Monthly Archives: August 2014

Will Islamic State zealots bring U.S. and Iran together?

Relations between Iran and the United States have been ice cold since 1979. The terrorist attack of 9/11 could have been one opportunity for  a thawing, but “among the plethora of murderously stupid things former United States President George W. Bush did was to shut that door by including Iran in his “axis of evil” speech in 2002,” writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe

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James Foley. Photo © Jonathan Pedneault, courtesy of FreeJamesFoley.org

But now, the common threat posed by the Islamic State extremists — in the news this week for their grotesque murder of journalist James Foley — may finally open channels of communication. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Washington and Tehran find common cause against Islamic State:

It’s always a bit of a shock when the stern clerics that run Iran display an impish sense of humour.

So when Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was quoted today as offering to help the West’s campaign against the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions against Tehran, the natural inclination was to chuckle at his gall and turn the page.

But not so fast. A close reading of Zarif’s remarks shows that he was not being whimsical. He was entirely serious and while his suggestion is not feasible at the moment, it reflects the reality that there is a growing convergence of interests in the Middle East between Iran on one side and the United States and its European allies on the other.

That convergence has been brought into focus by the rise of the fanatical Sunni Muslim group, the Islamic State (IS) …  read Washington and Tehran find common cause against Islamic State. (Log in first; subscription required*)

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page or here to subscribe or purchase a $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , |

James Foley, Journalist

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James Foley, freelance reporter for the Global Post and Agence France0-Presse, taken before his capture in Libya in 2011. He was eventually released, and went to Syria, where he was abducted the next year. Photo from Global Post site.

James Foley, American teacher-turned-journalist, was abducted in Syria in November, 2012. He reportedly died this week after extremists dressed him up in an orange suit like the ones Americans put on prisoners at Guantánamo, and a man with a British accent cut off his head. His killers videotaped the murder and put it up on YouTube. 

The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which claimed responsibility for Foley’s murder, reportedly threatened to kill another American journalist kidnapped in Syria, Steven Sotloff, unless United States President Barack Obama ends air strikes in Iraq. (Obama responded today with a denunciation of ISIS.)

Journalists are abducted, wounded or killed regularly in the world’s hot spots. The nature of Foley’s grotesque and public murder pushed this reality into stark relief, and perhaps startled Westerners into awareness.

Since 2011, 39 professional journalists including 12 foreigners, and 122 Syrian citizen-journalists, were killed in connection with their work in Syria, points out Reporters sans Frontieres. “Three foreign journalists are still being held hostage in Syria, while four others are missing there. Armed groups are currently holding around 20 Syrian (professional and non-professional) journalists, while the Syrian authorities are holding more than 30 Syrian news providers despite the amnesty announced in June.”

Photo courtesy of FindJamesFoley.org

Photo by Nicole Tung, courtesy of FreeJamesFoley.org.

Threats to journalists and press freedoms are documented annually by Reporters sans Frontiers’ Press Freedom Index. While the beheading of James Foley is the most graphic and extreme transgression against journalism, violations range from murder to the ongoing arrests of numerous journalists this month in Ferguson, Missouri. In the United States, the self-styled leader of the “free” world, New York Times journalist James Risen currently risks a jail sentence for refusing to reveal sources in his book about the Central Intelligence Agency; his case has highlighted the crackdown on press rights by the administration of Barack Obama, who entered office with the hopeful award of a Nobel Peace Prize that seems increasingly bizarre. Taking a page from Obama’s book, Afghanistan’s government recently interrogated and this week expelled and banned Matthew Rosenberg, another New York Times journalist.

Journalism matters not least because it informs us, of events in war zones that hit us in our homes in shocking and unexpected ways, and of our own immediate and local vulnerabilities, from health and environmental threats to the 2008 financial crisis, which the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned as  “a story of mass ignorance.”

Nothing can justify or redeem the murder of James Foley, who reported for Global Post, Agence France-Presse and other media, and who was only 40 years old when he died. The least we can do in his name is give some thought to the nature of his work, and why it might matter.

