World

Sanctions are an easy option when it comes to the West's anger against Russia's actions in Ukraine, but the lessons of our past suggest another course

For the past year I have been on the World War I Commemoration Panel. The members include people as diverse as Sir Peter Jackson, Dame Anne Salmond, and Sir Bob Harvey. One of the most interesting things I have done as a member of the panel is read up on the politics and intrigue that precipitated the war.

The outrageous sham that Egypt's President calls independent justice should stand as a warning not just to journalists working in the country, but to Egyptians themselves. If Sisi can stare down world-wide condemnation, think how little thought he will give to anyone who has no international voice

Politicians can not function without media exposure - whether that be fair or propaganda.

Political journalists can not function without politicians - be they democratic, autocratic or anywhere in between.

The symbiosis of these two spheres legitimizes the respective worlds of voters and audience/readers.

America and Iran appear poised to co-operate in order to stymie the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from taking over war torn Iraq and establishing a Sunni Caliphate which stretches across the border into Syria. It is a complicated mess. 

Is the enemy of my enemy my friend in 21st century war? 

Well possibly ‘frenemy’ would be more accurate, and yes, it does look as if the United States and Iran can talk Iraq alongside what is acceptable in terms of an Iranian nuclear programme.

Obama critics are disingenuous when they imply the Taliban would not have been fussy about which Guantanamo prisoners released in exchange for a US soldier they have held for five years. Their real issue is Obama succeeded - albeit with some questions stil to answer.

All week North American news, ‘news’ and satire has been drenched in vacillating glorification and demonization of the now released US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

Is he hero or deserter?

It may take ages to clarify that, but one thing is for sure - he is fresh political fodder.

Canada's Conservative Government is in the middle of trying to change its election rules to benefit itself - while its PM Stephen Harper has become the thing he once most hated.

New Zealand's political landscape has been pretty weird of late, what with Judith Collins up to her fiercesome (sic) eyebrows in milk, the Maori Nationalist/neo-Marxist Mana Party playing footsie with a recent immigrant millionaire who lives in one of New Zealand's biggest and most expensive houses, and Hekia Parata doing just whatever it is that she does on a regular basis.

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu has been knocked back into his place by the world's most powerful countries.... including his key friend the US, so what does he do? He takes out his anger on the Palestinians of course

When Netanyahu was humiliated by the deal between the UNSC permanent members plus Germany (P5+1), and Iran he could not hide his anger. He came out spitting, even at his best friend, the US.

Who should we really thank for the British House of Commons vote against attacking Syria?

Over at No Right Turn, I/S has a post up hailing the UK House of Commons vote against military action in Syria and giving Tony Blair the credit for it.

The latest leaker superstar, Ed Snowden could end up flatting with Dotcom in New Zealand says international lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. That's one way to reverse the brain drain

Ed Snowden has done a runner from his hotel in Hong Kong, but is presumably still in the city. Dotcom also spent years in Hong Kong avoiding arrest. They’d have so much in common. A modern day Bonnie and Clyde.

Since Bosnia and Rwanda, it's been clear that the international community disgraces itself when it stands by and let's blood flow at the hands of murderous state thugs. Here are the arguments for and against intervention in Syria. You decide.

Anyone who thinks that stopping genocide and mass killings is nothing to do with New Zealand  is saying we should rip up our membership of the ‘international community’ now. 

 Here are the arguments for and against.

 Anti intervention

The story behind the massive leak of documents revealing the extent to which the world's wealthy go to avoid and evade tax and New Zealand's part in the investigations

News has been coming out of Washington DC recently of a massive leak of tax haven information. I have spent the past 15 months working on this project, helping to dig through the leaked material to find what should be publicised.

Developed countries like New Zealand can learn from Cyprus; an economy overly dependent on its financial sector rather than the real economy, is vulnerable. And the rule of law exist in our minds as much as it does in laws, courts and banks. It’s like a handshake. If one sides looses faith in the deal, doesn’t matter how many law enforcers you have, the system collapses.

Does anyone really understand what the hell just happened in Cyprus? 

Disaster appears to have been avoided today with a ‘Plan B’ agreed. The draft deal, cobbled together over the weekend would see bank deposits under $100,000 untouched but the country’s second biggest bank close. It still has to be approved by euro zone finance ministers.

The new Pope faces South, away from the comfortable church of Europe, to a more restless church closer to New Zealand. Here's how that could mean big change

Pope Francis got on the bus. It was a simple action. But symbolism is reality in the Catholic church. 

It was as if he took the church off the unreachable and opulent Vatican balcony, leaving behind the red ‘Liberace’ frills of former popes, and got on a bus.  

That a New Zealander won’t be part of the papal conclave was possibly the least interesting thing to say about the shock resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

When global events happen, some in our media hit the cultural cringe button and head out to find the New Zealand angle. We can’t just be citizens of the world.

Here's a radical idea for politicians hoping to make an impact: tell the truth instead of offering false hope, like France's Manuel Valls.

The most popular politician in France is Manuel Valls, the interior minister in Francois Hollande’s Socialist government. 

Alfred Nobel intended his peace prize to go to those most responsible for creating "fraternity between nations," and the "reduction of standing armies." Yet a brief look at Obama's accomplishments since shows that the further we move from 2009, the further he turns from this legacy

Three years ago this month, the Nobel committee awarded its vaunted Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama. While many dubious names appear on the prize’s long list of winners, this decision was met with near-universal approval at the time.

With most of the difficult policy changes made, it seems Australian PM Julia Gillard is now tidying house. Opponent Kevin Rudd is being swept to the backbenches to clear the path to the 2013 elections

I worked as a National Organiser for the Australia Labor Party during the Hawke years, when Kevin Rudd was a functionary in the office of the leader of the ALP in Queensland and Julia Gillard was the current or just departed president of the Australian Union of Students and active in the majority socialist left faction of the ALP in Victoria.

The Taliban are planning to set up shop in Qatar – but in a good way. They'll have a physical address that could open the door to serious peace talks on Afghanistan and spark hopes of future stability

In the long, miserable story of what was once called "the war on terror", it's hard to identify turning points. Since the foolhardy US invasion of Afghanistan in particular, it's been hard to find many gems of hope in that trash-heap of a war – until this month, that is.

Amongst the news of crashes and weather, one story of immense significance to New Zealand has been widely ignored... The US has reviewed its defence priorities and is moving back into our neighbourhood big-time. This offers huge risks and opportunities

At the start of President Obama's first term there was talk of him being the first "Pacific President" – being born in Hawaii and schooled in Indonesia gave him a rare westward view of the world, a perspective that's different from the focus on Europe and the Middle-East, which dominates on America's east coast.

Central banks are trying to get money moving again, but it could all be too little, too late for Europe as the final countdown begins (not as cool as Andrew's musical references, but see what I did there children of the '80s?)

In the Matrix films you get a sense of deja vu when the machines controlling your experience of the world change something. In real life, you get the uncanny sense that you've said and done exactly the same things before as the powers-that-be refuse to change.

Italian bond yields have risen above the critical seven percent mark. So where does this leave Italy and what can the rest of Europe do?

