HEAVENLY PALACES AND SPACE JUNKS: CHINA’S QUIET SPACE REVOLUTION

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by Justin Reynolds

There was some apprehension as a Chinese ‘Heavenly Palace’ fell to Earth last week. The 8.5 tonne Tiangong-1 space station, adrift since China’s space agency lost connection with it two years ago, made an ‘uncontrolled’ re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere early on Easter Monday.

Fortunately there was never much cause for concern, the European Space Agency calculating the chances of being hit by debris as ’10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning’. Most of the station burned up on contact with Earth’s atmosphere and the remaining fragments plunged into the South Pacific. But the episode had a eerie resonance, symbolising something of the West’s prevailing perception of China as an enigmatic, technologically advanced state, glowing with – rather like its wayward satellite – a nebulous sense of danger.Continue Reading

SPAIN AND THE LAW ON CITIZEN SAFETY

by Gunnar Eigener 

The Spanish government continues in its relentless pursuit of Catalonians who dared to seek further autonomy and independence. An international warrant was issued from Madrid for the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan separatists, and his recent arrest in Germany has sparked new demonstrations, reigniting the Catalan debate. Puigdemont faces charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds – all of which means he could face the next 25 years in prison.

However, for him to be extradited successfully, German judges need to assess if the charges are punishable under German law. He could be extradited but only to face the charges that are criminal under German law. Five other arrest warrants for other separatist politicians have been issued; some already have been arrested in Spain and sent to prison awaiting trial. Continue Reading

ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO

By Stu Lucy

After having his position as goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organisation revoked last month, more bad news plagued Robert Mugabe this week as he was finally ousted from his longstanding position as President of Zimbabwe. After more than 35 years in office and at the grand old age of 93, the now former head of state stepped down, eliciting much jubilation and celebration across the country. It wasn’t easy, mind….Continue Reading

COMMUNISM, CONFUCIUS AND CONFUSION: CHINA’S TURN TO THE SAGES

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By Justin Reynolds

Fifty years ago Mao Zedong’s Red Guards rampaged through the ancient streets of Qufu, home city of the sage Confucius, pulling down statues, burning temples and desecrating graves.

The ‘old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas’ associated with the teacher who for millennia had provided philosophical legitimacy for China’s feudal order were to be swept aside by the Cultural Revolution to make way for a new classless society.

But today Qufu is one of communist China’s foremost places of pilgrimage. An sprawling museum and park complex stands by the restored temple, overlooked by a giant figure of Confucius the size of the Statue of Liberty. ‘The Holy City of the Orient’, with its gleaming new high-speed rail link, now attracts more visitors each year than the land of Israel.Continue Reading

A HIDDEN STRENGTH

by Alice Thomson

The language we use can offer us a glimpse into our core values. Words can be loaded with deeper meaning that demonstrate the true beliefs of a society or individual. This is why, when we use the word “disabled”, it’s worth noting that we tend to veer towards negative language. When looking up synonyms of the word disabled, I was surprised by the loaded and emotive language I found – words like weakened, incapable, damaged and powerless.

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NOW IS OUR CHANCE FOR A NEW POLITICS – DON’T LET TRIBALISM STRANGLE IT AT BIRTH

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by Olivia Hanks

Outside onlookers would be forgiven for thinking that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party had won the general election. From the scale of the jubilation among sections of the left, you wouldn’t imagine we still had a hard-right government, now propped up by the very-very-hard right. For some, the joy is purely that a Labour party which seemed irrevocably divided and defeated has reasserted itself as a credible force. For others, myself included, the reasons for optimism are more nuanced, because our hopes are not for Labour, but for a real, functioning democracy. That’s why we can join Labour supporters in rejoicing that young people came out to vote, that the UK rejected the vicious bile of the tabloid media and the arrogance of a Prime Minister who believed the election was a formality. It’s also why we are sceptical that a tribal Labour party still wedded to first-past-the-post is capable of offering the answers we need.Continue Reading