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Photo by Jonathan Pedneault, courtesy of FreeJamesFoley.org

Selected reactions to Foley’s murder: 

Statement by James Foley’s mother on Facebook page, Find James Foley:

We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.

Reporters sans Frontieres/Reporters Without Borders

“Foley did not work for the US government. He was an experienced international reporter whose sole interest was to report the news, not represent his nation. We express our heartfelt condolences to his family, his mother, his father, who we know, and his friends. And we pay tribute to a man who helped us to provide support to the family of one of his friends, a photographer killed in Libya” — secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

Society of Professional Journalists:

Foley and thousands of other journalists risk their lives every day to seek truth and report it, and it is unconscionable they would face intimidation and violence by those who kill innocents for political gain.

Committee to Protect Journalists:

“Foley went to Syria to show the plight of the Syrian people, to bear witness to their fight, and in so doing to fight for press freedom” — CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe.

Statement by the family of James Foley on his reported killing, reported by Global Post: 

He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people … We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person.

Agence France-Presse roundup about homage to James Foley by AFP chief and world leaders

“L’inacceptable et la honte s’abattent une fois de plus et une fois de trop sur le métier d’informer dont James Foley avait fait sa raison de vivre et non de mourir. Ce n’est pas seulement une tragédie, c’est avant tout une barbarie. La dénoncer n’est pas seulement un devoir, c’est aussi un combat pour tous ceux qui pensent que la liberté d’informer est une valeur suprême de nos sociétés démocratiques,” — Président-Directeur général de l’AFP, Emmanuel Hoog. 

There are countless sites showing the video of James Foley being beheaded. I have not watched it, and I don’t want to. We absolutely do need to know what happened. I do not — perhaps no one does — need the videotaped horror of his murder in my head and heart, a piece of propaganda titled “A message to America.” Instead, here’s a video of Foley speaking at his journalism school alma mater, Medill in 2011, after being freed from a Libyan prison. “He wanted to be a conflict reporter,” said his introducer.

Related:

BBC profile of James Foley http://www.bbc.com/news/world-28865508
RSF Press Freedom Index, 2014: http://en.rsf.org/reporters-without-borders-releases-12-02-2014,45849.html
Find James Foley Journalist: http://www.freejamesfoley.org
The Men Who Killed James Foley, by Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker

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The response by the activist Kafranbel Media Center in Syria (see related New York Times feature) to James Foley’s murder.

 

 Further reading on F&O:

Al-Qaida Jihadists Suspicious of Iraq-Syria Caliphate, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Half a dozen so-called Islamic states have been created out of countries in crisis in the last 20 years, and each new one is more brutal and bloodthirsty than the last. The latest is the “caliphate” created by the messianic descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, soldier and Islamic scholar Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in the territory he and his followers control in the border region of Syria and Iraq.

Bin Laden’s disciples move to realize his dream, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

There has never been a satisfactory explanation why George W. Bush and his Praetorian Guard nursed such a visceral hatred of Saddam Hussein. Blitzkriegs built on lies never end well. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in over a decade of warfare in Iraq. But now it gets even worse. It is beginning to look as though the Bush coven has created the conditions for bin Laden’s heirs to realize their master’s dream. Well armed fighters of the fanatical Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaida spin-off group, are marching on the Iraqi capital Baghdad after capturing the central towns of Tikrit and Mosul.

The Cold War 2.0, by Jim McNiven (paywall)

For 40 years, one big contest played out in the world. It was a kind of arm-wrestling match between the Soviets and the Americans. I use the word ‘Soviets’ to distinguish one contestant from its successor of sorts: today’s Russians. Eventually, the Soviets could not keep their end of the game going and walked away from the table, into history. The last decade of the century was one where there was but one superpower — and it wanted to party. The attacks on America on September 11, 2001, brought that party to a halt. It signified a new game was beginning; not one of two superpowers engaged while the rest of the world largely stayed out of the way, but one where arm-wrestling was replaced by a kind of hide-and-seek.

