Monthly Archives: January 2016

Matters of Facts, and Opinions, this week

When I was a kid, my family subscribed to the local broadsheet newspaper. (Remember newspapers?) There was an insert every Saturday called the Weekender, and after devouring the comics, it the first thing I read:  a eclectic collection of features that put events in context, was entertaining, and made for fine Sunday reading.

This week’s new offerings on F&O remind me of that old Weekender, long defunct. We have a collection of incisive commentary about the important stuff going on in our world, alongside reports that place events in context. Set aside some of your precious time; you’ll find it time well spent.

The World Economic Forum is wrapped up, reflectively, in Desperate in Davos — policymakers struggle for answers, by Noah Barkin.

Beneath the veneer of can-do optimism at the World Economic Forum this month was a creeping concern that the politicians, diplomats and central bankers who flock each year to this gathering of the global elite are at the mercy of geopolitical and economic forces beyond their control.

Have the terrorists won, in Europe? What’s it all for? That’s the underpinning of Analysis: In crisis, interests trump European values, by Paul Taylor.

Europe is torn between upholding its values and pursuing its interests in the multiple crises over refugees, challenges to the rule of law, relations with Russia and Turkey, and Britain’s membership. Political and economic interests are mostly prevailing over the EU’s declared values and governance standards, but it is not clear that the outcomes are any more effective.

The man who in my books is a “he who should be not be named” has sparked much reporting about his father Fred Trump. Even if you are, like me, now desperately shunning all mention of this unmentionable man, take a look at this piece. Also, it’s a good read:

 

Woody Guthrie, ‘Old Man Trump,’ and a racist foundation. By Will Kaufman

Woody Guthrie’s two-year tenancy in one of the buildings owned by Fred Trump — father of “The Donald” —  and his relationship with the real estate mogul of New York’s outer boroughs produced some of Guthrie’s most bitter writings.

Still in our Arts section, ever wondered who decides what colours are in fashion, and what drives the choice? You might like What Pantone’s colors of 2016 mean for the future of design, by Ryan Russell.

Pantone chose to blend two shades instead of one for its 2016 colour in an attempt, said the company, to break from tradition and “transcend cultural and gender norms.”  For decades, pink has been associated with girls and blue with boys. Could Pantone’s decision to focus on gender influence the designs of everything, from clothing to house paints?

SandersStrong big essays in F&O’s Commentary this week are far ranging: Jonathan Manthorpe sums up the dire state of the Arab Spring five years on, while Tom Regan looks at the chances of America’s Bernie Sanders of running for US President under the Democratic ticket.

Five years on, Arab Spring’s thirst for blood still unsated, by Jonathan Manthorpe

It is sobering to remember now the optimism about the “Arab Spring” that swept through the Middle East and supportive countries in Europe and North America at the upwelling across the region of popular frustration at dictatorial, repressive governments. The throngs of young people in the city squares chanting for democracy did not constitute a political movement of any utility, and the Middle East in general is in much worse shape than it was before the Arab Spring bloomed five years ago.

Why Bernie Sanders won’t win the Democratic nomination, by Tom Regan

With the momentum favoring Bernie Sanders, why is it that I am predicting that ultimately Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016? It boils down to a simple factor: Bernie Sanders is too white. And so are Iowa and New Hampshire.

Last but not least, ICYMI:

Momentum fading for global economic growth. By RAHUL KARUNAKAR  Report

Taiwan set to complete the transition to democracy JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column

How coal left scars on a Chinese town  JASON LEE  Report/Photo-essayDavid Bowie, an extraordinary innovator MIKE JONES  Analysis

Class war returns, this time as a global issue JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column

DAL RICHARDS: The bandleader who almost lived forever ROD MICKLEBURGH  Arts column

Disneyfied Star Wars an iconic kids’ flick PENNEY KOME  Column

Reporter-turned-politician sues media giant for defamation BRIAN BRENNAN  Report

China’s soil as poisonous as its air and water JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column

Unpacking the backpack of Christian privilege PENNEY KOME: Over Easy Column

Adios, Buena Vista Social Club ROD MICKLEBURGH Arts

Life goes on in rural Newfoundland, a Photo-Essay GREG LOCKE

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Posted in Current Affairs

Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan set to complete the transition to democracy. By Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Column

Taiwan has surged over the hump of its 35-year voyage from a military-ruled, one-party state to one of the most successful and vibrant democracies in Asia.

