Category Archives: Europe

Das Paradies der anderen

Die Atlantikinsel Bermuda ist vor allem für Steuervermeidung von Großkonzernen bekannt. Doch was öffentlichen Kassen weltweit schadet, produziert auch eine Katastrophe vor Ort.

Wenn Angeline Pitt am Strand namens Nine Beaches auf Bermuda entlanggeht, kommen ihr dramatische Erinnerungen. Vor wenigen Wochen noch war ihr der karibisch anmutende Ort mit fast türkisblauem Wasser, feinkörnigem Sand und schattigen Palmen der letzte Zufluchtsort, an dem sie ihr Auto abstellte. Das Fahrzeug war alles, was sie noch hatte. Nach dem Tod ihres Mannes hat sie ihr Haus verloren, das Auto wurde ihr einziges Dach über dem Kopf, in dem sie Tag und Nacht verbrachte. Sie wusch sich in öffentlichen Toiletten und kaufte nur trockene Lebensmittel, die in Bermudas subtropischer Hitze nicht sofort verderben. Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände brachte sie im Kofferraum unter.

Ihren Job als Kellnerin hätte die 49-Jährige während dieser Zeit fast verloren. “Ich kam oft zu spät zur Arbeit, weil ich die ganze Nacht nur geweint habe”, erzählt sie. “Ich lebte von der Hand in den Mund, auch wenn ich keine Miete zu zahlen hatte, reichte es gerade mal für Lebensmittel und das Auto.” Angeline ist mit ihrem Schicksal nicht allein auf Bermuda, wo es für Menschen wie sie ein eigenes Wort gibt: Die “working poor”, also die “arbeitenden Armen” sind Einheimische, die trotz Vollzeitjob nicht einmal mehr das Nötigste haben. Ihre Zahl wächst ständig.

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Posted by on November 11, 2019 in Europe



Don’t buy the hype: Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal did not win approval

It’s not over. For a few anxious, or jubilant – depending on which tribe you belong to – minutes between 7.15pm and 7.30pm, it seemed as if the Brexit saga might just be on the verge of resolution, after three and a half agonisingly long years. The House of Commons voted to allow Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement bill to advance to the next stage, a prize that had eluded Theresa May not once, not twice, but three times.

What’s more, MPs gave it a green light more emphatically than even the most ardent Brexiters had dared hope. While May had been crushed by triple-figure majorities, Johnson won his meaningful vote by 329 to 299 votes, a majority of 30. Put another way, and as if to reflect this divided nation through what have become the defining numbers of the Brexit era, he won by 52% to 48%.

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Posted by on October 31, 2019 in Europe



Why Ambassador William Taylor’s Testimony Was So Damaging to Trump

News photos of Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr., leaving Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening showed him to be a white man with light-gray hair. He was wearing steel glasses and a dark suit. If you had to pick him out of a police lineup, about the only distinguishing feature that would help you are his thick eyebrows. But the chief diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev is no longer anonymous. With his testimony to House lawmakers, Taylor has made it a racing certainty that Democrats will bring impeachment charges against Donald Trump. Arguably, he has also removed the automatic presumption that Trump will survive an impeachment trial.

To be sure, impeachment charges have been likely ever since the House Intelligence Committee released a complaint from an anonymous intelligence whistle-blower, on September 26th, which alleged that the White House put a hold on military aid to Ukraine at the same time that Trump and his sidekick Rudy Giuliani were demanding that the recently elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, launch a pair of investigations—one into Ukraine’s possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, the other into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden. It was the whistle-blower’s complaint that prompted Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, to announce that an impeachment inquiry had officially begun, and to shift its focus from the purview of the Judiciary Committee to that of the Intelligence Committee.

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Posted by on October 28, 2019 in Europe, North America


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The Bridge to Nowhere: A Trip to the Pro-Russian Pseudo-State of Luhansk

The coffin wobbles slowly across the bridge, four men carrying it with a fifth following along behind bearing a decorated cross. The coffin tips forward as they carefully make their way down the steep wooden staircase. It then tips backward as they make their way up the other side. Not even the dead have an easy time of it in Stanytsia Luhanska.

The destroyed bridge spanning the Donets River is symbolic of divided eastern Ukraine. The war may have come to an end, but peace hasn’t yet begun. The driving surface has collapsed, and the resulting chasm has been made navigable on foot with the help of two wooden staircases. Every day, thousands of people struggle across, primarily pensioners. The sick and the crippled are carried across, as are baby strollers and sacks full of plums and apples. It is the only crossing far and wide over a border that divides families, friendships and business partnerships.

North of the Donets flies the blue-and-yellow national flag of Ukraine, signifying territory under the control of Kiev. South of the river and on the bridge itself, a kind of Russian tricolor is flapping in the wind, with a light-blue stripe in place of white. It is the flag of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, which split off from Ukraine with the help of Russia — an unrecognized state entity that legally belongs to Ukraine but which is a de facto appendage of Russia, with 1.5 million residents, 17 ministries and a Soviet star in its coat of arms.

