Monthly Archives: June 2015

Journalism that Matters: Greece

Pensioners line-up outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece hoping to get their pensions, in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Pensioners line-up outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece hoping to get their pensions, in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

The world is holding its breath with Greece on the knife-edge deadline on its €1.6 billion loan repayment due to the IMF. its stalemate with its international creditors, and upcoming referendum, could make Greece the first advanced economy to default to the fund in its 71-year history. It might also be the first nation to benefit from crowd-funding, as an  Indiegogo campaign gets rolling. Here is the essential reading:

EU makes last ditch effort to save Greek bailout. By Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters 

 EU authorities made a last-minute offer to salvage a bailout deal that could keep Greece in the euro as the clock ticked down on Tuesday, with Germany warning that time had run out to extend vital credit lines to Athens. With billions of euros in locked-up bailout funds due to expire at midnight, the European Commission urged Greece to accept the proposed deal, while holding out hopes that some tweaks could still be possible. If no agreement is reached, Greece will default on a loan to the IMF, setting it on a path out of the euro with unforeseeable consequences for the European Union’s grand currency project and the global economy.

Nine things to know about Greece’s IMF debt default, by André Broome

Greece is set to miss the deadline on its €1.6 billion loan repayment due to the IMF. The country’s stalemate with its international creditors and the decision to hold a referendum on its bailout offer means Greece will become the first advanced economy to default to the fund in its 71-year history. Here are nine essential things to know about the default

In fast-moving news about Greece today: 

  • From London  (Reuters) – A bailout fund has been set up for Greece on crowd-funding website Indiegogo. The campaign goal is to raise 1.6 billion euros (1.1 billion pounds), the same amount Greece was expected to fail to pay the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday. 
  • From Athens: (Reuters) – Hours before deadline Tuesday Greece submitted to creditors a new two-year aid proposal calling for parallel debt restructuring.
  • From London (Reuters) – The European Union’s financial system will be able to cope with whatever becomes of Greece’s membership of the euro zone, EU financial services chief Jonathan Hill said Tuesday.

 

Other new work on Facts and Opinions this week includes:

World’s favourite bookstores ranking shows enduring market. 

U.S. court affirms equality of same sex marriage. 

China’s Dog Meat Festival, in Images (Content warning), with a commentary by Deborah Jones, If Slaughterhouses had Glass Walls …  

In Commentary:

Forgiveness: the first step in reconciliation, by Francis X Clooney

Saudi Arabia threatens to run amok, by Jonathan Manthorpe

America’s Obamacare is here to stay, by Tom Regan

Telegraphy, Radio, Utopia and You, by Jim McNiven

Check our CONTENTS page for new work as we post. Subscribe by email to 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. Some of our original works are behind a paywall, available with a $1 site day pass, or with a subscription from $2.95/month – $19.95/year. If you value journalism, please help sustain us.

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

If slaughterhouses had glass walls …

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
June, 2015

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian,” Paul McCartney famously said.

There are no walls in the alleys that served as slaughterhouses in Yulin, China. Yulin celebrated its annual Dog Meat Festival in June, and the world watched as some 10,000 of “man’s best friends” crowded in cages and watched their fellows being dragged out, killed and grilled, then eaten with gusto. (See the Reuters photo essay on F&O’s menu, here.)

Yulin’s annual grotesquerie, held to celebrate the solstice and the onset of summer, is over. Outraged dog lovers the world over can relax with the normal fare that saturates our pop news and social media, of LOL catz and pictures of bacon dishes.

Most of the regular folk and celebrities who expressed outrage, and signed petitions protesting the grisly deaths of several thousand animals in the Dog Meat Festival, will not want to know that the Asia Canine Protection Alliance claims some 25 million dogs are killed and eaten each year, mostly in Asian countries.

This statistic is not at the top of the global mind. Dog meat does not much feature in cook books or on food shows. Perhaps the lack of perspective is because the people who eat those 25 million dogs are more savvy than the hapless Yulin residents, roasted each year by the global publicity. Maybe the masses of regular dog eaters are less exposed to globalized infotainment and social media.  I have yet to see a selfie of someone eating one of those 25 million dogs.

The Alliance is one of the few sources of information about dog meat consumption. Data on livestock by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization do not include dogs. The FAO does, however, provide many details about the other land-based animals that humans are consuming in 2015. The FAO expects this meat consumption to grow by 1.5 per cent each year; the rate is faster in developing countries. It divides these by “commodity:”

  • Bovine meat (74 million tonnes)
  • Ovine meat (30.3 million tonnes)
  • Pig meat (110.2 million tonnes)
  • Poulty meat (100.6 million tonnes)
  • Milk (715 million tonnes)
  • Eggs (70.4 million tonnes)

Units of these commodities dwarf the 25 million dog units. By 2030 global production will reach, estimates the FAO, 1,858 million cattle and buffaloes; 2,309 million sheep and goats; 873 million pigs, and 15,067 million birds.

Few of us, outside the food industry or animal rights and environmentalist circles,  pay attention to this massive production. That’s largely because, in the developed countries where more people have the resources to mount protests, and more time they can use to think and research, people are spared the gory details of the production processes on display in Yulin’s alleys. In the modern developed world people-as-consumers buy our meat neatly pre-processed or, if it’s raw, neatly wrapped in plastic on styrofoam trays with sanitary pads to absorb leaking body fluids.

Also, fewer and fewer of us ever bear witness to the life cycles of the animals whose parts arrive, sanitized and decorated, in our stores and on our plates. Traditional food production — which we called “the family farm” until very recently — has abruptly vanished from most of our communities. Farms and ranches have been replaced with massive centralized food factories, called Intensive Industrial Livestock Production Systems.

