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Anti-Islam is the new Anti-Catholicism

24 September 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

'No Popery' bannerThe justified insistence that Muslims should not constantly be called to account for the vicious behaviour of Islamic State is a reminder of the attitude towards Catholics in an earlier generation. They combined suspicion of anything Irish in the aftermath of the 1915 Uprising and more traditional judgments of Catholics on the basis of their beliefs and practices.

China calls a halt to dirty coal imports

23 September 2014 | Evan Ellis

Beijing hazeFrom 1 January 2015, China will ban the import of coal with high ash or sulphur content and impose a three per cent tariff on all coal imports. In the muddle of politics and policy, we have a concrete example of worsening environmental conditions forcing policy makers to act. Australia's economy propped up by coal exports, but it's also time to think beyond the specific implications of China’s proposed restrictions. 

The Kurds: fighting the good fight?

22 September 2014 | William Gourlay

Illustration from Molla NasreddinTurkey and Iran, the two major regional powers against whose borders ISIS jostles, have, each for their own reasons, declined to participate militarily in President Obama's action against ISIS. The likelihood or benefits of working in concert with Iran can be debated long and hard, but in the meantime the Kurds clearly emerge as the immediate go-to allies. Positioning them as such, and arming them, will change the dynamics of the region.

Kashmir's majestic allure

18 September 2014 | Catherine Marshall

HimalayasPeace has come to Kashmir, but it’s a tentative, fragile peace. My guide Younis swiftly apprises me of the virtues of his homeland: ‘Pakistan wants Kashmir, China wants Kashmir, India wants Kashmir. It is a very beautiful place and here we have [so much]: electricity grids, land, fruits.’ He pauses, then says, ‘But nobody likes Kashmiris.’

Women's lives the front line of conflict

17 September 2014 | Lulu Mitshabu

Lulu Mitshabu in DRC'It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict', says Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN Peacekeeping Operation commander in DRC. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. It has become more dangerous to be a woman collecting firewood or water than to be on the front lines as a fighter.

Scotland's brave quest for self-determination

15 September 2014 | Duncan MacLaren

Child with Scotland face-paintPrime Minister Tony Abbott’s remarks on the Scottish independence debate were front page news in Great Britain. If Mr Abbott had actually visited Scotland rather than follow the advice of the British PM, he would have seen that the whole debate had centred on the kind of society we wanted – one where social justice is paramount, our National Health Service is not privatised and rights are built into a written constitution.

Sovereign aspirations and political power games

14 September 2014 | Justin Glyn

Scotland referendumThe problem of who qualifies as a 'people' and what the content of the right is becomes particularly acute when the right to self-determination bumps up against that bedrock of international law, national sovereignty. In some cases, the problem goes away by agreement. The sad truth is that each side adopts the rhetoric that suits it and the result depends on the balance of political powers which each can muster. 

Abbott's foreign policy flops

11 September 2014 | Tony Kevin

Aus PM with Sec John KerrySince Richard Casey was External Affairs Minister in the 1950s, the three pillars of Australian foreign policy have been: a genuine reaching out to our Asian neighbours, adherence to UN-based multilateral values and institutions, and a firm but self-respecting defence partnership with the United States. All those pillars look pretty shaken now.

Telling good Kurds from bad

04 September 2014 | Binoy Kampmark

Women soldiers at Kurdistan borderA debate about arming, and reinforcing the Kurds, is not an open and shut case. European powers and the United States draw the false distinction that there are good Islamic militants and bad ones, with the bad ones supposedly against the Western military program. The game of backing and supporting misunderstood – and dangerous – groups persists.

Thanks for nothing, Adam and Eve

03 September 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Detail from Born Bad book coverJames Boyce claims that contemporary attitudes to politics, human origins, economics and human psychology can be understood only if we recognise the hidden presuppositions imported from the theology of original sin. Theories on human nature such as those proposed by Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud, Richard Dawkins and the US Founding Fathers, tried to emancipate people from religious ideas, but often unwittingly enshrined them.

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