Reporting: Russia banned from global sport for four years

I reported on the news that shook the Russian sporting world, following the ruling from the World Anti-Doping Agency to impose wide-ranging sanctions for doping data manipulation

RADIO

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018726154/russia-banned-from-major-sporting-events-by-world-anti-doping-agency

ONLINE

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-12-10/Russia-will-appeal-WADA-ban-officials–MjdvV4HcJy/index.html

Reporting: How does Russia decipher US policy on Syria?

After abruptly pulling U.S. troops who protected Kurdish fighters, President Donald Trump has identified oil protection as the new goal in Syria.  Moscow-based correspondent, Ross Cullen, says Russia’s frustration is growing over Trump’s policy reversal in Syria.

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-10-26/Russia-s-Syria-frustration-growing-with-Trump-s-policy-reversal-L6RSzgD972/index.html

Reporting: Moscow’s pro-opposition protests

In August 2019, I reported live from an unsanctioned pro-opposition protest in Moscow.

The demonstrations took place throughout the summer on consecutive weekends in support of anti-government candidates in Moscow’s local city elections. The candidates had been barred from running for allegedly supplying false signatures on their application forms. The opposition say the move was an underhand method by the Kremlin of removing potentially disruptive anti-government candidates from the ballot paper.

TRT World news article: https://www.trtworld.com/europe/russian-police-detain-hundreds-during-fresh-protest-in-moscow-28739

MEXICO ELECTION – Voting under way

Mexicans are going to the polls in a general election

With the morning sun shining, voters at this polling station in the Juárez neighbourhood of central Mexico City formed an orderly queue. And while one man declined to speak to me after voting, two women hinted at their decision. They did not mention who they had voted for by name, but instead said “you know who”, which is becoming widespread code for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO.

PORTUGAL – Video Report on Portuguese Speakers

The rise of Portuguese as one of the world’s major languages

Although it is not one of the six flagship languages of the United Nations, Portuguese carries enough weight by itself to rank alongside double-lingo groups like Hindi-Urdu and Indonesian-Malay in terms of number of speakers.

The states which do speak Portuguese on some level form the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries or CPLP, which is introduced in the video above. The organisation lists nine official member nations, from mighty Brazil to tiny São Tome e Principe, but even within these countries Portuguese is not always the go-to tongue for residents.

The language of government and newspapers in Cape Verde maybe o português but the word on the street, at the bus stops and in homes across the islands is Cape Verdean Creole, a mixture of Portuguese, English, French and several native West African languages.

In East Timor it is Tetum that dominates as the main means of communication. After that there are at least 15 native languages that are spoken, with only a small fraction of the population using either of the colonial tongues: Indonesian and Portuguese.

In spite of this, the CPLP pushes ahead with its aims and objectives, which include  wide-ranging inter-governmental policies such as co-operation on education, health and public security but also the specific aim of working on projects that promote and increase the use of Portuguese.

 

 

No-fly zone

Are the changing fortunes of the Gulf carriers a cause for concern?

On my most recent long-haul flight, in December last year, the route took my fellow passengers and me across five countries, three continents and one ocean. Out of the European Union, through the African Union and into the Union of South American Nations. Trans-Atlantic and trans-hemisphere. North to south, winter to summer, three hours backwards in time zones.

A Qatar Airways flight takes off (QR official)

This happened smoothly and the few hundred of us on board had no reason to spend time thinking about the intricacies of international aircraft and airspace agreements. The hundreds of thousands of people up in the sky as you read this will rather be watching films, snatching a few restless hours’ kip or nibbling at a tray of in-flight food.

But when diplomatic quarrels escalate to include no-entry signs for the maligned airlines of regional foes, things come more sharply into focus.

Qatar Airways is having a bumpy old time of it at the moment. On the bright side, it has just regained its title as best airline in the world. The consumer website Skytrax also awarded it best airline in the Gulf.

On the other hand, the Saudi Arabia-led isolation of Qatar by several countries – nations from as far and wide as Mauritania, Mauritius, and the Maldives – has forced the airline to shift some of its routes. It has been banned, for the moment, from passing over certain countries – frustratingly for Doha, they include its three closest neighbours: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

An Etihad Airbus A380 plane (EY official)

This should be a red-letter day for its rival Gulf airlines, Etihad and Emirates, based out of the UAE cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively. It certainly offers some relief for the former, which has been enduring a torrid time relating to its investment in the Italian flag-carrier, Alitalia.

