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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.

Why Australia is missing the revolution

18 February 2016 | J. R. Hennessy

Donald DrumpfThe aftershocks of the late-century push for liberalisation and the GFC have bred generations of dislocated voters who seek answers outside of the limited solutions of centrist governance. This provides ample opportunity for true progressive change, as seen in Europe and Latin America, and now the US and UK. Where's Australia? Nowhere to be seen. It is hard to imagine a truly progressive candidate emerging from our ossified political structures. There are a few reasons for this.

A train traveller's view of life on both sides of the track

11 February 2016 | Catherine Marshall

Crossing the tracks in BangkokMy little sisters and I stand at the window and stare out at the passing world. The youngest is not yet two, and though she will grow to be six feet tall one day, for now she must stand on tiptoes to take it all in. We see children running beside the train, laughing and waving. My mother throws them the sandwiches left over from yesterday's lunch. Railway lines take the path of least resistance and the routes of most gain, and so they bring us right up close to the people who live alongside them.

Electing a president in an age of superheroes

07 February 2016 | Jim McDermott

Donald TrumpMany Americans want a President who speaks to their deepest dreams and ideals. A champion. Trump's vision of reality is the polar opposite of Obama's, a hellscape where foreigners, the unemployed (and women) are eroding society. But, like Obama, he has positioned himself as a champion of those filled with frustration, insisting it doesn't have to be this way. Bernie Sanders is in many ways the Trump of the left, a political outsider who says what progressive Americans have long been thinking.

Offers of sanctuary brighten Australia's refugee dark age

07 February 2016 | Justin Glyn

Gosford Anglican Church sign offering sanctuary to asylum seekersChurches across Australia have made headlines by offering sanctuary to those who stand to be returned to Nauru following the High Court ruling, including 37 babies and a raped five-year-old whose attacker still resides there. In doing so, they have been rediscovering an old concept and reminding the government what refugee law was for in the first place. As in the Dark Ages, where the organs of the state are unable or unwilling to protect the vulnerable, it is the churches who are speaking out.

The Bernie Sanders Factor in US and Australian elections

04 February 2016 | Fatima Measham

Bernie SandersThe Bernie Sanders phenomenon in the US, like Corbyn in the UK and Podemos in Spain, demonstrates the rhetorical potency of renewal; of politics not as usual. It is the sort of thing that resonates with disaffected young people. While it is not entirely sensible to extrapolate developments in the US to Australia, it is worth speculating on the impact of our own changing demographics. Are the major parties equipped to take advantage of these shifts? Are they appealing to a new Australia that is already here?

Australia's bridge-building role in Saudi-Iran dispute

17 January 2016 | Justin Glyn

American sailors detained in Iranian watersThe US, while backing Saudi Arabia, seems to be increasingly exasperated with how far it has to stick its neck out for its ally. Relationships with Iran, by contrast, have improved recently. The difficulty is that sections within both Iran and Saudi Arabia's governments seem to see a certain short-term interest in tearing the region apart. Australia, which has full diplomatic ties with Iran, a strong trade partnership with Saudi Arabia, and the ear of the US, can play an important diplomatic role.

2015 in review: Contemplating war in France

13 January 2016 | Bronwyn Lay

Bataclan Theatre in ParisAs I marched for Remembrance Day in our small village in France, I wondered, 'How long will these villages keep these ceremonies? When will someone decide these wars are too long ago or too far away?' Two days later, Paris was attacked. The news came like war does: sudden and violent. Then came declarations of a state of emergency and the closing of borders. My eldest daughter was over the border in Switzerland without a passport. War starts in increments, in the small ordinary worries of families.

Ai Weiwei is the cultural hero that China needs

15 December 2015 | Jeremy Clarke

Ai Weiwei overlooks his work Blossom (2015), which consists of thousands of flowers made from fine porcelain and grew out of his With Flowers project. It is here juxtaposed with Andy Warhol's work Flowers (1970). Photo by Jeremy ClarkeAi Weiwei might be more Dada than Dao and a hirsute satirist of Beijing's rulers, but he is no mere trending hashtag. Since his birth in 1957, his life history has moulded him, and given him the courage to speak up for a reformed China. And while he might appear the court jester that a simplistic West wants, he is in fact a clever and pragmatic political operator in his own world pursuing a rights agenda in a systematic, constructive and humorous way, often through artistic production.

Fragile earth will not be saved by Sunday

09 December 2015 | Bronwyn Lay

Paris 2015Located in Paris in the aftermath of the attacks, COP21 spookily mirrors how climate change politics occurs within complex and pre-existing power structures that determine its effectiveness. Social and environmental wars merge with increasing intensity: from Syria to the Arctic, from Indonesia to Paris. Climate change complexity matches the complexity of terrorism. Causal chains of social conflict are as complicated as carbon movements that result in environmental distress.

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