Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Week of Facts and Opinions

Above, Turkish soldiers and paramilitary guard the border with Syria in September as Kurds seek refuge from Islamic State fighters. Photo by  Heike Hänsel via Flickr, Creative Commons

Above, Turkish soldiers and paramilitary guard the border with Syria in September as Kurds seek refuge from Islamic State fighters. Photo by Heike Hänsel via Flickr, Creative Commons. 
Readings: an essay arguing the siege of Kobane is a battle for a stable Middle East (free*), and Jonathan Manthorpe’s column, War on Islamic State caliphate boosts the birth of Kurdistan (paywall*)

Our schedule at Facts and Opinions in the past week has been packed, with a special series each on the fall of the Berlin Wall and Remembrance/Armistice Day, in addition to our ongoing work. Here’s our stellar lineup, below.

Next week, look for new columns by Jim McNiven, Tom Regan and Jonathan Manthorpe, and a careful selection of reporting and features on some of the most interesting news items in the world — work you’ll find only in F&O’s independent, employee-owned journalism boutique. There will also, of course, be an update on the European deep space probe Rosetta. (See our blog post, Rosetta: love astride a comet.)

Lastly, scroll down for a few items elsewhere that caught our interest this week, from Jon Stewart on “citizen journalism,” and the stark silence of Bill Cosby when confronted by a NPR interviewer with allegations of sexual assault, to an important ProPublica piece that nails the perilous state of the global economy.

We won’t waste your time, and we appreciate your support. 

Mrs. Clooney rushes to the rescue of Greek culture. By Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

It had been a tough day interviewing victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities, and it was with great relief that I slumped down in a chair in the hotel bar in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and ordered a beer. Through the window I could see the sun shimmering red as it sank through the torpid, tropical air hanging over the Tonle Sap tributary of the Mekong River. I was the only non-Asian in the bar, which was humming with the chatter of rich locals and visiting businessmen from other parts of the region, who had come to see what spoils there were to be harvested in a country just emerging from decades of war. … read more (paywall).

The Real ‘Game-Changer’ was not in Beijing. Has the ‘Anglosphere’ lost its Mojo? By Chris Wood (paywall)

Once upon a time an amalgam of rigorous, inquisitive candor about the physical world, and a deep delusion about superior racial entitlement, delivered control of two of the four continents that were up for colonial grabs in the 18th century to Britain. Britain’s legal and political philosophy, its English language, and to a large extent genetic descendants of its families, dominate North America and Australia to this day. Europeans, Latin Americans, and others outside this socio-political clan have resented their exclusion and berated the ‘anglo’ model of cut-throat corporate permissiveness — what used to be called laissez-faire and is now re-branded for global distribution as neo-liberalism. That fewer descendants of Empire persist in their delusions of racial superiority is a welcome development. But it’s worrying to see the Anglosphere also abandoning its realism about the physical world. … log in to read more (paywall*)

Out of the Saddle, Playing Papa to a Super-baby: Glenn Ford. By Brian Brennan (paywall)

John Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

Glenn Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

The line was, “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?” It was scripted for Glenn Ford, playing a Kansas farmer named Jonathan Kent in the 1978 movie Superman. A spaceship containing the baby Superman had just crash-landed in the Kent wheat field and the farmer’s wife – played by Phyllis Thaxter – was suggesting they keep the apparently orphaned boy as their own. After a brief exchange about the pros and cons of doing this, the farmer put his foot down. … read more (paywall*)

Time to end religious holidays in public schools. By Tom Regan

Recently the Board of Education in the Virginia suburb of Montgomery County (which is just outside DC) faced a dilemma. A group of Muslim parents were pressing the board to add religious holidays that would allow Muslim children to observe the important days to their faith without missing any school. On the surface, I have no problem with this. If we’re going to allow Christian students to observe Christmas, and Jewish students to observe holidays like Yom Kippur, then it only makes sense that we allow Muslim students to observe their religious days. But I do confess I wonder where will this end? .. read more

Evolutionary insights underscore need for new natural-world taxonomy. By Ben Holt and Knud Andreas Jønsson

A cat is, of course, a cat. Lions are cats too, as are leopards, lynxes and so on – the “Felidae” family contains 41 species in total. But what about other closely related species such as hyenas or mongooses? These animals are not in the cat family: they are cat-like “Feliformia”, but are in their own separate families. So why are some species grouped together in the same families and others separated into different families? It might surprise you to learn that there is no general answer to this question, despite the fact that we now know a lot about evolutionary relationships for groups like mammals. Science has moved on and so should the way we classify life on earth. … read more

Carolus Linnaeus's first, or 1735, edition of Systema Naturae is the "In the Beginning" text of animal and plant classification. Shown is a scam of Table of the Animal Kingdom (Regnum Animale).

Carolus Linnaeus’s first, or 1735, edition of Systema Naturae is the “In the Beginning” text of animal and plant classification. Shown is a scan of Table of the Animal Kingdom (Regnum Animale).

