Monthly Archives: September 2014

Scotland Votes

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Photo by Maria Navarro Sorolla, Creative Commons, via Flickr

Opinion polls put the result of today’s Scottish vote on independence on a knife’s edge, but no matter the outcome the referendum will have fundamentally changed Britain’s modern balance of power.

The United Kingdom has been together for better, and worse, since 1707 when Acts of Union formalized a union that was already in many ways in effect, through a century-old joint monarchy. A Yes vote will lead to the hard work of disentangling it. Custody battles will be fought over assets and liabilities, from British nuclear arms to the national debt to North Sea oil. But a No vote — given 11th-hour promises for far more Scottish autonomy, made by the pro-union side in the last frantic days of the referendum campaign — will also fundamentally change  Britain.

Of all the analyses that tried to pick out the strands of history that drew Scotland to this precipice, one consistent is that Scots and most other residents of the U.K. have a fundamentally different view of society. Scottish politics are consistently more communitarian than in England, where individualism and hard-edged capitalism tend to reign. As a profile in Der Spiegel of Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond noted, he “became political during the 1980s because of Margaret Thatcher — as a result of her cuts to social welfare, privatizations and the poll tax that was introduced in Scotland one year earlier than in the rest of Great Britain. The Iron Lady inspired an entire generation of Scottish patriots.” Canadian political scientist James Laxer called the Scottish referendum the “World’s first vote on economic inequality.”

Alex Salmond © Scottish Parliament

Alex Salmond Photo © Scottish Parliament.

The man at the centre of this sea change in the U.K.’s status quo is Salmond, First Minister in the Scottish Parliament and the architect of the referendum.  An economist, former student of medieval history, and a consumate politician, Salmond has devoted his life to his country’s independence. F&O offers a short profile in Dispatches, Players — ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot, by Scottish political scientist Murray Leith. An excerpt:

If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

His political opponents may label him everything from “driven” to “smug” but among them a common theme is that Alex Salmond is intensely private; a man “difficult to know”, and about whose private life very little is known. Many in Scotland could probably not confirm if he is even married. He is, although his wife Moira is 17 years older than him, they have no children, and she rarely appears in public. He likes the horses and gambles on races, likes his golf too, and knows his history. He is considered a natural politician by many, although some dismiss him as cold and calculating, but he is certainly the face of Scottish nationalism today. … read ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot.

In case you missed it, F&O posted earlier this week a “Cole’s Notes” sort of guide to the referendum by Coree Brown, a Scottish PhD student — Scotland’s independence referendum: a beginner’s guide:

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on September 18 and answer the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The result will be determined by a simple majority vote, and is expected to be announced on the morning of September 19. … read Scotland’s independence referendum: a beginner’s guide

F&O International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe’s column in April addressed the complexities of a breakup, for Britain but also for  Europe. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s column Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence (subscription):

Scotland’s First Minister and Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond is generally reckoned to be the canniest politician in the British Isles.

So it was entirely in keeping that he chose today, the day when the English patron saint St. George is celebrated, to cross the border to the northern English city of Carlisle to promote Scottish separation.

Salmond’s aim, with the campaign for Scottish independence heating up ahead of the September 18 referendum, was to calm anxieties. Little will change when Scotland becomes independent, Salmond underlined as polls show pro-separation supporters significantly narrowing the gap on the “no” vote’s slim majority …

It is in Salmond’s interests to minimize the implications of Scottish independence, which might come in 2016 if there is a majority for separation in the September referendum. But the potential fall-out not only for the United Kingdom, but also for Europe and the European Union is profound. …  read Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence (Subscription or day pass required*)

Much of the world is transfixed as Scots take their future into their ballot boxes today, with the tally expected Friday morning. But keep in mind that the Scottish quest for independence is ancient: two millennia ago fierce Scots not only kept their lands free but put the Romans on the defensive, and in 1320 Scottish leaders wrote the Declaration of Arbroath and sent it to Pope John XXII, claiming Scotland’s status as an independent, sovereign state. (You can watch a video of  professor Ted Cowan speaking of Arbroath on YouTube, here.) Deep history suggests that today’s Scottish referendum on independence will not be the last of the matter.

