Category Archives: Gyroscope

The Attacks on Brussels

An injured man lies at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ketevan Kardava/Courtesy of 1tv.ge/Handout via Reuters

An injured man lies at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ketevan Kardava/Courtesy of 1tv.ge/Handout via Reuters

At least 30 people were killed and scores injured in terrorist attacks on Brussels today, March 22. Reports and analysis on Facts and Opinions, listed below, provide the crucial information as well as the deep context.

Rescue workers treat victims outside the Maelbeek underground station, in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/RTL Belgium via Reuters TV

Rescue workers treat victims outside the Maelbeek underground station, in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/RTL Belgium via Reuters TV

But first, a note. Soon, if they have not already, critics will complain that those of us in developed countries pay undue attention to horrific events in our own realms, while ignoring the horrific events in less familiar, sometimes less developed, places. There is truth to such allegations — but the critics are wilfully ignoring human reality. Horror, or terror, if you prefer, is not an abstract concept. It is a response of the gut, a wrenching of the soul, and no matter where it happens when we have been in a place that has been ravaged, when the faces of the stricken are familiar to us, we respond fully.

Many of us have passed through the Brussels airport hit by attackers today, on business with the nearby European Union headquarters, as tourists, as travellers. In recent years I spent two days roaming the halls that were bombed today, stranded there by mechanical problems on my scheduled flight. It is easy to look at the photos in F&O’s pages, and imagine myself there. Or, almost worse, to imagine the people I know who live or spend time in Brussels.

The critics who call on us to pay equal attention to all benighted places in the world do have a point: all troubles of the world cry for attention. But there is a a larger point: we are all connected. The goal is not to wallow emotionally in all the various horrors, or give equal time everywhere like automatons. The goal is to minimize, and then eliminate, their complex causes.

Deborah Jones

Here are two pieces about today’s attacks, and more from our archives that provide context:

A soldier is seen at Zaventem airport after a blast occurred, in Belgium March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jef Versele/Handout via Reuters

A soldier after a blast at Zaventem airport, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jef Versele/Handout via Reuters

Brussels Attacks: 30 Killed, Islamic State Claims Responsibility. By Philip Blenkinsop and Francesco Guarascio

Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bomb attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital March 22, 2016, which killed at least 30 people, with police hunting a suspect who fled the air terminal.

Brussels Attacks: Deadly Circles of Terror. By Sebastian Rotella

Over the past several months, Belgian counterterror officials told me they were working nonstop to prevent an attack and that the danger had never been so high. Today, March 22, 2016, their worst fears came true when coordinated bombings struck the airport and a subway stop in Brussels.

From F&O’s Archives:

  1. Why the Paris attackers were based in Molenbeek, by Martin Conway, University of Oxford. Analysis
  2. Paris, Pilots and our rhetoric around ISIS, SHELDON FERNANDEZ, Essay
  3. Why ISIS is winning, with America’s help, TOM REGAN: Summoning Orenda Column
  4. Soldiers patrol Brussels, raids lead to arrests, GABRIELA BACZYNSKA & PHILIP BLENKINSOP  Report
  5. The View From Counterterror’s Front Lines , SEBASTIAN ROTELLA, ProPublica  Report
  6. Suicide Bombing: history’s least successful military tactic, JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column
  7. Our selective grief: Paris, Beirut, Ankara, and Syria, TOM REGAN: Summoning Orenda Column
  8. France vows “merciless” response, Reuters  Report
  9. Notebook: IS claims responsibility, world reacts, Reuters  Report
  10. Scores killed in Paris attacks,  Reuters, Report & Photo-gallery

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, OUR FRESH SHEET THIS WEEK:

FINDINGS: 

Rob Ford, who achieved global infamy as the controversial, attention-seeking, and drug-addicted former mayor of Canada’s largest city, died today. Here’s a F&O column I wrote about him during his heyday in 2013, and here’s a link to the Canadian Press report on his death. Here’s a recommended read: Toronto journalist John Lorinc looked beyond his infamy – and avoided mawkish mouthings about the death of a young father — to  praise Ford’s unintended gift to his city. Go to Spacing’s site to read Rob Ford, 1969-2016: A legacy he never intended, by John Lorinc.

America’s National Public Radio takes a look at how a new Pew study on lifelong learning plays out in real-life: For Adults, Lifelong Learning Happens The Old Fashioned Way, by Elissa Nadworny, NPR.

Last but not least, this is a great read for nature lovers: Parrots Are a Lot More Than ‘Pretty Bird’, Natalie Angier, The New York Times. Excerpt:

“Dr. Masello is one of a small but unabashedly enthusiastic circle of researchers who study Psittaciformes, the avian order that includes parrots, parakeets, macaws and cockatoos. For all their visual splash and cartoon familiarity, parrots have long been given scientific short shrift in favor of more amenable subjects like, say, zebra finches or blue tits. …. go to Angier’s story 

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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.

Also posted in Current Affairs

Antonin Scalia

U.S. President Reagan and then-nominee Antonin Scalia in 1986. Photo: Bill Fitz-Patrick, White House Photographer

U.S. President Reagan and then-nominee Antonin Scalia in 1986. Photo: Bill Fitz-Patrick, White House Photographer

Updated Saturday Feb. 20

The death on Feb. 13 of Justice Antonin Scalia, leader of the conservative wing of America’s Supreme Court,  may be one of those rare events on which history pivots. And given the court’s oversized influence on world affairs, at a critical time for the environment, finance and human rights, the impact will be global.

Scalia died at a Texas ranch where he was vacationing. He was 79, and the longest-serving justice on the court, appointed when Ronald Reagan was president. Scalia was legendary for acerbic, eloquent, and sometimes sarcastic opinions.

His unexpected death is a blow for the court’s conservative faction. Their majority meant they prevailed in rulings with repercussions far beyond American borders; one world-changing example was this month’s 5-4  ruling against president Barack Obama’s “clean power” efforts to tackle global climate change.

 Scalia was “the most influential justice of the last quarter-century, his influence ramifying far outside the Court,” noted a 2011 New Republic story.   He was unloved by “progressives;” witness the satire site The Onion’s  photo today with the simple headline, “Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-Year Battle With Social Progress.” His “Scalia-isms” are legendary, as shown in Business Insider’s roundup today.

Scalia’s death creates a vacancy on the bench that will allow not only for his replacement (the partisan battle over that has already begun), but alter the nature of America’s top court.

Here are two pieces in Facts and Opinions:

The Supreme Court in Wonderland, by Tom Regan, F&O Summoning Orenda columnist

Once upon a time, long ago and faraway, there was a magical kingdom … And then one day the most amazing thing happened. One of the great judges, Scalia of the Sarcastic Sanctimonious Sentences died quite unexpectedly. While in most cases the death of one of the great judges caused some hubbub, the death of the Scalia resulted in a total hissy fit among the wing nuts and the wing nuts who only liked to drink tea.

Why Is Mitch McConnell Picking This Fight? By Alec MacGillis, ProPublica, report

After word of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death emerged last weekend, it took Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell less than an hour to announce that the Senate would not entertain a replacement before November. “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” he said. McConnell’s blunt declaration was taken as the starkest exhibition yet of the obstructionism that has characterized the Kentucky senator’s stance toward President Obama and congressional Democrats.

Selected excerpts, from F&O archives and elsewhere, that speak to Scalia’s legacy:

” I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” said US President Barack Obama, adding there is time to do so. But he stressed that the day of his death was a day to think of Scalia:

“For almost 30 years, Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia was a larger-than-life presence on the bench — a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive wit, and colorful opinions.

“He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.  He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy:  The rule of law.  Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.”

Statements from the U.S. Supreme Court justices on the death of their colleague. Excerpt, statement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: “We are different, we are one,” different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the “applesauce” and “argle bargle”—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his “energetic fervor,” “astringent intellect,” “peppery prose,” “acumen,” and “affability,” all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.

Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.

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U.S. court affirms equality of same sex marriage, by Deborah Jones, June 26, 2015. Excerpt:

In a scathing critique of judicial elites, dissenter Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice, wrote: “the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South- westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans19), or even a Protestant of any denomination.” Scalia added:

“When decisions are reached through democratic means, some people will inevitably be disappointed with the re- sults. But those whose views do not prevail at least know that they have had their say, and accordingly are—in the tradition of our political culture—reconciled to the result of a fair and honest debate. In addition, they can gear up to raise the issue later, hoping to persuade enough on the winning side to think again … That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work … But today the Court puts a stop to all that.”

