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How Vladimir Putin is waging war on the West – and winning

Last month, the speaker of the Russian parliament solemnly instructed his foreign affairs committee to launch a historical investigation: was West Germany’s ‘annexation’ of East Germany really legal? Should it be condemned? Ought it to be reversed? Last week, the Russian foreign minister, speaking at a security conference in Munich, hinted that he might have

It takes a village (or six): the battle for rural churches

Some of the longest job descriptions belong to rural Church of England clergy. ‘So what do you do?’ ‘I’m the Rector of Aldwincle, Clopton, Pilton, Stoke Doyle, Thorpe Achurch, Titchmarsh and Wadenhoe.’ Every one of these place names evokes an ancient Pevsner-worthy church, smelling of candlewax, damp hymn books and brass polish. Though many villages

Attack of the personal space invaders

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/Viewfrom22-19Feb2015.mp3″ title=”Mark Mason and Lara Prendergast discuss the personal space invaders” startat=1422] Listen [/audioplayer]It’s the shoulders you have to watch out for. If he’s pressing them back as his hand comes out to shake yours, then beware: you’re about to meet a Space Invader. It’s tricky, being an alpha male in polite 21st-century society.


The dark comedy of the Senate torture report

Like many journalists, I’m a bit of a know-it-all — when information is touted as ‘new’, especially in government reports, it sometimes brings out in me the opposite of sincere curiosity so essential to my trade. Thus when my French publisher asked me to write a preface to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s report on the CIA’s

Notes on...

An earthquake with a Baroque legacy in Sicily

Syracuse is a handsome place, steeped in a rich historical broth. At the tip sits Ortygia, an island offshoot, which has been the backdrop to many Mediterranean sagas: Hellenic, Christian, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque — take your pick. By day, Via de Benedictis is filled with local men selling sea urchins, milky balls of ricotta and