Daily Archives: May 21, 2014

Four days away from potentially her biggest election victory, Marine Le Pen (above) has had a sharp reminder of the biggest threat to her assiduous efforts to detoxify the far-right National Front (FN) in the eyes of French voters: her father.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the FN founder who handed over the party reins to his youngest daughter in 2010, remains its honorary chairman and is a candidate in Sunday’s election for the European parliament.

Before joining his daughter on the podium for the closing rally of the FN’s election campaign in Marseille on Tuesday evening, the party’s 85-year-old patriarch was heard discussing the issue of population growth and immigration with an FN mayor by two journalists from AFP, the French news agency.

The agency reported him as saying that France “risked submersion” from immigration and a low birthrate, complaining that the issue was being ignored.

In response to the suggestion that it was never to late to act, the agency said Mr Le Pen replied: “It is never too late, but still is it very late,” before adding: “Monseigneur Ebola could take care of it in three months.” Read more >>

At a recent show at the British Library in London showcasing pre-Columbian gold, a Colombian diplomat noted that his countrymen were “very concerned about their image and public relations.”

Until a decade ago, Colombia was mostly associated with guerrillas and drug kingpins such as Pablo Escobar. All of that has changed.

But the country still suffers from a public relations failure at the local level. As Colombia’s image abroad continues to improve, thanks in large part to the main players in the current election campaign, the view Colombians have of their own nation is growing ever more negative, partly because of those same men. Read more >>

Roula Khalaf

Happiness is a threat in the Islamic Republic, especially to conspiracy-minded hardliners. Read more >>

By Amie Tsang and Gavin Jackson

After a decade of negotiations, Russia managed to wrangle out a gas deal with China – and just in the nick of time.

Europe has been looking to extricate itself from its dependence on Russian energy, while Putin wants to show Europe that it has friends – and customers – in the east.

When China’s largest oil company signed up to a 30-year deal to buy from Gazprom up to 38bn cubic metres of gas per year from 2018, it helped the Russian gas company to make its first shift away from the west.

Europe’s demand for energy is critical to the Russian economy: gas and oil exports make up some 52 per cent of Russia’s government budget, which has slipped back into deficit in the last two years. So Russia needs to find another market for its energy exports. Read more >>

First it was Joe Hockey, Australia’s treasurer, who was snapped chomping Cuban cigars as he drafted the country’s harshest budget in 20 years. He was later challenged for dancing to the song “This will be the best day of my life” in his office before delivering a hair-shirt address to parliament.

Now it is the turn of Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, who has been caught winking and smiling during a radio phone-in show as he talked to a grandmother who admitted she has resorted to working on telephone sex lines to make ends meet.

The television footage of Mr Abbott’s cheeky wink went quickly viral on the internet on Wednesday, prompting aides to suggest he was merely signalling to the presenter that he was alright to take the question. But for a leader who has already been accused of being a misogynist by his critics, the damage was done. The Green Party has now added “creep” to the growing list of jibes thrown at Mr Abbott. Read more >>