Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison Scores Surprise Election Victory

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to party supporters flanked by his wife and daughters. Morrison’s conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the country’s general election.

Rick Rycroft/AP

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Rick Rycroft/AP

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison won re-election on Saturday, stunning pollsters who had anticipated his defeat for several months. Morrison championed working-class economic stability during his campaign, and his victory is part of a populist trend, which now stretches across the U.S., Brazil, Hungary and Italy.

At his victory party in Sydney, Morrison said, “Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first. And that is exactly what we are going to do.”

In his speech, Morrison also paid tribute to “the quiet Australians” who voted for his coalition. “It has been those Australians who have worked hard every day, they have their dreams, they have their aspirations, to get a job, to get an apprenticeship, to start a business, to meet someone amazing,” he said. “To start a family, to buy a home, to work hard and provide the best you can for your kids. To save for your retirement. These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight!”

.@ScottMorrisonMP: We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re going to get to work for the Australians who go to work every day. They are looking for a fair go & they are going to get a go from our govt.

Stream live coverage at #AusVotes2019 #AustraliaDecides

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 18, 2019

Top issues in the Australian election included climate change, immigration, jobs and the economy. Morrison’s coalition of Liberal and National Parties maintained seats in contested suburbs, while also picking up support across Australia’s countryside. In the northeastern state of Queensland, the site of a controversial proposal to build a coal mine, several Liberal Party candidates also won, signifying that jobs are of more importance to Australian voters there than environmental concerns. If the Adani coal mine is built in Queensland, it will be one of the largest in the world.

In a suburb of Sydney, however, the Liberal Party did suffer a setback. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott lost his race there, where voters are demanding action on climate change.

In his concession speech, Abbott said, “It’s clear that in what might be described as ‘working seats,’ we are doing so much better. It’s also clear that in at least some of what might be described as ‘wealthy seats,’ we are doing it tough, and the Green left is doing better.”

Morrison is an evangelical Christian, who has professed admiration for President Trump. During his campaign he promised voters he would lower energy prices, and cut costs for first-time homeowners.

In 2013, as immigration minister, Morrison advocated denying asylum seekers arriving by sea the right to apply for settlement in Australia.

Morrison’s opponent, Bill Shorten, the leader of the Labor Party, promised “real action” on climate change and the economy. On Saturday night he conceded defeat. “I know you’re all hurting,” he told supporters in Melbourne. “And I am, too.”

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Austria’s Vice Chancellor Quits After Video Surfaces Of Meeting With Russian Investor

Austria’s Vice Chancellor and chairman of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, announces his resignation at a press conference in Vienna on Saturday, following a video scandal.

Alex Halada/AFP/Getty Images

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Alex Halada/AFP/Getty Images

Austria’s vice chancellor has resigned after German media published a video that purportedly showed him offering government contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch, in exchange for media coverage and political funding.

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who leads Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, announced he would step down on Saturday at a press conference in Vienna. Crowds stood outside the chancellor’s office in anticipation of Strache’s statement.

He described the incident as a “targeted political assassination.”

On Friday, German news magazine Der Spiegel and daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published the calamitous video. It shows Strache sitting on a couch in a T-shirt, discussing potential deals with a Russian investor.

She proposes to buy a 50% stake in Austria’s Kronen-Zeitung newspaper and Strache promises her construction contracts if she helps his political party. The group also discusses how to disguise a donation to the party through an association. Their meeting was said to have lasted six hours.

It’s unclear who orchestrated the recording. The publications did not reveal their source but said a forensic video expert had verified the footage.

The video was reportedly filmed in a villa with hidden cameras on the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017 — just months before Austria’s national election in October. Strache’s party received 26% of the vote and 51 seats.

Strache told the German publications that he had done nothing illegal; that he said to the woman that Austrian laws must be followed. He said he never gave her government contracts or received donations from her.

In November 2018, Austrian retail and real estate company SIGNA bought 49% of a German media company that holds Kronen-Zeitung — marking its first investment in media.

Strache chalked the exchange up to “alcohol-induced macho talk” that was “probably trying to impress the attractive hostess,” according to Deutsche Welle.

Austria’s 32-year-old chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, now faces mounting calls by the opposition to hold new elections. His conservative Austrian People’s Party governs the country in coalition with the Freedom Party.

The video scandal threatens to collapse the coalition government and comes a week before European Parliament elections.

In the past, Kurz has distanced himself from the Freedom Party following reports of anti-Semitism and racism. The Freedom Party was founded and first led in the 1950s by Anton Reinthaller, a former Nazi.

In recent years, the Freedom Party has built a relationship with Russia. According to the New York Times:

“Mr. Strache first met Mr. Putin in May 2007. In 2014, at least two Freedom Party members took part as election observers during the Russian referendum after the annexation of Crimea. Then in 2016, just seven months before the meeting in Ibiza took place, Mr. Strache traveled to Moscow to sign a formal cooperation agreement between the Freedom Party and Mr. Putin’s United Russia party.”