  

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? Please support us:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Tagged , , |

Western security concerns fund Ebola drugs

The World Health Organization said Tuesday the current outbreak of Ebola, which has to date killed an estimated 1,200 people in West Africa, is confirmed only in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and “at present, no cases have been confirmed anywhere else in the world.” On August 8, the organization had declared an extremely rare Public Health Emergency of International Concern over the outbreak, and the world’s news media (NY Times; CBCBBC; Al Jazeera) is carrying stories about it hour by hour.

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Specialists work to contain Ebola outbreak in Guinea in 2013. Photo courtesy of European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection ©EC/ECHO/

Why is Ebola getting so much attention — and relative funding? For pennies per year per person, say experts, neglected tropical diseases that blight the lives of some billion of the world’s poorest people could be eliminated. But while money is scarce for such diseases, expensive drugs like ZMapp, for relatively obscure diseases like Ebola, are richly funded.

The interest in Ebola can be summed up by biodefence capacity in Western countries, notably America, writes Christopher Degeling, a veterinarian and Research Fellow at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law at the University of Sydney. This, justifiably, raises eyebrows — but Degeling argues while U.S. national interest is driving the drug development, “in the next few months they might prove to be in everyone’s interest.”  An excerpt of his piece in Dispatches/Publica:

Ebola virus disease typically only occurs in rural and remote areas among resource-poor populations. Until the large, recent outbreak in West Africa, cases of the illness were a rarity.

So the fact that we even have experimental drugs for the disease tells a story about how responses to global health crises are shaped by the social and political interests of the developed world.

Major pharmaceutical companies have shown little interest in developing effective treatments for diseases such as this. There’s no incentive for the commercial risks of research and companies naturally prefer to focus on diseases that can sustain large markets of wealthy regular users …  read Biodefence Drives Ebola Drug Development. (Free story)

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work.

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New on F&O

August wilt, as the harvest nears. © Deborah Jones 2014

Wilting in August, with the harvest in sight. © Deborah Jones 2014

Happy Monday, world. Here’s our lineup of new work on Facts and Opinions:

In Arts:

The Fan Dancer: Sally Rand. By Brian Brennan (subscription required*)

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Lauren Bacall

My assignment was to interview a 71-year-old grandmother who danced nude while waving a couple of big white ostrich-feather fans like the veils of Salome. She had been a star in 1933 when she created a sensation at the Chicago World’s Fair, but now she seemed more of a curiosity. A 1972 article in The Village Voice had been headlined, “What do you say to a naked 68-year-old lady?”  What indeed?

Between glamour and intimacy: Lauren Bacall 1924-2014. By Sean Cubitt

She was 19 when she began work on To Have and Have Not, directed by the seasoned and successful Howard Hawks from a Hemingway story. Delivering a husky-voiced duet with Hoagy Carmichael, she glances across a crowded bar room at Bogart, chin down, eyes looking up through her fringe: the look. Unlike older screen sirens like Mae West and younger like Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall never asserted her sexuality. It simply grew out of her roles …

In Commentary:

China’s Xi launches his own Cultural Revolution. By Jonathan Manthorpe (subscription required*)

Xi Jinping is not content with being the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. He also wants to play God. Xi’s ruling Communist Party announced last week it will write its own version of “Chinese Christian theology” to ensure adherents abide by the country’s party-imposed political culture. The attempt to take control of religion in China is part of a broad campaign by Xi to establish “cultural security.” The aim is to outlaw and control all foreign influences that might undermine the communists’ one-party rule.

The Future of the Global University System, Part 3.  By Jim McNiven

As with electronic journalism, music, entertainment and books, the challenge to anyone wishing to provide global university education is how to monetize it. Nobody can predict how the global university system will look in the future, but it is not hard to see that one will emerge in the great by-and-by.

