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In Saudi Arabia, a new era for women

In Saudi Arabia, a new era for women

When King Abdullah’s speech was released by the Saudi Press Service on Sunday, my first reaction was stunned amazement. The second was to think of Dr. Aisha, a physician I’d met in Riyadh eight years ago. “Women will be allowed to participate in the Shoura Council as members from the next session onwards,” the ageing […]

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Fifteen Lire’s worth of mystery in Piazza Salvi

Fifteen Lire’s worth of mystery in Piazza Salvi

Vestiges of a turbulent passage in Italian history may have come to light on Monday (September 26), in the form of three silver coins unearthed beneath the venerable pavimenti of Piazza Salvo Salvi. How they made their way to Barga, and were eventually covered by paving stones, is unknown. The coins were turned up by […]

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The Model for Palestine 2011 – Israel in 1949

The Model for Palestine 2011 – Israel in 1949

Global stability is held hostage to years of savage terrorism and de facto war in a small corner of the Middle East. The crisis leads to a tense vote before the United Nations, over whether a new member-state should be recognized in the region, with a formal mandate to defend its interests and negotiate viable […]

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The Invasion of Paris, Then and Now

The Invasion of Paris, Then and Now

PARIS — Viewed from the airless heights where statisticians crunch numbers, the story of the woman I’ll call Lilly Tan is simple. She is an immigrant in France, a single digit among millions for the statisticians, a warning flag to wave at rallies for the xenophobic political parties that grow ever stronger in Europe and […]

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A Decade After 9/11: Turkey Redefines Political Islam

A Decade After 9/11: Turkey Redefines Political Islam

In 1995, the city of Gaziantep, on the southeastern edge of Turkey’s Anatolian plain, was under siege. Its crumbling medieval centre was swamped with refugees from a civil war between insurgent Kurds and the Turkish Army that eventually left 40,000 dead and 3,000,000 people homeless. Along the borderlands with Syria and Iraq, smoke rose from […]

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Norway sounds alarm bells in Europe

Norway sounds alarm bells in Europe

Barga, Italy – The news from Oslo and Utoya Island shocked Italians. The horrifying carnage was all that anyone talked about this weekend at Caffe Aristo, Barga’s de facto social center, where calcio — soccer – and the latest sexual capers of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi usually monopolize conversation. “A Massacre Without Pity,” the Sunday […]

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It’s time to leave Afghanistan – or is it?

It’s time to leave Afghanistan – or is it?

BARGA, Italy–My head tells me it’s time to leave. But my heart, for reasons grounded in personal experience, is profoundly wary. Like almost everyone who has watched, in growing dismay, (article from August last year here) as the war in Afghanistan has dragged mercilessly on, I agree with President Obama’s decision to begin withdrawing U.S. […]

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Ground Zero in Guatemala’s drug nightmare

Ground Zero in Guatemala’s drug nightmare

“Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging,” the saying goes. In my case, focus came with the sharp edge of a machete held to my throat and a pistol aimed at my head. Early this spring, the van I was travelling in while on assignment in Guatemala was forced into the jungle by four hooded […]

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Europe, Arizona and my plumber

Europe, Arizona and my plumber

The State of Arizona, for many Americans, has come to symbolize anti-immigrant hysteria codified into full-fledged statutory law. Under its highly controversial terms, anyone who simply “appears” to be foreign can be stopped by police and ordered to prove that they are U.S. citizens or legal residents. In Europe, Arizona arrived a generation ago – […]

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“Obama crushes Osama” — the war on terrorism is not a pep rally

“Obama crushes Osama” — the war on terrorism is not a pep rally

It might have been a big night at the Olympics, a U.S. hockey team taking home the gold, or, less probably, a victory in the most-watched television event on the planet, soccer’s World Cup. “USA! USA!” shouted the crowds in New York’s Times Square and outside the White House gates in Washington. Strangers exchanged high-fives […]

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Cave Canem exhibition in Barga

Cave Canem exhibition in Barga

When 73 artists join forces to present nearly 100 paintings, sculptures, videos and poems on a single theme, the result can’t really be called something as limited as a mostra (“exhibition”). It’s more in the nature of an encyclopaedic survey. In the case of Cave Canem, the event that opened in three Barga venues November […]

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Sunset on a 2000-year-old-dream

Sunset on a 2000-year-old-dream

Numbers are the last thing that come to mind when thoughts turn to Tuscany. Paradise is not quantifiable, and few corners of the planet are more suggestive of an earthly paradise than the village-dotted hills that stretch across central Italy from Siena and Florence to the azure Tirrennian Sea. Yet numbers matter a great deal […]