Siege of Kobane a battle for a stable Middle East. By Karthick Manoharan

Events in Kobane disprove Islamophobes who believe the Middle East to be incapable of progress and politically correct Islamophiles who push the patronizing idea that religious identity is a top priority for Muslims the world over. In their readiness to defend the Yazidi minority against persecution from Islamic State, the Kurds have essentially been promoting a radical secularism and a vision of tolerance in a region torn by religious strife. What is novel about the Kurdish struggle for self-determination is its very definition of self-determination. … read more

Interstellar’s spectacular view of hard science. By Alasdair Richmond

In Interstellar’s near-ish future, our climate has failed catastrophically, crops die in vast blights and America is a barely-habitable dustbowl. Little education beyond farming methods is tolerated and students are taught that the Apollo landings were Cold War propaganda hoaxes. Against this unpromising background, a former space pilot receives mysterious directions to a secure facility. Therein, he finds the American space agency NASA’s last remnants devoting dwindling resources to sending a spacecraft through a new-found wormhole mouth orbiting Saturn.   .. read more

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, Paramount, publicity photo

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, Paramount, publicity photo

In case you missed them earlier this week:

FOCUS ON THE BERLIN WALL:

BERLIN, 1989: A Photo-essay  NEW
GREG LOCKE

History still waits for the Fat Lady to sing (Paywall) 
JONATHAN MANTHORPE

Critical Assembly: A Drama Critic Remembers Berlin (Paywall) 
BRIAN BRENNAN

Children born just after the Wall fell were lower achievers 
ARNAUD CHEVALIER AND OLIVIER MARIE

Graffiti Interpretations of the Berlin Wall 
GAVIN KENNEDY

Postcard from Poland as the Iron Curtain lifted  
ROD MICKLEBURGH

Remembrance Day in St. John's, Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2014

Remembrance Day in St. John’s, Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2014

FOCUS ON REMEMBRANCE  

Remembrance, in photos   
GREG LOCKE AND DEBORAH JONES

‘JACK’ and ELEANOR NASH
MICHAEL SASGES

Why I prefer to remember Remembrance Day  
TOM REGAN

A philosopher asks: what do we owe the dead?  
JANNA THOMPSON

Body counts disguise true horror of what wars do to bodies 
TOM GREGORY

Recommended elsewhere:

In NPR Interview, Bill Cosby Declines To Discuss Assault Allegations

Bill Cosby, in 2004. Photo by Jeffrey Putman via Flickr, Creative Commons

Bill Cosby, in 2004. Photo by Jeffrey Putman via Flickr, Creative Commons

In an NPR interview with Bill Cosby that aired today on Weekend Edition Saturday, the comedian discusses the loan of 62 pieces of African Art for an exhibition in Washington, D.C. But, there’s one thing the 77-year-old actor would not comment on: accusations of sexual assault that have been leveled against him.

The Real Roots of Hedge Fund Manager Rage (For the “Serious business” file)

by Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica

On the “fake” economy and paranoia of hedge-fund managers:

 … corporations have spent the post-crisis years engaged largely in financial engineering. The largest United States corporations took 91 percent of their earnings from 2003 to 2013 and plowed them into buying back their own stock or paying out dividends, according to William Lazonick, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.   

There has been a corporate shift from making investments for the long-term health of the company and the economy toward cutting jobs and elevating share prices, with the end result of increasing top executives’ compensation, Professor Lazonick says. Nobody can say how long this can go on. But it’s not sustainable.

Experience: I founded my own country (For the “Quirky” file)

By Renato Barros, the Guardian

 My father wasn’t a king, he was a taxi driver, but I am a prince – Prince Renato II, of the country Pontinha, an island fort on Funchal harbour. It’s in Madeira, Portugal, where I grew up. …  

In 1903, the Portuguese government didn’t have enough money to build a harbour port, so the king sold the land to a wealthy British family, the Blandys, who make Madeira wine. Fourteen years ago the family decided to sell it for just €25,000 (£19,500). It was of no use to them. But nobody else wanted to buy it either. I met Blandy at a party, and he told me about Pontinha. He asked if I’d like to buy the island. Of course I said yes, but I have no money – I am just an art teacher.

A Finding, last but not least:

Jon Stewart Jon Stewart: ‘Evil is relatively rare. Ignorance is epidemic.’

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique of slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. We appreciate your support: a day pass is $1 and subscriptions start at $2.95 per month.

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Tom Regan: Schools should stop planning holidays around religious events

Children's Nativity Play in  Edmond, Oklahoma, 2007. Photo by Wesley Fryer, Creative Commons

Children’s Nativity Play in Edmond, Oklahoma, 2007. Photo by Wesley Fryer, Creative Commons

It’s a mistake to think the use of religious vacation breaks in public schools promote tolerance in any way, argues Tom Regan in his new column, Time to end religious holidays in public schools. An excerpt:

Tom Headshot

Tom Regan

Recently the Board of Education in the Virginia suburb of Montgomery County (which is just outside DC) faced a dilemma. A group of Muslim parents were pressing the board to add religious holidays that would allow Muslim children to observe the important days to their faith without missing any school.

On the surface, I have no problem with this. If we’re going to allow Christian students to observe Christmas, and Jewish students to observe holidays like Yom Kippur, then it only makes sense that we allow Muslim students to observe their religious days.

But I do confess I wonder where will this end? Islam is currently one of the faster growing religions in the United States and Canada, so I understand it from that angle. But there are lots of other religions in the world with different holidays, and what do we do it in the future one of those religious group starts to grow in popularity in the two countries?

And what happens when you get into the question of the Gregorian calendar that some religions observe versus the lunar calendar that others follow? It can really make for a bit of a mashup. … read more

 

 

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, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee). 

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

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Chris Wood: Look to the books, not diplomacy, for the climate game-changer

Natural Security columnist Chris Wood is not impressed with this week’s much-trumpeted deal between China and the United States. He writes: “optimists greeted with hosannas the announcement that the Presidents Obama of the United States and Xi of China had agreed to a common statement setting out their respective goals to contain and eventually reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions. The popular headline word was “game-changer.”

 

chris1

Chris Wood

“Sorry, but it was nothing of the sort. As numerous pundits pointed out, in restating China’s intention to allow GHG emissions to rise until 2030 before they begin to decline, and putting into words the reductions that are anticipated from U.S. actions already taken, the statement quite literally changed nothing.”

Change is indeed afoot — but it is coming from an entirely different direction, Wood argues. Excerpt of his new column, The Real ‘Game-Changer’ was not in Beijing. Has the ‘Anglosphere’ lost its Mojo?

Once upon a time an amalgam of rigorous, inquisitive candor about the physical world, and a deep delusion about superior racial entitlement, delivered control of two of the four continents that were up for colonial grabs in the 18th century to Britain.

Britain’s legal and political philosophy, its English language, and to a large extent genetic descendants of its families, dominate North America and Australia to this day. Europeans, Latin Americans, and others outside this socio-political clan have resented their exclusion and berated the ‘anglo’ model of cut-throat corporate permissiveness — what used to be called laissez-faire and is now re-branded for global distribution as neo-liberalism.

That fewer descendants of Empire persist in their delusions of racial superiority is a welcome development. But it’s worrying to see the Anglosphere also abandoning its realism about the physical world.

Exhibit A in this regard is climate change. … log in to read column  (paywall*)

Click here for Chris Wood’s Natural Security column page,  or here to subscribe or purchase a $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, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee). 

 

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

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Jonathan Manthorpe on Angkor Wat, the Elgin Marbles, and repatriation

The main complex of Angkor Wat. Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

The main complex of Angkor Wat. Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Should the the British Museum or the Louvre in Paris retain collections gathered from all corners of the world, in order to display the entire sweep of human cultural history? Should the great works of humanity be repatriated? International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the question via cases in Cambodia, Greece, and Canada.

Jonathan Manthorpe

Jonathan Manthorpe

An excerpt of his new column, Mrs. Clooney rushes to the rescue of Greek culture:

It had been a tough day interviewing victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities, and it was with great relief that I slumped down in a chair in the hotel bar in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and ordered a beer.

Through the window I could see the sun shimmering red as it sank through the torpid, tropical air hanging over the Tonle Sap tributary of the Mekong River. I was the only non-Asian in the bar, which was humming with the chatter of rich locals and visiting businessmen from other parts of the region, who had come to see what spoils there were to be harvested in a country just emerging from decades of war … 

I was reminded of that evening in Phnom Penh by the recent news that the new wife of actor George Clooney, the human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, has been hired by the Greek government to advise on how to force the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles. Alamuddin, who says she wants to be known as Amal Clooney, has been described as “the world’s most photographed barrister.” She joins a list of equally frequently photographed women who have lobbied in vain for return of the marble frieze, which was removed from the Parthenon in Athens in 1817 by Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, and later sold by him to the British Museum. Actress Melina Mercouri, singer Nana Mouskouri as well as less photogenic male Greek/Egyptian singer Demis Roussos, have all lent their celebrity to the Greek campaign to have the marbles returned, but so far without success. ….. log in to read more (paywall*)

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

*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, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee). 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Brian Brennan’s time capsule on Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford in 3-10 to Yuma (1957) Publicity photo

Glenn Ford in 3-10 to Yuma (1957) Publicity photo

It was the classic “hurry up and wait” situation when, as Arts columnist Brian Brennan watched, Glenn Ford filmed a brief scene for the 1978 movie, Superman. Part of the problem, Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece, was that Ford couldn’t remember his line. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Out of the Saddle, Playing Papa to a Super-baby: Glenn Ford:

John Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

Glenn Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

The line was, “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?” It was scripted for Glenn Ford, playing a Kansas farmer named Jonathan Kent in the 1978 movie Superman. A spaceship containing the baby Superman had just crash-landed in the Kent wheat field and the farmer’s wife – played by Phyllis Thaxter – was suggesting they keep the apparently orphaned boy as their own. After a brief exchange about the pros and cons of doing this, the farmer put his foot down.

Ford kept forgetting the words. By the time director Richard Donner got to what felt like the 10th or 11th take, those of us watching the scene from behind the cameras were mouthing the line along with the 61-year-old actor, silently cueing him: “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?”

Afterwards, Ford praised the director for his patience. A good director, he told me, is one who gives an actor “the luxury of imperfection.” Things rarely unfolded as planned when a movie was being shot. If the match failed to light the first time, you didn’t stop the scene, you lit another one. If the car failed to start, you didn’t say, “Cut!” “Cars don’t always start the first time anyhow.”

Nor, apparently, did they always stop  …. log in to read more (paywall*)

 

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, 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 a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

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 an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Rosetta: love astride a comet

Rosetta's lander, Philae, separates from the probe en route to the comet.

Rosetta’s lander, Philae, separates from the probe en route to the comet.

The deep-space probe Rosetta set its lander Philae astride a comet today, a historic feat for the European Space Agency — and for humanity.

At 16:03 GMT November 12, the agency announced, scientists in ESA stations in Argentina, Spain and Germany had received word of the landing from Philae. It was a signal from about six billion kilometres away, for which they’d waited since 2004 when the probe was launched.

“Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured another place in the history books: not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a probe to a comet’s surface, “said ESA director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain in a release.

The probe arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August and hovered for months within 100 kilometres of it for months, as the agency chose a landing site and prepared to send Philae down.

Even the landing site was no simple decision: the comet was an odd shape and, said the agency, “littered with boulders, towering cliffs and daunting precipices and pits, with jets of gas and dust streaming from the surface.”