The Donald Trump meme: nostalgia for a fantasy. By Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda  Column

Remember when women and minorities knew their place? Illegal immigration was unheard of? Men all had good jobs? Everybody believed in the same God? (Or at least the same version.) Kids respected their parents? Terrorism was a word that kids learned about in college when studying European history? America was the most powerful nation in the world? No, you don’t remember? Then you’re likely not a Donald Trump supporter.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump during a town hall at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. © Alex Hanson 2015

Presidential candidate Donald Trump during a town hall at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. © Alex Hanson 2015

Yankee Dollars and Florida Development: Henry Flagler and Julia Tuttle. By Jim McNiven, Thoughtlines Column

There is a point in each Canadian winter, as the cold sets in following December’s holiday season,  that Canadians start to dream of warmer weather. Soon, the annual ‘snowbird’ migration begins to the American south. This is the story of how their destination came to exist.

Reports:

A driver gets off a loading vehicle at local businessman Sun Meng's small coal depot near a coal mine of the state-owned Longmay Group on the outskirts of Jixi, in Heilongjiang province, China, October 23, 2015. To match story CHINA-COAL/JIXI Picture taken on October 23, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

REUTERS/Jason Lee

How coal left scars on a Chinese town. By Jason Lee, Photo-essay  Report

Giant mounds of unsold coal sprout weeds in the makeshift depots marking nearly every junction, and bitter Siberian winds blow sulphurous dust through streets peopled by laid-off miners.  The northeast mining city of Jixi bears the scars of China’s slowing economy and ailing heavy industry.

Momentum fading for global economic growth. By Rahul Karunakar. Report

Economic growth is losing momentum across emerging and developed economies as is inflation, with trouble in China now the biggest worry for 2016, according to the overwhelming majority of hundreds of economists polled by Reuters around the world.

Inside the Large Hadron Collider. Tighef/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Inside the Large Hadron Collider. Tighef/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Six science mysteries to be solved in 2016. By Gavin Hesketh, Louise Gentle, and Simon Cotton  Report

From the origin of life to the fate of the universe, scientists simply don’t know everything — but we are making progress.

ICYMI, earlier stories:

Heartbreak in starving Syrian town. By Lisa Barrington and Stephanie Nebehay

Aid workers who reached a besieged Syrian town spoke of “heartbreaking” conditions being endured by emaciated and starving residents, with hundreds in need of specialised medical help.

Cancer claims music legend Davie Bowie, 69. By Paul Sandle and Guy Faulconbridge

David Bowie, the visionary British rock star who framed hits such as “Space Oddity” with flamboyant pop personas like “Ziggy Stardust” and androgynous displays of sexuality, died January 10, aged 69 after a secret battle with cancer.

David Bowie, an extraordinary innovator, by Mike Jones

Globalization: elite British golfers rue sale to Chinese investors. By Estelle Shirbon

Wealthy Brits at an elite golf course are in high dudgeon at being pushed out by foreign buyers who are richer yet. As Reuters reports, the club controversy feeds into a wider debate in Britain over perceptions that prime assets are being sold off to foreigners who may not always have local interests at heart.

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Posted in Current Affairs

F&O: New stories and findings

A man walks past a painting of David Bowie of shop sutters in Brixton market, south London, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A man walks past a painting of David Bowie of shop sutters in Brixton market, south London, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Heartbreak in Syrian town

Heartbreak in Syrian town

Aid workers were finally allowed into besiged Syrian town Madaya this week. As predicted, they found desperate, starving citizens. Read the Reuters report: Heartbreak in starving Syrian town about emaciated and starving residents, with hundreds in need of specialised medical help.