Of Intensive Industrial Livestock Production Systems, the FAO noted:

They make use of improved genetic material and sophisticated feeding systems, and require highly skilled technical and business management. They are also dependent on inputs of high-energy and protein-rich feeds and animal health prophylactics, and consume considerable amounts of fossil fuel, both directly and indirectly. The wholesale transfer of these types of production systems has been facilitated by the relative ease and speed with which the required infrastructure and equipment can be operationalized in so called “turnkey” operations. In recent years, industrial livestock production grew at twice the annual rate of the more traditional, mixed farming systems .… Industrial enterprises now account for 74 of the world’s total poultry production, 40 percent of pig meat and 68 percent of eggs.” 

What to make of all this data? There are endless ways to consider the dogs killed for meat in Asia, or the cows, sheep, pigs and birds that live and die in Intensive Industrial Livestock Production Systems world wide. Endless questions arise about how and what to feed billions of humans, and about the impact on the environment and human health of different kinds of foods, from vegetables to beans to steak.

But the questions that most interest me have to do with lines. Where, when, how and why do we draw lines between eating one thing, but not another? Where lie the lines between Yulin’s alleys and the refrigerated aisles of our supermarkets?

The vast majority of us cross these lines daily — not least because those who eschew meat are so few as to be negligible. The data is dubious, but in most countries less than five per cent of citizens are vegetarian (a term for which definitions are also dubious). That rate rises to about 10 % in Italy, 13% in Taiwan, and 40 % in India.

Even if these numbers are off, the vast majority of us eat animals, even as we recoil at Yulin’s Dog Meat Festival. Clearly, most of us recognize lines between taboo and acceptable foods. They’re quite visible and easily seen — but following these lines is risky, because they can lead us into very dark places indeed.

“If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reasons,” C.S. Lewis pointed out. Lewis, of course, is best known as the author of the beloved children’s books whose characters stumble through a wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. We are less readily charmed by Lewis’s philosophy, because he challenges our own magical thinking in the real world.

Why, indeed, do we love dogs and eat pigs? Why, indeed, do we eat pigs and not imbeciles — or capitalists?! Now there’s a line of thought that the vast, meat-eating majority of us prefer to avoid.

But once a year, when Yulin’s Dog Meat Festival rolls around, we happily draw big, fat lines dividing our world from the universe of the dog eaters. Once a year we enthusiastically hurl outraged invective at them. Then, when the grotesquerie is over, we continue with our regular lives.

My own regular life calls. I have almost had my fill of gazing at the photo gallery of grisly photos of the Dog Meat Festival, which I force myself to witness. I will soon return to dealing with the LOL catz and photos of bacon that pervade my Internet experience.

But first, will you please join me in giving another fleeting thought to McCartney’s quip, about glass walls and slaughterhouses?

I think it evokes, oddly, an old proverb: “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” And following that line, I decide that McCartney was wrong.

If there were glass walls on the Intensive Industrial Livestock Production Systems that produce most of the world’s meat, most of us would not even bother to look. I know this, because we — who throw stones of moral outrage at the people whose grisly practices are exposed in Yulin’s alleys — have not even noticed that we live behind glass walls.

Copyright Deborah Jones 2015

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com

Notes, references and further reading: 

1. Sir Paul McCartney ‘If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls. ‘YouTube video (Content Warning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFomoIUaZ-k

2. Asia Canine Protection Alliance: http://www.acpagroup.org

3 World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030. An FAO perspective… http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4252e/y4252e07.htm

3. Vegetarianism by country, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_by_country

4. C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, various publishers.  (https://docs.google.com/document/d/140WOWfv09wYxWYOHrGwj3Po27Y3G4UZTZVfgdDSVpqM/edit: https://docs.google.com/document/d/140WOWfv09wYxWYOHrGwj3Po27Y3G4UZTZVfgdDSVpqM/edit

Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009

Related reading on F&O:

China’s dog meat festival, Reuters, June, 2015

No monkeying around: animal’s rights, Alasdair Cochrane, October, 2014

 

 

DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a founder and the managing partner, editorial, of Facts and Opinions. She  reported for more than 30 years on breaking news, social and economic policy, science, and whimsey, mostly for Agence France-Presse, Canada’s Globe and Mail, and Time Magazine. She freelanced for a range of publications from the New York Times to medical journals, and held staff positions as a Canadian Press desker and on the Vancouver Sun editorial board. Her education includes an early focus on biology, economics, and political science, with a mid-career Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University and post-graduate Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Interests include civility, freedom of thought and expression, and ecology.

Jones’s family was displaced from Europe by World War II and relocated in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, where Jones grew up skiing, horseback riding, canoeing, and reading books. Prior to journalism she worked as a first aid attendant on bush planes, assistant museum curator, slinging beer in pubs, and as a junior park naturalist. When not traveling Jones is based in Vancouver, Canada.

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 

 

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Saudi Arabia threatens to run amok

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs  
June 26, 2015

After more than half a century as one of the few pillars of stability in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is rapidly morphing into a dangerous and unpredictable rogue elephant.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Photo by  Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo, U.S. Secretary of Defence, Public Domain

Under King Salman, Saudi Arabia is rapidly morphing into a dangerous and unpredictable rogue elephant, writes Jonathan Manthorpe.Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo, U.S. Secretary of Defence, Public Domain

The transformation has accelerated since, six months ago this week, King Salman took the throne on the death of his elder brother. One of King Salman’s first acts was to mark his young, untried, short-tempered and ambitious son Mohammed, already the country’s Defence Minister, as a future monarch.

If he survives the tests of leadership, Mohammed, 30, will be the first king from the third generation of the male progeny of Ibn Saud, who founded the regime in the 1930s. The Saudi royal succession goes from brother to brother until there are none left. Ibn Saud had at least 45 sons, so most have been in their 70s or 80s when they came to the throne. It has taken until now to exhaust the stock.

