Monthly Archives: September 2015

Recommended reads – new gems, forgotten treasures and hidden riches

By Tom Regan

What to read? What to read? So much material, so little time.

So we here at Facts and Opinions want to help. Starting this week, we’ll have some recommended reading for you from across the web, and the odd archive from our own site. And not just recent works either, because, as you know, once it’s on the Internet, it lives forever. And much good reading deserves to be read again.

"Malcolm Gladwell. Photo from PEN American Center - Philip Kerr and Malcolm Gladwell.

Malcolm Gladwell. Photo from PEN American Center – Philip Kerr and Malcolm Gladwell.

Our first story comes to us from the New Yorker, circa 2013. It’s Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating essay, “The Gift of Doubt.” Gladwell argues in the piece, using Albert O Hirschman’s work on the power of failure, that doubt and failure can be among the best things that can happen to a human, or to society at large, if viewed through the right lens.

Here is columnist David Brooks’ recent take in The New York Times on the anti-party men of America’s Republican party, GOP. They are, Brooks says, merely expressions of their followers’ id, and not really politicians at all.

Paul Mason of the Guardian says we are coming to the end the age of capitalism, and entering the post-capitalist era, when new technologies and social realities will lead to new ways of production and how those goods produced are shared. A look to the future? Or wild speculation?

As the United States dives into yet another bout of religious controversy, we present a piece from our own Expert Witness section, John Keane’s “Why we should still read Democracy in America”, so Americans can remind themselves about why the separation of church and state is one of the factors that has made the United States a great nation.

United States Air Force fighter jets 
over northern Iraq in Sept. 2014. Photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch, Creative Commons

United States Air Force fighter jets 
over northern Iraq in Sept. 2014. Photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch, Creative Commons

From June of this year, from Politico, a roundtable on “Who Lost Iraq.” At the piece notes “As Americans try to understand what $2 trillion and nearly 4,500 American lives really accomplished, partisans are battling over how much blame falls on Obama, who left Iraq, and on President George W. Bush, who took us there.” It presents five different views on what happened in Iraq.

Our own Jonathan Manthorpe wrote in August, that Europe faces a 1945 moment in the current refugee crisis. “The last time Europe faced a similar crisis on this scale was at the end of the Second World War, which carries many experiences and lessons, some of which are worth examining in the light of what is happening today.” The piece is now outside the paywall.

Last but not least, an innovative new documentary unit, Field of Vision, is a filmmaker-driven visual journalism unit that pairs filmmakers with stories around the globe. Read about it in a Guardian report, and visit the site to watch the first of 40 – 50 expected films per year now streaming on line, currently including Kirsten Johnson’s The Above, about a US military floating above Kabul, Afghanistan; Notes from the Border, about Europe’s refugee crisis; God is an Artist, about street art in Detroit; and Birdie, about a homeless fruit vendor in Rio de Janeiro who “gets into the minds of the street dogs he loves.”

— with a file from Deborah Jones

F&O’s Contents page, featuring our new works, is updated each weekend

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story, or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year. We’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Howard Morry, left, brings his sheep in from the community pastures on the islands off Tors Cove, Newfoundland. Like generations of farmers and fisherman have been doing for hundreds of years. Life goes on in rural Newfoundland and the old ways are still practiced despite the loss of its historic economy and 50,000 people. See Greg Locke’s photo essay on his recent travels through Newfoundland and finding what he thought was lost.

F&O starts our week in easternmost Canada, with Greg Locke’s photo-essay about the resilience (and beauty) of rural Newfoundland. We focus onPope Francis’s visit to the Americas; relish the news about Africa’s bright spot of Ivory Coast; puzzle at a seemingly-crazy notion that orange juice could replace petroleum; and heed Tom Regan’s warning about a future of massive migration. Read about Corbynomics by its creator, and discover how in Alabama the womb is increasingly a crime scene. And then, take a leisurely stroll in the Arts, with Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter on Elizabeth Taylor; the relationship between The Martian movie and Robinson Crusoe; and a tale about the Man Booker awards.

Note to readers: Please excuse some disarray. F&O is almost sorted from our major move; we’ll get the mess cleared away soon. Emailed access codes will be emailed to paid subscribers this weekend. Thank you for your support — and patience.

Dorothy's last meeting with Mother Teresa, in Dorothy's room at Maryhouse in Manhattan. Eileen Egan is on the left. The photo was taken in 1979, the year before Dorothy's death, by Bill Barrett. (Marquette University Archives via Jim Forest, Flickr)

Dorothy Day’s last meeting with Mother Teresa, 1979.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Pope to Canonize Friar Serra: a halo stained with blood?

Faith and tradition in Cuba. Report and Photo-essay

Watch Pope Francis’s address to the US Congress:

A reflection is seen in the window of a Woodin clothing store at the newly expanded Cap Sud mall in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 14, 2015. From Abidjan’s packed airport arrivals hall to the buildings mushrooming across the capital, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from a 2011 civil war. Buyers of luxury apartments include Ivorians living overseas, while promoters from Morocco, Turkey and China are attracted by tax breaks. Elections - the source of national unrest four years ago - are due in a month but there is no let-up in investment given expectations of an easy victory for incumbent Alassane Ouattara. The government predicts 9.6 percent growth this year, making the former French colony the standout performer on a continent hammered by a slump in commodity prices, capital outflows and tumbling currencies. REUTERS/Joe PenneyPICTURE 22 OF 33 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "IVORY COAST IS BOOMING". SEARCH "BOOMING PENNEY" FOR ALL IMAGES

Africa’s Bright Spot: Ivory Coast is booming. A  photo essay

From Abidjan airport’s packed arrivals hall to the hotels and plush villas mushrooming across the city, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from years of turmoil and civil war.

When the Womb is a Crime Scene. By Nina Martin

Women in Alabama are running afoul of the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the United States’ toughest criminal law on prenatal drug use. Passed in 2006 as methamphetamine ravaged Alabama communities, the law targeted parents who turned their kitchens and garages into home-based drug labs, putting their children at peril. A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm.

 

Crisis just beginning of massive migrations. By Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.

Can orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics? By Marc Hutchby

New research indicates orange juice could have potential far beyond the breakfast table. The chemicals in orange peel could be used as new building blocks in products ranging from plastics to paracetamol – helping to break our reliance on crude oil.

Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party greets supporters after speaking in a pub in London, Britain September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

REUTERS/Neil Hall

Jeremy Corbyn and the economics of the real world. By Richard Murphy

As the creator of what has come to be known as Corbynomics, I argue that my policies are at the core of tackling the austerity narrative.

ICYMI: JEREMY CORBYN: British Labour’s New Leader

Art Following Life: Elizabeth Taylor, a Brief Encounter by Brian Brennan (*subscription)

My very brief encounter with Elizabeth Taylor occurred late on a Saturday afternoon in May 1983 on a busy street in midtown Manhattan. A mounted New York City policeman was barking orders to the small crowd of about 30 waiting outside the stage door of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street: “Everybody keep to the sidewalk and stay behind the barricades!” Why all the fuss?

Booker shortlist: bastion against death of the novel. By Stacy Gillis

The 2015 year’s Man Booker shortlist features two Britons, two Americans, one Jamaican and a Nigerian (four men and two women) and has been applauded for its diversity.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Martian — and Robinson Crusoe, Matt Damon and Viola Davis. By Victoria Anderson

In The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left stranded on Mars. Alone, presumed dead, he must work out a way to survive. If this storyline sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is.

In Case You Missed It:

Note to readers: if you are a subscriber and do not receive your new site password by Monday, please email editor@factsandopinions.com 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story, or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year. We’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word.

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

From South Africa’s prisons to a deaf pop star, Queen Elizabeth to the Arctic: Facts, and Opinions, this week

 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves after attending a service of commemoration to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq, at St Paul's Cathedral in London October 9, 2009. Queen Elizabeth joined families and politicians on Friday for a service to honour British service personnel who fought and died during the war in Iraq.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor   (BRITAIN POLITICS CONFLICT ROYALS MILITARY RELIGION SOCIETY)

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth leaves after attending a service of commemoration to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq, at St Paul’s Cathedral in London October 9, 2009. Queen Elizabeth joined families and politicians on Friday for a service to honour British service personnel who fought and died during the war in Iraq. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN POLITICS CONFLICT ROYALS MILITARY RELIGION SOCIETY)

 

The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn makes his inaugural speech at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in central London, September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The new leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn makes his inaugural speech at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in central London, September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

 JEREMY CORBYN: British Labour’s New Leader. By William James and Michael Holden 

Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran left-winger who professes an admiration for Karl Marx, was elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party.  “Things can and they will change,” Corbyn, who when he entered the contest was a rank outsider, said in his acceptance speech after taking 59.5 percent of votes cast, winning by a far bigger margin than anyone had envisaged.

QUEEN ELIZABETH: “A job for life.” A photo-essay by Reuters

Queen Elizabeth, who rallied support for the monarchy despite presiding over what was once known as the world’s most famous dysfunctional family, in September 2015 becomes Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

 South African prison inmate ‘tortured to death’. By Ruth Hopkins

Several inmates incarcerated in South Africa’s Mangaung prison have died under suspicious circumstances. Documents that were recently provided to the WJP and eyewitness accounts contain shocking allegations that inmates were tortured before they died, while the prison registered their deaths as either “natural” or “suicide”. More worryingly, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is aware that G4S’ recordkeeping of deaths in custody is not up to standard and that deaths through torture may go undetected. Despite that knowledge, it has not held G4S accountable.

 

Sinkholes filled with water are seen on the shore of the Dead Sea, Israel July 27, 2015. The Dead Sea is shrinking, and as its waters vanish at a rate of more than one meter a year, hundreds of sinkholes, some the size of a basketball court, some two storeys deep, are devouring land where the shoreline once stood. Picture taken July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Sinkholes filled with water are seen on the shore of the Dead Sea, Israel July 27, 2015. The Dead Sea is shrinking, and as its waters vanish at a rate of more than one meter a year, hundreds of sinkholes, some the size of a basketball court, some two storeys deep, are devouring land where the shoreline once stood. Picture taken July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The sinkholes of the Dead Sea. Text and photo-essay by Amir Cohen

The Dead Sea is shrinking, and as its waters vanish at a rate of more than one metre a year, hundreds of sinkholes – some the size of a basketball court, others two storeys deep – are devouring land where the shoreline once stood. 

© Ed Struzzi 2015

© Ed Struzik 2015

 In Northern Canada’s Peaks, Scientists Track Impact of Vanishing Ice. By Ed Struzik 

That a cluster of glaciers in the Northwest Territories is melting is hardly earth-shattering news. What makes the Brintnell/Bologna and nearby glaciers unique is that they comprise the last extensive icefield remaining in the interior of Canada’s Northwest Territories. And because temperatures are rising so rapidly here, the icefield appears to be melting at a rate three times the global average.

In Commentary:

We’re on our own, by Tom Regan (*unlocked)

To paraphrase Carl Sagan, no one is coming to rescue us.  We have to solve our problems on our own. The Syrian refugee crisis. The Iran nuclear issue. Palestinians and Israelis. Sunni and Shia. ISIL. The overwhelming preponderance of guns in America that are undermining our culture. Police violence. Poverty. Climate change. Hunger. Pick your problem. 

Don’t Cry For Me, Ar-gen-tar-i-o. By Jim McNiven (*unlocked)

There is another crisis brewing on the debt front. This one has to do with the public debt of entities that are part of wider currency zones: Greece, Puerto Rico amid the United States, and Ontario, in Canada.

In Arts:

Overcoming Deafness to Cry His Way to Pop Stardom: Johnnie Ray. By Brian Brennan, Brief Encounters column (*subscription)

By the time he was 49, Johnnie Ray had dried the tears that carried him to stardom with such hits as “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried.”  What seemed most remarkable to me when I saw him do a nightclub show in 1976 was not that he continued to inject a level of intensity into his performance, but that he sang at all. He had been deaf since childhood.

Oliver Sacks brought us into his patients’ inner worlds. By Declan Fahy

Oliver Sacks achieved global public renown because his writings melded two particular traits that cut across his dual role as doctor and writer: his focus on single patients rather than large populations and his profound empathy.

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In case you missed it, here is F&O’s Focus on Europe’s Refugee Crisis, an ongoing story:

Refugee, asylum seeker, migrant: what’s the difference?  
REUTERS (*unlocked)

“Politicizing” Alan Kurdi’s death 
ALEXANDER KENNEDY   (Disturbing content warning)

Photo-essay: Migrants: A Train Towards a New Life 
OGDEN REOFILOVSKI, Reuters (*unlocked)

Refugees now the biggest crisis facing the European Union
JONATHAN MANTHORPE (*subscription)

Europe faces a 1945 moment 
JONATHAN MANTHORPE (*subscription)

Eritreans take perils of the Mediterranean over torment at home
JONATHAN MANTHORPE (*subscription)

Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State
HUMEYRA PAMUK  (*unlocked)

 

 POST UPDATED SEPTEMBER 12 TO INCLUDE NEW STORIES

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*Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes; this is possible because some of our work is behind a paywall. Please support us by purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription (click here), making a donation, and/or spreading the word.

