Monthly Archives: October 2016

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Below is F&O’s Fresh Sheet. We’ll have more stories later this week — see our Contents page for our newest original and curated works.

Notebook:

Current affairs are a raging flood, from breaking news about the Canada-Europe free trade dea. (Reuters) to a pipeline protest in North Dakota that activist Bill McKibben calls the “New Keystone” and writer Paul VanDevelder calls a “reckoning” that began with America’s Founding Fathers. The Middle East, especially Syria, remains unrelentingly tragic (Google). And (sigh) there’s another email kerfuffle (NPR) as the gong-show of the Nov. 8 American election dominates our attention.

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-11-28-33-amThe sobering backdrop to all of this (relative) ephemera is yet more evidence that the systems we need to survive as a species, let alone as a “civilized” species, are vanishing. The Living Planet Report 2016 report, released this week by the World Wildlife Fund, catalogues the disappearance since 1970 of 38% of other terrestrial creatures, 81% of freshwater creatures, and 36% of marine creatures. Warned the WWF with remarkable restraint, “This loss of wildlife is startling, and people are at risk, too. Without action, the Earth will become much less hospitable for all of us. We must consider our impact on nature as we make development, economic, business, and lifestyle choices. A shared understanding of the link between humanity and nature is essential to making profound changes that will allow all life to thrive for generations to come.” Read the WWF report.

Meanwhile, today marks the six-decade anniversary of the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Israel, along with Britain and France, over control of the vital Suez Canal. The aggressors were forced to back down by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations. Proving the law of unintended consequences, the crisis –AKA the Tripartite Aggression or the Kadesh Operation — changed the modern world, marking Britain’s capitulation to American cultural and geopolitical hegemony and leading to the creation of UN peacekeepers . Read more at Wikipedia.

Thanks for visiting, and please note that we’ll survive as an independent, employee-owned, no-advertising journalism boutique for only as long as you, our readers, support us.

— Deborah Jones

Reports:

Colombia’s Child Soldiers Say FARC is Family, by Anastasia Moloney

Government and FARC peace negotiators have been mulling over dozens of proposals to rescue the peace accord, meant to end a long-running war, and rejected by voters. One surprise is that FARC’s child soldiers are reportedly reluctant to leave the insurgents they view as family.

Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management, is interviewed by Reuters in Washington DC February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Facebook Feels Heat of Controversies, by Kristina Cooke, Dan Levine and Dustin Volz

Facebook has often insisted that it is a technology company – not a media company. But an elite group  directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls. Facebook has long resisted calls to publicly detail its policies and practices on censoring postings, drawing criticism citing a lack of transparency and a lack of an appeals process. Meanwhile, some governments and anti-terror groups are pressuring the company to remove more posts.

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race, by Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica

Imagine if, during America’s Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

Commentary:

Hillary Clinton Advisers Probe Prospects With North Korea, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Two seemingly unconnected incidents this week suggest Washington and North Korea are limbering up for another bout in their two decades-long wrestling match over the Pyongyang regime’s nuclear weapons program.

Hopes for UN Secretary General as Climate-savvy Leader, By Ruth Greenspan Bell and Sherri Goodman.  Expert Witness

Antonio Guterres, Geneva August 3, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers, US Mission, Public Domain

Antonio Guterres, Geneva August 3, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers, US Mission, Public Domain

The selection of António Guterres as the new United Nations Secretary General is encouraging news for those concerned about the global challenges brought on by climate change.

In case you missed these:

To our supporters, thank you. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We continue only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story.  Payment options are here.

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

F&O this week

Bob Dylan playing Toronto, 1980. Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr/Wikipedia

Bob Dylan playing Toronto, 1980. Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr/Wikipedia

F&O’s Fresh Sheet this week features:

Focus on Bob Dylan, who this week won the Nobel Prize for Literature:

His Bob-ness joins Yeats, Beckett, and Eliot, by Rod Mickleburgh

In the winter of 1990, I waited with a handful of reporters and photographers in a grand salon of the Palais-Royal in Paris for Bob Dylan. More than 25 years ahead of the Nobel Prize people, the French had decided that Dylan’s lyrical prowess was worthy of the country’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. T.S. Eliot was one of the first to receive the award in 1960. Borges followed in 1962. And now, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery (1987), it was Bob’s turn.

No, Bob Dylan isn’t the first lyricist to win the Nobel, by Alex Lubet

A Bengali literary giant who probably wrote even more songs preceded Dylan’s win by over a century. Rabindranath Tagore, a wildly talented Indian poet, painter and musician, took the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

Are Bob Dylan’s songs “Literature?” by David McCooey

Dylan’s Nobel Prize shows up what the Swedish Academy has so far ignored in their award system: film, popular music, and the emerging forms of digital storytelling. Perhaps what this Nobel tells us more than anything is that “literature” or “poetry” are categories of our own making. To move beyond the page seems long overdue.

xxx

In Commentary:

Why Putin Fears a President Clinton, by Tom Regan  Column

Why would Russian work so hard to elect Trump? There are several theories– but I believe the reason is Vladimir Putin is terrified of Clinton.