While this system of gerontocracy has been inherently stable, it has also been stultifying. This is finally changing with the emergence of the third generation.

At the core of Saudi Arabia’s passage from petro-billionaire lotus eater to rampaging ground-shaker is an increasingly bloody contest with Iran for power and influence in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the holiest Muslim sites in Mecca and Medina, and is the heartland of the Sunni branch of Islam. Iran champions the Shi’ite faction of Islam, whose adherents make up about 12 per cent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa.

Proxies for the two are already fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and the changing attitude and role of the United States in the Middle East is intensifying the rivalry. Fracking has ended the U.S. reliance on imported oil from Saudi Arabia. Canada is now America’s largest sources of imported petroleum products. The U.S. is also leading international efforts to make a deal with Tehran over its nuclear development program. There are still obstacles to overcome, but a deal is likely. But while an agreement will aim to impose international regulation of Iran’s program, it cannot avoid leaving Tehran with the ability to make a nuclear weapon should it decide to do so.

No wonder then, that in recent months Saudi Arabia has been making louder and louder noises about acquiring its own nuclear deterrent. To a degree, Riyadh has already prepared this ground. In the 1980s it was the main financier of the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, A. Q. Khan. The deal was meant to be that in return for the money Islamabad would sell Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons when Riyadh asked. But that failed to take into account that Pakistan is now intent on keeping good relations with its neighbour. A huge project to deliver Iranian natural gas to Pakistan is nearing completion and both countries have a common interest in what happens in Afghanistan.

When, in March, Riyadh asked Islamabad to send military contingents to join the fight against Shi’ite Huthy rebels who have taken control of most of Yemen, Pakistan refused. Islamabad did, however, add that if Saudi Arabia itself was ever invaded or threatened, Pakistan would send military aid.

Vladimir Putin with Salman, now king, in Saudi Arabia in 2007. Photo handout by Kremlin.ru, Creative Commons

Vladimir Putin with Salman, now king, in Saudi Arabia in 2007. Photo handout by Kremlin.ru, Creative Commons

Saudi Arabia was not impressed, and with Pakistan looking unreliable on the nuclear bomb deal, Riyadh is turning to Russia. Defence Minister, Crown Prince Mohammed was in Moscow last week in an attempt to strengthen Riyadh’s regional strategic position in the likely event of an international nuclear deal with Iran. But as well as seeking support from Russia on such things as votes on the United Nations Security Council, where Moscow has a veto, Prince Mohammed sought Moscow’s assistance in operating 16 nuclear reactors Riyadh plans to build.

There can be little doubt that as part of the deal Saudi Arabia expects at the very least to acquire the ability to make nuclear weapons.

Prince Mohammed’s pilgrimage to Moscow also reflects that an international deal with Iran will almost inevitably end the nearly 40 years of diplomatic isolation between Washington and Tehran. Saudi Arabia is apoplectic at the prospect, however remote, of Tehran becoming Washington’s new best friend in the Middle East. Riyadh is already horrified at the U.S. military – with Canadian forces in tow – operating in co-operation with units of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards and Tehran’s Lebanese surrogates, Hezbollah, against the jihadists of the Islamic State group (ISG) in Syria and Iraq. Riyadh denies giving material support to the ISG, though there is no doubt many individual Saudis do.

The ISG’s religious philosophy – as well as that of al-Qaida and other radical groups like the Muslim Brotherhood — stems from a 270-year-old deal between the House of Saud and a fanatical Islamic preacher, Mohammed bin abd al-Wahhab. To this day, jihadi Wahhabist disciples remain the main influence on Saudi religion. At the heart of Wahhabism is the belief they are the only true Muslims and that there is a religious obligation to kill all those who do not follow the same path. This obligation is aimed just as much at apostates such as Shi’ites as it is non-Muslims.

As we know all too well, the ISG takes very seriously its Wahhabist obligations to slaughter people it considers non-believers and to do it in as vile a manner as possible. This appears to be to encourage people to convert to Wahhabism or else face death by drowning in a cage, being burned to death or having their throats slit. It’s a simple agenda. Conversions or murder will hasten the ISG’s achievement of that great and glorious time when the whole world will be governed under an Islamic caliphate.

For decades the Saudi kings tried to keep peace at home by exporting the advocates of their bloody, contaminated form of Islam. Riyadh has happily financed the building of mosques and madrassa religious schools throughout the Islamic world and staffing them with rabid religious fanatics who are far too nasty to keep at home. Visiting extremist preachers either from Saudi Arabia or financed by Saudi interests have spread their poison in Muslim communities across Europe, North America, North Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and everywhere else where there is a chance of embedding violence and intolerance.

Mohammed Bin Salman al-Saud, the world's youngest minister of defence. Photo by Mazen AlDarrab, Creative Commons

Mohammed Bin Salman al-Saud, the world’s youngest minister of defence, “is orchestrating and conducting Saudi Arabia’s ill-conceived, ill-fated but brutal aerial bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen,” writes Jonathan Manthorpe. Photo by Mazen AlDarrab, Creative Commons

The Americans, foolishly, got involved in this dangerous nonsense in the 1980s when they went into partnership with Riyadh to finance and supply the Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan. As Washington has discovered to its cost – indeed, to the cost of all of us – that deal included the creation of Osama bin-Laden and al-Qaida. The small print also covered the exporting of Wabbahism to Saudi-financed religious schools in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Thus was born the Taliban. The name means “students.” And these schools attracted thousands of students from Muslim communities across Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. We have seen radical Islamic terrorism spread across that region as a result.

Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s largest military budgets. At $80 billion last year, it was fourth after the U.S., China, and Russia. Riyadh uses its purchase of top-of-the-line military equipment, mostly from Europe and the U.S., but including a $15 billion deal for Canadian armoured cars, as a key element in its efforts to keep strong ties with western governments. The arms relationship has been very effective in dousing western criticism of Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and its almost total refusal to embark on political or social reform.

But even though Saudi Arabia has, on paper, one of the most potent military forces anywhere, Riyadh has always been reluctant to use the toys, except against its own people when they get fractious. That is changing, however, as the rivalry with Iran becomes more and more pointed. As Saudi Arabia has finally opted to overtly use its stock of first-class weaponry, it is hard to predict where this new approach will lead or end.

And it is the impulsive Prince Mohammed who is orchestrating and conducting Saudi Arabia’s ill-conceived, ill-fated but brutal aerial bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen. The target is the Shi’ite Huthi rebels, who with the remnants of the national army still loyal to former President Ali Abdallah Saleh have captured most of the country.

The United Nations says the Saudi intervention and the civil war in Yemen have put 80 per cent of the population -–21 million people – in need of humanitarian aid. There were doomed talks in Geneva this week aimed at producing a humanitarian ceasefire. Riyadh has no interest in a ceasefire, which it believes the Huthis will use to replenish their arsenals.

The situation in Yemen is only likely to get worse. The Saudis, along with allies from the Gulf Co-operation Council (except Oman), Egypt, Sudan , Morocco and Jordan, so far show no signs of backing up their air campaign with ground troops. Air power alone has never won a war. Boots on the ground are the only way the Huthis are going to be conclusively defeated. If the military stalemate continues, Prince Mohammed may well feel compelled to launch a ground invasion. After all, his qualifications as Saudi heir-apparent and, indeed, the legitimacy of his branch of the House of Saud cornering the throne for generations to come, rest at the moment on the outcome of the Yemen war.

 

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

Further reading:

Why selling weapons to Saudi Arabia is a bad, bad idea, by Jonathan Manthorpe, iPolitics, January, 2015: http://ipolitics.ca/2015/01/21/why-selling-weapons-to-saudi-arabia-is-a-bad-bad-idea/

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Thank you for your support. Please help sustain us by telling others about us. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES blog page. 

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Facts and Opinions that matter this week

Here is F&O’s lineup of good reads, for your weekend lingering, or to launch the new week with information that matters. 

New Reports


New Commentary and Arts:

NB:  Check our CONTENTS page regularly for new work as we put it up.

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With no exaggeration, this figure is staggering: one in every 122 humans in the world is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. 

The number of refugees in the world has reached a historic record: some 60 million people are now displaced, said a United Nations report in advance of World Refugee Day today. “If this were the population of a country,” it noted, “it would be the world’s 24th largest.” 

Yet the staggering refugee report, documenting vast harm, was overshadowed by yet another story out of America about a mass murder involving its fetish with guns and ugly historic obsession with fabricated concepts of “race. In our lineup, above, you’ll have noted that Tom Regan has a distinct take on the South Carolina murders — in his column Blame massacres on America’s National Rifle Association. And Jon Stewart inimitably captures  the mood of what is clearly — yet controversially — a “terrorist” attack:

“We have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist.”  “I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that, and seeing that for what it is, we still won’t do jackshit. Yeah. That’s us. And that’s the part that blows my mind.”
“What blows my mind is the disparity of respose between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us, and us killing ourselves….”  

 

In case you missed them:

Elsewhere on web this week:
 
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published its Digital News Report 2015, and serious journalists around the world —  so weary of the blood-letting, so hoping for news of better times ahead — wept. Buzzfeed is doing very well, though — which is welcome,  so long as you don’t give a fig about consuming junk media, ethical compromises, and overlap between advertising and evidence based information provision (aka,  the old fashioned term”journalism.”) 
 
To mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo Le Monde published — in the English language no less —  a virtual ode to Britain, urging those Brits who are lobbying to leave Europe,  “Messieurs les Anglais, don’t let the sirens of a fake independence pull you away from the continent.” The Guardian rued what might have been, in a column entitled, Napoleon’s dream died at Waterloo – and so did that of British democrats… “No amount of colourful re-enactment this week can conceal the fact that Waterloo was a victory for a reactionary and anti-democratic European order,” wrote Martin Kettle.

Last but not least, a recommendation: A multi-media production about refugees by the UN Refugee Agency.

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We appreciate your interest and ask for your support. Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for selected, slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O provides journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Check our CONTENTS page for new works each week. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value our  work help sustain us: tell others about us, subscribe, or donate to allow us to continue:

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Hong Kong legislators reject reform package in farcical vote

1024px-Hong_Kong_Skyline_viewed_from_Victoria_Peak

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs  
June 19, 2015

The campaign for and against democracy in Hong Kong has tottered on the edge of farce for some time and this week it tumbled over the edge.

Thursday’s vote in the Hong Kong legislature on plans to allow direct election of the territory’s head of government in 2017, but only after Beijing has vetted the candidates for loyalty, should have been a solemn and significant moment.

It was on the cards that the 27 “pan-democrats” in the 70-seat legislature would deny the Beijing-backed administration and its supporters the two-thirds vote necessary to pass the constitutional amendment, which hardly merits being called a reform. But that could be seen as an affirmation by Hong Kong people of their determination to have their voices heard by the Chinese government and that the flame of democracy continues to flicker in the territory.

Instead the episode cascaded into farce as the Beijing supporters attempted to delay the vote by fleeing the legislature and forcing the end of the session for lack of a quorum. The rules require half the members – 35 – to be present for a quorum. But only 34 pro-Beijingers fled, leaving 36 to vote. The result of the ballot was 28 against and eight in favour.

