• Isis’s PR department is pushing its vision of an Islamic state.
  • Industrialisation has left China with soil pollution that is damaging health and livelihoods across the country. The government had declared soil pollution data a “state secret”, but officials have slowly started acknowledging the issue.
  • The US Navy’s most sophisticated warship is designed to be operated by video gamers – the young sailors who crew their ships have, after all, been raised on video games.
  • Neil McArthur, a philosopher, asks if humans will ever be liberated from basic biological needs when it comes to sex.
  • Steve Negus in The Arabist details how Iraq has been mismanaged by the Maliki goverment.

 Read more

By Gideon Rachman

The headlines are dominated by regional crises – in Ukraine, in Iraq and in the South China Sea. But is there a common thread that ties together these apparently unconnected events?

  • The FT’s Richard McGregor reports on how detainees at Guantánamo Bay are growing old in limbo.
  • Algeria’s mostly French-bred football team highlights the failure of homegrown African football.
  • The Kurdish forces are unlikely to lose a war to Isis should it choose to launch a full-scale attack, but the fight could be costlier than its leaders let on.
  • In Jordan, officials fear that Isis is gaining support in poor communities such as Ma’an, or in the teeming northern refugee camps and border towns where many of those who have fled from Syria live.
  • The US State Department began investigating the security contractor Blackwater’s operations in Iraq in 2007, but the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq”. Weeks later, the firm’s guards killed 17 civilians.
  • One of Egypt’s leading novelists, Ahdaf Soueif, has accused Egypt’s military-backed authorities of “waging a war on the young”.
  • Buzzfeed looks into the Russian collective that calls itself the Anonymous International: “Completely unknown just months ago, the group has become the talk of Moscow political circles after posting leaked documents detailing elements of Russia’s annexation of Crimea; covert operations in eastern Ukraine; the inner workings.”
  • The flawed response in Saudi Arabia to an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome could have contributed to its spread.
  • In the Netherlands, sandcastles are being used to educate schoolchildren the dangers of rising sea levels.

 Read more

A fighter from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (Isis) brandishes the Isis flag on the streets of Mosul (Getty)

At Baghdad airport, the creeping sense of dread is apparent. As harried passengers are ferried between multiple searches, drivers of the black SUVs chartered to take them into the ultra-secure facility from a boarding point outside the airport are nervous. Read more

Gideon Rachman

In an effort to make sense of Britain’s European predicament, I decided that I needed to put some distance between myself and the inglorious events in Brussels. So I have travelled to Brazil, where there appears to be some sort of football tournament going on.

In fact, there are certain obvious parallels between what happened to David Cameron in Brussels and what happened to the England team in Brazil – ignominious defeat being the clear link. However, it seems to me that the England team at the World Cup were actually rather better prepared and more professional than the British government in Brussels and that was reflected in the margin of defeat: 2-1 rather than 26-2. Read more

Tony Barber

It’s the fashion these days for outsiders to lecture France as if it’s a talented but obstinate schoolboy failing his grades. The idea seems to be that the more you tell the French off, the faster they’ll pull their socks up. This approach is wrong. We should, instead, smother France with love.

Like anyone, the French like to hear from time to time that they are clever, beautiful, funny, kind and successful. But for the past 10 years or so, the outside world has spoken fewer nice words about France than about any developed country.

It’s reached ridiculous proportions. Anyone would think, from all these foreign sermons, that French civilisation was falling apart. This is hardly the way to get the best out of any nation, not just the French. We need to stop finding fault and start smothering France with love. Read more

By Lucy Hornby

It was a vintage 1950s moment as foreign diplomats based in Beijing streamed into the Great Hall of the People this weekend for a ceremony designed to re-establish China’s international leadership as an advocate for poorer countries and an alternative to the US.

China’s growing commercial clout is giving it international sway that it has not enjoyed since the 1950s. At the time, Jawharlal Nehru of India allied with charismatic Chinese premier Zhou Enlai to promote the non-aligned movement of countries loyal to neither the US nor the Soviet Union, most of which had only recently broken free of the British Empire.

China is now putting forward a revived vision for how it can use its growing power — at the same time as tensions are flaring along its maritime borders. Read more

Tony Barber

(Getty)

“There is a tide in the affairs of men

“Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

So said Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and the same thought was surely the cause of much rejoicing on Friday among the main political party groups in the European Parliament. Seize the moment, and victory will be yours.

The parties’ success in forcing the EU’s national governments to nominate Jean-Claude Juncker as the next European Commission president is one reason why Friday’s EU summit in Brussels will go down in history. The parties, using the European Parliament as their lever, have rebalanced the distribution of power among the EU institutions in their favour. Read more

Tony Barber

Don’t mix football with politics, goes the old saying – and Belgians are learning the lesson well.

Often depicted (wrongly, in my view) as an artificial, politically divided country doomed to disintegration, Belgium is cheering with one voice as its football team delights fans at the World Cup in Brazil. The streets of Brussels and other cities are festooned with black-yellow-red national flags – symbols of unity under which, at least during a football match, most Belgians can gather. Read more

Who are the winners and losers in a Juncker presidency?
With Jean-Claude Juncker increasingly likely to be appointed as the next president of the European Commission, Gideon Rachman is joined by Tony Barber, Europe editor, and Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief, for an in-depth look at what this would mean for the UK and for Europe as a whole. Also on the agenda are the growing dominance of Germany in the EU decision-making process and this week’s European Council meeting in Ypres