Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Inside the 16 May edition

A wind of discontent is blowing through Europe, and not just in the eastern regions of Ukraine. At the heart of the European Union, industrial decay and economic austerity are causing anxious voters to retrench behind old borders and away from the grand, postwar project that was intended to bring lasting peace and prosperity to the continent. As a wave of anti-EU sentiment threatens to engulf next week's European parliamentary elections, Julian Coman of the Observer asks in our cover story what the future holds for the EU, and whether it can be saved from the enemy within.

Presidential elections are also looming in Ukraine later this month, where the future looks anything but clear. Dubious referendums by separatists in the country's eastern provinces have led to calls for partition and even assimilation into Russia, requests that have drawn a muted response from Moscow. The Guardian's Shaun Walker and Alec Luhn report from the region.

In Nigeria, video footage appeared to show some of the hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls taken last month. As Monica Mark explains, abduction is part of a well-established but hitherto largely unreported bargaining strategy for Islamist militants Boko Haram, while Chris McGreal considers why the United States is so keen to help with the search. Elsewhere, a ceasefire between warring tribes in South Sudan has allowed much-needed food supplies into the country.

The Guardian's Simon Tisdall has visited Iran, where the regime believes its ally, Bashar al-Assad, has now won the Syrian civil war. With Iranian nuclear talks resuming this week in Vienna, Tisdall also hears how Tehran, currently under international sanctions, envisages a future for itself as a major supplier of energy to Europe.

The world's largest democratic election finally ended in India, where exit polls point to victory for Narenda Modi's BJP party. In Afghanistan, presidential hopeful Abdullah Abdullah received important backing from a former rival candidate. And in Pakistan, families are secretly immunising their children from polio despite Taliban opposition.

Two contrasting stories come from the US-Mexico border region. In Albuquerque, New Mexico – popularised recently by the TV series Breaking Bad – citizens have protested against a wave of police brutality. Across the border in north-eastern Mexico, a spate of extreme violence has ended the relative calm in the region where the country's drug wars began.

In the UK, a soldiers' charity highlighted the growing number of mental illness cases among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Local people in the Lake District, meanwhile, are clubbing together to try to buy a mountain that is up for private sale.

The Weekly Review goes off the beaten path this week to Mongolia's Gobi desert, where a mining revolution is bringing new wealth and rapid social change to the country. Le Monde looks at how francophone publishers in Quebec are starting to break traditional moulds, while we also look at how the Tehran book fair reflects changing social attitudes in Iran. And from the Washington Post there's a moving interview with Roméo Dallaire, a former UN peacekeeper in Rwanda who, 20 years on, still suffers flashbacks to the horrors of the genocide.

Discovery takes an arm's length look at the world's most destructive shrimp, as scientists unlock its genetic secrets to manufacture tough new materials. Books meets Argentinian authors trying to tackle the legacy of the junta, and Culture looks at some innovative new interpretations of Renaissance art.

Notes & Queries ponders tall men and short women. Good to Meet You hears from a reader in Peru, where the erratic postal service often serves up three editions of the paper at once.

To round things off on the back page, there's an interesting academic conundrum. Given the battering taken by classical economists after the credit crunch, why, asks Aditya Chakrabortty, do universities seem so keen to stick by the mainstream economics courses that failed to predict the crash? I'll leave that one for you to ponder (but please do send your thoughts on the subject to our Letters page).

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