United Nations does not currently enjoy the best reputation. In fact, it has become an object of dislike across the political spectrum. Only recently Melanie Phillips has called it ‘morally bankrupt’ in her belief that it kowtows to dictators and despots. Founded in 1945 as a way of both preserving and enforcing peace, the United Nations was designed by the future permanent Security Council members – the five policemen of the UK, USA, Russia, France and China - to fix problems where its predecessor the League of Nations failed. It was the league’s inability to check the ambitions of Italy, Germany and Japan that led it to be seen as a byword for impotence in terms of international peacekeeping. The UN is now being characterised in much the same way, seen as toothless, impotent and even irrelevant. However, like the league before it, the UN record is not one of unmitigated failure.
With the Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast, public attention has turned to the oft-neglected Commonwealth of Nations. The 2018 games dovetail with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London on April 16-20, the first since the UK voted to leave the EU. Tales of sporting prowess have competed with speculation about the possibilities the Commonwealth may provide for a post-Brexit Britain. Among hard Brexiters, re-engaging with the Commonwealth offers one of the more seductive “opportunities of Brexit”. Despite cautious neutrality prior to the referendum, and an initial response focused on mitigating risks, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Patricia Scotland, has pledged to “turbocharge the Commonwealth trade advantage”.
Plenty has changed since the Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury in 1948. The Windrush Generation have transformed Britain: they've lived, worked, and married here; they've paid their taxes; they've woven their rich threads into our shared cultural tapestry. The Windrush Generation didn't just transform the fields of music, gastronomy and culture; some of them had already bled for Britain on the fields of Europe, Africa, and Asia during the World Wars. David Lammy's powerful speech in the Commons stated that 'despite slavery, despite colonisation, 25,000 Caribbeans served in the First World War and Second World War alongside British troops. When my parents and their generation arrived in this country under the Nationality Act of 1948, they arrived here as British citizens.’
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I’m sick to death of concentrating on tweets by left-wingers—and yet here I am again, mostly leftists. Why? Maybe it’s because I dohold the Left to a higher standard than the Right, not in spite of being a socialist, but because I am a socialist. We’re the Left! We’re supposed to be on the right side of history, be the forces of progress, the movers of justice, the users of reason and the empirical. We should always hold ourselves to a higher standard—or else history will not. It also goes without saying, that when we have shut down our facilities of self-criticism in the past, very bad stuff has tended to happen.
The homelessness epidemic faced in developed countries has been described as a humanitarian crisis unfolding in our streets. There’s a direct correlation between the rising cost of living in cities and the severity of homelessness. This crisis has reached a point where it’s drawn comparisons to poverty in developing nations, as homelessness jumps to record-breaking levels in the U.S. and further afield. If we look at Los Angeles alone, municipal leaders have revealed that their surveys counted over 55,000 homeless people in the area — a 25 percent increase from last year. California and Washington state homelessness numbers have also been rising, and Hawaii is up by over 30 percent since 2007. Alameda County’s figures increased by 40 percent over 2015, and Seattle and San Diego’s numbers are also much higher.
In a world where the United Nations appears unable to play a meaningful role in the growing military tensions over Syria, one should perhaps have little hope that its multilateral economic sister, the International Monetary Fund, will do any better when it comes to trade wars. But as ministers and central bankers start flying into Washington DC this week for its Spring Meetings, the IMF could find itself in the right place and right time to broker a de-escalation of tensions between China and the United States. US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart have been playing long distance chess for some week — with Trump announcing his moves on Twitter. The White House has imposed $50 billion of tariffs and Beijing has responded with a similar value of sanctions carefully targeted at marginal constituencies.
President Trump echoed his plan Monday to meet with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in two months or so. “We’ve been in touch with North Korea; we’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June," Trump told reporters before a Cabinet meeting Monday. As Trump pressures other countries to cut off economic aid to North Korea until it gives up nuclear weapons, Trump said that "I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties" at the prospective meeting. "Hopefully, we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea," Trump said. Trump spoke after weekend reports that Kim had pledged to discuss denuclearization, though analysts said it was unclear whether he was referring to just his country or to both North and South Korea.
More people than ever are devaluing Britain’s most popular, hallmark product — an overpriced home — by accepting discounted offers for their flats and houses. Brits should hold the line. Many will, thank goodness, but the ones who don’t undermine the country and London most of all. We must do our best to prevent market democracy discovering the proper value of our homes. There are already big problems at the top end of the London housing market. Hundreds of luxury homes, often complete with swimming pool, gym, and cinema, are lying empty. Hikes in Stamp Duty, uncertainty over Brexit, and the recent spotlight shone on tax havens and money laundering may be putting off buyers. Oh well. The property slowdown is not a national rout — yet — but prices are “moving South” which means “bad” in the lingo of the City of London and, to be fair, many parts of Northern England.
The trick is not to think about it too much, to click without thought, without self-consciousness, the right hand ignoring the left hand. But, of course, I’m always thinking. The photos are saved in my deleted file. Before their 30 days are up, I recover them and give myself another 30 days to decide. The photos are badly lit; I don’t know how to find my light. My face is always in the shadows, my arms aren’t long enough to capture both my body and face. Sometimes it’s only my chin and lips that are showing, it’s hard to tell what the lips are doing without the eyes. They could be pouting, half-smiling, promising something, but the eyes are elsewhere, looking at the image onscreen, off-camera.