Monthly Archives: December 2013

Analysis: Political survival of Turkey’s PM at stake

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the mess that Turkey’s Prime Minister made for himself, and which now threatens his political survival. Excerpt:

ManthorpeTurkey’s bullish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is locked in a struggle for political survival with a United States-based Muslim cleric, whose followers he helped infiltrate the country’s police, courts, the military, and even his own Justice and Development Party.

Erdogan lost another round today in his increasingly frantic contest with the self-exiled conservative cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers in police special investigations units, on December 17, detained 52 people on corruption allegations, including the sons of three cabinet ministers.

In response, Erdogan sacked five Gulenist police commissioners and moved to start removing the cleric’s followers from the judiciary.

At the same time, Erdogan tried to head off the gathering taint of corruption around his administration by firing 10 ministers touched by the investigations or whose loyalty he doubted.

The Prime Minister’s attempts to grab control of the situation are, however, coming up hard against the Gulenists Erdogan helped infiltrate Turkey’s establishment. Erdogan encouraged this infiltration …  

Log in to read the column, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan fights for political survival.* (F&O premium works, including our commentary, are available for a $1 site day pass, or with monthly or annual subscriptions. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.)

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The Newfoundland Mummers

The Mummers Parade by Greg Locke

As the year ends and winter gets a grip in the Northern latitudes, many cultures mark the passing of another year and the coming of winter with annual religious and folk festivals and events. In the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the remote and isolated coastal fishing villages long held on to traditions brought from England and Ireland. A mix of ancient Celtic, Pagan and Anglo-Saxon rituals merged with Christianity and the celebration of Christmas. One of those traditions, Mummering, has enjoyed a cultural revival in urban areas in recent years. Check out Greg Locke’s slide/sound presentation, Mummers The Word, from this year’s annual Mummers Parade in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (Subscriber-only content.)

Posted in All, Canadian Journalist, Gyroscope Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Solstice!

Sun over Greenland

Photo over Greenland by Deborah Jones © Copyright 2011

Solstice! — relinquish regrets, count blessings, light lanterns to illuminate the start of another journey around the sun.

 

 

Posted in Gyroscope

F&O’s WEEK IN REVIEW

Downtown Corner Brook, Newfoundland on a beautiful wintery Friday night. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.

Downtown Corner Brook, Newfoundland, on a beautiful wintery Friday night after more than 30cm of snow fell over the previous two days … just another winter day on the west coast of the Atlantic Canadian province. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.

 

New work on Facts and Opinions – and selected reading and viewing from elsewhere in the week past:

This week Facts and Opinions welcomed aboard Jim McNiven with his new regular column, Thoughtlines, in Commentary. In his inaugural column, Bill, Shane and Jim, McNiven tells the tale of three men who changed the modern world, from the baseball field to major political campaigns, but who remain almost unknown.

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examined the symbolism of Japanese and Indian military exercises, and their relevance to China, in a column titled Japan moves to unshackle its military as storm clouds gather over Asia. Manthorpe also turned his attention to the renewed threat of civil war in South Sudan. Excerpt:

The sickening smell of unfulfilled vengeance hangs over fighting that broke out Sunday among rival clans in the capital of Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan — and there is an awful predictability about where it will lead.

Included among several new reports in our Dispatches section is a story about an American fraudster sentenced to six years in jail for his exploits in a strikingly grotesque line of work. Excerpt of a ProPublica story:

“Joseph Caramadre saw death as a holiday, a cause for celebration, a way to make money,” U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha declared on the courthouse steps downtown. “He stole the identities of people and used it to make money from companies who should have probably done more due diligence.”

In Canada a panel of the National Energy Board gave conditional approval to the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline proposal by Enbridge, which wants to ship oil from the Alberta oil sands overland to Canada’s West Coast, and then load it on tankers bound for Asian markets. Look for an upcoming F&O feature on the issue.

Spying – or surveillance for those who prefer the sanitized word – was again in the news this week as analysts blamed America’s National Security Agency for the loss of a $4.5 billion Brazilian aircraft contract that American aircraft manufacturer Boeing was widely expected to win. Brazil, publicly irate over American spying, awarded the contract to Sweden’s Saab AB, reported Reuters. See F&O’s Dispatches section for a report on recommendations aimed at curbing the NSA by an American expert panel appointed by United States President Barack Obama.

An interesting development, reported widely, caught our eye in Latin America: Chile’s election of former president Michelle Bachelet on a centre-left platform that promised profound change in the South American country, including using higher corporate taxes for better education, and getting big money out of politics.

