Justice

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UK Politics

The Great British break-off

It’s no longer fashionable to wonder whether the latest Great British sporting achievement might—in fact—be the last. Yet as Andy Murray, a Scot in Saltire blue, chipped the ball delicately over the head of David Goffin to claim Britain’s first Davis Cup for 79 years, that insistent question was the only thing that returned. For the team of two Scots and two Englishmen had prevailed on Belgian soil, in the heartland of the European Union: the place that is likely to be pivotal in determining whether there will still be a British team at international championships like this in 79 years’ time.

…up in a puff of smoke

It probably came as a surprise to most to see that The Economist’s ‘Country of the Year’ for 2013 was Uruguay.  Their decision was in no small part down to the nation’s recent move to regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis.

Drugs and driving: Road tripping

“IT was like any other accident. Except for one thing—when the speeding Vauxhall Astra collided with 14 year-old Lillian Groves on June 26th 2010, the man behind the wheel, John Page, was high on cannabis. He was tested nine hours later, by which time the drug’s concentration in his bloodstream was too low for him to be charged with drug driving.”

An Interview with Peter Hitchens: Shouting into the Wind

“I didn’t arrange that,” Peter Hitchens blushes.  A stranger has just told him of her appreciation for everything he stands for and, for once, he’s been caught off guard, disarmed by praise.  The stone wall of rhetoric, dogmatic conviction and obduracy against which I’ve been fighting an attritional struggle for the past hour is felled in an instant.  And I can’t help feeling relieved.

How I wish the prohibition addicts would go cold-turkey

“Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse – for both the addict and the rest of us.” Thus, the late Milton Friedman outlined the scourge of a generation: how we deal with the drug problem. It has become the misguided moral crusade of major global superpowers to act as noble warriors in the so-called “War on Drugs”, fighting the “good” fight in lands far and wide, myopically neglecting to respond to the bitter consequences and consistent failures. World leaders must wake up and smell the coffee; the criminalisation of drugs merely acts as the worst possible palliative. And we’re hooked.

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Human Rights

Who’s Afraid of Milo Yiannopoulos?

“I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency,” argued Adam Morgan’s article in The Guardian last week. The editor-in-chief of The Chicago Review of Books was justifying his magazine’s decision to boycott publisher Simon & Schuster in 2017. Why? For publishing a book whose author he finds repulsive.

Manufacturing injustice

As Apple’s website displayed a poignant tribute to the man who made technology beautiful, very few of us spared a thought for those who made his dreams a reality: people like Wang Ling, Li Rongying and Lu Xin.  They are just three of 23 workers at Foxconn, Apple’s Chinese manufacturer, who have committed suicide since 2010.  Systemic abuse of workers’ employment and, dare I say it, human rights have been obfuscated by the lure of the dancing pixels – and you and I are part of the reason why.

Will the real Aung San Suu Kyi please stand up?

When Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her landmark acceptance speech after being awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, she made a plea on behalf of victims of persecution worldwide: “Wherever suffering is ignored,” she observed with characteristically understated defiance in her voice, “there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages”.  How right she was.  How different, though, from her non-committal response last week to whether Rohingya demands for justice in Myanmar should be satisfied: “I don’t know”.  Was it pusillanimity, hypocrisy or just a slip of the tongue?

Stamping out FGM

In the time it takes you to read this article, over 50 young girls will have their clitoris hacked out. What are you going to do about it?

‘Working like a machine? Have a break. Have a Kit-Kat.’

In the shadows of a trade worth up to $80 billion per year lurks an industry notoriously shy of scrutiny. As we gorge upon our favourite luxurious treat, we don’t spare a thought for those involved in its production. A cloak of hideous secrecy tucks exploitation away, safe from ubiquitous discovery. The reality is harrowing: beneath the rich, luscious surface of our sweet delight resides a clandestine dystopia filled to the brim with the veiled stench of child labour.

