Read Everywhere

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Humanitarian Missions

Will Vladimir Putin order direct military intervention in Ukraine? Russia already enables a free flow of Russian volunteers and mercenaries to fight against government forces in eastern Ukraine. It is supplying the rebels with weapons, vehicles and ammunition. It is shelling and rocketing Ukrainian territory daily, and promotes the portrayal of the Kiev government as cruel, illegitimate fascists in Russian-language media. The key leaders of the rebels, like Igor Strelkov, Alexander Borodai, Igor Bezler, Nikolai Kozitsyn and Vladimir Antyufeyev, are Russian citizens or Russian nationalists from ex-Soviet territories under Russian control. More »

At the Islamic University in Gaza

We pulled up to the shining blue facade of the main hall of the Islamic University in Gaza in the summer of 2012. The Palestine Festival of Literature was running a seminar and an afternoon of workshops with students from the Arabic and English departments. Jamal Mahjoub, Selma Dabbagh and Amr Ezzat spoke to a packed auditorium of around 200 students, mostly young women, all veiled. The university enforces a dress code. Someone smiled at me from the crowd and it was a full three seconds before I recognised my friend and colleague Rana. She is not normally veiled. But this is the university with the best facilities. More »

Salmond v. Darling

At eight o’clock yesterday evening, Alan Titchmarsh: Love Your Garden aired on ITV in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scottish TV broadcast a two-hour live debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow. Billed as an evening that would decide the future of the United Kingdom, the first televised debate ahead of next month’s independence referendum was available only to viewers in Scotland. (The STV live stream, accessible throughout the union, reportedly crashed early on.) More »

In Paraty

Paraty, midway between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, was a place of periodic trade booms in the colonial era, variously dominating Brazil’s gold-mining industry, cachaça distilling and (briefly) coffee exports. Since 2002, it has hosted Flip, the Paraty International Literary Festival, modelled on Hay-on-Wye. Once reliant on exports, the city now depends on the import of culture. More »

Terrorist Language

‘We tortured some folks,’ Barack Obama admitted the other day, in a speech hailed as an unflinching mea culpa for the post 9/11 ‘enhanced interrogation’ programme. It’s not the first time Obama has reached for the F-word. In a speech in New Britain, Connecticut, earlier this year, Obama addressed the spiny question of the US’s yawning inequality. ‘There are folks at the top who are doing better than ever… we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others.’ Happily, the president was battling to make sure ‘hardworking folks’ got a rise. They included the good ‘folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes. The country should pay those folks a wage you can live on.’
More »

It isn’t about the tunnels

Israel’s justifications for its assault on Gaza have shifted more than once since Operation ‘Brother’s Keeper’ was launched on 12 June, supposedly in response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. The rockets ‘raining down terror’ on Israel (they have so far killed three people, giving them a kill rate of 0.1 per cent) were the reason given for the launch of operation ‘Protective Edge’ on 8 July; the ground invasion of Gaza on 17 July was said to be aimed at destroying a series of tunnels leading into Israel. More »

One-Eyed Knowledge

This week the European Union, with Angela Merkel at its head, fired off a communiqué over the signatures of José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy slapping sanctions on Russia after last month’s downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. In the self-important way of these texts, it bemoans Vladimir Putin’s failure to accord the EU the respect that it sees as commensurate with its sense of its own importance. Apropos the dusty greeting that the Russians have given its previous communiqués, the Union tut-tuts that

our call has been, in practice, left unheeded. Arms and fighters continue flowing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation. Strong Russian State sponsored nationalist propaganda continues supporting the illegal actions of armed separatists.

In a parallel world, recognisably similar to but at some distance from our own, EU gnomes behind their plate-glass kraal in Brussels solemnly debate sanctioning Israel for wrecking hospitals and the wholesale murder of civilians, such as blowing children playing beach football in Gaza to pieces. More »

At Victoria Miro

Room, 2013

Born in Trivandrum in 1959, Celia Paul studied at the Slade and became a pupil of Lucian Freud (they also had a son). At her first solo show at the Victoria Miro Gallery, Freud’s influence is clear – not only in the psychological intensity of her paintings but in the inventive richness of her surfaces. Thin, iridescent glazes summon up a plane tree shadow on a wall and the ghostly skeleton of the Post Office Tower, while the self-portraits in her painter’s smock are heavily worked impasto canvases. More »

Disgrace

The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, denounced the bombing of the UN school in Gaza as ‘outrageous’ and ‘unjustifiable’. His officials have described the massacres as a ‘disgrace to the world’. Who stands disgraced? The UN General Assembly has regularly voted in favour of an independent Palestine. It is the Security Council that has vetoed the very thought and the Security Council, as everyone knows, is dominated by the United States; on this issue, Russia and China have remained on message. More »

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