I don't think the CNBC team in Rome would mind me telling you that they're knackered. (A bit like Roman politics? - Ed).

In an exclusive interview with European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, a glimpse of how far Europe still has to go to purge its demons

I'll let you in on a secret. Jean-Claude Trichet is considered something of a heart-throb in the CNBC newsroom in London. To which some of you might say, Jean-Claude who? I'm not talking about the 'Muscles from Brussels', Jean-Claude van Damme; this Jean-Claude is more like the 'Neon from Lyon', if you'll excuse the stretch.

What do the anti-capitalist protesters in London actually want? They compare themselves to the Arab Spring, but it all sounds a bit vague

It’s getting colder in London. We had a lingering summer, but that is over. Not such a great time to be on the streets for any longer than you have to.The central heating goes on and the thick duvet is very welcome.

The revolutionary who turned mad and bad, has, after eight months been stopped in his tracks – literally.  Everyday Libyan citizens who fought for freedom from tyranny, now have their chance. Their challenges however, are massive

The guys who went to war in their family cars have won. They have liberated Libya, with a good deal of NATO help, and are their nation’s heroes.

Don't panic, Mr Mannering! The message being delivered by everyone from Europe's finance ministers to the Bank of England seems to be one of wartime stoicism. But is that enough?

Here in Britain, the wartime poster with stark white lettering on a red background which says 'Keep Calm and Carry On' has become ubiquitous. It's found its way onto mugs, t-shirts and screensavers.

The unsurprising surprise of Europe's economic woes and the IMF's latest predictions gets the once-over from new Pundit Fiona McMillan, a London-based New Zealand business journalist.

What's perhaps most amazing about Europe's growth story -- or non-growth story--- is that markets and the folk who watch them continue to react to new data as if it still contains some element of surprise.

Yesterday's IMF growth forecasts are a case in point.

Ten years after those terrible attacks, Al-Qaeda has changed the US way of life. At the same time, the US has fragmented the terror group and killed most of its leaders. So who's winning?

As America looks for meaning today, a decade on from the terror attacks of 9/11, one question keeps nagging at me – who exactly is winning the wars that have followed that awful day?

It was nice of the Prime Minister to tell us his government committed to recognizing the new government of Libya some weeks ago and would provide it with “millions” of dollars in aid – but it would be better if he told us why.

As I write, the United Nations is reported to be moving to release its freeze on $100 billion worth of Libyan assets and recognize the country’s National Transitional Council as the new government of Libya.

As Dominque Strauss-Kahn treated the cameras to a hint of a Gallic grin, it wouldn't be out of the question to ask both who was really on trial here and if the self-satisfied satyr could himself pass the lie test that set him free.

Here’s a thought...do you think Dominique Strauss-Khan has ever told a lie?

Perhaps to his wives, his conquests, his daughters? No?

The Americans have finally ramped up sanctions and told Bashar al-Assad to resign as Syria's leader, but the thug's response is that he's there to stay and those who oppose him will be punished. He's can't work out the difference between blood and reform. 

Finally the international community has ramped up the pressure on Syria’s dictator to step aside.  “Time to get out of the way” Hilary Clinton scolded.

The British government, caught off guard and on holdiay, has announced it will meet violent mobs head on with plastic bullets, water cannons and other policing methods required to bring the next Olympic city under control...but for how long? 

Britain has some very deep soul-searching ahead of it as the last few violent nights have shown there is a deeply angry parallel society that has probably developed over the last two generations, but now has tasted power.

Left- and right-wing politicians and commentators in Europe are grappling with the lessons to be learned from the terrorist attack in Norway -- and what it means for debate about immigration.

Since the horrific attacks by Anders Breivik, rather than calls for vengeance, European newspapers have been full of reflection about the tenor of their national debates on multiculturalism and immigration.

Americans may think that they are not in as much economic trouble as Greece but perhaps they should take a closer look, particularly if they factor in the game of chicken their politicians are playing with their futures. 

Earlier this week some international newspapers carried a photo of a woman standing outside the Capitol building inWashington with a placard telling those inside playing chicken with the US economy that  “we are not Greece”.

Mark Lynas suggests we should, in our God-like way, try a little geo-engineering. It is, after all, an emergency. If there is a God, he could be some distance from Mr Lynas, because that’s not what ‘dominion’ means

Mark Lynas, author of The God Species, had an opinion piece in the Dominion Post last Thursday July 14, 2011 which I’ve copied at some length here, because it isn’t online.

New Zealand has a chance this September at the United Nations to support the Palestinian quest for the same basic human rights and the self-determination that Kiwis take for granted. Will it have the guts to do so?

It is time for New Zealand to declare its support for an independent State of Palestine.

As the US hurtles towards debt default, there's a growing sense that Tea Party acolytes may well be prepared to deliberately tank the economy if it ensures a one-term Obama and future power for them. It is ugly ideology.

The so-called world’s only superpower is currently being held hostage to an extremist ideology. Al-Qaeda’s? No. The Taliban’s? No. Iranian nuclear wannabes perhaps? Nup.

From Jordan, Jane writes: The Arab Spring turned far more murderous, leaving the West, as well as Arab neighbours, to do little but talk while Bashar the Butcher gets on with his slaughter

The Arab Spring is now well into its sixth month and in much of the Middle East and North Africa, it is a pivotal time as autocrats still clinging to power have decided they’d rather slaughter their own than give up decades of cushy brutality and corruption.

Is it time to bid a fond farewell to Sarah Palin? We wish it wasn't so, but it seems there is a new wackadoo political force about to take centre stage in the US--Michele Bachmann.

Drat. Just when I was starting to get excited at the prospect of a Sarah Palin candidacy for US President, it seems her near-run may be nearly over.

If the United States is so keen to espouse the virtues of good governance including the rule of law to others, then it is time for it to end its ‘Wild West’ mentality and practice what it preaches

Nearly ten years after the Taliban's offer to turn over bin Laden to the Americans was rejected by George W Bush, America's public enemy number one has finally met his demise.

Is bin Laden's death a chance for peace in Afghanistan, or merely an opportunity for the world to make the same mistake again?

As I've said in other threads this week, I have no inclination to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden. However despicble his deeds and beliefs, he was a mother's son and the rule of law matters. But that doesn't blind me to the fact there's an up side.

US President Barack Obama has blocked the release of photo evidence of his al-Qaeda trophy because of its incendiary potential amongst terror extremists. He must now be hoping neither photo nor weighted corpse will surface any time soon. 

Do we really need to see the photos of a guy with two bullet wounds to the head to believe he’s dead? Well it seems some do, and it is a fair bet the conspiracy theories will build for both political and ideological gain.

Cool and calm wins the race. Eight years after George W. Bush declared mission accomplished when it patently was not, his successor Barack Obama has actually accomplished something, gruesome as it may be. Unfortunately Osama's demise is not the end of terror as we know it

There’s an old saying that if you wait by the river long enough you will eventually watch your enemy floating by.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp’s categoric denial that there were civilian casualties when New Zealand SAS troops took part in a night raid in Baghlan province is wearing thin as more evidence comes to hand from Afghanistan.

