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The law is changing

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This week’s front page editor

Andhra Pradesh: the land is ours

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, local farmers are under pressure to embrace a future of large-scale monoculture producing crops for the global market. But the farmers themselves, especially women, are convinced that traditional practices and knowledge are the best guarantee of their livelihood and food security.

Bi-polar disorder - part one

The US and the countries of the European Union may argue over liberal intervention; but on key issues of global justice they are together, and on the wrong side.

Making the roadmap work: the call for American troops

The argument for external intervention, in the form of United States troops, to help the Palestinian Authority defeat its internal opponents like Hamas and Islamic Jihad has been increasingly heard as a way to help implement the roadmap. But it is deeply misguided: one lesson of history is that real progress towards peace in the Middle East always arises from agreements made not via outsiders, but by the warring parties themselves.

Religious zealotry and the crisis of American democracy

The danger of religious fundamentalism has been present in the American political bloodstream since the arrival of the Puritans. Now, with a government of religious conservatives locked in a polarising mindset of us-them and good-evil, the threat it poses is not just to American freedom, but to the world’s.

Shorelines: jumping off part 1

This is the first of a two-part piece to launch Objects & Projects’ latest theme: shorelines. What are they, how are they formed, and why do they hold such endless fascination? openDemocracy’s globalisation editor takes you to the end of the cliff… Read on, and a trip to the beach will never be the same again.

The Romanian right and the 'strange' Roma

The condition of Roma people is a vital issue in negotiations over the accession of Romania to the European Union. Roma who leave in great numbers (claiming human rights violations) and those who stay (enduring multiple sources of social injustice) alike challenge democratic and social ideals in a context of far-right revival. An academic of Roma origin reflects on the tortured history of Roma in Romania, and affirms the need for a new discourse and practice of equality for Roma at the European level.

Crime without punishment: Russian policy in Chechnya

Russia’s attempt to suppress the movement for Chechen independence in the past decade is marked by human rights violations on a massive scale. The rape and murder of one young Chechen woman, and its scandalous legal outcome, is emblematic not just of a savage military occupation, but of a criminal politics that deserves condemnation not indulgence from other world leaders.

The Indian refusal

The Indian government has finally refused America’s request to send thousands of troops to help police Iraq. Our New Delhi columnist welcomes a triumph of principle over power but questions the meaning of its long delay. For India’s ambitious new elite, the request appealed to the country’s martial-imperial legacy and its own hunger for global status. Can the moral foundations of Indian statehood survive this elite’s ambition to make India a superpower?

Arts and Islam in Kelantan

A Malaysian dancer and arts manager, from the country’s eastern state of Kelantan, reflects on career choices made and chances missed – including being denied a visa to the United States on account of his Muslim name. In nurturing the rich cultural heritage of his home territory, he sees a vital role for Islam as a shelter from the globalisation storm.

Jihad reloaded: popular culture and wars of faith

Hollywood products like “The Matrix”, “X-Men” and their sequels indulge the spectacle of violence and terrorism in the name of a nebulous ‘truth’, and thus echo the very mental strategies of al-Qaida. But they also make available narratives of meaning that illuminate the realities of power which imprison the world. Should their consumers be alarmed or amused?

Iraqi ifs and butts: Norman Mailer vs. LL Cool J

In Iraq with the United States army, Dominic Hilton takes hold of the psychodrama of the American male, sucks Mint Imperial, sees Saddam’s gold toilet, and liberates some Iraqis. Does life get any better than this?

GM crops: the voice of Canadian farmers

One voice is too often missing in the debate about genetically-modified (GM) foodstuffs – that of experienced, practical farmers themselves. In a wide-ranging interview with Sophie Jeffreys and Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy, three Canadian farmers explain why they think it is time to bring the GM rollercoaster under control.

Part 3: The anarchy and oligarchy of science

Part 3 of The new information ecosystem: cultures of anarchy and closure

Chechnya and Iraq: imperial echoes, militant warnings

Military occupation, armed resistance, pervasive insecurity, the hunger for religious certainty, a compliant media and oil. The parallels between Russia’s war in Chechnya and America’s in Iraq are uncomfortably close. Will either ‘imperial’ power heed the warning they present?

A UK Biobank: good for public health?

Could GeneWatch UK be exactly the kind of ‘genetic union’ Mike Fortun advocated as a vehicle for ‘genomic solidarity’? Here, its deputy director focuses on the controversial Biobank UK, and questions its aims, cost, science and commerce. She makes the case for a democratic debate which alerts the public to the moral and political issues it raises, and helps find a way of reconciling scientific progress with citizens’ rights.