 — Deborah Jones

UPDATE September 19: The pro-union “No” campaign won the referendum by about 55 to 45. Nearly 85 per cent of eligible voters made a choice on one single clear question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”  The results by late Friday Scottish time,  55.25 per cent No and 45.65 per cent Yes, are on this Scottish site. Alex Salmond resigned the day after the referendum.

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is 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. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Uzbekistan’s dictator turns on his own creation: his daughter

Gulnara Karimova. Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Gulnara Karimova. Creative Commons via Wikipedia

It is not unusual for dictators, especially particularly nasty ones like Islam Karimov, to create monsters among their family members, notes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. Think only of the plundering relatives: Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace in Zimbabwe, the offspring of “Papa Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, and the rabid sons of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

What is unusual, however, is for Frankenstein to turn on his creation. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Uzbekisatan’s dictator destroys “princess” daughter:

Supermarket tabloid divas like the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus are rank amateurs in the league tables of manic self-obsessives and insatiable exhibitionists of their own excruciating bad taste when stacked up against the gold standards set by Gulnara Karimova.

Mind you, Karimova, 41, who immodestly but truthfully describes herself as a “poet, mezzo soprano, designer and exotic Uzbekistan beauty,” has some advantages when it comes to the lavish life of the exhibitionist.

She is the daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator President Islam Karimov, and over the last decade of so he has turned a blind eye to — and perhaps aided and abetted — his daughter as she pillaged the economy of the Central Asian nation of 30 million people to feed her vanity.

At the climax of her achievement of self-adoration Karimova had a fortune of at least $1 billion, at least, that’s what’s been found in her Swiss bank accounts. She also controlled Uzbek radio and television stations which specialized in broadcasting her sideline as a pop icon, which she performed under the name “Googoosha.” … read  Uzbekisatan’s dictator destroys “princess” daughter(Log in first; subscription or day pass* 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 is 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. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Scotland’s independence referendum: a beginner’s guide

The main chamber of the Scottish Parliament. Photo by Martyn Gorman, geograph.org.uk, Creative Commons

The main chamber of the Scottish Parliament. Photo by Martyn Gorman, geograph.org.uk, Creative Commons

By Coree Brown, University of Edinburgh

What is Scotland voting for?

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on September 18 and answer the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The result will be determined by a simple majority vote, and is expected to be announced on the morning of September 19.


Who can vote?

The 4.1m people eligible to vote include UK citizens, EU citizens and qualifying Commonwealth citizens currently resident in Scotland. Scots living outside of Scotland (with the exception of those in the military or diplomatic service) are not eligible to cast their vote.

The voting franchise has been extended to 16 and 17-year-olds.


What do the polls say?

In a “poll of polls” conducted in autumn 2013, the average support for Yes was at 32%, with no at 49%. When accounting for undecided voters, this translated into to 39% for Yes, and 61% for No.

But in the most recent poll of polls, the difference has narrowed to four percentage points, with 48% polling Yes and 52% polling No. Early polls indicated a gender gap, with women more likely to be in favour of the union, but this gap appears to have closed in recent weeks.


Why the sudden excitement?

For most of the campaign, polls suggested a strong lead for the No campaign – but that now appears to have narrowed significantly.

A poll published on September 7 by YouGov indicated that the Yes campaign had in fact pulled slightly ahead in the polls. A survey by pollster TNS BMRB, published late the next day, showed that both sides were polling at 41% for those definitely going to vote, with the rest of the electorate undecided.

As far as the polls go, the referendum is now considered too close to call.


Who is who?

The official campaigns are Yes Scotland (with party support from the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens) and the unionist Better Together (supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives).

First minister of Scotland Alex Salmond has been the primary face of the Yes campaign on the trail and in debates, while Alistair Darling, Labour MP and former chancellor of the exchequer, has headed up Better Together (No to independence).


What are the key issues?

The campaign has largely revolved around the economic implications of independence, with much being made of independence bonuses and union dividends – the questions of whether Scots would be financially better of within or outside the union.

Other major issues are provisions for health, social services and pensions, currency, defence, and EU membership.


Would independent Scotland be in the EU?

There isn’t a precedent for the division of an EU member state, and it’s unclear whether an independent Scotland would need to reapply or would automatically be granted entry.