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Migrants, Greece’s Varoufakis, GMOs and Ashley Madison: F&O this week

Migrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with Hungary, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Migrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with Hungary, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica


Alan and Ghalib Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi. Photo from Facebook, In Memory of Kurdi Family

We focus first this week on Europe’s refugee crisis. The migration of desperate people did not begin overnight, and as always F&O’s line up includes recent news, deep context, and some opinion:

In F&O’s other sections:

Yanis-Varoufakis Photo by Jörg Rüger, Creative Commons

Yanis-Varoufakis Photo by Jörg Rüger, Creative Commons

 Yanis Varoufakis in conversation, as Syriza splinters and Greek election beckons. By Yanis Varoufakis et al

The Conversation asked nine leading academics what their questions were for former Greek finance minister Dr. Yanis Varoufakis, a man who describes himself as an “accidental economist.” His answers reveal regrets about his own approach during a dramatic 2015, a withering assessment of France’s power in Europe, fears for the future of Syriza, a view that Syriza is now finished, and doubts over how effective Jeremy Corbyn could be as leader of Britain’s Labour party. 

Nice Guys Don’t Go Looking, by Penney Kome (*unlocked)

Big news! The Ashley Madison website lied, and 35 million men  fell for it. Married men who told themselves they were willing to risk everything for a quick guilt-free fling, now find out just how much they’ve risked. Two suicides might be linked to the hack! That’s dramatic. That bleeds, so that story leads. But there’s another story here too. Women avoided Ashley Madison like the plague. They not only spotted the duplicity, they rejected the premise. 

Facts, or fictions? How PR flacks exploit Wikipedia. By Taha Yasseri

If you heard that a group of people were creating, editing, and maintaining Wikipedia articles related to brands, firms and individuals, you could point out, correctly, that this is the entire point of Wikipedia. It is, after all, the “encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. But a group has been creating and editing articles for money. Wikipedia administrators banned more than 300 suspect accounts involved, but those behind the ring are still unknown.

Can we use genetic engineering to save species? Should we? By Greg Breining (*unlocked)

To some, GMOs are the antithesis of green. Greenpeace calls them “genetic pollution,” warning on its website that “GMOs should not be released into the environment since there is not an adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health.” But scientists — still a minority — are beginning to wonder if genetic engineering can be used to help organisms adapt to change and actually increase the biodiversity of the planet. 

 WILFRED BURCHETT: A journalist’s “warning to the world,” By Tom Heenan

On September 5, 1945, Wilfred Burchett was the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the bombing and was shocked by the devastation.  Under the banner “I write this as a warning to the world”, Burchett described a city reduced to “reddish rubble” and people dying from an unknown “atomic plague”. Burchett’s report has been dubbed the “scoop of the century”. At the time it was ignored.

Wes Craven in 2010. Photo by Bob Bekian  Creative Commons

Wes Craven, in 2010. Bob Bekian, Creative Commons

 In Arts:

 Physician Heal Thyself: Sharon Pollock, a Brief Encounters column by Brian Brennan (*subscription)

Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock didn’t know what to expect when she wrote a play called Doc about her workaholic physician father. Her father’s reaction surprised her. 

WES CRAVEN: the scream of our times. By Jane Witherspoon (video) and Lance Duerfahrd (essay) (*unlocked)

Only an obituary as messy as an autopsy could honor the passing of Wes Craven, the slasher-film maven who  died on August 30 at age 76. Blood flows generously in Craven’s films, which tread a delicate line between visceral impact and franchise-worthy digestibility.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. proves spy spoofs are back in business. By James Smith (*unlocked)

The hammy spy spoof is back in the game. And now Guy Ritchie has jumped on the bandwagon. With the release of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a remake of the popular 1960s television series of the same name, he joins a long line of authors and filmmakers who have satirised spying or spoofed the conventions of the spy thriller.

Note to readers: Jonathan Manthorpe is travelling. His column will return on September 18. 

 

In case you missed them, our recent stories include:

 

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*Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes; this is possible because some of our work is behind a paywall. Please support us by purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription (click here), making a donation, and/or spreading the word.

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope