Monthly Archives: March 2016

Fresh: Facts, and Opinions, this week

An actor performs during William Shakespeare's theatre play "Hamlet" at the Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts in this file photograph dated December 11, 2008. REUTERS/ Eliana Aponte/files

Scan of Shakespeare’s Grave Suggests Skull Missing, reports Reuters. Above, an actor performs during William Shakespeare’s theatre play “Hamlet” at the Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts in this file photograph dated December 11, 2008. REUTERS/ Eliana Aponte/files

 

A still image taken from security camera footage shows people running for safety as shots are fired at the beach resort in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Etoile du Sud Hotel via Reuters TV ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.

People running for safety as shots are fired at the beach resort in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Etoile du Sud Hotel via Reuters TV 

The West’s racist response to terrorism, by Tom Regan. Column

It was a horrible attack. The terrorist gunmen walked up and down the beach, slaughtering men, women and children with each step they took. In one case, a small child begged for his life only to be murdered by the gunmen. A deaf child in the water, who others tried to warn of the danger, was also gunned down.  In the end at least 20 people lay dead, including two soldiers from a group who had arrived to confront the al-Qaeda terrorists. But I’m guessing you don’t know about this attack. That’s because it happened in the Cote d’Ivoire.

 

“Feeling the Bern”,  by Rod Mickleburgh  Column

The 74-year old, white-haired politician advanced to the podium, and the roof nearly came off the Hudson’s Bay High School gymnasium. No wonder. For nearly four hours, thousands of us had been standing in line, braving a cold, miserable rain, without even knowing whether we would be among the 5,000 or so lucky enough to make it inside. As the cheers continued to cascade down from the packed, rickety benches of the high school gym, Bernie Sanders leaned forward and shouted in his hoarse, Brooklynese. “All I can say is: WHOA!”

Party dissent in China as time for a new mandate for Xi nears, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs  Column

China’s leader Xi Jinping is facing serious criticism from within the ruling Communist Party as the time approaches when he must be reconfirmed as party boss and the country’s president. Since being selected by the party at the end of 2012 for China’s two top posts, Xi has raised hackles by using an anti-corruption drive to remove his political rivals, fostering an unseemly cult of personality, ramping up censorship and suppressing of dissent, and grasping more personal power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

Reuters

Reuters

UN Court Finds  Karadžić Guilty in Bosnia Genocide Trial. By Thomas Escritt and Toby Sterling  Report

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the most senior political figure to be convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, was sentenced to 40 years in jail by U.N judges who found him guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and of nine other war crimes charges.

How aspirin does more than kill pain. By Emma Young   Report

Inflammation in our bodies is being linked with more diseases. Can a simple anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin really help keep us healthier?

Scan of Shakespeare’s Grave Suggests Skull Missing. By Reuters Arts report

Shakespeare’s skull is likely missing from his grave, an archaeologist has concluded, confirming rumors which have swirled for years about grave-robbers and adding to the mystery surrounding the Bard’s remains.

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.

In Case You Missed It, stories earlier this month:

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , |

Party dissent in China as time for a new mandate for Xi nears

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
March 26, 2016

China’s leader Xi Jinping is facing serious criticism from within the ruling Communist Party as the time approaches when he must be reconfirmed as party boss and the country’s president.

Xo Jinping, official photo

Xo Jinping, official photo

Since being selected by the party at the end of 2012 for China’s two top posts, Xi has raised hackles by using an anti-corruption drive to remove his political rivals, fostering an unseemly cult of personality, ramping up censorship and suppressing of dissent, and grasping more personal power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

In the last few days signs have emerged of efforts to jerk Xi’s leash and bring him to heel ahead of the party gatherings next year. It is then that Xi faces confirmation for second five-year terms, first for President at the end of 2017 and then as General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party early in 2018.

Since the death of Mao in 1976 it has become traditional for Chinese leaders to serve two five-year mandates. It would take a major revolt against Xi from within the Communist Party for him to be denied that privilege. He was, after all, chosen because the party believed China needs a strong and dynamic leader to confront its multiple problems of economic decline, rampant debt, corruption, social unrest, the need for military reform, and slipping colonial control over Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. But much depends on how Xi reacts to the warnings that his behaviour is worrying leading party members.

China is still a long way from serious internal political turmoil. However, Canadians, and Vancouverites in particular, should be aware that it is apprehension of just this sort of development that has, in part, driven wealthy Chinese to seek havens abroad, to pay outlandish prices for houses and businesses, and to ignore the scams of unscrupulous local brokers. Vancouverites have more hanging on the future of Xi than they do on Donald Trump.

Three things have happened in the last few days that are serious attempts to warn Xi that his behaviour is approaching the unacceptable.

One was a speech on March 14 by a member of the party’s top decision-making body, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, criticising Xi’s attempt to grab unchallenged leadership.

The second is an extraordinary essay published on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s internal police force that Xi has used in his anti-corruption purge, that appears to accuse the leader of running a one-man show. The essay is entitled “A Thousand Yes-Men Cannot Equal One Honest Advisor.”

The third incident does not so clearly flow from the centre of the party, though it seems highly likely there was some involvement by internal dissidents. Early this month a letter appeared on the state-backed Wujie News website calling for Xi’s resignation. The letter, purporting to be from “loyal Communist Party members,” set out what are commonly seen as Xi’s failings. The list included his defiance of the established practice of collective leadership and grabbing of excessive personal power, the threats to national security caused by his bellicose actions against Japan and in the South China Sea, his economic mismanagement, his suppression of the media, and his fostering of a personality cult.

While the criticisms from within the upper echelons of the party will require careful management by Xi, the open letter is an easier matter. At least 20 people have been detained as part of the investigation into the letter. According to Amnesty International they include the father, mother, and younger brother of Chinese blogger and government critic, Wen Yunchao, who lives in New York. It is a time-honoured tactic of Chinese security agents to hold family members hostage in order to put pressure on a suspect. Several Chinese who have sought sanctuary in Canada in recent years have been forced to return to China to face the music after their family members were detained. In at least one case, several of the relatives were killed to force the return of the fugitive.

Another detainee is a prominent columnist at Wujie News, Jia Jia. Of the other 16, six are editorial staff at the website, including a senior manager and a senior editor. The remaining 10 are reported to all work for a technology company associated with the site. That suggests there may be evidence of hacking from outside.

The letter was swiftly removed from the site, but the incident shows yet again how prickly Xi is about personal attacks. A publishing company in Hong Kong that was about to sell a book setting out scurrilous allegations about Xi’s private life has found that out the hard way. Five people associated with the company disappeared late last year, but were found later to have been detained in Mainland China. One appears to have been abducted while on holiday in Thailand. Two recently returned to Hong Kong, and one is still officially listed as missing. Today, Friday, the leading figure, bookseller Lee Bo, gave interviews to local media in Hong Kong saying he was treated well by the Chinese authorities, but that he will not be publishing books again.

Xi will have to tread more carefully in the corridors of Communist Party power if he is to avoid a rising tide of objection to his reappointment next year.

Perhaps the most serious sign of discord so far came at the closing session of the annual meeting of China’s ersatz parliament, the National People’s Congress, on March 14. With an evidently angry Xi looking on, Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, gave a speech criticising Xi’s accumulation of personal power, his promotion of a personality cult, and his strict control of public debate.

As so often happens in authoritarian societies, Yu’s broadside was fired using the arcane world of party double-speak. One has to understand the argot to see what was meant.

Chinese Communist Party leaders love to give a handy catch-phrase to their dynasties that encapsulates their aims and achievements. For Jiang Zemin, leader in the 1990s, it was the socio-political doctrine of “The Three Represents.” Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor, led under the banner of “The Harmonious Society.” Xi has pledged to uphold “The Four Consciousnesses.” The concept is more euphonious in Chinese and the four are politics, the bigger picture, the core and consistency.

In this context “the core” means Xi himself, and “consistency” means doing what Xi says.

However, in his closing speech to the congress, Yu mentioned politics and the wider vision of China’s future, but pointedly ignored “the core” and “consistency.”

If that were not a sharp enough dig at Xi, Yu then added his own “consciousness,” the “consciousness of responsibility.” He also repeatedly mentioned “diversity.” Taken together, these suggest a very different view of how the Chinese leadership should work from that being pursued by Xi.

And as is so often the case in politics and especially in closed one-party states li ke China, who is speaking is more important than what is said.

Yu Zhensheng may not be a household name in the outside world, but in China he is an important and well-connected figure. As well as being one of the top seven leaders on the Politburo Standing Committee, he is chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. This is the country’s top political advisory body and as its head, Yu ranks fourth in the Communist Party hierarchy.

At least as important as Yu’s positions are his connections. Yu is close to former leader Jiang Zemin, who despite his advanced years still dominates the so-called Shanghai Faction. Until the arrival of Xi, the Shanghai Faction, with its control of the mainspring of China’s economic miracle, dominated the country’s politics. Indeed, Yu belongs to the so-called “Industrial Machinery Faction” within the Shanghai Faction.

But when Xi took over as President and party General-Secretary during the winter of 2012, he established his own power by using the anti-corruption drive to attack the Shanghai Faction. His target was Politburo Standing Committee member and close associate of Jiang Zemin, Zhou Yongkang, and all Zhou’s family and associates. Zhou and his family controlled China’s oil industry. The sweeping arrests brought the industry to a standstill, and the effects reached even into Canada. Zhou’s wife’s sister, Margaret Jia, was the general manager of CNPC International (Canada). She disappeared from Calgary shortly before Zhou’s arrest was made public.

The other powerful reason for Xi to make Zhou a target was that he had supported Xi’s rival for the leadership, Bo Xilai, now languishing in prison for abuse of power.

As well as Yu, two other current members of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee are loyal to former President Jiang Zemin. So Xi is going to have to box clever if he is to avoid a serious challenge to his leadership in the coming months.

At the moment, there’s a lot in Xi’s favour. Of the seven members on the committee, five will reach retirement age and cannot be reselected. Only Xi and his sidekick, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, are eligible for reappointment. But that advantage can disappear if the dissatisfaction with Xi’s leadership becomes more widespread than is now evident.

It is in this context that the essay published two weeks ago on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection comes into focus. This body is the party’s internal Inquisition, charged with imposing loyalty and conformity to doctrine. It is headed by Wang Qishan, President Xi’s closest political ally and the man who has led the anti-corruption drive to destroy Xi’s critics and enemies.

So why, then, did the commission publish the essay entitled “A Thousand Yes-Men Cannot Equal One Honest Advisor”?

Political discourse in China is often conducted by circumlocution and indirection. This is most frequently achieved by talking about events in Chinese history and leaving the listeners to draw their own conclusions about how those relate to current political figures.

The title of the essay on the commission website is actually taken from remarks made by Xi at a meeting in Hebei province discussing democratic life. But the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the essay is that Xi is not living up to his own words; that he has become a one-man band surrounded by sycophants, and needs to pay more attention to loyal advisors.

The essay recounts several examples from Chinese history where emperors either listened to sound advice from advisors and prospered in peace and war, or where they dismissed counsellors and suffered as a consequence.

Towards the end of the essay the writer steps out from behind the protection of the historical curtain and speaks plainly.

“We should not be afraid of people saying the wrong things; we should be afraid of people not speaking at all,” says the writer. This is a potent message at a time when Xi has done more than any leader since Mao to curtail public discussion and dissent.

The writer continues that the party has always “advocated that those who have something to say should say it publicly, and that everyone seeks a sincere and devoted unity through open and unhidden criticism. The fundamental attitude of our Party toward criticism is to consider things as they stand, seek the truth in facts, and distinguish right from wrong.”

If one assumes for a moment that the commission’s boss and Xi’s ally, Wang, knew about the essay being published on the website, it suggests even Xi’s strongest supporters are worried about the course he is taking and are trying to speak truth to power.

But speaking truth to power has had momentous repercussions in China before, and could again this time.
The Cultural Revolution, which tore China apart from 1965 until Mao’s death in 1976, had its germination in an historical political allegory similar to the Yes-Men essay.

In 1959 the Deputy Mayor of Beijing, Wu Han, published an historical play about an honest and upright civil servant, Hai Rui, who was fired by a corrupt emperor. Mao initially liked the play, “Hai Rui Dismissed from Office,” and publicly praised it. But Mao became convinced that the author, Wu, was using the story to criticised him. In February 1965 Mao secretly arranged for a Shanghai propagandist, Yao Wenyuan, to write an article vehemently criticising the play and its author. Yao wrote that the play was an allegory and that Deputy Mayor Wu was in reality accusing Mao of being a corrupt emperor.

The allegation put Peng Zhen, the Mayor of Beijing and close associate of author Wu, in a politically vulnerable position. As he and then many others scrambled to protect themselves from Mao, the chaos quickly spread. This was just what Mao intended, and he embarked on a 10-year purge of his enemies and those suspected of less than perfect loyalty. China and the Communist Party have not yet recovered from that trauma.

There is regular speculation among China watchers and within China itself that Xi shows signs of embarking on a new Cultural Revolution to entrench his power. Xi’s many references to inspiring a “Cultural Renaissance” in China have raised suspicions. If so, the events of the last few days may be the opportunity Xi wants.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

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Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

See also: Hong Kong’s Fish Ball Revolution turns bloody — Report

You might also wish to read these Jonathan Manthorpe columns:

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Jan. 15, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts a live fire gunnery exercise with its 5-inch .54-caliber gun. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson, Public DomaineChina’s island building in defence of nuclear missile submarines

China’s island building in the South China Sea shows the challenges awaiting America’s next president. Forget the Islamic State group and the quagmire of the Middle East. Asia and the confrontation with China is where the real threat to North American interests lie. Indeed, the situation is fast approaching something that looks strikingly similar to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Riot police arrests a protester after a clash at Mongkok district in Hong Kong, China February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Familiarity with China breeds contempt in Hong Kong

The only surprise in the Monday night clashes between Hong Kong police and demonstrators demanding self-rule is that it hasn’t happened before.  In all likelihood the Mong Kok riots herald increasingly violent clashes as Hongkongers vent their frustrations with Beijing’s refusal to keep its promises of political reform and the steady erosion of the territory’s freedoms. The Chinese government has only itself to blame for the alienation of Hong Kong’s seven million people.

