Category Archives: Gyroscope

Focus on America

Security personnel walk on the roof of then White House near Pennsylvania Avenue before Inauguration Day for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Security personnel walk on the roof of then White House near Pennsylvania Avenue before Inauguration Day for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Notebook:

Donald Trump was today sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. By dint of brashness as much as leadership of a world superpower —  albeit a fading superpower, with more bluster than luster — President Trump’s global impact will be outsized.

And of the many questions and mounting controversies around his election and new administration, one stands out for me:  Will the United States now finally, completely, wash its hands of the grotesque mess it made of the Middle East?

It’s early days. But Trump, like the United Kingdom’s current government bent on washing its hands of a troubled Europe, has shown mostly impatience and anger at the mess. It’s the same mess  arguably responsible for creating the Islamic State. And it’s the same mess that most of the the world — rightly — blames on the the U.S. and the U.K., for their astoundingly foolish 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Will America’s 45th President feed or dampen the raging fires set by that invasion, as they continue to spread far beyond the Middle East, and now threaten to topple the European Project?

For now, below is F&O’s roster of reports and analyses on the new world of a new kind of America.

Deborah Jones

 

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S.,  January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Donald Trump Sworn in as 45th U.S. President, by Steve Holland  Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to “America First” policies at home and abroad.

Pins are out for the Trump balloon, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Even as the inaugural party hangovers still throb in Washington, leaders in other capitals are dreaming up ways to discover what kind of blow-hard Donald Trump is. He has given them plenty to work with.

The Trumping of Rationality, by Tom Regan   Column

For many years, economists, philosophers and pundits thought that people would always act rationally:  people would look at options and the information available to make rational choices. But in the mid-70s, two Israeli psychologists – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – turned that idea on its head.

Trump Hits Populist Note in Inaugural Address, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica

Donald Trump’s speech largely lacked lofty language, but contained a full-throated populist vision, delivered with confidence, and signaled this from the start in one of its most memorable lines: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” This might be heard to echo Ronald Reagan’s 1981 statement that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” but that would actually miss Trump’s point: The speech did not oppose government — it opposed the governors.

In our recent archives:

America: Andrew Johnson Rides Again, by Jim McNiven  Column

Mark Twain liked to say that ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often does rhyme’. Every hundred and fifty years, I suppose, history has to start to rhyme in the United States. In 1865, a popular President was succeeded by a President who had no clear mandate, who was blustery and not a part of the then Establishment.

Trump’s Hot Air Far From Greatest Climate Threat, by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica  Report

The real risk for climate change in a Donald Trump presidency, according to close to a dozen experts interviewed for this story, lies less in impacts on specific policies like Obama’s Clean Power Plan and more in the realm of shifts in America’s position in international affairs.

The US election as Medieval Carnival, by  Anastasia Denisova  Report

The consumption of fast food media advances fast politics, the swift, screaming and scandalous sort of politics that is so tempting to share and receive “likes” for. So the real winner of this election, in fact, is the viral state of mind.

US Election: Revenge of the Forgotten Class, by Alec MacGillis, ProPublica   Report

Donald Trump’s stunning win Tuesday, defying all the prognosticators, suggested there were many people so disconnected from the political system that they were literally unaccounted for in the pollsters’ modeling, which relies on past voting behavior.

America’s Dark Hour, by Tom Regan  Column

We were wrong. So very wrong.  We thought there was no way that Americans would elect a man so totally unfit to be president.

Changes in Attitudes: The Best, and Worst of Times, by Jim McNiven  Column

To be Dickensian, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times. There is a lot of speculation that maybe America’s new President won’t really do what he said he would do. I wouldn’t bet on that.

Noteworthy elsewhere:

The Trump Administration: ProPublica’s ongoing coverage of the 45th president and his administration.

America’s ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, is a comprehensive, authoritative resource for followers of American politics.  Go to ProPublica’s coverage of the Trump Administration

To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation, by BY JEANNE MARIE LASKASJAN, New York Times Magazine

 Over eight years, through millions of letters, the staff of the White House mailroom read the unfiltered story of a nation … read more

With President Trump, American democracy faces its greatest test, by  Marilynne Robinson, The Guardian

We have a chance to find out how real and deep American democracy is. We have to live out the ethos of free speech, press and assembly, of equal opportunity and equality before the law. The ethos that has been articulated in the best of American history has to be realized in what we say and do….. read more

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s final press conference on Jan. 18, 2017:

Last but not least:

Office of the Director of National Intelligence Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections

From the news release: “On December 9, 2016, President Barack Obama directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review and produce a comprehensive intelligence report assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent U.S. elections. We have completed this report and briefed President Obama as well as President-elect Trump and Congressional leadership. We declassified a version of this report for the public, consistent with our commitment to transparency while still protecting classified sources and methods.”  Read the entire declassified document here: https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

 ~~~

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.

Also posted in Current Affairs

Season’s Greetings

solstice2016_gsl0898

Winter arrived in the Northern hemisphere with the 2016 solstice, and with it comes a welcome lengthening of daylight hours. Photo of Conception Bay, Newfoundland, by Greg Locke © 2016

The December solstice marks our turn from autumn to winter in the North, from spring to summer in the South. It’s a time of celebrations, renewal, and tradition — and for many, a welcome break in routine and a fresh start.

F&O will now take a break, and until our return on Dec. 31 we send our best wishes for your Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s celebrations. And for your break — or perhaps as a last-minute gift item — may we recommend the following outside works by F&O members Greg Locke, Brian Brennan, Jim McNiven, and Jonathan Manthorpe.

Brief Encounters column: Brian Brennan was told he could interview Sophia Loren so long as he didn’t ask her about two things … (subscription)

Brief Encounters column: Brian Brennan was told he could interview Sophia Loren so long as he didn’t ask her about two things … (F&O subscription  required)

Brief Encounters: Conversations with Celebrities, by Brian Brennan

Why did Sophia Loren go back to Italy to serve a jail term for tax evasion? Why does the song “Amazing Grace” still occupy a very special place in the repertoire of singer Judy Collins? Why did Michael Nesmith quit The Monkees to start making music videos? Why did Shari Lewis start conducting symphony orchestras after she had endeared herself to kids all over the world with a comedy ventriloquism routine involving a cute sock puppet named Lamb Chop? Why did Chubby Checker go through 20 pairs of platform boots a year to keep his audiences twisting the night away?

Brian Brennan, a founding F&O feature writer and arts columnist, compiled some of the best morsels from his Brief Encounters series, based on interviews with celebrities over 15 years.

The collection of stories, based on conversations he had with celebrities during his 15 years as a newspaper entertainment reporter, are in F&O’s Arts section here — make even a small donation through our Subscription page,  to be taken to the page with the code  to access them. However may we recommend buying an ebook edition for $9.99 on Kindle,  Kobo, or iTunes , to have all 63 columns in one place.

The Yankee Road: Tracing the Journey of the New England Tribe that Created Modern Americaby Jim McNiven

Who is a Yankee and where did the term come from? Though shrouded in myth and routinely used as a substitute for American, the achievements of the Yankees have influenced nearly every facet of our modern way of life.

Join author Jim McNiven as he explores the emergence and influence of Yankee culture while traversing an old transcontinental highway reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific — US 20, which he nicknames “The Yankee Road.”

A Class Act: An Illustrated History of the Labour Movement in Newfoundland and Labrador, by Bill Gillespie (Photography by Greg Locke)

classact-coverUnion activists rarely make it into the history books and when they do the picture is seldom flattering. In this new edition of A Class Act, journalist Bill Gillespie confronts the myth.

This is the story of how Newfoundland and Labrador union members turned the nation, the colony and the province into the most highly organized jurisdiction in North America. Gillespie’s research reveals union losses and victories, their weaknesses and strengths and ultimately, their success. The narrative is illustrated with more than a hundred photographs.

From the archives:

Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan, by Jonathan Manthorpe 

For over 400 years, Taiwan has suffered at the hands of multiple colonial powers, but it has now entered the decade when its independence will be won or lost. At the heart of Taiwan’s story is the curse of geography that placed the island on the strategic cusp between the Far East and Southeast Asia and made it the guardian of some of the world’s most lucrative trade routes. It is the story of the dogged determination of a courageous people to overcome every obstacle thrown in their path. Forbidden Nation tells the dramatic story of the island, its people, and what brought them to this moment when their future will be decided.

Touched by Fire: Doctors Without Borders in a Third World Crisis, by Elliott Leyton and Greg Locke

When the rapes and massacres, the plagues, the famines, the floods, or the droughts erupt in far-off places, the world stands still. MSF does not. They are the “smoke jumpers” among international aid organizations. While others are often stymied or delayed by bureaucratic red tape, the men and women of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) move in. They provide food and clean water. They dig latrines. They set up first-aid stations and field hospitals. They treat all-comers according to need. Often they are the last to remain in situations abandoned by others as too dangerous.

The risks they take are moral and ethical as well as mortal. They are acutely aware that giving aid is controversial. Does it really do any good to save a child from murder one day when it will probably starve in the weeks ahead? Is it appropriate to bring expensive western medicine into a country that, in the long run, can’t afford it? Should relief be given to civilians who are being starved on purpose, as part of a cynical political game, by a local warlord?

Elliot Leyton and Greg Locke saw something of the implications of these and other questions when they travelled to Rwanda in the fall of 1996. There they found themselves plunged into a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people were on the move. Armed militias and hostile armies lurked in the background. Mass starvation, plague, and an eruption into civil or criminal violence were immediate possibilities. The two Canadians, one an internationally recognized expert on the psychology of killing, the other an experienced photo-journalist, had a rare opportunity to observe MSF in action at a time when the stress was enormous and its resources were stretched to the limit.

They watched and listened, to the perpetrators of violence and their victims, to the survivors and those who gave them assistance, and, above all, to the people of MSF who dedicate themselves to saving lives because, in the words of one MSFer: “The world can afford a humanitarian ideal.”

The result of Leyton and Locke’s research is an extraordinary written and visual record of small miracles performed in the midst of catastrophe.

Newfoundland …journey into a lost nation, by  Michael Crummey and Greg Locke

journey-into-a-lost-nationGreg Locke had been away from Newfoundland for years, working as a photojournalist in Canada, the United States, and in many of the world’s most troubled regions, when he decided to go home – and stay. The photographs in Newfoundland were taken over a period of more than a decade. They chronicle the passage of Canada’s easternmost province from a time when cod were still plentiful and the fishery shaped the lives of most of the island’s inhabitants, to the present, when a vibrant economy, propelled by oil and mineral development, is recasting the island’s identity in a new mould.

What Locke’s photographs reveal is at once forward-looking and nostalgic, beautiful and harsh. Above all, his Newfoundland is populated by survivors: a people who are resourceful, funny, resilient, and strong.

Poet and novelist Michael Crummey draws upon deep-seated memories of his own and of his father’s experience to evoke passing traditions and a disappearing way of life. But, just as Locke’s photographs reveal the emergence of a new, more urban and cosmopolitan Newfoundland, so does Crummey’s writing emphasize the continuing sense of belonging and the determination to persevere that are characteristic of his compatriots. He writes admiringly of a “culture deep enough to accommodate a world of influences without surrendering what makes it unmistakably of this place. Something alive and leaning towards the future.” This book embodies both a vision and a voice of rare power.

Hibernia:  Promise of Rock and Sea. Edited by Lara Maynard. Photography by Greg Locke and Ned Pratt

Hibernia is a platform which will lead to the development of a new offshore oil and gas industry for Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada). The official Hibernia book is a record of the highly commendable effort by so many groups and individuals, from geophysicists and provincial politicians to Hibernia management, staff, and workers, to fully realize the opportunity of the Hibernia project. A generous selection of impressive photos by Ned Pratt and Greg Locke complemented by engaging text records the many facets of the undertaking: faces and feats, construction progress and milestones at the Bull Arm site. These varied elements are combined in a record of history in the making, a quality keepsake chronicling the inception and development of a great enterprise fuelled by a remarkable blend of perseverance and skill.

