Category Archives: Current Affairs

Blog for the discussion of current affairs

Journalism Matters: fresh sheet for May 13, 2017

Read Cash and Chemicals: Banana Boom Blessing and Curse. Above, a worker waits to deliver his harvest at a packing line inside a banana plantation operated by a Chinese company in the province of Bokeo in Laos April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Trying to listen in Trump’s America, by Tom Regan   Column

In the heart of America, there are long, flat stretches of emptiness in the spring. Fields, only recently plowed and sown with the fall’s harvest, still look barren and soggy. No majestic fields of wheat or corn greet the eye.  This is a trip to Trump country.

Trying to listen in Trump’s America, by Tom Regan

Signs like this one dot the American Mid-West. Photo by franleleon, Creative Commons

Moon Jae-in, 19th President of Republic of Korea, holds his first press conference on May 10. Photo: Korean Culture and Information Service, Jeon Han, public domain

Trump-Kim smackdown leaves South Koreans cold, by Jonathan Manthorpe    Column

The election to the South Korean presidency on May 8 of Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-in is primarily a demand by the country’s voters to reform government, erase corruption and improve social justice.

Everyday chemicals affect brain, IQ — study, by Barbara Demeneix  Expert Witness

All vertebrates – from frogs and birds to human beings – require the same thyroid hormone to thrive. Every stage of brain development is modulated by thyroid hormone and, over millions of years, the structure of this critical hormone has remained unchanged. But, increasingly, the trappings of modern life are preventing it from playing its critical role in human brain development.

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth, by Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR

The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: the health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.

Cash and Chemicals: Banana Boom Blessing and Curse, by Jorge Silva  Photo-essay

Kongkaew Vonusak smiles when he recalls the arrival of Chinese investors in his tranquil village in northern Laos in 2014. With them came easy money, he said. Three years later, the Chinese-driven banana boom has left few locals untouched, but not everyone is smiling.

These three firms own corporate America, by Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk, & Javier Garcia-Bernardo

A fundamental change is underway in stock market investing, and the spin-off effects are poised to dramatically impact corporate America.

Traffic cones are seen on the bank of the River Thames during low tide in London, Britain January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

London’s Secretive Dark River, by Stefan Wermuth

London’s River Thames has been the lifeblood of the British capital since the city’s origins as a Roman garrison town around 2,000 years ago. The artery through which the world’s trade passed at the height of the British Empire, its banks were lined with factories that drove the industrial revolution but left its waters biologically dead. Now, with power stations transformed into galleries, the river is home to seals, the occasional porpoise and has become a much-loved open space.

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Journalism Matters this week: F&O’s fresh sheet

Venezuela spins at the rim of a black hole,  by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Demonstrators clash with police during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Reuters

Venezuela is being sucked into a political and social vacuum. The awful probability is that the vacuum will be filled by violence. That’s usually what happens when human societies lose their way.

Why America’s health care is so bad, by Tom Regan   Column

America is the only advanced nation in the world without a universal healthcare system. There are two reasons for this: 1) the companies that provide healthcare, and make billions and billions doing so, spend lots of money every year making sure politicians don’t mess with their golden goose; 2) the American notion of individuality.

Feminists mourn Wendy Robbins

Feminists across Canada and abroad are mourning the sudden death of Professor Wendy Robbins, a Canadian sociologist who championed women in academia, health care, and activism.

How One Major Internet Company Helps Serve Up Hate, by Ken Schwencke, ProPublica

The widespread use of Cloudflare’s services by racist groups is not an accident. Cloudflare has said it is not in the business of censoring websites and will not deny its services to even the most offensive purveyors of hate. Based in San Francisco, Cloudflare operates more than 100 data centers spread across the world, serving as a sort of middleman for websites.

Journalism at risk from surveillance, data collection: UNESCO report, by Julie Posetti  Expert Witness

The ability of journalists to report without fear is under threat from mass surveillance and data retention. My UNESCO report Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age shows that laws protecting journalists and sources globally are not keeping up with the challenges posed by indiscriminate data collection and the spill-over effects of anti-terrorism and national security legislation.