The first news of the Baghlan raid came from the governor of the Tala Wa Barfak district, Mohammad Ismael. On 22 August 2010, he told Agence France Presse:

In the midst of the Canadian election campaign - the fourth in seven years - the Conservative incumbents have come up with a doozy...hunt the ethnic vote under the guise of an office of global religious freedom.  

Why on earth – God’s earth even – would a politician looking for re-election promise to set up a department of religious tolerance with a global outreach?

Fear of terrorists - real or imagined - has against triumphed in the US as the Obama Administration has been forced to concede the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks will be tried by military court, in Guantanamo, thereby breaking two major Obama election promises.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has the right to be mighty peeved at being forced to try the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks by military tribunal.

As the allies drop bombs on pro-Qaddafi troops in Libya, little – or perhaps no thought has been given to an exit plan nor what happens if the Libyan despot survives?

President Obama’s speeches are regularly peppered with two similar phrases…”let me be clear” and “let there be no mistake”.

Libya's 'Mad Dog' has learnt from Tunisia and Egypt that capitulating is for pussies, not real leaders, and his stance has delivered the biggest diplomatic headache since the Bosnian war.

As world leaders prevaricate, discuss and wring collective hands over what to do with Libya, it appears Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi is outsmarting them all.  It shou

The United States' veto of a draft resolution condemning Israel's continued illegal settlement construction has exposed the Obama administration of kowtowing to Israeli pressure and thereby paying lip service to human rights in the Middle East. Bad timing big boy.

It would appear the Obama White House has learned little from the fight for human and democratic rights roiling the Middle East.

Hillary Clinton has called Iran's Mullahs for what they are – hypocrites, as their faux support of the Egyptian revolutionaries has been unmasked for the forked tongued, self-serving garbage that is is

Now here is a big surprise… the Iranian Mullocracy has been dabbling in hypocrisy. It rhymes, but not for good reason.

Mubarak has finally been forced out of office by the will of the people. Egypt's revolution has triumphed...and while the party will continue for some time, there's a major workload ahead for the military ruling council which is now in charge.

Talk about an emotional roller-coaster…but I suppose revolutions are like that!

Egypt's old military dictator is trapped in a parallel universe where he thinks he can still reward and punish his own people as if they still fear him, tell them to go home as if they will obey him, and then sic the military on them to break them. 

Egypt’s President and his former spy-chief deputy told the demonstrators to “go home”.

David Cameron has thrown an unnecessary and quite frankly perplexing incendiary into Britain's multicultural conundrum. It is difficult to fathom why he's done it... unless of course he can't wait til the royal wedding for a much needed distraction

Critics of multiculturalism inevitably charge that it is merely a front for political correctness, and now David Cameron has added his name to that list of critics.

Mubarak has decided to stare down the demonstrators and the crowds are not happy

Mubarak's much anticipated speech following the historic 'march of the million' missed the demonstrators mark by a long shot. The tension is back.

As millions of Egyptians make Tahrir Square the epicentre oftheir revolution, their detested old dictator hangs on to power, but the clock is ticking fast and as the tech-savy would tweet to him, "game over".  

Watching close to two million Egyptians crowd in to Tahrir (Liberation) Square and spill out to its side streets is truly mesmerizing, and given the speed of events over the last week of demonstrations, their commitment looks set to signal the true beginning of the end for the brutal, di

A new generation of practical revolutionaries in the Middle East is daring repressive regimes to bow to popular reform rather than resort to brutal crackdowns. They are armed with little more than the power of social media and a belief that the basics in life trump Islamist ideology. 

No wonder dictators and fundamentalists fear social media as it seems to have played midwife to an extraordinary revolution unfolding before our eyes in the Middle East.

As a tyrannical dictator is ousted in Tunisia don't lose sight of another who has returned to Haiti to cash in on the billions of aid dollars...and meanwhile back in Canada, relatives of the Tunisian are moving in to my neighbourhood! 

Well there goes the neighbourhood.

As American mourns yet another appalling shooting, Sarah Palin shoots from the lip - again - reconfirming she would be incapable of presiding over a presidential podium.

It is almost laughable watching American politicians scramble to work out whether their increasingly violent rhetoric lies beneath the tragic Tucson shootings.

California has never been in bigger fiscal trouble. So who do voters choose as their new governor? Jerry Brown, aka 'Governor Moonbeam', the budget-conscious pol who was their governor 28 years ago

The first time Jerry Brown led California, from 1975 to 1983, he was the state's youngest-ever governor, a playboy bachelor who dated singer Linda Ronstadt and ditched the gubernatorial limo for a 1974 Plymouth Satellite.

We go into Christmas with the promise of fewer nukes, but threats of nuclear war being tossed around... and merry Christmas from Pundit

On the eve of another Christmas, are you feeling safer? No, I'm not talking about New Zealand's crime rate and the propaganda of fear around it or even our continued mistreatment of children. I'm thinking about the wider world, because as the year ends some serious changes are beginning.

Delegates came home upbeat from the Cancún climate talks, although the Copenhagen Accord texts were hardly altered by the Cancún Agreements. Were there good reasons for optimism? Or were the “rounds of cheering and applause,” “at times near euphoria,” psychological symptoms of something else?

Adrian Macey says it’s far too soon to analyse the meaning and import of Cancún. Mr Macey is a highly regarded diplomat. I am a lowly blogger: a marginally less considered, cautious breed. Here goes:

A clearly worried China has scored an own-goal with its ridiculous and abusive reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to its national 'dissident' Liu Xiaobo. The embarrassment should last for some time.

The empty chair in Oslo spoke a volume the Chinese Communist-ish government could never silence.

To the rich the spoils. A Republican refusal to continue unemployment benefits for millions of unemployed Americans unless millionaires and billionaires got to keep  tax cuts has seen Obama compromise, and arguably outsmarted

A cartoon in one of the American newspapers over the weekend had a large Republican elephant dressed in a Santa suit and laden with a huge bag of goodies about to go down the wide fat chimney of a house marked “the rich”.

Those embarrassed by the torrent of Wikileaks documents claim the whistle-blowing site is endangering lives. But the threat in this historian's dream trove of information is really to the reputations of politicians and diplomats, and their secretive, opaque, patronising modus operandi

To be surprised by the contents of the Wikileaks deluge is to be either negligent of international goings on, or naively trustful of governments, or both.

Another botched foray into international affairs sees Sarah Palin mistakes North Korea as America's ally. A little 'refudiation' is required just days after Barbara Bush suggested it would be best for the beautiful Sarah to stay in Alaska.

Barbara Bush – W’s ‘mommy’ has never been hailed for her tact and wow did that tell-it-how-it-is trait ring true this week, particularly when it came to Sarah Palin and her latest unsolicited foray into foreign affairs.

Burma's military thugs undoubtedly want something in return for releasing perfect hostage Aung San Suu Kyi, but world leaders who have used her fame to preach democracy must now make sure the generals find no reason to re-arrest her

She may be small, delicate, beautiful and perhaps even fragile, but Aung San Suu Kyi is the embodiment of what Vaclav Havel once called the “power of the powerless”, and that is why she has been such a threat to Burma

The Republicans may still be in full victory dance mode, but the realities of their new Tea Party compatriots should scare the hell out of them.

