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Belonging
Identity, Society, Beliefs, Countries

20 january 2022

Pet flights
Hong Kongers are paying $25,000 per animal to fly their pets out of Hong Kong on private jets as Beijing makes life miserable in the city and Covid squeezes space on normal cargo flights. The number of animals involved is not high in absolute terms, but it’s high enough to signal a new strain of elite desperation. The FT reports that Top Stars Air, Dog Express and Pet Holidays have all been doing brisk business booking pets and their owners on private planes as the only alternative to staying put or using commercial flights that tend to be overbooked or cancelled. The only acceptable alternative, that is. Separately, Hong Kong officials have announced that more than 1,000 hamsters, rabbits and chinchillas imported for resale are to be culled for fear of spreading Covid.

19 january 2022

Malta’s president
The new president of the European Parliament is the youngest ever and a leading member of Malta’s centre-right Nationalist party. Roberta Metsola, 43, was elected to the post after the death last week of David Sassoli. She was immediately asked for her views on abortion, which her party opposes. She said she’ll follow that of the parliament, which doesn’t. To note: Malta’s Nationalists aren’t nationalist. Rather, they led efforts to win independence from the UK. And Metsola is emphatically for the rule of law. She once famously refused to shake the hand of Joseph Muscat, the disgraced former Maltese prime minister.

18 january 2022

Zemmour guilty
A French court found far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour guilty of racist hate speech. Zemmour, a media pundit, had described child migrants as thieves, killers and rapists. “That’s all they are,” he said. “We should send them back”. The court fined him €10,000, which he has to pay in daily installments of €100. If he doesn’t, he could be jailed. His lawyer said Zemmour plans to appeal. In any case, the verdict won’t stop his presidential bid. Zemmour has two previous convictions for hate speech – one for claiming that “most drug dealers are black and Arab” and another for comments about a Muslim “invasion” of France. He is, however, unlikely to muster the endorsement he needs from at least 500 elected officials to have his name on the ballot for the two rounds of voting in April, which suggests that his incendiary rhetoric may be losing its appeal.

17 january 2021

Australians on vaccines 
Novak Djokovic is back in Belgrade, regrouping with family after a sobering lesson in plebiscitary epidemiology. He flew home from Melbourne after the Australian government rejected his lawyers’ final appeal and revoked his visa a second time. Looked at from close up, the whole affair was an avoidable mess. Tennis Australia and the government of Victoria gave him a medical exemption from normal Covid vaccination requirements without checking first with the federal government, which had to a) check its rules and b) take account of a furious public backlash against double standards for celebrities while Djokovic was in the air. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was accused, not least by Serbia, of pandering to the mob. But take a step back and this was a simple, crowd-sourced answer to an important binary question: should there be consequences for people who put others at risk by refusing to be vaccinated? The answer was yes.

14 january 2021

Oath Keepers
The US charged the leader of a far-right militia group with seditious conspiracy in connection with last year’s attack on the Capitol. Stewart Rhodes, who leads the Oath Keepers, a loose association of people who believe the US government has been corrupted by elites, is a 56-year-old former paratrooper and Yale-educated lawyer. He stands accused of conspiring with others to “oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power”. Sedition charges are extremely rare in modern American history. Rhodes’s case was the first time that the crime was applied over the deadly riot. A true “America First” moment.