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International Politics

An Interview with Peter Hitchens: Shouting into the Wind

“I didn’t arrange that,” Peter Hitchens blushes.  A stranger has just told him of her appreciation for everything he stands for and, for once, he’s been caught off guard, disarmed by praise.  The stone wall of rhetoric, dogmatic conviction and obduracy against which I’ve been fighting an attritional struggle for the past hour is felled in an instant.  And I can’t help feeling relieved.

On the right to bear arms

It’s at times like this when I can feel every inch of the 3,675 miles that separates London from Washington DC.  Oakland, Aurora, Oak Creek, New York City, Minneapolis, Brookfield, Newtown – and that’s just 2012’s mass shootings.  I could fill this entire article with the names of the wounded and the dead.  It’s almost too much to take in.  Never has the American anti-gun lobby had more ammunition.  And yet, as it stands, I’m more inclined to despair for it than to hope.

The war that never ends

“What is the fundamental question one must ask of the world? I would think and posit many things, but the answer was always the same: Why is the child crying?”

The Divine Ultimatum

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength.  Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

Will the real Aung San Suu Kyi please stand up?

When Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her landmark acceptance speech after being awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, she made a plea on behalf of victims of persecution worldwide: “Wherever suffering is ignored,” she observed with characteristically understated defiance in her voice, “there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages”.  How right she was.  How different, though, from her non-committal response last week to whether Rohingya demands for justice in Myanmar should be satisfied: “I don’t know”.  Was it pusillanimity, hypocrisy or just a slip of the tongue?

Long live the king?

It was the great 16th Century French essayist Michel de Montaigne who best expressed the idea that travel broadens the mind: “Je ne sache point meilleure école à former la vie”.* To travel, though, is not only to learn more about ourselves, but also to catch what we may be tempted to label brief glimpses of truth, glimpses that are rarely – if ever – afforded to those who live, day in and day out, in the pell-mell of our destinations. An outsider’s empiricism is often the best kind: nonpartisan, unflinching, honest.

‘Friends who care are friends who criticise.’

“I can’t imagine so many people coming to see me in Tel Aviv,” Gideon Levy quips with a wry smile. Jewish Book Week is hosting a controversial interview session (some had threatened to boycott it) with one of the most hated men in Israel, one of the relatively few ‘nice Jewish boys’ gone bad, representative of an “anti-Zionism [that] has become stupid and evil” according to Irit Linur, an Israeli author. Described as a modern-day prophet by Noam Chomsky, Levy has reported from inside the Occupied Territories for nearly three decades, with the aim of “rehumanising the Palestinians”. Despite all the opprobrium his reporting has generated, including having been labelled “one of the propagandists for Hamas” by Ben Dror Yemini, editor of Maariv, he still considers himself an Israeli patriot.

How I wish the prohibition addicts would go cold-turkey

“Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse – for both the addict and the rest of us.” Thus, the late Milton Friedman outlined the scourge of a generation: how we deal with the drug problem. It has become the misguided moral crusade of major global superpowers to act as noble warriors in the so-called “War on Drugs”, fighting the “good” fight in lands far and wide, myopically neglecting to respond to the bitter consequences and consistent failures. World leaders must wake up and smell the coffee; the criminalisation of drugs merely acts as the worst possible palliative. And we’re hooked.

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Miscellaneous

Who’s Afraid of Milo Yiannopoulos?

“I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency,” argued Adam Morgan’s article in The Guardian last week. The editor-in-chief of The Chicago Review of Books was justifying his magazine’s decision to boycott publisher Simon & Schuster in 2017. Why? For publishing a book whose author he finds repulsive.

Technophobes: Disconnected

“IT IS perhaps easy to forget that not everyone is connected to the internet. But one in five Britons do not use the web. Fully 16% of British adults have no internet access in their homes. A study from Ipsos-MORI attributes this phenomenon to two interlinking factors: ability and security. Of those who are not regularly plugged in, a large proportion would like to be better at navigating it. They can only perform basic activities, such as searching the web or sending an email.”