As Republicans do their victory dance around the defeated Democrats, it is obvious the game plan is they don’t have a game plan, unless just making darned sure Obama is a one-term president fits that bill.

In which I absorb the lessons of the mid-terms, am confirmed in my belief that it should have been Madam President, and advertise some good telly

So, the mid-terms in the US have delivered the Obama White House what the president himself has called a "shellacking". He has promised to try harder. Here's what I take from the results:

Fonterra’s been happily ‘feedlot farming’ indoors in China for nearly three years, and raising their calves in cages. Um, so remind me again … what was it they said, last December, about the ‘cubicle’ farms?

In December 2009, when the ‘cubicle cow’ story broke, Fonterra kept its distance. They said they had real concerns about the effect ‘stall’ (aka ‘cubicle’ and ‘covered’) farming could have on their pasture-fed free-range brand.

In the midst of the most heart-warming story of the year, why must we argue over whom to thank – capitalism or God? Can't we have it both ways?

First let me just get this off my chest: to those who always rabbit on about how the media never cover good news stories, I hope you are choking on your words this week, because there would have hardly been a news organisation which did not bring us hourly updates of the Chilean miners' progress until they were safely winched from their underground prison.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee awards this year's prize to a Chinese dissident, and China responds

A year after the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee dealt President Obama a card he is struggling to play, it has proven itself again unafraid of taking on giants.

If Israel is serious about peace it would have extended the settlement construction moratorium. Instead it coldly snipped the brake cables on this haggling train wreck leaving it up to everyone else to prevent the derailment, while it sniggers all the way to the digger. 

Perhaps it is time to really consider that Israel does not want peace with the Palestinians, and once again the world is being toyed with.

An emerging unholy alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US is a key driver behind potentially the biggest arms deal in US history

It is ironic United States President Barack Obama, 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, stands poised to preside over the sale of up to US$60 billion worth of 'sophisticated weaponry' - a bland euphemism for some of the most efficient killing machinery ever devised - to Saudi Arabia.

In a globalized world the nutters can't be left unchecked if they intend literally inflaming a major portion of humanity by burning their holy book, the Qur'an. The U.S. hierarchy had no choice but to play in Pastor Terry Jones' pyromania pit. 

When a tin-pot, fringe crazy in small town Gainesville, Florida, can command world attention there is something rather amiss in this globalized world of ours.

Is our government signalling a green light for the further privatisation of water services?

New Zealand's decision to abstain from supporting a UN resolution declaring access to clean drinking water as a basic human right is deeply disappointing. Equally unfortunate is the scant coverage that this important issue received in our mainstream media.

As the players in the latest round of Middle East Peace Talks assemble in Washington later this week, the issues confronting them only seem to have grown in the two years they have been on hold, so are they just going through the motions? 

The seemingly never-ending Middle East peace talks are back on the front burner this week, with an ambitious timetable and possibly insurmountable hurdles.

Where the F word is not a dirty word, and what a breath of fresh air that is.

I've just returned from two weeks in the United States, hence my absence from these pages.

As the wife of current president of the NZ Bar Association, each year I get to tag along to sessions at the American Bar Association's annual conference. The US organisation is vastly different from this country's. For starters, their motto is, "Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice".

The concept of a mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero has unleashed the ugly side of American politics, where those who profess tolerance have none themselves. Instead they have a hefty dose of prejudice, jingoism and stupidity and it is all on display.

Is a mosque near New York’s Ground Zero a triumph for radical Islam or a one-fingered salute from an otherwise tolerant society?

If the Afghanistan alarm bells were not ringing in Wellington over the last weekend – they should have been

The weekend saw four significant events that should be giving New Zealand’s foreign affairs and defence specialists cause for grave concern about our current risk exposures in Afghanistan.

It is ridiculous to suggest the sluggish response from the donor-world to Pakistan's utter devastation is not related to that country's terrorism troubles, but does it have a president who can stop hard-line Islamists from winning the hearts and minds?

Well knock me over with a feather…Islamist groups are trying to win the hearts and minds of utterly distraught Pakistanis, 20 million or so who have so far been cut adrift literally by yet another natural disaster, and figuratively (well on second thought literally also) by yet another s

The government says we're in Afghanistan to stop it becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Problem is, the war has changed and that rationale no longer stands up to scrutiny

The government is right when it says that the death of Lt Tim O'Donnell is no reason to pull our troops out of Afghanistan, but it still has one heck of a problem explaining to New Zealanders why we're there and what we're achieving.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer's Gaza flotilla inquiry already looks beset by political storms, but could it turn out to be another step up the ladder for Helen Clark at the UN?

Already it's begun. Within hours of Israel relenting and agreeing to a UN-led inquiry into its attack in May on the Gaza aid flotilla, the political games and attacks are underway. In the coming weeks, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, our former Prime Minister, will learn the true meaning of "damned if you do, damned if you don't".

The dauntingly large cache of documents detailing the increasing futility of war in Afghanistan doesn't deliver anything new... but gives cause for concern and puts the heat on the rather dubious ally, Pakistan.

The AfghanistanPapers – let’s call them AfPak - leaked this week were no Pentagon Papers of the Vietnam War era, but nevertheless they are quite capable of doing se

David Young is happier even than Sue Bradford and Deborah Coddington were to leave parliament. More satisfied than Nicky Hager was when Don Brash stepped down. He is chirpier even than… Tim Watkin.

I left my job at TVNZ eighteen months ago to move to Denmark. It was not such a culture shock: just like New Zealand’s state broadcaster these days, Denmark is mainly occupied by beautiful blondes.

The first Canadian soldier to have been charged with murder on the battlefield has dodged that bullet, but been found guilty of disgraceful conduct. Why? What did he do?

Is there such a concept as a warrior code which excuses the shooting of a severely injured combatant – enemy or friendly – to put him/her out of misery on the battlefield?

How the 20th century New York pop art brigade and its middle class sexist followers are too hypocritical to stand up and identify child abuse when they see it

I guess one should never be surprised by the hypocrisy, sexism, and downright inhumanity of those who dwell in the higher echelons of the publishing, literary and art worlds. It's the same all over the world.

Global condemnation may have forced Iran to abandon plans to stone to death a woman 'convicted' of adultery, but don't count on it. The campaign to fight Sakineh Ashtiani's execution needs more recruits - now!

The mixed messages now coming out of Iran in terms of the stoning to death of a 43-year-old Iranian woman are cause for much

Obama and Netanyahu met (again) and managed a pretty good rendition of calm and purposeful intent. But Obama's two goals--a nuclear-free world and a peaceful Middle East--increasingly appear to be political pocket lint trapped in his extremely smart suits

What exactly went on behind closed doors in the latest – and this time photographed – Obama-Netanyahu meeting will gradually spill out, but at first blush it seems the US President is willing to play the nuclear non-prolifer

If you think the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan is in a mess – take a look at ours.

