Recommended: An Interview With Michel Houellebecq

The January 2, 2015, edition of The Paris Review published an interview with French writer Michel Houellebecq, whose sixth novel, “Soumission (Submission)” has generate considerable debate in literary an political circles in France. I found the give-and-take between Houellebecq and interviewer Sylvain Bourmeau, “a producer at France Culture and an associate professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris,” fascinating.

The article was translated from French by Lorin Stein, according to Paris Review.

To read the interview, see “Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book.”

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French Writers and the Debate Over the ‘French Condition’

On January 8, 2015, The New York Times published an article by Paris correspondent Rachel Donadio, about French author  Michel Houellebecq, “whose polemical — some say prophetic — new novel, “Submission,” imagines a Muslim becoming president of France in 2022.” See “Before Paris Shooting, Authors Tapped Into Mood of a France ‘Homesick at Home’” I recommend it.

According to The Times,

Even before its official release on Wednesday, “Submission” had already set off intense debates in France — about the line between satire and Islamophobia and between fantasy and realpolitik, about the novelist’s (and Islam’s) treatment of women, and about the political mainstream’s struggles to keep pace with the rise of both Islam and the far right — a debate that the attacks are certain to intensify.

The reference is to the January 7, 2015, attack on  Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, that resulted in the death of eleven of its staffers.

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Mediterranean Ghost Ships, Syrian Refugees and Europe

James Denselow, a writer on “Middle East politics and security issues and a research associate” at the London-based Foreign Policy Centre, takes a look at the “Ghost Ships” being abandoned in the Mediterranean Sea, with hundreds of Syrians onboard.

Denselow, writing in the January 4, 2015, edition of Al Jazeera online, said, “The ghost ships represent both a new tactic - using large cargo ships to move people in winter across longer crossing - and a new trend - that of the refugees coming from Syria. Last year some 230,000 people arrived illegally across the Mediterranean into the EU with Italy receiving the lion’s share of 160,000 whilst 3,500 people died trying to make the crossing,” he noted, adding: “The UNHCR explained that in 2014 for the first time, people mainly from Syria "have become a major component in this tragic flow, accounting for almost 50 per cent of the total".

To read more, see “Europe's fear of Syria's ghost boats.”

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U.S. Congress Puts Cyber Security on 215 Agenda

The Hill’s Cory Bennett reported January 4, 2015, that, “The high-profile hack at Sony Pictures has injected new urgency into the years-old push for cyber security legislation, with a broad spectrum of lawmakers suddenly vowing to take action in the new (United States) Congress.”

Hill noted that, “After years of narrow congressional focus, the Sony cyber attack has put an array of new cyber topics on the table, including offensive cyber tactics, cyber crime laws and the international community’s definition of cyber warfare, to name a few.”

To read more, see “Sony hack could be game changer for cyber security push.”

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Will 2015 Be a Better Year for Nigeria?

Deutsche Welle’s  West and Central Africa correspondents Adrian Kreisch and Jan-Philipp Scholz, who have provided some of the  most illuminating dispatches on Boko Haram  from Lagos, Nigeria, since September 1, 2014, writes that “… we should not give up hope that 2015 will be a better year for Nigeria, for we can see the first signs of a change in attitude in the Nigerian government (about Boko Haram).

These are above all signs of a waning arrogance in the face of their own people and critical investigative journalists. This recently became evident to us in what would initially seem like a paradoxical situation: when we went to have our foreign correspondents' accreditation renewed, much more attention was paid to details and follow-up questions than was previously the case. An employee at the Ministry of Information confided in us that those in charge were "pretty scared by the massive amount of critical international reporting after the Chibok kidnapping."
The journalist said, “For the first time they felt the concentrated power of a critical public. We certainly won't stop letting them feel this power in the coming year.”

For more, see “Nigeria: Reporting made dangerous by Boko Haram.”

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Why Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych Was Cast Adrift

The New York Times reported on January 3, 2015, that an investigation it conducted “into the final hours” of former Ukrainian President Viktor F.Yanukovych’s rule — based on interviews with prominent players, including former commanders of the Berkut riot police and other security units, telephone records and other documents — shows that the president was not so much overthrown as cast adrift by his own allies, and that Western officials were just as surprised by the meltdown as anyone else.”

It’s a fascinating story I highly recommend. For more, see “Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted.”

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