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The racist in the mirrorby Tom Regan, F&O Summoning Orenda column, January, 2016:

Justice Antonin Scalia, a longtime opponent of affirmative action, during a recent Supreme Court hearing on the issue, brought up the popular theory in conservative circles that maybe top universities are just too “advanced” for minorities, that they have a better chance of succeeding at less strenuous educational institutes. And so one of the leading legal voices in the United States basically called African-American kids stupid and not as smart as white kids.

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During a 2012 lecture he gave at his alma mater, the University of Chicago law school, Scalia was asked  what advice he would give a law student today, reported the school’s alumni magazine. He replied, “Try to find a practice that enables you to have a human existence. I’m not talking about time for goofing off; I’m talking about time to attend to your other responsibilities—to your family, to your church or synagogue, to your community. All of those are real responsibilities.”

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“It is not the Atmospheric Protection Agency. It’s the Environmental Protection Agency,” Scalia once famously said. In the following video, in 2012, he explains to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president Shirley Ann Jackson his dissent in a ruling that America’s Environmental Protection Agency had the authority to regulate carbon dioxide.

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Obamacare victory shows failure of Scalia’s conservative revolution. By Robert Schapiro, Emory University, June 2015

Justice Scalia once again failed to win over either Justice Kennedy or Chief Justice Roberts, revealing he is losing the war over the Supreme Court’s heart.

Antonin Scalia’s Legacy, by Nina Tottenburg, NPR:

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Also posted in Current Affairs

Matters of Facts, and Opinions, this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

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

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

© Deborah Jones 2014

Fireworks: our prettiest pollutant. By Gary Fuller  Report

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

Arts:

11866272_10152945619557105_8187921607276058700_n

Farewell, Dal Richards

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

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

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

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

sw_vii_rey_and_fin_run_from_storm_troopers

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

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

Commentary:

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

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

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

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

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Also posted in Current Affairs

Christmas merriment

MummersParade-2015_GSL-7752

The meaning of Christmas is elusive. For some it’s a season of consumer extravaganzas and a boon for business. For others it’s profoundly religious. In places it’s fallen prey to partisan and tribal chicanery. It can be a time of happiness, angst or peace. Even the date of Jesus’s birth is elusive: December 25 is celebrated, but theological and scholarly debates rage over evidence of a spring birth. Then there’s the ongoing speculation that early Christians designated Christmas to co-opt long-established Saturnalia and solstice rituals.

To almost all of this I say, ‘bah,’ to all humbugs. Christmas is –indisputably — a historic, storied and rich tradition. And as with all traditions we residents of this globalized and multicultural world can choose, consciously, how to commemorate it. From my own northern perch in Canada, I relish the promise of longer days following the Dec. 21 winter solstice, and bask in the glow of Christmas lights on the dark, dark nights. I enjoy some seasonal music and the glitzy clash of colours. I respect the significance of Christmas to my religious friends. But most of all, I cherish Christmas as a time to exchange a happy cheer — “Merry Christmas!” — with total strangers on the street, neighbours, friends, and family.

Facts and Opinions is now on our annual break, with a reduced schedule until we return January 8th. We leave you with photos by Greg Locke, from the annual Mummer’s Parade and Pub Crawl in St John’s, Newfoundland, earlier this month. (This provides the best view.) We trust that you’ll find many other stories worthy of your holiday reading time in the trove we offer, from our latest Contents, to the overflowing vaults in our Reports,  Opinion-Features, and Photo-essay sections. Thank you for your interest and support for our work in 2015.

— Deborah Jones 

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MummersParade-2015_GSL-7393.jpg

 

Also posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Findings: Best of the web

Bob Dylan performing at the Azkena Rock Festival, Spain, in 2010. Alberto Cabello/Wikipedia

Bob Dylan performing at the Azkena Rock Festival, Spain, in 2010. Alberto Cabello/Wikipedia

Once, during slow spells in a long-ago night desk job, I started a game to help keep me alert:  I inserted the word “kerfuffle” into as many news stories as were appropriate. It amused me, especially after I inveigled others to play. (Did I mention slow spells?)

Today I’m amused to find a science version of this word game. The BMJ, a high-browed, peer-reviewed medical journal, reports on an “exponential” increase in references to BoB Dylan.

“In 2014, it was revealed that a group of scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden had been sneaking the lyrics of Bob Dylan into their papers as part of a long-running bet,” said a press release announcing results of an investigation into this behaviour.