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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 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.

Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet

Ferryland, 50 kilometers south of St Johns, is the backdrop to Newfoundland’s first icebergs of spring. Heavy Arctic ice pack and icebergs cause havoc with shipping and fishing operations, but tourists flock to the Canadian province to see them. Photo © Greg Locke 2017

French election a pivotal European test, by Richard Maher Analysis

French CRS police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French voters go to the polls on April 23 for the first round of what has been the most unorthodox, unpredictable and potentially momentous presidential contest in recent French history. It could have repercussions far beyond the continent.

Security issues dominate key French vote, by Leigh Thomas and Marine Pennetier  Report

The killing of a policeman by a suspected Islamist militant pushed national security to the top of the French political agenda on Friday, two days before the presidential election.

A daughter’s freedom vs her sibling’s lives, by  Zohra Bensemra  Feature/Photo-essay

Zeinab, 14, (2nd L) poses for photograph with her family beside their shelter at a camp for internally displaced people from drought hit areas in Dollow, Somalia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

As the village wells dried up and her livestock died in the scorched scrubland of southern Somalia, Abdir Hussein had one last chance to save her family from starvation: the beauty of her 14-year-old daughter, Zeinab.

In Commentary:

Trump ain’t seen nothing yet, Iran to top agenda, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Trump is going to have to up his global game if he wants to be regarded as anything more than a gormless and dangerously unpredictable Vaudeville act. His opportunity looms as Iran, its nuclear development program and its involvement in Middle East conflicts, bubble to the top of the agenda.

Trump’s gurus taken off air, by Penney Kome   Column

Alex Jones, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes inspired some of US President 45’s wildest claims

When is free speech not “free” on campus?  by Tom Regan  Column

Of all the things that I value the most about living in a democracy, freedom of speech is probably the most important. And so when I read about actions by students lately to limit the rights of conservative or far right speakers on several American campuses, my first reaction is one of rage. How dare they? But it’s not that simple.

In case you missed them:

Demands grow for South Africa’s Zuma to go, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Demonstrators carry banners as they take part in a protest calling for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings It is fitting symbolism that one of the most intense of the many mass demonstrations in recent days, demanding the removal of South African President Jacob Zuma, was in the square in front of Cape Town’s City Hall. It was in this same square on the evening of February 11, 1990, that tens of thousands of South Africans thronged to hear the first public speech by Nelson Mandela after his release from Victor Verster Prison earlier that day.

Legalized weed in Canada an idea whose time has come, by Tom Regan   Column

Canada, based on a campaign promise made by the Trudeau government, introduced legislation to make recreational marijuana use legal in Canada by July 2018. It’s about time. I’m glad to see that Canada has chosen to take the lead on this issue.

Trump and Yellen may not be such an Odd Couple, by By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir   Analysis

Trump and Yellen: not an odd couple? Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference after a two day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Trump and Yellen: not an odd couple? Federal Reserve REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

At first glance, U.S. President Donald Trump and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen may have little in common. Yellen is an academic economist and veteran of Democratic administrations who is committed to an open global economy, while Trump is a real estate mogul with an electoral base suspicious of the economic order Yellen helped to create. Yet the two may have interests in common now that Trump is president and both want to get as many Americans working as possible.

Findings from the world wide web:

The European Space Agency this month issued a stark warning about a pollution source few consider, awash as we are in an ocean of plastic, an atmosphere of greenhouse gases, and degraded soil. Space, warns the ESA, is littered with thousands of objects smashing into each other — including into vessels humans may want to send up for exploration or, in the wild hopes of some thinkers, escape from an unlivable earth. Find the ESA statement here, or read a Washington Post story for a bit more context.