The trouble really started in August last year, when Prime Minister John Key announced New Zealand would commit SAS troops to combat duty in Afghanistan for a period of 18 months.

The billion dollar protection fences are coming down now world leaders have left Canada, but the country has major headaches to deal with following mass arrests, suspension of civil rights and nothing really tangible to show for the outrageous cost of the G8/G20 summits

Contrary to popular belief, Canada’s largest city, Toronto, survived the G20 summit, but

The rest of the world is about to start reining in all those stimulus packages that took the edges off the recession. That could be really good for New Zealand, or really, really bad

If you only caught the headlines from the weekend's G20 summit, you could be excused for thinking all is coming right with the global eocnomy.

Rudd's remarkable run in power was driven by state politics, factions and Wayne Swan; and it was those same forces that brought him down

When Kevin Rudd led the Australian Labor Party to victory in the federal election of 2007, it marked a high watermark for ALP hegemony on the continent, with all six states, both territories and the Federal Government in Labor hands for the first time Australian histor

President Karzai has lost his preferred commander – General McChrystal falls on his sword – and New Zealand’s commitment to Afghanistan has not changed. Does anyone know what’s really happening in the labyrinth?

Prime Minister John Key says the Rolling Stone row in Washington will not influence New Zealand’s commitment to Afghanistan.

Canadians are aghast at revelations the government is splurging more than a billion dollars hosting the G8 and G20 summits for three days. While most goes on security and of course flowers, there's also cash for a fake lake

Forgive me, but I thought the world was in a bit of a squeeze when it came to financial largesse, and that the requisite austerity measures many countries are grappling with to stave off bankruptcy were the focus of global financial gurus.

As the propaganda war rages on over the Israeli Defense Forces' botched raid of the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza, it is time for a few home truths about the seemingly endless search for Middle Eastern peace

So here’s the analogy….I am in my own home going about my lawful business and someone breaks in…I defend myself and in the process injure the intruder, but he shoots me – fatally – and claims self defense.

Political junkies take note--the leadership battle across the Tasman is about to get really interesting

In 2007 Helen Clark knew Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister of Australia before Kevin Rudd did.

Here’s how that happened and why political junkies should be looking across the ditch at a fascinating fight shaping up in Federal Australia.

Quebec has waded in to the burqa fight, and while the legislation that will lead to a limited ban on full facial covering has been suspiciously suspended, the debate of persecution versus xenophobia rages on.

As the French and the Belgians tear back the veil worn by Muslim women, so too is Quebec enmeshed in the same row

The drama in London this week meant that the Euro-zone crisis received relatively little coverage or commentary. It's big news – and what happens next could be even bigger.

Kept at home by an annoying flu, I spent much of this week following the live coverage of the British election and its fall-out.

So farewell to Brown, one of the great contradictions of post-war British politics and the man who never won an election. And hello to David Cameron, a new prince in troubled times

Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it.

Endorsing Parliament's supremacy over government, Canada's Speaker has ordered secret documents concerning how Canadian troops handled Afghan detainees to be made available to the House

Canada’s Parliament has sent a blunt message to

The PM's two words that brought his campaign to a thudding halt... and what it means for the next few days on the trail

As one colleague at the newspaper office I work in said, "I haven't seen so many journalists crowded around the TV since 9/11."

New Zealand's military chief wants to negotiate with the Taliban. It's a controversial approach that raises the classic question of whether we talk with terrorists... and dozens of other questions alongside

In May 2008, then-President George W Bush stood before the Israeli Knesset and said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

This Week, ABC network’s political TV programme, missed the boat when they chose a new anchor – an anchor who isn’t Jake Tapper

ABC News’ front man George Stephanopoulos eludes me.

As the latest Pope passes the five year milestone, rather than take the time to pardon the Beatles, he could do worse than reflect on advice from an American columnist

Incredibly funny American comedian Lewis Black has this skit about evolution triumphing over creationism, in which, true to the exaggerated delivery of Black he screams “it’s fossils stupid…it’s fossils…it’s fossils…fossils, I win”.

While President Obama has been strutting the world stage with the "un-American" intention of stopping nuclear terrorism, his country's tea-partiers are working assiduously to undermine him

IIt would appear the President of the United Stateshas been reacquainted with his mojo. Well done.

As Afghanistan's President rants on about being invaded by Western troops and toys with the potential of defecting to the Taliban, NATO governments' worries grow about the stability of this dubious 'ally'

It looks as if Hamid Karzai has been raiding his brother’s stash.

Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai has been threatening to join the Taliban. He should be encouraged to do it and we should leave his country quickly

This month, New Zealand dispatched its 16th rotation of troops to the Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Bamyan Province. Our SAS unit in Kabul must also be almost due for rotation. We are unlikely to hear about that changing of the guard until it has happened.

The British election race will be tighter than expected. And New Zealand may yet have a footnote in the outcome

Not long ago, they looked like they would walk it.

Just when Canada's Conservative government through it was doing OK conceding to contraceptives as part of its initiative for developing world maternal health care, Hillary Clinton comes to town and says abortion must also be on the agenda.

Don’t you just hate it when you are planning a party and some bossy guest starts wading in on how to run it?

When American right-wing maven Ann Coulter was shut down in Canada, she resorted to type—she went feral—but the whole incident brings in to focus the fine line between free speech and hate speech

Ann Coulter is one of those right-wing American protagonists most people would not invite into their own home, but there is something fascinating about someone who gets off on her own capacity to be so consistently arrogant, nasty and offensive.

As Israel launches a public relations campaign to try and improve its damaged international reputation, its own spy agency Mossad is at the centre of a diplomatic row following a high profile assassination of an enemy of Israel in a Dubai hotel

Oops, looks like Mossad has done it again… and this time it is more than the New Zealand Government on the Israeli spy agency’s bumbling tail

A decision by Mohawk leaders to evict all non-aboriginals from the Kahnawake reserve just outside Montreal has fueled the racism debate, and begs the question of when the preservation of bloodlines can or ought to be justified.

So here’s the dilemma – when is eviction for not being of the desired race not racism?

The controversy over errors in the IPCC's assessment of climate change have people asking whether it's all a beat-up. But where's the peer reviewed evidence that no risk exists, asks one of the IPCC's authors

As has been well reported recently by the media, several errors have emerged from the IPCC 4th Assessment Report (AR4) published in 2007.

This week's 31st anniversary of the establishment of Iran's Islamic Republic is likely to be marked by bloody and brutal crackdowns on protesters and the execution of nine currently on death row. The question must now be how long before the regime implodes.

This Thursday will be a critical marker in the future of the Iranian government.

The US has begun the long process of overturning law that required gay soldiers to lie about their sexual orientation. But overturning the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy promises to be a nasty, dirty fight

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been a policy devised by US politicians who have not had the guts to do what is right because of the potential electoral consequences. At long last it has been outed as such.

The brain in the White House appears to have been outsmarted by the brawn of a nude centrefold, as Obama's filibuster-proof Senate number has been whipped away by a man once voted America's Sexiest Man. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Politicking 101…get your kit off.

