Pachyderm Paradise Here’s the venerable decorated elephant – tusker as it’s known locally – fronting the procession at this year’s Navam Perahera festival in Colombo. Organized by the Gangaramaya Temple, a local landmark, and held during the February poya (full moon), the event always draws a sizeable and enthusiastic crowd.
‘In The Cage, Trying To Get Out’ Imagno/Getty Images Herschel Grynszpan at his first interrogation, one day after he shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath at the German embassy in Paris, November 8, 1938 Here is another typically engaging and informative review by historian Timothy Schneider from the pages of The New York Review of Books, this time looking a new set of books broadly looking at Jewish life in Europe during the 1930s as communities across the continent struggled to come to terms with the threat posed by the rise of Hitler and a Nazi Germany. I learned… More
Cuba: the paradox of US foreign policy Here is a convincing recent thinkpiece from Isabel Hilton, published in Prospect, on the paradoxical role implacable US opposition to Fidel Castro played in helping consolidate and later prop up his dictatorial regime. “Mishandling the developing world nationalism that was such a pervasive phenomenon of the post-war world was one of the significant errors of US foreign policy. Washington viewed such movements exclusively through the distorting lens of superpower rivalry, casting Moscow as the arch manipulator of every local and regional movement that manifested antipathy to the United States or its interests. It… More
Gdansk: open to migration and diversity Here’s a short video about an excellent initiative recently launched by a long-standing favourite city of mine. Niech zyie Gdańsk!
Sri Lanka: The Nation In Question Here is my latest piece, a review of some recent books about Sri Lanka published in the Ceylon Today newspaper. Mark Salter, 29/12/2017 2016 has been a good year for books about Sri Lanka. (Interest disclaimer: Hurst, the publishers in focus here, released my book on the country last year) First up was A Long Watch: War, Captivity and Return in Sri Lanka by Commodore Ajith Boyagoda, as told to Sunila Galappatti, a writer and former Director of the Galle Literary Festival. As befits a prisoner of war memoir A Long Watch is… More
Siege of Aleppo: many truths to tell? Syrian Army on the streets of Aleppo, 5 December 2016. Getty Robert Fisk, iconoclastic as ever: this time on Syria. Some of his argument here – that the rebels in Aleppo include a large number of radical jihadi slamists, that they have killed civilians and committed other heinous crimes during the city’s seige – seem uncontroversial. Even if his contention that reporting of these in international media has been knowingly circumscribed in deference to Western political agendas seems a bit far-fetched. What’s really missing, however, is any sense of proportion. Syrian forces and… More
Colombia Needs Help to Make Peace Last President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo on Dec. 11. Vegard Grott/European Pressphoto Agency Here’s a strong appeal to the international community from the US special envoy to the country to help make Colombia’s final peace agreement work in practice. Not least because it’s possibly the most far-reaching such agreement ever to be reached in Latin America – and even, perhaps, beyond the continent. Colombia Needs Help to Make Peace Last Bernard Aronson, New York Times, 13 Dec. 2016 OSLO — On Nov. 29, a… More
The crisis of multilateralism and the future of humanitarian action ‘Destruction’, fourth in a five-painting series, “The Course of Empire”, by American artist Thomas Cole (1836). Via Wikimedia Commons. Vigorous think piece by one of the authors of the forthcoming ‘Planning from the Future‘ report. Strong on diagnosis of the weaknesses of the current system, even if correspondingly a little weak on positive suggestions/alternatives. All in all, well worth a read. The crisis of multilateralism and the future of humanitarian action Antonio Donini, IRIN News 30 Nov. 2016 “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and… More
Advice for Young Muslims Pakistani schoolgirls. Here’s an excellent excerpt from a new book of letters to his son by a senior UAE diplomant. Sane and compassionate, amounting to nothing less than a call for a humanistic revival within Islam. Reccommended. Published in this month’s issue of Foreign Affairs. Advice for Young Muslims How to Survive in an Age of Extremism and Islamophobia By Omar Saif Ghobash Saif, the elder of my two sons, was born in December 2000. In the summer of 2001, my wife and I brought him with us on a visit to New York City. I… More
‘Hail Trump!’ Alt. Right leader Milo Yiannopoulos “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” The audience’s Nazi salutes grabbed the headlines, but just listen carefully to self-proclaimed ‘Alt. Right’ leader Richard Spencer’s speech to the 19 November annual conference of The National Policy Institute, held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. It is truly chilling. ‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President Elect Video of an alt-right conference in Washington, D.C., where Trump’s victory was met with cheers and Nazi salutes. Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic, Nov 21, 2016 “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”… More