Nearing the end, old Ed is surrounded by his loved ones. As the final moment approaches, he gathers all his strength and whispers, ”I must tell you my greatest secret.”
Eight years of steering the United States away from even the slightest whiff of conflict or controversy leaving virtually every former ally stuck out in the wind swept stormy seas of fate have started to leave some palpable damage along the Asian Pacific Rim. These damages may only last until the few weeks after the next Presidential Inauguration or may be cemented with more to follow; it all depends on the coming, and it can’t come too soon, American Elections. The slow tear between Washington and Manila may have just torn well past the turning point as the State Department may decide to hold on an agreed arms shipment for the Philippine Police because a single Senator, Benjamin Louis “Ben” Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, informed them he would block such a request. It seems unusual for an already approved arms deal would be held, maybe cancelled, because a single…
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Britain’s Labour Party, out of power since 2010, more or less cut its own throat when its members (plus fresh recruits who, instead of taking out membership, paid £3 to vote in the leadership election in 2015) chose Jeremy Corbyn, a formerly marginalized far left socialist, as the new head of the party. Ordinary Labour voters were horrified, knowing from day one that Corbyn could never lead the party to government and was not either remotely Prime Ministerial material. But vast numbers of young extreme left-wingers, flushed with victory and dedicated to an idealistic coming revolution and led by a new Corbyn-worshipping movement called Momentum, were determined to take traditional working- and middle-class voters in a direction that had little or no appeal to them at all.
From the outset, Labour was split almost down the centre. That divide proved dangerous for the political system in Britain, where government has been unevenly but broadly shared between the Tory and Labour parties in what was effectively a two-party arrangement. With the almost total collapse of the centrist Liberal Democrats, who had just been in an ill-judged coalition with the Tories in government from 2010 to 2014, Britain faced the possibility that the two-party system would founder after many decades, should Labour split and leave the country with three unbalanced parties and the real threat of a one-party state emerging, so long as neither Labour group remained unelectable.
That something has gone wrong within the Labour party is clear. After the referendum vote to leave the European Union, Corbyn came under severe pressure to resign as leader, and a battle ensued with loyal Corbynites both in and outside Momentum backing him to the hilt, but with the parliamentary Labour Party, made up of members of parliament, urging him to bow to the inevitable and go.
So great was the despair of the radicals that in the seven days up to July 1, another 60,000 people joined the party, apparently a large number of whom did so to back Corbyn’s refusal to stand down. If he does not go, pundits predict, the party will split between hardline socialists (backed by most trades unions) and moderates. This split will create two parties out of one, with unguessable results for future elections and British governance in a period of political and economic insecurity following Brexit. A second leadership contest has opened, with Welsh candidate Owen Smith challenging Corbyn and supported by a majority of Labour MPs, but the polls predict another win for Corbyn and greater likelihood of a split.
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As the plane descended at night over farm fields, Ghazweh Aljabooli reached for her 6-year-old daughter Hala. The girl was sobbing, just as she had at every takeoff and landing over the past 30 hours, “My ears hurt!” She wailed it on the flight from Amman to Paris, the flight from Paris to Houston, and now on this final leg into Des Moines. Ghazweh’s older children craned to see out windows that revealed only blackness—nothing of their future.
When the passengers filed off the jetway, Ghazweh herded her five children into the concourse and looked around, unsure of what to do next. Her husband clutched a sealed white plastic bag with the insignia of the International Organization for Migration. He had been told to keep the bag visible during their trip: something of a secret code of airports, it signaled at every stop that they were refugees who needed an escort to the next flight. But now there was no next flight, or any sign of help. Ghazweh worried about what happened next—would someone be waiting?
The family followed the stream of tall, sturdy Midwesterners toward baggage claim. And then, at the bottom of an escalator, a man waited with a smile. “Ahlan wa sahlan,” he said: “Welcome.” Suddenly, Ghazweh’s eyes filled with tears. “I was so scared,” she said, at the end of a journey that had really begun five years before.
Ghazweh’s family had been middle class in Syria, with lives marked by school plays and holiday vacations. But everything was upended by the war that started there in 2011. The family endured siege, and bombardment destroyed their home. The painful decision to flee led to a nomadic month in the desert before they escaped into neighboring Jordan.
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On June 23, 2016, 51.9% of the voters in the United Kingdom voted for leaving the European Union (EU). The turnout was high, and the British referendum gained great international attention. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, praised the result, calling Brexit “the most important moment since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Le Pen said that if she wins France’s 2017 presidential election she would call a referendum on leaving the EU.
Nigel Farage stepped down as leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) shortly after winning the historic vote. Many death threats against him and his family from supporters of the EU reportedly affected his decision.
The complicated divorce process between the UK and the EU could take years of negotiations. Some people have looked to Switzerland and Norway, two of the wealthiest countries in Europe, as possible models to follow, yet both maintain a close cooperation with the EU. There are also concerns in Switzerland and Norway about how Brexit will impact their own relationship with the EU.
Daniel Pedroletti, president of the Swiss community group New Helvetic Society London, says there is “a big misunderstanding” in Britain surrounding Switzerland’s position:
“They want to be like Switzerland but they don’t know that Switzerland has to pay an enormous amount to the EU and accept the laws without being an influence [on them].
“They don’t realize that if they want a similar agreement they will have to accept the free movement of people and pay high fees and accept some laws which they would have no influence on.”
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Lynae feels a wave of nausea at the scent of baking bread drifting from a Subway she passes on her way to the hospital clinic. Still, it’s no match for the excitement she feels from the stirring in her belly. When she arrives at the clinic, she’s met by her husband, Paul. (Lynae and Paul asked that we use only their first names.) They lock hands and sit amid the hum of the waiting room, making bets on their baby’s gender. Lynae, then 34, wants a boy; Paul, then 32, suspects it’s another girl—a sister for their daughter Avery, then 2. Lynae is here for her 20-week ultrasound, the moment when many expectant parents learn the gender of their child. Finally, she’s called.
The sonographer moves down for the reveal. It’s a girl. They look at each other and laugh.
Fifteen minutes into the ultrasound, the technician lingers around the baby’s head.* She’s having trouble getting a measurement and calls for help. The couple exchange reassuring smiles. The second tech enters; she has a stern demeanor and quickly takes over. She asks if they had any preliminary genetic testing. “Of course,” Lynae replies. “Everything was normal.” Panic crawls into Lynae’s chest. The first tech attempts to calm her, saying the hospital does longer ultrasounds these days.
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