The deep-space mission reached equally deep into human history for ambitiously profound references.

Agilkia — a word derived from Latin related to nimble, quick and active — was the name given the touch-down site.

The lander Philae is named after a Greek word for love.

The mission itself, Rosetta, is the namesake of a stone discovered on the Nile in the 18th Century. The Rosetta stone, covered in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek scripts, provided keys to early records of human civilization.

(This post will be updated with new images and findings.)

— Deborah Jones

If you missed it earlier, take a look at the video Ambition, a sci-fi story about the Rosetta mission:

 

If you appreciate our work, please help sustain us. Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is supported 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 the form on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Focus on Remembrance

poppies-8

LONDON — Poppies spill out of the Tower of London in the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, officially opened August 5. The project, by British ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper, will fill the tower’s dry moat with 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a British or Colonial military fatality during WWI. The last poppy will symbolically be planted 11 November 2014. (Photo handout)

On November 11, 1918, the guns of World War I fell silent on the Western Front. The end of the Great War was, so many participants swore, surely  the end of all wars. It was, of course, hubris; less than a generation later most of the world launched itself into World War II. But November 11 has become the day, in much of the world, to remember. In these pages you’ll find some Facts and Opinions about a day known by many names. Whether Remembrance Day, Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day, or Independence Day, it’s a day to pay homage to those who fought and died and suffered in warfare.

‘JACK’ and ELEANOR NASH: Hastily wed, quickly separated in 1914.

The Nicola Valley Museum caption for this photo is "Soldiers lined up on track, Merritt. 1st contingent BC Horse — leaving for Valcartier Que." The date is probably Aug. 15 1914, the first of three days of departures from the valley by members of the militia regiment and volunteers. "Pathetic Scenes at Local Depot," reads the Aug. 21 Merritt Herald headline atop the weekly newspaper’s story on the departures.

Canadian soldiers in  Merritt. British Columbia, ready to leave for the trenches of WW I.

By Michael Sasges

In the spring I “knew” fewer small stories about the Great War than big stories. Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August was probably the biggest because the first I knew; Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, probably the best remembered because the latest I read. The deaths, in 1917 in France, of two men from “my” street was probably the smallest, and only, Great War story I knew. In the fall, at this Canadian Remembrance Day, I now know that the cenotaph which memorializes Alexander Hogg and David Hogg is short at least one name, Tommy Charters, and the “roll of honour” hanging in one of the local churches is short many names. I also know the man whose name tops one of the cenotaph’s faces was a middle-aged bachelor who got married on his way to the Great War. … read more

Why I prefer to remember Remembrance Day

By Tom Regan

We don’t have much of a tradition of military service in my family, but what we do have is meaningful. One of my uncles fought in the Second World War for Canada and saw some pretty serious action. My father-in-law, an American, was a lifetime aviator, and flew for the US Air Force in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. So I’ve always considered November 11th an important day to observe.  But when it comes to whether I celebrate Canada’s Remembrance Day, or America’s Veterans Day, I almost always prefer the former over the latter. The reason may be a semantic one but it’s an important one. … read more

A philosopher asks: what do we owe the dead?

By Janna Thompson

Remembrance Day is an occasion when people are supposed to remember and honour those who died in their nation’s wars. But why should we believe that this obligation exists? The dead are dead. They can’t be gratified by our remembrance or insulted by a failure to honour them. Those facts do not prevent us from thinking that we have duties to the dead. Most of us believe we ought to remember people who made sacrifices for our sake. Most of us believe we ought to keep promises made to the dead, to protect their reputations from malicious lies and to fulfil their bequests.  … read more

Body counts disguise true horror of what wars do to bodies. 

By Tom Gregory

Every year on Remembrance Day, we pause to look back on old wars and recount the tallies of the dead, including 16 million killed in the first world war and 60 million in the second world war. And every day, news reports use body counts to highlight the human costs of war: from Syria, where the United Nations has estimated more than 191,000 people have been killed up to April this year, to Ukraine, where the latest estimates are of at least 3,724 people killed (including 298 on Flight MH17). But simply counting the bodies of those killed in war may not actually help us understand the death and destruction caused by war. Instead, my worry is that they end up erasing the violence inflicted on each of the bodies of those affected by war, and numbing our emotional responses to the deaths of others. … … read more

 

Private Milton E. Wallen of Company C, 1st Kentucky Cavalry, wounded by a Minié ball while in prison at Richmond, July 4, 1863. He was being treated for gangrene in August 1863 when Edward Stauch traveled from Washington to make this sketch. Wallen survived the infection and was furloughed from the hospital in October 1863. Image from the U.S. National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Private Milton E. Wallen of Company C, 1st Kentucky Cavalry, wounded by a Minié ball while in prison at Richmond, July 4, 1863. He was being treated for gangrene in August 1863 when Edward Stauch traveled from Washington to make this sketch. Wallen survived the infection and was furloughed from the hospital in October 1863. Image from the U.S. National Museum of Health and Medicine. 

Images from Canada’s Remembrance Day, 2014

By Greg Locke and Deborah Jones

In case you missed these:

World and War

By Deborah Jones

Every person who fought in World War I is now dead – and yet no one alive today is unaffected. The war consumed much of the globe for, arguably, decades. Many contend that the unresolved conflicts of the “Great War” re-ignited to become the conflagration we call World War II, then set in motion events from the Cold War to today’s Middle Eastern conflicts. A century after it began, I am most astonished at the hubris. 

