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Entry archive:

Four things we’ve learned from the U.S.-Germany spy scandal

DOUG SAUNDERS

On Thursday, Germany took the unprecedented move of expelling the CIA station chief (a U.S. embassy official official who remains unnamed) from the country. While the exposure or expulsion of the local CIA boss is a commonplace move in places like Russia and Pakistan, it is really unprecedented from a firm ally like Germany – a NATO partner that has numerous intelligence sharing relationships with Washington.

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Watch Kentucky. Even the safest of Republicans isn’t all that safe

KEVIN CARMICHAEL

Before long, the candidates fighting for a Senate seat in Kentucky will have raised enough money to donate a dollar to every Canadian alive.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s 35-year-old Secretary of State, are waging the most closely watched political contest in the country. The money – $34-million (U.S.) and counting – reflects the stakes.

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Time for Modi to deliver as India awaits a budget that sparkles

IAIN MARLOW

During India’s boisterous, five-week election campaign – amid the autorickshaw rallies, the name-calling and the meaningless faux-scandals – Narendra Modi was able to coast well above tough questions about how he would govern India, batting away fear-mongering insults and leaning back on his reputation as a capable administrator.

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A post-Cold War world forgets its debt to Georgia’s Silver Fox

MARK MACKINNON

Quietly, with little of the international recognition he deserved, one of the most important figures of the 20th century passed away Monday at his faded mansion overlooking the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi.

There was no statement from the White House to mark the death of Eduard Shevardnadze at age 86, and nothing from Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. Which is a pity. The world owes him a great debt.

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Canada got it right on immigration. Now it’s time to lead on refugees

COLIN ROBERTSON

The international refugee system needs a hand.

“Humanitarians can help as a palliative but political solutions are vitally needed,” remarked Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in recently releasing the UNCHR annual report.

It is a challenge that fits “no longer just to go along and get along,” the Harper government’s bumptious mantra for multilateral affairs. Useful lessons can be drawn from our experience and recent reforms to the Canadian migration and refugee system.

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Can Indonesian democracy survive a strongman?

NATHAN ALLEN

On July 9, Indonesian voters will choose a new president. The outcome could reverse democratic gains made in the past 15 years in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

To subvert Indonesian democracy from within, an aspiring strongman must gather a coalition capable of fielding a presidential candidate, win over a majority of voters and then use power to alter Indonesia’s institutions. A former general, Prabowo Subianto, is close to completing the first two tasks, but the third will be more difficult. He envisions returning to the institutions of the authoritarian era, but does not yet have the political support required to enact his plans. Even if democracy survives, though, Canada-Indonesia relations could be strained by the candidate’s ambition and record of human-rights abuses.

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Egypt’s year of lesser evils comes full circle

OMAR EL AKKAD

It is somewhat fitting that, on the anniversary of the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Tahrir Square was closed.

Authorities blocked access to the heart of Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution last week, following a series of bomb blasts near the country’s presidential palace. Where once there were hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians calling for an end to a multidecade authoritarian regime, there is now a cordon of armoured military vehicles.

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Israelis and Palestinians both guilty of incitement

PATRICK MARTIN

These are dark days in Israel and the Palestinian community. People on both sides are furious about brutal acts perpetrated by the other side and fearful of what will come next. Those in mixed communities such as Jerusalem are bolting their doors and keeping their teenage children off the streets.

In southern Israel, rockets are once again flying and people are sleeping in shelters; while, in Gaza, people wish they had such shelters as they look out at the growing number of Israeli troops and tanks pointed toward them.

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U.S.-India relations: From bad to worse

IAIN MARLOW

As he campaigned in India’s recent national elections, Narendra Modi regularly drove around his home state of Gujarat in a convoy that included an SUV outfitted with high-tech signal-jamming equipment. I saw it myself at a campaign stop in Gandhinagar, the state capital.

It was one part of a sophisticated election campaign that paid a lot of attention to modern technology – from Mr. Modi’s hologram appearances at rallies to an incredibly well-organized online and social-media campaign that garnered favourable comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama’s tech-savvy campaign in 2008.

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Chicago, the city of Al Capone, fights back on guns

DAVID SHRIBMAN

For more than 120 years, gangs – often unfettered, often downright brazen – have operated in Chicago. In earlier days, a booze-and-bullets period celebrated in noir novels and in Hollywood thrillers, gangsters and pimps operated openly, sometimes proudly, in the city’s streets. Racketeers ran wild – and ran houses of prostitution and gambling dens. They were known by monikers like Bloody, The Devil, and Shotgun Man. Or they went by their real names: Al Capone and John Dillinger.

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Oil exports point to long, secret relationship between Israel and Iraqi Kurds

PATRICK MARTIN

Some of the first oil exported via a controversial new pipeline from the Kurdistan Regional Government arrived, of all places, at the Israeli port of Ashkelon last week, the latest upshot of a long, secret relationship between Israel and the Kurds of northern Iraq.

The oil was transported by pipeline from the KRG to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, a route intended to bypass the main Iraqi pipeline and give Kurds more freedom to export oil independently. Wary of the threat of lawsuits by the central Iraq government, however, and wanting to keep the oil’s destination secret, the crude apparently was loaded onto one tanker in Ceyhan, then transferred to a second, the SCF Altai, just off the coast of Malta. The Altai then proceeded to Ashkelon.

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For all the talk about the Tea Party, U.S. politics still an insiders’ game

DAVID SHRIBMAN

The important thing in American politics is what didn’t happen in Mississippi. The Tea Party candidate, Chris McDaniel, did not win. The incumbent, veteran Republican Senator Thad Cochran, did prevail. The natural order held.

This is not to say that the victory of an establishment politician – indeed, a moderate Republican looking for his seventh term in a state that once was reliably Democratic – over a conservative insurgent is the natural order of things. It is merely to say that for the past half century or so, incumbent American congressional figures tend to be re-elected.

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Canada can do more as Central African Republic nears ‘pre-genocide situation’

GEOFFREY YORK

When I visited hospitals and war zones in the Central African Republic in late February, the fleeing survivors would sometimes tell me their dream. “Bambari,” they would whisper, hoping to reach a town of almost legendary peacefulness, where Muslims and Christians lived side-by-side as neighbours without conflict.

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Chairman Xi’s little yellow book: The tome China can’t put down, or else

NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE

It sports a plain yellow cover and cheap paper that makes it look thinner than its 194 pages. But at 13 RMB per copy – $2.23, and even cheaper online – it is destined to become a bestseller in China, if for no other reason than every one of the 85 million members of China’s Communist Party have been ordered to read it.

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Al Jazeera verdict shows old habits die hard in el-Sissi’s Egypt

OMAR EL AKKAD

But for a brief blip these past few years, Egypt has for decades been a country in which there existed only one authorized point of view – and anyone who questioned it too loudly would soon find themselves doing so from the inside of a prison cell. Since the revolution of 2011, thousands of activists have struggled – and many lost their lives – in an effort to change that reality.

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Why Canada wants to feel more love from the U.S.

COLIN ROBERTSON

Living beside the United States, remarked Pierre Trudeau, is like sleeping with an elephant: “No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The twitching is getting to the Harper government and it has responded with a series of pokes.

A trio of senior ministers – John Baird, Joe Oliver, Greg Rickford – travelled to New York this month to voice what Stephen Harper calls our “profound disappointment” over the delayed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline. Said Mr. Oliver: “This isn’t right, this isn’t fair.”

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How the Shia world is warily watching Iraq’s ‘sickness’

SHENAZ KERMALI

Shenaz Kermali is a Canadian freelance journalist with an interest in faith and politics. She has previously worked for Al Jazeera English, BBC News and CBC Television.

Emotions are running high across the Shia world.

Within an hour after one of Shia Islam’s most revered clerics called for Iraqi citizens to bear arms and protect Shia holy shrines and cities in Iraq last Friday, a U.K.-based Shia television channel began receiving calls from British viewers asking if they should book a flight to Iraq to join the fight against al-Qaeda-inspired fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, sometimes known as ISIL).

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How the missing Israeli teenagers stoke feelings of tribal vengeance

PATRICK MARTIN

An intrepid journalist friend based in Israel said this week she was keen to get to Iraq to cover the current conflict there, but hated to leave Israel “at a time like this.”

She was referring to the ongoing search for three missing Israeli teenagers believed to have been abducted when they tried to hitch a ride home from their Jewish yeshivas located near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

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How Detroit hopes to get its groove back

DAVID SHRIBMAN

It was possible to see the signs of Detroit’s decay, even back when cars were the engine of the American economy, when Detroit was the world’s greatest factory town, when auto executives – meeting in urgent planning sessions but living in easy elegance – were known as whiz kids and one of them was Robert McNamara, the stylish, cerebral secretary of defence.

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What Nigeria’s government doesn’t know about Boko Haram

GEOFFREY YORK

To understand why the brutal Boko Haram insurgency continues to rumble onward with more deadly attacks and kidnappings, you only need to look at the Nigerian government’s confusion over its counterterrorism strategy – and its uncertainty over even the basic facts of the rebellion.

How many schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria in April? How many attackers were involved? The government does not actually know for sure. More than 200 girls are believed to be held hostage by Boko Haram, and perhaps as many as 300, but the government doesn’t know for certain – even after months of global controversy over the kidnapping.

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Patrick Martin

Covering the region since 2008, this is Patrick’s second tour as Middle East correspondent.

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Colin Robertson

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