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This week's editor

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Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

New wine

Religion need not be the vehicle for a narrow, exclusive conformism. It can be the means for individuals to reconstitute themselves as whole human beings – and thus a route to social progress.

America plans Iraqi escalation

The United States and Britain are playing sweet political mood music to accompany the handover of sovereignty to Iraq, but in the face of endemic insurgency their military strategists are preparing for a lengthy combat.

Michael Moore, Alas

America’s corroded politics, benighted democracy, scandalous history and pliant media, have created a monster. Todd Gitlin on ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ and Michael Moore, “the master demagogue an age of demagoguery made”.

'Independence Day'

Haider Saeed casts a quizzical eye over Iraq’s latest independence, in which the Iraqi people remain the objects of other powers.

Social Democracy as world panacea? A comment on David Held

The development of the world economy has rendered David Held’s top-down vision of global social democracy obsolete, says Meghnad Desai.

Translating difference: a debate about multiculturalism

Why “multiculturalism”? Why now? The British Council’s Martin Rose and openDemocracy’s Caspar Melville introduce a debate whose global character and focus on human experience connect it to the world’s conflicting passions.

Iraq: the best of openDemocracy, 2002-04

openDemocracy has tracked the prelude, course and aftermath of the Iraq war – always seeking to give voice to the most vital ideas and perspectives from around the world. Here, as sovereignty is restored to an Iraqi government, a brief guide to our coverage over two tumultuous years.

How to save the world: poverty, security, and nation-building

A recent conference at London’s LSE drew on the agenda of the high-level panel appointed by the United Nations secretary-general to address the most difficult challenge of the post-9/11 world: guaranteeing security, sustainable life and progress to the world’s peoples. Paul Kingsnorth reports for openDemocracy, and participants Frances Stewart, James Putzel and Johanna Mendelson Forman offer their conference reflections.

Before light comes: three poems

The work of Pele Cox, a young English poet, presents a delicate, perceptive view of nature and human entanglements.

This first chapter (part two)

“There is nothing so ordinary as the extraordinary Principality of Ponquattuck.” The second of two extracts from Eva Salzman’s novel-in-progress, “Broken Island”.

The gap that divides us

A privileged youth in white-ruled African country taught Emily Barosso about injustice. But it was in her encounter with repression in Burma that she found her life’s purpose.

God's election

George W. Bush pretends to have the ear of God, while only 7% of Americans feel that John Kerry is a man of strong religious faith. Todd Gitlin on the battle for sacred votes.

The intelligence of al-Qaida

The killing of Taliban and al–Qaida commanders in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is less significant than recent evidence of al–Qaida’s subtle, long–term strategy to expand its influence in the world’s richest oil region.

The cost of good intentions: 'solidarity' in Bangladesh

How can the lives and conditions of women garment workers in Bangladesh be improved? Naila Kabeer questions whether the workers themselves benefit from the campaigning approach of Anita Roddick and the National Labor Committee.

Who 'sees' who? An American summit photo in an Iraqi gaze

From Baghdad, Haider Saeed reflects on how the image of Arab / Islamic leaders in “traditional” dress at the G8 summit in Sea Island symbolises the subordinate integration of non–western polities into America’s universalist but also imperial understanding of democracy.

It's the long term, stupid

The United Nations is seeking to reinvent itself. The Iraq disaster should make sure the world listens, says Anthony Barnett.

Ireland breaks Europe's democratic code

The lesson of the European Union’s constitutional treaty is that national and European levels of politics are combining to create the possibility of a new public sphere. But what can be done to make it real in citizens’ minds? Paul Gillespie of the “Irish Times” reflects.

Crossroads or roundabouts: where now for Europe?

Is the European Union’s story one of success or incomplete achievement? Both, says Reinhard Hesse. The EU has overcome its Iraq war divisions, integrated ten new members, and agreed its historic constitutional treaty. But challenges remain: a European economic model, Turkish membership, democratic accountability. The future starts here.

America, the United Nations, and the world: a triple challenge

The United Nations is exploring how best to work with the United States and the international community to meet future global security threats. The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, outlines the thinking behind the high-level panel he appointed to investigate this key 21st century challenge.

Al-Jazeera: the world through Arab eyes

A booming satellite television industry offers the Arab world’s 280 million people fresh perspectives on Middle East and global affairs. Hazem Saghieh assesses the ambiguities of a revolution in Arab minds and screens.

In his God he trusts

As Ron Reagan Jr. berates politicians who use religion for their own ends, George Bush Jr. tries to enlist the Pope in his crusade for reelection. Todd Gitlin on how the President is consciously dividing America.

A single family: Shirin Ebadi speaks

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace laureate, recently toured North America, where openDemocracy interviewed her about her life, work and assessment of the prospects for her homeland.

No respite

Behind the hope of political stability in Iraq lies a continuing, deadly insurgency targeting the country’s electricity supply and oil installations.

The case for optimism: a response to David Held

David Held’s flawed, gloomy diagnosis of the global security, trade and policy architecture leads him to faulty conclusions. Martin Wolf, author of ‘Why Globalisation Works’, prefers confident realism about the world’s future.

Paul Hirst's heart

A year after his death, the heart of Paul Hirst – teacher, scholar, democrat, husband and father – beats on. Anthony Barnett introduces two moving letters which show medical science at its most human.

This first chapter (part one)

“Once visited you take the smell of the sea with you everywhere, for the rest of your life”. On the shores of Ponquattuck, North America’s “Land of Water”, Eva Salzman finds the biggest treasure of all: the sea itself. The first of two extracts from a novel-in-progress, “Broken Island”.

China's days of protest

Beneath China’s booming economy lies immense social inequality and seething worker discontent. A western observer witnesses a minor but now unexceptional popular convulsion.

America and Japan: the political is personal

Two political partnerships - Ronald Reagan and Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s, George W. Bush and Junichiro Koizumi in the 2000s - helped forge the world’s most important “special relationship”. Takashi Inoguchi explains how personal chemistry smoothed Japan’s route to global influence.

Long Island sound - three poems

Amid the “fan-like debris / of the tides”, Eva Salzman searches for another shore.

The left needs religion

Religion doesn’t have to mean repressive institutionalised mystification, it’s not even about God. It’s a way to organise a community around our core human values, and anyone interested in social change needs it.