~~~

Last but not least, here is the trailer for Greg Locke’s latest project, as a photographer for True North: The Canadian Songbook, a musical initiative celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday. The massive project, by Eleanor McCain, includes thirty-three iconic Canadian pop and folk songs reimagined for full orchestras, from Victoria to St. John’s.

 ~~~

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.

Also posted in Current Affairs

Red Kettles, Fake News, Corruption: Facts and Opinions this week

Viola Desmond the choice for portrait on Canada’s next $10 bill 

Our journalism boutique lineup this week features an essay by Jeremy Hainsworth, weighing discrimination against the good done by the Salvation Army in saving lives. We focus on corruption with three pieces: Jonathan Manthorpe’s column on Transparency International’s latest findings; India’s secretive war against corruption, and how America welcomes foreign high-rollers suspected of corruption at home. Fake News is on our horizon, too, with Tom Regan’s Déjà vu  perspective and thoughts in the Notebook section below. But first, give a minute of your time to the video of Viola Desmond, and don’t miss our brief story about her, below.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I'm torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth

The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I’m torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction.

Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan   Column

We’ve been here before. Overwhelmed by fake news. Making important political and social decisions based on lies, half-truths and deliberate manipulation of facts, shaping them into something quite hideous. Perhaps even ignoring them altogether.

Canada, Fraudster’s Nirvana, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Canada was slammed in a new report on corruption. It matters because tricks –blind trusts, shell companies, anonymous accounts in tax havens — are spurring the kind of populist, enraged politics that elected Donald Trump and is behind Brexit.  Unless Ottawa ensures that Canada’s privileged classes play by the same rules as everyone else Canada, too, will experience a tide of outrage.

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Who knew? Modi’s secretive attack on black money, by Douglas Busvine and Rupam Jain

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi staked his reputation and popularity on a secretive flash attack on the corrupt “black money” his government has struggled to eradicate.

Suspected of Corruption, Finding Refuge in the U.S. by Kyra Gurney, Anjali Tsui, David Iaconangelo, Selina Cheng

Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shields them from arrest: the United States, an  increasingly popular destination for people avoiding criminal charges.

