Sophie McBain picks up politics, business and international development stories from around the globe

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A woman dressed up as Zwarte Piet. Photo: Getty.
A Dutch court has ruled that “Black Pete” is offensive. How did it take so long?
By Sophie McBain - 04 July 12:39

A Dutch court has ruled that the Dutch Christmas character, "Zwarte Piet" or Black Pete, a white man in blackface, is offensive.

“Hamas will pay”: Israel responds to the killing of three teenagers
By Sophie McBain - 01 July 11:48

Israel is preparing to retaliate for the killing of three teenagers, but an increase in violence will hurt both sides.

The device is said to resemble a bomb detector similar to this one pictured in Israel in 2009. Photo: Getty.
Egyptian army to launch "miracle" anti-Aids zapper
By Sophie McBain - 27 June 13:24

On Monday the Egyptian government is set to introduce its new – and completely bogus – anti-Aids equipment. Let's hope it quietly ducks out of this promise.

Four tips David Cameron can learn from world leaders on how to use Twitter
By Sophie McBain - 26 June 12:24

What tips can David Cameron learn from the annual Twiplomacy report, which studies how world leaders use Twitter? He needs a little help – not only because he's regularly insulted online, but because Barack Obama won't follow him back. 

Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues stand inside a cage during their trial. Photo: Getty.
Egypt’s Al Jazeera verdict: the death of the free press
By Sophie McBain - 23 June 11:42

The three Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to seven years in jail in an Egyptian court room today should never have been tried in the first place. And yet, the day before their verdict, the US government released £338m of military aid to Egypt's repressive new rulers. 

Isis's strangely corporate approach to terror makes them all the more scary
By Sophie McBain - 18 June 15:14

From its unsettling but bureaucratic annual reports to its sophisticated social media strategy, the jihadist group Isis has been borrowing ideas from business and applying them to international terror. 

How worried should we be about the rise of ISIS, the group “too extreme” for Al Qaeda?
By Sophie McBain - 12 June 17:12

“What I heard today scared the hell out of me”, one US senator said following the capture of Iraq's second city by the hardline jihadist group ISIS. So who are ISIS and how big a threat to they pose?

In some Pacific Islands as many as one in three adults have type 2 diabetes. Photo: Getty.
Where's the public outrage at the diabetes epidemic?
By Sophie McBain - 12 June 14:55

Worldwide, diabetes kills almost as many people a year as HIV/Aids, and the number of cases of Type 2 diabetes is set to increase by 50 per cent in the next decade. Why is so little being done to contain the epidemic? 

US Secret Service seeks Twitter sarcasm detector
By Sophie McBain - 05 June 12:55

The US Secret Service is seeking some help with its online snooping, and needs a company that can detect sarcasm online - because you need to be able to distinguish between "I love Al Qaeda" and "I love Al Qaeda". Good luck with that, pals! 

The UK has more billionaires per head than any other country – which is bad news
By Sophie McBain - 13 May 14:57

Billionaires love Britain. But here are three big reasons why Britain shouldn’t love billionaires. 

Everything you need to know about India’s elections
By Sophie McBain - 01 May 12:50

On 16 May we'll know the results of the world’s biggest-ever elections – with 814m Indians voting over six weeks. What’s at stake?

Do women really need extra help managing their money?
By Sophie McBain - 25 April 12:01

A Financial Times columnist has written a book of financial advice for “independent women”.

Abuse of women domestic workers in Qatar exposes uncomfortable truths closer to home
By Sophie McBain - 23 April 13:42

A new report from Amnesty International describes how domestic workers in Qatar face abuse and exploitation. The problem isn't just limited to Qatar, however: domestic workers in the UK are similarly vulnerable.

India’s Supreme Court recognises a third gender
By Sophie McBain - 16 April 11:37

The Supreme Court in India has issued a new law allowing transgender people to change their gender on official documents to reflect their gender identity – why are so many European countries still several steps behind?