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The New Yorker reports on the death this month of guitarist Bruce Langhorne, age 78, from complications related to an earlier stroke.  “For anyone who, in the mid-nineteen-sixties, frequented the smoky, caliginous folk clubs of Greenwich Village, the muscular, smiling Langhorne and his acoustic guitar were a recurring vision: he played with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Richard and Mimi Fariña, Peter La Farge, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Harry Belafonte, and a bevy of other revivalists.” Most of the world, though, is most familiar with him as Bob Dylan’s sideman, and the hero of  “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

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From Vimy to Gibraltar, Obamacare to Russia: Journalism Matters at F&O

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

New on F&O this weekend:  Sunday April 9 marked the 100th anniversary of the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge — said to have marked Canada’s passage from colony to country status. Read our report with photo-essay by Reuters, France, Canada leaders mark centenary of Vimy Ridge WWI battle. In Commentary Tom Regan notes that for Canada and the United States, the battle and World War I have very different meanings.  Read Regan’s column,“War to End All Wars” fading from history, here.

Jonathan Manthorpe this week considers Gibraltar — “The Rock” Caught In A Hard Place — in a new column about the territory in British hands since 1713, and is now emerging as an issue in negotiations with Brussels to leave the European Union. Read more about Gibraltar.  Manthorpe’s previous column, Beijing brings order to its colonial “Savage Reservations,” contends that Beijing is reaching back into the excesses of Maoist Stalinism and forward into the high-tech social control of Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World” to try to contain the restive natives of its colonial outposts, Tibet and Xinjiang, setting the stage for grief for Hong Kong. Click here for the column on China, or here for the list of all of Manthorpe’s F&O works.

Americans turn Canadian about health care, writes Penney Kome in a new piece about how U.S.  public opinion is forcing Republicans to think “expansion,” not “repeal,” of the Affordable Care Act. Read the column, or find Kome’s complete  F&O OVER EASY columns here.

Jim McNiven has been pondering the fuss made by America over Russia, and asks this week, Why Does America’s President Bother with Russia? That column is here, or find all of McNiven’s THOUGHTLINES columns for F&O here.

Noteworthy items elsewhere on the web:

“Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?” asks Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post.
Good question. The answer is probably found in audience ratings and social media shares– and so, as with everything in the world of commerce, with citizen’s demands.

First Draft News produced a well-received “Field Guide to Fake News,” launched this month at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. The Columbia Journalism Review reports.
Stories about America’s political meltdown have become a flood. As mentioned earlier, these diverse, authoritative and credible news sites are worth following for breaking news: Reuters, the New York TimesPolitico,Washington PostBBC, The GuardianAl Jazeera, France24Financial Times, and The Economist.

Last but not least, here are some of our other recent stories, in case you missed them:

Trump Staffers’ Financial Disclosures /ARIANA TOBIN & DEREK KRAVITZ, ProPublica

Trump and Russia: “There is a smell of treason in the air”/TOM REGAN    Column

Beijing brings order to its colonial “Savage Reservations”/JONATHAN MANTHORPE  Column

European leaders renew fraying Union’s vows/ALASTAIR MACDONALD & JAN STRUPCZEWSKI  Report

Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour/REUTERS   Slideshow

Fukushima still in hell/PENNEY KOME    Column

McGill University mangles academic freedom/TOM REGAN   Column

America’s Republican Quandary/ JIM McNIVEN   Column

Sri Lanka’s slow shuffle to lasting peace/JONATHAN MANTHORPE  Column

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Note: this post was updated April 9 to include our report on the Vimy Ridge event in France.

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Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet

A combination photo shows the St. Basil’s Cathedral (L) and the Kremlin wall, before (top) and after the lights were switched off for Earth Hour in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

European leaders renew fraying Union’s vows on 60th anniversary, by  Alastair Macdonald and Jan Strupczewski, Report

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks back during the EU leaders meeting on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, in Rome, Italy March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Europeans must contain their squabbling and carping about the EU if the Union is to survive, leaders warned on Saturday as they marked the 60th anniversary of its founding in Rome by signing a formal declaration of unity. Four days before Prime Minister Theresa May, absent from the ceremony in the Italian capital, delivers an unprecedented blow to the bloc’s growth by filing Britain’s formal exit papers, her fellow leaders hailed 60 years of peace and prosperity and pledged to deepen a unity frayed by regional and global crises.

Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour, by wire services, with slideshow

The lights are being switched off around the world at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, to mark the 10th annual Earth Hour, and to draw attention to climate change.

America’s Republican Quandary by Jim McNiven   Column

There is a classic John Cleese TV comedy performance, in which as “Basil,” owner/manager of a small British hotel called ‘Fawlty Towers,’ suffers a concussion then mocks German guests by goose-stepping around them, decades after World War II ended. The episode brings to mind today’s Washington, DC.

McGill University mangles academic freedom, by Tom Regan  Column

I recently experienced a moment of cosmic irony.  I had just learned that Andrew Potter, a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen, had “resigned” as head of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal, when I received an email from McGill touting that another of their own, Karina Gould, as Canada’s new Minister of Democratic Institutions. How sad that Gould won’t be able to include her alma mater in her new area of expertise.

Sri Lanka’s slow shuffle to lasting peace, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

After all wars, the euphoria of peace quickly gives way to the bleak, forbidding reality of the human and physical toll that must now be rebuilt. Resolution is less simple in the aftermath of civil wars. Civil wars are caused by internal social dislocations of one sort or another, and if those root causes are not addressed, the peace is often just a ceasefire. That’s the conundrum facing Sri Lanka eight years after the 26-year civil war ended in 2009.

Fukushima still in hell, by Penney Kome   Column

Six years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ruined four nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi, urgently needed clean up is still stalled. What affects one nation affects us all. The ongoing  tragedy cries out for the United Nations to step in, take charge, and direct all the world’s best minds and resources to containing the disaster and rescuing the people who live there.

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European flags on display in Brussels, Belgium, March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

In case you missed them:

 Turkey’s dispute with Europe feeds Erdogan’s power thirst, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs  Column

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in fighting off a populist challenge from Islamaphobe Geert Wilders, unwittingly gave another demagogue the leg-up he needs to achieve supreme power. The diplomatic face-off between the Netherlands and Turkey was a gift to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

America’s coming civil war … in its GOP, by Tom Regan   Column

There is a war looming on America’s horizon. Not with Iran or China or North Korea … for the moment. No, this war will take place entirely in America, and it will involve members of the Republican Party. It won’t be pretty.

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Noteworthy elsewhere:

Follow America’s political meltdown at these diverse, authoritative and credible news sites: Reuters, the New York TimesPolitico,Washington PostBBC, The GuardianAl Jazeera, France24Financial Times, and The Economist. Consider what many American voters are seeing at Fox News —  but watch with a heaping dose of skeptical salt, and compare Fox coverage to that of the peer-respected, professional and mostly ethical sites listed above.

Terror, shipwreck, guns – 24 hours in a Karachi ambulance, by Samira Shackle, Mosaic. Who would risk their own safety tending to the injured and recovering the dead in one of the most violent cities on earth? Samira Shackle rides along with a driver from the world’s largest voluntary ambulance service.

How the Spanish political laboratory is reconfiguring democracy, by Ramón Andrés Feenstra, Andreu Casero-Ripolles, John Keane and Simon Tormey, The Conversation, part of a series on Democracy Futures.

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

Journalism Matters: F&O’s latest works

Reconstruction of a Homo neanderthalensis man and woman, in the Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Germany. Photo credit: UNiesert - Sariling gawa/Wikipedia

Reconstruction of a Homo neanderthalensis man and woman, in the Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Germany. Photo credit: UNiesert – Sariling gawa/Wikipedia

What does it mean to be human? by Gaia Vince   Magazine

By understanding more about our cousins, the prehistoric Neanderthal peoples, we can learn about who we are as a species today. Our ancestors’ experiences shaped us, and they may still hold answers to some of our current health problems, from diabetes to depression.

Environmentally-sound agriculture can support farmers and consumers, by Andrea Basche and Marcia DeLonge, Analysis

Agroecology can help fix the food, water and energy challenges that conventional agriculture has created.