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan set to complete the transition to democracy

Taiwan has surged over the hump of its 35-year voyage from a military-ruled, one-party state to one of the most successful and vibrant democracies in Asia.

Class war returns, this time as a global issue

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.

China’s soil as poisonous as its air and water

Soil pollution in China is as extensive and as deadly as the degradation of the country’s air and water. China is cursed from the beginning because only just over 11 per cent of its land is suitable for agriculture. As much as 20 per cent is so contaminated by heavy metals that food produced on it is toxic. Thirty years of chaotic, corrupt and unregulated industrialization has so polluted China that it is killing hundreds of thousands of its people – by some estimates, millions – every year.

Beijing in smog on Nov. 29. Photo by LWYang/Flickr/Creative Commons

Vancouver’s housing bubble inflated by China’s air pollution

Vancouver’s grossly inflated housing market, the United Nations’ climate conference in Paris and China’s catastrophic environmental degradation are all linked in a circle of cause and effect.

China faces crippling water shortages and pollution

China’s drive for wealth and power is stumbling and could collapse over the country’s lack of water and its gross mismanagement of the resources it does have.

Beijing bristles as Taiwan prepares to elect pro-independence opposition

Taiwan’s voters are preparing for a rocky ride as they appear set to elect an opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration dedicated to preserving the independence of the island and its 23 million people. If the voters in next year’s presidential election do what they are now telling pollsters they intend, the result will excite anger in Beijing and send a frisson of anxiety through the corridors of power in Washington.

Beijing collides with China’s new community of human rights lawyers

The recent assault by President Xi Jinping on China’s community of human rights lawyers may be too late to insulate the Communist Party against a coming storm. There is a tacit acknowledgement by the party that China’s swelling community of about 300 human rights lawyers, their associates and like-minded advocacy groups have become a serious challenge to the one-party state.

Hong Kong legislators reject reform package in farcical vote 

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.  Instead the episode cascaded into farce.

Vancouver: not mind-numbingly boring, but vacuously vain (public access)

Most Vancouver residents are shut out of the feeding frenzy on vast Chinese wealth pouring into city developments. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2014

The flood of vast wealth from China into Canada has not only contorted and distorted the Vancouver housing market beyond redemption, it has changed the sort of community the western Canadian metropolis is going to be for generations to come. In a bizarre piece of absence of mind and lack of attention, it has also hitched the future of Vancouver to the fate of the Chinese Communist Party. Vancouver’s low self-confidence and its destructive vanity have both played a part in these failures.

 

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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Posted in Uncategorized

Balkanization and the Radovan Karadžić verdict

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

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

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

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

© Deborah Jones 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Deborah Jones 2011

The superhighway from Croatia into Bosnia. © Deborah Jones 2011

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

Počitelj, Bosnia. © Deborah Jones 2011

Počitelj, Bosnia. © Deborah Jones 2011

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

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

Deborah Jones

 

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

Watch the March 24 verdict:

 
Related works on Facts and Opinions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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.

Posted in 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.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

 

14637661370_ed01aa8a15_k copyTrump or no Trump, the Democrats are going to win in the fall. Tom Regan, F&O Columnist

I’m tired of all the handwringing about Donald Trump. Yes, he’s bringing out a lot of new white voters, particularly angry white men. Yes, more Republicans are showing up to vote in the primaries than Democrats are. Yes, Trump is the “unexpected factor” that no one saw coming. Yes, underestimating Trump in the coming fall, as Republicans did last fall, is the greatest danger the Democrats face. It doesn’t matter one bit.

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Leaders announce a BRICS development bank at Brazil summit. Left to right: President of Russia Vladmir Putin, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, President of China Xi Jinping, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma. Photo: Russian government, public domainBRICS turning to rubble. Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O Columnist  Report

The leadership chaos in Brazil and South Africa is a timely reminder for emerging economies that unless they also press ahead with political, administrative, judicial and social reform they are doomed. The prospects for the BRICS —  Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — don’t look rosy, and in every case it is because the governing regimes failed to use their growing economic wealth as a tool to fuel political, administrative, judicial and social reform.

A refguee holds a message, "Thank you EU for closing the border" during a protest asking for the opening of borders at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 18, 2016.   REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

A refguee holds a message, “Thank you EU for closing the border” during a protest asking for the opening of borders at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

EU, Turkey, seal controversial deal to return migrants. By Humeyra Pamuk and Gabriela Baczynska  Report

 The European Union sealed a controversial deal with Turkey on Friday intended to halt illegal migration flows to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara. The accord aims to close the main route by which a million migrants and refugees poured across the Aegean Sea to Greece in the last year before marching north to Germany and Sweden.

The Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. © Deborah Jones 2008

Electronic or on calf skin, knowledge never more threatened. By Richard Ovenden, University of Oxford  Arts report

Information is constantly under attack. A current debate around the longstanding use of vellum (a parchment made using calf skin) for printing key legislative documents highlights the continued concern over this. But books and manuscripts have been the targets of thieves for millennia.

Egypt finds clues that Queen Nefertiti may lie behind Tut’s tomb. By Reuters. Report

Egypt has unearthed further evidence that a secret chamber, believed by some to be the lost burial site of Queen Nefertiti, may lie behind King Tutankhamun’s tomb, Egypt’s antiquities minister said on March 17. There is huge international interest in Nefertiti, who died in the 14th century B.C.

Quagga mussels in fish trawl. Lake Michigan, August 2006. Photo NOAA‘Smeary’ Lake Erie — progress, and setbacks. Brian Bienkowski  Report

The Great Lakes  — with 84% of North America’s surface fresh water and about 21% of the world’s supply — have benefited mightily from cleanup and research. However, from plummeting prey fish populations to poopy Michigan rivers, grave threats to the region’s ecosystems remain.

How do you mine Bitcoin – and is it still worth it? By Paul Levy   Report

Most people are bamboozled by Bitcoin,  but there are definitions of Bitcoin that even a five-year-old could understand. Bitcoin is an online form of money – each one is currently worth around £290. So, when you read “cryptocurrency”, think digital gold. Think virtual money.