The grim irony now is the defeat of the so-called reform leaves Beijing fully in control of the selection of the head of the Hong Kong government, known as the Chief Executive. The reform would have given voters among Hong Kong’s seven million people the freedom to vote for the Chief Executive in elections due in 2017 and thereafter. But the free vote would only be for candidates allowed to stand by Beijing after being screened for loyalty to the Communist Party. Hong Kong now reverts to the existing system by which Beijing names a 1,500-member election committee made up of people beholden to the Chinese Communist Party. They are quietly told who to choose. It is not a successful system and has thus far produced three Chief Executives who have become roundly detested by Hongkongers.

This week’s confused and confusing result on the reform vote is in line with the muddled and incompetent way the deeply unpopular administration of Beijing-selected Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has managed the whole file. Every move by Leung and his administration has only reinforced the public’s conviction that Beijing has no intention of abiding by the promise made in advance of the 1997 return by Britain of Hong Kong to Chinese rule to swiftly institute democratic reforms.

640px-21st_anniversary_of_the_June_4th_incident_in_Victoria_Park

Every June 4 tens of thousands of Hongkongers gather in Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay district to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre when Chinese troops killed and detained pro-reform demonstrators in Beijing and at least 250 other cities around China. Photo by Wing via Wikimedia, Creative Commons

Public dismay reached boiling point last summer, when for nearly three months thousands of demonstrators occupied the Central business district and two other commercial hubs in Hong Kong. But this was only the latest and perhaps most dramatic of a long series of demonstrations by Hongkongers either in support of democratic reform or in opposition to moves by the administration they find offensive. On July 1, 2003 , between 500,000 and 700,000 people took to the streets in an entirely peaceful march in opposition to the introduction of legislation which would have imposed mainland Chinese concepts of sedition and subversion on Hongkongers. The bill was dropped and has not been introduced.

Every June 4 tens of thousands of Hongkongers gather in Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay district to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre when Chinese troops killed and detained pro-reform demonstrators in Beijing and at least 250 other cities around China. About 135,000 people attended the Hong Kong commemoration this year, down from the 180,000 who attended in 2014, but well up on the 50,000 or so people who gathered each year in the early 2000s.

The question now is whether these protests, which have drawn increasingly rough responses from the police, are the shape of things to come. There is no doubt that a majority of Hongkongers want representative and accountable government. Public opinion polls, such as those conducted by the Hong Kong Baptist University Transition Project, have shown this consistently for over 30 years. How far Hongkongers are prepared to go in that quest is another matter.

The Pan-Democrats – a loose alliance of pro-democracy parties – haven’t come out of Thursday’s vote covered with glory. Indeed, by defeating the proposals for the next Chief Executive election they appear to have defied the feelings of the largest segment of Hong Kong public opinion. There is a strong feeling in the territory that although the proposal is deeply flawed and does not introduce true democracy or free and fair elections, it is a step in the right direction. Perhaps in the future, the thinking goes, Beijing can be persuaded to give up its veto on candidates and allow a true democratic contest.

Many rolling polls in the past few weeks show that close to 50 percent of Hongkongers support that view. For example, a joint poll by several universities and overseen by The Chinese University of Hong Kong shows that support for the reform veered between just over 41 per cent and 49.5 percent. This week, on the eve of the vote, support was 47 percent while 38 percent were opposed.

The first indication of the mood of Hong Kong in the wake of this week’s legislative debacle will probably come on July 1. This will mark the 18th anniversary of the handover and the end of British rule. It has become traditional for the officially-sponsored celebrations to be matched by demonstrations demanding reform. What happens this year will be carefully measured and tested as a barometer of the territory’s mood.

The authorities are clearly prepared for a long period of rolling discord. Beijing and its Hong Kong followers have in recent years been increasingly vehement in characterising the pro-reform movement as not only destabilising, violent, a threat to the territory’s future as a commercial hub for Asia, but also as foreign-inspired. In this, Beijing appears to be pointing a finger at the United States and its many pro-democracy non-governmental organisations, some of which have operated in Hong Kong. Playing to Chinese nationalism is one of the few claims to political legitimacy left to China’s Communist Party government, which has now become a classic, deeply corrupt imperial Chinese dynasty.

As a result there is deep scepticism among cynical Hongkongers and observers of the territory about the arrest on Sunday of 10 people who are accused of being part of a Hong Kong separatist group and of conspiring to manufacture chemicals to make bombs. There’s a strong suspicion this separatist bomb plot was fabricated by the authorities to smear those demanding greater political freedoms.

The record since the 1997 handover is that violence is far more likely to come from the authorities than from Hong Kong’s protesters. There will undoubtedly be continuing street demonstrations in support of a greater political voice for the people, and a significant moment will come next year. That’s when there are due to be direct elections for all 70 members of the Legislature.

At the moment 35 members are directly elected by Hong Kong’s voters. The other 35 are elected by what are called “functional constituencies,” a system inherited from the British, but which has allowed Beijing to keep effective control of the legislature. Functional constituencies represent various professions and businesses – real estate, the law, medicine, teaching, finance – whose registered members select their own members of the legislature. Now, one way or another all these sectors are beholden to Beijing and their legislature members have shown rigid consistency in supporting the desires of the Chinese government.

However, Beijing will not be too worried about the removal of its effective veto on the legislature next year because it will continue to have direct control over the Chief Executive and the administration. But Beijing will undoubtedly work to have its proxy political parties win an overall two-thirds majority in the legislature so that any constitutional changes can be managed with more certainty than this week’s farce.

And if pro-Beijing parties fail to win a two-thirds majority, it’s a fairly simple matter to let the legislature stumble into inconsequence while the authority of China’s pro-consul, the Chief Executive, is boosted. 

jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Thank you for your support. Please help sustain us by telling others about us. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES blog page. 