Johann Gudenus, another prominent Freedom Party member, was secretly filmed in the Ibiza villa meeting with Strache. That prompted calls for his resignation.

Strache said he would step down from his party leadership position, with Transport Minister Norbert Hofer to replace him.

He also vowed to take legal steps to address the video.

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Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame’

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

Noor has been mostly peaceful in the years since the massacre. But one day, Fatima delivers a message to the most powerful Ifrit in the city, the Name Giver, who has always treated her kindly, teaching her as if she was his own daughter. The message contaminates him with an evil taint, and he’s forced to self-immolate to protect the city. In doing so, he passes his power on to Fatima — power which should only belong to a djinn.

That Ifrit fire awakens something in Fatima’s blood, making her more than human and capable of divining the true names of djinn in order to manifest them in the human world, or cast them back into their own realm. In addition to the mystery of who contaminated the Name Giver and what it means for the rulers of Noor, there’s the question of who Fatima truly is and why she is able to exist in a strange new state — not djinn, but no longer fully human.

The plot of The Candle and the Flame revolves around a few key questions. Why is Fatima special and what does it mean for her life? Who is responsible for the Name Giver’s death and why? What will the future of Noor be when many of its citizens chafe against the presence of the Ifrit who protect them? All of these issues are present from pretty much the start of the book, and it feels like we circle around them again and again, much like riding the whirlwinds the Ifrit can use to travel quickly through the desert. I don’t mean to imply that the book is dull, as there’s always a lot going on, but it does sometimes feel a bit lacking in forward momentum. In particular, the first half takes a while to find its way, with the second picking up speed.

I’d say it’s well worth riding out the eddies, because, as with many debut fantasy novels, it’s clear how much thought and care went into the creation of Noor and its mythology. Details of smells and sounds create a sensory aspect to the city that balances all the madcap flurry of magics and names. Did I mention there are a lot of names? Everyone seems to have at least two proper names as well as a formal title and probably a nickname. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially in the parts of the book that focus on the royal court, but I land on the side of liking it, because it amplifies the fact that Fatima’s magic is the power of naming. Names and language mean everything in Noor, a city of many cultures and identities, so it seems fitting that names are a fluid and essential aspect of the story.

Azad’s use of language also gives a greater depth to the worldbuilding. Words in Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi are scattered through the text with a deft and casual hand that makes them blend in seamlessly, and the writing itself has a flow and nuance that’s quite different from a standard young adult fantasy voice. In a year with a glut of books coming out with fire and flames in their titles, this attention to detail and dedication to language set The Candle and the Flame apart.

Caitlyn Paxson is a writer and performer. She is a regular reviewer for NPR Books and Quill & Quire.

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Where’s Masculinity Headed? Men’s Groups And Therapists Are Talking

Men's groups are coming together to discover the meaning of masculinity in the age of #MeToo.

Leonardo Santamaria for NPR

Sean Jin is 31 and says he’d not washed a dish until he was in his sophomore year of college.

“Literally my mom and my grandma would … tell me to stop doing dishes because I’m a man and I shouldn’t be doing dishes.” It was a long time, he says, before he realized their advice and that sensibility were “not OK.”

Now, as part of the Masculinity Action Project, a group of men in Philadelphia who regularly meet to discuss and promote what they see as a healthier masculinity, Jin has been thinking a lot about what men are “supposed to” do and not do.

He joined the peer-led group, he says, because men face real issues like higher rates of suicide than women and much higher rates of incarceration.

“It’s important to have an understanding of these problems as rooted in an economic crisis and a cultural crisis in which there can be a progressive solution,” Jin says.

In supporting each other emotionally, Jin says, men need alternative solutions to those offered by the misogynist incel — “involuntary celibate” — community or other men’s rights activists who believe men are oppressed.

“Incels or the right wing provide a solution that’s really based on more control of women and more violence toward minorities,” Jin says.

Instead, he says, he and his friends seek the sort of answers “in which liberation for minorities and more freedom for women is actually empowering for men.”

Once a month, the Philadelphia men’s group meets to learn about the history of the feminist movement and share experiences — how they learned what “being a man” means and how some of those ideas can harm other people and even themselves. They talk about how best to support each other.

Once a month, a men’s group in Philadelphia meets to exchange ideas and share their experiences. With the support of the group, Jeremy Gillam (third from right), who coaches an after-school hockey league, teaches his team nonviolent responses to aggression on the ice.

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Alan Yu for NPR

This spring, part of one of the group’s meetings involved standing in a public park and giving a one-minute speech about any topic they chose. One man spoke of being mocked and spit upon for liking ballet as a 9-year-old boy; another spoke of his feelings about getting a divorce; a third man shared with the others what it was like to tell his father “I love you” for the first time at the age of 38.

