Pelicans and marsh grass were not the only victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Another casualty was in Britain among some people there who felt aggrieved that their country seemed to get no specially gentle handling from the White House in the name of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and UK. That longstanding concept of a special bilateral tie has only slowly faded in London, even under the new government. But decision-makers in Washington have been saying privately for years that it no longer exists, except in special circumstances such as the wars in the Falklands and the Gulf.
Two recent riots against police forces in France have once again brought to the forefront the thorny issue of the integration of marginalized minorities. In response to this violence and with an eye on the 2012 elections, President Nicolas Sarkozy has seized on the law-and-order issue that helped him win office three years ago. This time he has gone even further, announcing plans to strip their French nationality from naturalized immigrants convicted of attacking police or other authorities in France. His new stance combines tougher repressive measures with rhetoric lumping together crime and immigration, even legal. (In that sense, his view is more radical even than that of the Arizona governor who wants the police to detain illegal immigrants involved in an incident with the authorities.)
For years, U.S. policy intellectuals have vehemently moaned that Europe is committing “demographic suicide” with its declining birth rates. Part of the alarm is that the European social model – of a safety net extending from cradle to grave – is bound to be overwhelmed by debt as the age pyramid becomes top-heavy. Part of the “better” American approach, these intellectuals said, was high immigration, traditionally a sustaining force behind stable U.S. birthrates.
Roma, a neighborhood in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, may seem a long way from New York’s Harlem, but just as African-Americans in Harlem experienced the effects of discrimination and poverty, “the Roma”– a branch of the Romani people (also known as gypsies) -- who are concentrated in the Budapest area known as Roma suffer from similar long-standing social stigma, discrimination and injustices.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently announced that, consistent with its mandate of providing succor to war’s victims in an entirely neutral fashion, it had provided medical care and training to members of the Taliban in Afghanistan, including distributing about 70 first aid kits to Taliban fighters. That spurred an outcry that was immediate, predictable and heated: one official in Kandahar’s local government said: “The Taliban do not deserve to be treated like humans.” An American blogger wrote that “the Red Cross is aiding an enemy that is hopelessly entrenched with an 11th-century mindset. I hope this one comes back to bite them in the ass. Idiots!”
© COPYRIGHT THE EUROPEAN INSTITUTE 2009
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