Japan Wary of Nuclear Power in Fukushima’s Wake, by Tatsujiro Suzuki   Analysis

Six years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, but Japan is still dealing with its impacts. The Japanese public has lost faith in nuclear safety regulation, and a majority favors phasing out nuclear power. However, Japan’s current energy policy assumes nuclear power will play a role.

Lacrima Dambu, a Romanian doctor who has been working in Germany for five years, holds her nephew in Cluj-Napoca, Romania January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu SEARCH "CAMPEANU HEALTH" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.Romania shows the dire results of a healthcare “brain drain,” by Andreea Campeanu  Photo-essay

Romania has bled out tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists since joining the European Union a decade ago, lured abroad by what the country lacks: significantly higher pay, modern infrastructure and functional healthcare systems. The consequences are dire.

Why Scientists Should Not March on Washington, by Andrea Saltelli   Opinion

America’s scheduled April 22 March for Science, like the Women’s March before it, will confront United States President Donald Trump on his home turf – this time to challenge his stance on climate change and vaccinations, among other controversial scientific issues. The Conversation But not everyone who supports scientific research and evidence-based policymaking is on board.

Americans’ Addiction to Drinking the Kool-Aid, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

Jim Jones at a protest at the International Hotel in San Francisco, in 1977. Photo: Nancy Wong, Creative Commons, WikipediaThe United States is singularly prone to producing charlatans, messianic faith healers, snake oil merchants, flim-flam artists and all kinds of Pied Pipers who beguile, befuddle and bemuse large numbers of the population. Donald Trump is a representative example of this flaw in the U.S. cultural DNA. But he is not America’s most horrific cult figure:  That crown must go to Rev. James Warren Jones.

Losing a dog can be harder than losing a beloved human, by Frank T. McAndrew

Recently, my wife and I went through one of the more excruciating experiences of our lives – the euthanasia of our beloved dog, Murphy.  When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.” Perhaps if people realized just how strong and intense the bond is between people and their dogs, such grief would become more widely accepted.

From F&O’s archives: This weekend, much of the world will “spring forward,” moving our clocks an hour ahead, for Daylight Saving Time. Here’s a piece I wrote about that, at this time last year: Out of Time: Daylight (Saving) Delusions.

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In case you missed these recent works:

From Russia with Love, by Tom Regan   Column  (Tom is on break this week; his column will return next week)

The question of the Trump administration’s involvement with Russia, and Russia’s attempts to undermine the 2016 American election, are starting to smell like three-day-old fish left in the sun. The Trump administration had vehemently denied that any member of its team met with any Russian official of any kind. The evidence shows otherwise. Russia is the story that just will not go away.

Russian interference threatens European democracy, by Richard Maher

With important national elections scheduled this year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, European officials on edge about possible Russian interference are pursuing various measures to counter it. The Conversation But with a daily onslaught of fake and misleading news, repeated attempts to hack computer systems of “anti-Moscow” politicians and political parties, their task is immense.

Renewed Scottish campaign to leave post-Brexit UK, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

In these times of seething rage, it is increasingly likely that Britain’s divorce from the European Union will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom itself. As the parliament in Westminster completes the process of giving Prime Minister, Theresa May, authority to start the process of taking Britain out of the European Union, anger and resentment is intensifying in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

More than 100 million at risk of starvation, by Umberto Bacchi

The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said.

Where have all the jobs gone?, by Penney Kome,  Column

We live in a time of paradoxes. Sixty-three million refugees are on the move globally, fleeing war and famine — famine in four countries simultaneously. At the same time, U.S. corporations are sitting on $1.9 trillion in their bank accounts, not invested in any active enterprises at all — despite the tax breaks they get as “job creators.” Everybody is waiting for the next innovation. Here’s an innovative idea: let’s share!

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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 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.

Journalism Matters: F&O’s brain food for your week

Retired teacher and volunteer Eva Agkisalaki clears tables at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Photo-essay: Greeks slide deeper into poverty, by Alkis Konstantinidis  Retired teacher and volunteer Eva Agkisalaki clears tables at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Reports

Will 2017 bring surprises for European integration? by Lionel Page     Analysis

There can be little doubt that this year’s elections in Germany and France may determine the future of the European Union. For nearly a decade now, the EU has been facing unprecedented challenges that comprise an existential threat. But the tide could yet turn.