Reference to the wrath of God seems part of human nature in times of disaster, but the televangelists take it too far when perhaps they could be concentrating on helping rather than pontificating

Amidst the anguish and devastation that is Haiti it is difficult to ignore the consistent references to God’s role in all of this.

From the pet peeves file, I simply have to take a stand against this country's repeated sin against the 44th president of the United States of America

A rose may smell as sweet, whether you call it a rose, a hornswoggle or Barry. But a president deserves more respect than even a flowering beauty, which is why I've finally reached my limit on how New Zealand media pronounce the name of the 44th president of the United States.

David Cameron has had four strong years. Now Gordon Brown is playing the posh card - and no wonder, it may just give him half a chance

It doesn’t seem that long. But David Cameron has now been leader of the British Conservative party for four years. And he’s achieved plenty. He has spruced up the Tory image, stitched up internal ruptures, and seen popular support climb and climb.

In taking their army knife to the civil rights of Swiss Muslims by banning minarets on mosques, the Swiss have fallen prey to the politics of hate and fear bubbling all too close to Europe's surface

The overwhelming vote by the Swiss to ban the building of minarets on their soil has rightly sent a chill through the legal, diplomatic and religious bones of governments, groups and individuals around the world.

It will be January before Tony Blair is required to appear before the Chilcot inquiry, but in truth he's already in the dock and not faring well

This week will be the second of the Chilcot Inquiry into why Britain went to war in Iraq and already has heard enough to put the case for dragging in Blair and his toady Cabinet compatriots, put them un

Sarah Palin's Going Rogue is a campaign book delightfully free of boring old policy and so is a sure fire dog whistle to her adoring base. It reinforces why she should never be President, but who the heck does the Republican Party have as an alternative candidate vaguely as charismatic as Caribou Barbie?

Every now and then we face really tough decisions…I mean capital ‘T’ tough. This week’s was whether or not to spend $34 on Sarah Palin’s God-bothering, petty and vindictive score-settling payback and thereby contribute to ‘the cause’ so to speak. Did I? You betcha!

Octomom Nadya Suleman has made a new documentary—once again stirring a hornet's nest of contempt and condemnation. Diss her if you like, but think of the kids

I have to admit, this is one cheesy British "documentary" that I really want to see.

President Obama's sitcky-outy ears are getting a fair bashing for his perceived dithering over what to do next in Afghanistan. But maybe we'll be better off for his serious evaluation of the situation as opposed to what happened with Vietnam... and then Iraq

Not even one year into his presidency and Barack Obama is at a moment which could define him as a refreshing intellectual or an intellectual ditherer. Given the make-up of the man it is the first description that should be his note in history.

While the world was focused on celebrating twenty years without the Berlin wall, perhaps it should have used the occasion to call for the breaching of Israel's wall which is contributing to the misery millions.

Watching the twenty-year old footage of the beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall it was not hard to feel very emotional about a truly historic moment for freedom, amongst countless other ideals.

The Pope's cunning plan to bring conservative Anglicans back into the Roman fold has prompted a deluge of tricky questions, and sent a sure message to Catholics that they can forget any little gifts of modernity under this year's Christmas tree

While the world seems to be going to hell in a handcart – death, destruction, climate catastrophe and abject poverty, what was the spiritual leader of the largest single Christian religion doing?

Afghanistan's Hamad Karzai has faced up to the unpalatable reality that he did not win the August election, and must now front up for a run-off in two weeks time. How can Afghan citizens, so widely defrauded the first time, be convinced to go through it all again?

It is a fair bet the international diplomatic community breathed a sigh of relief that the haughty Hamad Karzai has capitulated and agreed to hold a run-off election in Afghanistan in a couple of weeks.

Obama needed the Nobel Peace prize like another hole in the head, because it is effectively a set of virtual handcuffs on a President mired in war and global unrest—and don't his opponents know it

There are likely very few people in our great Western consumer societies who haven’t been given something they wish they could refuse, or give back, or sell on eBay.

John Key says his government will review the long-standing convention of secrecy over Special Air Service operations. He needs to lift the veil on much more than that

As predicted, New Zealanders learned where the NZSAS is based in Afghanistan by accident, from an ally.

And you thought John Key's bit on Letterman was a sad attempt at scaring up tourists. In Denmark the state tourism organisation filmed a fake YouTube appeal in which a hot Dane woman admitted her fling with a foreign visitor produced a child

So, have American tourists started calling up, expressing interest in the Cinnabon at Auckland Airport yet?

For a non-smoker it is a tough call to lean in the direction of tobacco companies, but the latest fad in Canada—sue the tobacco companies to pay for the health costs of their products—seems, well, a tad hypocritical and smells of more than just smoke.

Iran goes into talks with the UN Security Council members, plus Germany, against a backdrop of various players lying and cheating and bullying—but at least staying within the nuclear rules...unlike Israel

What would happen if Iran decides to copy Israel and refuse to abide by the world’s nuclear safeguards?

Sarah Palin's memoir is rushed to print and another of Bill Clinton's ladies, oops aides, writes a tell-all

Only 49 sleeps till Sarah Palin's book is released in the US, y'all!

You've gotta love the UN as it plays host to the rehabilitated terrorist Qaddafi and the thief of democracy Ahmadinejad, who in turn send diplomats and fellow leaders to sleep or to walk out in protest. All that and Obama's inaugural UN speech as President.

It is a week of global firsts…first address to the UN as US President by Barack Obama, first address by the supposedly rehabilitated terrorist Qaddafi, and of course Pundit’s first birthday.

Outrage in Canada as the government sends native communities not medicine but bodybags in preparation for the upcoming winter and round two of swine flu

Canada’s impoverished native community asks for medicine and hand sanitizers to pre-empt swine flu, and they get sent b

Presdident Obama has finally woken from his summer slumber to find the health care reform juggernaut almost out of his reach. It is time for him to show some political mongrel to regain control—for the sake of America, but also those around the world who would like him to be more than a one-termer

When it comes to the American health care debacle it has so far been quite acceptable to give it a cursory glance and move on armed with prior knowledge of how out of control and unfair it is and has always been.

Canada's taking its fight against having to repatriate one of its citizens from Guantanamo all the way to the Supreme Court. But rejecting the former child soldier leaves the country open to charges of not in my backyard, merci

Canada is skating on really thin ice in terms of its public position as an arbiter of the rule of law, due process, the rights of its citizens and, in this case, the rights of children. Why such harsh words for the usually boring and beautiful nation?

As Afghanistan's votes are counted the fraud accusations grow, the size of the turnout appears dismal and the new US military review doesn't tell us much that's new

As Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai inches closer to the magical number that will relieve him of a pesky election run-off, hope for the beleaguered country ebbs away.

Despite the best of intentions, Scotland has been made to look an idiot over the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds. Al-Megrahi arrived back in Libya to a hero's welcome leaving the world asking why

When international politics begins to smell like oil it has this uncanny ability to stink.

To understand the Aghan election we will need to re-think our idea of success

When you dodge bombs and bullets on the way to the voting booth and face the real possibility that your finger stained with indelible ink as proof of voting will be chopped off on the way home, you deserve a decent government.