“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son, by Topher Sanders  Essay

I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness … They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast. “Only white people,” said a little girl.

International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe is on the road this week. In case you missed it, his 2014 piece about Thailand’s succession is a must-read in light of Thursday’s death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej:  Uneasy lies the head that wears Thailand’s Crown.

To our supporters, thank you. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We exist only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story, each, on an honour system. Please contribute below, or find more payment options here.

Believers receive communion during a service in a chapel at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, Philippines October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Believers receive communion during a service in a chapel at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, Philippines October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

In Dispatches:

Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases, by Clement Uwiringiyimana

Nearly 200 nations agreed to a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a major move against climate change.

Drug Killings Divide, Subdue, Philippines’ Powerful Church, by Clare Baldwin and Manolo Serapio Jr

Catholic priests from the Philippines Church, an institution that helped oust two of the country’s leaders in the past, say they are afraid and unsure how to speak out against the war on drugs unleashed by new President Rodrigo Duterte. More than a dozen clergymen in Asia’s biggest Catholic nation said they were uncertain how to take a stand against the thousands of killings in a war that has such overwhelming popular support. Challenging the president’s campaign could be fraught with danger, some said.

 

Greko 1. Photo supplied by FISH-i Africa

East Africans thwart illegal fishing, by Emma Bryce

Eight East African countries are waging war on illegal fishing — and sometimes winning.

~~~

Notebook:

The biggest, most important, most noteworthy news this week is in our dispatch listed above, Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases.  Nearly 200 nations agreed this week to cut a greenhouse gas. It’s a story that’s not sexy. It’s about an Issue rife with bureaucracy, procedure, negotiation. And it’s an example of the only answer we have for the rage and misery infesting the world. It shows that we humans actually can tackle our problems, even the global-sized ones.

From elsewhere on the ‘net:

Mug shots of Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, charged in Kansas bomb plot. Photo: Police handout

Mug shots of Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, from a Kansas group police called “a hidden culture of hatred and violence.” Photo: Police handout

If this is not a case of “terrorism” I don’t know what is.  Three men in an American group called the “Crusaders” were arrested and charged in a FBI sting Friday, for allegedly plotting to blow up a Kansas mosque and apartment building, housing people from Somali.  Read the BBC report here. Like the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing by Timothy McVeigh with co-conspirators, it’s a reminder that terror comes in all skin colours, with fanaticism one common factor.

~~~

October 16 is World Food Day. The focus, set by the United Nations, is on smallholder farmers in the poor countries most affected by climate change. And in the meantime,  the U.S. Agriculture Department said American producers have dumped 43 million tons of excess milk so far this year. The WSJ report is here.

~~~

Opposition by one region of Belgium may have scuppered CETA, the Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which proponents hoped to sign this fall. Find the AP report on CBC, here.

~~~

US First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech this week that will resonate throughout history. Watch below — the first six minutes are marred by technical problems — or read the full text on NPR.

A contagion of clowns struck long before Halloween loomed, marauding everywhere, garishly populating all news and social media feeds. I have not seen one decent explanation of why this is happening now — best guess is that clowns and our fears represent our crazed state of politics, economics and environmental security. This piece on The Conversation by psychologist Frank McAndrew explains that many of us dislike clowns because we can’t read them, and are unsure how to react.

~~~

A Wall Street Journal feature, Blue Feed, Red Feed, aims to pull the tarps off our silos, and reveal the partisan and polarized compartments that trap us in polarization on social media.  “Facebook’s role in providing Americans with political news has never been stronger—or more controversial,” notes the report. ” Scholars worry that the social network can create “echo chambers,” where users see posts only from like-minded friends and media sources.” To demonstrate these the WSJ built an interactive feature.

~~~

Two pieces in the Guardian are especially provocative. Asks Washington writer David Smith: How did WikiLeaks go from darling of the liberal left and scourge of American imperialism to apparent tool of Donald Trump’s divisive, incendiary presidential campaign? And Sarah Smarsh takes aim at journalism’s blind spots in a piece titled, Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans.

~~~

Last but not least, F&O columnist Jim McNiven recommends US election watchers catch this 1980 video of Billy Joel, You May Be Right. “BJ predicted Trump and the Trumpites years ago,” notes McNiven.

 ~~~

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 our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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

Facts and Opinions this week

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

F&O’s Fresh Sheet includes:

Most US Muslims comfortably integrated, by Tom Regan   Column

The raging Islamophobia of America’s presidential election present a very negative view of American Muslims. It is also completely false.

