As art prizes go, the Jerwood Painting Prize is scrupulously even-handed: over the past nine years since its establishment, its shortlists have been models of inclusiveness. In particular, they have managed to strike a balance between figurative and abstract art, and this year's shortlist of six is no exception. It's split between three abstract painters in very different styles – John Hoyland, Marc Vaux and Suzanne Holtom – and three figurative painters ditto – Shani Rhys James, John Wonnacott and Alison Watt.
This week Tony Blair was warned to brace himself for another huge increase in opium production in Afghanistan. Analysis of a harrowing United Nations report showed that the situation was catastrophically out of control. Inspectors surveyed 134 districts. They learnt that some 23 were planning to plant poppies for the first time in 2003, while another 50 were expecting to increase production. There were some successes for Afghan government-led attempts at elimination.
Michael Wigan says that British farmers
and consumers would be better off – and
Paul Robinson says we can learn
a lot about decency and independence from plucky CanadaYou've probably heard that story about the Inuit having 50 words for snow? Well, the sign of a genuine Canadian is that he has 50 words for doughnut. When a glacial wind is howling through Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat and it has been dark for five months in Tuktoyaktuk, Canadians head for Tim Horton's, Dunkin' Donuts, Robin's Donuts, Country Style, Coffee Time, Baker's Dozen, and all the rest of them.
BrusselsWhen push comes to shove, I think I know which side Neil Kinnock is on. Eight years in Brussels – as propriétaire of Boris Johnson's crummy old digs at 76 rue van Campenhout – have not really gone to his head. Yes, he appears dutifully on the BBC as vice-president of the European Commission to justify persecution of the Metric Martyrs, while spitting off-air at the madness of hounding a Newcastle grocer for selling bananas by the pound.
We are going through one of those horrible and debilitating periods in our history when we are convinced that everybody hates us. Racked with grief, we may even begin to hate ourselves – and thus climb into bed at night praying that we might wake up as Turks. Or Irishmen. It is partly the Eurovision Song Contest. For years we have foisted jaunty, sub-American pop pap on our European neighbours and watched as they lapped it all up, imitated it and vomited it back across the North Sea with Scandinavian or German accents.
Driving through the streets of Baghdad last week, I was struck by the number of satellite dishes for sale everywhere. After years in which the appliances were banned by Saddam, freedom is sprouting all over the skyline. There is still an almost total absence of local media, so that Iraqis know nothing of what is going on in their own country except by rumour. But those who can afford a dish are eagerly beginning to learn about the world.