Researchers found at least 213 cases, going back to 1970 and lately increasing in incidence, of scientists citing Dylan in biomedical papers: The Times They Are A-Changin’ (many editorials); Blowin’ In The Wind (an article about hang gliding risks); “Knockin’ on pollen’s door” (a report on cell imaging); and “Like a rolling histone” (on an epigenetics study).

Seems to me the people playing at this are Dylan-taunts, risking kerfuffles. (Sorry.) Read the report yourself, here:  The Publication Game — Freewheelin’ scientists: citing Bob Dylan in the biomedical literature, by Carl Gornitzki, Agne Larsson,and Bengt Fadeel, The BMJ

Moving on, some serious stories and touching videos are worth attention:

What Happened to Adam, by Heather Vogell, ProPublica

It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos.

Why People Believe Meaningless Bullshit, by Jesse Singal, New York Magazine

“We are currently in a golden age of bullshit. The internet is awash with unchecked claims.  … read the story

Addicted to Distraction, by Tony Schwartznov, The New York Times

Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. .… read the story

In Case You Missed It: Time named German Chancellor Angela Merkel its Person of the Year. Read Time’s story about her “journey from daughter of a Lutheran pastor in East Germany to de facto lead of a continent.”

Last but not least, while foreign ministers from several nations attempt, again, to tackle Syria’s agony, the plight of refugees inspired at least two choirs in Canada. Have a listen:

On the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, 600 people sang Imagine, as part of a fund-raiser to sponsor a Syrian family:

Alongside the seasonal chorus of carols, a children’s choir put on a production “Welcome to Canada Syrian Refugees.” In Arabic, the boys and girls performed a historical song sung to the Prophet Mohamed when he sought refuge from Makkah to Medina:

Find the most recent additions to F&O’s trove of reports, commentary and photo-essays, here on our Contents page, updated Saturdays or as major events warrant.

— Deborah Jones

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Democracy scores

Saudi Arabia held rare elections this weekend. For the first time since a ban on their participation was lifted, Saudi women voted — and several were elected to municipal councils.  As the BBC reported, “Elections of any kind are rare in the Saudi kingdom – Saturday was only the third time in history that Saudis had gone to the polls.”

Marine Le Pen in 2012. Photo by Jannick Jeremy/Wikipedia

Marine Le Pen in 2012. Photo by Jannick Jeremy/Wikipedia

Meantime in France, strategic tactics and a late surge in voter turnout dashed the ambitions of the country’s anti-immigration, anti-European Union populist National Front.  “The far-right party in France, the National Front (FN),  failed to win a single region in elections Sunday despite record results in the first round, as voters flocked to traditional parties to keep them out of power, according to early estimates,” reported Agence France-Presse.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen lashed out with bizarre accusations of “intellectual terrorism” and being “undemocratic” after  the majority of voters and the mainstream parties worked together to overcome her party’s ambition to rule.

What is most interesting is that Le Pen would have prevailed under the winner-take-all systems used in many countries, notably highly-polarized U.S., Canada and Britain. (Disclosure: I support proportional representation.)

Democracy — our ongoing, optimistic experiment in human agency, raised its head this weekend. And for today at least, in two places at least, it kept it.

— Deborah Jones

Stories currently on our Contents page include a focus on Climate, China’s impact on housing bubbles, religious extremists in the US, Photo-essays including Reuters’ Photos of the Year, and a trove of eclectic great reads available nowhere else.

Recommended for a Sunday think, from F&O this time last year:  The perils of the last human: flaws in modern economics, by Warwick Smith.

“Our economic system funnels our will into the pursuit of material prosperity and comfort. This is the very opposite of freedom. It stifles creativity and forces our life energy inwards instead of outwards, turning us into what Nietzsche describes as “the sick animal”. Despite our material prosperity we suffer from “affluenza” and write self-help books to each other in an attempt to diagnose and treat the panoply of mental and physical afflictions caused by our wealth.

“The fact that our economic system is a social construct means that we have made a choice, even if an unconscious one, and that we can remake that choice.” ….  Click to read Warwick Smith’s essay.*

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Tagged , , |

Matters of Facts, and Opinions: guns, climate and a ferry tale

Far more people die horribly in the world’s benighted places than die by guns in the United States, and yet American gun violence hogs global attention. The reason is simple: the American dream was once the world’s dream of a good life. That’s at least the PR spin: America the great, a beacon of justice and ‘freedom,’ the City on the Hill, self-styled leader of the free world.

