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Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world ...

Robin Lustig | 15:52 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

You will have noticed, I think, if you've been anywhere near the British media this past week, that the rest of the world has pretty much ceased to exist. The truly bizarre spectacle of our MPs' expenses claims being exposed in their full glory to public gaze has left virtually no space for anything else.

I propose to leave it to others to add more words to what has already been said, except simply to ask this: if the rules state, as they do, that for expenses to be properly reclaimable, they must be incurred "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" for the performance of parliamentary duties, how can it be within those rules to claim for swimming pool cleaning, light bulb changing or dog food? I merely ask ...

So perhaps it might be useful if I bring you up to date with what else has been happening out there in the big wide world, while you've been concentrating on the minutiae of MPs' domestic financial arrangements. (Oh yes, and one other thing: if some MPs with constituencies far from London manage to perform their duties without claiming thousands of pounds for furniture and fittings, mortgages and moats, why can't the others? Again, I merely ask ...)

Have you noticed, by the way, what's been happening in Pakistan? Something approaching a million people have fled their homes to escape from a full-scale army offensive against the Taleban in the Swat Valley region of North-West Frontier Province. That's apparently the biggest movement of humankind since the genocide in Rwanda 15 years ago - and there is growing international concern about the effect it could have on the already shaky stability of the country.

Have you been keeping up with the bloody end game being played out in north-eastern Sri Lanka? The army is continuing to pound away at the remnants of the Tamil Tiger rebels, with tens of thousands of civilians still caught in the cross-fire with little access to medical help or food and shelter. The Red Cross says its staff in the area are witnessing an "unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe". The rest of the world seems unable, or unwilling, to intervene.

You may have missed the sudden flare-up of violence in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where an estimated 25,000 people are reported to have fled as Islamist militia groups have been battling it out with government troops. Again, there seems to be no one outside Somalia with the power - or the political will - to do much to help, in a country that has had no effective government for well over 15 years.

And did you notice that the European Union signed an energy agreement with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Egypt aimed at developing a "southern corridor" for gas supplies which would bypass Russia? It could turn out to be a hugely significant step, given the uncertainties of relying on Moscow's good will for guaranteed gas supplies.

In Afghanistan, there have been three suicide bomb attacks in as many days, and violence is now said to have surged to its highest level since the overthrow of the Taleban more than seven years ago. Maybe that's one reason why President Obama has now decided he doesn't after all want more photographs published showing the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers.

You get the point, don't you? The global village and the Westminster village aren't quite the same thing. Of course, they both matter - which is why we'll do what we can to keep you abreast of what's going on in both neighbourhoods.


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