When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes, by David Epstein, ProPublica   Report

Years after research contradicts common practices, patients continue to demand them and doctors in the U.S. continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatment.

Greeks slide deeper into poverty, by Alkis Konstantinidis  Photo-essay

The global financial crisis and its fallout forced four euro zone countries to turn to international lenders. Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus all went through rescues and are back out, their economies growing again. But Greece, the first into a bailout in 2010, has needed three. Rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund saved Greece from bankruptcy, but the austerity and reform policies the lenders attached as conditions have helped to turn recession into a depression.

Commentary:

Technology, not trade, real job-killer, by Tom Regan   Column

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but those jobs U.S. President Donald Trump promised aren’t coming back. And for others, there’s a very good chance that soon more people will be out of work. It won’t happen because of production going to China or Mexico, or and an immigrant or refugee taking jobs. It will be because of technology.

Under Trump, Is It Game Over for the Climate Fight? by Bill McKibben  Commentary

Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency is a stunning blow to hopes for avoiding the worst impacts of global warming. But a broad-based, grassroots movement committed to cutting emissions and promoting clean energy must continue and intensify – the stakes are simply too high to give up.

I Cover Hate. I Didn’t Expect It at My Family’s Jewish Cemetery, by Ariana Tobin  Essay

The American cemetery  Chesed Shel Emeth, where Ariana Tobin’s relatives are buried was vandalized in February 2017. As authorities investigate whether it was a hate crime, she relates it to the project she works on for ProPublica,  “Documenting Hate.”  It’s about confronting the ugliness and comforting the scared, she notes — but it’s also about giving real answers, using actual numbers and telling true stories when our children ask questions like, “What happened to the Jews?”

In case you missed them:

America: One Nation Under Allah/TOM REGAN

WASHINGTON DIARY: the women’s march/ CHERYL HAWKES   Column

Media literacy in a post-fact age/PENNEY KOME   Column

Churchill essay on aliens timely reminder of modern dangers/ELIZABETH TASKER   Analysis

Europe’s ‘multi-morbidity:’ John Keane with Claus Offe/JOHN KEANE   Analysis

Canada-EU Pact Touted as Model Trade Deal/PHILIP BLENKINSOP  Report

The Death of a Businessman, the Philippines’ Drug War/KAREN LEMA & MARTIN PETTY  Report

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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.

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Reports:

The Death of a Businessman and the Philippines’ Drug War, by Karen Lema and Martin Petty

When Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte summoned his security chiefs to an urgent meeting one Sunday night last month, his mind was already made up. His military and law enforcement heads had no idea what was coming: a suspension of the police force’s leading role in his signature campaign, a merciless war on illegal drugs.

Adele Sweeps Grammy Awards, by By Jill Serjeant and Piya Sinha-Roy

Adele won the top three Grammy awards on Sunday, taking home the statuettes for album, record and song of the year in a shock victory over Beyonce.

Commentary:

Media literacy in a post-fact age, by Penney Kome  Column

Fake news is as old as the Internet. From the 1990s, I remember spam, scams, and ghost ship “rolling” petitions that sailed the white-font-on-black-background PINE and LYNX seas – almost as soon as the first E-list was compiled.

Canada needs ranked, not proportional, voting, by Tom Regan   Column

Like many Canadians who had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would follow through on his campaign promise to reform the voting system in Canada, I found myself deeply disappointed by his sudden announcement, that he had abandoned plans for reform and was sticking with the first-past-the-post system. He was not wrong, however, in saying that proportional representation was the wrong system for Canada.

The terrifying mathematics of the Anthropocene, by Owen Gaffney and Will Steffen  Expert Witness

Powerful rhetoric is used to describe the Anthropocene and current human impact. As The Economist stated in 2011, humanity has “become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale”. We are like an asteroid strike. We have the impact of an ice age. But what does this really mean?