Superpower America affects everyone and everything, psychologically and physically. And when the American dream turns to a nightmare, everybody awakes in a cold sweat.

This month Syria suffers, India and England flood, and the world’s fate may hang on a climate summit in terrorized Paris. But it’s the gun violence in the U.S. that obsesses us, from its garden-variety slaughters — like a seven-year-old girl shot dead Dec. 3 by a mentally deranged man — to recent mass killings at an abortion clinic and a Christmas party.

It's up to Americans to protect America. We're just your ordinary American family.-With love & liberty, Michele

“It’s up to Americans to protect America. We’re just your ordinary American family.-With love & liberty, Michele” — the Christmas greeting by Nevada Republican politician Michele Fiore, via Fiore’s Facebook page.

American’s gun fetish is a freak show, perfectly illustrated this week by a Republican politician’s Christmas card, right. And so for our first few items this week F&O provides context:

No safe place left in America — NRA to blame, by Tom Regan, F&O Summoning Orenda column

There are no safe places left in the U.S. Blame the National Rifle Association, gun manufacturers, and unthinking media.

America’s gun cult, Switzerland’s firearms culture, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs column (archived)

The results of gun violence in the U.S. are in the same order of magnitude as the fruits of terrorism in the entire world.  The Swiss also have firearms readily available, but they do not massacre each other at nearly the same rate as the Americans.

Misunderstanding U.S. Gun Violence by Counting Mass Shootings, by Lois Beckett, ProPublica

Counting mass shootings obscures the broader reality of gun violence in America.

Recommended elsewhere:

A Few Words About ‘Prayer-Shaming,’ by Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, Dec. 4 2015. “If it helps break the stranglehold of the religious right—and the various charlatans and fools that cater to them—on our politics, it will be worth it.
Gun Industry Executives Say Mass Shootings Are Good for Business, the Intercept. “The fear of losing gun rights leads to panic buying, which brings greater profits to gun retailers, gun companies and their investors.”

Moving on:

Visitors and ecological stands are reflected on a giant ball suspended from the roof of the Grand Palais during the Solutions COP21 in Paris, France, December 4, 2015 as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues at Le Bourget near the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Visitors and ecological stands are reflected on a giant ball suspended from the roof of the Grand Palais during the Solutions COP21 in Paris, France, December 4, 2015 as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues at Le Bourget near the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Paris climate talks enter tough new phase. By David Stanway and Richard Valdmanis, Dec., 2015

Global climate change talks in Paris moved into a new, tougher phase as negotiators agreed on a draft accord, albeit one that still leaves hundreds of points of dispute for ministers to resolve.

*Check our Contents page for our coverage of the climate summit as stories roll out.

Fair Maidens, Dragons and Golden Mountains, by Jim McNiven, F&O Thoughtlines column

The future may contain two ‘dragons:’ the known one of inflation and the one known in theory but unknown in combat, that of deflation.

The Sydney ferry Golden Grove (R) moves between the Sydney Opera House and new P&O Cruises ship Pacific Aria in Sydney, Australia, November 25, 2015. Sydney's ferry system has been its lifeblood since the mid 1800s, transporting more than 15 million individual passenger journeys each year, according to the Bureau of Transport Statistics. From fast-food employees to finance industry executives, more than 40,000 trips are taken every day. Picture taken November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed

REUTERS/Jason Reed

The most beautiful commute: a ferry tale. Photo-essay by Jason Reed

On the ferries that crisscross Sydney’s harbour, passengers sit inside hunched over their smartphones, often ignoring the gorgeous scenery afforded by what some describe as the world’s most beautiful commute.

In F&O Arts:

What Frankenstein and Krampus tell us. By Natalie Lawrence

Two new monster movies are being released in the lead-up to Christmas: the man-made creation of Victor Frankenstein, and Krampus, the evil counterpart to Father Christmas. The etymology of monstrosity suggests the complex roles that monsters play within society. “Monster” probably derives from the Latin, monstrare, meaning “to demonstrate”, and monere, “to warn”.