Wetlands

Wetlands are crucial to natural security. © Deborah Jones 2014

Stop Digging! By Chris Wood (subscription required*)

It’s one of those authorless pieces of universal wisdom: When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.  If we try to save every pond and copse that was there when we were kids, we’ll lose them. Either all of them or enough that it won’t matter. No net loss, is something we might actually be able to do. The alternative is to keep digging.

Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest. By Garrett Albert Duncan

Many Americans share president Barack Obama’s sentiment regarding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This is clearly indicated in the deeply felt hurt experienced by so many and the massive swell of moral support people of all backgrounds offered to the young man’s parents in recent days. But to suggest that all, or even most, Americans feel the same would be severely misleading.

In Expert Witness:

Who is a journalist? What is journalism? By Stephen Ward

The ‘democratization’ of media – technology that allows citizens to engage in journalism and publication of many kinds – blurs the identity of journalists and the idea of what constitutes journalism. It is not always clear whether the term “journalist” begins or ends. If someone does what appears to be journalism, but refuses the label ‘journalist’ is he or she a journalist? If comedian Jon Stewart refuses to call himself a journalist, but magazines refer to him as an influential journalist (or refers to him as someone who does engage in journalism) is Stewart a journalist?

In Dispatches: 

Six Days in Ferguson: Voices from the Protests. By Lois Beckett

On the afternoon of Saturday, August 9, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown. The killing sparked immediate protests in Ferguson which was followed by a heavily militarized police response that drew national condemnation. Here is a day-by-day chronology of what happened in Ferguson, drawn from the best reporting by journalists and witnesses on the ground.

WWI helped win British women the vote. By Nicoletta Gullace

At the outbreak of World War I, British women had tried and failed to push through suffrage legislation almost 20 times. Women had been utterly excluded from all the major reform bills of the Victorian era, and frustration had mounted to the point where Emmeline Pankhurst and her supporters adopted a militant campaign that got more and more violent in the years before the war. The 1918 Representation of the People Act  enshrined the idea that citizenship should be conferred upon those who served their country. And as both the suffragists and the suffragettes went to great lengths to show, women had undeniably done just that.

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Photo by Roberto Carlos Pecino via Flickr, Creative Commons

Toxins in everyday products affect fetuses. By Jake Jacobs

After decades of use in some of the most well-known hygiene and cleaning products in our bathrooms and kitchens, concerns about the safety of triclosan – an anti-germ chemical used in products including Colgate Total toothpaste – means it is being phased out by some manufacturers and in some countries. But it is still widely used, despite research that suggests it – and some other antibacterial and antifungal products – could pose a serious risk to our health and potentially to unborn foetuses.

Who are the Yazidis? By Christine Allison

In 1918, the Yazidis of Sinjar mountain received an ultimatum from Ottoman forces – to hand over their weaponry and the Christian refugees they were sheltering, or face the consequences. They tore it up and sent the messengers back naked. The Sinjaris are the “Highlanders” of the Iraqi Yazidis – tough and proud. After suffering terrible casualties and appealing to the allied forces for help they were able to survive the subsequent attack and live out the war in their mountain homeland. 

 

Yazudis

Geli Ali Beg waterfall in Kurdistan. Photo: Ara Qadir, Creative Commons

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most, but not all, F&O original work.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

Ethics, journalism and junk media

I worked with Stephen Ward a lifetime ago, at The Canadian Press news service in Halifax. A philosopher by education, he took journalism seriously, and went on to a career of thinking, writing about, and graduate-level teaching in the field. He has now set up a site focused on media ethics, and I’m pleased that F&O is able, with his permission and at no charge*, to publish an excerpt of one of his pieces in our Expert Witness series, by specialists in their fields.

Journalism is not a profession and it eludes definition — not least because of the hard-fought right to freedom of expression, and a justified fear of regulation. But for at least the latter part of the 20th Century, I believe there was a consensus of its role in Western countries, and of the standards expected of journalists at quality outlets. There was also a shared audience, so that when someone referred to something in “the paper,” others in their community would know what they were talking about. Since the news media business model has largely collapsed, media has become at once a free-for-all (in which which everything from click-bait ad/spam sites to journalist-owned independents like F&O can start up and attempt to survive) and also a mirage — as mainstream media platforms are increasingly concentrated amongst fewer and fewer corporate owners of multiple outlets, each presenting a mere facade of choice. 

