Sarah Ensor

Iceland's Tories are back

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Sarah Ensor unpicks the myth that Iceland has taken an alternative route to austerity

Iceland's Tories are back in power just five years after their spectacular disgrace. Though their vote only increased by 3 percent, the conservative Independence Party has returned to government in coalition with the liberal Progressive Party.

This is a dramatic turn of events. In 2008, as the shockwaves of the global financial crisis hit Iceland's economy, the then Tory prime minster Geir Haarde had to announce, "There is a real danger that the Icelandic economy could be sucked with the banks into the whirlpool and the result could be national bankruptcy."

Feeding Frenzy

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Paul McMahon

Feeding Frenzy asks whether we can feed the ten billion people projected to be alive in 2100 or will the environment collapse and kill us all? The good thing about the book is that it is essentially optimistic. It doesn't fall prey to the racist arguments of the new Malthusians who start from the idea that poor, usually brown, people have too many children.

Indonesia Archipelago of Fear

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Andre Vltchek

In October this year over 2 million workers struck across Indonesia against appalling working conditions and pitifully low wages. Working class Indonesians have a great deal to complain about.

The country has vast natural resources and biodiversity and a large young population. Under any sane economic system it would be a rich country with a high standard of living. Yet the Indonesian state only considers around 13 percent of the population to be poor which makes sense when you discover that it defines middle class as someone who can spend two dollars a day!

Wild Swans

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Director Sacha Wares

Young Vic, London, until 13 May

As I took my seat at the Young Vic, the narrow stage was crowded and noisy showing a 1930s Chinese street with cigarette sellers, beggars, cooked food, shoppers, bullying soldiers and a querulous fine lady carried in a sedan chair. The audience added to the vibrant noise. In 80 minutes this adaptation of Jung Chang's biography of her grandmother, her mother and her own childhood winds through China's turbulent 20th century, ending with her escape and the destruction of all that her parents tried to achieve.

Implanting oppression

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It hasn't been a great winter for the breast implant industry. First the French company Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP) was discovered to be using industrial instead of medical grade silicon to fill its implants.

Now surgeons from the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons want to ban advertising of cosmetic surgery altogether. It is extraordinary that it has taken them so long to notice that there's an ethical problem with surgery being offered with BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free) and the sickening "yummy mummy makeover" packages of surgery for women shortly after they've given birth, or those particularly aimed at newly-divorced older women.

A classic read: Studs Lonigan

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First published in 1935

When James T Farrell was one of Trotsky's key defenders in the late 1930s, he was best known as a Trotskyist baseball-obsessed journalist. Farrell met Trotsky in Mexico in 1937 and later said, "You were aware that you were speaking with one of the greatest revolutionaries in history." But Farrell had already become important in his own right.

Follow Iceland

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Voters in Iceland have for a second time rejected the opportunity to help bailout the governments of Britain and the Netherlands.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, the black hole created in the global economy threatened to swallow Iceland, then described by the Financial Times as "a reasonably large banking system with a small country attached".

Icesave, the internet bank set up by Landsbanki, Iceland's privatised national bank, immediately collapsed. After weeks of protests at the parliament building in Reykjavik the government fell in January 2009.

Body Work

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Sara Paretsky


A traumatised Iraq War veteran kills an artist outside a club and then apparently tries to kill himself. Witnesses describe their mutual accusations: she is taunting him; he is spying on her. His family hires VI Warshawski to prove his innocence. She, of course, is only interested in what really happened.

The Value of Nothing

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Raj Patel, Portobello Books, £8.99

Raj Patel has worked for the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations. He has since protested against all of them. His last book, Stuffed and Starved, is the best single book available on the commodification of food and why so many people go hungry when there's plenty to eat.

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