~~~

Notebook:

How do we “know” what we “know?” Nope, this isn’t a trick question on an epistemology course. It’s the key to our lives, from the mundane (is that food safe to eat?) to social (can I trust that person?) to the most technical of calculations (how do I design a sound airplane?). Our world is built on evidence-based decision-making. In democracies, we depend on having enough citizens who know about enough stuff to make enough smart decisions — based on the best evidence available — to keep us alive. We depend on having enough citizens willing  to confront problems and fix them. And if there’s anybody left who doubts that our democracies are in crisis, the events of 2016 dispelled our illusions.

Will democracy last? Some fear for this grand experiment; see this study showing a drop in support for the very concept. Its detractors might consider what system they’d prefer: Rule by royals? Tyranny by dictators? Authoritarianism posing as Communism? I agree with Winston Churchill, who considered democracy the least bad of the options.  But our willingness to accept lies as facts — like the lies told during the UK vote on Brexit and the American election — could be its death knell.

This week F&O partner Tom Regan argued in his column, Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, that untrustworthy “news” is hardly new.

But here’s why I think fake news is so widespread today: real news can be depressing. We are a society that avoids sadness, suppresses reflection with distraction, and stocks an arsenal of drugs and therapy for depression. And, increasingly, we also refuse to embrace real news.

The root cause of “Fake News” is deeper than the culprits most often blamed:  the venality of the deceivers, the glee of those who profit, manipulations by the Russians, distrust in traditional media, the gullibility of sheeple. I contend that “Fake News” flourishes because we have a pandemic of Happiness Disorder.

Happiness is, obviously, a good thing. But happiness is neither real, nor achievable, if the only way we can feel happy is by turning a blind eye — especially when there’s a cliff in our road. Staring crises in the face is hardly happy-making — but ignoring a crisis is deadly. Democracy requires that enough of us keep watch to avoid driving off cliffs. Without enough clear sight — without some willingness to seek “knowledge” — where will we find ourselves?

~~~

Viola Desmond, civil rights leader, circa 1940. Photo Nova Scotia Government

Viola Desmond, civil rights leader, circa 1940. Photo Nova Scotia Government

The image of civil rights leader Viola Desmond will grace Canada’s next new $10 bill, being designed for issue in 2018, the Bank of Canada announced this week.

In 1946 Desmond, a successful businesswoman in Nova Scotia, refused to sit in the “coloured” section of a theatre in Cape Breton. Police dragged her out and locked her in jail. She was later convicted and fined on a tax technicality. She lost her appeal, but her story spread far and wide, and by 1954 segregation in Nova Scotia was abolished. Desmond, who died in 1965 aged 50,  was pardoned posthumously in 2010 — by Mayann Francis, also a black Nova Scotia woman, and Nova Scotia’s then-Lieutenant Governor.

Nine years after Viola Desmond’s defiant stand rocked Canada,  Rosa Parks, by refusing to sit in the “coloured” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabma, became America’s symbol of civil rights.

Suggested reading elsewhere: Viola Desmond deserves better than a once-only holiday, by Stephen Kimber, 2014;  BLACK HISTORY MONTH: REMEMBERING CANADIAN CIVIL RIGHTS ICON VIOLA DESMOND, by  Asha Tomlinson, CBC News.

~~~

Findings:

“The breakup of Europe, the rise of plutocrat-populists such as Trump, the failures of Mark Carney and the technocratic elite: he has anatomised all of them,’ writes Aditya Chakrabortty in a Guardian profile about Wolfgang Streeck: the German economist calling time on capitalism. “Not so long ago, such catastrophism would have been the stuff of Speakers’ Corner. Today, it goes right to the brokenness of politics.”

A remarkable multi-media New York Times feature examines the slaughter underway in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a war on drugs unlike any the world has seen. They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals” by Daniel Berehulak is a gripping photo essay, grisly and sometimes heart wrenching, documenting 57 killings.