Vancouver, looking west toward English Bay and the city's West Side, left. Photo by Gavin Kennedy, Copyright 2013

Sustainability needs academics, outside Ivory Towers. By Anthony D. Barnosky, Elizabeth A. Hadly, and Paul R. Ehrlich  Expert Witness

Until recently, Earth was so big compared with humanity’s impacts that its resources seemed limitless. But that is no longer the case. Thanks to rapid growth in both human population and per capita consumption, we are now on the edge of irrevocable damage to our planetary life support systems. If we want to avoid locking in long-lasting impacts, it is imperative that we quickly solve six intertwined problems: population growth and overconsumption, climate change, pollution, ecosystem destruction, disease spillovers and extinction.

Academics can change the world – if they engage with it. By Savo Heleta, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University  Expert Witness

Research and creative thinking can change the world. This means that academics have enormous power. But, as academics Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr have warned, the overwhelming majority are not shaping today’s public debates. Instead, their work is largely sitting in academic journals that are read almost exclusively by their peers.

And to wrap up the week, a video from Doctors Without Borders summarizing Syria’s five-year agonizing war:

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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.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

Electronic or on calf skin, knowledge never more threatened

By Richard Ovenden, University of Oxford
March, 2016

One of four known surviving 1215 exemplars of Magna Carta.

One of four known surviving 1215 exemplars of Magna Carta.

Information is constantly under attack. A current debate around the longstanding use of vellum (a parchment made using calf skin) for printing key legislative documents highlights the continued concern over this. Some are advocating a switch from vellum to archive paper, which costs much less and can last up to 500 years.

Recorded information is certainly vulnerable: paper and parchment, and the inks and pigments that are written, drawn or painted on their surfaces, can decay and disappear if not stored in controlled environmental conditions.

And digital information is even more susceptible to degradation than that recorded on vellum. Operating systems and information environments change and develop rapidly, and as a result information created and stored on older systems easily can become unusable. It’s by no means certain that the digital information created by our parliament today will still be secure and reliably accessible in 200 years.

Books and manuscripts have been the targets of thieves for millennia. Whole libraries have been destroyed by invading armies and fanatical idealists. Even nature occasionally has played its part – the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD caused the contents of the Roman library at Herculaneum to become illegible. Libraries and archives have been dealing with these threats for centuries.

But the growth of digital networks as a means of storing and sharing information has created new hazards. Cybersecurity is increasingly a critical concern for modern organisations. All face the potential of hostile attacks on their digital information from cyber-criminals. And as age-old protectors of information, it’s up to libraries and archives to safeguard this knowledge from such assaults.

Guarding knowledge

The Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. © Deborah Jones 2008

The Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. © Deborah Jones 2008

Libraries and archives have tackled the threats to knowledge with great ingenuity for thousands of years. The archives of Merton College, Oxford, for example, were stored from the 14th century in a building purposefully made of stone, with flooring made from tiles rather than wood to eliminate the threat of fire. And the founders of Oxford’s Bodleian Library in 1602 required all readers to swear an oath that they would not bring the library into harm, for example by pledging not to “kindle therein any fire nor flame”.

Libraries and archives have also been at the forefront of preserving digital information. Groups such as the Digital Preservation Coalition work together to develop the skills and techniques we need as a society to help manage and preserve the vast amounts of information created in digital formats. They have developed disaster recovery routines, back-up strategies, policies and a host of other collaborative arrangements.

Scholarly information is being protected through physical networks of connected computers, such as LOCKSS – an agency built on the proposition that “lots of copies keeps stuff safe”. And non-profit organisations funded by the library and archive communities, such as Portico, have developed large-scale capabilities for preserving books and journals in digital form, with backups in multiple locations.

Personal information is also of great importance to society. Drafts of poems and novels, and the correspondence of politicians and scientists can help shine light on critical areas of history and science. Libraries and archives have always kept files of the letters of philosophers, such as Isaiah Berlin, or the drafts of speeches of Winston Churchill. But the intellectuals and political big-hitters of today are working in digital form, drafting their speeches using word-processing software, and exchanging emails and text messages with each other.

The preservation of this kind of information is much harder than the analogue equivalents. Librarians and archivists have therefore deployed techniques borrowed from fields such as digital forensics to ensure that these records are safeguarded for future generations to learn from.

Crucial role

But in the challenging fiscal environments of the early 21st century – a period hailed by many as the era of information – society runs the risk of endangering its future by neglecting the role of libraries, archives and museums). The global network of libraries and archives has been, and will remain, fundamental to the preservation and propagation of knowledge.

Society ignores the role of libraries and archives at its peril. Last year saw the 800th anniversary of that “great charter of liberties”, Magna Carta. It survives not in one copy but in multiple originals, distributed around the kingdom, as well as numerous later affirmations. Its survival as a potent set of legal and political concepts was in no small measure thanks to the role of libraries and archives in preserving the original documents.

William Blackstone, one of the most important legal theorists ever, was able to look at original engrossments of Magna Carta while writing his influential legal treatises, for example. His books went on to be read by Thomas Jefferson and the other founders of the American constitution.

A cello player in Sarajevo’s destroyed National Library, 1992. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev, Creative Commons

A cello player in Sarajevo’s destroyed National Library, 1992.
Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev, Creative Commons

In more recent times, we need only look at the actions of the army of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They deliberately destroyed the national library in Sarajevo as a means of erasing the uncomfortable truths of history – a perverse validation of the democratic significance of libraries.

The costs of maintaining such a system of libraries and archives are trivial compared to the costs of other state initiatives or the revenues of the giant tech companies. But across the globe, the funding of many of these institutions is under severe pressure. In an age of “information overload”, we are in real danger of failing to ensure that succeeding societies have access to the wisdom, and error, of their predecessors.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Richard Ovenden is Director of the Bodleian Libraries, University of OxfordThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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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.

Posted in Uncategorized

BRICS turning to rubble

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
March 18, 2016

The leadership chaos in Brazil and South Africa is a timely reminder for emerging economies that unless they also press ahead with political, administrative, judicial and social reform they are doomed.

The presidents of both Brazil and South Africa are clinging to office by their fingernails in the face of accusations of corruption and administrative incompetence. Both Jacob Zuma in South Africa and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil have already taken confidence in their countries’ economies down with them and will probably do more lasting damage to the political institutions before their scandals are resolved.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff looks on during a meeting with state governors at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff looks on during a meeting with state governors at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

In Brazil, millions of protesters in the country’s main cities are demanding the removal of Rousseff, as the long-running scandal over corruption in the state oil company Petrobras flows ever closer to her door. More ground slipped from under her feet on Friday when Congress started the impeachment process against her. This came the day after a judge ruled invalid her attempt to protect her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, from prosecution for corruption, by appointing him to her cabinet. This ruling was overturned by another court on Friday, which well illustrates the prevailing confusion and chaos.

And in South Africa, Zuma, whose entire political career has billowed with the stench of scandal and corruption, is accused of a deeply suspect relationship with three Indian brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta. They came to South Africa in the early 1990s, after the end of apartheid, and have built a media, transportation, mining and technology empire that panders to Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The latest allegation is that the Gupta’s have taken effective control of Zuma’s administration, and have even been offering ministerial positions to senior officials, including the critical post of finance minister. On Thursday in parliament Zuma denied the charge, but factions for and against the president are forming within the ANC, whose sliding popularity is likely to be reflected in the results of local elections this year.

Yet in both Brazil and South Africa the current damaging chaos was entirely avoidable. In their own ways both have fallen victim to the triumphalism that came with their inclusion in BRICS club, the five emerging economies that in 2001 Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill predicted would soon dominate global commerce.

But 15 years on, the prospects for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa don’t look nearly as rosy, and in every case it is because the governing regimes failed to use their growing economic wealth as a tool to fuel political, administrative, judicial and social reform. They have come to realize, belatedly, that without those other reforms, economic growth and maturity cannot continue. Now, however, they’ve lost the opportunity offered by economic optimism in the early 2000s.

Before you continue: please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We are on an honour system and survive only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story.  Contribute below, or find more details here. Thanks for your interest and support.

 

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Leaders announce a BRICS development bank at Brazil summit. Left to right: President of Russia Vladmir Putin, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, President of China Xi Jinping, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma. Photo: Russian government, public domain

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Leaders announce a BRICS development bank at Brazil summit in 2014. Left to right: President of Russia Vladmir Putin, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, President of China Xi Jinping, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma. Photo: Russian government, public domain

The responses have been different among the BRICS governments to their economic woes since the global recession of 2008-2009, continuing lack of manufacturing demand, and the contributing burden of politically-inspired low oil prices.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Russia and China have fallen back on fascism. Neither Vladimir Putin in Moscow nor Xi Jinping in Beijing is prepared to institute the kind of liberalising political, judicial and administrative reforms necessary to create sustainable economies if it means give up a monopoly on power.

Instead, they are relying on ever more brutal repression to keep their citizens in line. Putin’s regime is sustained by the very public murder of dissidents who get too far out of line. In China dissidents simply disappear, are locked up on manufactured criminal charges, or are paid visits by triad gang fighters armed with meat cleavers. In both China and Russia, mass demonstrations are broken up by armed police, commonly assisted by local thugs wearing no uniform or identification.

To divert attention from the economic ills, both Moscow and Beijing are feeding their peoples dangerous gobs of intense nationalism to create the illusion that their countries are still great powers.

For Putin, patriotism is fed by his exploits in eastern Ukraine, Georgia, the Caucasus and, most recently, Syria. For Xi, it’s chest thumping at old enemy Japan and his highly volatile imperial expansion into the South China Sea. These adventures seem destined to end in conflicts, either with littoral states such as Vietnam and the Philippines, or the United States, or both.

The only member of the BRICS which has not gone off the rails is India. This is in part because expectations of an economic miracle in India were always much lower than among the others. And while India had and has much to reform, it also has some structural strengths that the others lack. India has been a democracy since 1947, albeit one with many faults and inconsistencies for much of the last 60 years. But Indian democracy has become far more vigorous, vibrant and responsive in the last decade or so.

India was cursed by its government’s adherence to quasi-Marxist economic policies for the first decades after independence. This burden was compounded by corruption and an unbelievably debilitating administrative system, known as “the licence raj,” that choked every economic activity with red tape.

Since the 1990s, much has been done to reform and liberate the Indian economy. But huge challenges remain, especially confronting the lack of essential infrastructure for further economic development, and a society still riven by the destructive caste system.

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support.  Contribute, below, or find details here.

By Marc Shandro - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1117594

The only member of the BRICS which has not gone off the rails is India. Above, a spice market in India. Photo: Marc Shandro, Flickr, Creative Commons

At the height of the BRICS fantasia the American economist Robert Kagan set out a picture of traditional, western free market economic being challenged by the apparently more effective “authoritarian capitalism” of the emerging nations. That’s not a phrase one hears much these days, and for good reason. Authoritarian capitalism only works up to the point where further market liberalisation challenges the ruling classes. Then the shutters come down.

This can be clearly seen in the recent histories of the Asian Tiger economies, whose dramatic expansion and development in the 1980s and 1990s was seen with more legitimacy than the BRICS as a vision of things to come. Those tigers that have embraced political, administrative and social reform, such as South Korea and Taiwan, have also enjoyed continued economic development. (Though Taiwan has experienced serious setbacks since the current government, whose term ends in May, was foolish enough to seek commercial links with China.) On the other hand, the tiger economies Thailand and Malaysia, where crony capitalism thrives and genuine reform has been blocked, are seeing their prospects wither.

Former Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gives a statement to the media after being detained for questioning in a federal investigation of a bribery and money laundering scheme in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Former Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gives a statement to the media after being detained for questioning in a federal investigation of a bribery and money laundering scheme in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Brazil’s problems stem from the rank foolishness of thinking that the commodities boom of the early 2000s that fuelled its economic take-off would go on forever. Commodity booms always go in cycles of five years or so. But President Lula ignored this and seems to have allowed to go to his head all the praise for economic sagacity that was lavished on him. He did little or nothing to utilise Brazil’s boom moment to prepare the economy for in the inevitable downturn. That included his failure to reform the bureaucratic nightmare that shackles anyone attempting to do business in Brazil.

Lula left in a cacophony of cheers in 2010 and, in essence, handed the presidency to his chief of staff, Rousseff. She, it turns out, has few political skills and has become deeply unpopular as the economy has gone into decline. She has continued to spend like a sailor on shore leave, apparently blind to the reality that the good times no longer roll.

Rousseff’s incompetence might be contained if Brazil had a functioning legislature. It does not. The lower house, Chamber of Deputies, has 513 members from 28 parties. Brazil uses a proportional representation system, allocating seats on the basis of the population of each of the country’s 26 provinces. The result is that parties are tied to geography rather than political ideology. Last year Rousseff and her Workers’ Party (PT) won the support of only 75 deputies in 90 per cent of the votes.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In Brazil, the political vacuum is being filled by the judiciary. Since the economy went into tail-spin two years ago and Rousseff’s ineptness became evident, judges have gone well beyond the limits of their functions and have begun making policy decisions with far-reaching implications.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the pursuit of political corruption. This was traditionally addressed by Parliamentary Inquiry Commissions, but, like Congress, these have become ineffectual and the public has lost all confidence in them.

In 2014 judicial investigators led by federal judge Sergio Moro uncovered what is being billed as massive web of corruption in Probras, the state oil company. The case is known as “lava jato,” Portuguese for car wash, involves the equivalent of $US8 billion being diverted from Petrobras. It was a simple scheme by which companies bribed senior Petrobras officials to overbill them on contracts with the state oil company. Dozens of construction company officials have already been detained, but investigators are now hunting in the political arena. The federal public prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to investigate Vice-President Michel Temer and opposition leader Aecio Neves. Then, a week ago, former president Lula was arrested and taken in for questioning over the scandal. Moro’s men questioned Lula about allegations of money laundering, fraud and his secret ownership of a multi-million dollar beachside penthouse. Lula denies the allegations.

