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Nuclear talks with Iran, a Kosovo agreement or mediation in Egypt – the constantly under-rated figure of Catherine Ashton is now emerging to shape Europe’s international standing.

Calendar week 49: first, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry passed by on his way to the Middle East. Then the Afghan and Turkish foreign ministers came in for a chat. King Abdullah of Jordan suddenly made an appearance, so a planned meeting with the prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia had to be cut short. Then Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif called; the negotiations about dismantling Iran’s nuclear program needed to get started.

A scene from Sun by Hofesh Shechter at Sadler's Wells

A study of evil: Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter brings “Sun” to Austria.

The evening starts with a preview of the ending: “Everything will be fine”, the choreographer’s voice informs us before the show begins. But before the Happy End comes, his dancers go through hell.

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Mayor Johnson got lost in the Golden Ghettos of his city. 

LONDON. The loose cannon has fired again: at the Margaret Thatcher Lecture on Wednesday night London mayor Boris Johnson established a rather bizarre connection between IQ and IG - income gap. “16 % of our species have an IQ below 85. Only 2 % above 130”, he said. “The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some to get to the top of the pack.” And he continued: “The income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever.” And the mayor of the Golden Ghettos of London was quick to add: “Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up.”

Andrej Tolokonnikov talks about his fears for his daughter Nadja.

Two weeks after Nadja Tolokonnikova disappeared from her prison camp Nr 14 in Mordvinia her family still doesn’t know where she is. The political activist and member of the feminist punk group “Pussy Riot” was sentenced in August 2012 to two years in a penal colony for singing a punk prayer in a Moscow cathedral in February 2012. The performance lasted 40 seconds and was judged “hooliganism out of religious hatred”.

How  EU Parlamentarian Hannes Swoboda made many enemies in the UK.

It was 11 pm on Sunday night two weeks ago when a group of Lithuanians broke down the door to a bedsit in Maidstone and beat up two Italians. Joele Leotta had just put on his pyjamas and was ready to go to sleep. Hours later he died in hospital from the wounds he suffered in the attack. His friend Alex Galbiati survived. Four alleged perpetrators - Aleksandes Zuravliovas, 26, Tomas Gelezinis, 30, Sualus Tamoliunas, 23, and Linas Zidonis, 21 - stand accused of murder. So far, so terrible.

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600.000 Russians work like slaves in prison camps – former oligarch Michael Khodorkovsky and “Pussy Riot” activist Nadeshda Tolokonnikova among them. profil collected witness accounts of prisoners to document the conditions in penal colonies which are reminiscent of Stalin. 

Ten years ago, on October 25th 2003, special commandos stormed the private jet of Russia’s then-richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky and arrested him at gunpoint. A few months ago, the former oligarch celebrated his 50th birthday in his cell in prison colony Number 7 in Karelia on the Finnish border. One of Russia’s most capable managers has been turned into a slave labourer who produces plastic binders.

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London - Finally the autumn party conferences are over.  What did we learn? David Cameron does not know, how much a loaf of bread costs. Shock horror. Not such a big surprise, since he already let slip six months ago that he does not know the price of milk. So either the premier does not learn from his mistakes or he actually likes to be seen as posh.

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Anne Applebaum about communism, the totalitarian temptation and Austria’s limited understanding for the development of Eastern Europe.

Anne Applebaum, 49, is an American author and specialist for communism, the Soviet Union and the countries of Central and Middle Europe. She was born in Washington DC and studied at Yale and Oxford. As correspondent and editorialist for “The Economist” and the “Washington Post” she analyzed the social and political upheaval in Eastern Europe before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain. She received a Pulitzer Prize for her book “Gulag: A History”.  “The Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56” was published in 2012 and is the history of control and defiance in post-war Eastern Europe. Anne Applebaum is married to the poish foreign minister Radoslav Sikorski. She lives in London and Warsaw. At the beginning of the year she received polish citizenship.

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Austrian and Russian artists conquer the Arctic city of Murmansk.

What is the Bolshevik leader doing on the icebreaker which bears his name? Melting. Russian artist Maria Koshenkova shows only the right half of a bronze bust of Lenin; the left half has apparently melted into a glass puddle. All this on the table of the captain’s cabin. Between 1957 and 1989, the nuclear-powered icebreaker demonstrated Soviet greatness north of the Arctic Circle. Today it is a museum ship permanently anchored in Murmansk. Last week was the opening of a novel exhibition entitled “Icebreaker: Lenin”. In March, the show will move to the Lentos Museum in Linz, Austria.

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British political theorist David Held about dangers of military intervention in Syria and the necessity to speak to bad guys.

 David Held, 62, specializes in the field of international relations, cosmopolitan democracy and global governance. The British political theorist taught at the “London School Of Economics”, but resigned in 2010, when the university admitted it had accepted funding from the Gaddafi Foundation. Held had informally advised Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of dictator Muammar, while he was writing his Phd at the LSE till 2008. Today Held is master of University College Durham. His latest book was published in July by Polity Books: “Gridlock. Why global Cooperation is Failing When We Need It Most”. 

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz