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Serena Williams Withdraws From French Open With Achilles Injury : NPR

Serena Williams serves during her Women’s Singles first round match against Kristie Ahn on day two of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros on Monday in Paris, France.

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Serena Williams serves during her Women’s Singles first round match against Kristie Ahn on day two of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros on Monday in Paris, France.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Serena Williams unexpectedly ended her latest bid to tie the record for the most Grand Slam singles titles early. She withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday because of an Achilles injury.

“I’m struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a tell-tale sign that I should try to recover,” the tennis player said during a press conference.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, injured her Achilles in a U.S. Open semifinal loss to Victoria Azarenka earlier this month. She was set to play Tsvetana Pironkova on Wednesday. But after a “very short” warm up, she and her coach decided it was best to not play.

On Monday, she beat Kristie Ahn in a 7-6 (2), 6-0 victory.

Williams has been bidding for her 24th major singles trophy for the last few years, which would tie with Margaret Court for most in history. Her next chance will be the Australian Open in January.

She thinks she’ll need to take four to six weeks to recover.

“I think Achilles’ is a real injury that you don’t want to play with because that is not good if it gets worse. I think it’s one of the worst. So I don’t want it to get to that point,” she said.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to play another tournament this year,” she added.

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The Best Movies and TV Shows New to Netflix, Amazon and Stan in Australia in October

Every month, streaming services in Australia add a new batch of movies and TV shows to its library. Here are our picks for October.


When documentarian Kristen Johnson realized her father, Dick, was in declining mental and physical health, she proposed an idea: What if they prepared for his demise together, by filming a series of simulated deaths? The one-of-a-kind documentary “Dick Johnson Is Dead” combines those strange and sometimes beautiful scenes — which also include a funeral and some guesses at what the afterlife might be like — with wonderful footage of a lovable old man and his doting daughter, spending their last years together. This is a special film, turning an imminent loss into an occasion for reflection and joy.

Based on the popular podcast of the same name, “Song Exploder” invites well-known musicians to analyze their own work, breaking songs down track-by-track and line-by-line. The four-episode first season covers Alicia Keys’ “3 Hour Drive,” Ty Dolla $ign’s “L.A.,” R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” and “Wait for It” from the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” In each half-hour installment, the host Hrishikesh Hirway talks to the artists about the choices they made, trying to clarify the mystery of creation by asking for a practical explanation of how music gets made.


A hit at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the writer-director Radha Blank’s dramedy “The 40-Year-Old Version” also stars Blank as a struggling New York playwright, who reinvents herself as a rapper who rhymes about getting older. Shot in lovely black-and-white, this movie is witty and wise about the compromises some artists have to make to get their voices heard, and about the creative options available to those willing to risk failure and embarrassment.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is the writer-producer-director Mike Flanagan’s follow-up to his earlier Netflix horror series “The Haunting of Hill House.” Where the earlier show adapted and updated a Shirley Jackson novel, this new season is based loosely on the Henry James novella “The Turn of the Screw,” about a governess who sees ghosts. Some of Flanagan’s cast returns (including Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Kate Siegel), but the characters and the plot are entirely new. What won’t change: Flanagan’s command of quietly disturbing moods.


The TV and movie writer-producer Aaron Sorkin — the man behind “The West Wing” and “A Few Good Men” — returns to the director’s chair for the film “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” a look back at the legal aftermath of the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention. Sacha Baron Cohen plays the counterculture hero Abbie Hoffman, leading a cast that includes powerhouse actors like Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance. Sorkin’s usual fast-paced dialogue and his willingness to plunge headlong into controversial material makes him a good match for this still-resonant story of dissidents forced to answer in court for acts of civil disobedience.


Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 Gothic novel “Rebecca” has already been adapted into a movie classic: the atmospheric and creepy 1940 Alfred Hitchcock version, which marked the director’s transition to Hollywood. Now another distinctive British filmmaker is tackling du Maurier’s book. Ben Wheatley, known for the edgy cult films “Kill List” and “High-Rise,” directs a stylish new version of “Rebecca” that emphasizes the glamour of the setting: the seaside estate of Manderley, where an emotionally distant aristocrat (played by Armie Hammer) deposits his naïve young bride (Lily James), leaving her to cope with his disapproving housekeeper (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the unsettling mystery of what really happened to his late first wife.


In the animated adventure “Over the Moon,” Cathy Ang is the voice of Fei Fei, a handy teenager who builds a rocket-ship and flies to the moon. Once there, she tries to impress the charismatic goddess Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) by embarking on a quest that involves a handful of nutty lunar creatures. Written by the late Audrey Wells and directed by the veteran Disney animator Glen Keane — with codirection by another Disney alum, John Kahrs — this is a colorful, energetic and emotional movie about a kid and an adult both dealing with personal heartbreak in their own unusual ways.

For his latest Netflix mini-series, the writer-director Scott Frank — who previously created the western “Godless” — adapts “The Queen’s Gambit,” a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, the author of “The Hustler” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon, a top-rank chess master who pulled herself up from a miserable childhood thanks to her singular skills, but who struggles with addiction and self-doubt as an adult. The book is beloved, and Frank and Taylor-Joy are talented enough to give it the sensitive and lively TV version it deserves.

Also arriving: “New Girl” Seasons 1-7 (October 1), “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” (October 1), “Emily in Paris” (October 2), “Vampires vs. the Bronx” (October 2), “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” (October 4), “Hubie Halloween” (October 7), “To the Lake” (October 7), “Deaf U” (October 9), “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” Season 3 (October 12), “A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting” (October 14), “Social Distance” (October 15), “Grand Army” (October 16), “La Révolution” (October 16), “Someone Has to Die” (October 16), “Unsolved Mysteries” Volume 2 (October 19), “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman” Season 3 (October 21), “Cadaver” (October 22), “Barbarians” (October 23), “Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine” (October 27), “Holiday” (October 28), “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” (October 28).


Riffing on both grim British police procedurals and dark-toned science-fiction, the sitcom “Code 404” has Daniel Mays playing a London detective who gets murdered during an undercover operation, and then brought back to life as an experimental cyborg. The charmingly irascible Stephen Graham plays the hero’s former partner, who isn’t so sure he wants to help his old buddy solve the mystery of his own death. Though craftily plotted and acted with real conviction, this offbeat crime series is brisker — and funnier — than the typical cops-and-killers fare.