The pro-independence campaign has maintained that Scotland would automatically be an EU member; experts differ on how this accession process might occur. Questions remain over whether Scotland would receive the same terms as the United Kingdom, which include a budgetary rebate and opt-outs from the eurozone and Schengen – which gives freedom to cross internal borders in Europe.


What currency would it use?

The Scottish government has pledged to negotiate a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom in the event of a Yes vote, allowing Scotland to continue to use the pound sterling – even though, in a statement last year, chancellor George Osborne ruled this out.

However, there are questions over whether this is a negotiating tactic. Currency options for Scotland should a currency union prove unworkable include adopting sterling without a currency union (a “dollarisation” model), using an independent Scottish currency, or adopting the euro. Essentially, it is not yet clear exactly what would happen.


How would it defend itself?

The proposals for a Scottish defence force put forth in the Scottish government’s white paper suggest a smaller, more modest force focused on maritime defence and peace-keeping, with a particular focus on the High North. The white paper proposes a defence budget of £2.5 billion (a reduction from the £3.3 billion Scotland contributes to the UK defence budget) and 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel.

Following independence, the withdrawal of the UK’s nuclear submarine programme from Scotland would be negotiated. The Scottish government also foresees membership of NATO, though an independent Scotland would apparently have to apply.

The UK government has critiqued these proposals in its own analysis, arguing that Scotland is more secure within the United Kingdom and questioning whether an independent Scotland would be welcomed by NATO.


What would Yes vote mean internationally?

The rest of the world has been relatively quiet on the topic of independence, watching instead of intervening. For his part, United States president Barack Obama has said that he hopes that the United Kingdom will remain a “strong, robust, united and effective partner”, although noted that it would be up to the Scottish people.

As the vote nears, there are more signs of international concern about the outcome, not least in financial markets, with the pound falling after publication of the YouGov poll which indicated a close race.

Meanwhile, substate nationalist parties such as those in Quebec, Flanders, Catalonia, and the Basque Country are all expected to be watching especially closely.


What happens next if Scots vote No?

All three unionist parties have promised more powers for the Scottish parliament should voters reject independence at the polls. However, each party has proposed different models. There has been a recent flurry of activity on this front, with Gordon Brown introducing a timetable for a bill which would transfer significant powers to Scotland following a no vote. His proposals were backed by prime minister David Cameron, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

 

 

In the event of a no vote, the Scottish National Party would remain in office in Edinburgh until the next Scottish parliamentary elections in May 2016.


What happens next if Scots votes Yes?

Negotiations over the creation of an independent Scotland would likely begin immediately after a Yes vote, with a wide range of issues to be covered: currency, the division of assets and liabilities, borders, the movement of people, EU membership, the removal of Trident, and the distribution of pensions and welfare agreements.

To manage such a process, Salmond has called for a Team Scotland negotiating team, which would include leaders who campaigned against independence.

The timetable for transition envisioned by the Scottish government includes 18 months of negotiation, with a declaration of independence taking place on March 24, 2016. The election of the new Scottish parliament would then take place that May. Until formal independence, the laws currently in place will remain so.

The actual progress of the negotiations and the outcome of the 2015 UK general election, of course, might have a major impact on this timeline. Some issues may be negotiated immediately with interim agreements put into place for the rest.

The Conversation

Creative Commons

Coree Brown is a programme researcher for The Future of the UK and Scotland.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

 

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is 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. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Tammy Wynette: Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter

Tammy Wynette by Gene Pugh CC.jpg

Tammy Wynette. Photo by Gene Pugh, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Tammy Wynette said that if she had to make a choice between husband and career, she would choose the music first. As Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece, she revealed this to him just as she was about to divorce her fourth husband, Nashville real estate executive Michael Tomlin. An excerpt of excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Troubled First Lady of Country Music: Tammy Wynette (subscription*):

Tammy Wynette was no longer standing by her man when I saw her perform at a nightclub in 1976. At least, she was no longer singing with ex-husband George Jones, with whom she had continued to record – for contractual reasons – after their divorce in 1975. At age 34, Wynette was going it alone as a solo artist with a portfolio of autobiographical songs in which, she said, “every line is true.” Many of them chronicled the twists and turns in her stormy seven-year relationship with Jones.

