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11 May 2017 |
It began 40 years ago on an autumn day, when 14 mothers gathered in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo, in the city's central square. They were seeking an audience with the military authorities. They wanted to ask the whereabouts of their abducted children. 'Where are our children?' was a question that metamorphosed into a brave act of political resistance and defiance against the brutal 1976-1983 Argentinean military dictatorship. They have been performing this act of defiance ever since.
08 May 2017 |
One of the big science stories in the last month has been the invention of an artificial womb. The device has successfully assisted a number of lamb foetuses to term, and scientists are hopeful it will also assist premature human babies. What a wonderful development, to alleviate the health complications for those tiny babies and reduce the heartache for their parents. But the potential of the invention does not stop there. Like all tools, humans could choose to put it to use in ways that are good or bad.
03 May 2017 |
For all his demonstrable popularity, Reagan was a divisive figure. His Hollywood and TV show provenance were regarded with enduring suspicion by some, and many doubted his capacity to deal with the dangerous complexities of Cold War politics. Some even considered him a rogue. He was well into enjoying his overwhelmingly approved second term when, unnoticed by the President, his administration or anyone outside the city of Eugene, Oregon, I arrived in the United States.
02 May 2017 |
For various reasons, 'free' education in Australia has been qualified by HECS, which actually serves to wedge the liquid incentive of government and educational institutions on the one hand with the need for students to obtain affordable education on the other. Even that balance is now under threat, with a pre-budget announcement suggesting cuts to university funding and increasing costs to student degrees are in the offing. Universities are far from blameless in the present distorted funding model.
23 April 2017 |
Australia has long had a successful migration program, and the country's economic success is proof of this. So when Turnbull calls a press conference to impart the news that 'membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia', he is making a redundant point. The vast majority of migrants and new citizens already do this.
23 April 2017 |
Fearful of the southward thrust of the Japanese, the Australian government entered East Timor against the wishes of its Portuguese colonisers. The move was not to protect the Timorese, but to thwart possible attacks on Australia. A band of intrepid Australian soldiers, never numbering more than 700, successfully held off thousands of Japanese in Timor, but only because they had the support of the local people. Between 40,000 and 60,000 Timorese died as a result of Japanese reprisals.
20 April 2017 |
Ypres' human collateral damage and displacement of those forced to flee is investigated at Ypres' In Flanders Fields Museum. The museum handbook parallels Belgian's WWI refugee exodus with the plight of refugees today fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and Africa. It's one way In Flanders Fields Museum is adopting a forward-looking approach to commemoration, pulling World War I's messages and themes out of 1918 and propelling them into the 21st century.
19 April 2017 |
Cherry blossom season in Japan is anticipated all winter long but when it arrives it is nothing more than a tease. It is a kind of new year, a starting over, a washing clean of the slate and beginning afresh. But these blossoms hold in their being the promise of death. 'With cherry blossoms, we start things over,' translates my guide, from a haiku. 'And we find beauty not only in the cherry blossoms but also in how they flutter to the ground.' It's from that fluttering that we derive the most valuable of lessons.
18 April 2017 |
A truculent rogue in the White House fumes at an upstart rogue in Pyongyang, both fumbling away in the kindergarten of blunder and realpolitik. How do they measure up in the stakes of rogue behaviour? Even conservative commentators such as Samuel Huntington noted in 1999 that the US is 'in the eyes of many countries ... becoming a rogue superpower'. International law, for the bomb-heavy bully, is a convenient moral reference when needed, but is avoided like a leper when it becomes an impediment.
09 April 2017 |
Absent a Security Council resolution, the US had operated independently, adopting a policing and punitive stance against the Assad regime. 'This action,' House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted, 'was appropriate and just.' If humanitarian intervention is supposedly engineered to punish a regime in breach of obligations to protect the civilian population, it starts looking, all too often, like an act of regime change. At what point is the distinction on such matters as proportion or necessity even credible?
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