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Life of a Diplomat: Bridge Over River Nile

‘There is an Arab saying which claims that ‘When Allah created Sudan, he laughed’. Of course, it is impossible, Allah cannot laugh, because nobody saw his face!’, exclaims J. W. Bertens, when he remembers his assignment in Sudan. This is the second part of Checks&Balances’ interview with Jan-Willem Bertens, who was not only a diplomat in Uruguay, Costa Rica and ... Read More »

Hollande’s fall off the governmental pedestal

Recently, it became public that French President François Hollande has been having an affair with actress Julie Gayet for two years. The news reached the headlines of reputable international and European papers and websites such as the BBC and LA Times. Public opinion in France’s neighbouring countries was judgemental to say the least. Surprisingly, the French themselves were rather laconic ... Read More »

The Power of Brazilian Soap Opera

As the Central Intelligence Agency indicates, the fertility rate in Brazil over the last five decades has dropped from six children per women to approximately fewer than two. This substantial shift in the Brazilian demographical records is often compared to the China’s one child policy which has produced similar results. However, if in China the responsibility over declining birth rates ... Read More »

A Spiritual Guidance of the Nation

In a country far, far away there once was a dictator that controlled an entire nation. He was in charge of all three branches of government, plus the economy and the media. Everybody had to do as he pleased. He was the richest man of the country. But the dictator was not satisfied, he wanted more. And so the dictator ... Read More »

Milk, Politics and other Perceptions

Since the early days of this year’s October, Russia has been imposing restrictions on imports of dairy products from Lithuania. Gennady Onishchenko, the chief of the Russian consumer protection service Rospotrebnadzor, has officially declared that some of the Lithuanian products failed to meet the requirements of quality and adequate safety. However, the officials of Lithuania and the European Union consider ... Read More »

Russian Film, Art and Music… In Groningen!

Russia has received quite a lot of attention in the last few weeks. The media have emphasized the new laws on gay propaganda, the upcoming G20 meeting in Saint-Petersburg and of course, Russia’s stance on the possibility of a military intervention in Syria. These are all very important political questions that have rightly received a lot of media attention. But ... Read More »

Hands up! It’s the Language Police!

Oh no, you have not misread the title. This specialized office has the remarkable duty of, for example, fining restaurants that inaccurately call their pasta ‘pasta’ or those who give away plastic spoons with only English writing on it. Where on earth, you might ask yourself, does the police involve itself with such surreal and seemingly trivial practices? Dictating the ... Read More »

What a Canard!

One of the most influential weekly magazines in France is a satirical paper that has eight pages, overpaid employees and a miniscule online presence: Le Canard enchaîné, “The chained duck”, first published in 1915, has become an institution in France, beloved by its readers and feared by the rich and mighty. France´s media landscape is a mess: Nearly all big ... Read More »

A Muslim in Japan

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Islam and Muslim integration have gained a significant place in the public debate in the West. The presence of these terms in Western political discourse seems to contrast with the absence of information about the situation in other parts of the world. Yet, as show the Japanese, ways of looking at and ... Read More »

The Inbetweeners

Ukraine is deeply divided over where it should head – East or West. While the EU offers an Association Agreement including a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, it isn’t the only one reaching out its hand. Russia, the powerful neighbour to the East, offers membership in a customs union with Belarus, the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, which might one day turn ... Read More »