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Posted by on October 23, 2019 in Europe



For those who want to stop no deal, Jeremy Corbyn is the only hope

Departing Tory leaders have developed an odd and presumptuous habit of demanding that the leader of the opposition resign too. “As a party leader who has accepted when her time was up,” Theresa May told Jeremy Corbyn in her final prime minister’s questions, preparing to leave her party to Boris Johnson and the country without a prayer, “perhaps the time has come for him to do the same.”

In 2016, David Cameron – who had called a referendum lost it, only to then break his promise and abandon the country in a moment of self-inflicted crisis – suggested Corbyn’s resignation would be a patriotic act. “It might be in my party’s interest for him to sit there. It’s not in the national interest. I would say, for heaven’s sake, man, go.”

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Posted by on October 4, 2019 in Europe



The Guardian view on Boris Johnson: guilty but he won’t go

The cabinet manual’s rule that the Queen “should not be drawn into party politics” has been broken by Boris Johnson. It was his decision, as prime minister, to advise the monarch to issue an order in council to prorogue parliament for five weeks. That order was declared “unlawful, void and of no effect” by all 11 justices of the highest court in the land in the most significant constitutional judgment in modern times. The government’s decision to disregard convention was taken to evade scrutiny by MPs at a moment of constitutional and political crisis. The Commons will now reconvene. A prime minister found to have acted unlawfully in this manner should not stay in office.

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Posted by on September 28, 2019 in Europe



Will Russia Be Driven From the West?

Two years ago, I asked, “Will Russia Leave the West?” The world’s largest territorial country—sprawling from its major European city St. Petersburg to its vast Far Eastern territories and long border with China—Russia cannot, of course, depart the West geographically. But it can do so politically, economically, and strategically. Indeed, where Russia belongs, where it should seek its identity, security, and future—in the East or in the West—has divided the nation’s policy-makers and intellectual elites for centuries.

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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in Europe


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On a Russian outpost in the Pacific, fear and fantasies of a Japanese future

Sergey Starzhinsky figures that his first taste of nearby Japan was a fruit-flavored lollipop that washed up on the beach in the 1970s.

These days, when sailors take his son-in-law’s sea urchins across the strait to Hokkaido, Starzhinsky has them pick up a large order of sushi before they head back.

An Asian Iron Curtain lingers on the edge of the Pacific, eight time zones and 4,500 miles from Moscow. In Russia’s ever-broadening quest for influence under President Vladi­mir Putin, this Cold War-era outpost is emerging as a pivotal piece on the Kremlin’s global chessboard.

Japan has long claimed that Russia illegally occupies Kunashir and a handful of other nearby islands on the southern end of the Kuril archipelago, which threads the sea between mainland Russia and northern Japan. Seen from Kunashir, the snow-sheathed mountains of northern Japan tower on the horizon, but there’s no regular passenger service to connect the two worlds.

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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Asia, Europe, Uncategorized


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Russian Youth Stand Up to the State

On a recent, pleasantly warm Tuesday evening in Moscow, a group of people was standing in front of the Basmanny District Court, and the young faces were smiling happily. The day had turned out to be a good one after all, at least for the friends of Yegor Zhukov.

Just a short time before, the political science student had been sitting inside a cage in the courtroom. He was just coming off a month of pretrial detention and was facing the possibility of an eight-year prison sentence due to alleged participation in “mass unrest.” The term “mass unrest” is a formula used by the Russian judiciary to describe the Moscow protests held to demand free and fair elections on September 8 for the Moscow city parliament. Zhukov had taken part in those protests.

On that Tuesday evening, though, the judge issued a surprise ruling releasing Zhukov from pretrial detention in favor of house arrest, while investigators announced that he was only being charged with “extremism,” a violation that carried a maximum sentence of just five years instead of eight. It was a perfect illustration of where Russia finds itself in late summer 2019: It has become a place where opposition activists breathe a sigh of relief when one absurd accusation is replaced by another.

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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in Europe



Conservative Revolt Against Boris Johnson Exposes Republicans’ Complicity in the Cult of Trump

“Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, brothers in chaos,” read a headline in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.

Chaos, indeed. The two right-wing soul mates seem to be competing with one another to see who can do more damage to the political, economic, and social fabric of their respective countries. The American president and British prime minister have chaos in common, which, as I pointed out a year ago, is not a bug of their rule; it is a feature.

And so it continues. “On Tuesday, Parliament voted, 328 to 301, to seize control so it could debate a bill that would attempt to prevent the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union without a plan in place on October 31,” Vox explained. “The vote was greeted with cheers, and cries of ‘not a good start, Boris!’”

In the space of a few hours, the new British prime minister lost his first-ever vote in the House of Commons and his parliamentary majority too.

Like Trump, Johnson likes to make grandiose and populist pledges — but then fails to deliver on them. His demagoguery is perhaps matched only by his incompetence. Is it any wonder then that the comparisons between the U.K. premier and the U.S. president have come thick and fast — including, on occasion, from the two leaders themselves?

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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe