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This week's editor

NSS, editor

Niki Seth-Smith is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to 50.50.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Mid-term blues in Brighton: a double report from the Lib Dem conference

If the bell is tolling for the Liberal Democrats, they built sound-proof walls for this year's party conference. Two reports from inside tell of the marked absence of a debate on leadership, despite Clegg's appalling unpopularity, and a religious cleaving to the creed of coalition.

Detention is the essence of immigration control

At any one time more than 2000 people are deprived of their liberty because a UK immigration official considers they have breached a control regulation. In a new book, Alexandra Hall argues that what goes on at the gloomy fringes of the immigration system emerges from principles that define the whole of our society.

Europe: are there Nazis living on the moon?

Costa Concordia, the famous cruise ship that hit a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012 might furnish another aptly-named example for symbolizing the harmony and unity between European nations. 

This week's window on the Middle East - September 24, 2012

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: Being all things to all men

Catalonia and Spain

If the answer is independence, what was the question? Does is really make sense to demand sovereignty at a time when no-one knows where to find it? A new political phase has commenced in Spain.

You want federal Europe? why not start with a European social stability mechanism?

European federalism is back, says European Commission president Barroso. His call for a "federation of nation states" shows how the tables have turned in the debate about the Union – with former anti-federalists now praising integration and vice versa. But buyer beware - creating an EU federation now could result in a potentially disastrous "coup d'économie".

The nuclear options of Catalonia

The huge demonstration in Barcelona on September 11 – the national day of Catalonia –  under the banner of “Catalonia, a State of Europe”, has changed the stakes. Independence would be bad for Catalonia, but it would be even worse for Spain.

Getting by as a gastarbeiter in Kazakhstan

The stream of migrants from Central Asia seeking work in Russia is considerable, but racism and the migration laws there make them vulnerable to intimidation and exploitation. Many prefer to stay within their cultural and religious framework by working in Kazakhstan. Life there isn’t easy either, says Bhavna Dave.

Romania: church and state

Politicians exist within a democracy and can be voted out. The Romanian Orthodox Church on the other hand does not, and this entrenchment of its power and reach creates an inalienable authority.

Uniting States of Americans: Are we the 99%?

Internationally, we should all be concerned by how the unifying discourse of the 99% occludes important differences amongst political, economic, and socially disaffected peoples that the OWS brand can never fully capture.

Apple vs. Samsung: something doesn’t quite fit!

The patent war between Apple and Samsung made a great deal of headlines over the past weeks. This article argues that both have much to gain from this big fuss, while the losers seem to be consumers and patent law itself.

Separatism in times of crisis in Spain: the search for a future

Civil society organisations in Catalonia have generated a feel-good and positive project, purging traditional pro-independence of its most strident anti-Spanish elements.

Beyond the gastarbeiter: the other side of post-Soviet migration

The collapse of the Soviet Union left desperate human situations in its wake: prices shot up, wages weren’t paid and people were forced to travel in search of work. The post-Soviet migrant’s life — one typically fraught with problems of health, family and home — is the subject of Madeleine Reeves' new week-long series on oDRussia. 

Views from Italy of another Europe

From the conference, “Out of the crisis with another Europe”, held on July 9,  2012 by the Green European Federation with the support of Sbilanciamoci! , a summary of Italian perspectives on the EU debt crisis and proposals suggested by sections of Italian civil society to overcome the crisis.

Sudan and South Sudan: negotiating amidst brinkmanship and armed rebellions

The 22 September deadline approaches, with little sign of an  agreement on outstanding issues. A piecemeal approach would allow the oil issue to be resolved now, but its presence as part of a comprehensive package of agreements may be the only thing keeping negotiators at the table over the harder issues.

The Dutch elections and the Eurosceptic paradox

Despite alarming predictions, last week's Dutch election results turned out to be anticlimactic, as voters placed their confidence in the two mainstream, moderate parties. But Brussels shouldn't celebrate too soon, as the "European weather vane" shows signs of bigger challenges to come.

This week's window on the Middle East - September 17, 2012

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: Turning the tide on Egypt’s sinking book reading culture

Homage to Catalonia (revisited)

As Catalans massively take to the streets of Barcelona to demand independence, we are reminded that the Catalonian question is far from settled. And the current economic crisis exacerbates old, underlying tensions.

London to host one of the world's biggest arms fairs and why it shouldn't happen.

After being home to several Olympic competitions this summer, London's ExCel Centre is to host one of the world's most important arms fairs in 2013. But the event's past affiliations with autocratic regimes and the nature of the exhibitors and buyers involved should be enough to forbid it from happening.

How the Swiss see the ‘Swiss option’

Switzerland is formally independent but totally interconnected with the EU, and the largest creditor of the most important country in the euro zone.

‘What was the true Legacy of the Olympics?’: join in the debate online

From its immediate impact on the host-city to the global reverberations, listen to the full audio recording of openDemocracy’s debate ‘Culture, Liberty and London after the Olympics’. Join the debate and help shape the Legacy of the 2012 Games. 

This week's window on the Middle East - September 10, 2012

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: Dubai: a contemporary identity

Is the end of cheap food just an agricultural problem

Food is getting scarce - and expensive. This is no longer news. But can we really confine ourselves to thinking about the agricultural end of this problem?


The IMF loan to Egypt, and why we reject it

The proposed $4.8bn IMF loan to Egypt sparked a heated controversy. While the Government claims the funds are absolutely necessary to rebuild the country's economy, opponents warn against potentially disastrous, far-reaching consequences. Their arguments are summarised here.

Fidite Nemini, trust no one

The big banks seem to have come out of the financial meltdown relatively undamaged, if not stronger than ever. But could they have irretrievably lost an asset more precious than money, their consumers' trust, in the process?

The United Arab Emirates: frontiers of the Arab Spring

The United Arab Emirates has yet to face Arab Spring street protests, as have Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and its other neighbours. Nonetheless its seven ruling families are now finally being challenged directly by a number of brave citizens, some of whom are publicly calling for regime change. 

Ed Miliband finds the buzzword, but will it sting?

In his speech at the Policy Network conference Miliband continues to build a strong analysis of Britain's economic predicament but do his proposed solutions go far enough?

Ethiopia ahead of the curve: the green legacy of Meles Zenawi

It is surely better now to concentrate on Meles’ positive achievements rather than dwell on negatives from the past. His legacy will be decided by what happens next. But the “develop now and clean up later” approach enjoyed by the west for a while is no longer an option - for anyone.

This week's window on the Middle East - September 3, 2012

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: The FSA: how to lose support and alienate people in no time

Making sense of the riots in Assam, India

The recent riots in the northeastern state of Assam between Bodo tribespeople and ethnic Bengali Muslims are creating a dangerous situation for the central government of India. There might be various solutions to this recurring conflict in Assam, but we must understand that at heart this is not a Hindu-Muslim conflict.

Taking stock in Somalia

After twenty years of failed statehood, Somalia shows the first signs of a new political conjuncture that could bring about peace. Yet Islamist militant group al-Shabaab will continue to play a role in shaping the country's future.

A rich man's toy: train toffs and the politics of the UK rail fare

As train fares across Britain look set to rise 6.2% by January, the government faces the growing wrath of the thousands of commuters increasingly being priced out of public transport. But what might an alternative look like? And how might this bequeathing of the rails to ‘train toffs’ bite back in the next election? 

This week's window on the Middle East - August 27, 2012

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: Traffic, trash and training: building Libya’s future

The pornography of equality

The silence of our politicians on women’s security in public spaces is in striking contrast to their tremendous responsiveness to the sight of brown men insulting white women. The real problem is that in western society women’s equality and women’s pornographization have gone hand-in-hand.

The paradox of Meles Zenawi

He embodied the eternal paradox that is Ethiopia: a land of ‘great abundance’ where so much poverty exists; a Garden of Eden whose potential has never been fulfilled.  

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