— Deborah Jones 

 ~~~

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.

Also posted in Current Affairs

Matters of Facts, and Opinions

A man hangs shirts out to dry in an open-air laundry in Mumbai, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE Ð SEARCH ÒBUSINESS WEEK AHEAD SEPTEMBER 12Ó FOR ALL IMAGES - RTSNAG5

Is Your T-Shirt Clean of Slavery? Science Will Tell. Above, a man hangs shirts out to dry in an open-air laundry in Mumbai, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade

F&O’s Dispatches this week:

Security Chief: Europe Must Brace for New Extremist Attacks, by Alastair Macdonald

 Islamic State will attack Europe again, security chiefs warned on Dec. 2, and may add car bombs, cyber and chemical warfare to its local arsenal as European militants drift home after reverses in Syria and Iraq.

Donald Trump’s Constitutional Problem, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica  Report

Despite the presence of armed forces in the street, the most violent neighbourhoods of Honduras are plagued by insecurity. Children can rarely go out and play, even during daytime. Families’ movements are restricted by gangs, who impose “invisible borders” between their gang territories. European Commission photo, by A. Aragón 2016/Flickr

Honduras is plagued by insecurity. EU/A. Aragón 2016/Flickr

Far from ending with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that he will separate himself from the management of his business empire, the constitutional debate about the meaning of the Emoluments Clause — and whether Trump will be violating it — is likely just beginning.

Porous Texas Fence Foreshadow’s Trump’s Wall Problems, by Jon Herskovitz

The rose-coloured border security fence starts in a dusty field on the Loop family farm in South Texas – about 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and a mile north of the southern U.S. border. From there, near Brownsville, it stretches about 60 miles west, but with plenty of gaps to drive or walk through. Where it exists, the fence doesn’t always stop illegal immigrants.

Is Your T-Shirt Clean of Slavery? Science Will Tell, by Liz Mermin  Report

Shoppers lured by a bargain-priced T-shirt but concerned about whether the item is free of slave labour could soon have the answer – from DNA forensic technology.

Commentary:

Disappearing the Middle East, by Tom Regan  Column

The Middle East has disappeared from American media, despite the billions the US has spent and continues to spend in the region. Americans have moved on. But here’s the rub — it won’t just go away.

Fidel Castro and the Defeat of South African’s Apartheid, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Many people questioned it then and continue to question it now, but Nelson Mandela had no doubt that Fidel Castro played a central and critical role in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa.

Castro and Trudeau, Kindred Spirits, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Canada’s Pierre Trudeau and Cuba’s Fidel Castro were brothers under the skin. It is no wonder they became life-long friends, for each could see a reflection of himself in the other.  The similarity in the backgrounds of the two men is compelling.

Starve the Beast! by Jim McNiven   Column

During America’s Ronald Reagan presidency, the phrase ‘starve the beast’ was shorthand amongst conservatives for the idea that by simply cutting back on expenditures — either through disciplined spending or by giving money away through tax cuts— people would be forced to accept smaller and less expensive government. It didn’t really work — but the idea persists, on the “left” and the “right.”

Necropolitics in Mexico and Central America, by By Ariadna Estévez, Expert Witness

There’s a standard narrative, that gang violence is forcing people to flee Central America and Mexico. But this overlooks two facts about the  humanitarian crisis and regional tragedy, and criminal violence is just part of a dangerous cocktail.

To our supporters, thank you. Newcomers, welcome to reader-supported Facts and Opinions, employee-owned and ad-free. We will continue only if readers like you chip in, at least 27 cents, on an honour system. If you value our work, contribute below. Find details and more payment options here.

Notebook: on the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro dies, age 90. Then Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses the audience as president of the Non-Aligned Movement at the United Nations in New York, in this October 12, 1979 file photo. REUTERS/Prensa Latina/File Photo

Fidel Castro dies, age 90. Then Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses the audience as president of the Non-Aligned Movement at the United Nations in New York, in this October 12, 1979 file photo. REUTERS/Prensa Latina

Before I first went to Cuba, in 1995 on a magazine assignment, a good friend who travelled widely on government business said it was the only Latin American country she knew where no children begged in the streets. I kept her comment in mind as I read up on the criticism of Cuba’s human rights and economic record.

At the airport at Holguin I encountered armed guards, enforcing Cuba’s then-rule against bringing in magazines, books or newspapers. Buildings everywhere were riddled with bullet holes, mementoes of the revolution. People were thin and food –mostly consisted rice and beans — was scant, following the collapse of its ally the U.S.S.R. Cuba’s air roiled with black oily exhaust belching from ancient vehicles; taking public transit required clambering into the back of a dump truck.  Once in Santiago, a tour guide noted matter-of-factly that Cuba used firing squads for capital punishment.

But my friend was right: there was not a beggar to be seen. Children dressed in sparkling white walked to school in lines. Almost all of the adults I met had post-secondary education; my assigned driver had a PhD in anthropology and was married to a physician. Everyone had health care. Though Cubans were poor, no one I saw was downcast to the point of being broken; I still can’t say the same of other places I’ve been in the Americas — including the U.S.

Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution has had mixed results, but as with most things in life, it’s not all good nor all bad. Cuba ranks 67th in the UN Human Development Index. Had Castro not revolted against the American corporate pirates who were then raping and ransacking the country, would it now rival perhaps Haiti (163), Nicaragua (125) or Honduras (131)?

My driver in 1995 said he hoped Cuba would change, open up to the world, allow him to travel. He was tired of being poor and hungry, he said. Then he frowned, and added, “But we have to be careful. We don’t want to lose what we’ve gained.”

Those gains — by a small, isolated and impoverished country — are revealed in an adult literacy rate of 99.8 %, and statistics that put the far wealthier United States to shame in areas like infant mortality (Cuba’s rate of 4, lower than 6 in the US); life expectancy (Cubans live to 79.1 years, Americans 78.8 years. Sources: UNICEF Cuba; UNICEF U.S.  Such are the things I’ve kept in mind lately while listening to modern critics of Cuba’s human rights and economic record.

Our works about Cuba and Fidel Castro include two columns this week by International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe — Fidel Castro and the Defeat of South African’s Apartheid, and  Castro and Trudeau, Kindred Spirits — adding to the earlier news: Fidel Castro, dead at 90. A Life in Photos; with Fidel Castro, Facts and Quotes, and an analysis by academic Mark Beeson, Fidel Castro: Anachronism, Achiever, With Tarnished Legacy.

— Deborah Jones       

Finding:

“Do you live in a bubble?” asks PBS. The American public broadcaster developed a 25-question quiz anyone can fill out to see how disconnected we might be from “from the average white American and American culture at large.” Adapted from one used by Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author, it assesses how thick or thin the walls of a respondent’s bubble might be. It’s American, of course, but this Canadian guesstimated the local equivalent of US-specific questions. Find the quiz here.