In Case You Missed Them:

Is Donald Trump a “Black Swan”? by Tom Regan   Column

China’s Waterways Reveal Our Superbug Future, by Michael Gillings.   Expert Witness

Russia’s Military Buildup Focuses on Arctic, by Andrew Osborn   Report

Canada’s Trudeau Avoids Poking U.S. “Grizzly Bear,” by  David Ljunggren and Rod Nickel

Notebook:

F&O aims to provide “boutique” journalism — explanatory, contextual, thoughtful — and a break from the frenzy of the internet. But the speed and complexity of breaking news globally has become overwhelming — even as informed citizenship has never been more critical. Here’s a suggestion for coping: avoid obsessing over distressing news, but do devote at least half an hour daily to a diverse range of quality sites that cover breaking news stories.  Support those sites by subscribing or donating, so they’ll be around when we need them. Some suggestions:

American politics remain the world’s biggest, most important issue. Here are some of the many  good outlets that provide  ethical, professional reporting of breaking news out of Washington: ProPublica; New York TimesWashington PostPolitico. For a broader perspective leave Washington — and the angry bubbles of America — for a daily scan of the global wire services: Reuters,  Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. A healthy media diet includes global outlets. Some examples are the South China Morning PostBBCDer Spiegel International; Al Jazeera and the Financial Times.

Findings from the Internet:

Paul Kennedy of the CBC interviews Wolfgang Streeck, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany, and author of a new book about the end of capitalism.   Go to CBC Radio’s Ideas program, here, or listen below:

From Streeck’s North American publisher, Penguin Random House:

How Will Capitalism End? The provocative political thinker asks if it will be with a bang or a whimper

After years of ill health, capitalism is now in a critical condition. Growth has given way to stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the money economy has all but evaporated.

In How Will Capitalism End?, the acclaimed analyst of contemporary politics and economics Wolfgang Streeck argues that the world is about to change. The marriage between democracy and capitalism, ill-suited partners brought together in the shadow of World War Two, is coming to an end. The regulatory institutions that once restrained the financial sector’s excesses have collapsed and, after the final victory of capitalism at the end of the Cold War, there is no political agency capable of rolling back the liberalization of the markets.

Ours has become a world defined by declining growth, oligarchic rule, a shrinking public sphere, institutional corruption and international anarchy, and no cure to these ills is at hand.

Last but not least, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Washington early Monday morning to meet American President Donald Trump. The relationship between the two countries remains one of the world’s most important in terms of trade and security, and is currently one of the most world’s fraught. You may be interested in this documentary, by Canada’s National Film Board, on the relationship between the two country’s leaders.
In Bed with an Elephant (59 minutes, 1986):

In Bed with an Elephant, Kent Martin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest — and support. Details.

Journalism matters: Facts, and Opinions, this week

“You are entitled to your opinion … you are not entitled to your own facts” –  Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Is Donald Trump a “Black Swan”? by Tom Regan   Column

Photo by Cindy Funk, 2009, Creative Commons

Cindy Funk

The definition of a black swan event —  impossible to predict yet with catastrophic ramifications — perfectly describes the rise of Donald Trump, from clown celebrity to the most powerful man in the world. And in that, there is hope.

China’s Waterways Reveal Our Superbug Future, by Michael Gillings.   Expert Witness

Somewhere on the planet, right now, there is a bacterial species quietly accumulating the genes that will turn it into the next superbug. There is still time to tackle antibiotic resistance.

Russia’s Military Buildup Focuses on Arctic, by Andrew Osborn   Report

Russia is again on the march in the Arctic and building new nuclear icebreakers. It is part of a push to firm Moscow’s hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.

Canada’s Trudeau Avoids Poking U.S. “Grizzly Bear,” by  David Ljunggren and Rod Nickel

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking a low key approach to dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking to avoid clashes while indirectly signalling the two leaders’ differences to a domestic audience.

Findings: items we found interesting elsewhere on the internet:

A ‘Resistance’ Stands Against Trump. But What Will It Stand For?, by Beverly Gage, the New York Times Magazine. Excerpt:

Resistance evokes the struggle against totalitarianism, conveying personal defiance and official powerlessness at the same time. So what does it mean to apply that word in an ostensibly democratic system? If you’ve lost at the ballot box but aren’t seeking full-blown revolution, what are the most useful forms of political action? If “yes” seems impossible but “no” seems insufficient, what fills the space between?

Dark Arts, by George Monbiot, the Guardian. Excerpt:

“Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them. These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration. … We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

Sorry, American journalists: Canada is no press freedom paradise, by Delphine Halgand and Tom Henheffer, the Hill

Press freedom in Canada faces threats from the state that are every bit as severe as those in the United States.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders noted the Canada recently dropped ten places in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

 

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

Journalism matters: Facts, and Opinions, this week

You are entitled to your opinion … you are not entitled to your own facts” –  Daniel Patrick Moynihan

People exit immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

America’s travel ban causes chaos. Above, travelers exit immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Commentary:

WASHINGTON DIARY, by Cheryl Hawkes  Column

Estimates put the Washington, DC, Women’s March at between 500,000 and a million people, while sister protests in more than 650 U.S. centres and another 261 internationally drew an additional 3-5 million people. Journalist Cheryl Hawkes marched in their midst. This is her story about it, and thoughts about what comes next.

America’s Fantasy World, by Tom Regan  Column

In the fantasy world of America, globalization can be stopped dead in its tracks, and blue jeans will still sell for $20 a pair at Sam’s Club. Manufacturing jobs long vanished will be returned, despite the onslaught of automation …. Oh, it’s a wonderful world. Lollipops and unicorns and everybody wins the lottery under President Donald Trump. Too bad it doesn’t exist.

Rule of Law vs Rule by Man, by Deborah Jones  Column 

The American Dream has shrunk to one simple question: rule of law, or rule by man?

Dispatches:

U.S. Ban Causes Immigration Chaos, Fury, by Reuters   Report

President Donald Trump’s most far reaching action since taking office plunged America’s immigration system into chaos on Saturday, not only for refugees but for legal U.S. residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country. Arabs and Iranians planning U.S. trips reacted with fury, while Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed those fleeing war and persecution.

‘Soft’ Neoliberalism Preceded Brazil’s Far-right, by Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti   Analysis

Ukrainian groups are recruiting neo-Nazis from Brazil to fight against pro-Russian rebels. However strange this might seem — 30 years after Brazil embraced liberal democracy —  conservatism and political extremism have been on the rise in Brazil.

Protecting Digital Privacy in Public Shaming Era, by Julia Angwin, ProPublica   Advice

Every January, I do a digital tune-up, cleaning up my privacy settings, updating my software and generally trying to upgrade my security. This year, the task feels particularly urgent as we face a world with unprecedented threats to our digital safety.

Turkey’s Pigeon Auction, By Umit Bektas  Photo-essay

As night-time approaches in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, most of the alleyways of the city’s old bazaar are emptying out, except for one. The bustle of daytime trading has died down, but on this little street, a stream of men carry cardboard boxes filled with pigeons to a cluster of three teahouses. Here, they sell the birds at Sanliurfa’s famed auctions.

UPDATECourt awards reporter-turned-politician costs and damages in defamation case. By Brian Brennan

Arthur Kent, a war correspondent who left U.S. television journalism to enter Canadian politics, won a defamation lawsuit against Canada’s largest newspaper publisher and one of its former columnists. Arthur Kent was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages.

In case you missed it:

Should Trump win, Canada will benefit from fourth wave of US refugees, by Jonathan Manthorpe, September, 2016

There are a few reasons why Canadians might welcome the prospect of Donald Trump winning the United States presidency, among them that it may set off the fourth wave of refugees seeking sanctuary in this country from political persecution and upheaval at home. By and large, Canada has done well out of all these waves of migrants fleeing the U.S

Note: Jonathan Manthorpe is traveling. His column will return in late February.

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