Week in Review

Gavin's Mexican windmills
Windmills near Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo by Gavin Kennedy © Copyright 2013

 New work on Facts and Opinions, and random observations from the week past:

In Think, Commentary, Natural Security columnist Chris Wood writes of ecosystems as life-support systems in We’re All In This Together, a perspective that challenges the outdated biological understanding that underpins Western individualism. “That splendid, solitary, neurotically cultivated and over-examined individual of pop cultural celebrity, of too many moody novels, of philosophy, and more recently of Darwinian economic ideology, turns out to be just another of those enterprises’ many fantasies,” writes Wood. “In reality, we are not individuals, we are collectives.”

 Also in Commentary,  International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe focuses this week on disturbing developments in two ancient realms that have repercussions for the rest of the world. Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has, with his very political survival at risk, reversed his previous positions on both the contentious role of the military in Turkey, and his dealings with Islamists directed by a leader living in the United States, and who now appear bent on vengeance. Of China, Manthorpe writes ominously, “The hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War is hardly upon us and the air is already thick with speculation it might happen again.”

A new report in Dispatches, Money, shines a light on the intersection of big business and the reality of institutionalized care for our elders in most Western countries. The story of one American assisted-living facility in Oregon touched by violence and neglect is sad, but not particularly unique, writes ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson. “Page through the regulatory records and court files of any state and one will come across such horror stories. The history of the facility itself reflects a larger reality of the assisted living business. Hundreds of such facilities — some exemplary, some deeply troubled — change hands each year, many of them scooped up by the large chains that have come to dominate this swiftly expanding industry.”

Elsewhere, findings of one opinion poll, by Gallup, suggest that a bright New Year dawned in most of the world with people feeling more optimistic – and holding some rather strong opinions on other things as well. The poll suggests:

  • Despite a year of economic difficulty, almost 50% of people surveyed are more positive about 2014 than they were for 2013;
  • The United States, Canada and Australia are the countries where most people would like to live if they could;
  • The United States is considered to be the greatest threat to peace in the world, followed by Pakistan and China;
  • More than a third of those surveyed believe the world would be a better place if there were more female politicians.

F&O reserves our opinion about the issues targeted by Gallup — but we do have one prediction: Energy in all of its myriad and complicated forms, with all of its many repercussions, will be the issue that dominates world affairs in the New Year. We pledge to give it the attention it deserves, starting with the theme of a new slide show by F&O photographers, now up on our home page.

Thanks for being with us as F&O sees in our very first New Year  – at least according to the Gregorian calendar – and to one and all, we wish a Happy 2014.

– Deborah Jones