 ~~~

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.

Also posted in Current Affairs

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.

 

Also posted in Current Affairs

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.

Also posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , |

F&O’s Fresh Sheet

Grandchildren of former Israeli President Shimon Peres lay a wreath on the grave of their grandfather during the burial ceremony at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Grandchildren of former Israeli President Shimon Peres lay a wreath on the grave of their grandfather during the burial ceremony at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Shimon Peres funeral joins Israeli, Palestinian leaders — briefly. By Jeffrey Heller and Jeff Mason

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) during the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem September 30, 2016. Amos Ben Gershom/Government Press Office (GPO)/Handout via REUTERSIsraeli and Palestinian leaders shook hands during a brief chat and U.S. President Barack Obama gently reminded them of the “unfinished business of peace” at the funeral Friday of Shimon Peres, the last of a generation of Israel’s founding fathers.

 SHIMON PERES: Israeli nationalist first, peacemaker second, by Maria Holt  Analysis

Shimon Peres, often described as “the last of Israel’s founding fathers”, was popular in Israel and abroad, but his record in office was by no means unblemished. His reputation as one of the 20th century’s great peacemakers needs to be put in perspective.

Putin, Grand Master of the Great Game, awaits next opponent, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

When the new United States president moves into the Oval Office early next year, at the top of her foreign policy priorities will be what to do about Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s tribe and an absence of poetry, by Tom Regan   Column

When did the men in America – white men in particular – lose their sense of poetry? When did they stop being aware of the ebb and flow of life all around them, and lose that spark that separates those who are merely alive from those who are actually living? When did they settle on violence, brutality, and a nasty churlishness?

The Canadian roots of the indigenous equality rights declaration, by Penney Kome   Column

Article 44 of the 2001 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The wording closely echoes Section 28 of Canada’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”

A boy prepares to jump off a rock into the waters of the Osman Sagar Lake near the southern Indian city of Hyderabad May 29, 2011. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder/File Photo

REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder/File Photo

Toxic Indian lake is cost of cheap drugs, by Zeba Siddiqui  Report

Centuries ago, Indian princes would bathe in the cool Kazhipally lake in Medak. Now, critics say, hundreds of drug firms, lax oversight and inadequate water treatment has created a giant Petri dish for anti-microbial resistance in the storied waterway.

Rosetta completes space mission with a bang, by  Victoria Bryan  Report

The Rosetta spacecraft ended its historic mission, crashing on the surface of the dusty, icy comet it has spent 12 years chasing in a hunt that has provided insight into the early days of the solar system and captured the public’s imagination.

Reporting on child deaths leads to Indian mica mining crackdown, by Nita Bhalla and Jatindra Dash  Report

Authorities in India have raided mica mines, arrested traders and begun steps to regulate the underground industry, local officials said, after a Thomson Reuters Foundation expose revealed a cover-up of child deaths in illegal mica mining.

On Capitalism and “Bullshit Jobs” by David Graeber   Essay

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. Why did Keynes’ promised utopia never materialise?

 

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

 

Also posted in Current Affairs

Findings

Our regulars at F&O are taking a breather this Labour Day, to savour the last of summer and brace for the passage into fall and winter — a snowy and cold one, if the Farmer’s Almanac has anything to say about it.

Our journal is a trove of thoughtful, informative and sometimes delightful stories — as those who browse our Dispatches and Commentary and Features well know. But when you’re done here, for now, we have some recommendations elsewhere:

The Hive is inspired by scientific research into bee health. Designed by Wolfgang Buttress, it was originally created as the centrepiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, and is now installed at Kew Gardens in London.  The installation is made from thousands of pieces of aluminium which create a lattice effect and is fitted with hundreds of LED lights that glow and fade as a unique soundtrack hums and buzzes around you. Photo: Kew Gardens

The Hive, a current installation at London’s Kew Gardens, was inspired by scientific research into bee health and designed by Wolfgang Buttress for the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo.
The lattice effect is created with thousands of pieces of aluminium and hundreds of LED lights that glow and fade as a unique soundtrack hums and buzzes. Watch the video below, and read about it in a Toronto Star piece, here.  Photo: Kew Gardens

For the Big News file, the Guardian reports on the announcement by the United States and China — the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases — that they’ll formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement. This is significant because, as the Guardian notes, “If the Paris agreement comes into force this year as hoped, it means the nearly 200 governments party to it will become obliged to meet emissions-cutting pledges made before the deal last December.”

Frances Bula’s piece, Miner to missionary: The Ross Beaty story Ross Beaty, is a good tale about someone who, instead of resting on their laurels (and millions), is trying to make a difference. Beaty, writes Bula, ” was one of mining’s giants before taking a green turn eight years ago to become the face of British Columbia’s alternative energy sector. He’s finding both his new industry–and his controversial new message for a “no-growth” way of life–a tough sell.”

American Indians are gathering from throughout the country in rural North Dakota, to protest construction of a $3.7 billion pipeline on the plains. As the New York Times points out in a useful who/what/where/why, a web of 2.5 million miles of pipelines crisscrosses the country. This one has become a flash point, especially for aboriginal people. Perhaps, as High Country News writes, it’s because “social media and broad anxieties over climate change are bringing more publicity.”

As regular readers may have observed, F&O strives to avoid giving the oxygen of publicity to one unspeakable American presidential contender. I’ll break that tradition, briefly, to suggest anyone watching the cage fight of American politics might almost find pity in their hearts for He Who Should Not Be Named after reading this pithy work by author and radio personality Garrison Keillor, in the Chicago Tribune, “When This if Over, You Will Have Nothing That You Want.”  Indeed.

Last but not least: as the Paralympics proceeds in Rio, shamefully unsung compared to the massive attention bestowed on the Olympics , have a read of this thoughtful plea by Olympian  Deidra Dionne: The Olympic model is broken: An open letter to Thomas Bach‘You understand that a $900 per diem is not the norm,’ right?” Dionne writes. Well, no. If he understood, the IOC would be a different beast.

 

 

Also posted in All

Brexit (UK referendum on European Union), etc.

By Diliff - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35972521

The hemicycle of the European Parliament. Photo: Diliff/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia

Citizens of the United Kingdom vote tomorrow today* on Brexit, the referendum on whether Britain should leave Europe. The impact, no matter which way the vote goes, is already global.

We’ll have a wrapup on the weekend. Meantime, here are some suggestions of where to follow the breaking news:

In case you missed it:

Here’s F&O’s International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe’s take on Brexit, from June 11, and an academic’s analysis last month on forecasts.

Small Stampede for the Brexit, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O, column

It is unlikely that Britons are going to give a conclusive answer to the question whether they should remain in the European Union or leave it when they mark their referendum ballots on June 23.

Which Brexit forecast is trustworthy? by Nauro Campos, Brunel University London.

At one extreme, Economists for Brexit predict that the main economic consequence of Brexit is that UK incomes in 2030 will be about 4% higher. In the middle, studies suggest UK incomes by 2030 will be will be unaffected. And At the other extreme, various studies (including the Treasury, the LSE, the OECD, and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research reports) indicate substantial losses to the UK economy, of about 7% by 2030. How does one think this through? An economist offers suggestions.

Our new works in the past week:

Last but not least, recommended: a Finding:

*updated/edited June 23

 ~~~

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.

Also posted in Current Affairs Tagged , |

Balkanization and the Radovan Karadžić verdict

Radovan Karadzic attends a Bosnian Serb parliament session in Pale in this May 1993 file photo. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/Files

Read the report: UN Court Finds Karadžić Guilty in Bosnia Genocide Trial. Above, Radovan Karadzic attends a Bosnian Serb parliament session in Pale in this May 1993 file photo. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/Files

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić  was convicted and sentenced today by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The U.N judges found him guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, and of nine other war crimes charges.

Read the Reuters news report on F&O, with a photo-essay: UN Court Finds  Karadžić Guilty in Bosnia Genocide Trial, by Thomas Escritt and Toby Sterling.

© Deborah Jones 2011

Clamber seven stories up the broken stairs of the “sniper’s nest” of Mostar, a former department store/office building. Stand at the corner overlooking the modern part of the town. Screw the long lens onto the camera. Aim at the hollowed out buildings that used to house offices, homes, schools. Consider the hearts and minds of of those who sat here before, looking through not a lens but a sight. © Deborah Jones 2011

Karadžić is the most senior political figure to be convicted in the tribunal  — but  in some ways this is only another chapter in the larger sage of the Balkans conflicts. There are dozens of accused from the former Yugoslavia, some convicted, others whose cases are winding their way through the tribunal.

“The justice process is not yet finished,” noted a statement from the prosecutor’s office. “Too many victims in the former Yugoslavia are still waiting for justice. And too many families still do not know the fate of their loved ones.”

No one, I wager, can legitimately claim to understand the Balkans; novelist and diplomat Ivo Andrić perhaps came close. The lands — some as rugged as any on earth — have been contested for as long as humans have inhabited them, and the communities are complicated by religion, rivalry and bitter history.

The so-called Balkans Conflicts of the ’90s, as the eastern communist bloc crumbled and the former Yugoslavia disintegrated, was horrific. We see the evidence of that in the documents and testimony before the tribunal, but also in the shattered walls,  ravaged earth, and traumatized people.

Everywhere through Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska to the north lie tombstones. Buildings are still hollowed out from the war. Almost nothing is free of damage left by weapons.

“It was a village war,” said the owner of the bed and breakfast where I stayed in Mostar in the winter of  2011. He was a 20-something Muslim who called himself “The Turkman,” and he talked about roaming freely through the whole village as a kid, pointing across the river at the new part of town. His family sent him to safety in Germany throughout the conflict. When I met him, he had just recently returned to help them start a tourist business.

His hostelry was a sign that Mostar, and the region, was showing signs of economic life.

Yet, still, he said, no one of the different religious communities in tiny Mostar dared cross the borders of the other communities, though until the conflict they had been friendly.

Gravestones filled all of the yards along the street in the Muslim area, bombed-out buildings dotted the town.

“A village war is the worst,” he said.

 

© Deborah Jones 2011

The superhighway from Croatia into Bosnia. © Deborah Jones 2011

Reconstruction, paid for by international donors, was well underway when I was there. Yellow buses with the flag of Japan, which paid for them, provided public transit in towns. Heavy equipment was at work throughout the countryside building roads. The famous bridge of Mostar, the Starry Most, was a tourist draw after being refurbished by money from the United Kingdom. Even ancient roadside villages, such as Počitelj in Bosnia, right, housed little cafes and signage in multiple languages for the tourists they hoped would eventually come.

Počitelj, Bosnia. © Deborah Jones 2011

Počitelj, Bosnia. © Deborah Jones 2011

Rebuilding the physical structures might be the least challenging remedy to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Fixing  people is harder. Will the justice now being meted out at the Hague, along with time,  repair the extreme social damage?

Deborah Jones

 

Here’s some recommended reading, for history and context:

Non-fiction: Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, by Robert D. Kaplan. Also his Reader’s Guide to the Balkans, New York Times, 1993

Fiction, The Bridge on the Drina, by Nobel-winning author Ivo Andrić, 1945. From Wikipedia: The Bridge on the Drina revolves around the town of Višegrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge over the Drina river. The story spans about four centuries during the Ottoman and subsequently Austro-Hungarian administrations of the region and describes the lives, destinies and relations of the local inhabitants, with a particular focus on Muslims and Orthodox Christians living in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Fiction, The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht, 2010. From Wikipedia: “It’s a family saga that takes place in a fictionalized province of the Balkans. It’s about a female narrator and her relationship to her grandfather, who’s a doctor. It’s a saga about doctors and their relationships to death throughout all these wars in the Balkans.”

Fiction: The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway, 2008. From Wikipedia: “The novel is set during the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s and explores the dilemmas of ordinary people caught in the crisis.”

Links:

UN Court Finds  Karadžić Guilty in Bosnia Genocide Trial, by Thomas Escritt and Toby Sterling.

Tribunal convicts Radovan Karadžić for crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, press release, United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

The Cases, United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: Karadžić is one of dozens of accused from the former Yugoslavia, some convicted, others transferred, others whose cases are winding their way through the tribunal.

Watch the March 24 verdict:

 
Related works on Facts and Opinions:

A woman cries near coffin of her relatives who were victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, at the Memorial Centre in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 10, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A woman cries near coffin of her relatives who were victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, at the Memorial Centre in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 10, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Bosnia divided two decades after peace deal, by Daria Sito-Sucic, November 21, 2015  Report

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – A metal capsule containing over 20,000 wishes for the future was stored away in a Sarajevo museum on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the peace deal that ended the Bosnian war but left the country deeply divided and dysfunctional.

In Srebrenica, digging for the dead and fighting denial 20 years later, By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela, Reuters July, 2015.

POTOCARI, Bosnia ( Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people will gather at a cemetery near Srebrenica  …

Ruling on Srebrenica may affect UN peacekeeping By Regina E Rauxloh, University of Southampton, The Conversation,August 1, 2014

A Dutch civil court in the Hague ruled that the relatives of some 300 men and boys killed after being evicted by Dutch peacekeepers from the Potočari compound could receive compensation from the Dutch state.

 

 ~~~

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.