Military Madness

Icelandic might, Evil manoeuvres, Pentagon anger

From ethnicity to empathy: a new idea of Europe

The dynamic intermingling of peoples in contemporary Europe is challenging definitions of the continent’s identity based on ethnicity, indigeneity and myths of origin. This unstoppable and enriching diversity calls for a distinct new politics – one that reframes the very idea of Europe in terms of empathy with the stranger.

A question of motive

The violent, unstable condition of Iraq continues to provoke doubts over the war’s motive, conduct and justification. While British and United States governments welcome the death of Saddam’s sons and resist accusations over faulty pre-war intelligence, recent revelations about their preparations for and conduct of the war present disturbing evidence that may yet have political and legal consequences.

The Great Kouroush

A young Iranian director used the forum of the 'International debate: The Rights and Roles of Young People as Artsmakers' to talk about the oppression students experience in his country. Remembering the old tradition human rights have in Iran he calls upon the power of Art to re-establish these.

We cannot afford to fail

The Iraq Reconstruction Assessment Mission, an independent team of experts commissioned by the Pentagon, recently published a report of their ten-day Iraqi tour. After presenting evidence to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the authors draw on their report to challenge the Coalition’s masters of war to a gargantuan effort of peacemaking and society-building.

Me - an artist

Young people from around the world took part in a London workshop on their roles and rights as artmakers as part of the LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) 'Family-Friendly Season'. They presented their views at the concluding event in a combination of polemic and performance through their skills in music, dance, poetry and drama. This was followed by a discussion between the participants and the audience, including politicians, policy makers, children's rights specialists, business people, and teachers.

But war hurts more

Sierra Leone, torn apart by a decade of brutal civil war, desperately needs the catharsis that truth and reconciliation can bring. But the attempt to establish this process has encountered problems - confusion about the role of the two different commissions, a lack of public engagement and the non-compliance of critical witnesses.

Inderjeed Singh: lost in Kabul

The epic journey of a Sikh man from the Afghan city of Jalalabad to London’s Southall district ended with his deportation to Kabul by the British authorities. If this policy of forced return of Afghans becomes standard practice, what will happen to the legions of the lost in Iran and Pakistan?

The real American model

The US economic model that commands around a third of the world’s wealth fascinates and infuriates Europeans. But both reactions reveal ignorance of its most essential features. The keys to its success lie not in industry, but in those sectors providing social amenities to the middle class – health care, education, housing and pensions: systems of provision that have little to do with the free market.

Singing Iraq: poetry by Fadhil Assultani

A few weeks after the war in Iraq, three Iraqi poets read to an audience at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Uncertainty and excitement mingled, as the writers spoke of a time that seemed to be both receding and emerging into view. New freedom was ahead, bringing unheard stories and fresh voices. Identities were shifting just as attention fell upon them. Fadhil Assultani was one of the poets present. These translations of his poems come from Iraqi Poetry Today, the Spring 2003 issue of Modern Poetry in Translation. Poetry by Salah Niazi and Hashem Shafiq will follow soon on openDemocracy, along with the discussion from that evening, which ranged over many of the political, personal and artistic questions these exiled Iraqi writers now face.

The making of a peace activist

Against the deep background of the Holocaust, a secular Zionist education and officer training in the Israel Defence Force shaped Ruth Firer’s identity. The experience of peace education, including research into the influence of school textbooks in moulding national memory, then led her to understand that building trust across divides is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’.

Taking the anarchists to task

Irresponsible behaviour on peer-to-peer networks will never be significant without intelligent public debate. ‘Anarchy’ on its own will not achieve anything but cynicism and draconian reaction. As for cultural diversity and ‘world music’, Sandy Starr argues that Siva Vaidhyanathan is deaf to the ‘celestial jukebox’ that everyone can share.

Bossi's - and Berlusconi's - last shout?

As Silvio Berlusconi took on Italy’s presidency of the EU, his “kapo” gaffe in the European Parliament gave warning of fireworks to come. It was preceded by his coalition partner Umberto Bossi’s demand for cannon fire on illegal immigrants. Here a long-time observer of the new right in Italy tells the story of the rise of the Northern League, talks to Bossi, and reads the portents for the collapse of Berlusconi’s “House of Liberties”…

Far from home, alone

The immense financial costs of war and occupation are putting strains on the United States budget and its army’s manpower resources alike. India’s refusal to send a major troop deployment to northern Iraq is symbolic of the US’s relative isolation. Washington is now facing the painful political as well as military consequences of its Iraq strategy.

Brazilian future

The election of Lula as president of Brazil, says his special adviser, is the signal for a national project that will have a profound impact beyond the country's borders. The aim is a confident place for Brazil in the world commensurate with its immense size, energy and global character.