Based on James McBride’s 2013 National Book Award-winning historical novel, the mini-series “The Good Lord Bird” stars Ethan Hawke as the radical abolitionist John Brown, who in 1859 led a violent antislavery demonstration that helped spark the American Civil War. Hawke also cocreated this series, which blends deadpan comedy with white-knuckle action — aided by a stellar cast that includes Daveed Diggs, Wyatt Russell, Rafael Casal and Joshua Caleb Johnson — to make the distant past feel more immediate.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the West Hollywood nightclub The Comedy Store became a launching pad for stand-up comics who would go on to dominate American pop culture for decades, including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Roseanne Barr, Sam Kinison, Jimmie Walker, Jerry Seinfeld and more. The docu-series “The Comedy Store” looks back at the club’s fascinating history, considering how some of the most memorable comedy routines of all time were nurtured at a place where rivalries, disputes and drugs often made what was going on backstage as exciting at what was happening in the front of the house.


Based on Aldous Huxley’s seminal 1932 dystopian novel, the slick science-fiction series “Brave New World” offers an adults-only depiction of a decadent future, where the ruling class pass their idle hours with drugs and orgies. Alden Ehrenreich plays John, an unusually clever lower-class “savage,” who becomes a novelty to the elites, even as he questions how they live. And while the source material is now nearly 90 years old, this show’s illustration of how social revolutions can rapidly take hold is strikingly relevant in 2020.

Also arriving: “Harlots” Seasons 1-3 (October 1), “MisUnderstandings of Miscarriage (M.U.M.)” (October 1), “Where’s Wally?” Season 1 (October 2), “Bran New Dae” (October 7), “Miranda” Seasons 1-3 (October 7), “Cold Feet” Seasons 1-9 (October 8), “The Flash” Season 6 (October 9), “The Spanish Princess” Season 1 — Part 2 (October 11), “Mr. Robot” Seasons 1-3 (October 12), “Mr. Selfridge” Seasons 1-4 (October 14), “Unforgotten” Season 3 (October 19), “Valor” Season 1 (October 22), “Informer 3838” Season 1 (October 27), “The Bay” Season 1 (October 28), “Condor” Season 2 (October 31).


Although the innovative production company Blumhouse is best known for hit horror films like “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious,” the new film series dubbed “Welcome to the Blumhouse” has a somewhat broader scope, encompassing the company’s long history of supporting different kinds of genre pictures and indie dramas. The series’ first two movies, debuting October 6, are “The Lie” (a suspenseful story about parents protecting their possibly murderous child) and “Black Box” (about an amnesiac turning to quack science to piece together his past). One week later brings “Evil Eye” (based on an audio play about an Indian woman who worries that her daughter’s fiancé is the reincarnation of someone horrible) and “Nocturne” (about a pianist who goes to extremes to outperform her more gifted sister).


In Heidi Schreck’s Tony-nominated Broadway play “What the Constitution Means to Me,” she appears onstage as herself — embodying both the 15-year-old who used to win prize money by giving speeches touting the magnificence of the U.S. Constitution, and the adult whose life experiences have made her turn a more critical eye toward what the document does and doesn’t do. Before the show wrapped its run last year, the director Marielle Heller filmed the production, capturing Schreck’s funny and provocative examination of how school kids are too often encourage to limit themselves to a one-dimensional kind of patriotism.


The frequent collaborators Nick Frost and Simon Pegg re-team for “Truth Seekers,” a horror-comedy about a paranormal investigator who uncovers a possible world-ending conspiracy. The pair cocreated the series with James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders, and Frost also stars as the hero, Gus, an intense loner who works as a cable installer while hunting ghosts. Pegg has a smaller role as Gus’s mysterious boss. Although the duo don’t spend much on-screen time together, this show is still a must for fans of “Spaced” and “Shaun of the Dead.”

Also arriving: “Mirzapur” (October 23), “The Challenge: ETA” (October 30).

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Bougainville Elects Former Revolutionary Leader as President ahead of Tough Talks on Independence — Global Issues

Following an almost unanimous 97.7 percent referendum vote in November of last year for Independence from PNG, the people of Bougainville returned to the polls last month to decide on a new government. Bougainville’s main town of Buka. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS
  • by Catherine Wilson (canberra, australia)
  • Inter Press Service

“I, as your mandated President, am ready to take Bougainville forward, focussing on law and order, anti-corruption policies, the ratification process and improving the fiscal self-reliance of Bougainville,” Toroama said in a public statement on the occasion of his swearing in as President in the region’s main town of Buka on the Sept. 25. He will be supported in a caretaker government for the next two weeks by his new Vice President, Patrick Nisira, MP for Halia constituency in North Bougainville, and Therese Kaetavara, Women’s Representative for South Bougainville.

Toroama, who defeated 24 other presidential candidates, is a strategic choice. Following an almost unanimous 97.7 percent referendum vote in November of last year for Independence from PNG, the people of Bougainville returned to the polls last month to decide on a new government. It is now tasked with carrying the autonomous region on a challenging political journey toward the long held local aspiration for nationhood.

“The referendum was a turning point…looking at all the 25 candidates, people were looking for who could deliver and successfully talk about Independence ,” Aloysius Laukai, Manager of the local New Dawn FM radio station, told IPS. Laukai claims that “the election was conducted well” and widely accepted as free and fair. The campaigning and voting periods were reported as organised and peaceful, in spite of some alleged cases of misplaced voting papers.

The islands of Bougainville, with a population of about 300,000 people, are located more than 900 kilometres east of the PNG mainland. Bougainville hit the world headlines in 1989 when an indigenous landowner uprising against the then Rio-Tinto majority owned Panguna copper mine on Bougainville Island escalated into a civil war which raged on until a ceasefire in 1998. The peace agreement, signed in 2001, provided for establishing an autonomous government, which occurred in 2005, and a referendum on the region’s future political status.

Despite having only one recorded case of COVID-19, to date, the Bougainville government declared a state of emergency in March, which led to the delay of the general election, originally planned during the first half of this year.

