Pundit Wire

A Class Act from Bangui

President Catherine Samba-PanzaWith worthy competition, the Central African Republic may be the most miserable place on earth. Twelve per cent of its population is displaced, eight per cent are refugees in other countries, 54 per cent urgently need humanitarian assistance, 30 per cent of its schools and hospitals have been destroyed in recent conflicts, 7000 children kidnapped, and the per capita income has fallen from $461 in 2008 to $294 in 2014.

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Scotland Votes: the Logic and Rhetoric of the Independence Campaign

Scotland vote noScotland has voted decisively against breaking from the United Kingdom and becoming an independent country. Some thoughts on the big picture logic and rhetoric of the campaign.

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The diplomacy of the Ukraine autonomy deal explained

UkraineDiplomacy often looks like a precise, punctilious activity: dapper, discreet officials armed with quill pens and cucumber sandwiches crafting cunningly worded documents with multifarious shades of meaning. That’s an important part of it. But peep behind the curtain, and you see all sorts of squalid manoeuvrings and double-crossing.

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Believing is Seeing

IMG-20140909-01939 September 10, President Obama rolled out his new anti-IS intentions.  Meanwhile two high-octane intellects separately discussed their appraisals of Obama’s foreign policy.  I won’t say “tautology,” but each made perfect sense in its own framework, each might have frayed if confronted with the other.  I would say, “It would have been fascinating to have them in the same room,” but I am not into reality TV.

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“We have catch’d Scotland …”

Scotland In 1707, when the Scottish parliament voted to dissolve itself and send representatives to the parliament in London, the Speaker of the English House of Commons exulted, “We have catch’d Scotland and will bind her fast.”

That boast held true for over three hundred years. But on September 18, the people of Scotland will have the chance to vote on whether they wish to remain “catch’d” or to recover their independence.

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The news summer from hell and the end of optimism

globe By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts.  Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse – that kind of feeling.

“What fresh hell is this?” – the question Dorothy Parker asked when her doorbell rang – now applies to the news.  If you’re staying informed, you’re licking the razor.  Unfortunately, not following what’s happening in the world isn’t really an option.  These horrors seize our lizard brains; we’re hard-wired to pay attention to danger.

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Remembering Todman

todman The August 17 Washington Post carries a fine obit on Terence A. Todman, deceased August 13. No quibbles with Emily Langer’s synthesis of this remarkable man, my first boss in 1986 in the Foreign Service.  Just a few footnotes to add:

I was Ambassador Todman’s press officer the day he gave his fateful news conference in Copenhagen, denying that his future posting would be South Africa…

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Who will govern England if the Scots split?

Parliament All kinds of questions are being asked about what will happen if Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom on September 18. How will the national debt and the North Sea oil and gas reserves be divided? What about fishing rights? Will Scotland be allowed to keep the pound? Where will the Royal Navy base its nuclear submarines, since they are not welcome in Scotland? What will the remainder of the United Kingdom do for a flag if the white cross of St. Andrew on a blue field is ripped from the Union Jack?

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