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What possesses a Queensland teenager like Oliver Bridgeman to go to fight in Syria? Online propaganda is not an adequate explanation on its own. Facebook

IS radicalises Western youth via the internet? It’s not that simple

Simplistic views of terrorist recruitment focus on online messages to Western youth. Foreign fighters are coming from many other countries, lured by many means, and we need more sophisticated responses.
The world is recognising that the issue of same-sex marriage is a matter of what state law, not religious doctrine, says, to the extent that Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (right) and Gauthier Destenay recently married. EPA/Julien Warnand

Same-sex marriage should not be a matter for a conscience vote

Marriage equality is about state recognition of the union between two people and is a political issue. Religious belief can apply in a church and in individual decisions, but not to a secular state.
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

Duty calls

One of the least surprising bits of news this week was the revelation that the United States will be “rotating” B-1 bombers through Australia after all. For anyone who has taken even the most cursory interest…
Asylum seekers on a vessel off the coast of Indonesia that later sank with the loss of nearly 60 lives in 2013. AAP/SBS Dateline/supplied by Hussein Khoder

The end of humanitarianism?

Being responsible for asylum seeker policy would be personally and practically challenging at the best of times. At the moment it is frankly nightmarish. No amount of money or career advancement could…
Norfolk Island has always had a strained relationship with mainland Australia – and the repeal of self-governance may intensify that strain. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Canberra will run Norfolk Island – but not all the locals are happy

Federal parliament has passed legislation that removes Norfolk Island's self-government but strong local views about the tiny island's independence have deep historical roots.
Bjorn Lomborg’s cost-benefit approach isn’t necessarily the best way to look at problems with a global scope. Simon Wedege/Wikimedia Commons

Bjorn Lomborg’s consensus approach is blind to inequality

Bjorn Lomborg's "consensus" approach involves ranking global development policies by their ratio of benefit to cost. But this hard-headed economic rationale can actually end up entrenching inequality.
Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) is sold for US$179 million. EPA/Jason Szenes

The art market: Not a pretty picture

Rather appropriately, I discovered the art world’s big news in the pages of the Financial Times. Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) sold for US$179.4 million at auction – the highest price ever…
Ultimately, whether or not you consider Australia to be secular depends on the definition of secularism used. shutterstock

Is Australia a secular country? It depends what you mean

Australia has a form of secularism where religion is allowed in the public sphere. As long as religion remains one voice and one option among many, the nation will still be secular.
Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt at last year’s Green Army launch. Funding for the initiative has been slimmed down but is still more than A$700 million. AAP Image/Britta Campion

Federal Budget 2015 – environment experts react

The Federal Budget 2015 makes little mention of emissions reductions or renewable energy, but does feature funding boosts for drought assistance and the Great Barrier Reef. What else is in?
The Lost Battalion, 2015. Acrylic, soil, charcoal and shellac on paper. Lev Vykopal. Fremantle Arts Centre

Lev Vykopal’s Gallipoli balances history against the legends

Tackling Gallipoli is an onerous challenge: it carries baggage that must be accommodated or unpacked with extreme care. Western Australian artist Lev Vykopal’s two exhibitions offer a mix of reverence, analysis, critique and poetry.
AAP/Julian Smith

Maurice Newman: mad, bad or sad?

Having a platform, albeit a modest one, from which to try and catch the world’s attention is a great privilege. The number of competing voices in the blogosphere means that the size of the audience is…
When Vladimir Putin reviews the troops marking the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory of Nazism, he won’t have many leaders of democratic nations to accompany him. EPA/Alexey Druzhinin/ RIA NOVOSTI

Russia still struggles with a violent past, 70 years after the defeat of Nazism

Victory over Nazi Germany is one unambiguously positive accomplishment of the 20th century; and yet, constructing a positive narrative about the Soviet second world war has proven hard – largely because there are some stubborn facts to contend with.

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