Guardian Writers

Separating the terrible twins

Polish democracy grew up on Sunday, when the country's voters rejected the strident, xenophobic nationalism of Jaroslav Kaczynski. The election mattered not just because it was the first time a generation born after 1989 could vote. Nor because liberal conservative winner Donald Tusk won the strongest mandate of any prime minister in the post-communist era.

Sun continues to shine

Bit by bit, the tensions on the Korean peninsula are easing. This week it was announced that the leaders of north and south would meet for a two-day summit, the first in seven years, later this month. In July, the communist regime shut down its sole nuclear reactor and promised to make a full disclosure of its nuclear programme.

High price for freedom

Take five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor who are working in an ill-equipped hospital. Accuse them wrongly of infecting 426 children with HIV-contaminated blood. Then lock them up for eight years, torture confessions out of them and sentence them to death, and you end up with a full partnership deal with the European Union.

Bitter fruits of boycott

Alvaro de Soto is not the first experienced diplomat to have entered the Middle East a moderate and to have left it two years later angry at the role of Israel and the United States in subverting the search for peace. Nor will he be the last. In his confidential 53-page report, dated May 5 (just before De Soto stepped down as the United Nations's Middle East envoy) the former Peruvian foreign minister describes the reality of diplomacy.

A destroyer, not a builder

When a statesman dies he gets tributes -- even from those who suffered most at his hands. The news of Boris Yeltsin's death on Monday was no sooner out than Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, expressed his condolences to the family of the man who had forced him from office.

Recognition roundabout

The meeting this week in Jerusalem between Condoleezza Rice, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas was the first such three-way encounter since 2003. That might suggest that the prospect of serious negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians has somewhat improved.

US goes back to the future

One note on Tuesday soured the perfect cadence that greeted North Korea's decision to shut down its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, and take the first step towards dismantling its nuclear-weapons programme. Characteristically, it was sounded by John Bolton, who has lost his job as United States ambassador to the United Nations, but not his voice.

‘Thank you America’

For six years, with the backing of both houses of a markedly conservative Republican Congress, George W Bush has led an American administration that has played an unprecedentedly negative and polarising role in the world's affairs. On Tuesday, in the midterm United States congressional elections, American voters rebuffed Bush in spectacular style and with both instant and lasting political consequences.

Trials and errors

Saddam Hussein never cared for truth or justice when he ruled Iraq and those who suffered under him might think it perverse to care about his fate now. But his trial for genocide and war crimes against the Kurds has degenerated into black farce, a chaotic travesty of what should have been due process to call him to account.

Banking on Ban

Barring surprises, the United Nations will this week confirm the appointment of a new secretary general to succeed Kofi Annan, who is ending his second five-year term in December. Ban Ki-moon, the foreign minister of South Korea, emerged as the clear consensus candidate after consultations between the members of the security council, especially the powerful, veto-wielding permanent five.

Turkey toughs out terror

Turks are robust enough to react calmly to the threats from a break-away Kurdish group to turn the country into ''hell'' in an attempt to scare away foreign tourists and damage the economy. But it is nevertheless alarming that six bomb attacks have been carried out this week, killing three people and injuring scores of others.

A city left to rot

It wasn't just the inhabitants of the United States's Gulf coast who were stunned by Hurricane Katrina a year ago. It was the whole American nation and the entire watching world. The death, destruction and displacement caused by the worst natural disaster in US history swept away homes, wrecked the unique city of New Orleans and laid siege to the American dream itself.

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