Early this week Rousseff apparently offered Lula the job of chief of staff in her office. The position would give Lula cabinet minister status, and thus immunity from prosecution from anyone except the Supreme Court. Her officials say, however, she wanted Lula at her side because of his proven record as a financial manager.

Well, Moro and his hound dogs weren’t buying that. Late on Wednesday they released results of a phone tap made earlier in the day in which Rousseff is heard telling Lula to use the document confirming his cabinet appointment “only if necessary.”

After the recording was broadcast on radio and television thousands of protesters took to the streets in at least 16 cities demanding Rousseff’s removal. That is now in the hands of Congress and her PT party.

By Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson - http://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/3950142700, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7966696

United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo during a reception in 2009 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York with Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, and one of his wives. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

In South Africa the ruling ANC has a similar problem with President Jacob Zuma.

It is an indictment on the ANC’s inability so far to make the transition from revolutionary movement to government of South Africa that Zuma ever became president. Zuma’s trail has been littered with corruption and scandal from the start. What he has in his favour, at least in the eyes of the ANC, is a hero’s record of joining the party’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the People) in 1962, and the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1963. The same year he was arrested, convicted of attempting to overthrow the state, and sentenced to 10 years in prison, which he served with Nelson Mandela in what is now the pilgrimage site of Robben island off Cape Town. After his release, Zuma went into exile, ending up in the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, where he rose through the ranks of the ANC and the SACP.

After the end of apartheid in 1990, Zuma, a Zulu from Natal Province, returned to South Africa. Zuma led the bitter and bloody war in KwaZulu-Natal against the hereditary Zulu chief, Mangosuthu Buthelezi and thus became the ANC’s indispensable voice among the powerful Zulu minority. Because of this, he was appointed a Deputy President of South Africa in 1999, but quickly became involved in scandal when his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was charged with corruption and fraud. It was alleged that Shaik solicited bribes – including 500,000 Rand a year (about $50,000 a year at the time) for Zuma – from the French defence contractor Thomson CSF over the purchase of frigates for the South African navy. Shaik got 15 years in prison, but somehow Zuma never faced trial. President Thabo Mbeki was forced, however, to remove Zuma from the Deputy Presidency.

While Zuma faced only corruption charges he retained strong support within the ANC and especially in the Youth League. The feeling was that after half a century of white minority rule, it was legitimate for black South Africans to get their hands on whatever they could.

That attitude towards Zuma began to change in December 2005 when he was charged with raping a 31-year-old woman. Scepticism about Zuma was especially strong among his Communist Party colleagues. The trial was a bizarre piece of theatre from the start, but became even more so when Zuma, the head of the National AIDS Council at the time, admitted he had not used a condom despite knowing the woman was HIV-positive. He had, he said, taken a shower after the encounter to minimise the risk of infection.

Zuma maintained throughout the trial that the sex was consensual, and in the end the court agreed with him. This cleared the way for Zuma to successful challenge Mbeki for the leadership of the ANC in December 2007 and to win the Presidency of South Africa in May 2009.

The whiff of financial scandal has continued to hang around Zuma since he achieved the presidency. Most persistent have been questions about the multi-million dollar upgrades made to his private home at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. The defence for these improvements has been that they were necessary to enhance the security of the Zuma family kraal, or compound. Critics, however, have pointed out that what is claimed to be a reservoir for water in case of fire looks suspiciously like a huge swimming pool. The security use of a new, large amphitheatre, nor for the chicken run or the enclosure for cattle are not immediately evident either.

In February this year Zuma finally agreed to pay back part of the costs of the improvements, though as of today he has not done so and the matter is still before the Constitutional Court.

Not least of the problems Zuma presents is, who is South Africa’s First Lady? Zuma has been married at least six times, and he has at least four current wives and perhaps one or more fiancees. Although polygamy is legal in South Africa, senior members of the ANC have complained about the state support, equivalent to nearly $3 million a year, paid for the upkeep of Zuma’s family. He has at least 20 children, most with his wives, but seven or more with other women.

One of Zuma’s sons and one of his daughters work for the Guptas, who are at the centre of the new scandal now engulfing the President. And his most recently acquired wife – so far as is known – Gloria Bongekile Ngema, who he married in 2012, worked for one of the Gupta’s mining companies.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

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Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

From F&O’s archives:

BRICS Bank a Game Changer. By Ali Burak GüvenJuly 22, 2014

Crumbling of the BRICs. By Jonathan Manthorpe, April, 2014

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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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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‘Smeary’ Lake Erie — progress, and setbacks

The Great Lakes are no longer a dumping ground for industrial pollution. But farm run-off, aquatic invaders and climate change are once again putting fish and clean water in jeopardy

 

The Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes o New York state from the International Space Station, June 14, 2012, by the Expedition 31 crew. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=78617

The Great Lakes contain some 84% of North America’s surface fresh water, and about 21% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Above, the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes in New York state seen from the International Space Station, June 14, 2012, by the Expedition 31 crew. Photo: NASA, Public Domain

By Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News
March, 2016

EAST LANSING, Michigan—When Dr. Suess wrote his iconic children’s book “The Lorax” in 1971, he took a swipe at the Great Lakes.

“They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary, in search of some water that isn’t so smeary. I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.”

If the line doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry: It was removed after Ohio Sea Grant employees wrote the author to fill him in on the major strides in improving the lake’s health.

Lake Erie and its four great cousins have benefited mightily from cleanup and research in the 45 years since Dr. Suess penned what became his personal favorite. However, from plummeting prey fish populations to poopy Michigan rivers, grave threats to the region’s ecosystems remain, scientists and officials said at the annual Michigan Water Heritage conference held at Michigan State University this month.

Jon Allan, director of the Office of the Great Lakes, made note of the progress since the 1970s. For years we had “our backs to water, communities backed up to waterfront, we dumped our garbage there. How many of you remember those days?” he asked.

In the audience most of the roughly 150 water quality researchers, fisheries biologists, agency scientists, nonprofit employees and others raised a hand.

“Those days were not pleasant.”

Quagga mussels in fish trawl. Lake Michigan, August 2006. Photo NOAA

Quagga mussels, seen here in a 2006 fish trawl, are disrupting food chains in Lake Michigan. Photo NOAA, Public Domain

It’s true industrial waste largely stopped flowing into waters, but other problems percolated: invasive species, farm runoff, sewage overflows and failing septic systems. Quagga mussels are screwing up food chains in Lake Michigan, rivers are bearing the brunt of unregulated farm waste, and Lake Erie, once declared dead in the late 1960s, is once again suffering from large nutrient-driven dead zones.

Craig Stow, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, has spent more than two decades studying the Great Lakes. We’ve “slipped back” a bit recently, he said, saying that Lake Erie algae blooms have been on the rise in recent years. Last summer the largest bloom on record, about 300 square miles, tainted western Lake Erie.

