We were all shocked by the level of violence on London’s streets this week. I am proud to be a Londoner – and this is not the city I recognise. For many of us, the first question we have had to ask ourselves is: what is a safe route home? But once there, watching TV blazes and hearing real life sirens, the next question emerges: why? Why have the city’s youth suddenly decided to act as extras in our own production of A Clockwork Orange?
After the December 2010 elections, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko lost legitimacy, both within Belarus and externally. His regime, based on a massive security apparatus, a propaganda machine and the guarantee of a job - albeit with low pay - is now in trouble. Belarus is facing serious economic problems and Lukashenko needs to regain popular support. The Belarusian leader is blackmailing the West with a new turn towards Russia. Lukashenko is bluffing, though. He is aware that relations with Moscow cannot be the same as before 2008 and that he is no longer perceived as a reliable ally for Russia.
With the world exhaling a collective sigh of relief, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have agreed to a budget deal that will cut US government spending and raise the debt ceiling. An outline has been given of where cuts will come from that may pose multiple challenges for current US defence priorities around the world. Cuts would total USD$917 billion dollars over ten years in defence and non-defence spending. A congressional committee will gather to enact larger cuts totaling USD$1,5 trillion dollars over ten years. If this second round of cuts were not enacted, a set of “triggers” would automatically make large cuts.
The Algerian government is walking a tightrope. With Libya engulfed in conflict, Tunisia and Egypt in the midst of uncertain political transitions and the monarchy in Morocco seemingly intent on relinquishing some its executive powers, Algeria is the only North African country not been directly affected by the Arab Spring. Popular protests did erupt in Algeria at precisely the same time as they were enveloping neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, but the demands of the protesters never coalesced into a unified movement calling for the demise of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999.
The American people are renowned for their optimism, but the history of their political thought has a dark undercurrent of pessimism and a persistent fear of decline. Declinist thought has proven hardy. It has flourished come rain or shine, and history has often proven its fears misguided. Its persistence can be explained partly by the natural tendency towards self-criticism in a liberal society, and partly by the manic-depressive nature of the business cycle. But it is also surely attributable to the very real problems that have faced American statesmen of every generation, problems which it was never guaranteed would or even could be solved.
Ollanta Humala, a former army officer who once led a military rebellion to overthrow the Peruvian government, has been sworn in as the country’s new president. Eleven years have transformed his political views. He was once an ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and a ﬁerce adherent of populist politics, drawing support from the poor and indigenous sectors of society. This year, however, he has attained the presidency through promising a moderate path, combining the reduction of social inequalities with economic development.
The recent attacks in Norway highlight that Europe is suffering from a crisis of identity and increasingly militant xenophobia. Anders Behring Breivik's cold-blooded murders are but an extreme expression of increasing fears of foreigners throughout a Europe that finds itself questioning its identity and increasingly afraid of immigration and foreignness. Most worryingly, this trend is not only the province of extremists like Breivik, the British National Party, the English Defence League or Marine Le Pen's Front National, but has also gradually come to inform the political discourse of mainstream parties in the UK, Italy and France.