As the US sweeps in to rescue an American from the clutches of the Burmese military junta, the woman the world really wants to see free, Aung San Suu Kyi, is left behind to her fate

Another American mercy dash, another US ‘prisoner’ released, but this time the gal was left behind.

By demanding that none other than Bill Clinton come to resuce the imprisoned US journalists, the reclusive Kim Jong-Il has added to Barack Obama's foreign policy headache

He may look like he is about to croak, but once again Kim Jong-Il has proven he’s quite the master at playing international politics. He’s the sure fire winner in the mercy dash Big Dog Bill Clinton made to the hermetic kingdom to secure

The latest NATO tactic for trying to exit the war in Afghanistan is to reach out to the enemy. Talking with Taliban 'moderates' is now under serious, top level consideration, but do such 'moderates' exist and can they be trusted to finish the job of Operation Enduring Freedom?

Britain and the US want to talk

As the number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan continues to mount, the latest public opinion poll shows Canadians steadily losing faith in sending troops into that war. John Key should take note

As the death toll mounts, America's allies in Afghanistan – Britain and Canada in particular – a

Did the Canadian PM eat the communion wafer, or pocket it? Days before his audience with the Pope, why did Stephen Harper—a Protestant—take communion at a Catholic funeral?

Politics and religion rarely make peaceful bedfellows and are shied away from if a polite dinner party is the aim of any cautious host…but as Canada’s Prime Minister has found, it is also mighty uncomfortable when the host—of the Catholi

While New Zealand prime minister John Key hip-hopped his way through Tonga, Samoa, Niue and the Cook Islands – Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama was working on his moves with his own trip to Melanesia.

It took a while to work out why John Key took the Prestige Dance Group on his 'four nations in four days' Pacific tour. But eventually it became clear.

Is it wrong to hope Sarah "hockey mom" Palin will remain on the world stage simply for our own entertainment? And does that make us as bad as the folks who convinced her she has a shot at choosing the drapes for the Oval Office?

Sarah Palin truly is the gift that keeps on giving, and while many would really like to put that gift on Trade Me or E-Bay, I deeply suspect most want to keep her right in the spotlight…and watch…like a car crash, or as some wit described, a moose on roller skates—not at all graceful, bu

New Zealand is reviewing its involvement in Afghanistan, as President Hamid Karzai fights for his political life, the US and NATO pour thousands of additional troops onto the battlefield, and Kiwi troops come under fire in Bamiyan

The temperature is rising in war-torn Afghanistan. The country is less than two months away from presidential and provincial government elections.

Iran's Guardian Council admits excess voters; CFR's 'Must Reads' on Iran; Australian email at centre of ute affair a fake; bomb blast injures leader in Caucuses; and more

Top of the Agenda: Iran Election Aftermath

Education bureaucrats want to dump the only spelling rule that I can remember

The stuff filling the newspapers in NZ has seemed a bit predictable over the last few days.

As Iranians throng Tehran's streets, braving batons and bullets, the Islamic State's Supreme Leader has opted for an inquiry into the election results. Will it be a legitimate exploration of an implausible result, or a tactic to kill the protest momentum?

Is this what revolution looks like?

North Korea's latest bargaining chips, two US journalists, are a human dimension to an out of control nuclear situation which has left the world's diplomats stumped—again. It is now a waiting game to see what they are worth

It is difficult to imagine a preference for the Iranian judicial system over others, but being subjected to ‘justice’ à la North Korea makes Iran’s leaders, the

It is Gordon Brown's own political cowardice that will finally do him in

Twenty years after the pro-democracy uprising in China's Tiananmen Square the Communist Party remains haunted by its reaction

As anniversaries go, there’s little but loathing when it comes to marking the 20 years since hundreds, possibly thousands of people were mowed down by tanks on the order of the Chinese Communist Party. It is 20 years since Tiananmen Squa

A Montreal judge has suspended his coroner's inquiry into the fatal shooting of a young black man until legal aid is available for the victims—not just the police who did the shooting

Quebec has this week seen one gutsy judge take a stand against the establishment out of his stated respect for justice, and his stance couldn’t be more pertinent for any society in which minorities are so often in conflict with

The International Whaling Commission is staring extinction in the face. Sir Geoffrey Palmer talks about its struggle to save itself, let alone the whales.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets in Portugal next month, in the throes of delicate and difficult negotiations, which might be a metaphor. It has to save itself, before it can save the whales.

A former Canadian PM is the latest politician to prove "political judgment" is an oxymoron

As the release date for more US troop-abuse photos nears, the White House executes another awkward policy turnaround

Has torture talk become torture in itself or is that just too flippant by half?

Obama now has to deal with plague and pestilence to add to his 100 days of crises, and swine flu is proving no complacent little piggy

You know things are bad when the Latino ‘air-kiss’ greeting is a no-no, as the World Health Organisation has now declared in the face of as swine flu crisis.

The white collar guys who forumlated the US torturers' manifesto may be under the screws themselves as President Obama has now said they are open to investigation

Is strapping someone to a board, covering their face with a clinging wet cloth, inclining them so their feet are well above head level, and pouring water onto their face to simulate drowning, over and over and over again torture?

Fidel Castro has survived many US Presidents, and a trip to Cuba suggests he may outlive the Cold War as well as Obama re-thinks 50 years of failed sanctions

It is rather an odd feeling to be witnessing the closing chapter of the Cold War, as the United States admits the Castros have won, and it is time to move on… Well, almost.

The 116 Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were not sacrificed for the sake of interfering with women's rights

There are times in the life of a blogger or columnist (or whatever the moniker) when one is truly spoiled for choice. This is that moment, but it is possibly best to leave the G20 for what actually happens at the G20—although the communiqué has bee

So who actually accepted the AIG bonuses? And when is Obama going to stop spending political capital on this mess?

It is time to face the music in terms of America’s latest reality show….and it is not one that has just been launched, nor is it the one that ended with potential

Despite appearances, the tolerance for extremism in Pakistan is waning

By Richard Wike, Associate Director, and Katlheen Holzwart, Research Analyst, Pew Global Attitudes Project

The unintended consequences of tackling two of the world's most hideous despots are difficult to stomach, but the world has little option but to take action

It has been a week in which two of the world’s worst despots have been vying for title most foul, and it makes you realise that if some politicians were insects, they would certainly be cockroaches—vile and repugnant but undoubted masters of survival.

Who said money can't make you happy? Pew Research suggests the world's middle class is more satisfied with life than its lower classes, and is also more concerned with freedom of speech and religion. Poorer people are more concerned with freedom from want

Assuming the current reversal in fortune being suffered by the global economy doesn’t also result in a reversal in the flow of history, we can expect continued increases in the portion of the world population that can be reasonably classified as “middle-class.” And if the past is a guide, as

Those who sat by and watched the destruction of Gaza have now come up with a quick $4 billion in guilt reparatiion. It's all a little much to stomach.

