Not since the Mao jacket, has a dress code been at the core of a cultural revolution. But now, a country’s new ban on the wearing of overt religious symbols in public schools has sparked a public furore of international dimension. One might have expected such a ban in a totalitarian country. But the country at issue here is France ? a staunch constitutional democracy, now in its Fifth Republic. American observers may wonder at this development, understandably: How is any of this even remotely imaginable in a country that, more than any other, prides itself on its constitutional tradition of civil liberties? However one looks at it, France’s law violates the very values - including secularism - that the French claim to hold dear.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may look nothing like Aphrodite, but he was born of the same element. According to legend, the sea foam from which the Greek goddess emerged was mixed with the blood of Uranus, castrated by his son Cronus. As a politician, Putin rose from the blood and muck of the Chechen war, and they have left their mark on his entire presidency. Endless war in the North Caucasus has proven to be Putin’s all-purpose campaign strategy. The four years of Putin’s first term, during which the war raged on unabated, have made clear that Russian voters are prepared to endure endless lies from their leaders about the latest “phase” of the “operation” in Chechnya, as well as a staggering number of Russian dead.
The interesting question is not why Abdul Qadeer Khan became a villain. That’s easy. Money, money, money. Nuclear physicists toiling away on ?15,000 tend to run short of it. No, the real question - the one with the legs and authentic WMD mushroom cloud - is why, to this day, he remains a hero to his own people. What, after all, is so heroic about flogging your country’s nuclear secrets and surplus kit to the likes of North Korea, Libya and Iran? Why should the average Pakistani peasant revere this clever, arrogant, corrupt creature of the army, an exporter of mass destruction? And yet, clearly, he does.
Ten years ago, deep in the Lacondon jungle in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas a movement arose like an early morning fog lifting up from the moist, rich ground. The Zapatista Revolution began, January 1, 1994, the same day NAFTA was implemented in Canada, the USA and Mexico. Today, the movement has enveloped almost all Latin American nations, especially those of South America. The Zapatista ripple is being turned into an Ibero-American tidal wave as hundreds of millions of citizens, mostly poor, indigenous, and living on somewhere near two dollars a day, are beginning to elect leaders with left leaning ideologies.
In a few weeks the good subjects of Britain will be given the annual announcement of the ?New Year Honours List?. Each year, a predictable collection of celebrities, politicians, business leaders, and general philanthropists, are ?honoured? by the Queen, in a list actually composed by the Prime Minister. The awards have been traditionally given only to ?pillars of the establishment?, but Tony Blair has broadened out the list to include ‘safe’ representatives of ?the minions?, to suit his vision of ?Cool Britannia?. Although invited, one person definitely NOT given an award (or any other, after this article) will be the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. Here, he gives his reason for turning down the offer to bend his head in front of the Queen, to become an ?Officer of the Order of the British Empire?.
What happened in Georgia last weekend was no spontaneous popular uprising by a disaffected, furious populace rebelling against a tyrant but rather, a campaign orchestrated from abroad to place a pro-west, pro-NATO sycophant on the throne in Tbilisi.
Eduard Shevardnadze told reporters that he believes that USA diplomatic staff were involved in the campaign of opposition that unseated him from power on Sunday. He said he couldn?t understand why he had been abandoned, after giving Washington full support in foreign policy, including on Iraq. Someone should have told him, his office was too close to the Caspian basin.
Osama Bin Laden has an awful lot of friends in Saudi Arabia. In the mosque, among the disenchanted youth, among the security forces, even - and this is what the West declines to discuss - within the royal family. Saudi ambassadors routinely dismiss these facts as “unfounded” but Saturday’s devastating attack in the capital, Riyadh, is part of a growing insurrection against Bin Laden’s enemies in the House of Saud.
Police dog bites cop outside Parliament House. Inside, Green Party leader Bob Brown breaks through a Coalition human shield to shake the hand of George Bush. It was that sort of day when George W Bush visited Australia, as its shuddering democracy proved that despite John Howard’s best efforts at total control, it still refused to privilege form over substance and still insisted on being heard.
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