EU LEADERS TO DISCUSS REFUGEE SOLUTIONS
EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels today to discuss measures that could help stem the flow of refugees, with a focus on countries outside of Europe such as Turkey, Euronews reports. In a speech to German parliament this morning, Chancellor Angela Merkel said providing more support to Turkey could play a key role in the crisis. â€œMost war refugees that come to Europe travel via Turkey,â€ she said. â€œWe won't be able to order and stem the refugee movement without working together with Turkey.â€
ISRAEL STILL TENSE AFTER CLAMPDOWN
Attacks continued in parts of Jerusalem yesterday after Israeli authorities created new checkpoints between Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods. Police shot and killed a man who reportedly stabbed and injured a 70-year-old woman at the cityâ€™s main bus station. Another Palestinian was shot dead as he tried to stab a police officer near the Old City, the BBC reports.
- Meanwhile, the Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour said the situation was â€œvery explosiveâ€ and that the Security Council had to find ways of â€œproviding protectionâ€ to the Palestinians, Al Jazeera reports.
- Suggestions by the U.S. State Department that Israel might be using â€œexcessive forceâ€ to confront the wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinians drew sharp criticism from senior Israeli cabinet ministers today, Reuters reports.
- In the past two weeks, 32 Palestinians and 7 Israelis have been killed in the violence.
In an exclusive interview with glossy French magazine Paris Match conducted at his modest apartment in the Vatican, Pope Francis bemoaned greed and the â€œidolatry of moneyâ€ thatâ€™s driving the world to ruin. Read more in Le Blog.
U.S. TO EXTEND AFGHANISTAN PRESENCE
President Barack Obama will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office in 2017, according to senior administration officials, casting aside his promise to end the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands the conflict off to his successor, the AP reports.
â€œThe reply we have had from Britain is that he can leave whenever he likes for any medical care he might need, but the European arrest warrant for Assange is still valid. In other words, â€˜he can leave â€" and we will put him in jail,â€™â€ The Guardian quoted Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño as saying today. Ecuador had requested that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange be allowed â€œsafe passageâ€ out of its embassy in London so he could receive a medical examination for shoulder pain in a hospital. The website Justice for Assange said the 44-year-old needed an MRI that can only be done with equipment that cannot be brought to the embassy due to size and weight. This comes after the UK called off its 24-hour surveillance of the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has been living for 40 months.
MYANMAR, REBEL GROUPS SIGN PEACE DEAL
Myanmarâ€™s government signed a ceasefire deal with eight ethnic minority rebel groups today in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, The Irrawaddy reports. It comes after two years of peace talks but is weakened by the absence of seven of the 15 groups involved in the negotiations, including the largest armed groups the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Organisation. President Thein Sein, whose army-backed party will likely be swept from power in November, said that â€œeven though the agreement is not nationwide yet, we will try harder to gain the agreement with other groups.â€ Myanmar has been in state of civil war with various armed groups since it gained independence from Britain in 1948.
Photo: Arne Dedert/DPA/ZUMA
It took one minute and 12 seconds for 10,200 editions of the 2015 Guinness Book of World Records to fall Wednesday at the Frankfurt Book Fair, beating the world record for book dominoes.
U.S. TO HELP FIGHT BOKO HARAM
Washington is set to deploy about 300 troops to Cameroon to help a multinational task force composed of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin counter the spread of Boko Haram in Western Africa, NBC News reports. President Barack Obama notified Congress that about 90 military personnel, backed by drones, began deploying Monday to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region.
With writing and then printing, man had already externalized a part of his memory. But as Jacques Henno reports for Les Echos, those transformations pale, in both speed and breadth, in comparison to the current digital revolution. â€œA study conducted on 6,000 Europeans a few months ago by Kaspersky Lab, which specializes in cyber security, revealed that 43% of the respondents between 16 and 24 years old believe their smartphones contains practically everything they need to know or remember,â€ Henno writes. â€œSome experts, like Nicholas Carr, author of Does the Internet Make You Dumber? or to a lesser extent, Betsy Sparrow, from the department of psychology at New Yorkâ€™s Columbia University, believe that youth today suffer from â€˜digital amnesia.â€™â€
Read the full article, Will Technology Make Human Memory Obsolete?
SYRIAN ARMY, RUSSIAN JETS TARGET REBELS
Syrian troops backed by allied Russian jets launched an attack on rebel-held positions north of the government-held city of Homs today, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. Russian warplanes reportedly carried out 15 raids in the area. Recapturing the area would help reassert Syrian President Bashar al-Assadâ€™s control over the main population centers of western Syria and secure territory linking Damascus to the coastal heartland of his minority Alawite sect, Reuters reports.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
VW TO RECALL 2.4 MILLION CARS IN GERMANY
The German automotive watchdog KBA (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt) has ordered Volkswagen to recall 2.4 million cars in Germany as a result of the emissions falsification scandal revealed last month, Die Welt reports. The KBA reportedly also rejected a Volkswagen proposal that car owners be allowed to bring in their cars voluntarily for repair.
ON THIS DAY
Our good old Gregorian calendar was introduced exactly 433 years ago today. This, and more, in your 57-second shot of history.