A highly-educated and successful business person once said to me with sincere incredulity, when I referred to the ethics of advertisers calling the shots about what news stories are presented to citizens: “There are ethics in journalism?” Well, yes. There are. Or at least there should be, and there would be if more consumers of journalism were more discerning.

Ethics matter today, arguably, more than ever;  it’s good to see some thoughtful people pushing the issue to the forefront. “Most of the principles were developed over the past century, originating in the construction of professional, objective ethics for mass commercial newspapers in the late 19th century,” writes Ward on his site, Media Morals. “Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace.  Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users.”

— Deborah Jones

Stephen-Ward

Stephen Ward

An excerpt of Ward’s piece, Who is a journalist? What is journalism:

The ‘democratization’ of media – technology that allows citizens to engage in journalism and publication of many kinds – blurs the identity of journalists and the idea of what constitutes journalism.

In the previous century, journalists were a clearly defined group. For the most part, they were professionals who wrote for major mainstream newspapers and broadcasters. The public had no great difficulty in identifying members of the “press.”

Today, citizens without journalistic training and who do not work for mainstream media calls themselves journalists, or write in ways that fall under the general description of a journalists as someone who regularly writes on public issues for a public or audience.

It is not always clear whether the term “journalist” begins or ends. If someone does what appears to be journalism, but refuses the label ‘journalist’ is he or she a journalist? If comedian Jon Stewart refuses to call himself a journalist, but magazines refer to him as an influential journalist (or refers to him as someone who does engage in journalism) is Stewart a journalist?

Is a person expressing their opinions on their Facebook site a journalist? … click here to read Who is a journalist? What is journalism:

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Tagged , , |

Universities in Crisis: a series

Reed College, Portland, Oregon. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2010

Reed College, Portland, Oregon. Deborah Jones © 2010

Jim McNiven wraps up his three-part series The Future of the Global University System (public access) with thoughts on Globalizing Access to Higher Education. An excerpt:

Let’s take a tour d’horizon of what seem to be the relevant pieces of the situation outlined in the preceding two Parts of this essay. Governments, either quickly or slowly, are withdrawing from public funding for post-secondary education. As a general rule, governments everywhere are operating with deficits and growing debt loads, which are becoming unsustainable, either mathematically or politically. Something has to give. If there is a cheaper way to provide post-secondary education, then this has to become an issue, even where today’s governments are dedicated to providing the service for free. A French Premier once noted famously that, ‘to govern is to choose.’ By implication, something expensive will be hardly be chosen against its cheaper alternative.

Not all parts of the existing university system will be discomfited equally as the choice against traditional post-secondary education continues to become widespread. Technical colleges, where hands-on training is important, will continue to be supported. Small, residential teaching institutions, charging high tuitions but performing both socializing and education functions for those who can afford them, will continue to exist. Some of the most famous larger institutions, which have brand-names that are prestigious, will continue to be filled and paid for by the world’s top students and by the world’s elite families. Research institutions that train only graduate students (MA and PhDs) and which derive their funding from research sources may actually increase their small numbers.

The rest will find it difficult to survive…. read  Part 3: Globalizing Access to Higher Education (no charge*)

Here is Jim McNiven’s column page, including the series, The Future of the Global University System.

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

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We can climb out of the hole we’ve dug: Wood

Tug on Fraser River

Wetlands are at risk, but proven measures to preserve them show a way forward. Above: a tug works the Fraser River Delta, where Canada’s West Coast meets the Pacific. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2014

“It’s one of those authorless pieces of universal wisdom: When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging,” writes Chris Wood. We have dug ourselves to the bottom of a hole — but there is a way out, he argues. An excerpt of this week’s Natural Security column, Stop Digging!:

 

We are not only in a hole… we may be digging our way through an ecological safety margin, a range of resilience in natural systems that we are putting under increasing stress, with a rising risk of breaking through at any moment into a new natural regime that is not compatible with much of our existing economy.