Last but not least, a Finding elsewhere:

European Satellites: How Islamic State Takes Its Terror To the Web, By Nicolai Kwasniewski, Der Spiegel

Islamic State is a master at using the Internet to spread propaganda. SPIEGEL ONLINE research indicates European companies may be providing the terrorist organization Internet access by satellite dish. … But how is it able to do so given that the group operates in a region where telecommunications infrastructure has been largely destroyed? The answer to this question is an extremely problematic one for Europe, for it is European companies that provide the terrorists with access to the platforms…

 

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Matters of Facts, and Opinions, this week

Catholic nuns pray during a mass by Pope Francis, as rain falls in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 26, 2015.REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Catholic nuns pray during a mass by Pope Francis, as rain falls in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, November 26, 2015.REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

What deserves attention, in this crazy and constant flood of distractions? That, always, is F&O’s  top question. Our aim to offer a journalism boutique of the best, most interesting, stories –to earn a regular spot in your travels through the web. Here are our new reads for the weekend; on Monday, we’ll have a series for the climate summit in Paris. If you have comments or suggestions,  please drop me a line at djones AT factsandopinions.com. Thanks for your interest and support.

 

Paris, Pilots and our rhetoric around ISIS. By Sheldon Fernandez

The day after the atrocities in Paris I found myself pacing in my Toronto apartment, a split consciousness, my Facebook feed saturated with conflicting responses to the carnage.

U.S. Space mining law dangerous and potentially illegal. By Gbenga Oduntan

An event of cosmic proportions occurred on November 18 when the US congress passed the Space Act of 2015 into law. The legislation will give US space firms the rights to own and sell natural resources they mine from bodies in space, including asteroids.

Catholic confusion over the troublesome Pope, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

For faithful Catholics, the whole point of the Pope and the Vatican is that they should be pillars of certainty in a troubled and troubling world. But as Argentinian Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio approaches the end of his third year as Pope Francis, the relationships between the Pontif and his cardinals — the Princes of the Church – and the standing of the management of the Vatican – the Curio – are all beset by uncertainty and confusion.

Catastrophe will result if climate summit fails — Pope. By Philip Pullella and George Obulutsa

World leaders must reach a historic agreement to fight climate change and poverty at upcoming Paris talks, facing the stark choice to either “improve or destroy the environment”, Pope Francis said in Africa on Thursday.

Belgian soldiers and police patrol in central Brussels on November 22, 2015, after security was tightened in Belgium following the fatal attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Yves Herman

REUTERS/Yves Herman

Why the Paris attackers were based in Molenbeek. By Martin Conway

Just as during the German invasions of 1914 and 1940, war, it seems, is coming to France through Belgium. If one follows the logic of the statements of various French political leaders since the bloody attacks in Paris on November 13, Belgium has become the base from which Islamic State has brought the conflicts of the Middle East to the streets of Paris.

The Painting That Saved My Family From the Holocaust by Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica

Seventy-seven years ago, my grandmother left her fourth-floor apartment in Munich carrying a painting by Otto Stein, a modestly popular German artist. Earlier that month, the Nazis had launched a nationwide pogrom against Germany’s Jewish minority, a rampage in which gangs of men burned stores, schools and synagogues. In the aftermath of what became known as Kristallnacht, the Gestapo rounded up hundreds of Jewish men and sent them to the Dachau concentration camp. Among them was my grandfather, Jakob Engelberg.

How I watched Lee Child write a Jack Reacher novel. BAndy MartinLee Child. Photo courtesy of author, © Sigrid Estrada

Nobody really believes him when he says it. And in the end I guess it is unprovable. But I can put my hand on heart and say, having been there, and watched him at work, that Lee Child is fundamentally clueless when he starts writing. — British professor Andy Martin, who spent much of a year with author Lee Child as he wrote the 20th novel in his Jack Reacher series.

RETURN TO F&O’S TABLE OF CONTENTS

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Facts and Opinions, a journalism boutique of words and images, is independent, non-partisan and employee-owned. F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. You are welcome to try one story at no charge. If you value our work, please support us, with at least .27 per story. Click here for details.  Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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Findings: the best of the web

Susan MacLeod: Amid heated debate about taking Syrian refugees, two points of view emerge in conversation at a Canadian nursing home reflects two points of view. The woman on the left is 107, and descended from United Empire Loyalists who fled to Canada from the U.S.; the woman on the right is 98 and came to Canada at age three from inner-city London with her family. © Susan MacLeod 2015

Amid heated debate about taking Syrian refugees, two points of view emerge in conversation at a Canadian nursing home. The woman on the left is 107, and descended from United Empire Loyalists who fled to Canada from the U.S.; the woman on the right is 98 and came to Canada at age three from inner-city London with her family. — Susan MacLeod © 2015

You’ve read F&O’s latest work, I assume? (If not, may I respectfully remind you, here, of the essential stories on our Contents page?)