Nature needs a seat at the UN, by Anthony Burke and Stefanie Fishel  Expert Witness

Is our system of global environmental law and governance adequate to this crisis? No. New international institutions and laws are needed, with one fundamental purpose: to give a voice to ecosystems and non-human forms of life.

Berlin’s The ONE Grand Show, by Hannibal Hanschke, Arts Photo-essay

French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier  swapped the Paris runway for the German stage to create some 500 costumes for “THE ONE Grand Show”.From silver body suits with giant mohawks to revealing fishnet tops with huge feathers, colourful, extravagant costumes take centre stage at the new theatrical show at Berlin’s Friedrichstadt-Palast.

Aleppo will fall, but Syrian war will go on , by Samia Nakhoul  Analysis

 It may take weeks or months, but Aleppo is likely to fall to Syrian government forces backed by Russian air power and the most lethal bombardment in nearly six years of war. But that  will not mean an end to the war, military and political analysts say.

Jonathan Manthorpe is traveling.

Notebook and Findings:

leafIt’s Thanksgiving in Canada, marked by a long weekend holiday to celebrate the autumn harvest and express thanks. As a Canadian I am indeed grateful — but also in equal part frightened.

We have so much  — and so much to lose. What is frightening is that so many who are prosperous, who have power to protect our world, are complacent about both the warnings of history and looming environmental, social, political and economic risk. History, if we only look, shows that tragedies — like the one unfolding in Aleppo — are our normal. Most are caused by our own choices.

To say we are distracted from the big picture and the urgent need for smart choices is an understatement — the circus of American politics has obliterated news from the real world. Real news  includes: This month’s coming into force of the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement  and a landmark agreement to curb aviation emissions;  suffering and deaths by historic numbers of refugees, causing political and social disruption of host countries; the chilling reminder of the Cold War from America’s accusation that Russia is interfering in the U.S. election; and Teresa May’s revelation that Britain’s separation from Europe — a “hard Brexit” — will be more wrenching than some expected.

And yet every news and social media feed is full with America’s poisoned politics; it seems the entire world is hanging on every twist and turn. Can any good come of it? There’s one possibility of a silver lining: sunlight.

There’s promise in the fact that the primal, festering, muck of a dysfunctional democracy, long hidden under proverbial rugs, is writhing in hot sunshine. Writ large, this U.S.  election has shone light on inequality and the rigging of America’s democracy by the powerful and monied. Writ small, the light now shows the undercurrent of sleaze, brought to the fore by revelations of on old boast about sexual assault by the most repulsive Republican presidential candidate in American history. (His name will not foul this page, and if you have just emerged from a cave and want details, I suggest the New York Times).

For months legions of Republican supporters reveled in his bigotry, cheered on his racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and vulgarity. So? Everyone knows the behaviour of some people has always been, and will always be, deplorable; the only interesting thing about the supporters is the extravagant publicity they’ve garnered. Everyone also knows about this candidate’s long term depravity. So?

So what few acknowledged until now is that much of institutional America is equally if quietly just as deplorable, and complicit. There is no other conclusion to draw from the fact that such a presidential candidate is a serious contender for the US White House. The critics who accuse him of normalizing racist, sexist and other obscenities are wrong.  Such stuff was already “normal.” His role has been to speak the unspeakable, and expose the stains and stench.

One good thing is, sunshine is a sanitizer — and it can be the start of a cleansing. That possibility is something to be thankful for.

— Deborah Jones

In Case You Missed These:

Rosetta completes space mission with a bang/VICTORIA BRYAN  Report 

Shimon Peres funeral joins Israeli, Palestinian leaders –briefly/JEFFREY HELLER & JEFF MASON   Report

SHIMON PERES: Israeli nationalist first, peacemaker second /MARIA HOLT   Analysis

Toxic Indian lake is cost of cheap drugs/ZEBA SIDDIQUI  Report

Reporting on child deaths leads to mica mining crackdown/NITA BHALLA & JATINDRA DASH

Putin, Grand Master of the Great Game, awaits next opponent/JONATHAN MANTHORPE Column

Trump’s tribe and an absence of poetry/TOM REGAN  Column

On Capitalism and “Bullshit Jobs“/DAVID GRAEBER    Essay

The Canadian roots of the indigenous equality rights declaration/PENNEY KOME   Column

Findings:

We are a long, long way from Old Macdonald’s Farm. A New York Times feature looks at mass, and massive, agriculture with Super Size, the Dizzying Grandeur of 21st-Century Agriculture.

Ice and Longboats is a project to recreate the sounds of the Vikings, by the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP). Delphian Records, EMAP and the University of Huddersfield teamed up to create a recording using reconstructions of ancient Scandinavian instruments.

 ~~~

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 our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs