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A Dangerous Man in the Pantheon

By Allston Mitchell in Arts and Culture, October 15, 2013

This October marks 300 years since the birth of French Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot, best known for co-founding the Encylopédie. Philipp Blom argues that Diderot’s philosophical writings offer a pertinent alternative to the Enlightenment cult of reason spearheaded by his contemporaries Voltaire and Rousseau.

Democracy in Neat Packages

By Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere in Politics, October 14, 2013

On 30 September Prime Minister Erdoğan presented his long-awaited democracy package. It does not make Turkey less democratic, but by this method it will take decades for the country become fully democratic.

Maximum Bibi

By Daniel Levy in Politics, October 8, 2013

Peace in the Middle East? Not if Benjamin Netanyahu has anything to say about it. The current standoff with Iran is an extremely useful way of distracting attention from the Palestinian issue, and a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran would likely shine more of a spotlight on Israel’s own nuclear weapons capacity.

Fukushima Forever

By Charles Perrow in Environment, October 4, 2013

Charles Perrow, Professor of Sociology at Yale University on the recent disclosures that tons of radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima reactors are spilling into the ocean. However, the incompetence ot TEPCO and the decision of the Japanese government to step in may be the least of our worries. Much more serious is the danger that the spent fuel rod pool at the top of the nuclear plant number four will collapse.

The Potemkin village is inhabited

By Rodric Braithwaite in Politics, October 2, 2013

The 2013 Valdai Conference was held at a Potemkin village halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg. Putin was holding court with a select group of guests, to hear him talk about “Russia’s Diversity for the Modern World.” Former Ambassador to Russia, Rodric Braithwaite, makes sense of it.

The Banded Stilt Project

By Alastair Wood in Features,

Known for its boom and bust ecological strategy, the Australian Banded Stilt breeds only when large desert salt lakes fill. This year’s rains brought 20,000 of these shorebirds to Lake Torrens in South Australia. Alastair Wood joined the research team monitoring this rare event.

No “Cake Walk” for Kenya in Somalia

By David Zarembka in Politics, September 29, 2013

When Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011, it overturned a 48-year-old policy of not involving itself in the armed conflicts of its neighbors. Kenya had previously been in a position to broker peace agreements in the region but now as a belligerent in Somalia it will have no such possibility.

A Brief History of Climate Change

By Alice Bell in Environment,

I don’t want to alarm you, but earlier this summer, the North Pole melted. Here’s a picture taken from North Pole Environmental Observatory of a buoy floating on water there. Floating, because it melted. You might have seen headlines about it. But you probably didn’t. There were a few reasons for that. I’ll explain later.

The Middle East: a long-term view

By Foulath Hadid - Mishana Hosseinioun in Features,

The Arab world’s problems of conflict and misrule are deeply rooted in the region’s history. But its awakened peoples’ demands for accountable government and a new social contract offer hope, say Foulath Hadid (1937-2012) and Mishana Hosseinioun.

16 days in Australian politics

By Felicity Ruby in Politics, September 24, 2013

Australia’s 7 September election produced a conservative government that has acted swiftly on promises to reduce aid, increase defence spending and dismantle efforts to address climate change. However, a hostile Senate until July 2014 may block its legislative agenda.