Far from Flanders Fields

By Deborah Jones

It’s at Ypres that my imagination falters, along with my tenuous grasp of poet John McCrae’s identity, and interest in the tiresome debate over the merits and meanings of his poem In Flanders Fields. It’s because of Ypres I am unable to imagine a man with the sensitivity of a poet and the intelligence of a physician harbouring “romantic” notions of war in the conditions of 1915 trench warfare.

Photo by Greg Locke, Copyright 2013

Photo by Greg Locke, Copyright 2013

The Decline in Global Violence

By Andrew Mack

Has the long-term threat of violence — war, terrorism, and homicide —  been decreasing or increasing worldwide? For some, the answer seems clear. Many in the strategic community concur with General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has said today’s world is “more dangerous than it has ever been.”  But there is little evidence to support them. During 2012, the number of conflicts being waged around the world dropped sharply, from 37 to 32. High – intensity conflicts have declined by more than half since the end of the Cold War, while terrorism, military coup and genocide numbers are also down. And this is not a recent phenomenon. According to Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, violence of all kinds has been declining for thousands of years; he has argued “we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence.” In the 2013 Human Security Report The Decline in Global Violence: Evidence Explanation and Contestation — excerpted here — global security specialist Andrew Mack analyses the evidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 11 in Poland is Independence Day. Poland regained independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions by Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia. Its status was fleeting: after WW II it became the People's Republic, controlled by the USSR. Since the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Poland has again celebrated its independence every November 11. Photo of 2009 parade by Magic Madzik via Flickr, Creative Commons

In Poland, November 11 is Independence Day. Poland regained independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions by Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia. Its status was fleeting: after WW II it became the People’s Republic, controlled by the USSR. Since the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Poland has again celebrated independence. Above, celebrants parade in 2009. Photo by Magic Madzik via Flickr, Creative Commons

 

If you appreciate our work, please help sustain us. Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is supported 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 the form on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Focus on the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall with the Lichtgrenze installation. Photo by Ramón Goeden via Flickr, Creative Commons

The Berlin Wall with the Lichtgrenze installation this month. Photo by Ramón Goeden via Flickr, Creative Commons

 

Lighting reveals the lingering divisions between East and West Berlin, with traces of the wall still visible in this 2013 photo from the International Space Station. Photo by Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, public domain.

Lighting reveals the lingering divisions between East and West Berlin, with traces of the wall still visible in this 2013 photo from the International Space Station. Photo by Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, public domain.

Germany, and much of the world, this weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It remains the singular event to symbolize the end of the Cold War. It marked the end of the Iron Curtain between Eastern and Western Europe, and the rise of the new global economic and political orders that tore apart the former USSR and set the stage for the 21st Century world.

Ours is today a chaotic, fractious, polarized world. We have not experienced anything like the “end of history” predicted then so triumphantly by some in the West. For some global citizens life has never been better. For most, life is a struggle, and the notion of thriving a dream. Rising inequality stalks even the richest of Western nations. The world’s sixth mass extinction of species, driven by humanity, is well underway. Climate change, and the exhaustion of our essential natural resources, loom over humanity’s future.

But, as Jonathan Manthorpe points out in our pages this week (intro below), the “end” is nowhere nigh — the Fat Lady has not sung. And there is no better symbol than Berlin’s fallen wall, of the end of the grim and terrifying Cold War, of long years when children grew up in the shadow of nuclear apocalypse. That people could topple the Berlin Wall is proof of our power, and offers hope for the future.

The city of Berlin was packed this weekend with both revellers and sober pundits.  The Berlin State Orchestra played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy; a line of white balloons along the route of the wall were released into the sky; British performer Peter Gabriel sang a version of David Bowie’s Heroes; thousands attended a “citizen’s party” at the Brandenburg Gate.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the fall of the wall showed the world that dreams could come true. And former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev used the occasion to issue a grim warning: he said the world is “on the brink of a new cold war” — for which he blamed the West. (See recommended reading, below.)

Amid division there is hope, and vice versa.

To mark the occasion F&O offers a special lineup of Berlin Wall stories and images:

History still waits for the Fat Lady to sing, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

The world would be a different place if Francis Fukuyama had been right in the essay he wrote, shortly before the demolition of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago this weekend, arguing that the Soviet Union  collapse was indeed “the end of history.” “What we may be witnessing,” wrote the Stanford University political scientist, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” …read more

Greg Locke at the Berlin Wall in 1989. April Stevens © 1989

Greg Locke in 198, chipping at the Berlin Wall. Photo by April Stevens © 1989

BERLIN, 1989: A Photo-essay,  by Greg Locke

 In the fall of 1989 a friend and I were watching, from a distance, the unravelling of the Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern Europe. Being experienced journalists we knew this was the place to be in the next few weeks. I plunked down the credit card, secured an assignment guarantee and we landed in Berlin just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the famed and iconic Brandenburg Gate.  … read more

Children born just after the Berlin Wall fell were lower achievers. By Arnaud Chevalier and Olivier Marie

Germany and the rest of Europe are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the associated communist regimes in Eastern Europe. This event had colossal repercussions in the economic development of the region but also, and maybe less obviously, on its demography. Following the collapse of the Communist regimes, fertility in Eastern Europe went into a sharp decline. This was especially marked in East Germany which over a short period experienced a 50% drop in births (Figure 1) which was dubbed the “most substantial fall in birth rates that ever occurred in peacetime”. … read more

Critical Assembly: A Drama Critic Remembers Berlin. by Brian Brennan (Paywall)

We came to Berlin, a city politically divided, to talk about theatre criticism. We were 140 writers from 40 countries and for the better part of a week we wrangled like arms control negotiators. It was the autumn of 1987, the year marking the 750th anniversary of Berlin’s founding. During the previous centuries, the city had survived wars and destruction to become one of Europe’s great centres of arts and culture. Though split by realpolitik, it remained united artistically.