So, let’s stop digging.

This is not nearly as crazy as it sounds. In fact, in a variety of ways and places we have certainly tried to stop digging.

We have set aside big chunks of flourishing ecosystem as parkland, as public forest land, as greenbelt or ecosystem refuge. (Not nearly enough to constitute a prudent reserve of natural services, but at least a start, a few pennies in the piggy.)

Then temptation arises. Someone points out that if we dig just a little deeper, there’ll be oil. Or gold. Or gas. Or copper. Resolve weakens and we pick up the shovel …  log in first (subscription needed*) to read Stop Digging!

Log in on the top right of each page, or click here to purchase a subscription or a $1 site day pass, to read Wood’s columns on F&O.

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , |

Brennan’s Brief Encounter with Sally Rand, Fan Dancer

Fan dancer Sally Rand was still dancing nude on stage with her trademark ostrich-feather fans when she was in her 70s. In his new time capsule piece, Arts columnist Brian Brennan recalls that she wouldn’t dance while the television cameras were rolling. That, she said, “would destroy the illusion.” And excerpt of Brennan’s latest  Brief Encounters column, The Fan Dancer: Sally Rand.

My assignment was to interview a 71-year-old grandmother who danced nude while waving a couple of big white ostrich-feather fans like the veils of Salome. She had been a star in 1933 when she created a sensation at the Chicago World’s Fair, but now she seemed more of a curiosity. A 1972 article in The Village Voice had been headlined, “What do you say to a naked 68-year-old lady?”

What indeed? My first question to Sally Rand (mercifully, I didn’t have to interview her nude) was, “Why are you still doing this? Why are you still taking your clothes off in public?”

“If I were to give it up, what would I retire to?” she replied. “Sitting on a patio doing needlepoint? Yecch.” She had been doing the fan dance 40 weeks a year for the previous 42 years, and planned to keep going until she died … log in first to read The Fan Dancer: Sally Rand (subscription required*)

 

Brian Brennan’s columnist page is here.

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for original F&O work.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , |

Findings: the skinny on UV

Artist Thomas Leveritt filmed people’s faces with regular and ultraviolet light; the startling result reveals freckles and damage within layers of skin invisible to the naked eye. Leveritt tweeted, “We showed people what they looked like in ultraviolet, & wondered aloud if they wanted to put on some damn sunscreen already.”

 

 

 

Hat tip to Petapixel

Posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , , |

China’s latest Cultural Revolution underway — Manthorpe

China’s constant sensitivity about its international image has intensified as Beijing flexes its muscles as a growing world power, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. An excerpt of his new column, China’s Xi launches his own Cultural Revolution:

312px-Kir1_1

Frontispiece of Athanasius Kircher’s China Illustrata, 1666.

Xi Jinping is not content with being the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. He also wants to play God.

Xi’s ruling Communist Party announced last week it will write its own version of “Chinese Christian theology” to ensure adherents abide by the country’s party-imposed political culture. The attempt to take control of religion in China is part of a broad campaign by Xi to establish “cultural security.” The aim is to outlaw and control all foreign influences that might undermine the communists’ one-party rule. The campaign, endorsed by the National People’s Congress last November, is seeing unrelenting crackdowns on the media — especially foreign journalists — academics, foreign businesses, and civil society organizations as well as Christian churches.

Chinese in their millions have been seeking a spiritual element in their lives by becoming Christians or following traditional religions such as Buddhism since the Communist Party in the 1980s abandoned any pretence of being an idealistic social movement. The most reliable estimates are that there are about 70 million Christians in China, most of whom are Protestants and about 12 million of whom are Catholics.

As well as re-writing Christian theology and liturgy, the Communist Party is engaged in a more direct assault on religion …  log in first (subscription required*) to read China’s Xi launches his own Cultural Revolution 

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