We’d also like to share with you some findings elsewhere on this marvel of a web –starting with the image above by Canadian artist Susan MacLeod, drawn in response to heated debate in the West over taking Syrian refugees.

You might appreciate:

World Philosophy offerings, Oxford University Press

The ultimate Thinky trove: For World Philosophy Day earlier this month, Oxford University Press  collated some of its most popular research across various disciplines, and have made them available to download until January 1, 2016. Click here to find works at no charge ranging from Rousseau and Hobbes, to short introductions to topics, to Public Health Ethics….

This is why they hate us: The real American history neither Ted Cruz nor the New York Times will tell you, by Ben Norton, Salon, November 18, 2015

We talk democracy, then overthrow elected governments and prop up awful regimes. Let’s discuss the actual history … “Regime change” is not a phrase you hear discussed honestly much in Washington, yet it is a common practice in and defining feature of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. … read This is why they hate us (you will leave F&O)

State of Terror — What happened when an Al Qaeda affiliate ruled in Mali. By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, July 1, 2013

Extremists attacked a hotel in Mali on Friday, taking hostages before a bloodbath ensued. Mali’s context was eloquently captured by Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker in 2013.  From the New Yorker: “In 2012, Islamist extremists seized the north of Mali, ruling until French troops intervened. “However remote Mali may seem to Westerners, its travails exemplify the security problems posed by neglected places in the age of Islamist terror.” …. read State of Terror at the New Yorker (you will leave F&O’s site)

‘The Statue of Liberty Must Be Crying With Shame.’ By Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, Nov.  21, 2015

I wonder what (anti-refugee politicians) would have told a desperate refugee family fleeing the Middle East. You’ve heard of this family: a carpenter named Joseph, his wife, Mary, and their baby son, Jesus. According to the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus’ birth they fled to save Jesus from murderous King Herod (perhaps the 2,000-year-ago equivalent of Bashar al-Assad of Syria?). Fortunately Joseph, Mary and Jesus found de facto asylum in Egypt  .… read The Statue of Liberty Must Be Crying With Shame (you will leave F&O)

Last but not least, Tracy Chapman’s new greatest hits album celebrates a quietly powerful legacy, promises PBS.
 

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Facts and Opinions, a journalism boutique of words and images, is independent, non-partisan and employee-owned. F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. You are welcome to try one story at no charge. If you value our work, please support us, with at least .27 per story. Click here for details.  Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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Sunday reads on F&O

Ron Hynes Greg Locke © 2015

Newfoundland singer-songwriter and musical legend, Ron Hynes, died Nov. 19. Ron Hynes Greg Locke © 2015

Ron Hynes: the man of 1000 songs departs for Cryer’s Paradise. By Greg Locke

Newfoundland singer-songwriter and musical legend, Ron Hynes, died Nov. 19. He was 64. In an ironic coincidence there was a power failure in downtown St John’s around the same time. Across the bar I heard someone say, “I guess Ron turned the lights out when he left.” Hynes’ music and writing marks a generation that began with Newfoundland’s cultural renaissance.

Bosnia divided two decades after peace deal. By Daria Sito-Sucic

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

Suicide Bombing: history’s least successful military tactic, by Jonathan Manthorpe

The latest terrorist tactics adopted by the Islamic State show the group heading toward political irrelevance and self-destruction.  Suicide attacks have been used throughout the history of warfare — and they have an unrivalled record of total failure. They have never worked either as a last-ditch defence or as an offensive tactic aimed at overwhelming the opponent.

Amid the furor over refugees seeking asylum, we offer two essays:

Gate A-4, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been detained four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

Remembrance and Refugees, by Rod Mickleburgh

Two days before the numbing atrocities of Paris, I went to the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, bowing our heads in remembrance on that sun-bathed morning feels light years away. Yet, looking back, as hearts harden towards welcoming desperate Syrian refugees, the event seems to take on a deeper meaning.

 

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Facts and Opinions, a journalism boutique of words and images, is independent, non-partisan and employee-owned. F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. You are welcome to try one story at no charge. If you value our work, please support us, with at least .27 per story. Click here for details.  Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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