On the weekend we ran international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe’s scorching essay, Class war returns, this time as a global issue. There is no report that better illustrates why this matters to everyone than Sunday’s bizarre tale of how wealthy Brits are in high dudgeon. Their golf club was taken over by even-wealthier foreigners, and they’re being edged out. After you’ve read Manthorpe read, Globalization: elite British golfers rue sale to Chinese investors on F&O.

On Monday we ran two stories about David Bowie’s death, the report, Cancer claims music legend Davie Bowie, 69; and an analysis of his impact: David Bowie, an extraordinary innovator. Below are some recommendations, from elsewhere on the Internet, that are worth your time:

Nothing Remains: David Bowie’s Vision of Love. By Simon Critchley, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2016

For the hundreds of thousands of ordinary working-class boys and girls in England in the early 1970s, including me, Bowie incarnated something glamorous, enticing, exciting and mysterious: a world of unknown pleasures and sparkling intelligence. He offered an escape route from the suburban hellholes that we inhabited. Bowie spoke most eloquently to the disaffected, to those who didn’t feel right in their skin, the socially awkward, the alienated. He spoke to the weirdos, the freaks, the outsiders and drew us in to an extraordinary intimacy, although we knew this was total fantasy. But make no mistake, this was a love story. A love story that, in my case, has lasted about 44 years. … read Nothing Remains: David Bowie’s Vision of Love

David Bowie Allowed His Art to Deliver a Final Message
By Joe Coscarelli and Michael Paulson, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2016.

In the video for David Bowie’s “Lazarus,” released last week, the mythic singer and rock ’n’ roll shape-shifter, ever thin but bordering on gaunt, is blindfolded and writhing in a hospital bed. “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings. “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.” In the end, a shaking Mr. Bowie retreats backward into a darkened armoire.

Mr. Bowie, who in his 50-year career reimagined the worlds of pop music, art and fashion, told very few people about the cancer that preceded his death on Sunday, at 69, a year and a half after his diagnosis. Even those working closely with him on a sudden burst of new projects were surprised to learn he had been dying.

At the same time, it turns out, he was telling everyone through his art. … read David Bowie Allowed His Art to Deliver a Final Message.

In David Bowie coverage, the media forgot to mention a major aspect of the rockstar’s life.
By Bill Wyman, Columbia Journalism Review, Jan. 12, 2016

One aspect of Bowie’s life was left out of much of the tributary coverage …  that Bowie was the first major rock star to say he was gay… read In David Bowie coverage, the media forgot to mention a major aspect of the rockstar’s life.

Twitter: David Bowie’s last tweet

Watch: David Bowie – Lazarus

On other matters, ProPublica provides a smart reading guide to US President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address  (somewhat like the throne speech under the British Parliamentary system) today. Read A Primer to President Obama’s Final State of the Union,  by Adam Harris, ProPublica.

Finally, going viral this week is a video of a giant bear being cuddled by a 59-year-old man. Unexpected? Yes. Manipulative? Yes. Worth a look? Yeah, that, too.

Someone asked for video of Jim and Jimbo playing. I found this on my phone! 🙂

Posted by Orphaned Wildlife Center on Saturday, 2 January 2016

ICYMI:

Our new works also include:

The Middle East: Meltdowns, Crises and Daesh/ SIMON MABON  Report

To Protect Monarch Butterfly,  Save Sacred Firs./JANET MARINELLI   Report

The racist in the mirror/TOM REGAN, Summoning Orenda  Column

DAL RICHARDS: The bandleader who almost lived forever/ROD MICKLEBURGH  Arts column

Denmark dumped malpractice, and improved patient safety./OLGA PIERCE & MARSHALL ALLEN  Report