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On wanting to fit in and Rachel Dolezal

By Penney Kome 
June, 2015 

“Mom, I want braids,” I said one day, as we walked home from my kindergarten to our apartment on the South Side of Chicago. “All the girls in school have braids. I want braids.” “Don’t you like your hair in a bob?” she countered. “Like mommy’s?” But I persisted and she gave in and let me grow my hair long. We soon learned that braids were the only way to tame my thick coarse wavy-with-a-chance-of-curls hair, so I wore my hair in pig tails most of my childhood and in one long braid until my stepmother’s sudden death in 1984 inspired a big chop in my mid-30s.

Rachel Dolezal's official photo at the Inlander, Young Kwak/The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Rachel Dolezal’s official photo at the Inlander, Young Kwak/The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Even before then, however, I’d looked at my early class photos and realized with a start that I could never have braids like my classmates’ braids. They were almost all black girls, with what were known as (please forgive the expression) “picaninny braids”, their heads covered with short little braids of hair brushed straight and braided tightly, to straighten it into “good hair”. This practice is so pervasive among black women that comedian Chris Rock, alarmed by his daughter’s fascination with “good hair,” made a documentary titled “Good Hair” about what he discovered is a $9 billion a year industry. At one point he asks a black woman under a hair dryer with her hair in papers,“What’s your definition of ‘good hair’?” She replies, “When your hair looks relaxed and nice.” Cut to a black male hairdresser explaining, “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, white people aren’t happy.” That’s the sort of wisdom white people don’t have to share among themselves.

Of course, I had no idea that braids had any social implications when I was in kindergarten. I just wanted to fit in. We moved and I transferred out of that school soon anyway. But I was wearing my hair in braids when the civil rights movement came along 10 years later, and indeed until I reached middle age.

These memories re-surfaced when the bizarre Rachel Dolezal story broke. Riddle me this: why would a white person pretend to be black in America? Black author and commentator Tavis Smiley asked the same question in a New York Times editorial: “I love being black, and wouldn’t want to be anything else, as if I have a choice. But let’s be clear, I didn’t volunteer for this. So, why would you pass for black?”

Basketball champion Kareem Abdul-Jabaar says her reasons don’t matter. “…you can’t deny that Dolezal has proven herself a fierce and unrelenting champion for African-Americans politically and culturally,” he wrote in an TIME magazine op-ed. “Perhaps some of this sensitivity comes from her [four] adoptive black siblings. Whatever the reason, she has been fighting the fight for several years and seemingly doing a first-rate job….This seems more a case of her standing up and saying, ‘I am Spartacus!’ rather than a conspiracy to defraud.”

My own early experience suggests that a young child would do her best to fit in and to adapt to whatever characteristics her parents seem to prefer. In a fawning profile in the East Washington University newspaper, writer Shawntelle Moncy said that as well as being a professor at EWU, “Doležal has many faces in Spokane County, including NAACP President, chairman for the Office of the Police Ombudsman — she participates in ride-alongs, observing both police and citizens’ behavior — advisor for Black Student Union at EWU and Africana Studies professor at EWU. She’s an activist wherever she steps foot, a columnist for the Inlander and a mother 24/7.”

Dolezal talked a bit about growing up in a fiercely Protestant off-the-grid household where the children hunted their own food with bows and arrows. Their family moved often, across the US and even to South Africa. Moncy writes that she “…has no contact today with her mother or stepfather due to a series of events that still haunt her thoughts today. Doležal and her siblings were physically abused by her mother and stepfather. ‘They would punish us by skin complexion,’ she said.

The Homeschoolers Anonymous website – for adult survivors of extreme (usually religious) home schooling – offered a survivor’s analysis. “Rachel was homeschooled through Christian Liberty Academy,” says a note signed by HA co-ordinator R.L. Stollar. “Her father, Larry Dolezal, worked for Creation Ministries International and was charged in 1999 with felony theft though the charges were later dismissed. We have also heard testimonies from numerous homeschool alumni who grew up knowing the Dolezal family that frequent and significant child abuse occurred in the family. The parents allegedly forced both Rachel and her older, biological brother Joshua to beat their younger, adopted siblings with plumbing supply line and two foot long glue sticks, a practice inspired by Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child. (Forced sibling-to-sibling corporal punishment is sadly not uncommon in some homeschooling circles.) Such a practice conjures up troubling images of Larry and Carri Williams, another homeschooling family that abused to death their adopted child, Hana.”

The Easterner interview says Rachel Dolezal left home to attend university in art, with a full scholarship. Then she eloped with a black man in 1999 and soon after she began raising a biracial child, who she says is her son and some reports say is her adopted brother. Her marriage ended in divorce in 2004. Homeschoolers Anonymous picks up the thread. “Now comes the latest development in the Rachel Dolezal saga: Dolezal’s older brother Joshua is awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a black child. Insinuations have been made that the parents spoke up now to retaliate against Rachel’s attempts to get her brother charged for abuse..”

“On one level, you’ve got to say to [Dolezal], ‘you’re misleading us’, “ Rev Al Sharpton told Mediaite, “but another level, mom and dad, come on! Are we gonna have this dysfunctional family stuff play out and distract us from key civil rights causes?” 

So we come back to Tavis Smiley’s question: “When God was passing out colors, who raised their hand for a life of social disenfranchisement, political marginalization, economic exploitation and cultural larceny? And that’s on top of always feeling unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence and being hated for who you are….”

Kareem Abdul Jabbar comes back, in turn, to a central truth: “The thing about race is that, scientifically, there is no such thing. As far back as 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released the conclusions of an international group of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists that stated that the concept of race was not a scientific entity but a myth. Since then, one scientific group after another has issued similar conclusions…..As far as Dolezal is concerned, technically, since there is no such thing as race, she’s merely selected a cultural preference of which cultural group she most identifies with. Who can blame her? Anyone who listens to the Isaac Hayes song, “Shaft,” wants to be black—for a little while anyway.”