Last month, the struggling Rome-based airline filed for bankruptcy. Etihad pumped just shy of €2bn into Alitalia in 2014 but has seen its opportunity to make anything of the investment blow away in the wind.

Emirates is also on a bit of a come-down this year, recording profit before tax of $405m – an enormous drop from 2016’s figure of $2bn. The Dubai-based carrier explained the  challenges its margins faced as coming from “increased competition and overcapacity”.

An Emirates Boeing 777 (EK official)

It also complained that it had been hit by a drop in demand for flights to the US which it blamed on “the actions taken by the US government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins”.

 

So is the status of the Gulf as the world air hub in danger? It pounced on saturation in European airports such as Heathrow (UK), Schiphol (Netherlands) and Frankfurt (Germany) and promoted its geography. Racing economies in Qatar and the UAE boosted its position further, and with investment came expansion in routes, passenger numbers, aeroplane numbers and the size of their airports.

The dwindling price of oil certainly called this into question and the US ban mentioned above hit the area further. Now that the countries in the region have fallen out with each other it has derailed the upward curve the major Gulf airlines enjoyed. They are finding life a bit tougher at the top.

Their rise was cheered and this period of turbulence is useful in that it serves to remind them that it is always easier to be the challenger upstart, but pressure builds when you yourself turn into an established player in the world’s airspace.

A look at Fidel Castro’s legacy

An “astute political brain” who “inspired a generation of leaders”? Or a “figure from a different era” running a government of “sordid lawless killers”?

Heated discussions dominated the morning at this special event at Canning House, the UK-Iberia & Latin America foundation, looking backwards and forwards at the legacy of the former leader of Cuba.

Ken Livingstone paints a positive image of Castro’s global legacy

There were three sections to be debated: Castro’s domestic, regional and global legacies.

The first one saw Antoni Kapcia, a professor of Latin American history at the University of Nottingham, put forward the point of view that the Cuban revolutionary acted and made “decisions within the realm of the possible”, carefully calculating what was achievable and loth to outreach himself on domestic policy.

Helen Yaffe, author of Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, described the US embargo as “devastating and suffocating”. She also looked to the island’s Soviet sponsor giant, saying that “constraints were placed on Cuba’s room for manoeuvre from the collapse of the USSR”, not just through the American trade ban.

The final speaker in this section was Cuban-born Alina Garcia-Lapuerta. She argued that there was still a “sense of uncertainty” surrounding the future after Castro’s death. Having said that, she did try to look to what might be ahead: “there could be no political change while Castro was still alive…he was too big a figure in Cuban life and Cuban history.”

In the second part of the event, for the discussion on regional legacy, Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba, called in on conference from the United States. He discussed how Latin nations’ friendships and ties with Cuba had come and gone. While at some point in recent history, most neighbour countries had “broken diplomatic relations with the US”, many states had gone on to thrive economically following different models than that espoused by Castro.

The former diplomat raised the issue of the “economic mismanagement and social turmoil” currently afflicting Venezuela, noting that Havana stands by Caracas due to their traditional links. Yet those regional links are weakening, according to Webster Hare, who said that young Latin Americans are today more distant in their political views from what is increasingly seen as the outdated outlook of Fidel Castro.

Steve Ludlam came to the regime’s defence.

The lecturer and member of the Cuba Research Forum drew a picture for the Britons in the audience of Fidel Castro as a mix of “Winston Churchill, Aneurin Bevan (the founder of the NHS) and the Queen Mother”. He went on to stand up for the “audacious revolutionary” whose radicalism had “strong anti-imperialist and anti-racist” elements to it. He also saw one of Castro’s legacies as the “success of social welfare programmes across Latin America”.

The final section was on the former leader of Cuba’s global legacy. For this, Canning House invited the Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens and the ex-Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

The politician put forward an appraisal of the revolutionary, calling him a “giant” and an “icon to those who want to live in a better country”.

Peter Hitchens delivered the opposite. He described the Castro regime as being treated in a “rock-star way” when it was really a “government of torture”. Hitchens saw Castro’s “boasts of social advances go unchecked” and argued that “people should grow up about Castro…this cult of Fidel should be dropped.”

Questions were taken after each section and there was a notable intervention during the regional legacy part of the morning. The “Ambassador from the British Empire” was lambasted for challenging the fading policies of the Castros by a book publisher and socialist apologist who offered a vehement defence the Cuban leftist model. There were other questions, too, from exiled Cubans, criticising divisions in society created by the lack of a free press and the fact that Castro never held an election.