Phosphorous runoff, mostly from farming, especially in Ohio’s Maumee River valley, feeds such blooms in the warm and shallow waters of the western part of the lake. Such blooms can produce harmful toxins and hurt humans and ecosystems. Stopping them will only become more difficult as the climate changes: long-term precipitation trends show bigger, fiercer downpours since the late 1990s; in conjunction, Maumee River discharge has increased. “We’re seeing some really important change in dynamics driving algal blooms in Lake Erie,” Stow said.

Officials are starting to pay attention. Just last month the U.S. and Canada adopted new targets to reduce phosphorous entering Lake Erie by 40 percent. Ohio governor and presidential hopeful John Kasich, beleaguered Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spearheaded the effort.

Stow said such efforts are crucial to prevent taking giant steps backward.

“We’re going to be managing phosphorous for a long, long time,” Stow said. “If we don’t develop good adaptive management plans, we’re going to be back in the same position we were in 1980s.”

There is some good news. Western Lake Erie is the only section in all five Great Lakes where prey fish populations—the ones feeding popular predator fish such as salmon and trout feed—haven’t trended downward since 1980, said David Bunnell, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

That can’t be said for Lake Michigan. Last year Bunnell and colleagues reported the lowest catch rate ever for all fish groups—commercially harvested fish, sport harvested fish and prey fish—in Lake Michigan. Salmon populations, too, were down 75 percent from their 2012 peak.

This is worrisome for anyone who remembers the salmon crash in Lake Huron about a decade ago due to vanishing alewife, a staple of the predator’s diet. Salmon still haven’t recovered there.

Nascent research suggests a bottom-up problem in the lakes, Bunnell said: Declining nutrients, due largely to invasive, filter-feeding quagga mussels, break the food chain for creatures like zooplankton, which sustain alewife and other prey fish.

“Salmon need to eat more alewife to get the same amount of calories.”-David Bunnell, USGSA study last year found about 80 percent of larval alewife in Lake Michigan had empty stomachs. And their energy density—how much of a caloric punch they pack—has declined about 33 percent over the past decade.

A crash in salmon stocks could have a considerable impact on the shore and throughout the region: Salmon are a hugely popular sport fish and bring a lot of dollars to the state.

Then there’s the poop problem.

“I’m glad my talk was after lunch,” quipped Molly Rippke, an aquatic biologist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Much of Tuesday’s session focused on the Great Lakes. Rippke reminded attendees “all rivers lead to the beach.” And many of those rivers bring poop with them.

Rippke estimated that 50 percent of Michigan rivers exceed acceptable levels of E. coli, a harmful bacteria indicating contamination from feces: Failing septic systems, farm runoff, congregating wildlife and combined sewer overflows.

Rippke and colleagues are trying to tease out causes to better stop the contamination. One thing was clear in their study of rivers: as agriculture increases, E. coli tends to increase, she said. They also found that the more forested land in a watershed, the lower the harmful bacteria levels.

But there is a glaring need for more science—they only sampled 11 percent of rivers in Michigan, a state with 120 major rivers covering 36,350 square miles.

While the conference focused on watersheds, with the city of Flint just an hour away, the issue of safe drinking water loomed large.

About 70 percent of people in Michigan are on a public water supply, Allan said.

“How many of you think that infrastructure is as good as it can be?” he asked the crowd made of mostly of water quality researchers and professionals.

Not a hand went up in the packed auditorium.

Creative Commons

This story was first published by Environmental Health News; view the original story. For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

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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.

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FINDINGS: The best of reporting on Donald Trump

by Sarah Smith, ProPublica

If elected president of the United States, Donald Trump has promised to “open up” libel laws so he can sue news organizations like they’ve “never got sued before.” While the First Amendment is still intact, ProPublica compiled a list of some articles he might have his eye on.

Trump’s Bad Bet: How Too Much Debt Drove His Biggest Casino Aground

The Washington Post, January 2016

In 1988, when Donald Trump took control of the Taj Mahal (the Atlantic City hotel-casino, not the Indian palace!), he promised to finance his operation without junk bonds. Banks, he said, would line up to give him loans. They didn’t. So, Trump took on the junk bonds he said he wouldn’t need, and the hotel-casino sank into debt. By 1991, the Taj Mahal declared bankruptcy, the first of several for Trump. The move affected Trump’s personal finances more than he’s indicated on the campaign trail—and left bitterness in Atlantic City.

For Donald Trump, Lessons From a Brother’s Suffering

New York Times, January 2016

In 1999, Donald Trump’s nephew, Fred Trump III, had a son born with cerebral palsy. It was yet another tragedy for Fred. Eighteen years earlier, his father Freddy (older brother to Donald) died of alcoholism at age 43. At first, the Trump family said they would pay for the infant’s medical bills, but when it was revealed that Donald’s father had cut the boy’s side of the family out of his will, Donald stopped covering his medical treatment. His parents sued, and Donald Trump told the Times the suit was settled “very amicably.”

He’ll Take the Low Road: Trump’s Tortured History With Scotland

The Atlantic, December 2015

In 2012, Trump opened a golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, (“the world’s greatest golf course,” per its website), in part to rebuild ties with his mother’s native country. When a wind farm went up around the course, Trump wrote to the head of the Scottish government decrying the wind farms. He claimed his motivation was “to save Scotland.” He took his fight all the way to the U.K. Supreme Court—which in December blocked his efforts to shut off the wind turbines.

Donald Trump Billed His ‘University’ as a Road to Riches, But Critics Call it a Fraud

The Washington Post, September 2015

Trump University, which started in 2004 but never actually got licensed, promised get-rich-quick guidance in hotel ballroom workshops. One three-day workshop cost $1,495; a “Gold Elite” package, which came with a certificate and a picture with a life-size poster of Donald Trump, cost one man $34,995. The workshops led to three lawsuits against Trump alleging fraud, including one brought by the New York attorney general in 2013 for $40 million that’s still pending.

Ex-Wife: Donald Trump Made Me Feel ‘Violated’ During Sex

The Daily Beast, July 2015

In the early 1990s, when Trump and his first wife Ivana were going through an acrimonious divorce, Ivana said under oath that Donald had raped her once. She later clarified her position to a book author, saying that she did not mean “rape” in a “literal or criminal sense,” but did feel violated. When the Daily Beast asked Trump to comment on these allegations last summer, (not long after he called Mexicans “rapists”), Michael Cohen, special counsel for the Trump Organization, threatened The Daily Beast reporter and said (incorrectly), “You cannot rape your spouse.”

TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald

Timothy L. O’Brien, October 2005

Timothy O’Brien’s 2005 book on Donald Trump estimated that the businessman was worth between $150 million and $250 million—not, as he claimed, somewhere around $3.6 billion to $6 billion. Trump sued O’Brien in 2006 for defamation. In a 2007 deposition, Trump explained that he calculated his net worth based on his feelings. Trump lost his last appeal 2011. Last week, Trump acknowledged he had no case. “I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about,” he said.

