The deadly impact of COVID-19 has been felt in every corner of the globe. On February 22, the United States reached a tragic landmark of 500,000 deaths. Across the Atlantic, nine of the top 10 nations in deaths per million are in Europe, with tiny enclaves of Gibraltar and San Marino topping the tables. The list of countries that have dealt with the pandemic relatively well is much shorter. Almost a year ago, I wrote about how leaders in Brazil and Mexico were slow in taking tougher action to prevent the spread of the virus. I falsely predicted that Latin America is unlikely to witness the death rates seen in Europe. Unfortunately, the effects of the pandemic were equally devastating in the region, if not worse.
Mohammed bin Salman is a charming fellow. The tall, dark and handsome Saudi prince known as MBS has seduced world leaders and eager pundits left and right. To his supporters, MBS became first in line to the Saudi throne by championing reform in a deeply conservative Gulf kingdom, taking on corruption, confronting religious extremists and promising to modernize the economy. “Someone had to do this job — wrench Saudi Arabia into the 21st century — and MBS stepped up,” wrote Thomas Friedman in an oft-cited column from November 2017. “I, for one, am rooting for him to succeed in his reform efforts.”
In late January, protests and riots against COVID-19 lockdown measures in the Netherlands drew attention from international audiences, taking many by surprise. Described by the Dutch police as the “worst rioting in 40 years,” it was a response to the first curfew the country has seen since the Second World War. Now, more violence and what appears to be a deliberate attack on a coronavirus testing center have caused further shock. The Netherlands is well established at the heart of orderly Northern Europe, bound by welfare-state solidarity and reserved, measured behavior. However, its populist subculture is news to no one. Radical and conservative elements, as well as a culture of Dutch exceptionalism, existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undoubtedly stirred social tensions in an unprecedented fashion.
Several political parties and governments around the world have centered their commitment to countering the radical right on tackling hate and racism. The most recent example was the announcement by the German cabinet in late 2020 to spend €1 billion ($1.2 billion) for a four-year program on combating “right-wing extremism, racism and antisemitism.”
North African pastoralism, an agricultural method used for centuries by nomadic people in the steppe highlands, is on the decline. Facing limited grazing land due to overuse and drought, pastoral nomads are favoring more sedentary farming methods like growing fruit or nut trees and crops.
France appears to be living through a strange transitional period that could be described as the waning of the Fifth Republic. It contains no sense of what a sixth republic might look like or why it might even be necessary. But today’s republic, with its unique electoral system, has achieved a summit of incoherence. The current president, Emmanuel Macron, has only one thing in mind: getting reelected in 2022 and maintaining the shaky status quo.
Over the past three decades, the British Army has faced numerous challenges. British soldiers have been putting their lives on the line in several intense multilateral deployments, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These operations have enhanced the mechanical wear and tear, necessitating an early replacement of vehicles that were already due to be replaced by newer generations.
Caligula was by all accounts a nasty piece of work. During the nearly four years that he ruled over the Roman Empire in the first century CE, Caligula was notorious for sexual predation and extravagant spending. Never one to sell himself short, he proclaimed early on that he was a god. He held the Senate in such contempt that he forced its high-ranking members to run alongside his chariot for miles dressed in their togas. He dismissed Virgil as a hack writer and Livy as a dispenser of fake history, and he dreamed of making his favorite horse a consul.