Former President John Momis, who has led Bougainville for the past 10 years and been a prominent local political leader and figure of stability for more than four decades, bowed out of the race, having served the maximum two terms in office. The field then mushroomed into an unprecedented more than 400 candidates vying for 40 parliamentary seats and 25 hopefuls for the presidency.

Alluding to the stakes ahead, Momis called for unity as voters turned out to cast their ballots from Aug. 12 to Sept. 1. “Let us all walk this journey together as one people and one voice to decide our leaders for this next government that will lead us to our ultimate political future that is within the confines of democratic values and international best practice standards,” Momis stated on Aug. 17.

While also a pro-Independence advocate, Momis, a former Roman Catholic priest with extensive experience in peacetime politics, is a contrasting figure to Toroama. His achievements include serving in the national parliament, playing a major role in the region’s peace negotiations and serving as Bougainville’s governor after the conflict from 1999 to 2005.

The new President was a commander in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, a guerrilla force which instigated an armed uprising following grievances about the environmental devastation and economic inequity associated with the foreign-owned Panguna mine. He has not been a political leader or served in government administration, although he played a vital role in the peace talks which ended the conflict. More recently, he has been a successful cocoa farmer.

Geraldine Valei, Executive Officer of the Bougainville Women’s Federation, offered another perspective on the overwhelming support Toroama received at the ballot box. “The reason why we say that he is the right person is because, in our Melanesian way of resolving conflicts, if you start the war then you are the one to resolve it,” Valei told IPS, adding that, “he will, of course, need support from very good advisors to lead as President.”

Toroama’s rivals for the top office included James Tanis, who held the office of President briefly from 2008 to 2010, another former rebel ex-combatant, Sam Kauona, and local businessman, Fidelis Semoso. There were also two female candidates in the running: Ruby Miringka, a healthcare professional who has also worked for the Bougainville Referendum Commission, and Magdalene Toroansi, a former Bougainville Minister for Women.

Bougainville’s fourth government will face enormous challenges in the next five-year term to build a weak economy, improve governance and the capacity of institutions, all still in need of reconstruction and development following widespread destruction on the islands during the conflict. 

Valei told IPS that she would like to see the new President “strengthen good governance, have zero tolerance of corruption, strengthen law and order and advocate for the ratification of Independence from Papua New Guinea”.

Toroama also faces huge public expectations to bring about the region’s long held dream of Independence. Aspirations for self-determination in the region pre-date both the civil war and PNG’s Independence. The islands of Bougainville were brought under the umbrella of the new Papua New Guinean nation in 1975. But they are geographically located far from the PNG mainland and the islanders trace their ethnic and cultural kinship instead to the Solomon Islands, an archipelago to the immediate southeast of Bougainville.

However, the decisive result of last year’s referendum is non-binding. Long and complex negotiations between the PNG and Bougainville governments to agree the region’s new political status will occur over the coming months and years. Talks at the national level will be informed by input from local forums in Bougainville, comprising representatives of communities, ex-combatants, business leaders, women and youths. The final decision will then be ratified by the PNG Parliament. There is no deadline for this process, but Toroama has indicated he would like a decision reached within two to three years.

PNG’s Prime Minister, James Marape, has voiced his support and respect for the process ahead and the wishes of the Bougainville people. “I look forward to working with President-Elect Toroama in progressing consultations on the outcome of the recent referendum and securing long term economic development and a lasting peace for the people of Bougainville,” Marape said in a statement issued soon after the election results were announced.

Yet, the PNG Government is known to not favour full secession, preferring the region to remain within a ‘united’ PNG under a form of greater autonomy.

Looking ahead, economic experts claim that, with a weak economy and heavy dependence on international aid and funding from the national government, Bougainville would face a long period of transition to being an economically viable state, potentially up to 20 years.

© Inter Press Service (2020) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Biden Slammed Facebook Over Trump Election Posts

The Biden campaign has demanded that Facebook ramp up enforcement of misleading and inaccurate posts by President Donald Trump, accusing the social media giant of failing to live up to its recent promises to clamp down on election-related falsehoods.

In a strongly worded three-page letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg obtained by Axios, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon called Facebook “the nation’s foremost propagator of disinformation about the voting process.” She pointed to the company’s pledge in early September to “protect our democracy” by “clearing up confusion about how this election will work” and by “fight[ing] misinformation.”

“Three weeks have now passed,” Dillon wrote. “Rather than seeing progress, we have seen regression. Facebook’s continued promise of future action is serving as nothing more than an excuse for inaction.”

In response to Dillon’s letter, a Facebook spokesperson said the company hears vigorous complaints from both sides of the partisan divide. “We’ve faced criticism from Republicans for being biased against conservatives and Democrats for not taking more steps to restrict the exact same content,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We have rules in place to protect the integrity of the election and free expression, and we will continue to apply them impartially.”

On Sept. 3, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would remove lies and misleading claims about the voting process that could cause somebody to lose the chance to cast a ballot. He also declared that Facebook would not allow political advertisements during the week before the election.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy,” Zuckerberg wrote at the time. “That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.”

The very same day that Zuckerberg made the announcement, Trump wrote a Facebook post that encouraged some people voting by mail to vote a second time in person. Facebook added a label at the bottom of the post saying, “Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US.”

Trump has made a number of false and misleading claims on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the weeks since.

On Monday, for example, he claimed on both platforms that “Ballots being returned to States cannot be accurately counted.”

Twitter put a label on Trump’s tweet that urged people to click through to “learn how voting by mail is safe and secure.” Facebook initially put a label on its post that linked to the company’s Voting Information Center “for election resources and official updates.” After an online backlash, Facebook changed the label to make it more clear that the post was misleading.

In her letter to Zuckerberg, Dillon argued that Facebook should go further: “remove Mr. Trump’s posts, which violate your policies.”

“[B]y now,” Dillon added, “Mr. Trump clearly understands that Facebook will not hold him to their clearly stated policies.”

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South Korea says slain man tried to defect to North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Tuesday that a government official slain by North Korean sailors wanted to defect, concluding that the man, who had gambling debts, swam against unfavorable currents with the help of a life jacket and a floatation device and conveyed his intention of resettling in North Korea.

Senior coast guard officer Yoon Seong-hyun said at a televised briefing that there was a “very low possibility” that the man could have fallen from a ship or tried to kill himself because he was putting on a life jacket when he was found in North Korean waters last week.

Yoon said tidal currents at the time would also make it extremely difficult for him to drift into North Korean waters naturally.

The coast guard said its assessment was based on an analysis of tidal currents in the area, a visit to a government boat the official had been aboard before his disappearance, investigation of his financial transactions and a meeting with South Korean Defense Ministry officials.

Yoon said the man conveyed his wish to defect before his death. He cited intelligence showing North Korea knew the man’s name, age, height and hometown as an evidence of his communication with the North.

Yoon didn’t elaborate. But some experts said he likely was referring to South Korea’s interception of communications among North Korean officials about the man.

Coast guard officials have previously said the 47-year-old official was a father of two with some debts. Yoon said Tuesday the debts totaled about 330 million won ($282,240), 80% of which were from gambling.

It’s still unclear whether Tuesday’s announcement would sooth mounting questions about why the man was in North Korean waters. The brother of the late official has said it was more likely that he fell into the sea by accident. The official had been aboard a government inspection ship before he disappeared.

South Korea has accused North Korea of having fatally shot him and burning his body. North Korea acknowledged that its troops killed him because he refused to answer to questions and attempted to flee. But North Korea said its troops only burned the man’s floatation device.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology over the man’s death, but his government hasn’t confirmed the man was trying to defect.

The man’s shooting has triggered a huge political firestorm in South Korea, with conservatives launching fierce political attacks on liberal President Moon Jae-in, who espouses greater ties with the North.

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COVID-19: Outbreak at Kelowna church as three deaths reported over past three days

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday reported a five-case community outbreak linked to the Calvary Chapel Church in Kelowna.

This is the first community outbreak reported in over a week, though there continue to be community exposures in schools and other spaces.

The Calvary Chapel is located on the grounds of the Kelowna Christian School, however the outbreak only impacts people who attended the 10:30 a.m. service on Sept. 13 and 20.

Henry said there were 267 cases of COVID-19 reported between noon Friday and noon Monday (68/125/74) and three deaths. Those deaths occurred in Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health regions bringing that grim toll to 233.

Henry said the person who died on Vancouver Island was in his 50s with underlying conditions and died at home. She said it was not known he had COVID until after his death.

There are now 1,302 active cases of the disease in B.C., of which 69 were being treated in hospital including 22 in intensive care. Henry said there were 3,372 people in isolation and being monitored by health authorities across the province after being potentially exposed to COVID-19.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

media captionTanks ablaze as fighting erupts over disputed region

Fierce fighting continues to rage following a flare-up of a decades-old conflict in the Caucasus region of south-eastern Europe.

Dozens of deaths have been reported in battles between forces fighting for Armenia and Azerbaijan.

At the heart of the conflict is a dispute over control of the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

It is recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since a war ended in 1994.

Tens of thousands of people died during the war and a million others were forced to leave their homes.

Other countries are concerned that the latest fighting could spill out of the region and draw in neighbouring powers, including Turkey, Russia and Iran.

They are also keen to maintain stability because gas and oil pipelines that supply the world run through the area.

  • What is behind the conflict?

The latest intense fighting began on Sunday with both Armenia and Azerbaijan blaming each other for the escalation.

Residents including children have taken cover in bomb shelters during shelling in the capital Stepanakert

image copyrightReuters

image captionResidents have taken cover in bomb shelters after shelling in the capital Stepanakert

Both parties said they had mobilised more soldiers and declared martial law in some areas.

The fighting is the heaviest seen in the conflict since 2016, when at least 200 people were killed in clashes.

Turkey has already declared its support for Azerbaijan, while Russia – which has military bases in Armenia but is also friendly with Azerbaijan – called for an immediate ceasefire.

Armenia has accused Turkey of providing direct military support to help Azerbaijan gain control of territory, a claim denied by Azerbaijan.

On Monday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Armenia must immediately end its “occupation” of the region, which he said would end the long crisis.

In a BBC interview, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan accused Azerbaijan of sabotaging a peaceful settlement to the conflict and insisted Armenia must defend the region.

A spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s presidential administration told the BBC that his country was taking “counter-measures” against provocations by Armenia.

Nagorno-Karabakh – key facts

  • A mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles)
  • Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks
  • In Soviet times, it became an autonomous region within the republic of Azerbaijan
  • Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but majority of population is ethnic Armenian
  • An estimated one million people displaced by war in 1988-1994, and about 30,000 killed
  • Separatist forces captured some extra territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan in the 1990s war
  • Stalemate has largely prevailed since a 1994 ceasefire
  • Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan
  • Russia has military bases in Armenia

What’s the latest from the battlefield?

On Monday, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, who are backed by Armenia, said another 28 of their soldiers had been killed. They had reported 16 fatalities and more than 100 people wounded on Sunday.

Armenian authorities said 200 Armenians were wounded, according to Interfax.

image copyrightEPA
image captionArmenia published photos of what it said were destroyed Azerbaijani tanks

Azerbaijan said two Azeri civilians were killed on Monday, following the deaths of five people from the same family died on Sunday. It added that 30 civilians were wounded.

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said their forces had reclaimed some territory taken by Azeri troops on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s government said on Monday that it had occupied strategically important locations in the disputed region.

image copyrightEPA
image captionAzerbaijan released images of what it said were damaged Armenian armoured vehicles
In July, at least 16 people died in border clashes, prompting the largest demonstration in years in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, where there were calls for the region’s recapture.

The international reaction

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned”, urging both sides to stop fighting
  • Russia’s foreign minister held urgent talks both with the Armenian and Azeri leadership
  • France, which has a large Armenian community, called for an immediate ceasefire and dialogue
  • Iran, which borders both Azerbaijan and Armenia, offered to broker peace talks
  • President Donald Trump said the US was seeking to stop the violence

What’s the background?

In 1988, towards the end of Soviet rule, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists began a bloody war which left Nagorno-Karabakh in the hands of ethnic Armenians when a truce was signed in 1994.

Tens of thousands died in fighting, and many ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced to flee their homes.

It is now a de facto independent region, relying heavily on support from Armenia. But it is not recognised by any UN member, including Armenia.

Swathes of Azeri territory around the enclave are also under Armenian control.

image copyrightEPA

image captionShelling has caused damage to homes in the city of Martuni

Negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement, and the dispute in the region remains one of post-Soviet Europe’s “frozen conflicts”.

Karabakh is the Russian rendering of an Azeri word meaning “black garden”, while Nagorno is a Russian word meaning “mountainous”. Ethnic Armenians prefer to call the region Artsakh, an ancient Armenian name for the area.

Over the years both sides have had soldiers killed in sporadic breaches of the ceasefire. Landlocked Armenia has suffered severe economic problems due to the closure of borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Russia, France and the US co-chair the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group, which has been attempting to broker an end to the dispute.

Related Topics

  • Azerbaijan

  • Armenia
  • Nagorno-Karabakh

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Huawei CFO Meng back in Canadian court fighting U.S. extradition

By Moira Warburton

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou will be back in a Canadian courtroom on Monday as her lawyers resume their fight to block the United States’ efforts to extradite her.

Meng, 48, was arrested in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States charging her with bank fraud for misleading HSBC <HSBA.L> about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran and causing the bank to break U.S. sanction law.

Huawei lawyers will argue that the U.S. extradition request was flawed because it omitted key evidence showing Meng did not lie to HSBC about Huawei’s business in Iran.

Meng, the daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition from her house arrest in Vancouver.

The arrest has strained China’s relations with both the United States and Canada. Soon after Meng’s detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, charging them with espionage.

Meng will appear in British Columbia’s Supreme Court on Monday for five days of Vukelich hearings – in which the judge will ultimately decide whether to allow the defence to admit additional pieces of evidence in their favour.

In this case, Huawei lawyers will use a PowerPoint presentation to show HSBC knew the extent of Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, which they say the United States did not accurately portray in its extradition request to Canada.

In previously submitted documents, Meng’s lawyers claim the case that the United States submitted to Canada is “so replete with intentional and reckless error” that it violates her rights.

The argument is part of Meng’s legal strategy to prove that Canadian and American authorities committed abuses of process while arresting her.

Lawyers representing the Canadian attorney general are arguing for her extradition to the United States.

Vukelich hearings are rare in extradition cases, said Gary Botting, an extradition lawyer based in Vancouver, but given the complexity of Meng’s case it is not surprising.

The defence’s success “depends entirely on the nature of the evidence… and whether or not there is any substance to their allegations,” Botting added.

Meng’s extradition trial is currently set to wrap up in April 2021, although if either side appeals the case, it could drag on for years through the Canadian justice system.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas and Diane Craft)

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Trump Holds $421 Million In Debt, Could Owe IRS $100 Million In Penalties, Times Says

President Donald Trump personally holds $421 million in debt and loans that are largely coming due in the next four years, The New York Times reported Sunday after obtaining more than two decades of his long-sought tax returns.

An ongoing audit by the Internal Revenue Service, meanwhile, could cost Trump more than $100 million.

The Times report also revealed that the president’s vast business interests created potential and real conflicts of interest for years and are under more financial stress than the self-described billionaire has previously disclosed.

Documents obtained by the Times painted a more detailed picture of the president’s personal fortune and his network of 500 business entities, as well as the legal maneuvering he has employed to pay little or no taxes for many years.

The Times found that Trump paid just $750 in personal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and none at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, citing business losses in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to decrease his tax burden.

The Times did not obtain Trump’s personal tax returns for 2018 or 2019, but the breadth of documents — including records for his first two years in office — showed a large increase in income at properties that have become lightning rods for criticism after he refused to divest himself of his businesses while in office.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization told the publication that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate,” and the president himself said the report was “totally fake news” and “made up” in a Sunday news conference.

But the documents, obtained from unnamed sources that had legal access to them, painted by far the most detailed picture of the president’s finances.

Beginning in 2015, Trump was able to earn an extra $5 million a year from his club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida. The tax records detailed monthly credit card receipts that showed transactions ballooned at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and at Trump’s Doral golf resort, both of which have become favored destinations for foreign businesses and dignitaries.

Rental income at some of his properties in the United States has also risen dramatically since he won the presidency, and Trump’s revenue from properties he owns overseas totaled some $73 million in his first two years in the White House — including millions from the Philippines and Turkey.

The president has relied more heavily on those sources of income as other revenue sources dried up or were leveraged, the Times reported. The president took out a $100 million mortgage on commercial space in Trump Tower in 2012 on which he still owes the full amount, which is due in 2022. He also sold more than $200 million in stocks and bonds between 2014 and 2016, pumping much of the proceeds into his properties.

In 2018, Trump businesses reported just $34.7 million cash on hand, 40% less than five years earlier.

At the same time, auditors at the IRS are probing whether the president misused a provision in the tax code that allowed him a full refund — with interest — of the taxes he paid between 2005 and 2008, a total of $72.9 million. If the refund is disallowed, Trump could owe more than $100 million in restitution, interest and penalties.

It’s unclear how Trump’s lenders could force him to pay up should he win reelection; it would be unprecedented for institutions to foreclose on a sitting U.S. president who is personally liable for more than $400 million in loans and debts. That gargantuan figure could likely be leveraged again in the president’s favor: As a tax benefit when declared as losses for years to come, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, Trump paid far more in taxes to foreign governments than to his own.

“He reported paying taxes, in turn, on a number of his overseas ventures. In 2017, the president’s $750 contribution to the operations of the U.S. government was dwarfed by the $15,598 he or his companies paid in Panama, the $145,400 in India and the $156,824 in the Philippines,” the Times reported.

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Interview – Xymena Kurowska

Xymena Kurowska is Associate Professor of International Relations at Central European University in Vienna and Budapest. She received her doctorate in political and social sciences from European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. She works within international political sociology, with particular focus on security theory, psychosocial and anthropological approaches in the study of politics, relational and interpretive methodologies, and the ethics of academic practice. She also practices interpretive policy analysis and has recently served as a rapporteur for a cyber diplomacy project, EU Cyber Direct.  

Where do you see the most exciting research/debates happening in your field?

We do not have ‘grand debates’ anymore and I find it liberating. In the past, grand debates, at a disciplinary level, were too often conducted within pre-determined hegemonic parameters, and in the end very few were eligible to speak. The downside to this may be fragmentation and polarization, the infamous camp-structure of IR, and some inwardness of scholarly engagement. It is gratifying to speak to those with whom one shares a worldview.

I am most interested these days in the “necessary fictions” that hold international society together, in normative subversion and in relationality, including how we produce knowledge about them. Research on stigma by Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Ayşe Zarakol, for example, shows the coercive character of norms but without reverting to the simple version of realism as we might know it from some introductory texts to IR. Maria Mälksoo develops on the concept of normative threat to contextualise the return of the entrenched trope of Central Europe as being somehow subversive of  the western European subjectivity. Such discussions see norms as a form of politics and confront the self-flattering liberal narrative of multilateralism and global governance, without valorising grievances and resentments which pervade illiberal rhetoric. I am drawn to these scholars’ appreciation of tensions and ambiguities, although a certain risk remains that the analytical category of stigma may reduce actors to unidimensional types. Cynthia Weber, for example, points out how the stigma lens singularizes what are always plural subjects (‘plural’ in the sense of accommodating apparently contradictory logics of behaviour, not in the liberal sense of pacific accommodation of differences). The emerging research agenda on rituals goes towards a pluriversal approach in world politics that I am keen to explore in this context. In a collective article that we just published in Critical Studies on Security, we think about ritual in conjunction with image as simultaneously ordering and involving potential disruption. The ritual angle confounds logocentric and mono-normative frameworks of analysis and engages the simultaneity of the concrete, situational and affective in world politics.

Another conversation I am drawn into, and part of my own research focus, is the question of what it means to think relationally in IR. Relationality is not a new question in IR but it is undergoing radical reconfigurations. These reconfigurations come from two directions in my view, posthumanism and narrative IR. As Milja Kurki argues in her recent book, IR’s ontology of relations tends to privilege the study of ‘things,’ such as types of actors, against ‘backgrounds,’ such as material resources or environment, thus reducing relations to interactions. It also favours humans. Kurki proposes instead to think of relations as ‘thoroughgoing’, as ‘shooting through’ constellations of more-than-human enmeshment. Enmeshment radicalises the constructivist idea of mutual constitution, because here entities do not pre-exist as such but materialize in intra-action. This is a challenge to intersubjectivity understood in terms of public, transparent and discursively formulated relations which can be examined for regularity of patterns. Posthumanist understandings also reconfigure the standing concepts of international politics in the era of digitalisation. In AI and machine learning, for example, rationality, strategy, leadership, diplomacy, etc. both crumble and unleash renewed efforts to discipline and govern.

What for me brings together the posthumanist and narrative relationality is attunement to affect, that is, to the embodied and pre-discursive. Such relationality both decentres and embeds the human that cannot easily unmask the relations that produce her, which injects interpretive humility. In contrast to IR approaches that understood narrative as an analytical tool that renders the world more intelligible and thus epistemically controllable, here narrative is an affective mode of expression that interweaves personal experience with structural conditions. It becomes a site for thinking through the workings of power, knowledge, and ideological formations while acknowledging limits to knowledge and critique. Narrative confronts dissonance, disavowal, and irreducible conflict at the core of any personal and social project. This understanding of narrative helped me probe and express the implication of the critical academic subject in neoliberal conditions of possibility and the ambiguities of knowledge production in fieldwork. The papers appeared in two new journals, Political Anthropological Research on International Social Sciences (PARISS) and Journal of Narrative Politics edited by Elizabeth Dauphinee at York University, both exceptional venues for rethinking modes of expression in IR.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

My doctoral years at EUI were no doubt transformative. First, and quite literally, I acquired a conceptual and academic imagination; second, EUI is a site of unique exposure where all sorts of characters cross paths. Unaware of the rules and rituals of the academic world, I did not back then understand how lucky I was in this respect and how much this contingency structured my trajectory. My advisor, Fritz Kratochwil, has a way of thinking about the social that marked these beginnings. I was socialized into “IR” through what Tanja Aalberts, with reference to Fritz, calls “counter-disciplinarity as interdisciplinarity proper.” She defines it, inter alia, as non-imperialist cross-disciplinary encounters without a roadmap, and this sounds like an uncannily apt description of my academic journey. With no roadmaps indeed, and fewer words than one would expect from a prolific writer, Fritz instigates an attitude rather than setting up a framework to be further developed, undermined, or emancipated from to acquire one’s own voice. The hallmark of this attitude, the way I absorbed it, is a disposition towards a ruthlessly critical (self-)engagement, actually rarely an asset in the neoliberal academia, and a very complicated relationship with theory. Kratochwil is known as a grand theorist of International Relations but he has also been busy subverting that discipline by confronting its fantasy of theory. And yet those uninterested in social theory will find his writing alienating. From among peers at EUI, I have the strongest and most long-lasting bond with Patryk Pawlak who chose the path of praxis and policy analysis and helped me make sense of that minefield with nuance and a critical edge, remaining ever vigilant, so to say.

Dvora Yanow must be credited with introducing me to interpretive research, which happened at the precarious moment of connecting dots between theory and field. Not only did I get an introduction to interpretive data generation and analysis, something that back then nobody taught IR doctoral students, but she also introduced me to Cecelia Lynch whose work has shaped my engagement with interpretive IR ever since. These early career encounters were happening thanks to the openings in the aftermath of the EU enlargement (and my home country, Poland, joining the EU) but also in its obscure shadows. I am currently trying to make sense of the latter in a current book project on liberal affect in the semi-periphery for which I develop a psychosocial approach inspired by relational psychoanalysis. Recently, a research fellowship at the Department of International Relations at Aberystwyth was an important reinvigoration. It made me (re-)discover IR as counterdisciplinary, thanks in no small way to the diverse early career research community there and the creativity of Milja Kurki and Berit Bliesemann de Guevara. Milja and Berit helped me revitalise my research, ethical academic practice, and mode of expression, even if I cannot fully reform anymore.

Much of your writing is of an interdisciplinary nature. How does this influence the way you research and write articles?

I came to think of it as a position of an embedded situationist. Inspiration comes from a situation and I build on that in substance and style, while minding that the event is part of a larger social formation. The situation may involve myself. An interlocutor’s joke, a wink, can instigate a lengthy deliberation on ‘post-enlargement’ subjectivity, for example. Empirically, this somewhat resembles Lee Ann Fujii’s ‘accidental ethnography,’ although I don’t claim to be an ethnographer and I reach out instead to psychosocial studies. In both our approaches, however, one cannot plan or engineer insight. It comes in unexpected ways while fleeting moments and seemingly subjective impressions contain traces of social practice. Thinking from a situation does not necessarily involve direct participation. In a recent piece on trickstery and Russia as a trickster, written with Anatoly Reshetnikov, we analyse two situations that happened in autumn 2018: an interview on the pro-Kremlin TV channel RT with the alleged poisoners of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and Russia’s bid in a UN General Assembly committee for a new UN resolution on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. Engaging thinkers from anthropology, semiotics, and the study of religion, we piece together what trickstery may mean in contemporary international society. The research strategy, if I may call it like this, is to work ‘in the midst of things’ and take rather seriously glimpses and slippages. Writing is then a process of searching at length, counter disciplinarily, for a vocabulary to convey what I think I have learned. The above is perhaps a slightly metaphorical description in lieu of saying that I neither test IR theories nor transpose the thought of any one social theorist to elucidate an IR problem. There is a downside to it: If one does not follow stylistic templates and conceptual conventions of any one way of theorising, one is seen as lacking a coherent research agenda or politics, somewhere between being wooly, contrarian, and co-opted.

How does International Political Sociology benefit our understanding of International Relations?

This is a subject that many in IPS have debated and I would not be able to do justice to these debates here. I think that IPS has changed (critical) IR, fractured it, as many IPS scholars may prefer to call it, opened it up. This helped see critical research as a legitimate way of studying global politics in unorthodox ways. It made many hidden hierarchies come to the fore, broke through more than a few orthodoxies, and made it less taboo to speak of who gets to say what that is agenda-setting and ‘professional.’ IPS integrated the margins, in other words. The latter can of course be seen as taming radical critique and showing IPS’s own pursuit of social capital and status (see a recent contribution). But I prefer to see the long way IPS has gone legitimating the kind of work that previously struggled to be accepted, including that counterdisciplinary disposition which I would not know where to take otherwise. IPS is also an ever-vigorous space of a relative freedom of style and of transversality, the concept which I find most productive.

A component of IPS is its emphasis on decentering the dominant modes of knowledge production. Why this is important?

The normative and epistemological come together in the purpose to decentre. Decentering gets us closer to what some have called pluriversality. To be centred on something is to be fixed, rigid and detached. It is, in effect, a sort of “flight from reality”. Undermining this fixedness not only adds dynamism but it also makes possible complex plural engagement; plural understood in the way I signalled before, that is, not as merely tolerating an apparent difference but as able to bear contradictions and incommensurability. Such engagement will always be porous and fragmented and for this very reason unsatisfactory but, I would claim, less prone to fantasy and dogmatism. This is also how I see the link between IPS sensibility and practice, even policy practice, although many IPS scholars reject such direct linkages as uncritical when policy practice pulls to re-centre and control.

How does using an interpretive approach enhance our understanding of EU foreign policy?

Briefly, I think about it as sorting out the narratives that actors, here EU foreign policy actors, tell themselves and each other in their political projects, as part of broader and conflicting structures of signification. The (EU foreign policy) ‘practitioner’ is, in this respect, a subject beyond being an individual but she is not a mere mechanical throughput of a structure working behind her back. An interpretive approach can start in controversies by asking what frameworks (narratives) the practitioner uses to make sense of her situation. She is a site of many influences that she tries to reconcile in her narratives, and interpretivists have means to observe such struggles. The purchase of an interpretive approach is that it can analyse tensions in lived political phenomena rather than resolving them by a theoretical or political fiat. There is scepticism there about any claims to consistency and transparency, and attunement to pluriversality of meaning despite seeming equivalence of language. Joe Soss’s chapter in the volume Interpretation and Method edited by Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwarz-Shea offers an excellent conceptual and methodological elucidation of this analytical purchase.

The narrative of the EU as a ‘normative power,’ as worn-out as it may seem, is a deep well for interpretive analysis. It is a term that refuses to die and travels across policy areas in different reiterations. Currently, it is being repurposed in the cyber domain in connection with the EU as a global (normative) leader in data protection regulation. EU (foreign policy) actors attach different meanings to it in different contexts, they are both dismissive and protective of it, with slippages that signify interesting entanglements. Try announcing that the EU is not a beacon of progressive norms in global politics on a panel on EU foreign policy supported by EU-affiliated institutes. Despite all the jaded criticism of incoherence, lack of political will and capacities, etc. it has an effect similar to the use of the ethnomethodological method of committing a social blunder in order to understand the local social rules. You do get to see them operate, at a significant social cost. The interpretive approach has worked for me in the study of policy because it is both wary of claims to competency by others and sees research as learning from others. In the realm of eloquent EU diplomats and bureaucrats, that analytical attitude is useful to maintain suspicion towards “being-in-the-know” by any party.

What are the pedagogical challenges to teaching interpretivist methods? How can these be overcome?

I have been confronted with this question ever since I started teaching methods in 2010. Interpretive methods are anti-foundational, cross-disciplinary, holistic, and thus counterintuitive and initially frustrating at least in three respects: First, disciplines come with discipline-specific methods. In an IR classroom, we often teach with examples from across social sciences and humanities and this raises the question how such examples can be useful for IR problems. This bafflement grows exponentially as students are still mostly expected to perform disciplinarily in their research papers. We seem to end up telling them ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ A way forward could be to teach with IR examples only, but this reinforces disciplinarity and the pattern to borrow from elsewhere and IRise.

Second, participants in methods classes expect a procedure to follow, a template how to reproduce neatly delineated steps that lead to a methodologically rigorous research paper, that is, to science. The lack of interpretive template is exasperating. The misconstrual of technical instructions as systematicity, certainly not only in the classroom, does not help. This is a long discussion on the conflation of science and neoliberal measures that I cannot go into here, except to signal that the engagement with Science and Technology Studies has added much nuance to this debate in IR. Crucial, I think, is not to fantasize from the successful experiment, so to say, but to confront the organized hypocrisy of research design, as we ponder with Berit Bliesemann de Guevara in our chapter for E-IR’s Fieldwork as Failure: Living and Knowing in the Field of International Relations, a volume edited by Katarina Kušić and Jakub Záhora which has much to say about interpretive sensibility.

Third, and connected, interpretive methods are seen as subjective, a misunderstanding in my view, and thus often felt as uncomfortable at the personal level and with respect to being scientific. Indeed, in the interpretive approach, the researcher is asked to engage with her own position in order to make sense of where she speaks from: Claims to objectivity and epistemic superiority are scrutinized as political claims since we always speak from somewhere. While we cannot fully grasp the complexity of our own implication, and interpretivists are modest about the extent of their penetrating gaze, we nevertheless ought to continue probing. Cecelia Lynch conveys most lucidly how the researcher is part of the hermeneutical circle and research questions emerge within particular socio-political conditions. Asking why we decide to pursue a particular problem is then part of the picture. This must not be conflated with confession and I am careful discussing positionality in research projects. We are incompletely embedded in ideologies and hierarchies and there is no automaticity to what positionalities mean. For example, “I was born and raised in Poland in a particular historical period and in a particular social and cultural milieu and therefore…” may be factually true but it does not in and of itself settles my positionality. It may be a statement off the mark, a deflection, as well as manipulation of cultural intimacy. Further, we must not demand confessions; not only because they can masquerade for reflection but also because we never know what trauma we are stepping on. In this context, the interpretive method and task is not only epistemic but also normative and thus never fully realizable in a vulnerable environment of a classroom. The acknowledgment that a template for analysis does not work in practice is insufficient, however. The pedagogical challenge is to convey that the biggest weakness of interpretivism is also its major source of productivity. Specifically, systematicity comes from engagement not detachment, one learns from being together with others and from confronting one’s urge to instruct and control, not from being taught. How to approach it in a methods course, with looming deadlines for paper submission? Not easily and with effects mostly after the submission.

In 2014 you wrote about Russia’s contestation of liberal norms and its self-perceived responsibility to contain Western dominance. Has this changed in the age of Trump and an increasingly fragmented liberal world order?

One may expect that if the world order has become less liberal, Russia’s protestations against it could also lessen. The opposite seems to be the case. So, one may entertain a conclusion that it has been pure realpolitik all along and the substance of a particular ideology does not matter, beyond providing convenient parameters to perform rivalry. This does not seem accurate either, in the sense that ideological differentiations matter. The role of individual rights and social dialogue have different currencies in different contexts, for example. The paradox is that the contestation has intensified and Russia’s position and image have strengthened without Russia becoming stronger, which in my view can be seen against the background of the mythology of the liberal world order. Not to diminish the implications of Russia’s conduct in global politics, the reaction to this conduct reveals the failure of liberal democracies to live up to the liberal ideal globally. In this context, Russia’s contestation of liberal norms is useful for the purposes of highlighting the dangers to the rules-based international order and confounding the irony that liberal democracies try to prosecute by law and sanctions, or govern by global institutions what is, in essence, a political problem. Crucially, this is not only the issue of self-subversion and hypocrisy over hierarchy in international society. It also relates to the historical observation that the successful liberalisation at the global level undermines liberalism itself, as Beate Jahn writes most lucidly.

Your recent research has focused on cyber diplomacy and Russia. How does this fit into Russia’s broader foreign policy?

Cyberspace has become a central geopolitical arena where Russia enjoys an overblown status. Russia has been active in cyber matters not only as a troll, hacker and curtailer of Internet freedoms, but also through diplomatic efforts at global regulation of the Internet that it initiated in the late 1990s. There are distinct continuities of Russia’s foreign policy tropes in its cyber posture. Russia’s initial proposal to regulate the Internet was modelled on the nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime. This was partly because Russia sees information as a weapon, a position which is reflected in its narrative of information security promoted at the regional and global level. The regulation initiative was from the outset geared towards containing the US dominance in the cyber domain, importantly through curbing global business registered in the US for which non-regulation was a source of significant profit. The main controversy in cyber diplomacy nowadays surrounds the question of a separate cyber treaty or treaties. Russia is advocating in favour, arguing that this would keep in check the exploitation of the cyber domain by Western states, a rather familiar trope of ‘democratization’ which in practice resembles a pursuit of the balance of power between US-Russia-China. The majority of Western democracies argue against a treaty and try to specify how the existing international law applies to cyber space to prevent treaty negotiations. Russia is portrayed in this process as a spoiler that obstructs “governance by cyber norms” and the rules-based international order more broadly. This is a fascinating clash of narratives. What gets under the analytical radar is that Russia and liberal democracies operate with different meanings of global norms and the role of international law in ordering international society, as I try to explain in my recent chapter on Russia’s cyber diplomacy.

What is the most important advice that you would give to early career scholars studying international relations?

Above all, I’d say that one needs the minds of others to think and one can only grow with and through others, minding not to make this process extractive. The reciprocity is about the time and attention you give to others and their work. This does not necessarily equate with harmony and may be ridden with conflict and disappointment. In other words, my one piece of advice is: Find yourself a community, or (overlapping) communities, or a changing constellation of a few people who will read your work with loving ruthlessness, including in editorial terms, who will get you unstuck or send you into (in the long run) productive turmoil, sometimes by saying two words or making a face, and sometimes by making you restructure your abstract so that you finally figure out what your paper is about. You will forge better ties with some in that community while some will misconstrue you completely, in your interpretation, although you hoped desperately to pick their minds. Some will think that you pick on them, and perhaps you do. Those that do not seem to understand you may be very important as they occasionally connect the dots you did not know existed. Finding this sustenance (feedback) and being able to use it productively is paramount and most difficult, because of the neoliberal pressures that structure academia, clashing personalities, and our own and others’ follies. But it is worth it. Finding your thinking mates is not the same as networking, however, which is another advice that I should give from pragmatic positions. Networking can help get a job, if the stars and the departmental politics align, which is also sustenance of course. It may be necessary for finding your thinking mates, too, but it will not necessarily make your thinking thrive.

Further Reading on E-International Relations

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