Her trademark songs, delivered with the force of an air-raid siren, spoke of loneliness and heartbreak, and included such titles as D-I-V-O-R-C-E, Another Lonely Song, It’s All Over, I Don’t Wanna Play House and Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad. One song, The Bottle, was about Jones’s drinking. It was said that on one occasion Wynette had confiscated Jones’s car keys only to later find him driving to the liquor store on a motorized lawnmower! … log in* to read Troubled First Lady of Country Music: Tammy Wynette.

 

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Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is 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. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Humans have the tools to avoid eco-geddon: Chris Wood

Earth at dawn from the International Space Station. Photo by Reid Wiseman, NASA, public domain

Earth at dawn from the International Space Station. Photo by Reid Wiseman, NASA, public domain

Systems approaching the brink display some common features, and sometimes thresholds give advance warning, writes Chris Wood in his new Natural Security column. They recover more slowly from disruption; “in-state fluctuations” become wilder and less predictable; conditions “flicker” rapidly from one state to another. But by opening our eyes to these and other signs, we may be able to determine where some of the riskiest thresholds lie — and how to push them, and ourselves, back from the brink of “eco-geddon.” We have the tools, he argues: the question is whether we have the will. An excerpt of Isn’t It Hysterical? The cliff is ahead. We have the tools to see it (subscription*):

The single most useful thing that many national governments could do for their natural security today is to start by taking a good long look at it. 

How does this come up? Funny story. I learned a new word recently. This doesn’t happen as often as it used to in my line of work, so I enjoyed it. The word? ‘Hysteresis.’ 

The term seems to have a range of definitions, some more negative than others: it can mean a deficiency or lack, for example. But its dominant meaning is of a lagging effect: when something in a system’s past influences how it responds to the present. All of human history, it turns out, really has been as hysterical as some of our darker comics suggest.

But so are ecosystems at scales all the way up to the global. That is: incremental damage can accumulate over time, rendering an ecosystem imperceptibly less robust until a critical threshold tips it, usually irreversibly, into a new state … log in* to read Isn’t It Hysterical? The cliff is ahead. We have the tools to see it.

Click here for Chris Wood’s columnist page,  and here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass 

 

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support (a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee), but if you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, email Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will send you a complimentary day pass. 

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is 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. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Oscar Pistorius and South African justice

399px-Oscar_Pistorius_2_Daegu_2011

Oscar Pistorius — “Blade Runner” — during 2011 World championships athletics in Daegu. Photo by Erik van Leeuwen, GNU Free Documentation License.

Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian known as Blade Runner, was found not guilty in South Africa on Thursday of premeditated murder in the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a law graduate and model. Pistorius was convicted Friday** of unlawful homicide, a charge similar to that of manslaughter in other countries.

“I am not persuaded that a reasonable person … would have fired four shots into a toilet cubicle,” ruled Judge Thokozile Masipa Thursday, reported the Mail and Guardian. The judge said Pistorius used excessive force, was “negligent,” and “culpable homicide is a competent verdict.”

The court heard evidence that Pistorius killed Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013 by firing his gun through the locked door of his toilet. He claimed he thought she was an intruder.

The trial has enthralled the world with its global media attention, but there is far more to the case than a murder. Interpretations of the high-profile drama range from its relevance to domestic violence, race relations, politics, media attention, and disabilities. This New York Times video nicely summarizes how Pistorius fascinates the world. Some argue the case — in which a man with white skin was judged by a woman with black skin — reveals South Africa’s post-apartheid progress. For example, wrote David Smith in The Guardian: “The notion that Masipa, who began studying law during apartheid and became only the second black woman appointed to the high court, is holding 27-year-old Pistorius’s fate in her hands would once have been unthinkable.”

But the real nub of the case, suggested Ruth Hopkins in her report earlier on F&O, is how the Pistorius trial exposed class justice in the new South Africa. An excerpt of Hopkins’ April dispatch (subscription* required), Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice: 

Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa, dubbed the trial of the century, has hogged the limelight since he was arrested and charged for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The court room in the Pretoria High Court has become the focal point of the world’s media. Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux stole the show when he impressed both friend and foe by tenaciously laying bare inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies, narrowing in on forensic evidence incorrectly secured by officers at the crime scene, and challenging the state’s version of events. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has contested the defence’s evidence with equal tenacity. The legal spectacle that is unfolding has provided a breath-taking expose of the South African criminal justice system. This has led some commentators to conclude that the justice system itself is on trial.

Reeva_Steenkamp

Reeva Steenkamp. Photo handout released by Capacity Relations on Feb 14, 2013, via Wikipedia

The so-called OP case however, is hardly representative of the criminal justice system in this country, but rather exposes the ugly face of class justice. The trial has revealed a level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing, when a defendant with ample financial resources is on trial and the glaring spotlight of the world’s media is focused on court officials.

British honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani’s arrival in a privately chartered plane – paid for by the Department of Justice – flanked by medical staff to tend to his unstable mental condition, similarly sends the message that the South African courts respect and uphold human rights, most importantly the right to a fair trial.

But ordinary South African citizens are by no means guaranteed a fair trial. They battle a dysfunctional court system where bail is denied for no apparent reason, transcripts go missing, where lengthy delays put presumed innocent suspects behind bars for years, where overworked state-funded lawyers do not bother to question glaring inconsistencies, shoddy evidence and lying police officers. Inmates with medical conditions struggle to access medication, medical staff and legal relief for their conditions … read Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice (*log in or subscribe first.)

 

 

 

 

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support (a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee), but if you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, email Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will send you a complimentary day pass. 

** POST UPDATED Friday September 12 

Facts and Opinions is a select boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. 

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Island-building Inflames China-Philippines Dispute

Mabini Reef 2014

Earlier this year the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs released a series of photographs, which it said shows stages of China’s “reclamation” of land on Mabini Reef, also called Johnson South Reef, in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. Photo provided by Philippines government.

Pursuit of Beijing’s claim to the South China Sea is a major element in the drive by China’s Communist Party boss Xi Jinping to convince the population that the country is re-emerging as the world’s pre-eminent power, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe.. “The prospects are not good.”

An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims:

Not content with stealing other people’s territory, the Beijing government is now manufacturing islands to boost its insubstantial claim to ownership of the South China Sea.

The Philippines government has released aerial photographs of Chinese dredgers and construction teams pulling up millions of tonnes of sand and rock from the ocean floor to create islands on Johnson South Reef, which is claimed by the Manila government.

The new island is one of several being created by Beijing, and is within Manila’s 200 nautical mile “exclusive economic zone,” but about 800 kilometres from the nearest undisputed Chinese territory at Hainan Island.

China’s island manufacturing industry, using reefs and islets as bases on which to create territory, is the latest in a vigorous policy of territorial expansion being pursued by the new Beijing administration of President and Communist Party boss Xi Jinping. Since Xi came to power in late 2012, Beijing has been pushing an evermore aggressive and assertive policy over territorial disputes with its neighbours. In the East China Sea this has seen almost daily confrontations with the Japanese Coast Guards and Air Force around and over the Japanese-owned Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands. …. read China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims. (Log in first; subscription or day pass* 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 is 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. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Darts, bitters and Granny Admirers — Oh, My

Mature babes: Granny admirers more overt in the UK is the title of Penney Kome’s hilarious new work for F&O’s Loose Leaf column. It’s a story prompted by a startling experience in a London pub, and while title almost says it all, here is an excerpt:

Penney Kome

Penney Kome

Stepping up to the line to throw my three darts, I sank into my sideways stance and studied the score and the dartboard. From the corner of my eye, I saw an older man squirming appreciatively in his bentwood chair, his hand around a pint of bitters. He was giving me the eye. That hasn’t happened much since I let my hair go gray. I stood up and looked around, confused. Then I sank again, and not only did the first guy squirm, so did the fellow at the next table. I wondered if my husband was watching.

…. I remembered how my mother still attracted men’s attention in her sixties, although I tended to see her as “cute” rather than sexy. Here I was, at 63, caught off-guard to realize that several men were (bashfully, politely) sizing me up. Such male attention wasn’t unusual in my 20s or 30s, even my post-pregnancy 40s sometimes. But now?