Abuse on Twitter: Troll attack

“THERE was a time when trolls were creatures you would find hidden away in Scandinavian caves and J.R.R. Tolkien novels. Today they are infesting the internet. Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner, Stella Creasy, a member of Britain’s parliament, and Mary Beard, a classics professor, are their latest high-profile victims. All three have chosen to retweet just some of the disgusting messages they have received since July 24th, when it was announced that an image of Jane Austen would appear on the next £10 note. Ms Criado-Perez had petitioned the Bank of England to choose a female figure.”

iWill?

When we log out for the final time, will our digital selves outlive us?  European companies like SecureSafe and Planned Departure have recently begun to address the issue of data rights after death.  The concept is not just theoretical: since July 2012, the parents of dead teenager Alison Atkins have been unable to access images, messages and poems that are locked away in cyberspace.

Time to put a stop to celeb fever

“You’re not anyone in America unless you’re on TV”. In one fell swoop, Nicole Kidman proffered a sad indictment of a culture on the brink. As the consequences of ‘celebrity’ metastasise day by day, we wallow in a mire of intellectual degradation. Leave your dignity at the door, and enter if you dare. In the age of celebrity for celebrity’s sake, it’s less a case of what’s in the public’s interest, than what’s interesting to the public. And we’re hooked.

Up in flames

Ignorance breeds intolerance; it’s just a shame to see the media fuelling it. The rapacious hounds of the tabloid press have played out the burn-the-Koran farce with their habitual feigned indignation, succeeding in whipping up a media tornado that serves only to fan the flames of hatred. A wisp of smoke billowing from a lonely Koran would hardly have changed the world. Yet as a media ruckus hysterically dramatises a non-event, we merely raise a plinth from which Pastor Jones’ contemptible preaching can reach a wider audience.

How I pine for South Africa’s muffled cries and drowned tears to be noticed

“Didier Drogba is just over there, but what does that do to help me?” As the harmonious discord of the vuvuzela imbues the glossy stadiums swathed in the sickening glow of African democratic pseudo-success, South Africa’s reality is laden with mass poverty, unemployment, inequality, crime and death. The World Cup simply acts as a diversion, fixing a shameless, unflinching barrier in front of the harsh actualities of day-to-day life. We flock to the Rainbow Nation in a forced migration of millions who will leave as quickly as they came; money is doubtless injected but where does it go?

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Interviews

An Interview with Peter Hitchens: Shouting into the Wind

“I didn’t arrange that,” Peter Hitchens blushes.  A stranger has just told him of her appreciation for everything he stands for and, for once, he’s been caught off guard, disarmed by praise.  The stone wall of rhetoric, dogmatic conviction and obduracy against which I’ve been fighting an attritional struggle for the past hour is felled in an instant.  And I can’t help feeling relieved.

Spare a thought for philosophy: An interview with A.C. Grayling

“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation.  Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose.  We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves.  And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend.

An interview with David Miliband

“If you ask that, you’re dead”. Perhaps asking Philip Mudd, a senior CIA and FBI operative, what question he most feared was a naïve error of judgment. But I certainly didn’t expect a death threat. Fortunately for me, David Miliband’s congenial persona swept away the atmosphere of a Guantanamo interrogation room.

An interview with Johann Hari

“If Jesus comes back, we’ll kill him again”. Johann Hari, award-winning columnist for The Independent, is telling me about a slogan on a t-shirt that got him into a little trouble in a library. He speaks with a kind of schoolboy exhilaration, a mischievous grin on his face and a glint in his eye. Very few people would sport such a provocative item of clothing in a public place, but I soon realise that Hari isn’t one to shy away from controversy. His articles are invariably outspoken and fearless; he has been the subject of numerous death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, had his effigy burned on the streets of India, and been called fat by the Dalai Lama. Yet despite this reputation, he immediately strikes me as a humane and congenial man. As we meet under the red-and-white awning of a Hampstead café, I am greeted by an outstretched arm and a broad, Cheshire-cat smile.

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Religion

An Interview with Peter Hitchens: Shouting into the Wind

“I didn’t arrange that,” Peter Hitchens blushes.  A stranger has just told him of her appreciation for everything he stands for and, for once, he’s been caught off guard, disarmed by praise.  The stone wall of rhetoric, dogmatic conviction and obduracy against which I’ve been fighting an attritional struggle for the past hour is felled in an instant.  And I can’t help feeling relieved.

The Divine Ultimatum

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength.  Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

Spare a thought for philosophy: An interview with A.C. Grayling

“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation.  Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose.  We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves.  And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend.

Hatemongering in the name of God

“Viva il Papa!” the crowd cheered rapturously, as Pope Benedict XVI clambered back onto two feet. The pinnacle of the Catholic religion, and one of the most powerful and influential men in the world, had been sent to the ground by a woman dressed in a red sweater just a few hours before delivering his Christmas Day message. Having burst through barriers guarded by stern-faced Vaticanites, Susanna Maiolo had pounced on His Holiness, and was subsequently dispatched to a psychiatric centre to seek help.

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Business

Corporate names: Verbal identities

“ONE has to go back 213 years to find the first TSB branch in the small parish of Ruthwell, Scotland. The bank, which grew and eventually merged with Lloyds 18 years ago, is now going it alone once again. And it opted to keep its old 19th century name, which is a curious choice: it runs counter a trend in corporate naming, particularly in banking.”

The toy industry: Child’s play

“TWO toy industry heavyweights are in unfamiliar territory: they are watching their numbers tumble. Hasbro’s year-on-year operating profit was down 11% in the last quarter and Mattel’s net income fell 24%. Sales of Barbie, a Mattel property, plunged for the fourth quarter running, this time by 12%. After Buzz Lightyear’s first flight across Andy’s room in Toy Story,Sherriff Woody says mockingly, “That wasn’t flying! That was… falling with style!” Perhaps the same could be said of Hasbro and Mattel.”

Designer headphones: The sound of music

“FOR decades the market for expensive headphones was mainly limited to hi-fi buffs. But now that the boxy stereo system in the corner of the bedroom is largely a thing of the past, and young music fans listen mostly on portable devices, headphones have become as much of a fashion statement as the music player itself. Among the first to spot the potential of this market was Dr Dre, an American rapper-cum-tycoon.”

Male grooming: Razing prices

“TALK of hipster beards and three-day stubble is all well and good. But the shaving market might be seeing a far more significant change than that. Admittedly, it is not so much revolution as evolution, but developed-world consumers are starting to get fed up with trading up.”

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Environment

This is our ides of March – we have been warned

As a veil of iridescence casts a forlorn shadow over the undulating waves of the Gulf of Mexico, and Mt. Eyjafjallajokull spews plumes of volcanic ash into the high atmosphere, we are left wondering. Albeit that the latter was unpreventable and not a result of humanity’s destruction of the environment, one thing is certain: these stark, humbling reminders of the fragility and power of Mother Nature should prompt action. We have been confronted by one warning too many.

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austerity

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Sports

It’s meant to be the beautiful game – let’s try to keep it that way

I find it very hard to feel sympathetic for footballers.  But the image of A.C. Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng rifling the ball into the stands, ripping his shirt off, and storming off the pitch (the rest of his teammates in tow) in his club’s match against Pro Patria was certainly a poignant one.  “I don’t care what game it is,” Boateng said defiantly, “a friendly, Italian league or Champions’ League match – I would walk off again.”

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Reviews

Brian Westby: A Review

It’s a good job Forrest Reid didn’t write to be famous. Almost seventy years after his death, his novels gather dust in libraries: unthumbed and unadmired. Highly thought of by friends like E.M. Forster and Walter de la Mare during his lifetime, the Ulster writer has since fallen into obscurity. Until now, that is.

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immigration

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