 Copyright Penney Kome 2015

References:

Good Hair documentary by Chris Rock (free to watch): [Movie free to watch http://putlocker.is/watch-good-hair-online-free-putlocker.html]

Let Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Time: http://time.com/3921404/rachel-dolezal-naacp-race-kareem-abdul-jabbar/
a Life to be Heard, the Easterner, by Shawntelle Moncy:: http://easterneronline.com/35006/eagle-life/a-life-to-be-heard/#sthash.1aUk3liU.2HyACdZ8.dpbs 

HERE’S WHAT JOSHUA DOLEZAL WROTE ABOUT HIS AND RACHEL DOLEZAL’S CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST UPBRINGING, Homeschoolers Anonymous: https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/heres-what-joshua-dolezal-wrote-about-his-and-rachel-dolezals-christian-fundamentalist-upbringing/

Rachel Dolezal’s brother, author Joshua Dolezal, faces trial for alleged sexual abuse of a black child, by Justin Wm Moyer, Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/06/16/rachel-dolezals-brother-author-joshua-dolezal-faces-trial-for-alleged-sexual-abuse-of-a-black-child/

Al Sharpton Scolds Rachel Dolezal’s Parents: ‘Are You Really Gonna Do This To Your Kid?’, Mediate: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/al-sharpton-scolds-dolezal-parents-are-you-really-gonna-do-this-to-your-kid/

 

Penney KomeAward-winning journalist and author Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. Her books include Somebody Has To Do It: Whose Work Is Housework?   (McClelland &Stewart 1982); The Taking of Twenty-Eight: Women Challenge the Constitution (Women’s Educational Press, 1983); and Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986).  She was Editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 – 2013. 

Read Penney Kome’s reporting on the Alberta, Canada, election win of the NDP in May 2015:  In Notebook: Alberta poised to turn NDP orange as Tory grip on power withers , and an analysis, Canada’s Famous Five would be proud

 Read Penney Kome’s essay The Degree Bubble, June 2014
Read Mature babes: Granny admirers more overt in the UK. By Penney Kome, September, 2014 (paywall)

For more information, see Penney Kome’s page at the Writer’s Union of Canada.

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 

 

 

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The “Mighty Mite” of the Tommy Hunter Show: Debbie Lori Kaye

BRIAN BRENNAN: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS 
June, 2015  

At age 18, Debbie Lori Kaye became the youngest performer in history to have her own variety special on CBC TV. A tiny singer with a big voice, her star had been rising steadily for four years. At age 14, she had signed a six-year recording contract with Columbia Records. At age 15, she was starring in the Canadian National Exhibition grandstand show in Toronto. At age 17, she had become a regular on television’s Tommy Hunter Show where she was known affectionately as “the mighty mite.”

She seemed to have everything going for her as a performer. Yet when I met her in August 1975 – when she was 25 – Kaye’s career had already bottomed out. She no longer had a recording contract, she’d been off the Hunter show for three years, and had been out of the music business for six months. What had happened? Kaye wouldn’t tell me much. All she would say was that Columbia had chosen not to renew her contract, and that she had left the Hunter show because of personal problems she preferred not to discuss.

 

I asked her about the good times. How had she managed to get a record deal with a big American label when she was only 14? Kaye replied that she had started singing with her father’s country music band when she was 11 and the family was living in Bermuda. Her father had been grooming a 15-year-old girl to sing with the band and Kaye got jealous. “I decided to take up singing just to be with him.”

She was still singing with her father’s band three years later when the family moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Her father worked during the day as a radio station DJ. The station manager sent a tape of Kaye singing at a local mall to some record people he knew in the States. Next thing she knew, Kaye was being summoned to New York to sign a contract with Columbia. Several of the songs on her first album were written by the station manager’s son.

The station manager, Allan Bestall, became her personal manager when Kaye’s singing career took off. He obviously had good connections in the industry. He got her the CNE gig and also landed her the weekly Hunter show appearance. When she left that program in 1972, Bestall got her working six nights a week on the North American nightclub circuit. That proved to be a grind for Kaye. She quit the circuit after two years, moved to Edmonton, and became assistant director for ITV’s (now, Global Edmonton’s) Tommy Banks Show. That show folded after six months and Kaye returned to the nightclub circuit.

 

“After all was said and done, I learned one thing on the other side of the cameras: I really enjoy singing,” she told me. “I used to get a lump in my throat whenever I’d hear somebody like Della Reese on the Banks show. I knew I had to start again.” She called up three musicians she knew and got bookings to play clubs in Edmonton and Calgary. She told me she was also working on a proposal for a television variety show that she hoped some friendly network would pick up.

The variety show did, in fact, materialize. Produced at a cost of $50,000 and featuring guest singers David Clayton-Thomas and Marek Norman, the one-hour Debbie Lori Kaye Show was shown on CBC Vancouver in March 1976, seven months after I first spoke with her. Kaye called it her “dream special” and told me she hoped it would lead to a series. She was planning to move to Vancouver, where a number of network shows were already being produced.

Kaye was never able to convince the network brass to expand her special into a series. She quit the music business for the second time, went back into television production, and ended up working on Alan Thicke’s CTV daytime talk show between 1980 and 1983. When that show ended and Thicke moved to Los Angeles, Kaye accepted a contract to produce documentaries for a radio station in Olympia, Washington. One of those documentaries was about sexual abuse. While producing it, Kaye got the feeling she was doing the story on herself. She had been a victim of sexual abuse – not by a family member – when she was a child, and became a victim again when she got into the music business as a young teenager.

She told her full story, for the first time, in an interview with The Province of Vancouver in February 1993: “I was a child within an adult world, with adult responsibilities and an adult contract and time schedule. But I was a kid. And there was a lot of trash going on, and I had nowhere to take the trash. Basically, I learned to play cards and drink scotch with the adults, and be an adult. And the child died.”