And finally, if you’re considering giving someone a new bicycle for Christmas this year, you might consider that the two-wheeled mode of transportation and fun has, at least according to one columnist, become the symbol of a new conservative front in North America’s culture wars. Yes, you did read “bicycle.” No, we’re not kidding. The title of the piece, in the Boston Globe, says it all: Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes.

— Deborah Jones                                

 

Posted in All, Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Analysis: Japan’s military and Asian storm clouds

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the symbolism of Japanese and Indian military exercises, and their relevance to China. Excerpt:

The Japanese and Indian navies are in the second of four days of joint exercises in the Bay of Bengal, an event which neatly demonstrates the gathering storm of military preparations rumbling over Asia.

Log in to read the column, Japan moves to unshackle its military as storm clouds gather over Asia.*

*F&O premium works, including our commentary, are available for a $1 site day pass, or with monthly or annual subscriptions. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.

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Analysis: Conflict in South Sudan

The sickening smell of unfulfilled vengeance hangs over fighting that broke out Sunday among rival clans in the capital of Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan — and there is an awful predictability about where it will lead, writes Jonathan Manthorpe in his latest international affairs column.

He looks at the renewed threat of civil war in the country, where at least 500 people have been killed so far. “There was a sure sign today that this fighting between the Dinka tribe of President Salva Kiir and the Nuer people led by his sacked Vice-President Riek Machar is to settle old scores,” writes Manthorpe. Log in to F&O  to read the column here.*

*Please note, F&O premium works including commentary are available for a price that’s less than a coffee, with monthly or annual subscriptions or with a $1 site day pass. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.

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“Regret the error, we do” – once we stop laughing

With a nod to our own house of  glass, I’m laughing out loud at the list of best and worst media errors and corrections of 2013, by Craig Silverman at the Poynter Institute.

The outrageous ones will give you a giggle: the British outlet that apologized and paid damages for an “exclusive” interview with Roger Moore that was completely made up; an American consumer magazine that admitted wrongly labeling someone a journalist when “in fact she is a practitioner of vibrational energy medicine.”

Don’t let your high dudgeon over the “error of the year” — bungled reporting by American news program 60 Minutes on an attack on American diplomats in Libya — make you overlook the delicious Star Wars-inspired “correction of the year.”

The list is a funny romp underpinned, as we’d expect of Poynter, by its founder’s mission: to nurture and hold to account the kind of independent journalism that helps “maintain the integrity, the stability, the progress of self-government.”

— Deborah Jones                                  

 Further reading:
The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013, by Craig Silverman at the Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute mission

Posted in Canadian Journalist, Gyroscope Tagged , , |

Introducing Thoughtlines, a new column by Jim McNiven

McNiven for F&O bio

Jim McNiven

Facts and Opinions is pleased to welcome aboard Jim McNiven and to introduce his new regular column, Thoughtlines, in Commentary.

In his inaugural column, Bill, Shane and Jim, McNiven tells the tale of three men who changed the modern world, from the baseball field to major political campaigns, but who remain almost unknown.

McNiven is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, where he still teaches part time, and Senior Policy Research Advisor with Canmac Economics Ltd. He has been a Fulbright Research Professor at Michigan State University’s Canadian Studies Center and, at Dalhousie, was the R. A. Jodrey Chair in Commerce and Dean of the Faculty of Management. He has served as Deputy Minister of Development for Nova Scotia, and President of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.

He has also been CEO of a small technology company, served on numerous corporate and government boards, and was a member of the Canadian Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation. McNiven, who has a PhD from the University of Michigan, has written widely on public policy and economic development issues, co-authored three books, and has a special interest in American business history.

In A Lesson Passed On, his piece in October for the Loose Leaf salon of Facts and Opinions, McNiven wrote about taking his young grandson to a museum for Cold War-era Titan nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles – and how that trip put the ghosts and goblins of Halloween into perspective.

Posted in Gyroscope Tagged |

A ballet of birds

Serendipity on the Internet: ease into the weekend with “Bird Ballet,” a gift of sound and movement by Neels Castillon, a young filmmaker in France who filmed this murmeration of starlings near Marseille.

A bird ballet from Neels CASTILLON on Vimeo.

Posted in Gyroscope

F&O’s WEEK IN REVIEW

New work on Facts and Opinions – and selected reading and viewing from elsewhere in the week past:

Natural Security columnist Chris Wood asks a shocking question in his new column today: Will trade deals let energy companies shake us down for $55 trillion? The important column is publicly available at no charge for the next week.

Alberta-OilRig-2007-09-01_016_LOCKE

Photo by Greg Locke © Copyright 2013

Oil and gas companies plan to spend $700 billion searching for fossil energy next year—even when four-fifths of the reserves they already own may end up ‘stranded’ to stabilize the climate. Why? Because, writes Wood in his Natural Security column, free this week on FactsandOpinions.com, international trade and investment rules will allow fossil fuel companies to demand trillions of dollars in compensation for abandoning locked-in carbon assets. Every additional barrel in reserve is another potential claim. The total bill could rival the size of the world economy.

Jonathan Manthorpe’s new international affairs column focuses on the power struggles in the corridors of power in Beijing and Pyongyang. Excerpt:

The milk of human kindness is not flowing through the corridors of power in Beijing or in Pyongyang. In the capitals of China and North Korea ‘tis the season to be merry, but only over the bodies of purged enemies and rivals…

Nelson Mandela’s death sparked a global outpouring of reaction, analysis and  retrospectives. Here, F&O offers a selection of recommended reading and watching in addition to our own original works:

Behind Houghton Walls, a poem reflecting on Mandela’s last days by Iain T. Benson, a professor in South Africa, published in Commentary.

Learning from Mandela, an essay about Mandela’s role as “a truly global icon,” by professor and author Heribert Adam.

Analysis of Mandela’s legacy in South Africa in two columns by international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe.

A new report in Dispatches examines a dispute over international arms sales in the United States, re-published from the investigative journalism organization ProPublica:

The administration of United States President Barack Obama is rolling back limits on some U.S. arms exports. Experts are concerned that the changes could result in military parts flowing more freely to the world’s conflict zones, and that arms sanctions against Iran and other countries will be harder to enforce.

F&O’s Expert Witness section features an eloquent science paper, Biodiversity in the Anthropocene:

Imagine you are traveling through space and come across Earth for the first time … what would you be most struck by? The one thing that appears to be fundamentally unique to Earth is its remarkable variety of life, argues Bradley Cardinale — and loss of this biodiversity is one of the most striking forms of environmental change in the Anthopocene.

From our archives, we recommend Greg Locke’s photo-essay and field notes from nearly a decade covering conflict in parts of Africa, Under a Malaria Moon, and Locke’s poignant report of the passing in May of Newfoundland’s iconic writer Ray Guy.

In other news, on F&O and read or watched elsewhere:

On Wednesday short-story master Alice Munro received her Nobel Prize for Literature, announced in October.  She was not well enough to travel and pick it up in person, but instead watched on a screen from Victoria, Canada, as her daughter Jenny accepted on her mother’s behalf. 

Time Magazine named Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year,” a rather arbitrary designation that has made the “POY” as famously iconic as the red on the newsweekly’s cover. A New Yorker writer who disagrees with Time’s choice would have preferred Edward Snowden. Germany’s Der Spiegel reported on what it’s like to work for Radio Vatican and be responsible for covering this unpredictable pope. (An earlier F&O column looked at the pope’s declaration of war on modern capitalism.)

The political turmoil wracking Ukraine is graphically evident in Der Spiegel’s photo gallery.  Lawmakers in the United States reached a budget deal, which some hope will end the “fiscal brinksmanship” that has lately plagued the country. Even France’s premier newspaper Le Monde reported (in French) the announcement that Canada’s government-owned postal service  will stop mail delivery to urban homes. Scientists reported from the University of Oxford on how electricity helps spider webs snatch prey and pollutants. Uruguay became the world’s first country to legalize its marijuana trade, garnering a spurt of renewed worldwide attention for the country’s unusual president, José Mujica. Chip Wilson, the billionaire founder of yoga-wear fashion company Lululemon, quit amid international controversy about his remarks about women’s body shapes. The United Arab Emirates banned supersize soda drinks due to fears of rising obesity. And with their tongues in cheeks, climate scientists in Britain finally nailed the answer to that ancient question: how did Hobbits find the weather in Tolkien’s Shire?

One final note: previously in Dispatches, F&O ran a ProPublica report on the lack of evidence for American claims that its National Security Agency thwarted attacks. Now an interesting essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Triumph of the Strange, argues that Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA raise fundamental questions about the intersection of curiosity, the Internet, and political power. It asks: Is the Internet liberating curiosity as never before, or bending it to corporate profit and state surveillance?

Posted in All, Current Affairs