Would shorter working hours boost productivity? Photo: Getty.
Why we should all be working less
By Sophie McBain - 10 April 13:18

France has introduced a new law to prevent employees being asked to read work emails outside office hours. Would it help solve the UK's productivity problem if we followed suit?

Why international rankings of countries are completely pointless
By Sophie McBain - 03 April 14:37

The UK is ranked 13 out of 132 countries in the new Social Progress Index, thanks to its excellent universities but comparatively high rates of obesity. But when will we realise that these lists are really meaningless?

Why is Egypt sentencing hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death?
By Sophie McBain - 25 March 11:18

Several Egyptian TV channels yesterday welcomed the sentencing to death of 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters in a flawed two-day trial. Are Egyptians sleepwalking into one of the darkest chapters in their recent political history?

Plot for Peace: the French businessman who helped end apartheid
By Sophie McBain - 25 March 9:46

A new documentary sheds light on the role played by Jean-Yves Ollivier, a secretive French businessman, in bringing peace to South Africa. But what does it tell us about the mechanics of conflict resolution?

Why aren’t EU states delivering on their humanitarian aid pledges?
By Sophie McBain - 19 March 12:44

The EU is the world’s largest humanitarian donor, and it is facing a funding gap of almost half a billion euros.

China’s billionaire politicians quadruple their wealth
By Sophie McBain - 06 March 12:16

Despite their low official government salaries, at this week’s National People’s Congress annual meeting, there will be 86 renminbi billionaires and China’s richest politicians have quadrupled their wealth in the past eight years. But is there a right level to set politicians’ pay?

A third of women in the EU have faced sexual or physical violence
By Sophie McBain - 05 March 15:10

Denmark, Sweden and Finland had the highest rates of violence against women, despite the countries' reputation for promoting gender equality. Why?

Why are one million babies a year dying in their first day of life?
By Sophie McBain - 25 February 16:37

The first 24 hours in a baby's life are the most dangerous, but newborn deaths have been under-researched and neonatal care is under-funded.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signs anti-gay bill
By Sophie McBain - 24 February 12:42

The new law will make it virtually impossible to be openly gay in Uganda, and follows the stricter anti-gay laws passed in Nigeria last month. So what is driving this increased homophobia and anti-gay legislation?

The President of Kazakhstan suggests his country should be renamed
By Sophie McBain - 21 February 12:06

President Nazerbayev doesn't want to rule a "stan" any more. So he's suggesting it become Kazakh Yeli or Kazakhiya.

"I know we all look the same," said Kendall.
Watch: Philip Hammond confuses Liz Kendall with Rachel Reeves on Question Time
By George Eaton - 21 February 10:45

"I know we all look the same," said Kendall after being repeatedly mistaken for her shadow cabinet colleague.

Migrant workers at Qatar's world cup stadium. Photo: Getty.
400 Nepalese construction workers have died since Qatar won the World Cup bid
By Sophie McBain - 17 February 12:37

Why are international sporting events so dangerous for construction workers?

Belgium extends its euthanasia laws to children
By Sophie McBain - 14 February 11:55

Belgium has lifted all age restrictions on euthanasia, despite concerns that the legislation has been rushed through.

Gender inequality is costing the global economy trillions of dollars a year
By Sophie McBain - 12 February 15:00

A UN report released today has found that progress made towards reducing poverty is at risk of being reversed because of widening inequality and a failure to strengthen women's rights.

Why is the Canadian rock band Skinny Puppy invoicing the Pentagon for $666,000?
By Sophie McBain - 06 February 12:04

How would you react if you discovered your music was being used to aid interrogations?

A new law in Afghanistan means men can attack their wives and daughters with impunity
By Sophie McBain - 05 February 11:55

The problem isn't just in Afghanistan. 30 per cent of woman suffer violence from an intimate partner, but globally laws do little to protect women at home.

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