I went there in my capacity both as the drama reviewer for the Calgary Herald and as president of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association. My editors found it odd I would want to go to an international conference dealing with a topic – theatre criticism throughout the ages – that they saw as being distantly removed from Canada’s immediate cultural concerns. But I felt it would be interesting, perhaps inspirational, to talk with critics from places where theatre is taken more seriously than hockey or soccer ….    read more 

Graffiti Interpretations of the Berlin Wall. By Gavin Kennedy

Photo by Gavin Kennedy, Copyright 2011

Photo by Gavin Kennedy, Copyright 2011

The Berlin Wall was one of the greatest Cold War symbols. When it came down in 1989 it marked not only the reunification of Germany, but a wider collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. A quarter century later — years in which Germany grew to become an economic leader in the region, and a world leader in providing clean energy — the wall remains a potent symbol. Policy analysts, historians and urban planners have myriad interpretations of its symbolism, but the most vivid are surely by Germany’s graffiti artists. Here, they have the last word. … read more

Postcard from Poland as the Iron Curtain lifted*  By Rod Mickleburgh

Being in Warsaw while East Germany teetered had its fascination. It was the dawn of the free market in Poland. An entrepreneur had set up the country’s first fledgling stock market on the second floor of the city’s ramshackle, old Fisherman’s Hall. A cab driver told me that now, for the first time, he could buy bananas. The independent, pro-Solidarity newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, had just been launched. But I most remember my first night in Warsaw, when I walked into the darkened main square of its beautifully-restored Old Town. A couple of guys, clearly from the country, were selling cheese by candlelight from the back of an old van. There was such simplicity to the scene as money and cheese changed hands, only the low hum of their voices breaking the silence of the vast, empty square. I thought to myself: “Thus, capitalism begins in Poland.”  … read more

Recommended elsewhere:

 

The “Lichtgrenze,” or Border of Light, aims to evoke the divisions of Berlin’s past and illuminate the changes in the city and the world since 1989.

Lichtgrenze is an art installation of white balloon lights  along the route of the wall in Berlin. It was created by artist Christopher Bauder with WHITEvoid interactive art & design. Photo by Lightgrenze, public domain Choriner Strasse 33 10435 Berlin Wall.

Lichtgrenze is an art installation of white balloon lights along the route of the wall in Berlin, by  artist Christopher Bauder with WHITEvoid interactive art and design. Photo supplied by Lightgrenze via Facebook, public domain

 

The Merkel Effect: What Today’s Germany Owes to Its Once-Communist East

East Germany ceased to exist following the 1989 revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But did the former communist country help shape today’s Germany? The answer is yes, and Chancellor Merkel is a big reason why.

By Dirk Kurbjuweit, Der Spiegel 

The West will assimilate the East and transform the fruits of its revolution into profits for its companies. Nothing will remain of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and its citizens will have to submit to a foreign lifestyle. The East is taken over, an event the revolutionaries welcomed with open arms — but it’s a hostile takeover, an obliteration and eradication of what the eastern part of Germany once was. West Germany will simply expand, and that will be that.

Such were the expectations after the euphoria of the revolution — the elation that prevailed when the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989 — had dissipated. Even worse, some even feared that a newly expanded Germany would regress into a reincarnation of a former empire of evil. In February 1990, author Günter Grass said: “The gruesome and unprecedented experience of Auschwitz, which we shared with the people of Europe, speaks against a unified Germany.” Grass favored a confederation, and if it did turn into a unified state, after all, “it will be doomed to fail.”

But Germany did not follow this advice.  …read the story

As Germany marks fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev warns of new cold war

Ex-Soviet leader backs Putin over Ukraine as Germany celebrates the 25th anniversary of a seminal moment in European history

By Peter Ottermann, The Observer

“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security and pursuing a major demilitarisation of European politics … the west, and particularly the United States, declared victory in the cold war,” said the man behind the Soviet Union’s glasnost and perestroika reforms.”

“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world.”

The enlargement of Nato, Kosovo, missile defence plans and wars in the Middle East had led to a “collapse of trust”, said Gorbachev, now 83. “To put it metaphorically, a blister has now turned into a bloody, festering wound.” … read the story

Berlin’s Fractious Unity

By Peter Schneidernov, The New York Times

BERLIN — These days, Berlin is like a giant that is stretching its limbs and trying to find a new balance. For the first two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the giant moved only its right foot and arm. No longer divided by a wall, Berlin was divided in other ways. Everything that was new and exciting was happening in the East.

Those first years were the time of sky-high cranes, the overnight birth of entire new urban districts where vast empty spaces had sat for years, when people seemed to prefer going to construction sites instead of the theater, opera or museums. When I’d get on the subway and head east from Alexanderplatz in the center to the Ostbahnhof station, even at 2 a.m. there wouldn’t be a single empty seat. I’d find myself squeezed in amid a poor but cheerful bohemian crowd on its way from one club to the next — since the clubs, too, had all established themselves in the eastern half of the city. 

In contrast, the western half of the city — with the exception of the bustling immigrant neighborhoods in Kreuzberg and a few squares in Schöneberg and Charlottenburg — seemed to have fallen asleep. … read the story

The Rise and Fall of The Berlin Wall Part 1

History channel documentary, Part 1:

Good Bye, Lenin!