What she had been reluctant to talk to me about in 1975, she revealed to the Province in 1993. Kaye said that by the time she was in her early 20s, her career was in disarray and her life was a mess. Columbia hadn’t been able to decide if she was pop, rock or country, and kept releasing records in different formats until radio stopped playing them. Her marriage had broken up, her baby son was taken away from her, she was spending more money than she was bringing in, and she was drinking heavily. “When sexual abuse is so rampant in your life, and people cross boundaries that are completely inappropriate, you’re just flat not capable of handling these things,” she said.

By 1993, she was in a better place. At age 42, Kaye was proprietor of a glass arts shop in Seattle, running a referral service for sexual abuse victims, and about to complete the high school education she had abandoned when she left home at age 15.

After gaining her high school equivalency diploma, Kaye continued her education with college classes in hypnotherapy, opened a clinic, and set out to help her own healing by counselling others. In 2002, at age 51, Kaye was still performing from time to time but now was singing “purely for the joy of it.” Four years later, she was seriously injured when struck by a pickup truck while walking across the parking lot of a Seattle retail store. At last report, Kaye was living in seclusion and undergoing a lengthy period of recovery.

Copyright © Brian Brennan 2015 

Brian Brennan

Brian Brennan, an Irish journalist living in Canada, is a founding feature writer with Facts and Opinions and a contributor to Arts dispatches and the Loose Leaf salon. His profile of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the first original feature in the journal’s inaugural issue, won Runner-up, Best Feature Article, in the 2014 Professional Writers Association of Canada Awards. Brennan was educated at University College Dublin, Vancouver’s Langara College, the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the National Critics Institute in Waterford, Connecticut. 

Visit him at his website, www.brianbrennan.ca

Brian Brennan also plays jazz piano, for fun and profit.

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Thank you for your support. Please help sustain us by telling others about us. Receive F&O’s free blog by email fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page.

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Save our “ruined planet,” urges Pope Francis

 

Pope Francis kisses a baby as he leaves at the end of his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi -

Pope Francis kisses a baby as he leaves at the end of his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi –

 

Pope Francis, on the eve of the most contested papal writing in half a century, said on Wednesday that all should help to save “our ruined” planet and asked critics to read his encyclical with an open spirit. The document is the Church’s most controversial since Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae enshrined the Church’s ban on contraception. Because he has said he wants to influence a key U.N. climate summit this year, the encyclical further consolidates his role as a global diplomatic player. … Click here to readOn eve of encyclical, Pope Francis appeals for “our ruined” planet, by Philip Pullella

UPDATE June 18: The text of the encyclical, On Care for our Common Home was released Thursday, and can be read here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Check our CONTENTS page for new works each week. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value our  journalism help sustain us: tell others about us, subscribe, or donate to help us continue our work:

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The Magna Carta at 800: Who, What, When, Why, How.

Magna Carta: the 800th anniversary of a “Great Charter” that changed the world 

image-20150602-19228-ze8ef9

King John

The rule of law was established at Runnymede, England, on June 15, 1215, via the Magna Carta. As well as clipping the wings of a tyrannical and erratic ruler, the signing of that “Great Charter” inspired and shaped the United Kingdom’s constitution — and eventually democratic systems worldwide.

Here, in our Publica section, is  the lowdown on who, what, when, why, and how —  and speculation about the celebration feast. 

Magna Carta: Enduring freedoms. By John Stanton

The catalyst for Magna Carta was the tyrannical rule of King John and, in particular, his imposition of arbitrary taxes upon the barons. The sealing of Magna Carta marked the first time that the notion that an unelected sovereign should be restrained under law was officially recognised. From then on, the idea that citizens should not be subjected to the arbitrary rule of a tyrannical monarch but instead be ruled and governed upon foundations of accepted legal process and law had a legal foundation. This was, in essence, an evolution of the Aristotlean idea of the supremacy of law in preference to the supremacy of man.

Magna Carta: British royals return to Runnymede. By Michael Holden

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will return on Monday, June 15, to the setting where 800 years ago one of her predecessors accepted the Magna Carta, the English document that put limits on the power of the crown for the first time and laid the foundation for modern freedoms. The Magna Carta, Latin for “Great Charter”, was ratified by King John of England in June 1215, at Runnymede, about 20 miles west of London, after an uprising by his barons. It established certain rights of the English people and placed the monarch under the rule of law. Not only does it form the bedrock of Britain’s constitutional freedoms, it was the basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights, the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Three of its 63 clauses remain on Britain’s statute book.

Magna Carta: fundamentally a financial peace treaty. By Jane Frecknall-Hughes

If you ask anyone what the Magna Carta is all about, you might be told that it is some sort of proto-human rights or constitutional document. This largely results from the fame and after-life of two particular clauses (39 and 40) – and the way the document has been interpreted and used over time. Such principles, though, played no part in its creation in 1215. Then, it was a kind of peace treaty between King John and the barons, and in many ways a financial peace treaty at that.

Magna Carta: a feast fit for kings. By Andrew Jotischky

For such a seminal historical event, Magna Carta is in some respects poorly recorded. We know quite a lot about who the rebel and loyalist barons were and where they came from, and we can reconstruct up to a point their movements in the weeks leading up to the peace treaty that Magna Carta was intended to be. But one of the many things we don’t know is how the barons who forced King John to assent to Magna Carta at Runnymede in June 1215 celebrated when it was all over.

.… click here to read more in Publica 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Check our CONTENTS page for new works each week. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. Some of our original works are behind a paywall, available with a $1 site day pass, or with a subscription from $2.95/month – $19.95/year. If you value journalism, please help sustain us, by spreading the word about us, with a subscription, or even a small donation (see below).

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