Highly unlikely! I thought, sitting down and flipping through the Daily Mail tabloid that someone had left on the table. Bam! The answer leapt out at me. The last page was full of phone sex ads  ….Log in (subscription required*) to read Mature babes: Granny admirers more overt in the UK.

 

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A Brief Encounter with Randy Bachman

Randy Bachman walked away from two of Canada’s hottest rock bands, the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, when they were at the height of their fame. In his new time capsule piece, Arts columnist Brian Brennan tells what happened to him next. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor: Randy Bachman:

Randy Bachman on opening night of the Luminato festival, June, 2009. Photo by Brian Stahls via Flickr, Creative Commons

Randy Bachman on opening night of the Luminato festival, June, 2009. Photo by Brian Stahls via Flickr, Creative Commons

When I first met him in 1978, Randy Bachman had seemingly committed career suicide not once but twice. Or so it seemed to his fans at the time. First he walked away from the Guess Who immediately after the band’s American Woman became the first song by a Canadian rock group to reach #1 in the United States. Then he left Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO) after that group climbed to the top of the American charts, this time with You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. And now, at age 34, Bachman was starting over again, as a solo artist. Why? “I’m trying to grow up,” said the burly musician. “I don’t wanna do Shaun Cassidy for ever.” (Cassidy was a teen-star pop singer of the mid-1970s whose appeal faded when he reached his 20s.)

For about a year after he left BTO, Bachman stopped performing altogether to live the life of a rock fan. “But a rich fan,” he smiled. “I’ve been flying all over the country going to concerts. It’s the first chance I’ve had to do it in 15 years.”

Bachman said he never realized how much hassle the average fan had to go through to see a rock artist performing in concert. He expected the long lineups for tickets, the crush of the crowds, and the parking problems that occurred when thousands of fans converged on the same location at once. But being frisked for liquor and drugs was something that came as a complete surprise to him. “I never knew you get searched at concerts,” he said. “It makes me humble to think that people go through all this to see us play.” read Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor: Randy Bachman (log in; subscription required*)

 

Brian Brennan’s columnist page is here.

 

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Imran Khan’s sad, public flameout

Political rifts in Pakistan widened recently when soldiers expelled demonstrators occupying the Pakistan Television building; at least three protesters died and 400 people were injured, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. It’s another example of trouble for Imran Khan. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Imran Khan: from sports hero to prophet of doom:

The occupation of the heart of Pakistan’s capital by thousands of demonstrators demanding the resignation of the government is not so much a political crisis as a sad, public flameout by the protest leader, former cricket hero and international playboy Imran Khan.

Konferenz: Pakistan und der Westen - Imran Khan  Pakistan ist ein Kriegsgebiet. Es hat neben einer Vielzahl anderer Probleme, die dringend die Etablierung von Rechtsstaatlichkeit und demokratischen Strukturen erfordern, mit großen Bedrohungen von Militanten, Aufständischen und Terroristen zu kämpfen. Im Lichte der derzeitigen Krise diskutierten hochrangige Gäste aus Pakistan und mehrere deutsche Experten über Strukturen und Defizite der Rechtsstaatlichkeit wie auch die derzeitige Sachlage, parallele Rechtssysteme, die Beziehungen zwischen Politik und Judikative und die Rolle politischer Parteien und der Gesellschaft.   Die Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung veranstaltete am 26. Oktober 2009 eine Konferenz und Fachdiskussion unter dem Titel "Rule of Law: The Case of Pakistan". Eine Dokumentation finden Sie auf www.boell.de/weltweit/asien/asien-7872.html.   Foto: Stephan Röhl

For over two weeks up to 15,000 followers of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice or PTI) have occupied the country’s political hub, the “Red Zone,” in the capital, Islamabad, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

But the fiery exhortations to his followers from the man who in the 1970s and ‘80s was the darling of London gossip column columnists and the lion of international cricket when he led Pakistan to its only world championship in 1992, are increasingly disjoined and unfocussed. An offspring of Pakistan’s wealthy and highly educated elite, Khan has adopted the language of the marketplace in an apparent attempt to court the support of the masses.

And beyond the resignation of Sharif, it is not at all clear what Khan wants … read Imran Khan: from sports hero to prophet of doom. (Log in or subscribe* first)

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