Auld Lang Syne changed en route to world domination/ KIRSTEEN McCUE  Arts Report

Fireworks: our prettiest pollutant/GARY FULLER   Report

Migrants to Europe via sea top one million in 2015/SEBASTIEN MALO  Report

Disneyfied Star Wars an iconic kids’ flick/PENNEY KOME  Column

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions survives on an honour system. Try one story at no charge; please chip in at least $.27 apiece for more. If you value no-spam, no-ads, non-partisan, evidence-based, independent journalism, help us continue. Journalism is not “free.” Details.  

Posted in Current Affairs

Matters of Facts, and Opinions, this week

Monarch butterflies cover a tree Photo by Bfpage/WikipediaCC BY 3.0

Monarch butterflies cover a tree Photo by Bfpage/WikipediaCC BY 3.0

To Protect Monarch Butterfly,  A Plan to Save the Sacred Firs. By Janet Marinelli  Report

Mexican scientists are striving to plant oyamel fir trees at higher altitudes in an effort to save the species, as well as its fluttering iconic winter visitor — the migrating monarch butterfly — from the devastating effects of climate change.

The Middle East: Meltdowns, Crises and Daesh. By Simon Mabon   Report

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Arab Uprisings, it’s hard to remember the days of popular protests, of democratic revolutions and of dreams of a better future that rocked the Middle East in 2011. Nearly five years on, tensions between rulers and the ruled have exploded across the region – and the ensuing struggles for survival have continued to take all manner of ugly forms.

REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Migrants to Europe via sea top one million in 2015. By Sebastien Malo  Report

More than one million refugees and migrants braved the seas in 2015 seeking sanctuary in Europe, nearly five times more than in the previous year. About half who made the perilous journey came from war-torn Syria, while Afghans accounted for roughly a fifth, said a United Nations agency.

© Deborah Jones 2014

Fireworks: our prettiest pollutant. By Gary Fuller  Report

Fireworks are great fun. We all enjoy guessing the colours of the rockets before they ignite in the sky, hearing the explosions echo off nearby buildings, or writing our names in light with hand sparklers. But there is an environmental price to pay.

Arts:

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Farewell, Dal Richards

DAL RICHARDS: The bandleader who almost lived forever. By Rod Mickleburgh

How often do you get to shake hands and say ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ to a living legend? Vancouver’s King of Swing had a gig every New Year’s Eve for 79 years, which, as the whimsical Richards never tired of pointing out, must be some kind of world record.

Auld Lang Syne changed en route to world domination. By Kirsteen McCue

Auld Lang Syne was famously written by the Scottish national bard, Robert Burns. What is less well known is that the melody was not the one he intended. The one that became famous was first attached to the song in the late 1790s and Burns, who died in 1796, knew nothing about it.

sw_vii_rey_and_fin_run_from_storm_troopers

Disneyfied Star Wars an iconic kids’ flick. By Penney Kome

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: as the sun rises, the camera pans in on a droid rolling across barren dunes, burbling and tweeting to itself, on an errand to deliver a crucial message to the Resistance.  Spoiler alert: in some ways, The Force Awakens is a mirror image to the very first Star Wars movie, the 1977 space opera that was so fresh and inspiring that it became the only movie I’ve ever paid money to see in a theatre three times.

Commentary:

The racist in the mirror, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda column

He’s there. Every day. Staring back at me. A white, late middle-aged man …  He is, of course, me. I am the very personification of white male privilege. I am a racist.

Class war returns, this time as a global issue, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs column

Many mature democracies, previously characterised by the broad social harmony that defines equitable societies, are being sucked into a new world order. We are entering a world in which most wealth, and with it political power, is in the firm grasp of a tiny minority of people who have acquired their status either by luck, imagination, skill, or — in far too many cases — feral instincts. This is a shift in the structure of human society with very real and unappetizing implications.

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Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope