Pelosi departs Taiwan as Tensions Rise



News Desk, Barta24.com
Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, met with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. Photo collected.

Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, met with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. Photo collected.

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Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, was welcomed to Taiwan by leaders eager to accept American support. But when she departed on Wednesday, she left behind a crisis.

Pelosi met with Taiwanese lawmakers and then with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, offering assurance of U.S. support for the island that China claims as its own. The meetings, though light on substance, were widely welcomed in Taiwan as a rare symbolic victory in which a major foreign power showed its support in the face of intense opposition from China.

Taiwan is now bracing for China to begin live-fire military drills on Thursday — an escalation without recent precedent — that could encircle the island and drop missiles only 10 miles from its coast. China also suspended its exports of natural sand to Taiwan and stopped imports of certain types of fruit and fish from the island.

Diplomacy: The Biden administration has spent months building an economic and diplomatic strategy in Asia to counter China, and Pelosi’s visit leaves allies to wonder what damage has been done to the president’s united front. Europe, which mostly does not support the independence of Taiwan, has sought to stay out of the conflict.

In the region: Japan, whose westernmost inhabited island lies less than 70 miles from Taiwan, has increasingly come to view Taiwan as important to its national security.

Friend or foe? Japan-China ties complicated after 50 years



News Desk, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Friend or foe? Or both? On the streets of Tokyo and Beijing, the ties between Japan and China remain complicated and often contradictory, 50 years after the two Asian countries normalized relations as part of the process that brought Communist China into the international fold.

Chinese official media and textbooks memorialize the victims of Japan’s brutal invasion during World War II, even as young urbanites slurp “ramen” soup noodles in a two-story restaurant row made to look like Tokyo’s narrow alleyways.

In the real Tokyo, Japanese flocked to a festival last weekend to try Chinese dumplings, even as they worried about the growing military prowess of their much larger neighbor and its designs on the self-governing island of Taiwan — which happens to be a former Japanese colony.

“Politics is politics, it has nothing to do with the exchanges between us people,” said Zheng Bin, baking a Chinese leek pie at the festival in Yoyogi Park. He has spent half his life in Japan, coming as a student 30 years ago, and now runs six Chinese restaurants in the Tokyo area.

Politics influences people, though, and critical views are on the rise as the two countries mark the 50th anniversary of the agreement to establish diplomatic relations, which followed U.S. President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China earlier in 1972.

A survey last year by Japanese think tank Genron NPO found that 90% of Japanese had a negative image of China, and 66% of Chinese felt the same way toward Japan, up from 53% the previous year.

“It’s normal that there are problems at the 50th anniversary,” said Li Tingjiang, the director of a Japanese studies center at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He cited geopolitics and the social and economic differences between the two countries. “But we shouldn’t deny the longstanding positive impact from mutual understanding and cultural exchange over the past 50 years.”

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Far-right government in Italy, asylum seekers and migrants



Eric Reidy
Asylum seekers in an Italian port.

Asylum seekers in an Italian port.

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The Brothers of Italy party – which topped the polls with 26 percent of the vote on 25 September – has its roots in Italy’s post-war neo-fascist movement. The party’s head, Giorgia Meloni, is set to become Italy’s next leader – and its first female prime minister. She is looking to form a governing coalition with the far-right League party and the centre-right Forza Italia party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The main issues for voters in the election were rising energy prices, inflation, and Italy’s policy towards Russia and Ukraine. However, the winning coalition also campaigned on a hardline anti-migration platform, promising to implement a naval blockade to prevent asylum seekers and migrants from reaching Italian ports and to follow in the UK’s and Denmark’s footsteps by attempting to send asylum seekers outside Europe to have their claims processed.

Migration and rights experts told The New Humanitarian they expect the new government to also crack down on NGOs and volunteers carrying out search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean and providing humanitarian support to refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Italy.

In the lead-up to the election, there were several high-profile violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants, including the killing of Alika Ogorchukwu, a 39-year-old Nigerian man who was beaten to death in broad daylight in the town of Civitanova Marche in July, which put a spotlight on racism in Italian society.

The leader of the League party is Matteo Salvini. His tenure as Italy’s interior minister from June 2018 to September 2019 provides a good indication of the policies a new, far-right government is likely to pursue, according to Carmine Conte, a legal policy analyst at the Brussels-based Migration Policy Group think tank.

Salvini closed Italy’s ports to search and rescue NGOs, gutted the Italian asylum reception system, and made it more difficult for people to receive humanitarian protection in the country.

Salvini – who remains on trial over charges stemming from his refusal to let rescued asylum seekers and migrants disembark in an Italian port in August 2019 – is unlikely to return as interior minister because his party performed poorly in this election. But “now we are going… towards hostile, anti-migrant policies on the same level as Salvini,” Conte said.

Ukrainians who have escaped the Russian invasion will likely be exempt from this hardline approach, according to Conte, exemplifying a double standard seen across Europe in the treatment of Ukrainians and people from other parts of the world seeking safety.

According to Migration Analysis 28 September 2022, what a far-right government in Italy means for asylum seekers and migrants
Beyond stoking racism and xenophobia, experts fear Meloni could double down on migration policies that lead to more deaths at sea.

Eric Reidy, Migration Editor-at-large, The New Humanitarian.

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World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow



News Desk, Barta24.com
World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

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The tide of international opinion appears to be decisively shifting against Russia, as a number of non-aligned countries are joining the United States and its allies in condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine and its threats to the principles of the international rules-based order.

According to media reports, Western officials have repeatedly said that Russia has become isolated since invading Ukraine in February. Until recently, though, that was largely wishful thinking. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, much of the international community spoke out against the conflict in a rare display of unity at the often fractured United Nations.

The tide had already appeared to be turning against Russian President Vladimir Putin even before Thursday’s U.N. speeches. Chinese and Indian leaders had been critical of the war at a high-level summit last week in Uzbekistan. And then the U.N. General Assembly disregarded Russia’s objections and voted overwhelmingly to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be the only leader to address the body remotely, instead of requiring him to appear in person.

That shift against Russia accelerated after Putin on Wednesday announced the mobilization of some additional 300,000 troops to Ukraine, signaling the unlikelihood of a quick end to the war.

Putin also suggested that nuclear weapons may be an option. That followed an announcement of Russia’s intention to hold referendums in several occupied Ukrainian regions on whether they will become part of Russia.

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Socrates and the life worth living



Oscar Davis, Bond University
Socrates and the life worth living

Socrates and the life worth living

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Socrates was notoriously annoying. He was likened to a gadfly buzzing around while one is trying to sleep. The Oracle of Delphi declared him the wisest of all human beings. His life and death would go on to shape the history of Western thought.

And yet he proclaimed to know nothing. The genius of Socrates lay in his professed ignorance of what it means to be human.

Socrates (469-399 BCE) grew up in Athens over two and half thousand years ago. At the time, the Athenians were recovering from a devastating war with the Persians. As they rebuilt, the military general and politician, Pericles, championed democracy as the form of government to bring Greece into its Golden Age.

The Athenians practised a direct (as opposed to representative) form of democracy. Any male over the age of 20 was obligated to take part. The officials of the assembly were randomly selected through a lottery process and could make executive pronouncements, such as deciding to go to war or banishing Athenian citizens.

The Athens of Pericles flourished. Bustling crowds of traders from around the Mediterranean gathered at the port of Piraeus. In the Athenian agoras – the central marketplaces and assembly areas – the active social and political lives of the Athenian citizens would inspire the mind of Socrates.

Socrates teaches us that philosophical contemplation prepares us for the good life. The experience of aporia – in all of its discomfort and disruption – is the very catalyst of wonder. The philosopher, the lover of wisdom, is anyone who dares to escape the cave and look upon the sun, anyone who lives for the values Socrates died for.

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