There’s something pretty stomach churning in the spectacle of the world’s major countries and large donors gathering in Egypt’s holiday mecca and in a day raising $4 billion to rebuild Gaza.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez now has the consitutional power to remain in office beyond a second term, but he may be losing the political support he needs

Venezuelans handed President Hugo Chavez another victory last week when they endorsed a constitutional amendment eliminating term limits for the office of president, permitting him to seek a third term.

As Ottawa indulges in a little Obama-mania, the economy, Afghanistan, and the rise of sharia law in Pakistan hang heavy over the new Commander-in-Chief

Canada’s capital, Ottawa, is in fully fledged Obama-mania mode as it prepares for the US President’s first ever overseas visit (Friday NZ time) in his new leading rol

Americans have long tended to be more sympathetic towards Israel in Middle Eastern disputes than Europeans, but since 9/11 they have become more staunch in their support

Just what the final US stimulus package says about only buying US-made goods remains vague, but here we explain the issue and what's at stake

I was all primed this morning to post a link to a more-than decent analysis of what has happened to the 'Buy American' provision in the ultimate US stimulus package that I came upon last night.

Three weeks into the job and Obama may have just reaslied he has to toughen up if he is to stay ahead of the great Republican machine and pass the legislation his team wants to get through – after all, they won the election didn't they?

The day before Obama’s inauguration Eugene Robinson, a deputy editor of the Washington Post and MSNBC commentator, stood before a private function and

In the bleak midwinter, Canada is fighting to ensure it doesn't lose billions of dollars as a protectionist US Congress pushes forward with its 'Buy American' legislation

It is really, really cold here north of the 49th parallel, but that’s what you expect in February.

Canada's minority Conservative Government has survived its first budget test after prematurely proroging Parliament late last year. However PM Stephen Harper is on a tight leash

There’s nothing like being an inch away from political death to refocus a Prime Minister, and when last we met Canada’s Stephen Harper he was just a

Every obnoxious security officer, crowd crush, and queue will be worth it to witness Barack Obama taking of the Oath of Office.

I’m packing my bags for Washington and heading for The Inauguration. That’s right, capital ‘T’ capital ‘I’(or should that be ‘capitol’): The Inauguration.

Even in the midst of DIY projects somewhere out beyond Gisborne, it was impossible to avoid the horror of Gaza and the sheer stupidity on display at George Bush's final press conference

I've spent the past couple of week up a ladder shooting a seemingly endless number of tubes of gap-filler into holes in a ceiling. The ceiling in question was a good 14 feet high, and so at the top of that ladder I was blissfully removed from any computer, and indeed most media. Nevertheless, a couple of news stories reached me even up on the seventh rung, breaking into my DIY reverie.

Can Hillary Clinton salvage a credible US foreign policy from its self-serving history?

As the bloodshed increases and the desperation intensifies, it is time to ask what is the ultimate aim of the bombardment of Gaza, and how will the international community stop each side from harming the innocents of the other.

As the Israeli-Palestinian crisis deepens and the number of dead rises, two urgent questions need to be answered.

As the pillars of capitalism collapsed around him, the man once called the maestro summed up 2008 by admitting, "I have found a flaw"

As 2008 is about to fade into memory, I've been pondering which is the most striking current affairs moment of the year. I'd be interested in the stories and images that most struck you, but for me there's one I keep coming back to.

Afghanistan will be one of Obama’s first tests in office, and his Canadian neighbours are in no mood to be persuaded to stay

In less than three weeks the so-called Free World will have its new leader, but few leaders in the history of the world start so far behind the eight ball.

Barack Hussein Obama is going the whole name hog in his inauguration and in so doing he may well define a new political generation. Names it seems are critical in top US politics – think Clinton, or Kennedy or Bush…

So what’s in a name? Plenty when there’s politics involved and probably never more so than with the man who will soon move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington DC.

Barack Hussein Obama has decided that he will indeed be sworn in by his full name when he takes over from George Walker Bush on January 20. A big deal it should not be, but a big deal it is.

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush has refocused attention on the plight of an occupied people

There’s something rather ugly in this week’s George W. Bush Memorial Victory Lap of countries he has invaded.

The Canadian PM's desperate clutch at power is likely behind the resurgence of the sovereignist Parti Quebecois in this week's provincial election, and could have major federal implications when he is next forced to go to the polls

Canada is a country divided. As with many things Canadian, the world tends to say “who cares, it’s Canada and it’s boring”, but the divisions go to the very heart of its ethos of nationhood; an ethos shared by fellow democracies, including New Zealand.

A groundbreaking ruling in Canada means any Prime Minister faced with a confidence vote can pull the plug on Parliament by running to the Governor General

The face of Canadian politics has changed dramatically and not necessarily for the better in terms of upholding the We

Canada's Conservative government is desperately trying to stave off the vote that will oust it after just seven weeks in power. Taking its place could be an unholy alliance of losing, socialist and seperatist parties whose one point of agreement is that they hate the Tories even more than they hate each other

Beware the political bully – not for what he or she can do to political foes, but for the comeuppance bullies from schoolyards to debating chambers ultimately reap.

After just six weeks Canada's Conservative minority may be brought down by its own hubris

Canada’s six-week old government could be the main casualty of the country’s economic downturn, and will have only itself to blame.

Stories of the EU "overhauling" its farm subsidies are coming off the wires today. If only they were true

If you have a herd of cows and a flock of sheep, what's the collective term for the mass of conflicting news stories coming out today on the meeting of EU farm minister in Brussels overnight debating the future of Europe's archaic farm subsidies? A gaggle? A cloud? A murmuration?

The American auto industry car tsars took their corporate jets to Washington to plead poverty, but the Big Three's warnings of catastrophic job losses haven't convinced senators to ride to their rescue

North America is the land of SUVs. Sitting among the beasts in the 'parking lot' that these highways so often become, the plight of the so-called Big Three auto makers seems surreal. It seems there are plenty of their vehicles around me, belching fumes from gas guzzling monster engines.

Before we write-off this weekend's G20 meeting as a talkfest, let's appreciate the fact that countries outside Europe and North America are finally getting a seat at the table

Pondering the G20 summit that starts in Washington DC tomorrow is enough to make your head hurt, but what we can safely presume is that this is just the first of many, many meetings to re-design the world's financial systems. We will be hearing about "new global financial architecture" for months, maybe years, to come.

Stephen Harper remains Canada's PM after an election in which barely half the electorate bothered to vote. What the country needs is the jolt of proportional representation

Canada has just blown $300m on its third election in five years, only to reproduce the status quo. They have groundhogs here, and electorally-speaking, Tuesday was their day.

US evangelicals aren't the conseratives the used to be. And the implications for the election couldn't be bigger

Back in the day, when Jim Wallis started telling evangelicals they didn't have to be Republicans or even right-wingers to be good Christians, he used to wave around a Bible that had been cut to shreds. He had gone through the good book and cut out all references to helping the poor and social justice.

George Bush insists the generals, not congress should be running the Iraq war. So why didn't he listen to military chiefs in the first place?

As pressure for yet another strategic change in Iraq grows in Washington and Congress's desire to withdraw troops grows more urgent, President Bush has been repeatedly falling back on one oft-repeated line of spin.