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[/audioplayer]After plunging Syria into five years of a bloody civil war that has killed 300,000 and displaced 10 million, Bashar al-Assad is preparing for the endgame. He has been digging a bunker for himself, creating an enclave in the mountains around the coastal city of Latakia where his community, the Alawites, are in a majority.
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[/audioplayer]A new mood has taken hold of Lambeth Palace. Officials call it urgency; critics say it is panic. The Church of England, the thinking goes, is about to shrink rapidly, even vanish in some areas, unless urgent action is taken.
Blue collars are all the rage in the Tory party these days, which makes Stephen Crabb a very fashionable cabinet minister. He was brought up in a Welsh council house by his mother, a single parent. His political views were shaped by seeing the way in which Thatcher’s reforms transformed his neighbourhood. He still believes Conservative values give the best hope for working-class and Welsh voters. As George Osborne leads an ever-deeper raid on Labour territory, we can expect to see and hear a lot more from people like Stephen Crabb.
Sir Christopher Lee, who died last month aged 93, knew how to play a part. One of the consummate actors of his generation, whose career spanned nearly seven decades, his versatility on stage and screen was legendary.
At first glance his military career during the second world war was similarly versatile. According to some reports and obituaries in the days after his death, Lee served in the Special Air Service (SAS), Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and Special Operations Executive (SOE).
It’s Saturday morning in the courtyard of the Al-Zawiyah detention centre on the outskirts of Tripoli and Colonel Nourdeen Mishaal of Libya’s Ministry of Interior’s Department for Combating Illegal Immigration is about to have his weekend ruined. The Colonel has delivered an impassioned speech praising his own government and exhorting the West to do more to help in the battle against the people smugglers responsible for the thousands of migrants arriving in Europe every week.
Wolves have powerful symbolic meanings for humans. They are part of the mythology that defines us: Little Red Riding Hood, Romulus and Remus, the wargs in Tolkien, Mother Wolf in The Jungle Book, Maugrim in The Chronicles of Narnia. Wolves have profound resonance for us all.
Wolves intermittently break out in the stories we tell and are told; currently they have been doing their stuff in Game of Thrones and Twilight.
At the weekend, I tried — and failed — to get some money out of an empty cashpoint near Omonia Square. The Eurobank cashpoint was covered in fresh anti-German graffiti: ‘No to the new German fascism,’ it read in Greek, ‘No to the “dosilogous”.’ That’s the Greek for Nazi collaborators in the war. For any cashpoint users who couldn’t speak Greek, the graffiti artist helpfully added, in English, GERMANY= 卐.
My first reaction on hearing of Margaret Thatcher’s death in 2013 was: ‘Great — now my autograph from her will go up in value.’ This wasn’t callous. It was a simple application of demand and supply. As a child of the 1980s I had learned my lesson well. The Lady wouldn’t have objected to me viewing her signature as a pension plan. Indeed, it’s what she would have wanted.
How many Caribbean villas, then, should I be thinking of buying? Because this is no ordinary autograph.