BORIS JOHNSON REALLY WANTS TO WIN
London Mayor Boris Johnson knocked expand=1] a 10-year-old Japanese schoolboy to the ground today while playing street rugby in Tokyo. Toki Sekiguchi, the victim, later said the encounter had been â€œenjoyable.â€
The deadly stabbing of UK MP David Amess confirms this researcher's ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad.
The killing of British Conservative MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on October 15, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councillor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.
This is to say nothing of the 2018 attack on the Palace of Westminster that left police officer Keith Palmer dead and MPs in a state of shock.
Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.
Between the divisive politics of Brexit and the growing polarization of British party politics, MPs currently work in a low-trust, high-blame environment. Even before the existential angst and subsequent politicking of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent Hansard Society audit of political engagement concluded that “opinions of the systems of governing are at their lowest point in the 15-year Audit series – worse now than in the aftermath of the MPs' expenses scandal."
The ramifications of governing in such an age of distrust are significant for the mental health and wellbeing of politicians. With colleagues, I've argued that such visceral and endemic distrust is a key stressor in political life. People are not simply wary or skeptical of politicians, they now routinely criticize their personalities and dismiss their good intentions. At its most severe, this “distrust stressor" manifests in the growing threat of physical violence faced by politicians.
Unfortunately, the distrust stressor is commonplace in the febrile climate of post-millennial UK politics. Serious cases of stalking and harassment have become a “common experience" for MPs. In the UK general election of 2017, for example, 56% of surveyed parliamentary candidates expressed concern about the levels of abuse and intimidation they had received and 31% said they had felt “fearful" during the campaign. Misuse of anonymous social media accounts has intensified these problems and created a toxic environment for elected politicians that regularly exposes them to online rape and murder threats.
Governing under threat
As part of an ongoing study of trust and governance in five democracies around the world, I recently carried out more than 50 in-depth interviews with junior and senior politicians in national legislatures, including questions on the stresses and strains of political life.
Reflecting on the ramifications of simply doing their job, one Conservative MP commented:
There have been votes that have been controversial, and you can then get a lot of abuse as a result of picking a side. My office has been vandalized, I've had stuff sent to me in the post, I've received death threats. And you do build up a very thick skin doing this job, there's no shadow of a doubt. Because one week in it, if you're not able to roll with the punches, you won't see through a whole term.
Almost 40% of interviewees were able to cite more than one instance of serious abuse or threats of physical violence. Not only are these experiences felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK, but they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile. As one MP in New Zealand told me:
I've had some pretty horrible death threats and I've had a lot of abuse, particularly through social media. But also, funnily enough, in writing and phone calls. Unfortunately it's becoming more part of our political life.
Another, this time in South Africa, said:
What [this group of constituents] were saying is that if the water supply was not fixed by a certain time, they were going to kill me. And what they did is they took a tyre and said that this tyre was going to go around my neck and they're going to light it and that was going to be my demise. Listen, when you see your life flash before your eyes… you start to question whether it's worth it.
In the UK, analysis of data from the Representative Audit of Britain (a survey of all parliamentary candidates who stood in general elections between 2015 and 2019) suggests that the harassment, abuse and intimidation of elected and aspiring politicians is also highly gendered. Women politicians, and black and minority ethnic women in particular, experience a disproportionate share of sexualized abuse online. They also receive more aggressive and sexualized threats offline.
Contact between politicians and the public is at the very heart of effective democratic representation.
It is relatively easy to understand why all this would be detrimental to politicians' professional competence and their sense of personal worth and wellbeing, but it is harder to find solutions to this crisis.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has called for increased security measures in the wake of Amess's death. This is welcome but it's an instrumental response which might not be easy to implement. Political contact between politicians and the public is at the very heart of effective democratic representation – and it is unlikely that most MPs will agree to suspend constituency surgeries or fill their offices with armed guards at a time when governor-governed relations are already so strained.
New Zealand's parliament in Wellington
Compassion and education
While specific issues around MPs' security and training are grappled with, we also need a call for conscious restraint and compassion in political discourse. When some politicians themselves resort to dog-whistle populism, verbal abuse and infighting, it broadcasts an image of politics as an arena for incivility. At the same time, it perpetuates a binary worldview that crowds out the possibility of empathy and compromise.
Alongside this, we need to overhaul the media coverage of politics. Increasingly intent on personalizing the political and politicizing the personal, a 24-hour news media too often drip feeds blunt stereotypes about politicians' personalities and motives. In contrast to much news coverage of politicians, my own research with hundreds of elected MPs and councillors has shown that the majority enter politics with an extraordinary dedication to improving the lives of others that is rarely perceived or appreciated by those they govern.
A deficit in democratic education leads to inflated public expectations about what is possible.
Equally important, nations around the world must commit to fully funded and well-resourced programmes of democratic education. Politics is messy and full of contingencies, and a deficit in democratic education leads to inflated public expectations about what is possible or desirable. In turn, this breeds disappointment and lowered self-efficacy, which together disrupt the positive potential of deliberative participation.
Ultimately, there is no place for political violence, harassment or intimidation in a functioning democracy. At the very least, politicians are ordinary humans attempting to undertake an extraordinary job on behalf of everybody else. Whatever their political views, nobody who has the courage to "step into the arena", to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, deserves to fear for their life in the pursuit of public service. To say that we need to rediscover civility and respect in our politics is once again an understatement of a devastating truth.
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