The idea of such mentoring and support groups isn’t new, though today’s movement is trying to broaden its base. Paul Kivel, an activist and co-founder of a similar group that was active from the 1970s to the 1990s in Oakland, Calif., says men’s groups in those days were mostly white and middle-class.

Today, the global nonprofit ManKind Project says it has close to 10,000 members in 21 nations, is ethnically and socioeconomically diverse and aims to draw men of all ages.

“We strive to be increasingly inclusive and affirming of cultural differences, especially with respect to color, class, sexual orientation, faith, age, ability, ethnicity, and nationality,” the group’s website says.

Toby Fraser, a co-leader of the Philadelphia group that Jin attends, says its members range in age from 20 to 40; it’s a mix of heterosexual, queer and gay men.

Simply having a broad group of people who identify as masculine — whatever their age, race or sexual orientation — can serve as a helpful sounding board, Fraser says.

“Rather than just saying, ‘Hey, we’re a group of dudes bonding over how great it is to be dudes,’ ” Fraser says, “it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re a group of people who have been taught similar things that don’t work for us and we see not working or we hear not working for the people around us. How can we support each other to make it different?’ “

Participants are also expected to take those ideas outside the group and make a difference in their communities.

For example, Jeremy Gillam coaches ice hockey and life skills at an after-school hockey program for children in Philadelphia. He says he and his fellow coaches teach the kids in their program that even though the National Hockey League still allows fighting, they should not respond to violence with violence. He says he tells them, “The referee always sees the last violent act, and that’s what’s going to be penalized.”

That advice surprises some boys, Gillam says.

“One of the first things that we heard,” he says, “is, ‘Dad told me to stick up for myself. Dad’s not going to be happy with me if I just let this happen, so I’m going to push back.’ “

Vashti Bledsoe is the program director at Lutheran Settlement House, the Philadelphia nonprofit that organizes the monthly men’s group. She says men in the group have already started talking about how the #MeToo movement pertains to them — and that’s huge.

“These conversations are happening [in the community], whether they’re happening in a healthy or unhealthy way … but people don’t know how to frame it and name it,” Bledsoe says. “What these guys have done is to be very intentional about teaching people how to name [the way ideas about masculinity affect their own actions] and say, ‘It’s OK. It doesn’t make you less of a man to recognize that.’ “

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association published guidelines this year suggesting that therapists consider masculine social norms when working with male clients. Some traditional ideas of masculinity, the group says, “can have negative consequences for the health of boys and men.”

The guidelines quickly became controversial. New York magazine writer Andrew Sullivan wrote that they “pathologize half of humanity,” and National Review writer David French wrote that the American Psychological Association “declares war on ‘traditional masculinity.’ “

Christopher Liang, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Lehigh University and a co-author of the APA guidelines, says they actually grew out of decades of research and clinical experience.

For example, he says, many of the male clients he treats were taught to suppress their feelings, growing up — to engage in violence or to drink, rather than talk. And when they do open up, he says, their range of emotions can be limited.

“Instead of saying, ‘I’m really upset’, they may say, ‘I’m feeling really angry,’ because anger is one of those emotions that men have been allowed to express,” Liang says.

He says he and his colleagues were surprised by the controversy around the guidelines, which were intended for use by psychologists. The APA advisory group is now working on a shorter version for the general public that they hope could be useful to teachers and parents.

Criticism of the APA guidelines focused on the potentially harmful aspects of masculinity, but the APA points to other masculine norms — such as valuing courage and leadership — as positive.

Aylin Kaya, a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, recently published research that gets at that wider range of masculine norms and stereotypes in a study of male college students.

Some norms, such as the need to be dominant in a relationship or the inability to express emotion, were associated with lower “psychological well-being,” she found. That’s a measure of whether students accepted themselves, had positive relationships with other people and felt “a sense of agency” in their lives, Kaya explains. But the traditional norm of “a drive to win and to succeed” contributed to higher well-being.

Kaya adds that even those findings should be teased apart. A drive to win or succeed could be good for society and for male or female identity if it emphasizes agency and mastery, but bad if people associate their self-worth with beating other people.

Kaya says one potential application of her research would be for psychologists — and men, in general — to separate helpful ideas of masculinity from harmful ones.

“As clinicians,” she says, “our job is to make the invisible visible … asking clients, ‘Where do you get these ideas of how you’re supposed to act? Where did you learn that?’ To help them kind of unpack — ‘I wasn’t born with this; it wasn’t my natural way of being. I was socialized into this; I learned it. And maybe I can start to unlearn it.’ “

For example, Kaya says, some male clients come to her looking for insight because they’ve been struggling with romantic relationships. It turns out, she says, the issue beneath the struggle is that they feel they cannot show emotion without being ridiculed or demeaned, which makes it hard for them to be intimate with their partners.

Given the findings from her study on perceptions of masculinity, Kaya says, she now might ask them to first think about why they feel like they can’t show emotion — whether that’s useful for them — and then work on ways to help them emotionally connect with people.

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