Sunday, July 21

ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Cigarette smuggling in Gaza affects humanitarian aid deliveries
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Cigarette smuggling in Gaza affects humanitarian aid deliveries

In the heavily blockaded Gaza Strip, cigarettes have become a rare commodity, often selling for $25-30 each. Both U.N. and Israeli officials have reported that coordinated attacks by groups seeking to profit from these contraband cigarettes are severely hampering the transportation of essential aid into southern Gaza. Israeli authorities carefully monitor all goods entering and leaving Gaza through checkpoints under their control. Despite these efforts, cigarettes have managed to pass for weeks inside aid trucks, mainly through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza. To evade Israeli controls, traffickers in Egypt hide cigarettes in sacks of flour, diapers and even watermelons donated by the United Nations, according to aid agencies and an Israeli military official who provid...
NATO unity faces challenges amid leadership uncertainty
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

NATO unity faces challenges amid leadership uncertainty

As President Biden and his team prepared to celebrate NATO’s 75th anniversary, starting Tuesday night in Washington, the goal was to project unity and confidence. The intention was to send a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other adversaries that, despite more than two years of war in Ukraine, NATO had become stronger and more resolute in its mission to deter aggression. But as 38 world leaders began arriving on Monday, that confidence seemed to be wavering. Even before the summit officially began, doubts were raised about Biden’s potential for a second term and the specter of a possible return of former President Donald Trump. Trump, who once labeled NATO “obsolete,” has threatened to withdraw from the alliance and suggested he would give Russia free reign in member ...
Political changes in France after early elections
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Political changes in France after early elections

After Sunday's snap legislative elections in France, the nation faces a deadlocked parliament and significant political uncertainty. No major political faction, left, center or right, has won an outright majority. The left-wing New Popular Front emerged as the leading group with 178 seats. President Emmanuel Macron's centrist coalition followed with 150 seats, while Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration Rassemblement National party and its allies secured 142 seats. Contrary to expectations, the National Rally did not win a clear victory. A strategic move by centrists and leftists to form a "republican front" against the National Rally in the second round of voting proved effective. Candidates across France withdrew from three-way races to consolidate votes against Le Pen's party. The election ...
Motorcycles and chaos in eastern Ukraine
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Motorcycles and chaos in eastern Ukraine

Russian motorcycle soldiers have introduced a new element of chaos to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, often using motorcycles, dirt bikes, quad bikes and dune buggies to quickly traverse open and exposed spaces. Lieutenant Mykhailo Hubitsky described these assaults: "They moved quickly, scattered and swerved." These unconventional vehicles are now so common that Ukrainian trenches often overlook scrapyards of abandoned and exploded off-road vehicles. Moscow’s forces aim to make small tactical gains, often just a few hundred meters. Despite the high risk, these motorcycle assaults help Russian forces traverse minefields while being observed by drones and under artillery fire. The riders abandon their bikes when they reach Ukrainian trenches and engage in close combat on foot. Captain Yaro...
Nigel Farage Makes His Parliament Debut
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Nigel Farage Makes His Parliament Debut

Nigel Farage, known for his support of former President Donald J. Trump, his pivotal role in Brexit and his reputation as Britain’s most notorious political provocateur, has been elected to Parliament for the first time. At the helm of the emerging Reform UK party, Farage defied expectations by securing four seats in Parliament, beating many analysts’ predictions in a system that typically disadvantages smaller parties. His party platform has focused heavily on anti-immigration policies. Farage won a decisive victory in Clacton, a declining coastal town where pre-election polls had indicated strong support for him. The victory comes after seven previous failed attempts to win a parliamentary seat. In a speech last month, Farage said: "The establishment is terrified, the Tories are terrifi...
The Dark Charm of Russian Nihilistic Entertainment
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

The Dark Charm of Russian Nihilistic Entertainment

The leader of the Universe gang, Vova, brother of Marat, has just returned from the harrowing Soviet-Afghan war. Despite the horrors he has witnessed, he seems unfazed, and his peers show no curiosity about his experiences. This sets the tone for the series: a world so devoid of meaning that it becomes impenetrable. Director Zhora Kryzhovnikov confines the camera to the stark, rectilinear apartment blocks, never venturing beyond. While the period details are surprisingly accurate, the true essence of Kazan remains elusive. The plot oscillates between frenetic activity and inertia. The play takes place at a crucial moment in history. Everyone senses the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, but the future remains uncertain. In a rare moment of effective irony, Vova reflects on w...
Kim Jong-un’s new pin symbolizes his noble personality cult
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Kim Jong-un’s new pin symbolizes his noble personality cult

At a recent meeting with the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced a promising harvest and a new defense treaty with Russia. However, what attracted the most attention was the introduction of a new accessory: breast pins with the image of Kim Jong-un, as shown in photos by state media. The Kim family, in power in North Korea since 1948, has long been revered as a godlike figure. Portraits of Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and his father, Kim Jong Il, adorn every home and office, and citizens are required to wear pins depicting these leaders. Kim Jong Un's new pin marks a significant elevation in his personal cult, previously reserved only for his grandfather and father. Now, North Koreans have three images to choose from for their pins. “This is p...
French far right scores big win in first round of election, polls show
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

French far right scores big win in first round of election, polls show

Early projections indicate that the Rassemblement National party has won a landslide victory in the first round of elections for the French National Assembly, bringing the nationalist, anti-immigration party to power for the first time. Polling projections suggest the party won about 34% of the vote, far ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party and its allies, who won about 21%. The scores do not reliably predict how many parliamentary seats each party will win, but National Rally is likely to be the largest force in the lower house, though not necessarily with an overall majority. A coalition of left-wing parties, the New Popular Front, won about 29% of the vote. Voter turnout was very high, over 65%, compared to 47.51% in the first round of the last parliamentary ...
Palestinian Fighters in West Bank Draw Inspiration from Hamas in Gaza
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

Palestinian Fighters in West Bank Draw Inspiration from Hamas in Gaza

The narrow alleys of West Bank refugee camps are covered with black tarps to hide Palestinian fighters from Israeli drones. Green Hamas flags and “martyrs” banners adorn buildings damaged by Israeli raids and airstrikes aimed at curbing the growing militancy fueled by the Gaza conflict. This scene, however, does not take place in Gaza or a traditional Hamas stronghold, but in a refugee camp in Tulkarem, a city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where the moderate Palestinian faction Fatah has long held sway. Recently, I met Muhammad Jaber, a local commander, in one of these dusty, war-torn alleys. At 25, Jaber is one of Israel’s most wanted individuals. He and other fighters say they shifted their allegiance from Fatah to more radical groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad after H...
How Architecture Became One of Ukraine’s Essential Defenses
ACTIVISM AND NGOS

How Architecture Became One of Ukraine’s Essential Defenses

The Ukrainian government and military have already begun major reconstruction projects. Bucha and Irpin, the devastated suburbs of Kiev, have become major construction sites. Architect Norman Foster has been hired to design a new master plan for Kharkiv, whose extraordinary density of modern architecture is exposed to near-daily shelling. But this exhibition continues to focus on informal, grassroots efforts in Ukrainian architecture. It features the work of architects from inside and outside the country, as well as some of Ukraine’s best-known artists, not to mention the ravers and DJs of Kiev’s world-leading electronic music scene, who have aided the reconstruction effort while the records were spinning. Vladimir V. Putin began a full-scale war against Ukraine in February 2022, but Russ...