A German tragicomedy set after the fall of the wall, in which the family of a woman in such ill health, whose heart would not  bear such shocking news, recreate her East German life in their apartment. Trailer, with subtitles in English:

 

*Post updated November 10  

*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, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee). 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

F&O this Week: From Homeland to Holmes, and why Australia mourns

Franklin Expedition: “Heart and soul” of HMS Erebus revived

By F&O staff

Canada’s government has released images of the bell from HMS Erebus, the doomed ship from Britain’s legendary Franklin Expedition, found in Nunavut territory in September. Erebus was named after the Greek god of darkness, whose sire is Chaos. (You might have thought the name would give them pause.) 

Climate change: food shortages, mass extinctions, flooding.

By Deborah Jones

Climate change caused by humans will result in food shortages, mass extinctions and flooding, warns the world body of climate experts in its most comprehensive report yet, signed in Bonn on November 2, 2014. It says the science is now 95 per cent conclusive, that today’s climate change is unprecedented, and warns that the world must act, together and immediately, on adaptation and mitigation. It says some changes are already inevitable and the risk of not acting is extreme: “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts, globally.”

U.S. Geological Survey Follow Shriveled and Cracked  When USGS mapped the glaciers in Icy Bay, Alaska in the 1950s, the glacier in this image was flat and hundreds of meters thick. Bedrock is emerging as Guyot retreats very rapidly. Taken in Jan 2010. Credit: Shad O'Neel, USGS.

Since first being mapped in the 1950s, massive glaciers in Icy Bay, Alaska have shrunk to visible bedrock. Credit: Shad O’Neel, USGS.

 

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening? 

By Mark Maslin

Climate change challenges the very way we organise our society. It needs to be seen within the context of the other great challenges of the 21st century: global poverty, population growth, environmental degradation, and global security. To meet these challenges we must change some of the basic rules of our society to allow us to adopt a much more global and long-term approach and in doing so develop a solution that can benefit everyone.

 

Gough Whitlam: an abiding interest in the public good.

By John Keane

 Australian former Prime Minister and statesman Gough Whitlam died in October, leaving behind millions of citizens saddened by scores of eloquent obituaries reminding us how, once upon a time, Australian politics produced world-class leaders courageously committed to the public good. People are moved to tears because they sense that genuine democratic leaders have the knack of mobilising persuasive power, let’s call it, the ability to motivate citizens to do things for themselves, to win public respect by reminding everybody leaders are always deeply dependent upon the people known as the led. True leaders lead because they manage to get people to look up to them, rather than dragging them by the nose. 

Gough Whitlam meeting Chairman Mao, Beijing, November 1973 Whitlam Institute

Gough Whitlam meeting Chairman Mao, Beijing, November 1973 Whitlam Institute

America’s midterm election: the view from Oxford. 

By Tom Packer

One should not exaggerate the impact of America’s midterm election on November 4 – as some did following the 2012 presidential poll. The United States system has many checks and balances. In particular, within the federal government, power is widely distributed between and within the legislature, executive and judiciary. Yet the effect of the congressional elections will be significant. The Republicans have gained control of the Senate from the Democrats, and this will mean a number of changes for US policy making.

Homeland, Carrie Mathison, and mental illness on TV.

By Meron Wondemaghen

 When Homeland first aired in 2011 starring an American CIA agent with bipolar disorder, Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes), it was commended for its realistic portrayals of people with mental illness. Courtney Reyers from America’s National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that Homeland was doing “one of the best jobs of portraying mental illness in modern television today with compassion, clarity and responsibility.” Season 4, which has just begun, is less promising. (Spoiler alerts)

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland. Showtime publicity photo

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland. Showtime publicity photo

News: Verbatim: A U.S. Court Sets Sherlock Holmes Free

By F&O

 America’s highest court freed the character of Sherlock Holmes from copyright restrictions sought by the estate of his late creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Publicity photo by Hartswood Films via Vlickr, by Robert Viglasky

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Publicity photo from Hartswood Films

A Playmate Who Loved Good Music: Shari Lewis (paywall)

Shari Lewis and her puppets Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse, from The Ford Show, 7 April 1960. Publicity photo

Shari Lewis and her puppets Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse, from The Ford Show, 7 April 1960. Publicity photo

By Brian Brennan

Before I met Shari Lewis, I was under the impression – probably like a lot of people – that she was just a popular children’s entertainer; a ventriloquist with a cute sock puppet named Lamb Chop. To my surprise, I discovered she was much more: a trained musician who played violin and conducted symphony orchestras, an actor-dancer who had done Broadway musicals on tour, and a published book author and newspaper columnist. If she had to settle for one career, she said, it would be as a writer. But she was doing it all.

 

History still waits for the Fat Lady to sing (paywall)

By Jonathan Manthorpe

The world would be a different place if Francis Fukuyama had been right in the essay he wrote, shortly before the demolition of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago this weekend, arguing that the Soviet Union  collapse was indeed “the end of history.” “What we may be witnessing,” wrote the Stanford University political scientist, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” 

 

Recommended elsewhere:

Negativity Wins the Senate

By The New York Times Editorial Board

The most important promises that winning Republicans made were negative in nature. They will repeal health care reform. They will roll back new regulations on banks and Wall Street. They will stop the Obama administration’s plans to curb coal emissions and reform immigration and invest in education. … . By creating an environment where every initiative is opposed and nothing gets done, Republicans helped engineer the president’s image as weak and ineffectual.

…. Virtually all Democratic candidates distanced themselves from Mr. Obama and refused to make the case that there has been substantial progress on jobs and economic growth under this administration.

Winter is coming

Images by NASA

Whether they are made in Alberta (Clippers), Saskatchewan (Screamers), or Manitoba (Maulers), Canada periodically exports strong low-pressure weather systems to the United States in the winter. This week, the package of Arctic air, snow, and high winds was delivered a bit earlier than normal.

A potent weather system with origins in Manitoba moved south across the Great Lakes on Halloween and blew all the way to Florida, bringing snow and hard frost to regions that don’t see either in some winters. The storm system then moved back up the U.S East Coast and pounded New England with a Nor’easter.

Whether they are made in Alberta (Clippers), Saskatchewan (Screamers), or Manitoba (Maulers), Canada periodically exports strong low-pressure weather systems to the United States in the winter. This week, the package of Arctic air, snow, and high winds was delivered a bit earlier than normal. A potent weather system with origins in Manitoba moved south across the Great Lakes on Halloween and blew all the way to Florida, bringing snow and hard frost to regions that don't see either in some winters. The storm system then moved back up the U.S East Coast and pounded New England with a Nor'easter. The images above show the southern Appalachian Mountain range, along the border of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, as fall color was turned to winter white. These natural-color images were acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite on November 2 and October 26, 2014. When this “Manitoba Mauler”—as some National Weather Service forecasters and media outlets called it—reached the U.S. Midwest on October 31, it brought wind gusts of 69 miles per hour to Gary, Indiana, and wave heights approaching 22 feet on southern Lake Michigan. The next day, snow fell in the mountains of the southeastern United States and even in their eastern foothills. Temperatures dropped to 41 degrees Fahrenheit in Daytona Beach, Florida. Six inches of snow fell in Asheville, North Carolina, where snow usually doesn't fall before Christmas. Higher in the mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, LeConte Lodge (elevation 6400 feet) reported 22 inches of snow and temperatures of 9 degrees Fahrenheit. In Columbia, South Carolina, measurable snow fell nine days earlier than ever recorded for that city. By November 2, the storm battered runners in the New York City Marathon with 40 mile per hour wind gusts, and 50 mph gusts were common up through New England, slowing air traffic. Heavy rain blew sideways in the wind throughout the Northeast, followed by snow at the tail end of the storm. In Maine, 18 locations reported at least a foot or more of snow, and Bangor and Caribou set records for earliest double-digit snow totals. More than 130,000 people lost power in Maine due to heavy, wet snow falling on trees and power lines. NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using VIIRS data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84658&src=ve

 

 

The Creepy New Wave of the Internet

By Sue Halpern, The New York Review of Books

… the Internet of Things is about the “dataization” of our bodies, ourselves, and our environment. As a post on the tech website Gigaom put it, “The Internet of Things isn’t about things. It’s about cheap data.

Striving for a Climate Change

To get beyond debates over science, Dan Kahan seeks their roots

By Paul Voosen, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Last year, as the summer heat broke, a congregation of climate scientists and communicators gathered at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a granite edifice erected in the heart of Washington, to wail over their collective futility.

Year by year, the evidence for human-caused global warming has grown more robust. Greenhouse gases load the air and sea. Temperatures rise. Downpours strengthen. Ice melts. Yet the American public seems, from cursory glances at headlines and polls, more divided than ever on the basic existence of climate change, in spite of scientists’ many, many warnings. Their message, the attendees fretted, simply wasn’t getting through. 

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare

Meet the (Canadian) JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn’t take it anymore. 

“It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street,” she says. “I thought, ‘I can’t sit by any longer.'”

Fleischmann is a tall, thin, quick-witted securities lawyer in her late thirties, with long blond hair, pale-blue eyes and an infectious sense of humor that has survived some very tough times. She’s had to struggle to find work despite some striking skills and qualifications, a common symptom of a not-so-common condition called being a whistle-blower … 

 Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing ….

 In today’s America, someone like Fleischmann – an honest person caught for a little while in the wrong place at the wrong time – has to be willing to live through an epic ordeal just to get to the point of being able to open her mouth and tell a truth or two. And when she finally gets there, she still has to risk everything to take that last step. “The assumption they make is that I won’t blow up my life to do it,” Fleischmann says. “But they’re wrong about that.”

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

In the wake of the Berlin Wall — what if Francis Fukuyama was right?

Potsdamer Platz in the former East Berlin, in 1963. Photo by Roger Wollstadt via Flickr, Creative Commons

Potsdamer Platz in the former East Berlin, in 1963. Photo by Roger Wollstadt via Flickr, Creative Commons

A quarter century ago the Berlin Wall came crashing down, taking the post-WW II world order with it.

Beneath all the headlines, the predictions and recapitulations, recriminations and geopolitical events of the last 25 years can be found signals of profound change. Francis Fukuyama’s bold prediction that history had ended may have been overly optimistic, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. But here’s the thing: the game is not yet over yet. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, History still waits for the Fat Lady to sing:

The world would be a different place if Francis Fukuyama had been right in the essay he wrote, shortly before the demolition of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago this weekend, arguing that the Soviet Union  collapse was indeed “the end of history.”

“What we may be witnessing,” wrote the Stanford University political scientist, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

That was a bold prediction to say the least, and Fukuyama has had to suffer a quarter century of guffaws over what appears to be one of the major misjudgements of modern times…. log in to read History still waits for the Fat Lady to sing (paywall*)

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

*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, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee). 

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