After 15 Years in Court, Workers’ Lawsuit Against Trump Faces Another Delay

The New York Times, June 1998

A class-action lawsuit filed against Donald Trump in 1983 alleged that Trump owed $4 million to a union welfare fund for Polish workers—about 200 of whom were allegedly undocumented—who worked on Trump Tower. One of the witnesses described 12-hour days in hazardous conditions. Trump said he didn’t know about the workplace environment, or that there were undocumented workers. The case was delayed for years, finally settled in 1999 and sealed. Trump did not comment on a 2015 Daily Beast article about the litigation.

Short-Fingered Vulgarian

Spy Magazine

The now-defunct Spy magazine came up with the moniker “short-fingered vulgarian” to describe Trump and used it multiple times from the late 1980s to early 1990s. (It has reemerged with a vengeance in the 2016 election.) Spy magazine cofounder Graydon Carter told Politico that Trump sent him photos as recently as April, his fingers circled, with a note: “See, not so short.”

Angered by Attack, Trump Urges Return of the Death Penalty

The New York Times, May 1989

Donald Trump took out full page advertisements in four New York newspapers on May 1, 1989 calling for the execution of black and Hispanic teenagers who had been arrested in the so-called Central Park jogger case. “The 600-word ad came a few weeks after a female jogger in Central Park was sexually assaulted and beaten. “I want to hate these muggers and murderers,” Trump wrote in the ad. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.” The teenagers were later exonerated and awarded $41 million in a settlement with New York City.

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You might also be interested in these stories published on Facts and Opinions:

The sound of white noise, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda, F&O, column

Sometimes, when I’m driving late at night to pick up my wife at a train stop, or on my way to some event in Washington (about an hour from where I live) I turn on conservative talk radio. Just to listen to the other side. And the angry voices fill my car.

Dancing with the devil, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda, F&O, column

The process that led to the creation of the Trump monster began on the day of US President Barack Obama’s inauguration, January 20, 2009. The story has grown of how on wthat night a group of senior Republicans gathered at a private dinner, and decided to be not “the loyal opposition,” but a destructive and malignant force that would use any means at its disposal to achieve its desired outcome.

Fox News Facebook page

The art of manipulating campaign coverage, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda, F&O, column

Who is manipulating whom in media coverage of United States politics? American media manipulates the way they tell stories in order to increase eyeballs and produce a narrative that suits their tastes. But politicians then manipulate the media into creating those narratives and building on them, despite what is actually going on in the campaign.

The Donald Trump meme: nostalgia for a fantasy, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda, F&O, column

Remember when women and minorities knew their place? Illegal immigration was unheard of? Men all had good jobs? Everybody believed in the same God? (Or at least the same version.) Kids respected their parents? Terrorism was a word that kids learned about in college when studying European history? America was the most powerful nation in the world? No, you don’t remember? Then you’re likely not a Donald Trump supporter.
Stuart Anthony/Flickr/Creative Commons

Stuart Anthony

Ad research may explain Donald Trump’s appeal. By Jon D. Morris & Taylor Wen, September, 2015

Politics and advertising are closely intertwined. Like a good advertisement, a good politician needs to present a compelling case for why the voter should check his or her box on the ballot over all the other options. Here, Donald Trump excels.

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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.

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For curious people who think: Facts, and Opinions, that matter

Brain food for your week: Facts, and Opinions, that matter. Enjoy.

Reports:

The Dunblane massacre at 20: how Britain rewrote gun laws. By Peter Squires

Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School, near Stirling, Scotland on March 13 1996, armed with four legally-owned handguns and over 700 rounds of ammunition. In three to four terrible minutes, he fired 105 shots killing 16 children and their teacher, and wounding 15 more children. His last shot killed himself. In the 20 years since Dunblane, a great deal has been learned about preventing gun violence.

German economist challenges orthodoxy, inequality, by Noah Barkin

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Marcel Fratzscher, in contrast to many of his German counterparts, does not believe the German economy and the rules-based governance – Ordnungspolitik – that has shaped it since World War Two is a model that others should emulate.

Trying (and Trying) to Get Records From America’s “Most Transparent Administration” By Justin Elliott Report

Documents are the lifeblood of investigative journalism, but these problems aren’t of interest only to reporters. America’s  Freedom of Information Act is supposed to deliver on the idea of a government “for and by the people,” whose documents are our documents. The ability to get information from the government is essential to holding the people in power accountable.

Undersea Mining: scientists race to the bottom first, by Brooke Jarvis, OnEarth

Ask oceanographer Craig Smith what the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific is like beneath all that water, and he’ll describe a strange undulating world far beyond the reach of sunlight, populated by an enormous array of bizarre-looking creatures, both huge and tiny, known and unknown. And he’ trying to get to them before the underwater miners.

Beyond silicon: the search for new semiconductors, by Thomas Vandervelde

Our modern world is based on semiconductors. But  silicon – used in all manner of computers and electronic gadgets – has its technical limits, particularly as engineers look to use electronic devices for producing or processing light. The search for new semiconductors is on.

Orcas: the whales with a dam problem. Photo: Minette Layne

Orcas: the whales with a dam problem. Photo: Minette Layne

Whales with a Dam Problem, by Chelsey B. Coombs

The only resident population of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest befuddle biologists, because their numbers seem to be stuck at around 80 individuals. The stagnation, recent research shows, may largely come down to the fact that these orcas are picky eaters whose primary food source—salmon—are having population problems of their own.

Arts:

RIP George Martin, the Fifth Beatle. By Mike Jones

George Martin was so integral a part of the Beatle’s story that he was called “the Fifth Beatle.” – a moniker that, in the 1960s, was also given to their then manager Brian Epstein. In both instances, the accolade is richly-deserved – without Epstein the Beatles would have not won a recording contract, and without Martin they would not have made records.

Man Booker International 2016 Longlist. By Deborah Jones

Household, pseudonymous and new names are included in the longlist of 13 books in line for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize, released March 10.

Commentary:

 View of the entrance to the Bosphorus from the Sea of Marmara, as seen from the Topkapı Palace. Photo Gryffindor/Wikipedia


Manthorpe: the prospect of war between Russia and Turkey is troubling. Above, the Bosphorus. Photo: Gryffindor/Wikipedia

Russia and Turkey eye each other with guns drawn, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Column

Of the many disaster scenarios that could spring from the civil war in Syria, the prospect of war between Russia and Turkey is by far the most troubling.

The sound of white noise, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda  Column

Sometimes, when I’m driving late at night to pick up my wife at a train stop, or on my way to some event in Washington (about an hour from where I live) I turn on conservative talk radio. Just to listen to the other side. And the angry voices fill my car.

Out of Time: Daylight (Saving) Delusions, by Deborah Jones, Free Range   Column

Listening to rain lashing windows as I moved through the house changing time, I wondered, Do we think we’re magicians, able to “save” daylight any more than we can conjure an end to a storm?

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Posted in All, Current Affairs