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Reconciling with president-elect Duterte

12 May 2016 | Fatima Measham

DuterteThe campaign left me bewildered. The things Duterte represents - vigilantism, unilateralism and violence - aren't these the same things that Filipino human rights activists had fought against? Is this now the preferred template for imposing order? I parsed post after post on social media, trying to working out what I was missing. For months I asked myself, what the hell went wrong? It is only lately that I'm beginning to accept that I got the wrong end of the question. What went wrong? Everything.

Face to face with the dark side of paradise

28 April 2016 | Catherine Marshall

Samoa cyclone skyIt can be a dangerous thing, travelling to paradise. Those turquoise lagoons and white beaches and lush hills often conceal a more sinister side, a Mr Hyde to the brochures' bright-and-shiny Dr Jekyll. So it was on Samoa this week, when Cyclone Amos skirted by. We were told it was headed for Samoa's main island, Upolu, where we were staying. Still, we felt calm, for there wasn't a breath of wind in the sky. Later, at the height of it, I stood up in the dark, opened the curtains and looked outside.

Paying for stopping the boats

28 April 2016 | Kerry Murphy

xxxxxThis week we learnt that the human rights protection for asylum seekers in our former colony Papua New Guinea are more protected by the PNG constitution than they would be in Australia. The PNG government has quickly moved not to change the law and constitution, but to make arrangements to close the centre and ask Australia to take back the asylum seekers. Already PNG lawyers are talking about claims for compensation for the unlawful detention, and rightly so.

Cheque book solution on asylum is unconstitutional

27 April 2016 | Frank Brennan

Placard reads Close Australian Concentration CampsA bench of five justices of the Supreme Court of Justice, the highest court in Papua New Guinea, has unanimously ruled that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is unconstitutional. Yet again, Australia has been complicit in its Pacific neighbours (PNG and Nauru) prostituting their Constitutions and undermining the rule of law in exchange for a fistful of dollars, with hapless asylum seekers, most of whom are ultimately proved to be refugees, being left to languish.

Francis in Lesbos confronts the unforgivable sin

18 April 2016 | Gillian Bouras

The Power and the Glory by Graham GreenPope Francis recently visited the island of Lesbos, another scene of immigrants' dire suffering, and surprised the world by taking 12 refugees back to Rome with him. Bernie Sanders asserted that the Pope, in his gesture of hope, is surely the greatest demonstration against a surrender to despair. I am still partly persuaded by Graham Greene's view of despair as being the unforgivable sin, but I'm also giving some thought to the distressing matter of indifference.

Invincible Nikitas learns to lose

05 April 2016 | Gillian Bouras

Nikitas on the track at Ancient Olympia, wearing the 'crown' his father made.My grandson Nikitas is ten. When his name was chosen I was haunted by memories of Russian leader Khruschev and his long-ago shoe-banging performance at the United Nations. My son and daughter-in-law patiently explained that their son was to be called after Nikitaras, a hero of the Greek War of Independence. Thankfully, young Nikitas does not divide the world into friends and enemies, at least not so far. But he is very competitive; perhaps his name, which means invincible, influences his outlook.

Life beyond Brussels and Paris terror

03 April 2016 | Catherine Marshall

Brussels explosionWhen suicide bombers struck Brussels, I was travelling far from home, in southern Italy. The news evoked in me a sense of vulnerability, for within days I would board a series of flights from Reggio Calabria to Rome to Abu Dhabi and then Sydney. For a moment, it seemed the terrorists had achieved what they set out to do: spread fear and distrust far beyond the site of their attacks, across countries and continents and oceans so that eventually the whole world would be infected.

Sanders preaches progress, but Clinton embodies it

10 March 2016 | Megan Graham

Hillary ClintonEven if his views and rhetoric are radical, everything else about Sanders is so within our comfort zones that they become more palatable. It's difficult for any progressive to get into power without aligning with powerful groups, whether they be politics, class, culture or gender-based. And Clinton is already disqualified from a club with arguably the most stubborn membership of all - the 'boys club'. For any feminist, it's hard to view the installation of the first female president as anything but progressive.

View from the brink of the age of Drumpf

03 March 2016 | Jim McDermott

Donald DrumpfOn Sunday Drumpf demurred when asked how he felt about former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke voicing his support for a Drumpf presidency. And yet he still swept the polls in the American Super Tuesday primaries, racking up wins in eight of 11 states. Under Barack Obama the US has had eight years of largely responsible, idealistic executive leadership. Yet rather than shepherding in a new hope-filled era, we find ourselves standing before a chasm of largely uncontrolled id.

Good and bad news about the Syria ceasefire

24 February 2016 | Justin Glyn

Putin on ceasefireThere is cause for both optimism and scepticism in the news that the US and Russia have agreed a ceasefire in Syria. On the face of it, one of the world's bloodiest civil wars is about to come to an end; an end to be guaranteed by the two biggest, best armed militaries on the planet. This should be excellent news for everybody, not least the long suffering civilian population of one of the most bombed countries on earth. So what could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot.

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