sustenance for more than 60% of the population. Half a century ago, it was home to more than 100,000 ricevarieties, encompassing a stunning diversity in taste, nutrition, pest-resistance and, crucially in this age of climate change and natural disasters, adaptability to a range of conditions. Today, much of this biodiversity is ... Read More »

China’s audacious and inventive new generation of entrepreneurs

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Industries and consumers around the world will soon feel their impact “NEW era, new revolution. I am a MAKER, for the hearts of the dream.” The Economist So goes a rallying cry carved in giant letters on the wall of a warehouse in Shekou, a seaside enclave near Hong Kong. Many of China’s most promising entrepreneurs flocked there recently for a conference organised by TechCrunch, a technology publisher from Silicon Valley. Yet Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent—established Chinese internet giants collectively ... Read More »

Solidarity between good and justice keeps a society together

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Since ancient times, philanthropy or unconditional contribution, and reciprocity or retribution, such as “an eye for an eye,” have been and remain common human actions. SOKA University EurekAlert! Thus far, many researchers support the promotion of reciprocity and the suppression of philanthropism, as the latter is favorable to evil. However, Soka University researcher Isamu Okada and his collaborators Tatsuya Sasaki (University of Vienna) and Yutaka Nakai (Shibaura Institute of Technology) have found that the solidarity of philanthropism and reciprocity is ... Read More »

Whose interests? Why defining the ‘public interest’ is such a challenge

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The “public interest” is a political concept that’s regularly trotted out along with other democratic principles such as transparency and accountability. Jane Johnston  The Conversation And, like transparency and accountability, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it means. Former NSW Ombudsman Chris Wheeler has pointed out: ”… while it is one of the most used terms in the lexicon of public administration, it is arguably the least defined and least understood … identifying or determining the appropriate public interest ... Read More »

Austria burqa ban: Government warns Muslim women to show faces in public or be fined

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Breach of new integration law will be punished with €150 fine Chris Baynes  The Independent The Austrian government has issued posters and leaflets threatening Muslim women with fines for wearing face veils ahead of the introduction of a controversial ban. The authorities launched the publicity drive to raise awareness of the legislation outlawing niqabs and burqas, which will come into force on 1 October. Under the new “integration” policy, anyone wearing clothes that obscure their face in public can be fined €150 (£132) ... Read More »

Exclusive: John Howard says the government needs to explain how it will protect religious freedoms on same-sex marriage

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Former prime minister John Howard has demanded that the rights of children not be forgotten in the same-sex marriage debate Speaking exclusively to 9NEWS from London, he also rejected Malcolm Turnbull’s assurances that a detailed debate about protecting religious freedoms can wait until after the postal vote on same-sex marriage is decided. Chris Uhlmann 9news Mr Howard said that if the postal survey returned a “yes” vote then the government would be stampeded into delivering change, so people needed answers ... Read More »

Why we need the welfare state more than ever

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Shocked by the ‘poverty cycle’, British reformers created a safety net for casual workers. Now precarious working conditions are back, and the welfare state is under attack. By Chris Renwick The Guardian Tucked away behind York Minster – the grand cathedral adorned with medieval stained-glass windows that dominates the North Yorkshire city’s skyline – is a cobbled street that has become an informal labour exchange. Each day, just before lunch, couriers dressed in the distinctive mint green and black uniform ... Read More »

Beijing Adopts New Tactic for S. China Sea Claims

This picture taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial view of a reef near the island of Thitu, with what are believed to be anchored Chinese boats, in the disputed Spratly islands. 
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana flew to a disputed South China Sea island on April 21, brushing off a challenge by the Chinese military while asserting Manila's territorial claim to the strategic region. / AFP PHOTO / Ted ALJIBE        (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Four Sha’ island groups replace illegal 9-Dash Line The Chinese government recently unveiled a new legal tactic to promote Beijing’s aggressive claim to own most of the strategic South China Sea. Bill Gertz The new narrative that critics are calling “lawfare,” or legal warfare, involves a shift from China’s so-called “9-Dash Line” ownership covering most of the sea. The Washington Free Beacon The new lawfare narrative is called the “Four Sha”—Chinese for sand—and was revealed by Ma Xinmin, deputy director ... Read More »

Explainer: what legal benefits do married couples have that de facto couples do not?

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Opponents of marriage equality often say that married and de facto couples already have the same rights To what extent is this true? Hannah Robert  Fiona Kelly  And, in legal terms, how much do the differences matter? The Conversation In an opinion piece last week, former prime minister Tony Abbott claimed: ”Already, indeed, same-sex couples in a settled domestic relationship have exactly the same rights as people who are married.” This isn’t true. At the most fundamental level, same-sex couples ... Read More »

War triumphs over sex in British films

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Britons have made more films about war than any other subject, including sex, according to new research. © 4CA The British Film Institute has looked at its new archive of more than 10,000 UK films, from the first released in cinemas, in 1911, to the present day. It found that more British films (582) have been made about war – from The Dam Busters (1955) to this year’s Dunkirk, starring Harry Styles – than any other… That number towers over ... Read More »

Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis Meets Reality

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The news coverage of Myanmar over the past several months has led many people to conclude that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the country, has abandoned her responsibility to protect human rights. Kevin Rudd * The New York Times Hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya ethnic minority are being expelled by the military from lands in western Myanmar, where they have lived for centuries. By any standard, we are witnessing the most fundamental ... Read More »

Trump at the United Nations: Derangement and Delusion Reign Supreme

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If any further proof were needed that the United States has descended into the realm of magical thinking, there could be no clearer example than Donald Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly on 19 September 2017. James O’Neill Dissident Voice In 40 minutes of what can only be described as a barely coherent and dangerous rant, Trump revealed how the United States has totally lost its grip on reality.  Some brief extracts from the speech illustrate its essential horrors.  ... Read More »